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Weekly Book Buzz: New Novel of the Nightside by Simon Green

We Review the Creepy Archives Volume 8

By Tim Janson     June 05, 2011


The Transformers Vault
© Abrams Books

 

Welcome back to Book Buzz. We’ve got all your major science fiction, fantasy, and horror releases that are due out in your favorite bookstores in the next few weeks along with three great reviews for you. Thanks for stopping by!
 
Joel Rosenberg passes away at 57. Joel Rosenberg died June 1, 2011 following respiratory problems that led to a heart attack, brain damage, and organ failure. Rosenberg is best known for his Guardians of the Flame fantasy series, but he wrote nearly 30 books, including SF and mysteries. His first novel was The Sleeping Dragon, beginning the Guardians of the Flame series about roleplaying gamers drawn into a fantasy world, which continued for nine more volumes from 1983-2003. Other series include the Keepers of the Hidden Ways trilogy, the Metzada series, the D’Shai sequence, the Mordred’s Heirs series, and the Sparky Hemingway mysteries. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Felicia Herman, and their two daughters.
 
NEW IN FANTASY
 
Spectyr (A Book of the Order) Philippa Ballantine [Ace]
 
Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome, which is why she jumps at the chance to investigate a string of murders in the exotic city of Orithal . But it is there that her lover, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, is targeted by a cruel and vengeful goddess, unwittingly unleashed by the Emperor's sister.
 
Zadayi Red Caleb Fox [Tor]
 
Path of the Planeswalker, Volume 2: A Magic: The Gathering Graphic Anthology (A Planeswalker Novel) [Wizards of the Coast]
 
Following the success of Path of the Planeswalker, the latest collection of Magic: The Gathering's® immensely popular Web comic series tops the original in style and concept.
United by their ability to bridge the chaotic gap between worlds, and set apart by that same unfathomable power, Planeswalkers wander the Multiverse in an endless quest for knowledge and power.  The life of a Planeswalker is one of infinite possibility, of self-determination free from the mundane boundaries of a single world, but sometimes the gift of choice can be the greatest burden.
 
Shadow's Lure Jon Sprunk [Pyr TPB]
 
In Othir, he was at the top of the food chain—an assassin beyond compare, a dark shadow in the night. But Caim left that life behind when he helped an empress claim her throne. And now his past has come calling again.  Searching for the truth behind the murder and disappearance of his parents, Caim discovers a land in thrall to the Shadow. Haunted by temptations from the Other Side, he becomes mired in a war he does not want to fight.  But there are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can't run. In this battle, all of Caim's strength and skill won't be enough.  For none can resist the Shadow's Lure.
 
Sword of Fire and Sea: The Chaos Knight, Book One Erin Hoffman [Pyr TPB]
 
Three generations ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat's great-grandfather gave up an imperial commission to commit social catastrophe by marrying a fire priestess. For love, he unwittingly doomed his family to generations of a rare genetic disease that follows families who cross elemental boundaries. Now Vidarian, the last surviving member of the Rulorat family, struggles to uphold his family legacy, and finds himself chained to a task as a result of the bride price his great-grandfather paid: the Breakwater Agreement, a seventy-year-old alliance between his family and the High Temple of Kara'zul, domain of the fire priestesses.
The priestess Endera has called upon Vidarian to fulfill his family's obligation by transporting a young fire priestess named Ariadel to a water temple far to the south, through dangerous pirate-controlled territory. A journey perilous in the best of conditions is made more so by their pursuers: rogue telepathic magic-users called the Vkortha who will stop at nothing to recover Ariadel, who has witnessed their forbidden rites.
 
Together, Vidarian and Ariadel will navigate more than treacherous waters: Imperial intrigue, a world that has been slowly losing its magic for generations, secrets that the priestesshoods have kept for longer, the indifference of their elemental goddesses, gryphons—once thought mythical—now returning to the world, and their own labyrinthine family legacies. Vidarian finds himself at the intersection not only of the world's most volatile elements, but of colliding universes, and the ancient and alien powers that lurk between them.
 
Chicks Kick Butt [Tor TPB]
 
Chicks are awesome--and never more so than when they are kicking some serious vampire/werewolf/demon/monster butt.  Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology that features one of the best things about the urban fantasy genre: strong, independent, and intelligent heroines who are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be).
 
Elminster Must Die: The Sage of Shadowdale Ed Greenwood [Wizards of the Coast]
 
The long-anticipated return of Elminster, the most famous mage in the Forgotten Realms®--now in paperback!  Elminster, the most famous wizard in the Forgotten Realms, has foiled countless world-spanning threats, leaving a trail of powerful enemies behind him. Now that the Spellplague has robbed Elminster of much of his power, those enemies are coming out of the shadows, whetting their blades, and preparing to hunt him down.
 
For Heaven's Eyes Only: A Secret Histories Novel Simon R. Green [Ace Hardcover]
 
After the murder of the Drood Matriarch, the family finds itself vulnerable to evil. This time, it's a Satanic Conspiracy that could throw humanity directly into the clutches of the Biggest of the Bads...
 
Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles Kevin Hearne [Del Rey]
 
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe , Arizona , quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.
 
With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.
 
The Pack Jason Starr [Ace Hardcover]
 
When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side , Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss's betrayal.   Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life- and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys' night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality.
 
As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their "pack," they were talking about much more than male bonding. And as he falls prey to his basest instincts, Simon must accept that werewolves exist if he is to turn the tides of his fortune...
 
The Spectral Blaze: A Forgotten Realms Novel Richard Lee Byers [Wizards of the Coast]
 
Aoth and the Brotherhood of the Griffon have succeeded in rescuing Tchazzar, the lost king of Chessenta and a formidable red dragon, and are rewarded with a contract to aid in his war with a powerful dracolich. But the more Aoth sees of the war, the more suspicious he becomes that the Brotherhood may be just a pawn in a cutthroat draconic game that puts whole kingdoms at risk--a game played for stakes of gold and blood. And the more he sees the game play out, the more he realizes that he will have to become a player in this most dangerous of games if he wants the Realms to remain free.
 
Unnatural Issue: An Elemental Masters Novel Mercedes Lackey [DAW]
 
Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter's body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife.
 
Untold Adventures: A Dungeons & Dragons Anthology [Wizards of the Coast]
 
Your favorite award-winning, critically acclaimed, and best-selling authors unite to tell stories set in the Dungeons & Dragons world, filled with desperate dragons and cruel elves, honorable demons and fickle gods, wild magic and the sharpest of steel. You don't want to miss this rarest of opportunities to get a glimpse into the D&D adventures created by some of the most brilliant fantasy writers of our age.
 
Sword of the Apocalypse (Assassins) [Radical Graphic Novel]
 
A great team of heroes from warring factions joins forces against the nightmare warriors of Hasan-i-Sabbah, who commands a fanatical sect of drugged assassins who make systematic use of political murder and terror.  Richard the Lionhearted,  Saladin, Robin Hood, Temujin, Ivanhoe, Morgiana, Rebecca and Saif A’Din journey from the secret passages beneath Jerusalem to the harems of Baghdad to the silk road to assault the fortress of Alamut. Along the way, they encounter the mythical medieval world of Geniis, Holy Relics, Magic Lamps and Demons as they learn the truth about Al-Battar: The Holy Sword of the Apocalypse. 
 
Bloodforged (Ulrika the Vampire) Nathan Long [Games Workshop]
 
Unable to adapt to Lahmian society, Ulrika seeks her own way, striking out to the Chaos-besieged city of Praag to seek old friends and glory in battle. On her arrival, she finds a devastated but defiant people and the invaders repelled. But the Ruinous Powers can take many forms, and now a more insidious threat is rising from within – a Slaaneshi cult that seeks to claim dominion in Praag. Shunned by her Lahmian sisters, decried by the humans she seeks to protect, Ulrika treads a lonely path as she tries to find the root of this destructive plot. Caught between the will of the vampires and the insane designs of Chaos sorcerers and cultists, Ulrika must call upon all of her cunning and savagery if she is to triumph...
 
Vampire Warlords: The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, Book 3 Andy Remic [Angry Robot]
 
Legendary warrior Kell must choose to flee the conquered land of Falanor , or fight for its people. Even now it may be too late, that all is lost... for the Vachine invaders have called upon their ancient rulers, semi-immortal bloodsuckers who dwell on the edges between life and death. The vampire warlords have returned, and they will feed.
 
NEW IN SCIENCE FICTION
 
Fort Freak (Wild Cards) George R.R. Martin [Tor Hardcover]
 
In 1946, an alien virus that rewrites human DNA was accidentally unleashed in the skies over New York City . It killed ninety percent of those it infected. Nine percent survived, mutated into tragically deformed creatures. And one percent gained superpowers. The Wild Cards shared-universe series, created and edited by New York Times #1 bestseller George R. R. Martin (called “the American Tolkien” by Time), is the tale of the history of the world since then—and of the heroes among the one percent.  Now, in the latest Wild Cards mosaic novel, we get to know the hardbitten world of Manhattan’s Fifth Precinct—or “Fort Freak,” as cops and malefactors alike call the cop-shop where every other desk sergeant, detective, and patrol officer is more than human.
 
Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) James S.A. Corey [Orbit]
 
Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.  Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
 
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.  Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
 
Battle of the Fang (Space Marine Battles) Chris Wraight [Games Workshop]
 
It is M32, a thousand years after the Horus Heresy. The Scouring is over and the Imperium at the height of its post-Crusade power. When Magnus the Red is tracked down to Gangava Prime, the Space Wolves hasten to engage the daemon primarch. Even as Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm closes on his ancient enemy, the Fang on the Space Wolves home world is besieged by a massive force of Thousand Sons. A desperate battle ensues as the skeleton forces of Wolf Lord Asvald Greylock attempt to hold back the attacking hosts before the last of his meagre defences gives in. Though a single Scout ship survives to summon Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm back to Fenris, none of the defenders truly realise the full scale the horror that awaits them nor what the Battle for the Fang will cost them all.
 
Hex Allen Steele [Ace Hardcover]
 
The two-time Hugo Award-winner expands the universe of his Coyote saga.  The danui, a reclusive arachnid species considered the galaxy's finest engineers, have avoided contact with the Coyote Federation. Until, that is, the danui initiate trade negotiations, offering only information: the coordinates for an unoccupied world suitable for human life-a massive sphere, composed of billions of hexagons.   But when the Federation's recon mission goes terribly wrong, the humans realize how little they know about their new partners...
 
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Conviction Aaron Allston [Lucas Books]
 
Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala’s draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counterstrike. And even the Jedi’s new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon.
 
Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers’ quest threatens to become a suicide mission.
 
NEW IN HORROR
 
Empire of Fear: An Epic Vampire Novel Brian Stableford [Skyhorse]
 
In an epic novel the Washington Post called “riveting,” Brian Stableford brilliantly imagines a world ruled by a powerful aristocracy of vampires: long-lived, extraordinarily handsome humans who are immune to pain but must drink the blood of their common subjects. The story begins in seventeenth-century London and spans three hundred years—moving from England to the heart of Africa, to Malta, and finally to the New World. Edmund Cordery, Mechanician to the court of Richard Coeur-de-Lion, believes that vampire beings must have a natural explanation. But when his discoveries make him dangerous in the eyes of his masters, Edmund entrusts his learned secrets to his son, Noell, who in turn becomes a fugitive. When he returns to Europe he faces the awesome might of Coeur-de-Lion and the infamous Vlad the Impaler.
 
The Ghost of Greenwich Village : A Novel Lorna Graham [Ballantine]
 
For Eve Weldon, moving to Greenwich Village is a dream come true. She’s following in the bohemian footsteps of her mother, who lived there during the early sixties among a lively community of Beat artists and writers. But when Eve arrives, the only scribe she meets is a grumpy ghost named Donald, and the only writing she manages to do is for chirpy segments on a morning news program, Smell the Coffee. The hypercompetitive network environment is a far cry from the genial camaraderie of her mother’s literary scene, and Eve begins to wonder if the world she sought has faded from existence. But as she struggles to balance her new job, demands from Donald to help him complete his life’s work, a budding friendship with a legendary fashion designer, and a search for clues to her mother’s past, Eve begins to realize that community comes in many forms—and that the true magic of the Village is very much alive, though it may reveal itself in surprising ways.
 
 
Heart of Evil Heather Graham [Mira]
 
Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends…and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery's most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War.
Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare—often inexplicable—intuition. Among the "Krewe of Hunters" is an old ï ¬ ‚ ame, Jake Mallory, a gifted musician with talent stretching far beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own.  The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried—even in death.…
 
The Shadow Men Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon [Spectra]
 
From Beacon Hill to Southie, historic Boston is a town of vibrant neighborhoods knit into a seamless whole. But as Jim Banks and Trix Newcomb learn in a terrifying instant, it is also a city divided—split into three separate versions of itself by a mad magician once tasked with its protection.
 
Jim is happily married to Jenny, with whom he has a young daughter, Holly. Trix is Jenny’s best friend, practically a member of the family—although she has secretly been in love with Jenny for years. Then Jenny and Holly inexplicably disappear—and leave behind a Boston in which they never existed. Only Jim and Trix remember them. Only Jim and Trix can bring them back.
 
With the help of Boston ’s Oracle, an elderly woman with magical powers, Jim and Trix travel between the fractured cities, for that is where Jenny and Holly have gone. But more is at stake than one family’s happiness. If Jim and Trix should fail, the spell holding the separate Bostons apart will fail too, and the cities will reintegrate in a cataclysmic implosion. Someone, it seems, wants just that. Someone with deadly shadow men at their disposal.
 
Wicked Lies Lisa Jackson [Zebra]
 
For two years, Justice Turnbull has paced his room at Halo Valley Security Hospital , planning to escape. Justice has a mission - one that began with a vicious murder two decades ago. Laura Adderley didn't plan to get pregnant by her soon-to-be ex-husband, though she'll do anything to protect her baby. But now reporter Harrison Frost is asking questions about the mysterious group of women who live at Siren Song lodge. Harrison hasn't figured out Laura's connection to the story yet. But Justice knows. And he is coming...All her life, Laura has been able to sense approaching evil. But that won't stop a psychopath bent on destroying her. Justice has been unleashed, and this time, there will be no place safe to hide
 
 
REVIEWS
 
Transformers Vault Pablo Hidalgo (Abrams Hardcover)
 
 
The latest in the ever-increasing trend of “vault” books hits upon one of my true passions as a genre fan…Transformers. Like other similarly presented vault books, Transformers Vault comes packed with a number of reproduction memorabilia items that are stuffed into sleeves and sprinkled throughout the book. Transformers Vault doesn’t feature as many of these items as some other books I’ve reviewed but on the other hand, the content has much more meat to it. 
 
The book covers Transformers from every angle: Toys, animated shows, comics, films, and even books and the info goes much deeper than I would have dreamed. The history of Transformers starts with the toys but it doesn’t start with Hasbro. As any Transfan know it starts in Japan much earlier with Takara who would first produce the Microman toys (later Micronauts in the U.S.) and then the Micro Change and Diaclone lines which introduced the shape changing toys which Hasbro eventually imported, renaming them “Transformers”. The book features pictures of some of these very rare, pre-Hasbro toys including pics a “Blaster” prototype that has Soundwave’s color scheme. The first reproduction memorabilia piece is a Transformers mini-catalog which shows the very first wave of toys circa 1984. Author Hidalgo also takes care to mention how Hasbro utilized toys from other Japanese toy companies as Transformers such as importing a Takatoku’s VF-1S Valkyrie as Jetfire, and ToyCo’s “Astro Magnum” which Hasbro renamed Shockwave. Best of all Hidalgo also references and pictures a few of the Japanese exclusive Transformers like Deathsaurus. He finishes by briefly covering the other toy lines from Generation 2 to the Animated and cross-over lines.
 
Next up is Transformers in comics with a heavy emphasis on the Marvel Comics series before he jumps into the animated series. Again, kudos to Hidalgo for covering and including pics from the Japanese only series like Headmasters, Super God Masterforce, and Victory. It would REALLY be nice if we could get a DVD release in the states of these series. The book concludes with a look at the Transformers films, videogames, and books.
 
Among the repro memorabilia pieces are mini-posters, sketch art work, tech specs, animation cels, and more. It all comes in a nice clipcover sleeve. Even if you are a Transformers fanatic like myself I heartily recommend the book as it is filled with hundreds of great pictures and a wealth of information. Grade A
 
 
Rotters Daniel Kraus (Delacorte Press)
 
 
The title might give one to assume that this is yet another in the long line of recent zombie novels but Daniel Kraus goes in an entirely new, and perhaps even more macabre direction with “Rotters”. Joey Crouch lives with his mother in Chicago. It’s not completely happy but Kraus does a superb job in the opening chapter of showing readers just how important Joey and his mother are to each other. It’s almost a symbiotic relationship. But Joey’s world is turned completely upside down when his mother dies. He’s shipped from the big city to a rural town to live with his father, a man he’s never met and whom his mother never talked about. 
 
His father’s home is a rundown, putrid smelling hovel. Worse yet, Joey’s father is woefully unprepared to care for a young teen, as he has no bed, not even food to provide his son. Joey finds the going no better at his new school as he’s quickly isolated as the “new kid” and bullied by other students. He survives as best he can but his world takes another twist when he discovers his father’s secret profession…he’s a grave robber! 
 
Joey is soon introduced to the dark world of professional grave robbing, a vocation that goes back centuries when shadowy men supplied medical schools with cadavers for research and kept any valuables for themselves. This is a secret group of men with their own strange codes of honor. It is here where the book truly gathers steam as Kraus describes, in vividly morbid detail, the process of digging up and unearthing the dead from their maggot and rat-infested graves. Perhaps even more macabre is that this practice ends up being the bond, which joins Joey and his father together. 
 
In many ways Rotters is even more terrifying than any zombie novel because we can see it as being real. One has to wonder of Kraus has ever dug up a grave himself as his descriptions are so detailed. He’s also delivered characters that are deeply complex. I don’t quite get why the book is described as a young adult novel. With its subject and being over 400 pages, this is a book which any horror fan will devour. Grade B+
 
 
Archie Archive Vol. 1 (Dark Horse Hardcover)
 
 
Only a handful of comic book characters have been around since the 1940s in continuous print…Superman, Batman…and Archie. Archie got his start in the pages of Pep Comics #22 in December, 1941 and thus will celebrate his 70th birthday later this year. Archie got his own title a year later and has been running ever since with the gang of Riverdale High School as perpetual teenagers. Archie’s longevity is astounding given that it’s a humor comic and the fact that it has had to change with the times from World War II to the psychedelic 1960s, the disco 1980s and right through to the new millennium. Over the years Archie’s adventures have been heard on radio in the 1940s and seen on Saturday morning cartoons in the 1960s and 1970s. 
 
Dark Horse has secured a remarkable coup by presenting a hardcover archive edition of the very first Archie Comics adventures as we get to see him meet characters like Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie for the very first time. The 212 page book collects the Archie stories first published in Pep Comics #22 – 38, Jackpot Comics #4 – 8, and Archie Comics #1, 2. Archie has had his look developed and perfected over decades of comic books but back in 1941 he didn’t look like the character we know today. In fact when we see him and Betty in the splash page of his first story, they look more like 12-year olds than teenagers. The look quickly changed in the second story as artist Bob Montana “aged” them into a more refined, teen-aged appearance. The second story also introduces us to Archie’s best pal, Jughead.
 
Throughout these early adventures Archie causes havoc wherever he goes…the school play, the basketball court, and behind the wheel of his first car as he turns it into a taxi to help pay for it, with predictably disastrous results. Finally in the 5th story of the collection, wealthy debutante Veronica Lodge moves to town, catching Archie’s love struck eye. Reading these stories you quickly see that teenagers from seventy years ago were not so different than today…minus cell phones and Facebook accounts. They went out to celebrate after the big football game, went to the beach, stressed over schoolwork, etc…Later in the book Archie meets the boy who will become his lifelong rival, Reggie Mantle, dousing him with water as he races his car through a puddle of water.
 
Seventy years has done nothing to dampen the humor of the stories. Despite the time period there’s an undeniable charm that we can relate to today. It’s simple, uncomplicated fun that still works. Bob Montana’s art is actually much more lush and detailed that the Archie look that has been common since the 1960s when artists work to maintain a consistent standard no matter who was doing the work. The Archie Archives are like a time capsule giving us a look at how things were. Thanks Dark Horse! Grade A

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