Saturday, April 30, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

Shoguns, Action Missiles, and Cartoons in Korea guest post by Kane Gilmour 

Fantasy Review of Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell

On World-Building guest post by Fox Lancet

Coming up next week, I've got a pair of guest posts from the gang over at Tomorrow Comes Media; our usual Waiting on Wednesday post; and reviews of The Emperor's Railroad and The Revelation Code.


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

An interesting batch of review titles this week, including one from my Aurora Awards voting packet, and a UK title that we're finally getting a look at in North America.

Cursed: Black Swan by Ryan T. McFadden
Published October 7th 2015 by Dragon Moon Press

“Let’s get one thing straight—I’m a fixer. You need someone murdered? Then hire an assassin. You need something stolen? Call a thief. But if there’s something no one else can do, or a job that no one else wants, then you talk to me.”

Nathaniel specializes in the strange, the weird, and the dangerous. But no matter how far he runs, he can’t leave behind his bloody past, nor the ghosts that chase him.

His latest job was supposed to be simple—recover the sword Black Swan. Except there’s no such thing as a simple job. When the operation goes bad, the Crucifiers, the Crooked Hand, assassins, and Crusaders are all hot on Nathaniel’s trail...for a sword he doesn’t even have. All he has to do to get it back and set his world right is to find the woman of his dreams... and kill her.

The Copper Egg by Catherine Friend
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Bold Strokes Books

The ancient Chimú believed their people came from three eggs: the rulers from a gold egg, their wives from a silver, and the workers from a copper egg.

Archeologist Claire Adams receives a mysterious package that lures her to Peru in search of a treasure-filled tomb. She must find the tomb before looters do. She’s helped in her quest by old friends and by a strange connection to an ancient copper egg. Claire’s ex, Sochi Castillo, has her own plans for the tomb. She has two jobs—one within the law , one considerably outside it. If Claire finds the treasure first, Sochi is going to steal it. As Claire and Sochi are drawn into a web of intrigue, betrayal, and greed, they discover that love complicates everything.

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams 
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Angry Robot 

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

Champions of Aetaltis edited by by Marc Tassin and John Helfers
Published April 12th 2016 by Mechanical Muse

More than three hundred years have passed since the fall of the Atlan Alliance, and the people of Aetaltis have finally brought order to their fractured world. Fledgling nations have grown into powerful kingdoms, thriving merchant states have re-established old trade routes, and the priests of the Enaros have rebuilt their great temples.

But in this time of hope, the shadow of an ancient evil has emerged from the darkness to threaten the world once again.

Discover a new world of adventure in this collection of pulse-pounding stories written by some of the greatest fantasy authors alive. From the vine enshrouded ruins of a lost jungle temple to the seedy back alleys of the villainous city of Port Vale, experience the thrill of heroic fantasy with these gripping tales of action and adventure.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt [April 26th 2016]
I was sitting on this ARC for a while, but the finished hardcover arrived last week and I just can't resist the concept of a cursed town that nobody can leave, haunted by a 17th century witch whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
It's taken every ounce of self-control I possess to hold off on this one, but I'm ridiculously excited to be diving into a new GGK title. One to savor, not devour.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish [May 10th 2016]
I'm already a fan of Kristi's work, so I'm really curious to see how she transitions to a new character, new series, and new setting. I got a paperback of this to replace my digital ARC, which just had me even more excited.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Shoguns, Action Missiles, and Cartoons in Korea by Kane Gilmour (MECH: Age of Steel)

Shoguns, Action Missiles, and Cartoons in Korea
by Kane Gilmour

I came to a love of Mechs and Giant Robots in an unusual way. There were two parts to it. The first was in the late 1970s as a child, when I got one of the two-foot tall Shogun Warriors toys. You might know him as Great Mazinger, but in the toy line, this plastic behemoth was simply ‘Mazinga.’ And he was glorious. Spring loaded rockets in his fist (more on this in a bit), a wobbly plastic sword in one hand, spare rockets clipped onto his shoulders, and—because it was the spectacular 70s, and probably also because Disco was murdering our earholes—Mazinga had roller skates built into his feet. That’s right. Roller skates. Simply put, it was the coolest and most alien toy I had ever seen. And this was 1979 in New York, well after the initial onslaught of Star Wars toys. Star Wars was literally alien, but I had at least been familiar with the film (which I saw at a drive-in at the age of six). When it came to Mazinga, Raydeen, and Dragun—the first few Shogun Warriors—I had no context, and no understanding of Japan or the Japanese culture that had spawned them. I did recognize the fourth Shogun Warrior release at that size, though: Godzilla films had been on TV Saturday afternoons my whole life.

Something else was going down in the late 70s, and the story is tragic. Little four-year old Jeffrey Warren put the nose of his Battlestar Galactica Viper toy in his mouth and launched one of its spring loaded missiles into his larynx. He eventually died, and Mattel, keepers of the Battlestar license, scrambled to recall all rocket-firing toys (while being sued by the parents). Although it’s terrible that a child lost his life, I never then saw it—nor do I now—as a fault of the toy manufacturer. Millions of us had the same toys and didn’t shoot them into our brains. However, Age 4 might have been too young for that particular toy. (The box said for Ages 3 and over.) All I knew as a kid was I had seen the rocket-firing Vipers and Cylon Raiders, and I had received the toys that came after the recall instead. These toys had spring-loaded missiles that simply popped out an inch and came to a full stop, locked in their housings. These were the so called Action Missiles, and even as an eight-year old kid, my reaction was “What the…? This is ridiculous!” It meant no more actual firing rockets for kids, and it meant the Boba Fett action figure from Kenner had a fixed rocket (although Kenner will probably tell you they chose not to do it after internal testing that was unrelated to the Warren Incident). The Action Missile lived on in many people’s memories as an injustice of their toy-playing childhoods.

A year or two later, I was embarking on an adventure, travelling and living abroad with my mother and stepfather, first living in Pakistan, then Nigeria, and eventually South Korea. It had been years since I had even thought about ol’ Mazinga, or his firing rockets. In 1983, I was discovering music, and still reveling in Star Wars, as Return of the Jedi was coming out. And after two and a half years in the Pakistan and Nigeria of the early 80s, which were entirely devoid of American pop culture, I was dying to watch some cartoons. And in Seoul in 1983, the US Army’s Armed Forces Korean Network was broadcasting a wide variety of US programming. Thanks US Army, for hooking me on General Hospital, you bastards. But also on their network were English language versions of what Americans know as UFO Robot Grendizer (which was simply called Grandizer on AFKN, if I recall). And there was Star Blazers. And I was hooked.

Fast forward to 2013, and Ragnarok Publications invited me to contribute a story to an anthology of Kaiju tales, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters. I was thrilled, and I asked editor Nick Sharps the same question he probably got from everyone else involved. “Heck yeah, but are you going to do a companion volume on Giant Robots?” To my delight, he said, “Of course.” I begged to be involved in that as well.

Then came the big challenge. What would my story in MECH: Age of Steel be about? What kind of robot would I write about? It came to me in a blast: my robot would be a mashup of my influences. The vehicle would encompass my love of the Shogun Warriors, Grendizer, and Star Blazers. The story would be set against a morass of ennui and never-ending battle, and most importantly, I had to make a statement about the epic stupidity of the Action Missile. I also set myself one other task for the story—its title would have to violate all boundaries of sanity and have not just one, but two exclamation points in it. “Here We Go! Fight!” was the result.

And I was worried about it. Worried that Nick wouldn’t like it. But he got back to me telling me that he loved the story and that he laughed his ass off at the single moment in the tale, where he was meant to. Then Frankie B. Washington, whose enthusiasm never seems to wane, went bananas on an illustration for my story, crafting a genius vision of King Raidizer, the half-super robot, half-flying space battleship, locked in perpetual combat with a threat from another dimension.

But what is it about these Giant Robots and Mechs that so capture our imaginations? For me, thinking about Kaiju, for Ragnarok’s immensely successful Kaiju Rising anthology, I realized that people enjoy Kaiju on a deep, subconscious level. It’s because we can all relate to that childhood impulse to build a city out of blocks and then rampage through it at our toddler size. Compared to the wooden block and LEGO cities of our childhoods, we were the Kaiju, the giant mutated monsters nearly oblivious to the world underfoot, as we crashed ahead on our way. But as we aged, just a little, into the pre-teen years, we want to become the hero, and we still have those memories of trampling Tokyo or San Francisco, wooden bridges flying and creaky towers toppling. As we broaden our imaginations as pre-teens, we know that lumbering monster is out there somewhere, and with more abstract thinking, we can envision ourselves as the pilot of a shining mechanical wonder, armed to the gills and powered by nuclear role playing. And we know we can finally set things right. Even if we have to launch our rocket-powered fists or flip deadly spring-powered axes from our forearms. There will be a reckoning.


About the Author

Kane Gilmour is the Amazon bestselling co-author of Ragnarok and the author of Resurrect, the first book in his own Jason Quinn thriller series. He has co-authored two further entries in the Chess Team series for Jeremy Robinson, and he wrote the nostalgic horror novella, The Crypt of Dracula, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the glorious horror films of the 1960s and 1970s. He co-edited the Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight anthology, based on the popular webcomic by Scott P. ‘Doc’ Vaughn, which Doc illustrates and Kane writes.


About the Book

Back in 2013 a little movie called Pacific Rim rekindled our love of giant monsters. It gave editor Nick Sharps an idea that grew to become Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters. Thanks to Kickstarter and Ragnarok Publications, Nick’s dream became reality, and a massive anthology was born. From early on, we've envisioned a companion anthology to Kaiju Rising, focused on the other half of the equation that made Pacific Rim so much fun—giant robots! And so, Ragnarok is proud to introduce this anthology by 24 of today's most talented storytellers. We give you...MECH: Age of Steel.

MECH: Age of Steel includes:

“Travailiant” by Kevin J. Anderson & David Boop
“Easy as Pie” by Jody Lynn Nye
Untitled by Peter Clines (Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters tie-in)
“Ordo Talos” by Graham McNeill
“Rogue 57” by Jeremy Robinson
“Toy Soldier” by James Swallow
“Birthright” by Martha Wells
“A Single Feather” by Jeffrey J. Mariotte & Marsheila Rockwell
“Jäegermeister” by Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch)
“All for One” by Mark Teppo
“I Am the Pilot” by Ramez Naam & Jason M. Hough
“All Together Now” by Ramez Naam & Jason M. Hough
“The Bonus Situation” by Jeff Somers
“Fadem” by Anton Strout
“The Tempered Steel of Antiquity Grey” by Shawn Speakman
“Mecha Mishipeshu vs Theseus IV” by C.L. Werner (Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters tie-in)
"After the Victory" by M.L. Brennan
“The Cold and the Dark” by James R. Tuck
“Vulture Patrol” by Jennifer Brozek
“Here We Go! Fight!” by Kane Gilmour
“The Stars Shine Home” by Mallory Reaves
"Battlefield Recovery" by Andrew Liptak
“Integration” by Steve Diamond

There are still nearly 2 weeks to go on the Kickstarter, so get over there ASAP and earn yourself some bonus goodies.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fantasy Review: Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell

Talk about your emotional roller coasters. I started out clutching the side of my e-reader with anticipatory glee, loving the sheer excitement of each new development . . . until I hit the point where I wanted to hurl it across the room as I cursed the name Sebastien de Castell . . . before I found myself holding it in shaky hands as I bravely tried to deny that a book was on the verge of making a grown man cry.

"Time to stick the pointy end through the bad man's heart."

If you thought the first two books were great (and Knight's Shadow was one of my favorite books last year) then be prepared to have the bar raised impossibly high with Saint's Blood.

Falcio suffers more here than any other hero in recent memory - and that's saying something, considering what he endured with the Greatcoat's Lament last time around. He's still suffering from that torture as the book begins, haunted day and night by his seemingly endless torment . . . and his anguish just gets deeper. He's a man both physically exhausted and emotionally broken, kept alive by nothing more than the slender threads of love and devotion. Even that's not enough, however, as de Castell ultimately pushes him beyond the brink in one of the most surprising scenes in the series.

As deeply as Falcio suffers, however, it is Kest's story arc that proves to be the most tragic. We already saw a bit of how he suffered the loss of his hand (and sainthood) in the last book, but here we see just how deeply he's been wounded. This is a man irrevocably changed by his experience, but the manner in which he endures, and the reasons he continues to suffer, will serve to define the future of his homeland. More than just a Saint of Swords, more than just a Greatcoat, here is a man destined to take on a God.

Having said all that, it is actually Brasti who is mercilessly tasked with committing the most painful act of all - and not out of vengeance or duty, but out of love. I won't say anymore, but it was that act that had me cursing the name of Sebastien de Castell so violently. Brasti has always been the heart of the series, but never moreso than in this third fateful chapter of the series.

I thought Knight's Shadow did a stellar job of advancing the mythologies and world building of the series, but it's here that everything begins to come together. It's a story that begins with the death of Saints and the introduction of the Inquisitors, and which goes on to see Falcio himself begin to question his most deeply held beliefs about gods and magic. I wasn't sure where the story was headed, and actually had some concerns about what I feared was a looming thematic shift, but I loved the way it came to explore questions of faith and the law. By the time we get to the end, and come to understand the rules of the much larger duel being played out across the land, you cannot help but feel the need to stand up and applaud.

It is there that Aline, Valiana, and Ethalia shine the brightest, but I don't know how to even begin to address their roles without getting into spoiler territory. Instead, I'll just declare that we have heroines in this book who can stand just as tall as the heroes, if not taller.

Saint's Blood is one of those books that is so good, you almost mourn the fact that whatever you read next is going to suffer by comparison. The character growth is stunning, the advancement of themes indescribable, and the escalation of tension to unimaginable heights simply breathtaking. I have no idea how de Castell can possibly top this, but you can be assured I'll be there to watch him try.

Hardcover, 576 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Jo Fletcher Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On World-building by Fox Lancet (author of Rise of the Apocalypse)

I’d like to say a few words (or paragraphs) about my world-building process. Mostly because attending college and reading books never really assisted me in the how-to of it all. My creative writing teachers wouldn’t allow for genre writing because eventually (depending on the genre) it would get too lengthy and time consuming. So I was stuck writing short-story fiction all through college. I’m not complaining, it was great exercise for my writing skills…and I mean great. I read some How to books on writing sci-fi/fantasy, but I didn’t feel like I understood the process any better. No one would show me or tell me how so I just went for it to see what would happen.

For someone who started writing before really being a writer, I have seen a universe grow leaps and bounds, and more often than not, it was out of my hands. I think it has actually been that way since the beginning it’s just taken me this long to realize it. When you are writing fantasy, you become the god of your universe. It took me ten years to realize this, but maybe because I just recently watched my fantasy universe double in size over the span of a small handful of revelations.

When I started my book, I was most certainly under the impression that I was starting at the beginning. It took me near to the end of the book to realize I’d entered my story midway to the end. How did this happen?! It happened because when I started, I didn’t know the world I had just arrived in. I was seeing it and learning it as the writing process took me on the adventure of a life time. Each new scene and each new character brought me closer to understanding the world I was navigating and the deeper I got, the more complex and solid it became.

I feel, as a reader, I always assumed the author knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going, but now I wonder if they came to long thoughtful pauses to realize the direction they wanted to go was no longer possible. The world begins to build itself and as long as you don’t resist it, it will continue to do so, faster and easier the more you let it go.

I’m not talking about some “ghost in the machine” or anything (unless you’re considering yourself the machine), your processor isn’t going to write the story for you. From my experience, I was following my characters around letting them do what they do when I had to stop and go, “Wait, but how? Wait, but why?” Those are the imperative questions of world-building and for storytelling in general. And those are the very questions that made me aware that I had started my story late in the game. There’s a lot of story that happened before, but lucky for me, stories can start wherever they damn well please. There’s still so much story to tell, but knowing and understanding the very origin will give you a stark advantage in laying down groundwork in the future of your world.

So obviously when you’re world-building, you’re not just telling a story about worlds and their pretty plants and their cool skies, but of the creatures who inhabit them. And any living, intelligent creature is going to have a history. History is an enormous part of the world-building process.
In my personal case, I had to work backwards to find my history and even then I barely started weaving it in before I ended my first book. I feel that having these holes (that were not yet obvious to the reader, but only to myself) actually helped my world grow because every time I filled another gap in the history of my story, my end story would also grow. Though, when I reached this moment and began asking and answering all of the questions in my characters’ histories I could feel my world expand and solidify to a frightening degree. Frightening and exciting. Motivations had more purpose and my characters’ mere existences took on a fresh light.

As much history as I have scribbled in endless notes and tapped away in a few lost chapters I have included very little of it in the first book. Instead, I was able to use it to my advantage to spur my second book onward. In fact, I was stuck with all of these floating chapters in my second book wondering how to piece them together and where the focus should lie until I started reaching back-in-time and figured out why the first book even took place. I asked myself, “How did these characters get to this point? Why did this all start the way it did?” See, there’s the big “how” and “why”. It truly opened many doors.

Just keep in mind, as you’re building your world, to pay close attention to the rules and logistics of it. If you stray too far from these things, it will no longer be very believable. Keep reminding yourself why a creature or character has certain properties (i.e. super strength, telepathy, invisibility) and if you want to give him another make sure you find a way to explain this to the reader (i.e. he comes from a particular race with these traits, he’s a cross between two races with these abilities). Same goes with any foreign world (if you’re not exploring an Earth world—I did a little bit of both). Ask yourself, “Is this possible on my world? How? And have I introduced this phenomenon yet? Does it need to be seen earlier so it doesn’t feel forced?” Some phenomenon can definitely just be, especially if it’s pertaining to another planet or fantastical species, just be careful they don’t start conflicting. In other words, be diligent in your writing and always make sure you can answer the hows and whys.

Maybe other writers sat down and outlined the history of some fantasy world before choosing where to begin, but I knew next to nothing about writing this genre when I began and fantasy has limitless possibilities. Every writer’s experience and process is going to be vastly different, why else would writers be writers? What fun would it be if there was a simple formula to writing a great fantasy tale (which there kind of is, but come on, how original can those stories really be)? The process should be as adventurous as the book, otherwise, I’d say, you’re doing it wrong.


About the Author

Fox Lancet is a metal head, lover of gory video games and an avid reader. She was born on the East coast, but has lived most of her life in Colorado where she resides now with her two cats and a laptop. She graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a major in creative writing. This is Fox Lancet’s first book.


About the Book

Otherworld Soldiers: Rise of the Apocalypse
by Fox Lancet

A Demon lord running low on victims.

A woman who was never meant for the world she was born into.

An enemy seeking to stand in the path of a violently ravenous horde.

The Demon Lord must find a way to placate his Legions before they turn on each other. So when Lord Nefarion learns of the Otherworld, he stops at nothing to bring his legion to its gate and cross over. The Key must be found so that the Demons can keep control of this precious gate out of the hands of their enemy.

Meanwhile, the Seraphs will do anything to keep the Demons from their goal. Earth and its billions of humans cannot be allowed to fall victim to the savage bloodlust of Nefarion and his Legions, but they are outmatched. Only allies on this Otherworld can help, but can this equally blood-driven race be trusted?

Can either side locate the Key before the other and secure their access to this new battlefield? What happens when there is much more to it than any could have guessed?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

WTF Friday review of Holey Matrimony & Loch Ness Lay by Kevin Strange

Waiting On Wednesday with The Emperors Revenge by Clive Cussler

TV Tuesday: Genre Shows That Deserved a 2nd Season

We also announced the winners of the #SPFBO StoryBundle Giveaway, with DJ and Wendell landing themselves coveted copies of all 10 finalists the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Expected publication: August 2nd 2016 by Tor.com

The Church of Armes of the Light has battled the forces of Darkness for as long as anyone can remember. The great prophecy has foretold that a band of misfits, led by a high priestess will defeat the Dark Lord Darvezian, armed with their wits, the blessing of the Light and an artifact stolen from the merciless Spider Queen.

Their journey will be long, hard and fraught with danger. Allies will become enemies; enemies will become allies. And the Dark Lord will be waiting, always waiting…

Spiderlight is an exhilarating fantasy quest from Adrian Tchaikovsky, the author of Guns at Dawn and the Shadows of the Apt series.

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories edited by Doug Murano and Alexander D. Ward
Expected publication: June 2016 by Crystal Lake Publishing

Awe and ache. Terror and transcendence. Regret and rebirth. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories is coming this June! Imagine a series of stories that explores the tension between beauty and horror, wonder and terror, sorrow and transcendence. A book where the only choices are “bad” and “worse.” It’s a book of scars, regret and loneliness. But through it all, it’s a book where hope can still exist and beauty can still thrive. Where goodness, if not rewarded, is at least acknowledged. A flower in the barrel of a rifle. A rose rising defiantly through a crack in the concrete. This is GUTTED: An anthology of terrible wonder and darkness. With a foreword by Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.

The current line-up includes: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Brian Kirk, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander, Kevin Lucia, Mercedes M. Yardley, and more.

Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart
Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Angry Robot

A coward’ son, a merchant’s daughter, a young price, a wild girl, and a half-dragon all find themselves refugees from their island home. When a plague destroys their home, they try to forge their own future. Along with a sinister wizard, they awaken a dragon and defy the gods.

After their homeland is struck with a deadly plague, five refugees cross the continent searching for answers. Instead they find Psander, a wizard whose fortress is invisible to the gods, and who is willing to sacrifice anything - and anyone - to keep the knowledge of the wizards safe. With Psander as their patron, the refugees cross the mountains, brave the territory of their sworn enemies, confront a hostile ocean and even traverse the world of the fairies in search of magic powerful enough to save themselves - and Psander’s library - from the wrath of the gods. All they need to do is to rescue an imprisoned dragon and unleash a primordial monster upon the world. How hard could it be?

Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Grand Central Publishing

That thing is growing again. We must destroy it. The time to act is now...

With these words begins Gideon Crew's latest, most dangerous, most high-stakes assignment yet. Failure will mean nothing short of the end of humankind on earth.

Five years ago, the mysterious and inscrutable head of Effective Engineering Solutions, Eli Glinn, led a mission to recover a gigantic meteorite--the largest ever discovered--from a remote island off the coast of South America. The mission ended in disaster when their ship, the Rolvaag, foundered in a vicious storm in the Antarctic waters and broke apart, sinking-along with its unique cargo-to the ocean floor. One hundred and eight crew members perished, and Eli Glinn was left paralyzed.

But this was not all. The tragedy revealed something truly terrifying: the meteorite they tried to retrieve was not, in fact, simply a rock. Instead, it was a complex organism from the deep reaches of space.

Now, that organism has implanted itself in the sea bed two miles below the surface-and it is growing. If it is not destroyed, the planet will be doomed. There is only one hope: for Glinn and his team to annihilate it, a task which requires Gideon's expertise with nuclear weapons. But as Gideon and his colleagues soon discover, the "meteorite" has a mind of its own-and it has no intention of going quietly...

The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley
Published April 19th 2016 by Tor.com

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

Berzerkoids by M.P. Johnson
Published April 11th 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press

In the first short story collection from Wonderland Book Award-winning author MP Johnson, disgusting little toys become the key to a father regaining his son’s love, a caterpillar crosses dimensions via peoples’ insides, punk rock blaring from a woman’s breast leads to her gruesome self destruction, a grizzled hardcore singer travels through time to save his future child, a drag queen goes to battle against her childhood teddy bear and more.

These stories are so shockingly, oozingly awesome, you just have to read ‘em all!

And finally, a long-gestating project from Joseph D'Lacey and Jeremy Drysdale, Clown Wars Book I: Blood and Aspic. All that's been publicly released so far is the cover, but I have the ARC in had, so you'll just have to wonder while I read. :)


I've been anxious to get my hands on this, so it was the first thing my Amazon gift certificate jumped all over.

Kindle Freebies


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt [April 26th 2016]
I've been sitting on this ARC for a while, but I love whole concept of a cursed town that nobody can leave, haunted by a 17th century witch whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut.

The Revelation Code: A Novel by Andy McDermott [April 26th 2016]
I'm a huge fan of the adventures of Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase, so I'm especially eager to see how McDermott blends mythology, adventure, and political terrorism in this one.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
It's taken every ounce of self-control I possess to hold off on this one, but I'm ridiculously excited to be diving into a new GGK title.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish [May 10th 2016]
I'm already a fan of Kristi's work, so I'm really curious to see how she transitions to a new character, new series, and new setting.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 22, 2016

WTF Friday: Holey Matrimony & Loch Ness Lay by Kevin Strange

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.

Assuming I believed in Hell, I'm completely and utterly convinced that I would be headed there on a suicidal express train for having read, much less enjoyed, Holey Matrimony. This is the kind of story that WTF Friday was invented for. It's weird, perverse, blasphemous, and monstrous in equal measure, with an awkward clash of the arousing and the amusing.

The story starts out simply enough, with a henpecked husband careening off the Met Street bridge and into the waters below. Just when he figures he's about to take his final breath, he's not only saved, but saved by guy who puts the 'save' in 'savior' - yes, Jesus Christ himself! Together, they look down upon the paramedics trying to save John's life . . . while Jesus begins playing the weird seducer. As if that weren't awkward enough, it turns out John isn't just a closeted gay man, and not even just a closeted gay man with green scales below the neckline, but a closeted gay man with green scales below the neckline and three (count 'em, three!) penises.

Yeah, it gets even weirder from there, with some of the most blasphemous use of hands and holes you can imagine, but things are not what they seem (the tentacles are a  dead giveaway). I really have to hand it to Kevin Strange, he pulls no punches with his imagination. Lest you think this is just a blatant, empty attempt to offend and horrify, however, there is a story behind it all, and a few final twists that almost - I say almost - bring a semblance of normality to the story. At least, that is, until the final line.

Kindle Edition, 33 pages
Published April 20th 2014 by Strangehouse Books

So, how do you top a pair of kinky lesbians in a long distance-relationship, one of whom has a fetish for snakes, and one of whom likes to watch? Well, if the story is Loch Ness Lay by Kevin Strange, then you give Margo something truly monstrous with which to feed her fetish.

Circus freak show girl turned cryptozoologist, Margo just landed the gig of a lifetime as an expert for the reality show "Finding Nessie." Having celebrated virtually with her girlfriend, she heads to Scotland and seduces her way aboard the crew's boat. You can probably guess where it goes from there, and you're largely right (whether you like it or not), but it's Margo's means and motivations that put a truly horrifying spin on the story.

This is a story laced by, infused with, and defined by violence. It's as incredible as it is impossible, with Margo's past compelling her to sacrifice all and everyone for the monstrous equivalent of revenge sex. Yes, boys and girls, the Loch Ness Monster is real . . . and it's hungry for more than one flavor of human flesh. As for the patented Strange twist at the end, this has to be one of my favorites, with twist piled upon twist upon twist as he tears through the final couple of pages.

Kindle Edition, 18 pages
Published June 23rd 2014 by MonstErection Publishing

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: The Emperors Revenge by Clive Cussler

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Emperors Revenge by Clive Cussler
Expected publication: May 31st 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group

The new Oregon Files adventure from the #1 New York Times–bestselling grand master of adventure.

Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the Oregon face their toughest challenge yet when a violent bank heist during the Monaco Grand Prix decimates the Corporation’s accounts. To get the money back, Juan joins forces with an old friend from his days in the CIA so they can track down a rogue hacker and a ruthless former Ukrainian naval officer. It is only after the hunt begins that the enormity of the plan comes into focus: the bank theft is just the first step in a plot that will result in the deaths of millions and bring the world’s economies to a standstill. The catalyst for the scheme? A stunning document stolen during Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia. But two hundred years later, it may be the thing that brings Europe to its knees.

While nobody will ever replace Dirk Pitt, and it's hard to compete with the charm of Sam and Remi Fargo, Juan Cabrillo and his crew always make for an entertaining read.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TV Tuesday: Genre Shows That Deserved a 2nd Season

TV Tuesday is (or will be) something of an sporadic feature here in the Ruins, a chance to take advantage of read-heavy/review-light weeks and talk about genre adventures on the tube, rather than the page.

To kick things off, I want to explore my Genre Shows That Deserved a Second Season. In chronological order, they are:

V: The Series
Forget the atrocious remake of a few years ago, I'm talking about the original series, the one that was event viewing back in the 80s. A continuation of the 2 highly-regarded, highly-rated miniseries that preceded it, it was unfortunately made without the involvement of creator Kenneth Johnson (who later went on to write his own continuation as a novel), and in hindsight did not make the best use of its record-breaking cost of $1 Million per episode. Looking back, I'm all too aware of the the ridiculous character shuffling, reuse of stock footage, and increasingly cheap special effects, but this was the first big sci-fi series of my childhood. It, of course, ended on a cliffhanger that seemed to promise a glimpse of the Visitor homeworld . . . something we'd never get to see.

Yes, it was cheap and increasingly cheesy, and it doesn't hold up nearly as well as the original 2 miniseries, but I would have killed for a second season.

Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
This was a show destined to fail from the start, but one with which I have a huge emotional/nostalgic connection - one of my elementary school teachers worked on the production, and we actually had the original models of the devastated San Francisco in our class. It doesn't get much cooler than that for a geeky kid. Anyway, this was a very dark, action-packed, surprisingly violent, post-apocalyptic dystopian adventure . . . with a kid's interactive toy tie-in. Yeah, talk about your mixed messages. It was a fantastic show that still stands up to repeat viewing, and you can see just how little work would have been needed to make it an adult prime-time drama, but when Mattel is ponying up the dough to support their toy-line, some quality has to suffer - and when the toy line dies, so does the show.

With J. Michael Straczynski as the head writer, you know this had potential, and I would have loved to see a toy-less second season (which was actually scripted).

Max Headroom
If all you know of Max Headroom is the music video show and Coke commercials, then you need to check out the very smart, very funny TV series. The first real taste most American audiences had of the cyberpunk culture, this was an all-out satire on the television generation, consumerism, politics, and big business. Matt Frewer was fantastic, Amanda Pays was gorgeous (and fantastic), and Chris Young was that rare TV child prodigy you didn't hate. Technically, it lasted into a second aborted season, but at 14 episodes in total, I'm counting it as one short season. Poorly scheduled against the likes of Dallas and Miami Vice, it was canceled due to low ratings, with 2 episodes left unaired (that would later be broadcast, ironically enough, during the TV writer's strike).

This was a show that just barely scratched the surface of what it was capable of, and with so many continuation teases falling short, it's a shame it ended so coldly.

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
In case you missed it, this was a weird Western/Sci-Fi/Adventure mash-up from 2 of the script-writers on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring none other than Bruce Campbell (with John Astin playing an awesome bit part). It was such a fun show, with Billy Drago playing the perfect villainous foil to Campbell, and Christian Clemenson serving as a great sidekick. All the Western standards were there, from train robberies to gunfights, but we also saw the dawn of technology and some really cool steampunk elements. It had a loyal cult following, and was well-received by critics, but was yet another genre show to fall victim to Fox's insecurities about their place in prime time.

The writers were counting on a second season, leaving us with a forever unresolved cliffhanger, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't have been just as awesome.

Space: Above and Beyond
Created by Glen Morgan and James Wong (who would go on to make the Final Destination movies), this was actually planned for an ambitious 5 seasons, but only ran for 1. Set roughly 70 years in the future, it focused on the "Wildcard" squadron of the United States Marine Corps. Still smarting from something of a civil war with the Silicates (androids), humanity finds itself at the mercy of a mysterious alien species know as the Chigs. This was a darkly violent series, and one of the first to make legitimate use of computer-generated effects that didn't look computer-generated. It deal with a lot of serious issues, and had complex character arcs that we wouldn't see on TV sci-fi for another decade. Once again, however, poor scheduling and a lack of vision on the part of Fox saw an early demise.

The show just got better as it went on, it had a huge cliffhanger, and we know the writers had 4 more seasons planned, so there's no doubt a second season would blown us away.

Terra Nova
To wrap things up on a more contemporary note, we have the Steven Spielberg-produced dinosaurs and time travel series from 2011. There's no doubt the series had its issues, and struggled to find it's storytelling niche, but it really settled in with the second half of the season, going so far as to win back its own critics. It looked fantastic, had decent (if uneven) casting, and phenomenal special effects for TV. Sure, it could have benefited from more dinosaurs, but what couldn't? When we got more into the Sixers, the separatist camp of time travelers, and began exploring the conspiracies behind the Phoenix Group, we had a legitimate piece of storytelling with enough human drama to compete with the dinosaur spectacle. It, of course, ended on a particularly frustrating cliffhanger, and then Fox strung us along for 4 months before officially declaring it canceled.

Dinosaurs, time travel, government conspiracies, and survival - with how good the series got in the second half, it's a shame we never got to see more.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

WTF Friday review of Run to Ground by Jasper Bark

#SPFBO StoryBundle Giveaway

Waiting On Wednesday with Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Five Reasons You Want a Halfling Companion on Your Quest guest post by Melanie R. Meadors

You've still got a few days to enter the #SPFBO StoryBundle Giveaway, so if you want to get your hands on all 10 finalists from the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, now's your chance!


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells
Published April 5th 2016 by Night Shade Books

An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

The Edge of Worlds, from celebrated fantasy author Martha Wells, returns to the fascinating world of The Cloud Roads for the first book in a new series of strange lands, uncanny beings, dead cities, and ancient danger.

Showdown City by Todd Berger
Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Diversion Publishing

Just because you re off the grid doesn t mean you re not a target.

In this fiercely inventive novel of suspense and satire, Westworld by way of Django Unchained, a down-on-his-luck helicopter pilot named Huey Palmer finds himself hired by a small cadre of treasure hunters that set out into the Nevada desert to find a gun. It s not just any gun that eccentric billionaire Ernie Swords wants, it s a long-lost antique, one with a story worth a fortune, and Swords has the money and the means to get it.

Where Huey and his cohorts soon find themselves, however, is stranded far from civilization in a forgotten town dubbed Showdown City, where the infamous gun is one of hundreds readily available for the townsfolk to settle any and all disputes. After living in isolation for over a hundred years, the town has morphed into a warped, lawless community overseen by a delusional tyrant and his quick-draw henchman and they do not take kindly to strangers.

Huey is the one who got them into this mess in Showdown City, and now, with the unlikeliest help, he has a plan to shoot their way out."

Kindle Freebies


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt [April 26th 2016]
I've been sitting on this ARC for a while, but I love whole concept of a cursed town that nobody can leave, haunted by a 17th century witch whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut.

The Revelation Code: A Novel by Andy McDermott [April 26th 2016]
I'm a huge fan of the adventures of Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase, so I'm especially eager to see how McDermott blends mythology, adventure, and political terrorism in this one.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
It's taken every ounce of self-control I possess to hold off on this one, but I'm ridiculously excited to be diving into a new GGK title.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish [May 10th 2016]
I'm already a fan of Kristi's work, so I'm really curious to see how she transitions to a new character, new series, and new setting.

What's topping your shelves this week?