Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Book Review: Honor at Stake

Honor at Stake is what most people would label under the Urban Fantasy genre.  That said, it’s also got a bit of a blend of paranormal romance in there.  What you’ll also find is philosophy, theology, and a great deal of intelligent writing.  And ninjas.  Let’s not forget the ninjas…

Honor at Stake is clever and funny.  The characters are witty, the plot is fast-paced and the story is engaging.  The premise is one where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, where magic and the preternatural abounds and where characters accept things and adapt because that’s what they have to do to survive.

Declan writes a genre-blending story that keeps you turning the pages.  The main characters are smart, engaging, and keeps you guessing.  He plays to your expectations and then pulls the rug out from under you.

The story is very much in the vein (pun intended) of other urban fantasy stories that include vampires, such as Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International.  The bad guys are bad, the good guys are trying their best, and all us mere mortals stuck in the middle have a hell of a time.  I recommend it, especially if you like your contemporary fantasy with a pinch of humor and a lot of action.

At times, the action can be almost over the top, somewhat remenicent of Big Trouble in Little China.  But the humor keeps that in check, and while the main characters are dangerous, there’s always a villain ready to put them in their place.

It’s clear from the ending that there’s more to come.  I, for one, can’t wait to read more!

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Review: Monster Hunter Grunge

Monster Hunter Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo
Monster Hunter Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

I’m a prolific reader of a variety of books.  My current favorite author right now is Larry Correia and I’ve been a longtime reader of John Ringo… so when I’d first heard about Monster Hunter books written by Ringo and edited by Larry Correia, I was pretty excited.  It was a long wait for me, just under a year from when I first heard about the books.

I wasn’t really sure quite what to expect: the quirky humor of John Ringo, the snarky humor from Larry Correia, the impressive gun fights from Larry or the bombastic, over-the-top action that you find in a John Ringo book.  Both of them tell excellent stories, so that certainly wasn’t something I was worried about.

In the end, I’m still not really certain what I came away with.  There is humor and action and a story… but it all had a sort of manic energy to the writing that made it feel uneven.  Yes, there are hilarious sections and good action, but overall I’m not sure it fully pulled together.  It felt more like a series of “hey, cool, you’ll like this” scenes that only loosely followed a narrative.  The hints at future events both within this series and in the mainline series were entertaining but also jarring.

To be clear, it’s written as a journal, set before the events of the other MHI books.  It removes a bit of the tension, in that you know the main character will survive (until he finishes writing those journals at least).  The quips and references to future events are part of the “Unreliable Narrator” theme and they work… mostly.  The story jumps forward, from section to section and in parts the writing is brilliant and in others…

Well, I don’t want to spoil things, but there was a section that was clearly meant to be very moving and it didn’t have the profound impact it was meant to have.  The main character is so centrally focused that the other characters in the book aren’t fully fleshed out.  This is what threw me, I think, in that normally both authors put a lot of work into their characters and in this book, the side cast were utterly forgettable.  The main character is so over-the-top, so central to the story, that the others just fade out.

It isn’t a bad book by any margin.  There’s action, excitement, and Ringo and Correia fill in a ton of backstory that I loved to see.  It just didn’t hit the level of awesome that both authors can hit on their own.  By all means, I recommend picking up a copy.  I enjoyed it and I’ll read the other books in the series.

Kal’s Fall 2014 Reading List

Something I’ve noticed since publishing my stuff (and getting paid for it) is that my available time for reading has dropped off.  As a consequence, I’ve limited my own reading to books and authors I know I’ll enjoy.  That said, I still read, and I still try to find new books and authors, but at a much lower rate.  Right now I read new books about once a month, this from a guy who used to tear through 3-5 full length novels in a week.

That said, I still enjoy reading and it is a measure of how much I enjoy some authors that when I find out one has a book available I’ll drop everything I’m doing to read their stuff.  Here’s the books that I’ve already read or will be reading this fall.  As a disclaimer, some of these aren’t available yet, but I picked up the eARCs from Baen.

Ryk Spoor’s Paradigms Lost

Being an expert in information searches, image processing and enhancement, pattern matching, and data forensics earned Jason Wood a lot of money – from private contracts and working with the police. And it was a nice, comfortable job most of the time. But then an informant showed up dead on his doorstep, a photograph didn’t show someone who’d been in the viewfinder when the picture was taken, and Jason’s world is suddenly turned upside-down.

Against things that violate the very reality he thought he understood, Jason has only three weapons: his best friend Sylvie, his talent for seeing patterns… and his ability to think beyond the pattern and see a solution that no one else imagined. Against the darkness of the unknown, the greatest weapon is the light of reason.

A vastly expanded and revised edition of Digital Knight, Ryk E. Spoor’s first published novel, Paradigms Lost adds two brand new adventures for Jason and includes many chapters of additional material within the originals.

David Weber and Timothy Zahn’s A Call to Duty

Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order and discipline in his life . . . the two things his neglectful mother couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. So when Travis enlisted in the Royal Manticoran Navy, he thought he’d finally found the structure he’d always wanted so desperately.

But life in the RMN isn’t exactly what he expected. Boot camp is rough and frustrating; his first ship assignment lax and disorderly; and with the Star Kingdom of Manticore still recovering from a devastating plague, the Navy is possibly on the edge of budgetary extinction.

The Star Kingdom is a minor nation among the worlds of the Diaspora, its closest neighbors weeks or months away, with little in the way of resources. With only modest interstellar trade, no foreign contacts to speak of, a plague-ravaged economy to rebuild, and no enemies looming at the hyper limit, there are factions in Parliament who want nothing more than to scrap the Navy and shift its resources and manpower elsewhere.

But those factions are mistaken. The universe is not a safe place.

Travis Long is about to find that out.

Kenton Kilgore’s Lost Dogs

When our world ends, their struggle begins

Buddy–a German Shepherd–and Sally–a Beagle/Basset Hound mix–are the beloved pets of Rob and Gennifer Bennett and their young daughter Audrey. Their home is Kent Island, MD: a beautiful, peaceful place, good for raising a family, good for having dogs.

When unearthly beings strike without warning or mercy against humankind, Buddy and Sally lose the ones they love and the lives they knew. Now they must band together with other “lost dogs” to find food, water, and shelter in a world suddenly without their owners.

But survival is not enough for Buddy: he holds out hope that Rob, Genn, and Audrey live. And that he can find them before inhuman forces ensure that man is never again Earth’s master.

Wen Spencer’s Eight Million Gods

A new urban fantasy saga by the creator of the popular Tinker contemporary fantasy/SF series. A young American expat writer in Japan suffering from OCD tries to figure out if she’s crazy or not while solving a murder that may be part of a war among Japanese deities.

A contemporary fantasy of mystery and death as American expats battle Japanese gods and monsters to retrieve an ancient artifact that can destroy the world.

One Saturday afternoon, Nikki Delany thought, “George Wilson, in the kitchen, with a blender.” By dinner, she had killed George and posted his gory murder to her blog. The next day, she put on her mourning clothes and went out to meet her best friend for lunch to discuss finding a replacement for her love interest.

Nikki is a horror novelist.  Her choice of career is dictated by an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that forces her to write stories of death and destruction.  She can’t control it, doesn’t understand it, but can use it to make money anywhere in the world. Currently “anywhere” is in Japan, hiding from her mother who sees Nikki’s OCD as proof she’s mentally unstable.  Nikki’s fragile peace starts to fall apart when the police arrest her for the murder of an American expatriate. Someone killed him with a blender.

Reality starts to unravel around Nikki.  She’s attacked by a raccoon in a business suit.  After a series of blackouts, she’s accompanied by a boy that no one else can see, a boy who claims to be a god.  Is she really being pursued by Japanese myths—or is she simply going insane?

What Nikki does know for sure is that the bodies are piling up, her mother has arrived in Japan to lock her up for the rest of her life, she’s written herself into her new book—and her novels always end with everyone dead.

 

 

 

Anomaly Con Denver Review

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I went to Anomaly Con this past weekend.  It’s a smaller Fan Convention in Denver, Colorado.  The general theme is steampunk and alternate history, though there was certainly guests, panels, and events linked to science fiction, traditional fantasy, and even urban fantasy as well.  I’ll cover the highlights for those interested.

Tracy Hickman was there, talking about his new game Sojourner Tales, which looks to be a lot of fun, check it out here.  He also hosted his Killer Breakfast event, though that had a depressingly low turnout.  It was still a lot of fun, and I got to be slain multiple times..  For those who haven’t heard of it, typically several hundred people are killed in a 2 hour session, mostly whenever their characters cease to entertain.  My favorite part was when I used my long underwear as a parachute, then rolled a natural 20 as a success, leaving Tracy Hickman literally speechless.  It even has a website, apparently, find that here.

Author Carrie Vaughn was there.  Most famous for the Kitty Norville books, she is an excellent panelist, and she had a lot of good info, is always very organized, and she kept on topic as well as answering any questions from the audience.  All in all, she’s a friendly author, and seems to be a great person.  If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, you should check her out.  I’ve read a number of her books, and they are an excellent example of urban fantasy, and more original than most.  Check out her website here.

Also present was Quincy Allen.  He’s a ‘hybrid’ author, who started out self published and has since gotten involved in small press.  He’s a Colorado author, an all around interesting fellow, and fun to talk with.  His novel, Chemical Burn, will be re-released under Kevin J Anderson’s Word Fire Press.  Check it out here from Amazon, and Word Fire Press here.

I didn’t have the opportunity to set on any panels, but I did have some fun conversations with a variety of folks there at the conference.  I also found a very cool John Crichton Farscape-style vest and jacket, just out of my price range at the moment.  Of course, if my book sales pick up a bit, I suppose I can work buying it in the future.  Check out their website here.  They’ve got a lot of cool stuff.

Just out of reach.  Monetarily and height-wise.... sometimes I hate being short.
Just out of reach. Monetarily and height-wise…. sometimes I hate being short.

 

All in all, it was an interesting weekend.  Anomaly Con is a quirky little convention.  I don’t know that I’ll attend next year, but it was an experience this year.

Urban Fantasy

It's easy to imagine the extraordinary when superimposed on the ordinary...
It’s easy to imagine the extraordinary when superimposed on the ordinary…

Urban fantasy is, at its root, a mishmash of a variety of genres.  The typical urban fantasy author often combines one or more genres of fiction with fantasy in their story.  The fun of urban fantasy stories often lies in the contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Wizards duke it out with magic and bullets, Police investigate supernatural crimes, and elves drink Miller Lite and watch Nascar.   The possibilites are limitless, especially when the stories can be told in so many ways.  Supernatural Romance, Paranormal Investigation, Zombie Apocalpyse, even Superpower Crime Noir novels are all under the broad catagory of Urban Fantasy.  As a market, the genre has been extremely successful, from the Harry Potter series to Twilight, there has been far more mainstream appeal to Urban Fantasy than other aspects of Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Why is that?  Well, there’s a number of reasons.  Honestly, one of the big ones is that it’s easier for the average person to get into.  They don’t have to try to memorize funny names for people or places, they don’t have to figure out some other world.  The setting is someplace they’ve heard of, maybe even lived in.  The events and history, while different in the particulars, are the same history that they learned in school.  Sure, magic might be a smaller or greater effect in that history, but these little changes often are part of the charm.  What if the Kaiser used necromancers in World War I to raise zombie hordes such as in Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles?  What if the Red Vampires secretly seduce and abduct thousands of people across the country as in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files?  It doesn’t change how the main course of history went, and society, places, and events are still the same.  This makes it easy for the average person to pick up a book for casual reading.

Another reason that Urban Fantasy novels tend to be so popular is that they’ve gotten their hooks into this generation.  Many kids grew up with Harry Potter, and now that they’re adults, urban fantasy seems relatively mainstream.  They read these types of books, they’ve seen the movies, they are ready to suspend their disbelief that magic exists in secret.  The resurgence of general media such as Warehouse 13, Doctor Who, and others has also encouraged this.  These are shows that amplify the paranormal, and put out logical reasons for the existance of the supernatural.  These shows are also extremely popular because they encourage such imagination and questions of ‘what if.’

Another reason for the popularity, urban fantasy stories often provide characters that the readers can easily identify with.  A soccer mom makes an easy person to relate to, she drives a minivan, picks her kids up from school, films her daughter’s softball game, and happens to channel the powers of light to slay demons such as in John Ringo’s Princess of Wands.  It is an easy buy-in for a reader.  A private investigator who helps out the police now and again could be the character in almost any standard fiction story.  When that story’s character happens to be best friends with a twenty thousand year old vampire who is the lone survivor of Atlantis such as Ryk Spoor’s Digital Knight, the story becomes interesting to say the least.  Yet everyone has the odd friend or two, so this isn’t something that would totally confuse a new reader.

Of interest to me, both as an author and a reader, urban fantasy often acts as a gateway genre to more traditional fantasy books.  Readers sometimes really like the ideas and concepts and so they’ll dive a little deeper into the overall broader fantasy genre.  Also, writers who have made their break in urban fantasy often branch out into other areas, such as Jim Butcher with his Codex Alera series.  Sometimes it works the otherway, such as with John Ringo, who wrote Princess of Wands after he established an extensive science fiction bibliography.

Overall, there are a number of excellent books that I’d recommend.  Urban Fantasy is an exciting and fun genre of books to read, and there are plenty of books to check out.  Off hand, I recommend: Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series, John Ringo’s Princess of Wands, and a few others in the Books I’d Recommend section.