Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set by Iain M. Banks

November 28th, 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks, considered among the best in Science-Fiction. In October, The Hydrogen Sonata was published, becoming the 10th novel in the Culture series which began with Consider Phlebasin 1987. As part of celebrating the anniversary, Orbit has organized some activities through various social medias, beginning with an interview hosted on their blog

Here we're hosting a giveaway for the 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set which contains the first three books in the series: Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, and Use of Weapons. Looks like a good opportunity for those who haven't tried the series yet, like myself.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the first three bestselling Culture novels are now gathered into one collectible boxed set.
The war raged across the galaxy. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
The Culture -- a human/machine symbiotic society -- has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game...a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life -- and very possibly his death.
The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.
The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.
The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for US and Canada shipping addresses only, and it will run from November 28, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on December 7, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on December 7, 2012.
  • There'll be 1 winners total, for the 25th Anniversary The Culture Boxed Set
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone, also there should be more giveaways around as I'm not the only one hosting, so keep an eye out for them. The best way to find about them is to go to twitter and search for the #25YearsofCulture! hashtag.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Update Winners for Requiem and Eyes to See

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Here are the winners for last couple of giveaways on the blog.

Requiem by Tim Marquitz

This giveaway had a multitude of prizes and free stuff, but the main draw was Requiem which was the last book of the Blood War Trilogy, the dark epic fantasy series by Marquitz.

Requiem paperback winner:

  • erin f

Requiem eBook winners:

  • Danielle V.
  • Richard A.
  • Melissa H.
  • galena
  • Nuzaifa H.

There were also prizes for everyone who commented on the blog post during the duration of the giveaway, so everyone who did it won an ecopy of Embers of an Age and Armageddon Bound.

Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

Two mass paperback copies were up for grabs of Eyes to See, which is the first of the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle series. Next installment King of the Dead comes out tomorrow, and the winners:

  • Annah S.
  • Dannielle B.

Thanks everyone who took the time to participate, and congrats to all the winners. Make sure to come back this Wednesday for another book giveaway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mihir's Thoughts: From Man to Man by D.E.M Emrys

From Man To Man is the debut short story by D.E.M. Emrys, a prequel to his heroic fantasy book It Began With Ashes book one of The Wroge Elements saga. I've been fascinated by the veracity and ingenuity of Emry's book reviews that I've read (so far) as he was able to channel the essence of the book skillfully into his reviews, making them a thorough pleasure to read. Also he's a self-professed fan of David Gemmell and his debut book might be inspired by this legendary writer, which also amps up my anticipation for this title.

From Man To Man focuses on Draven Reinhardt, an older ex-warrior who hasn't lost any of his deadly martial skills, however has lost the reasons to continue as a warrior. He lives in a small village called Hidann wherein he strives to tread the path of an honest person working small but menial jobs. However destiny and his attitude mark him out to be otherwise. Soon after his most recent job loss, he gets an offer to use his skills albeit in a role as a guard, however things are never as crystal clear as they seem. Draven needs to find out whether he can continue to be the person he is attempting to be and also figure out where his future lies ultimately.

The author writes with a fairly sharp prose style, he sets up the story and introduces Draven and his miserable situation. This short story gives a stark look into what happens to the life of an ex-soldier and this perhaps is a dicey move as with the length of the story, it leaves the readers wanting to know more but not getting their due. The pace of the story is something that helps, as the story never loses steam and once the situation is set up, the reader is drawn into Draven’s world and thoughts. The reader will then have to follow through to the end of the tale wanting to see how it ends and what does Draven accomplish.

In my estimation this is a good short story with some deficiencies in regards to the story setup. Also the end action sequence & climax perhaps raises more questions than the answers it provides. It does however leave the reader with a strong desire to know more about the world and about Draven, who as an axe man, has big boots to fill. From Man To Man does serve its intended purpose to intrigue readers, present the main character and showcase the author’s skills. In the end I can vouch that it’s a good short story, which ends a bit sooner than expected. There’s also an excerpt of the upcoming book It Began With Ashes that helps in knowing more about the story to come. Give it a shot; I know I will, as I’ll be waiting to see where D.E.M. Emrys takes the story next.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Post: Urban Fantasy Anonymous by Justin from Staffer's Book Reviews

My name is Justin, and I don't like urban fantasy. This is where everyone says, "Hi Justin" and then I regale you with the stories about how the genre has burned me so often that I can longer stand to be in the same room with it. I might finish my little speech by saying, "And I've been urban fantasy free for 98 days." Someone might even give me a pin to commemorate my unreliance. Of course, that isn't really true. . . I do read urban fantasy. I'm just scared of wasting my life every time I do.

I think it's important to take a minute to discuss what I mean by urban fantasy. It's a horrifyingly easy term that means something different to every one who hears it. As a marketing subgenre, urban fantasy means a story set in contemporary times which contains supernatural elements (examples: Dresden Files, Anita Blake, et al.) and contains some element of romance (from a little to a ton). For the purposes of this article, that's the definition I'm working with because the actual definition, fantasy set in a city, is so benign as to be useless. Based on those assumptions, I find the subgenre predictable, hackneyed, and all together boring.

Rabble, Rabble, you're reading the wrong urban fantasy, Rabble Rabble.

No, I'm not. There are several urban fantasies from this year alone that I really enjoyed. Jim C. Hines's Libriomancer, Tom H. Pollock's The City's Son, and Jennifer Safrey's Tooth & Nail are all 2012 urban fantasies I can recommend. They do their genre proud. And yet, each of them are entirely predictable. They follow a linear plot structure, they have a romance, they're faced with a supernatural problem, and they solve it. Don't get me wrong, they're special in other ways. In the case of Libriomancer, it's literally inundated with author's joy for fantasy. The City's Son is a beautiful composition of fiction, bursting with allegory. Tooth & Nail is about Washington DC. What can I say, I'm a sucker for books about where I live. But, all of their plots are essentially boring. And so few urban fantasies excel enough elsewhere to overcome that deficiency.

The more likely outcome is my reaction to Alex Hughes's novel, Clean. I'm nodding off just writing the title. First person narrator who's a drug addict detective who happens to be smitten with his grouchy, but sexy, partner. Murders abound and a mystery much be solved! This is the urban fantasy I rail against; the cookie cutter sameness. It's not poorly written. It has a good pace and I can understand why someone might love it. What I can't understand, and what I refuse to accept, is that publishers and readers continue to want to read Clean and the fifteen other novels published this year just like it. Had Clean been the first novel of its kind, I might smile and nod. As it stands now, I roll my eyes and wonder why bother?

That's why I'm writing this post today and announcing a new organization. Urban Fantasy Anonymous, an organization dedicated to eradicating the reliance on homogeneous fiction. These are the rules under which the organization is formed:

  1. Our common mental faculty should come first; personal recovery depends upon our unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—an experienced blogger who's read enough to never recommend a sardonic heroine down on her luck, but ready to kick ass and take names.
  3. The only requirement for membership is no receipts from Pocket Books for six days.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting publishing house marketing strategies. In that case, organized guerrilla warfare is entirely acceptable.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the poor readers suffering under the thumb of lazy writing and wooden characters.
  6. A UFA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the UFA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest those endeavors lead to further lining the pockets of publishers and editors who seek to control us with sparkling vampires.
  7. Every UFA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions—urban fantasy in sheep's clothing is too risky!
  8. UFA should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers, which does not imply sex workers, who have suffered enough as murder victims in urban fantasy.
  9. UFA, as such, ought never be organized; to be organized is to be modular, which is to behave in the image of that we are trying to reject.
  10. UFA has no opinion on outside issues; our only public affairs concern is ensuring that the 2012 Presidential Election has nothing to do with Edward or Jacob. It's a public service.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on keeping a low profile. Readers empowered by urban fantasy can often be dangerous, in roving packs armed with katanas and lower back tattoos.
  12. Finally, we must be ever mindful to place stimulation before comfort.

Who's with me?

Justin can be found on his blog Staffer's Book Reviews (formerly known as Staffer's Musings) or on Twitter @jdiddyesquire. Some great SFF content there, so don't miss out. He's also recently joined the SF Signal group.

This marks the end of the guest posts on Urban Fantasy from bloggers and reviewers who for some reason the subgenre hasn't worked for them. There'll be a few more on-topic posts coming up though.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Eyes to See by Joseph Nassise

Eyes to See is the first in the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle by Joseph Nassise. Later this month (November 27) the sequel, King of the Dead, is set to be released by TOR. With that in mind, we have a giveaway for 2 mass paperback copies of Eyes to See. I just started reading it myself, and so far looks like a good one.
In Joseph Nassise's Eyes to See, an urban fantasy that charts daring new territory in the field, Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: his marriage, his career, his reputation. Desperate to reclaim what he has lost, Hunt finally turns to the supernatural for justice.
Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and even more dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead and the powers that stalk his worst nightmares, Hunt embarks upon a strange new career—a pariah among the living; a scourge among the dead; doomed to walk between the light of day and the deepest darkness beyond night.
His love for his departed daughter sustains him when all is most hopeless, but Hunt is cursed by something more evil than he can possibly imagine. As he descends into the maelstrom of his terrifying quest, he discovers that even his deepest fears are but prelude to yet darker deeds by a powerful entity from beyond the grave…that will not let him go until it has used him for its own nefarious purposes.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for worldwide, and it will run from November 5, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on November 16, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on November 16, 2012.
  • There'll be 2 winners total, each with one copy of Eyes to See.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
  • Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps. 
  • Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.
Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Guest Post: The Bizarre Mixture that is Urban Fantasy by Kathryn from The Forged Forest

Bastard asked me to do a post about urban fantasy, as it's something that is a touchy subject for me. Those who know me know that I tend to have a bad time with urban fantasy, and I really don't trust books that are marketed as such. Why? Well, it's really not that simple, and I've struggled to make points I'm comfortable with over about seven or eight draft versions now, so instead I'll just rant for a bit.

Urban Fantasy is, well, something I'm not too keen on. In fact, I'd say I'd go out of my way to avoid it for the most part. Covers with women with an inability to wear clothing made of anything but leather and malformed skeletons 'grace' a plethora of books, whereas many of the others feature a man with an allegy to clothing above his genitals and the most yawn-inducing chiseled figure. Sometimes, if you're really unlucky, you'll find a cover which has both!

Firstly, how can a publisher or a marketer expect me to take their books seriously if that's how they market them? I'm sorry, but I'm really not interested in Miss Rubber Spine's ass/side-boob pose, nor Mr McPertPecs' manboobs. Really, publishers? Really? Are you really so unimaginative that all of your models just have to show a minimum of 25% of their skin on your book covers?

And then we get to what's inside the books. Now, I'm probably missing some really good stories, but if you're going to have romance in your book then for the love of all that's unholy, put down those Mills & Boon titles and go and find out how couples really get together. If your heroine starts having an orgasm at the first sight of Mr McPertPecs (who's probably a werewolf or a vampire or both), then I'm really not going to read your book any further. If your heroine is drooling over him whilst she's supposed to be fighting, then I'm not going to read your book further. It's just bad.

Simply put, I hate this perpetual weakening of female characters in UF/PNR/DF/Whatever it's called today. I want to read about strong, capable women. I don't want to read about Sally Simple and her 'mate' (vom), I don't want to read about Mary Manlover and her insatiable thirst for manlove (vom) – I don't want any of it in my books. If you're going to write porn, go and write porn. Stop masquerading it – and, publishers, stop marketing it – as something else. You're doing yourself and fiction a disservice. That's not to say it doesn't happen in more traditional fantasy settings, because it does, but I find it much easier to avoid elsewhere. Whilst I must confess I've never particularly fancied reading them, it appears that UF books about gay male protagonists have the exact same marketing and 'taste' issues. It seems, bizarrely, that gay or bisexual women tend to be relegated to support roles in this genre (an exception being J.A. Pitts' Sarah Beauhall books, which I recommend, even considering the explicit sex).

This was my expression when I wrote this. Genuinely.
Do you get the idea? Yup. I appear to have stepped in paranormal romance or some sort of erotic sub-genre by mistake. Except it's massively pervasive in urban fantasy. The covers, the women (even if strong and independent) being beholden to men – I just can't seem to find anything without these elements. I've nothing against romance, but I get very annoyed when it overshadows the plot, or when it comes across as unrealistic.

See, for me, my vision of urban fantasy would probably be closer to contemporary fantasy. You know, books like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or Paul Cornell's upcoming London Falling. At a stretch, I'd go so far as to say books like many of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld titles, Jon Sprunk's Shadow series and Ari Marmell's Widdershins novels are urban fantasy – books that are fantastical and take place primarily in urban settings. What I'd love to see is publishers, and authors, differentiating more between romantic/erotic works and those focused more on plots.

I've probably come across as a bit harsh, maybe even hypocritical. Sure, I am - I know it. But to me, urban fantasy is this bizarre mixture of erotica and, well, contemporary fantasy. And the lack of clear separation makes it hard for me to find what I'm looking for.

Kathryn has her own blog The Forged Forest with all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy content, including some comics commentary. Alternatively, you can follow her on Twitter @Loerwyn.

A few months back she wrote a romance themed post titled Romance in Genre Fiction which I think is worth a read.