Monthly Archives: September 2010

Review: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Book review of Daniel Suarez’ Daemon

Daniel Suarez' DaemonI mainly cover fantasy here at Fantasy Book News, but this novel covers a fairly mixed bag from a genre perspective. I first heard about Daemon when The Dragon Page interviewed Daniel Suarez, and my interest was piqued when conversation mentioned that the novel was so accurate that the federal government had taken notice. I generally stray from technical or sci-fi books, simply because I get my fill of technology in my day to day life, but I am very interested in future technology, and a novel that blends reality with fantasy so well that the line blurs was something I definitely had to check out.

First and foremost, Daemon is the fastest I’ve ever read a novel. I read it in a week, and the paperback volume I have is 617 pages. I’m by no means a slow reader, but I have other responsibilities in life, like family, work, etc. that pull me away from reading on a regular schedule. Daemon was so addictive that I catered my daily routine to it, rather than the opposite being true, as is the case with most novels. This novel surpasses the level of action pacing seen in Dan Brown’s novels.

I should mention that this is a highly technical read, but not so much that you can’t follow the story if you’re not an IT professional. I think the level of detail is just second nature to Daniel Suarez based on his background: he has designed and developed software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries. The technical detail in Daemon should not scare off readers who fear they may not understand the details; to the contrary, it adds a believable level of detail.

I decided to include a review of Daemon here because the novel does have elements of fantasy. There are entire chapters that take place inside MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), including two of the more popular video games published by main character Matthew Sobul’s company. If you opened the book randomly and happened to land on one of these pages, you would think you’re reading a fantasy novel.

Daemon is a fast-paced techno-thriller, containing sophisticated action sequences reminiscent of the tv show 24, elements of suspense and horror, and even a pair of graphic sex scenes thrown in for good measure. The plot focuses on a daemon (Disk And Execution MONitor) script, written by computer gaming industry genius Matthew Sobul, that monitors news websites for headlines. On the day Sobul’s obituary crosses the web, the script is executed, setting in motion a slew of electronic work orders and other database highjacking procedures in an attempt to control a large swath of the modern economy.

The novel follows detective Peter Sebeck in his attempt to contain the daemon, Brian Gragg, a young hacker who discovers the daemon through in-game contact with a Nazi avatar created by Sobul prior to his death, and a slew of other characters contacted by the daemon to perform tasks. One such example is Charles Mosely, a prisoner working in a prison’s call center for pennies, who is contacted by phone one day by the daemon. The daemon orchestrates his release from prison, and subsequently employs him as a soldier.

There are wonderful elements of what I normally call “magic” in fantasy novels, but in this case they are technologically driven. Employees of the daemon wear glasses that give them a heads up display of the world around them, enhanced with additional information, like a video game. They can control computer-driven cars with the flick of a finger. The word magic has been recently been reintroduced to the public as a marketing tool with Apple’s iPad, with the basic premise that any new technology that we don’t fully understand yet seems like magic, that is until we understand it, then its just another technology, and this is the same idea introduced in Daemon.

I really enjoyed one of the central themes in Daemon, which is a debate that will become more prevalent in coming years: the question of whether to attempt to contain or regulate a technology versus accepting it and having a reliable security system in place in the event of a catastrophe. This question is one that will never be answered absolutely, as it is driven by the larger force of evolution, which cannot be stopped. Daemon deals with this question in fantastic fashion, and is a big part of what makes flying through the action sequences contained in its pages so fun.

I don’t read many thrillers, but I read fantasy novels like its my job, so I guess I feel semi-qualified to review Daemon. I can firmly say that anyone who’s into technology and believable technology-driven fantasy elements will thoroughly enjoy Daemon.

You can purchase Daemon over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

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Categories: Daniel Suarez, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fantasy Blogosphere: September 26, 2010

Brandon Sanderson making the rounds again this week, interviewing across the fantasy blogosphere, and Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist offers a review of The Way of Kings. A few other reviews and interviews crossed this week including The Exile by Diana Gabaldon and an interview with Naomi Novik. A new Harry Potter film trailer was released, and don’t miss Pat Rothfuss in Clash of the Geeks. And, as always, The Guild with another home run episode.

The Guild: Season 4, Episode 10: Festival of the Sea

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Bestsellers, September 25, 2010

Seven weeks in the top 5, and two weeks straight in first place for Towers of Midnight, and this week marks the debut of Distinctions, the prologue to Towers of Midnight. Rounding out the top three is The Way of Kings, leaving Sanderson taking back seat to himself, and well, himself.

  1. Towers of Midnight (Hardcover) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  2. Distinctions: Prologue to Towers of Midnight (Kindle) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  3. The Way of Kings (Kindle) by Brandon Sanderson
  4. Dead in the Family (Kindle) by Charlaine Harris
  5. No Mercy (Kindle) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
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Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Book review of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself

The Blade ItselfJoe Abercrombie is one of the hottest new authors in the fantasy genre, and The Blade Itself was his first published work, originally published in London in 2006, with the copy I read having been published by Pyr in 2007. He has since completed The First Law Trilogy, and written two standalone novels, Best Served Cold (June 2009), and The Heroes (forthcoming). I’ve seen countless reviews surrounding The Blade Itself series, garnering praise from other fast-paced fantasy authors such as one of my personal heroes, Scott Lynch. I have to give a shout out to  author Sarah Darmody, who not only recommended The Blade Itself to me, but stated we have similar taste in fantasy novels – excellent taste, that is. Let’s just say that with The Blade Itself, I was ready for a smashing good romp.

And a smashing good romp does Abercrombie deliver. What stands out immediately with The Blade Itself is Abercrombie’s talent with pacing a story. The Blade Itself is as good, if not better, from a pacing perspective, than Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Cycle. When compared with fast-paced novel in other genres, like Dan Brown’s novels or maybe Daemon by Daniel Suarez, The Blade Itself holds its own.

Where The Blade Itself can’t quite keep up a Dan Brown novel in terms of sheer pacing, it more than makes up for it in hilarity. I found myself literally laughing out loud more at this novel than probably any other fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Abercrombie is just a downright funny guy. While there are definitely better examples in the novel, here’s one I noted while reading:

Hoff glared back at him for a very long while. “Seek it wherever you like,” he growled, “and with as much persistence as you please. But not here. Good…day!” If you could have stabbed someone in the face with the phrase “good day”, the head of the Guild of Mercers would have lain dead on the floor.

Its brutally honest statements like this, that appear when you least expect them, that had me rolling with laughter. Speaking of brutality, The Blade Itself has some fantastic bloody fight scenes. This is definitely not a novel for the faint of heart. Abercrombie has created a wonderfully crude, yet highly intelligent, barbarian character in Logen Ninefingers, a.k.a. The Bloody Nine. Couple him with an extremely powerful, yet smart-alecky wizard, The First of the Magi, Bayaz, and you’ve got a quality core duo of characters for the novel. The Blade Itself also follows two other main characters, Inquisitor Glokta, and Captain Jezal dan Luthar, whose stories I found myself equally engrossed in.

The Blade Itself is driven by its quality characters, its fast pace, and Abercrombie’s natural tendency to spice up a situation with comedy. I could easily recommend it for these qualities, or the strikingly realistic fight scenes. But The Blade Itself has more to offer yet. You’ll find sprinkled throughout this novel nuggets of truth, as I typically quantify in some of my favorite novels:

“If a man seeks to change the world, he should first understand it…the tree is only as strong as its root, and knowledge is the root of all power.”

Abercrombie even manages to work in a moment that reminds me of some of the Kerouac novels I’ve read:

South then, and become a wanderer. There was always work for a man with his skills. Hard work, and dark, but work all the same. There was an appeal in it, he had to admit. To have no one depending on him but himself, for his decisions to hold no importance, for no one’s life or death to be in his hands. He had enemies in the south, that was a fact. But the Bloody Nine had dealt with enemies before.”

Overall, The Blade Itself more than lived up to its expectations, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novels in this series, and Abercrombie’s standalone works that follow. If you’re up for a a fast-paced action fantasy with a good sense of humor, they don’t come more highly recommended than The Blade Itself.

You can purchase The Blade Itself over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Joe Abercrombie, Reviews, The First Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fantasy Blogosphere: September 19, 2010

Lots of tv and film news this week, with a few new Game of Thrones HBO series videos appearing, and Stephen King talking about The Dark Tower film and tv series. In addition, a fairly large-scale buzz surrounded Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, as he concluded his tour for the novel. The Game of Thrones trailers look amazing, and I’m really pleased with the casting. Its going to be awesome. Wrap up this week with a new episode of The Guild. See you next week fantasy blogospherians!

Game of Thrones HBO Series Trailer, with George R.R. Martin Interview

New Game of Thrones HBO Series Trailer

The Guild: Season 4, Episode 9: Pirate Paddy

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Bestsellers, September 18, 2010

Towers of Midnight and No Mercy swap places this week, while The Way of Kings and The Exile see their returns to the top 5 fantasy bestseller list.

  1. Towers of Midnight (Hardcover) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  2. No Mercy (Kindle) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  3. The Exile (Hardcover) by Diana Gabaldon
  4. The Way of Kings (Kindle) by Brandon Sanderson
  5. Dead in the Family (Kindle) by Charlaine Harris
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Review: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book review of Adrian Tchaokovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold

Empire in Black and GoldAdrian Tchaikovsky has been tearing up the fantasy genre recently. Pyr is releasing the novels in the Shadows of the Apt series at a blistering pace: Empire in Black and Gold is the first and was released in early 2010. The Scarab Path, book 5 (yes, that’s right, 5) in the series is already available on Amazon.com. The cover for Empire in Black and Gold reminds me of a comic book, and the characters in the novel actually support the theme that this book would easily make the translation to graphic novel or feature film. I had read a few reviews prior to picking up Empire in Black and Gold, but I didn’t quite know what to expect.

I was wary after about the first fifty pages of Empire in Black and Gold, as while I was starting to like the characters, and the action was surely top notch, I was slightly annoyed by the play on words that is the mark of authors who are just starting off their careers. Here’s an example:

“Will you find some calm?” he said, starting to lose his own.

This type of prose drives me nuts, as it strikes me as an author attempting to be tricky with words, and falling flat on his face. It also interrupts the flow of the page, because you just have to stop and shake your head. However, this is a minor flaw, and one that does not resurface much as the novel progressed, and I was thoroughly entertained as I made my way through Empire in Black and Gold.

The front runner of Empire in Black and Gold’s qualities is undeniably its fast-paced action scenes. Tchaikovsky has a wonderful knack for writing thrilling action sequences, that move quickly, but pause in all the right moments just enough to give you a taste of description. It is this talent that reminded me of some of the engrossing detail sequences of Terry Goodkind in Wizard’s First Rule.

Tchaikovsky has created some wonderful characters in Empire in Black and Gold. The characters are all based on some type of insect, from wasp to beetle to dragonfly, spider and mantis, among many others. There is a fantastic butterfly-kinden character named “Grief in Chains”, the idea for which I found highly inventive, for the short periods that she appears in the novel. Where the characterization is lacking in Empire in Black and Gold is in the description of the characters. While these are characters you connect with and feel for, I would have really enjoyed a bit more description of the different insect-kinden types. Instead, we’re just told they are some type of insect, and its up to the reader to guess to what degree that influences their physical attributes.

While Empire in Black and Gold is definitely an action novel first, there are undertones of horror that appear infrequently, which work nicely when paired with an action fantasy. Some of the description contained in the horror scenes is downright dripping with fear:

Who asks? in a voice that was like a dry chorus of a hundred voices. He could not tell whether it came from the trees themselves or from between them, but the sound of it froze him. A voice like dry leaves and the dead husks of things, and the passage of five hundred years.

Where Empire in Black and Gold shines is in Tchaikovsky’s ability to take characters that are at first glance foreign and unfamiliar and make them real. Take this conversation between a wasp and a dragonfly-kinden:

“Well, next time you shed my kinden’s blood, think on this: we are but men, no less nor more than other men, and we strive and feel joy and fail as men have always done. We live in the darkness that is the birthright of us all, that of hurt and ignorance, only sometimes…sometimes there comes the sun.”

Empire in Black and Gold is a fantastic first novel in a promising new series. I’m definitely looking forward to finding time to consume the second novel in the series.

You can purchase Empire in Black and Gold over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 7 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Reviews, Shadows of the Apt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fantasy Blogosphere: September 12, 2010

Holy schnikes! Where to begin this week? How about reviews of books by Tad Williams, Mark Chadbourn, Mark Charan Newton, Paul Hoffman, and Jo Graham? Or maybe interviews with R.A. Salvatore, Guy Gavriel Kay and Naomi Novik? Not to your liking? Try The Way of Kings tour schedule, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower becoming a film trilogy and a tv series and the babes of Dragon*Con on for size. Still not happy? Will a new trailer for Towers of Midnight please you? No? Ok, then check out The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, answer the question of what hobbits, robots and yahoos have in common, and check out The Guild: Season 4, Episode 8. Thirsty for more? Well, you’ll have to look elsewhere, I’m spent.

Trailer: Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Guild: Season 4, Episode 8: Busted

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Bestsellers, September 11, 2010

Alas, Brandon Sanderson’s solo work drops off the top five this week, and his remaining co-authored novel, Towers of Midnight, is placed in a No Mercy sandwich. So goes the battle for fantasy fiction.

  1. No Mercy (Kindle) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  2. Towers of Midnight (Hardcover) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  3. No Mercy (Hardcover) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  4. Dead in the Family (Kindle) by Charlaine Harris
  5. Breaking Dawn (Kindle) by Stephanie Meyer
Categories: Bestsellers, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantasy Blogosphere: September 6, 2010

This week we’ve got reviews of the third book in Ken Sholes five book series (Antiphon), Servant of a Dark God by John Brown, and an audiobook review of Aenarion by Gav Thorpe, among others. Brandon Sanderson kicks off his book tour for The Way of Kings, Daniel Abraham and Terry Pratchett offer interviews, Sandman by Neil Gaiman gets a television series, among other tv news, and of course, two new episodes of The Guild dropped since last week, giving us one of the best quotes in recent history: “Ah, but tonight, I am roll-playing myself”. Pure gold.

The Guild, Season 4, Episode 6: Weird Respawn

The Guild, Season 4, Episode 7: Awkward Birthday!

Categories: Fantasy Blogosphere, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment