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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough

Over the weekend, Jason M. Hough treated his newsletter subscribers to the reveal of the cover for his next novel, Zero World. This is the first novel in Jason's Conduit series and will be published by Del Rey on September 15th in North America. Jason is the author of the fabulous Dire Earth Cycle novels (3 novels and 1 short). So without further ado, Zero World:

Zero World
Conduit 1
Del Rey, September 15, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
Jacket design: David G. Stevenson
Jacket photograph: © Gene Mollica

Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough
Published in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike anything he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the very fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that appears to be Earth’s twin.

Peter quickly discovers that this mirrored world is indeed very different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But nothing can prepare him for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.

Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough
Photo by Nathan Hough
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is the bestselling author of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, THE EXODUS TOWERS, and THE PLAGUE FORGE. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.

THE DARWIN ELEVATOR began in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project.  The book released on July 30th 2013 in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week. DARWIN is Jason’s first published fiction.

The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, was released in the summer of 2013. Jason's next book, ZERO WORLD, is due out in September 2015.

He lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife, two young sons, and a dog named Missbuster.

Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+  ~  Blog  ~  Newsletter

Review: The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan

The Dark Defiles
Author:  Richard K. Morgan
Series:  A Land Fit for Heroes 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, October 7, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 656 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780345493101 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
To be published by Gollancz in the United Kingdom, November 20, 2014

Review: The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan
Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold meets George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones in the final novel in Richard K. Morgan’s epic A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which burst onto the fantasy scene with The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands.

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions—Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth—Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

Melanie's Thoughts

The Dark Defiles is the long awaited final book of the Land Fit for Heroes trilogy by Richard K Morgan. It has been four years since the last book The Cold Commands was released and it took me a few chapters to get completely back into the dark fantasy world that Morgan has created. The story starts not long after the end of book 2 with Ringil, Egar and Archeth hunting for some artifacts that will help them defeat the dwenda. The trio get separated during an attack by fleet of soldiers looking to capture Ringil. Egar and Archeth continue their search together while Ringil heads off on his own to find a way to defeat the dwenda. Battles between men, monsters and gods is probably the most efficient way of explaining this final instalment of the trilogy.

The Dark Defiles in epic in every sense of the word and it would take too long to explain every twist and turn that Morgan takes the reader through. While I think that Morgan is extremely talented with a wonderfully rich and powerful imagination, I believe that he let his characters run wild in this book. I absolutely adored book 1 - The Steel Remains and thought The Cold Commands dragged a little but book 3 was one of the hardest books for me to finish. I was really engaged with the characters for the first few chapters but almost found myself skipping pages until the final third of the book where it felt like the momentum of the story started to kick back in.  It was this middle part of the book where Morgan exposed the reader to one too many Ringil related sub-plots. He was an excellent character but it felt like Morgan was trying to wrap up every small thread and remind the reader of every antagonist that Ringil ever came across through all of the books. While in contrast more questions were raised for me about Archeth, her people and the Warhelm. Where did ultimately come from, how have they survived and do they have an agenda? Archeth and Egar were a great team as of companions as they were so different and I was more engaged in the chapters that followed their journey.  The book however, was overall far too long. I am not afraid of a long book but there needs to be some balance between characterization and action in order to keep my attention throughout.

I do feel satisfied with how Morgan has ended this trilogy even though it was sad and the epilogue disturbing. I believe he was true to his characters throughout and especially at the end. I was a tiny bit confused about the very final scenes so if someone would like to explain that I would be greatly appreciative. This is not a series for people that are sensitive to extreme violence, lots of sex and three anti-heroes. I am very conflicted on whether to recommend this series as I think this final book let the entire series down. This is also contradictory to many of the other reviews you may read. Had Morgan resisted the temptation to pad about two thirds of the book I think I would have been more enthusiastic about recommending it to others. I can't fault his ability to craft some seriously imaginative dark fantasy but wish he heeded the 'less is more' adage.

Guest Blog by Emma Jane Holloway - The Baskerville Affair - August 6, 2014

The Baskerville Affair trilogy by Emma Jane Holloway will be published in digital format on August 7th in the UK.  Emma Jane Holloway was kind enough to stop by to tell us a bit about the series.

The Baskerville Affair
by Emma Jane Holloway

The Baskerville Affair combines steampunk, mystery, and adventure. It begins in 1888 London, which is dominated by an industrial cabal called the Steam Council. They have outlawed magic and stripped much of the power from the aristocracy, including the royal family. Add a circus, mysterious automatons, a ne’er-do-well rake with a mechanical octopus, and a talking mouse, and you get the picture.

The series came about in a convoluted way. Once upon a time, I wanted to write a story about Sherlock Holmes’s niece. It started as a fairly simple proposition: I’d loved the Holmes tales since I was about ten years old, and I was curious as to what a girl would make of her famous uncle. Somehow, I ended up with a complex steampunk trilogy with magic, mystery, and talking mice. In the end, Evelina is an adult in this series, but her relationship with Holmes is still key to who she is.

She’s also caught between social classes. Her mother was a Holmes and gentry, but her father’s origins were with the circus, and his bloodline brings an ability to do magic. Unfortunately, such talents are highly illegal. Accordingly, Evelina is trying to make her way mostly on her academic and mechanical strengths, but the temptation to slip in a wee spell now and again is too much. What she really wants is to integrate all these pieces of herself and figure out where she belongs in the world.

And what a world it is. The Empire is going through a huge power struggle between the aristocracy and the industrialists and there are several major players—including a rogue sorcerer—who want her unusual talents for their own purposes.

Although there are airships and monsters, battles and ballrooms, the stories are all about the characters. In A Study in Silks, my characters start out in the elegance of London’s Mayfair and end up by the time A Study in Ashes comes along as players in a war of magic and machines that tears the Empire apart. Along the way, they have to face the darker sides of their natures and decide just how much they’re willing to risk for the futures—and the people—they desire.

The Baskerville Affair Trilogy

A Study in Silks
The Baskerville Affair 1
Piatkus Entice, August 7, 2014

Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there’s a murderer to deal with – not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines – something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

A Study in Darkness
The Baskerville Affair 2
Piatkus Entice, August 7, 2014

When a bomb goes off at 221B Baker Street, Evelina Cooper is thrown into her Uncle Sherlock’s world of mystery and murder. But just when she thought it was safe to return to the ballroom, old, new, and even dead enemies are clamoring for a place on her dance card.

Before Evelina’s even unpacked her gowns for a country house party, an indiscretion puts her in the power of the ruthless Gold King, who recruits her as his spy. He knows her disreputable past and exiles her to the rank alleyways of Whitechapel with orders to unmask his foe.

As danger mounts, Evelina struggles between hiding her illegal magic and succumbing to the darker aspects of her power. One path keeps her secure; the other keeps her alive. For rebellion is brewing, a sorcerer wants her soul, and no one can protect her in the hunting ground of Jack the Ripper.

A Study in Ashes
The Baskerville Affair 3
Piatkus Entice, August 7, 2014

As part of her devil’s bargain with the industrial steam barons, Evelina Cooper is finally enrolled in the Ladies’ College of London. However, she’s attending as the Gold King’s pet magician, in handcuffs and forbidden contact with even her closest relation, the detective Sherlock Holmes.

Not even Niccolo, the dashing pirate captain, and his sentient airship can save her. But Evelina’s problems are only part of a larger war. The Baskerville Affair is finally coming to light, and the rebels are making their move to wrest power from the barons and restore it to Queen Victoria. Missing heirs and nightmare hounds are the order of the day — or at least that’s what Dr. Watson is telling the press.

But their plans are doomed unless Evelina escapes to unite her magic with the rebels’ machines–and even then her powers aren’t what they used to be. A sorcerer has awakened a dark hunger in Evelina’s soul, and only he can keep her from endangering them all. The only problem is…he’s dead.

The North American print editions from Del Rey

A Study in Silks
The Baskerville Affair 1
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 560 pages

A Study in Darkness
The Baskerville Affair 2
Del Rey, October 29, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

A Study in Ashes
The Baskerville Affair Trilogy 1
Del Rey, December 31, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 672 pages

About Emma Jane

Ever since childhood, Emma Jane Holloway refused to accept that history was nothing but facts prisoned behind the closed door of time. Why waste a perfectly good playground coloring within the timelines? Accordingly, her novels are filled with whimsical impossibilities and the occasional eye-blinking impertinence—but always in the service of grand adventure.

Struggling between the practical and the artistic—a family tradition, along with ghosts and a belief in the curative powers of shortbread—Emma Jane has a degree in literature and job in finance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a house crammed with books, musical instruments, and half-finished sewing projects. In the meantime, she’s published articles, essays, short stories, and enough novels to build a fort for her stuffed hedgehog.

Newsletter  ~  Blog  ~  Website  ~  Twitter @EmmaJHolloway  ~ Facebook Fan Page

Release Day Review: Hammer of Angels by G. T. Almasi

Hammer of Angels
Author:  G. T. Almasi
Series:  Shadowstorm 2
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 25, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price$9.99 (print)
ISBN978-0-440-42356-0 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Release Day Review: Hammer of Angels by G. T. Almasi
In G. T. Almasi’s thrilling alternate reality, the United States, the USSR, and the Republic of China share a fragile balance of power with Greater Germany, which emerged from World War II in control of Europe and half of the Middle East. To avoid nuclear Armageddon, the four superpowers pursue their ambitions with elite spies known as Levels, who are modified with mechanical and chemical enhancements.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, code-named Scarlet, is a kick-ass superheroine with killer Mods and an attitude to match. She’s considered one of America’s top Levels, even though her last mission nearly precipitated World War III. So now Scarlet and her new partner, Darwin, have been sent to Greater Germany to help sow the seeds of anarchy and prevent Germany’s defection to Russia and China.

But where Scarlet goes, chaos follows—and when her mission takes an unexpected turn, she and Darwin must go ever deeper into enemy territory. As Scarlet grapples with a troubling attraction to her new partner, explosive information comes to light about the German cloning program and one of its prisoners—a legendary American Level who just happens to be Scarlet’s father.

Melanie's Thoughts:

This was the second book in the Shadowstorm series by G.T Almasi which is set in an alternate universe where there are only 4 world powers -  a Nazi controlled Germany where they have enslaved the Jewish race and much of Europe, USSR, China and then there is the United States who are fighting all of them with an elite force of technologically enhanced humans. In this instalment the series heroine, Alix Nico, is sent to Europe to fan the fires of dissent within Greater Gemany's slave trade in an effort to do as much damage to them as possible. She is supported by her new partner Darwin and their relationship unfolds along with a lot of action. Working with Darwin is a like a double edged sword as he is a clone of her previous partner and boyfriend Trick. Just to make her mission even more dangerous Alix (code name Scarlet) discovers clues that her father, who was also an agent, may not actually be dead.  The chase is on to finish her mission and rescue her father.

I hadn't read the first book of the series  - Blades of Winter but I found book 2 very easy to get into and figure out who was who. This was quite a different read from some of the other books I have been reading lately with the non-stop action.  There was barely any dialogue that didn't take place immediately before, during or immediately after a car chase, shoot out or bombing. I almost thought there was a bit too much action as there was no let up on the explosions, gun fights and hand to hand combat. At times it could be rather exhausting to read and I wish I had some of Alix's enhancements in order to plough my way through it. I did really like Almasi's alternate reality as it was well developed and executed. I also thought that Almasi opens up a number of potential plot points with the cloning of various characters. I liked but did not love Alix as a character.  Perhaps if I had read book 1 I might have warmed to her a bit more. I thought that Darwin could have made a more interesting character especially that he was one of three clones, one of which died while working with Alix. There wasn't very much time given to the development of the other characters and I felt a bit at times like I was reading the plot of a video game. Having said that there was enough to grab my attention and I look forward to what comes next especially, with the big surprise at the end of the novel.

Interview with Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising - January 27, 2014

Please welcome Pierce Brown to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Red Rising, Pierce's debut novel, will be on published on January 28, 2014 by Del Rey.

Interview with Pierce Brown, author of  Red Rising - January 27, 2014

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Pierce:  It’s hard to say. I’ve always told stories. My parents have video of me hyperventilating during a story about a dragon finding a cave where the king of bats lived. I talked and talked and talked and then fell asleep sitting up.

I tell stories for the same reason I love cooking food for friends at my house. I want to share. I want to go on trips. I want to embark upon a pilgrimage together and then discuss the places we’ve been, the wonders we’ve seen, and the new things we now believe.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pierce:  Pantser, through and through. I aspire to be a plotter, yet time and again I fail. I suppose in the end, I find pantsing, despite the daily horror of being lost and confused as to where the story is going, much more natural a writing style. Imagine there are ten great epiphanies that go into those days when you outline. That’s wonderful! Ten! But when I write with only a vague notion of the end, I can have an epiphany every day. That’s one of the most rewarding parts about being a writer.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Pierce:  Deciding. Sometimes there are a thousand routes to take in the story and a hundred ways to present each route, and I have such indecision about which is the most meaningful, most impacting. I’m best when I write brashly, then come back with the spectacles on and say, “oh, well that’s just rubbish; we shall fix this, and this, and put this scene on a mountain top. But oh, however shall we get to the mountain top...”

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Pierce:  Gene Wolfe, a master of fantasy and prose. Neil Gaiman, one of the best mood/world builders I’ve ever read. JK Rowling, who taught me so many things. Robert Heinlein, the man who perfected science fiction as social commentary. Bernard Cornwell, my favorite writer of historical fiction. George R. R. Martin, the godfather of modern epic fantasy.

TQ:  Describe Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy 1) in 140 characters or less.

PierceRed Rising is the story of a young man’s journey to bring down the empire that kept his people in slavery and stole the woman he loved.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Red Rising? Why did you choose to write a Dystopian Adventure/Fantasy novel? Do you want to write in any other genres?

PierceRed Rising was inspired by my relationship with bullies when I was younger. I moved seven times with my parents, so I was always breaking into new schools with new bullies. Some used words, some used money, others fists.

Another inspiration was the play Antigone, in which a young woman sacrifices herself to reveal a corrupt law when she is forbidden from burying her dead brother.

I want to write a great many things. Some stories are buried in the back of my head. Others are out there waiting to be discovered. It’s a thrill not knowing when inspiration will next rear its strange head.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Red Rising?

Pierce:  Very little. Much of it was drawn from things I liked as a boy—Roman and Greek mythology, planets, space travel, etc. What I did research was gravitational fields, future technology, anthropological studies of immigrants and slave groups throughout history.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?

Pierce:  Eo was the easiest because she was the point of the novel. In the end, Darrow has to go through trial and tribulation to understand what she knew at the very beginning—that there is more to life than what is given you.

I saw her so vividly in my head that I rarely found myself editing her lines or wondering if Eo would indeed say what I’d written. She really was a pleasure to write.

TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from Red Rising.

Pierce:  The very first: “I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

TQ:  What's next?

Pierce:  Book 2, which is nearing completion. Then Book 3. I think my editor would fly to LA and knock my door down if I said anything else!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Pierce:  Absolutely my pleasure. I hope to be back next year for book 2.

Red Rising

Red Rising
Red Rising Trilogy 1
Del Rey, January 28, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Pierce Brown, author of  Red Rising - January 27, 2014
Pierce Brown’s relentlessly entertaining debut channels the excitement of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

About Pierce

Interview with Pierce Brown, author of  Red Rising - January 27, 2014
Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for his cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate Campaign.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  @Pierce_Brown  ~  Goodreads  ~  Instagram

Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. HoughReview: The Dark Defiles by Richard MorganGuest Blog by Emma Jane Holloway - The Baskerville Affair - August 6, 2014Release Day Review: Hammer of Angels by G. T. AlmasiInterview with Pierce Brown, author of  Red Rising - January 27, 2014

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