Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why Some Struggle with Urban Fantasy Novels

Urban Fantasy is the sub-genre I read the most. I wouldn't say it's my favorite, but there's something about it that makes me gravitate towards my UF reading pile while searching for my next read. It's a sub-genre that is far from perfect, but it keeps delivering me with what I need, even when I keep complaining about certain aspects.

The thing I lament the most though, is how various of my reviewer friends don't seem to care much for Urban Fantasy, and in many instances for good reason. Even when I stumble onto a novel I really like I very much hesitate to recommend it to them.

With that in mind, I invited about a handful of them to share their experiences with Urban Fantasy, in particular trying to explore why they dislike the sub-genre, the reasons why they don't read or barely read it, etc. All this in the hopes of maybe exploring how the sub-genre is missing out on a good chunk of potential fantasy readers that for one reason or another Urban Fantasy is not connecting with.

Maybe it'll lead to some self-exploration of the sub-genre, maybe it'll lead to some good discussion, maybe it'll lead to some bickering, or maybe it'll not provide anything much more than some fun venting from a few readers. At the very least, it'll illuminate to me an ongoing curiosity of why some of my reviewer friends seem to avoid Urban Fantasy novels.

Through the coming weeks there'll be various guest posts from these individuals, and I hope some of you guys stop by and read what they have to say. And if any you is interested in providing an on-topic guest post, feel free to contact me, and we'll work out the details.

First guest post will be this Wednesday, titled "The Achilles Heel of Urban Fantasy" which focuses on world building.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Blades of Winter by G. T. Almasi

Blades of Winter by G. T. Almasi is the most action-packed novel I've read, to say nothing of its fast pace. It starts at top speed, and doesn't let up until the very end. In fact, after some upgrades, the novel keeps accelerating beyond its limits at an unparalleled frantic pace. Set in an alternate-history universe, Almasi's debut jumps right into the Shadowstorm; the Cold War on steroids.

Alix Nico is an up-and-coming, yet still low level, super agent of ExOps (Extreme Operations Division) who conned her way into an operation way above her pay grade. In what seemed to be a routine surveillance mission, Alix Nico gets thrust into an operation with dire consequences filled with assassination attempts and a hunt for a traitor; an operation linked to a mission in which Alix's father died years ago.

Code named Scarlet, Alix is a petite redhead 19 year-old million dollar killing machine. ExOps is a government backed clandestine division which fights in what is known as the Shadowstorm, which basically is a Cold War involving the four remaining superpowers of the world after WWII: United States, Germany, Russia, and China. To serve their purposes, scientific advancements have enabled these superpowers and their respective secret agencies to create superhuman spies which will be integral to how the Shadowstorm will be played. Alix is one of these superhuman spies, who's undergone modifications totaling over the aforementioned million dollars. Not quite The Six Million Dollar Man, but close.

Alix is also the narrator of the novel from the first person perspective. She's one sassy character, very much an acquired taste, and a bit of a tomboy which really comes through the voice of her narration. I don't think there'll be much middle ground with her. Either you'll like her or hate her as a character because she's a bit of a brat. Still I found Alix quite amusing, particularly with her outlook on life and the fact that she's very much self-aware of what she is, which is part of her charm. I don't know if everyone will see her that way.
"I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my mother, but I do know she has the best daughter in the whole fucking world."
Damn right I say. I mean, seriously, how can you not like a character with such wisdom. Precisely what I keep reminding my mom of...except for the "daughter" part. In any case, Alix has an interesting way of viewing the world, and there's plenty of humor to it too. And of course, the action in pure violent bliss.

Blades of Winter features over-the-top violence amid action sequences that will require incredible suspension of disbelief. You can't help, but imagine how this story would look in a fully budgeted film with the combination of high octane fast action with characters interacting with a fusion of both bionic and chemical upgrades, which are further enhanced with advances in Information Technology. With the bluntness and descriptive carnage from Alix, it would surely look awesome in a hard R rated movie with all the bone snapping, entrails pulling, heart squeezing, spinal-cord breaking, brain exploding violence.

I'm usually not a fan of alternate history stories, for some reason my mind keeps telling me "it's all lies!" despite my awareness of it being a fictional story. With that in mind I have to commend the effort here as I very much enjoyed the world building and how Almasi has set-up the wold from WWII and on. Though I would have liked to see a bit more of the more mundane society at work, I liked the integration of social-political issues with diplomatic dilemmas adjusted to events of how WWII unfolded. Jews are enslaved in Germany, United States has conquered Cuba making it a state, while also occupying Japan and dropping the atom bomb on a Chinese army, all which set the stage for the Shadowstorm to develop thus avoiding the superpowers from destroying each other and the world. That said, it felt like for the most part, we're only aware of what happened from the Tropic of Cancer and above. So I kept asking myself, what happened to the rest of the world, given the new world stage and its superpowers?

Which became a bit of a problem for me, in part because the most important catalyst of the plot in this story is directly linked to an oil crisis which forced the US to take measures against Germany (who controlled much of the Middle-East, and thus strong oil positions). In turn, what about Venezuela? Now that the United States has a strategic position in Cuba, it seems like the next logical step to consider Venezuela's role and how the United States could've used it to its advantage. Maybe it would've been inconsequential, but I thought it should've played some part in it. Then Brazil certainly needed to be considered in some respect. All this seemed important to me particularly with the risk of starting a new full blown war against a superpower which threatened the status quo.

The plot itself was straight-forward and very predictable in some manners, particularly with figuring out who the bad guys were. I guess it wasn't of much consequence since there's really not much time to think on it anyways. The story too is consistent throughout, so much of what you get early on is what you'll get as the story progresses. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I found the rhythm I didn't look back. That said, what you find in the early chapters is representative of what you'll find later on, so do with that information what you will.

The relationships in Blades of Winter were interesting, partly because of their unique interaction with some good banter, and quite refreshing. At the same time, other than with her mother, I felt they were quite superficial so as events go along and bad shit happens the impact is not pronounced. Also, for all the death and violence, Almasi seemed a bit reluctant to do some real damage to our heroes. It remains to be seen if this will continue, particularly in light of the ending it had. Also seemed like every time Alix got messed up, it was just an excuse to give her some more upgrades and mods. Speaking of it, was a bit disappointed with the agency she's working in. Alix keeps messing up in some areas, yet there's no real ramification for her actions. In fact, she seems to get rewarded for her screw-ups be it by upgrades or promotions, and that just can't continue being in my opinion.

The Blades of Winter novel couldn't have come out at a better time, right after the London 2012 Olympics. I say this because Alix Nico used to be an Olympic gymnast prodigy. The year is 1980, and we get introduced to a younger pre-teen Alix in a newspaper article from 1972 as she dominated in Madison Square Garden in her age category, alluding to possibility of her winning gold in the next Olympics. All this to say that for some reason, for the rest of the novel, every time I thought of Alix Nico I kept visualizing a bad-ass weaponized gymnastic's legend, gold medalist Olga Korbut with a worse attitude and blowing shit up.

Blades of Winter begins a series that promises to deliver non-stop action that will without a doubt satisfy action enthusiast. There's plenty of room for Almasi to improve, but as it stands it's a series I'll surely continue reading whenever I get the itch for this particular type of story because I know what I'll be getting out of it: excitement, humor, and over the top violence.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Winner Update for Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep

Here's the winner of the giveaway the signed copy of Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep, latest in the Elemental Assassin series:

Kristen Heyl

Thanks everyone who participated and congrats to Kristen. For those interested, I reviewed Widow's Web.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Interview with Jenn Bennett - author of the Arcadia Bell series

Well, it's been about 5 months since I've had author on the blog whom I could torture with a little bit of the Bastard treatment, so glad to have author Jenn Bennett around to break-in my new electrodes. I've been very fortunate so far with my interviews, with some great answers, and this was no different. I gave her some solid jabs, and she responded with a few well placed uppercuts. I think I may have a concussion.

In any case, Jenn Bennett is the author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series, and she's an awesome person. Even though we had a rocky start to our relationship, I've found that she's one of the coolest people I've interacted with. Well, see for yourself. I challenge anyone not to laugh at least twice through this...hopefully not at my expense.


Bastard: Hello Jenn, last chance to walk away... still here? Welcome then, hope you don't have any regrets after this.

Jenn Bennett: Hellooooo, Bastard. I feel a bit like Rachel Maddow walking into an interview with Bill O’ Reilly. At any moment, someone’s going to shout “BURN HER AT THE STAKE” or require me to undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.

Bastard: Looking through your website, you mention that you were born in Germany, but have lived and traveled in various places around the world. What else can you tell us about yourself for those that don't know you? And please share what it has been like living in different parts of the world.

Jenn Bennett: My father served in the US Army, which is why I was born in Germany (and lived there twice). I’ve traveled in Europe, and I’ve visited 40 states on this side of the pond (lived in 8 of them). I’ve also spent a lot of time in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan for business.

Living and travelling in other parts of the world has given me unique perspectives of cultures, races, religions, politics. It’s also filled my head with a thousand potential storylines, charters, settings, worlds. I mean, it’s one thing to imagine the bustle of Hong Kong, but quite another to have actually been drunk in Wanchai after midnight. I know what it smells, sounds, and feels like. And I know what it’s like to push past multiple language and cultural barriers to connect with people and foster unlikely friendships.

Bastard: It's also mentioned that you're an award-winning visual artist, which award was this and how did you come about winning it?

Jenn Bennett: I won several awards in college, including a national ad campaign for Anheuser-Busch. For that particular award, not only was my artwork used in ads, but the company also awarded me $5000 . . . which I promptly spent on pizza, beer, and weed. What can I say? I was 19 and stupid. I did a lot of other dumb things that year, including getting married for the first time. But I was still able to graduate summa cum laude and granted the highest award given in the School of Fine Arts. So I wasn’t a total fuckup.

Bastard: You're the author of the urban fantasy series Arcadia Bell, which has been well received by numerous fans of the genre. In part, you've been lauded for originality and a good cast of characters. Can you tell us a bit more of what this series is about, and have you been content with the reception you've received so far?

Jenn Bennett: My series is about an occult mage who owns a tiki bar in central California that serves Earthbound demons. It’s also about a girl who falls in love with a divorced dad twice her age, and the ensuing trials of establishing a new family with him and his teenage kid. It’s also a love letter to Thelema and medieval demonology, and an exploration of race and culture and good and evil. Whichever level you want to read it on it is fine by me.

Bastard: I don't think it's a secret that I didn't enjoy Kindling the Moon much, and part of it was due to how the investigation and procedural aspects of the plot were handled. Recently I finished the second book in the series, Summoning the Night, and I'm glad to say that in this regard it's where I noticed your biggest improvement. Mainly, the investigation was more dynamic and the characters were more active chasing leads, of course with the awareness that they are amateurs. Was this something you were focusing on, or was it a natural consequence of the story you wanted to tell?

Jenn Bennett:  Ooooh, yes—I’m quite aware that you’re not my biggest fan. My first encounter with the entity known as Bastard Books was when I noticed you talking trash about KINDLING to half the urban fantasy bloggers on twitter.
Not one of my finest
moments I admit.

Regarding procedural investigation. . . Honestly? Procedurals bore me to tears. Okay, that’s not entirely true. But it’s certainly not my main writing objective. I’m not a cop or a lawyer or a detective—I can’t bring that sort of perspective to a book, nor do I want to. And if I tried to make that my primary focus, it would undercut the fact that my characters aren’t detectives. They’re researchers at best, but photographers and bartenders by and large. These are amateurs who are trying to figure out how to use what they have to solve a problem, and developing as people as they go along. It’s never about the main plot for me. It’s about the subtext. The relationships. The way Cady is slowly changing and adapting her behavior and reactions. The way Lon is opening up. The way Jupe is learning about the world.

Bastard: Something I can say about your writing is that it seems like you're having a ton of fun with the scenes you're coming up with.  As I'm reading some of them I can just imagine you with a smirk on your face and a grin among others. Maybe bit of loud maniac laughter when no one is looking. Is this accurate?

Jenn Bennett: Are you saying that you think I’m funny, or that you think I think I’m funny? If it’s the former, then thanks. If it’s the latter, then, yes, Mr. Bastard, I think I’m flippin’ hilarious, and I often laugh at my own jokes. Can you feel my smirk right now?

Bastard: The dialogue in this series seems to be the biggest benefactor of this fun I'm speaking about, which is quite abundant in your story. Along with it, it seemed like good communication was a main feature in Summoning the Night. It goes contrary to the usual drama-heightening tactic of characters keeping quiet and working under assumptions, often wrong ones. This is something I highly approve of; how important is it for you to have characters that actually communicate with each other, and is it something you plan on continuing as the series progresses?

Jenn Bennett: Godammit, Bastard. Are you screwing with me? Trolling me? I CAN’T TELL ANY LONGER.

For the record, not trolling.
I think...
Yes, I specifically wanted Cady and Lon to communicate openly and keep the assumptions to a minimum. I think they’ve managed it pretty well, so far. But Cady is in the process of shedding her Don’t Trust Anyone skin, and Lon has spent years developing his wounded-heart hermit routine. So I think they’re allowed a few mistakes now and then. Book 4 will be particularly trying, due to the circumstances they find themselves in at the end of Book 3.

Bastard: Visiting the Tambuku Tiki Lounge, which beer would you order? Or would you order one of those fruity drinks? As an aside, do you think you would get along with Cady as your bartender?

Jenn Bennett: No beer is served in Tambuku. I would order a Mai Tai, as you can always test a tiki bar’s merit by the quality of their Mai Tai. And would I get along with Cady? Absolutely. I think she’s a no-nonsense bartender who pours fast, keeps conversation to a minimum, and is pleasant to ogle. What’s not to like?

Bastard: Out of all the paranormal beings you could have used or imagined, what attracted you to the combination of magicians and demons?

Jenn Bennett: I’m knowledgeable about the occult in general, ceremonial magic specifically. Like many other elements in medieval/Renaissance magic, I feel demons got short shrift. What can I say? I’m a cheerleader for the downtrodden and maligned.

Bastard: You're a magician and you summon the Bastard demon. At the cost of sharing your darkest secret, what would you have this demon do for you? And of course, what is your darkest secret? You can trust him, he won't share it with anyone.

Jenn Bennett: I would have him beta read for me, since he seems to have some very specific ideas about what he likes and doesn’t like. My deepest darkest secret? I worked at Burger King for 2 hours when I was 19. Long enough to get a uniform and watch a couple of training videos. When no one was looking, I walked out the back door and never went back. I tossed the uniform in the dumpster.

Bastard: There's also been mention of you enjoying dark stories. There's a certain darkness to your Arcadia Bell novels at the moment, but I get the impression that you may be holding back a bit. Do you have plans on going darker as the series goes along, or are you comfortable with the current state of things?

Jenn Bennett: Sure, I adore super dark stories, but I also like what I’ve done in Arcadia so far. I think it’s a nice balance of light and grit. However, Book 3 is sliding into a darker space (my agent said she couldn’t sleep after finishing it). Book 4 will easily be the darkest thing I’ve ever written.

Bastard: One of my favorite scenes in urban fantasy novels in the past year or so, and it goes without saying my favorite in this series, is when Arcadia beats the shit out of a character in that classroom scene in Kindling the Moon. I think you have a real knack (see what I did there) for writing physical altercation action sequences. I'm not sure if I'm alone here, but it is my hope that you write more of these as the series goes along. It reminds me of Kate Daniels, one of my top characters in urban fantasy, when Cady gets all badass in her blind rages. Can you make this happen for me, please, please, please?

Jenn Bennett: Did you actually just give me a compliment? Huh. Well, thank you. A lot of readers like the classroom scene. Cady has a major blind-rage scene in book 3, one I think many readers will be cheering. Maybe, dare I say, even you . . .

Bastard: As far as knack goes, if you were an Earthbound, what knack would you hope to have? And which one do you hope not to be stuck with? What about color of your halo? Let me guess, your favorite color would be electric blue.

Jenn Bennett: Demonic knacks are nothing but trouble. I would NOT want Lon’s. Nor Jupe’s. A healing knack might be helpful, though. Halo color? Hold on. Did you just link to an Icehouse video? VOMIT. I’ve never been partial to the color blue, but definitely not after being reminded of that old chestnut. By the way, I was in high school when that song came out (1987), and that particular year I was listening to a lot of “The” bands: the Pixies, The Damned, the Smiths, The Cure, the Replacements. A little Dead Kennedys thrown in for good measure.

Come on, what's wrong with a little Icehouse?

Bastard: Taking a turn to the controversial, let's imagine that all the characters have a sex reversal (just go along with it). Men become women, boys become girls, and vice-versa.  Particularly concerning the teenage Jupe, do you think what's currently coming off as cute, charming, and adoring relationships and interactions might instead come off as very creepy particularly from Arcadia's standpoint? See, this is the crap that goes through my brain while reading, I apologize.

Jenn Bennett:  Never apologize for your personal hang-ups. And no, I don’t think a female Jupe would be creepy if Cady was male. Jupe is missing a mother figure; Cady fills that role. Period. There’s nothing creepy about their relationship. If Cady were male, she’d treat Jupe mostly the same way. I say mostly, because I believe there’s a different dynamic between a 25-year old male and a 14-year-old girl than there is with the sexes swapped. But Cady’s not male—she’s female. So stop trying to police them, you crazy pervert, you.

Bastard: Keeping it with Jupe, would it surprise you to know that I dislike him? He's the kind of kid that if I went to school with him,  it'd be a constant struggle for me to restrain myself from punching his face repeatedly.  He's probably your best character, a complete scene stealer and fan favorite, but I really want to kick his ass. Interestingly, he reminds me of my brother and one of my best friends. Yes, it doesn't make much sense to me either.

Jenn Bennett: BINGO! I do believe we’ve hit the motherload reason for Why Bastard Hates My Books. And all this time, I thought it was the dirty romance.

Yes, Jupe is a fan favorite. Readers regularly write me fan mail about Jupe. No shit. And he’s my favorite character to write. I think he’s pretty revolutionary for urban fantasy—a biracial, younger teen being raised by a single father is not something you read in UF every day. I like that he’s flawed. I like that he’s occasionally obnoxious, and that he talks too much. You can trash Cady all you want, but mess with Jupiter Butler, and I’ll go into full-on Mother Bird defense mode and poke your eyes out.

Does it surprise me that you hate him? Absolutely not. Which is why I don’t expect you to get excited about any sort of Jupe spinoff I may or may not have in the pipeline. I will now amuse myself by picturing a Bastard-Jupe fistfight for a few seconds. . . .

Bastard: Lon is Jupe's dad and Arcadia's current lover. He also features what is constantly referred to as a pirate mustache. Much has been said about his mustache, what led you to give him one, and are you sure he's not actually rocking a pornstache?

Jenn Bennett: Pfft, you’re talking to the wrong person, because I love a good pornstache. I also love a good beard. I like clean-shaven men, too, but a little facial hair is good for the manly soul. So’s a little chest hair. And, while we’re on the subject, men with excessive grooming habits below the belt end up looking too feminine for my tastes. Just saying.

Bastard: Without giving much away, what's next for Cady? And what short-term and long-term plans you have for this series?

Jenn Bennett: Cady’s life is about to take a plunge into misery in BINDING THE SHADOWS. Readers will finally learn about her birthright, and the semi-normal life she’s been building will be snatched away from her. Book 4 will be worse. So there’s your darkness. You can cheer while everything seems hopeless and unfixable. Bonus: there’s less Jupe in BINDING, so you’ll be overjoyed.

Bastard: With your writing career underway and now being a published author, what have you learned about yourself that you weren't aware of before?

Jenn Bennett: That my self-confidence is more fragile that I ever thought possible. But don’t worry: I’m also far cockier than I have any right to be. So it all evens out.

Bastard: Reading your list of literary influences, I notice that most of them are authors that are long dead. Do you have any other authors that are more recent that have been an influence upon your writing, or your life in general?

Jenn Bennett: You probably won’t like them, but I’ll mention a few anyway: Diana Gabaldon, Joanna Bourne, Judith Ivory, Loretta Chase, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman.

Bastard: Any novel you've read recently you'd like to recommend?

Jenn Bennett: THE SIREN, by Tiffany Reisz. Not for the faint of heart.

I don't think this one's for me.

Bastard: I think our business here is concluded, feel free to banish us back to the Æthyr.  Don't be shy about performing the ritual in front of us, there's even a puke bucket at hand.

Jenn Bennett: Puke bucket much appreciated!

You know, I think if we met in person, we might actually get along just fine. If you’re ever in Atlanta, let me know. I’ll take you out for a decent Mai Tai. Maybe slip one of Cady’s medicinals in your drink . . . perform a few dark rituals with you. By the time we’re done, you’ll have pornstache and Jupe will be your FAVORITE CHARACTER OF ALL TIME.

Never say never, my friend.


There you go. See? Good thing I don't have a glass jaw. Thanks Jenn, really appreciate the interview particularly since you seemed to be quite busy through the last few weeks. Good luck with the rest of the Arcadia Bell series, and as for a Jupe spin-off...yeah, that would be a bit of a stretch for me. But we'll see.

For more information, please visit Jenn Bennett's website and you can follow her on twitter too @Jenn_Benn.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mihir's Thoughts: Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne

As far as the sub-genre of urban fantasy is concerned, Kevin Hearne is counted as one of its upcoming stars and the Iron Druid Chronicles is named by many to be one of the best series out there currently. With four books released, the story has been progressing at a rapid rate and the world and mythologies introduced have made the read very riveting so far. However with the fourth book TRICKED, the story concluded the first arc of the series and began a dozen year gap in which Atticus begins the Druidic initiation of his protégé.

This novella is set exactly in the middle of that initiation phase, six years have passed after the events orchestrated by Coyote. Atticus is realizing some of the difficulties involved in the training process which he did not imagine would arise. He’s managing to get by with Oberon’s help though, and it's absolutely hilarious to read about it, especially with Oberon’s witty repartee. Their semi-idyllic training is interrupted by Morrigan’s arrival, who demands that Atticus accompany her immediately. Faced with no choice, Atticus is forced to tag along and leave his sword and other precautionary measures as well. He will have to learn more about Morrigan’s plan and also ferret out where she is taking him. The novella deals with the rest of the events that develop, including how a certain pantheon plans to involve Atticus in forthcoming events and what are Morrigan’s ultimate plans for him.

This novella was a doozy, not only does it give the reader a fun read of about 70-odd pages, but it also reveals a secret about Atticus’s past in regards to his long life. This novella though serves as a huge spoiler for events in HAMMERED and TRICKED and therefore should not be read by readers who are unfamiliar with the aforementioned books. The story, while seeming simple, lays down the groundwork for several upcoming books as well as a few character arcs which include both mortals and immortals. This story should be read before TRAPPED and hopefully will also clue in to certain events that are hinted at by the title.

The story featured is both action packed and serves as an introspection piece. The author has to be lauded for his approximation of the character of Morrigan, he admirably paints her as a fey goddess who oscillates from being kind one second to megalomania within the other. Atticus’s dread about her and her intentions is brought to the fore within this novella (once again) and readers will be left with no doubt as to why she is to be feared and avoided at all costs. Lastly the humor in this series is invariably tied to Oberon and his hilarious banter with Atticus. We get a small snippet of it in the start before Atticus departs and that is enough to give the readers nostalgia and increase the anticipation for the next book wherein Oberon will have a bigger role. However a surprising laugh out moment is provided by Morrigan when she airs her view on baseball and all what it entails. With the humor being on the lower side than its predecessors, the novella does manage to prove itself with its action and information reveals, thereby laying the stage for future events such as the Ragnarok that Atticus so desperately wants to avoid.

Two Ravens and One Crow is aimed at bridging the gap between two books TRICKED and TRAPPED and does its job well enough. This novella will be a treat to read for fans of the series as they get to learn more about Atticus’s past and future. Kevin Hearne shines once again with his witty prose and action-filled plot, this novella is a must read if you have read the previous four books and want to stem the anticipatory tide until TRAPPED releases in November.

NOTE: Visit Kevin Hearne's website over HERE and download an excerpt of the novella HERE. Know more about the Iron Druid Chronicles over HERE.

Read FBC's Review of Hounded

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mihir's Thoughts: The Dirty Streets Of Heaven by Tad Williams

I was very excited when this book was announced; Tad Williams was going to write about an angel caught between the politics practiced by Heaven and Hell. This was going to be a trilogy, and with Tad forsaking his door-stopper novel length approach, the project simply upped the intrigue factor for me besides its wonderful premise.

The main gist of the story is that angels reside among us; their angelic presence is ensconced in corporeal human shells. This allows them to go about doing their business, which is saving as many souls as possible when people die. The process consists of the following: after every death a representative from both Heaven and Hell gather in the dimension known as “The Outside”, where every soul gets a hearing during which an angel and a demon argue like lawyers for its possession, and a heavenly angel adjudicates over said soul's afterlife. Bobby Dollar is among the several angels who stand in as representatives for Heaven against their hellish counterpart for deciding the fate of every person deceased.

This process has been going on for eons and never has it been different, until now. The most recent case for Bobby is tragic as the soul disappears during the judicial process and both Heaven & Hell get shaken up, and soon Bobby Dollar is accused of being the mastermind behind this unholy operation. What follows is a classic mystery as Bobby decides to investigate this disaster his own way. With surprising betrayals and even more surprising allies, he weaves his way within the fictional city of San Judas. It’s from here where the story truly begins its rollicking run.

My first impression after finishing the book was that this was unlike any other Tad Williams book I've read so far and that's one of the best things about it. Tad Williams is one of my favorites and all his fans know his style of developing the story and characters, what this entails is that the start of most of his books is a bit on the slower side. Not The Dirty Streets Of Heaven as it quickly opens up the world settings and pushes the reader in a noir-ish world of angels, demons, and mankind. Featuring Bobby Dollar as the quirky narrative voice, the tale is very much a mish-mash of a noir detective story with urban fantasy. Set in the fictional city of San Judas, the author conveniently creates a world wherein the reader can easily escape into. The noir settings are easily managed, and with the supernatural so easily overlapped with the normal, this effort draws comparison with the magical Windy City of Jim Butcher.

While primarily being a quintessential noir detective story packaged nicely in an urban fantasy setting with angels, demons, and whole other sorts of creatures,  the author neatly sidesteps the question of religion and faith by making the characters unsure of who truly rules Heaven. The angels are themselves are in the dark about which is the correct or the most accurate representation of God’s word among mankind and this particularly adds another layer of intrigue to the world setting. This story is more about the angels doing their job on Earth and the way they get humanized. Characterization always has been a forte of Tad’s work and once again is one of the book's highlights, beginning from Dollar to the side character cast and even extending to the villains; the author paints a colorful and mysterious cast. The main character often drops anecdotes and offers nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his experiences which portend that he's had a motley past. This feature makes the read even more exciting as readers can only speculate how much of it is true and what’s bluster. On the other hand I’m ever curious to which of these past experiences might come into play in the future books.

The humor content is another feature that makes this story shine, beginning with Dollar’s sarcastic and witty narrative to his interaction with a certain white wannabe rapper. The readers will definitely be entertained by the comedic narrative flow of the story and the author does his best to slip nods to pop culture as well as to classic detective stories. One thing that is very odd is the main protagonist's name and in this regard the author could have done better, Bobby Dollar sounds more like a pimp than a detective angel. Perhaps this was the author's intent in creating a funny yet weird name but as things stand, this wasn't one of the shining jobs performed by the author.

The story follows a mystery track and veteran mystery readers will be able to pick out certain clues from the proceedings so as to predict certain points about the climax but not the entire tale. This was the one real drawback of substance in this wonderful book. The way the story is set up makes it predictable but fun, with its twists and character traits, I believe it was the author’s way of paying homage to the classic pulp-noir stories.

With a complete ending to most of the plot threads begun in this book, Tad Williams proves that he's adept in changing genres as he's as changing his literary style. The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a fantastic tale from the mind that gave us the Otherland series. Read this one if you want a good tale that mixes the styles of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett with those of Jim Butcher and Tim Pratt. For its said that you've never met an angel like Bobby Dollar. Read The Dirty Streets Of Heaven to find out why…

NOTE: Visit the author's official website and read an extract over HERE and HERE. Lastly check this funny book trailer with a cameo by the author himself.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Winners Update for Embers of an Age, Shadows Before the Sun, Vigilare, Fading Light

I made a promise (which we all know are meant to be broken, or was that about rules?) a few months ago that I'll be more diligent in announcing winners in a timely manner. Since that hasn't happened, obviously, well here's my attempt once again. Well, maybe after this update...I promise.

Thanks to everyone who participated, I really do take pleasure in giving away free shit (especially when it's not my free shit), so I do hope that those who won enjoy the novels.

Here they are:

Embers of an Age Winners

This was from a guest post by Tim Marquitz where he shared the lessons he's learned writing the dark epic fantasy Blood War Trilogy. There were 5 winners total for Embers of an Age, between paperback copies and eBook copies.


  • Elton


  • Yagiz
  • Susan
  • Johann
  • Joe
If you haven't done so yet, the first book of the series, Dawn of War is still free on Amazon & Smashwords.

Shadows Before the Sun Winners

Two copies of Shadows Before the Sun were provided by the publisher Simon & Schuster, this is the 4th novel in the Charlie Madigan series.
  • Melysah
  • Danielle

Vigilare Series Winner

This was part of a guest post from author Brooklyn James where she introduced us to her urban fantasy thriller series Vigilare, and the winner won a copy of each Vigilare and its sequel Vigilare: Hell Hound.
  • Erin

Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous Winners

Multiple authors of this anthology were interviewed by editor Tim Marquitz as part of a multi-blog interview tour. Also 5 lucky winners won eBook copies of Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous which was incidentally, released to the world yesterday.
  • Susan
  • Liz
  • Mia
  • Michelle
  • Lewis

Of interest, there's currently one giveaway running on the blog, and it ends tonight. It's for a signed copy of Widow's Web by Jennifer Estep.

Thanks once again to everyone who participated, and congratulations to all the winners. As a point of clarification, all winners have been contacted, so if you weren't contacted, you're not the winner listed above. And remember, everyone's a winner...or not.