Thursday, October 29, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: Aetheric Mechanics by Warren Ellis

It’s not very often that I get to review a graphic novel, so when a friend let me borrow this, I was really excited to tell you all about it. Aetheric Mechanics takes place in an alternate Earth in which Britain is at war with a place called Ruritania, whose powerful technology is quickly turning the tide of the war in their favor. Doctor Richard Watcham returns from the war front and, upon reuniting with Sax Raker, an old friend and renowned amateur detective, he embarks on an investigation of bizarre origins. I’m not familiar with Warren Ellis’ work, but if Aetheric Mechanics is any indication of his talent in coming up with weird stories, then I suspect I’ll enjoy just about anything he writes. There’s a lot going on here, and the brief instances that explain the current situation (the war with Ruritania, etc.) add some depth to the world Mr. Ellis is working with. Aetheric Mechanics is also generally visually gorgeous, with an exceptional amount of detail throughout the piece. Add to that a strange, steampunk-ish murder mystery and there’s plenty here to keep you entertained. The dialogue is particularly strong here, unlike a lot of comics/graphic novels that try to write in a pseudo-Victorian/WW2-analogous era (assuming, of course, that I got the representative periods correct). Raker, for instance, has a distinct voice that will remind some, for reasons that become obvious when you read the story, of other detective types we've come to know. The other characters, while not as distinct as far as attention grabbing is concerned, hold their own in a world that will immediately spark some of the "gosh wow" desperately needed in quasi-SF tales. The only problems I had with Aetheric Mechanics are probably normal things found within the comic/graphic novel industry. The story was, in my opinion, rushed, and I would have liked to see the story expanded over two or three volumes to give the twist ending greater impact. The result was that the relationships between characters were either left to reader assumption or not developed at all. Also, the lack of color and the pencil/ink combination removed some of the depth that needed to be there in certain panels (particularly the action-packed ones). Neither of these complaints ruined the experience for me, though. Overall, I liked Aetheric Mechanics, despite its flaws. It’s not perfect, and I hope that Mr. Ellis and his artists continue writing in this world (the ending leaves a lot to be told). I think this is one of those graphic novels that can’t be left without sequels; it’s too big to be alone. If you’re a steampunk/detective mystery fan, then you should definitely check this one out. You can find out more about Aetheric Mechanics at Avatar Press. Copies can be purchased there, at, or pretty much anywhere that carries graphic novels. If you’re interested in learning about Warren Ellis, check out his website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"White Collar" -- Who Says You Can't Regurgitate a Plot?

In keeping with the Hollywood tendency to beat a genre to death, USA has introduced a new series to attract the audience that's already watching TNT's Levearage. White Collar, starring Matt Bomer, (Bryce Larkin from "Chuck"), and Tim DeKay is really, really similar to "Leverage." The only missing so far is the group dynamic. Dekay stars as FBI agent Peter Burke, who has a knack for catching con man Neil Caffrey (Bomer). After Caffrey escapes prison to see his estranged girlfriend, and is thrown back in by Burke, he offers tantalizing clues to a case Burke is working on and offers to help catch the criminals in the new case if he is given a conditional release. Like "Leverage," the idea is that no one is better than catching a crook than another criminal. I decided to watch "White Collar" because I find the genre entertaining and I like everything from "The Sting" to the "Italian Job." There's nothing better than watching the friendly con-artist take down the scary bad guy. The reason I say "White Collar" is like "Leverage" is because I think they were based on almost identical dynamics. "Leverage," for those who haven't seen it, stars Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator who was screwed over by the company he used to work for, resulting in the death of his son. When an opportunity arises for Nate to get some well deserved payback from his former employers, he takes it and recruits some criminals he used to chase in his former occupation. In the course of the job Nate and the crew he hired realize they worked well together and they decide to stay in the business of helping those who have been treated poorly but have no legal or financial leverage on their own. Each episode features a new problem that requires the not-so-legal skills of the team, and Nate's ability to corral their unlawful impulses. "White Collar" is basically the same idea, only instead of a group of criminal masterminds, the show has one. And guess what? I liked it. What makes "White Collar" work despite its derivative nature are the two main characters-- or rather, the actors that play them. Tim Dekay, who plays FBI agent Peter Burke, is one of those guys you've seen a hundred times but can't place. He's been in everything from "Seinfeld" to "Party of Five," but he's never been in a star-making role. I don't know if this is the one, but he's terrific. I expected DeKay to fade into the background when Bomer is on camera because Bomer is such a striking looking guy, and believe me, they make the most of the guy's pretty face. But DeKay does such a good job of portraying a guy smart enough to keep track of a slippery genius. Like most stereotypical cops, Burke's character is a by-the-book guy; at least so far. I especially like the moment when he tells Caffrey that his slick, get-a-big-payoff-for-very-little-effort attitude is not the way the world works and sooner or later, it'll backfire. Bomer, despite the set-up as the star of the show, actually may take the backseat to McKay-- though it's too soon to tell. If that ends up being the case, then I will have to give credit to Bomer for not being the scene-stealing pretty boy he could have been. I don't know if I'll go into con-artist burnout, what with "Burn Notice," and "Psych" also being in my regular TV watching rotation. But for now, I think I'll stick with "White Collar," if only to watch Dekay some more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh My!

I got a review on the back cover of a book! This is so new to me. I don't think of myself as a professional reviewer, so seeing my reviews in print is... weird. Anyway. I just got the newest book written by Juliet Marillier (the author of the fabulous Sevenwaters trilogy) and there I am on the back cover! This one makes me giddy because I think Marillier is such a talent. I'm so flattered they used my review. Okay. I'm done now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Elfland" by Freda Warrington

The twilight deepened. The darker it grew, the more solid the stalking figures became, keeping pace with them in the edge of the trees. The disembodied voice spoke again, "Vaethyr. Virgin." Rose caught a sharp breath. She was trying to convince herself she wasn't afraid but her hands were clammy, her heart tripping. The shadow shapes flowed into their path, charcoal on slate grey. A low, menacing voice came from all around them. "You cannot come her unbranded." Encircled by dark, wavering specters, they halted. "This is not looking good," said Sam, clasping Heather firmly as he turned to Rosie and Faith. "We're going to run like hell, back the way we came. Ready?" Then he gave a sharp cry. It was over before Rosie could react. He jerked as if shot and tumbled backwards, an arrow shaft sticking from his collarbone, the shrieking on top of him. She saw a pair of golden eyes staring at her, a transparent winged form sketched on the darkness, a glowing arrow poised in some kind of crossbow. A split second later she felt the elf-shot; a stabbing fiery pain in her ribs. Her sight and hearing vanished in a rush of stars. Through the fog, she was aware of Faith trying to wrestle Heather from Sam until she, too, convulsed and fell. There was a moment of incomprehension, What the hell? No-- this can't be happening-- not now...but pain dragged her down, across Sam's fallen body, into an ocean of shadows. ~Excerpt from Elfland by Freda Warrington From Greek mythology to Grimm's fairy tales, people have been fascinated by the idea of worlds that exists beside our own. In Freda Warrington's "Elfland" the world of the fae lives alongside, and overlapping, the human world and Aetherials can tap into their realm anywhere; though they can only fully enter the Spiral through the Great Gateways. The Gateways have always been guarded by a single guardian appointed by the Spiral Council. Lawrence Wilder, the current guardian, has sealed the gateway from the Vaethyr, the fae who choose to live outside the Spiral, claiming a demon seeks to come through the portal and destroy both worlds. The earthbound fae are left wondering if Lawrence really senses danger or is the victim of paranoia and grow increasingly restless as they are cut off from their true home. Rosie Fox has grown up always knowing she's different though she has never entered the Gateway to the Aetherial world. Growing up as a neighbor to the dark Wilder family, Rosie has always had a love/hate relationship with Lawrence Wilder's sons. Jon, the dreamy one, has always been the perfect childhood crush; while Sam, the known troublemaker, has revealed surprising feelings for Rosie. "Elfland" is so many things that it is hard to describe in a short review. It would be easy to say that it's a book about relationships, but that would sell the complexity of the story short. There are many relationships that weave their way through the book, primarily between the Fox and Wilder families. But the magic of the Aetherial realm also threads its way throughout, giving the book a strong sense of the uncanny-- in a good way. Rosie Fox is the center of the story and we follow her life through her early loves and later tragedies. Because she straddles two worlds, one she cannot enter, Rosie tries to reconcile her dual nature by approaching everything from a logical point of view. Casting aside what she feels are childish dreams, Rosie tries to settle into a human life, but finds that existence lacks the passion of her true nature. "Elfland" is the first book by prolific British author Warrington to be released int the U.S. and I have no doubt she will find a huge following. Her writing is so engrossing that I immediately felt connected to the characters. She's wonderfully subtle when incorporating the magical elements. There are moments that ever-so-lightly remind the reader of everything from Hansel and Gretel to Orpheus, but the intelligence of the reader is never insulted and we're allowed to connect the dots on our own-- and I love that. Perhaps the happy endings are a little too pat, but the overall theme of redemption makes "Elfland" a very satisfying and altogether lovely book.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The "I'm Not Feeling Well" Giveaway

Ugh. I feel like one big body ache. I want to put up some reviews or write about something entertaining, but I feel icky. You know how it is. So to buy myself some time to sleep, I'm going to put up a book that I've been meaning to give away. Arch Enemy by Frank Beddor Discover the fate of Wonderland- and imagination itself- in this riveting conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy. The Heart Crystal’s power has been depleted, and Imagination along with it. The people of Wonderland have all lost their creative drive, and most alarmingly, even Queen Alyss is without her powers. There is some comfort in the fact that the vicious Redd Heart seems to be similarly disabled. Amazingly, she is attempting to team up with her enemy, Alyss, in order to reclaim Wonderland from King Arch. Alyss might have no choice but to accept Redd’s overtures, especially when she begins to receive alarming advice from the caterpillar oracles. You know the drill. I have one copy of "Arch Enemy" by Frank Bedor to giveaway, and if you'd like to win, then just enter your information into the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded immediately after the contest is over) and I will randomly pick a winner by Monday November 9th. No multiple entries please. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Winners! "Fantasy Firsts"

Oh my goodness! Blogger is finally working again. I tried to put up a post yesterday and kept getting an error message. I hope everyone else had some better luck. Let me get this Friday started by announcing the winners of the "Fantasy Firsts" contest featuring Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson-- with each of three winners receiving a copy of The Eye of the World and Mistborn. And the winners are-- Linda George (Napa, Ca), Manchu Ravi (Ontario, Canada) and Jake Lsewhere (Chittenango, NY) Congrats! Hope you enjoy your books.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Blogger Rules May (or May Not) be Much Ado About Nothing

A couple of weeks ago the FTC made the blogoshpere a slightly nervous place to post when the Associated Press published a story stating that bloggers must disclose products & payments received for reviewing various products or potentially face an $11,000 fine--set to take effect December 1st. I didn't particularly think this blog was in any danger because I'm a small, small fish. But it's hard not to get a little edgy when one recalls how the Fed went after "little" people who were illegally downloading music in the name of "setting an example." I don't know about you, but an $11,000 penalty would shut me right down for good. But the FTC is now working to reassure bloggers like myself that they're not interested in my little corner of the blogoshere. ~From Publisher's Weekly Mobile The Federal Trade Commission, which set the blogging world aflame two weeks ago with new guidelines governing truth-in-cyberspace-advertising, “never intended to patrol the blogosphere,” said Mary Engle, an FTC lawyer who addressed KidlitCon 09, a conference of kids’ book bloggers held last weekend in Alexandria, Va. “We couldn’t do it if we wanted to and we don’t want to.” Moreover, Engle said the revised guidelines are aimed at advertisers and marketers, not individual bloggers. She cited a Procter & Gamble campaign called “Vocalpoint,” which provided “400,000 moms” with free products in exchange for endorsements made via blog posts and tweets. Okay. But when you say you "couldn't do it if we wanted to," then why put up the regulations in the first place? Who, precisely, are you looking at? Are you going to go after those "400,000 moms" or the advertisers? I haven't heard of potential fines being levied at the advertising firms, have you? That's the question I'd pose. The article goes on to say. Coughlan said the furor over the revised guidelines was fanned by an interview with Richard Cleland, posted on the Reluctant Habits blog, in which the Consumer Protection chief made no distinction between product endorsers and arts reviewers, and in which he suggested that any item received by a blogger qualified as compensation unless it was returned after the review was written. “The word ‘compensation’ threw everybody into a panic,” Coughlan said. “Immediately people jumped from compensation to income to taxable income to the IRS. There’s a big difference between being paid money for posts, or being paid in product for posts, and us having to declare the value of books we receive, many of which are not solicited.” Either clarifying or backpedaling from Cleland’s statements, Engle said Saturday someone with a “personal blog, writing a genuine or organic review,” did not need to disclose how they got the book or assign it a value. “We have nothing to do with the IRS. I have no idea if you are supposed to declaring that as compensation. We were just looking for a word that wasn’t “paid,” because there are ways of being compensated for posts or tweets that don’t involve actual pay.” She was less sure about whether the earnings derived from links to or needed better labeling. Is it me? Or is that still pretty vague? Sure, an "organic" review seems to be okay, but the question of "compensation" seems pretty vague. Is a free book "compensation?" Apparently we have to wait for the IRS to weigh in on the issue to be sure. The article ends with an even less clarification. “I think that’s harder, and we don’t have a hard and fast position on that yet,” said Engle, who wondered out loud if it was as clear-cut as a doctor who gets profits from the sale of medicine made by a company he has a financial stake in. “Is an Amazon affiliate program similar to that? Or does a reasonable consumer clearly understand that the blogger gets a cut from every sale? The examples that are at the black-and-white ends are easy but in the middle there’s a lot of stuff we’re not sure about yet.” For an article that was supposed to be reassuring to bloggers like me, I'm not entirely comforted. I don't think the FTC is ever going to go after me. But I do think the FTC is looking to regulate the internet to a far greater capacity than it has up to this point. Is that a good or bad thing? Depends. I'm all for tracking fraud and criminal activity on the web, but should bloggers who receive a few products for review be included in that category? Seems to me that there are a lot worse things going on in cyberspace and policing that activity (like cyber-stalking, child porn etc.) seems like a far better use of Federal funds. But is there any profit in that? At this point I think the Fed is looking at the Internet as the unknown frontier of potential revenue (as in taxes). Blogs have become surprisingly effective marketing tool, which is why bloggers like myself are regularly approached to feature certain products. Word of mouth spreads really well across the Internet. But it goes way beyond marketing, in my humble opinion. It cannot have escaped the notice of the Federal government that larger, more influential blogs, have turned many of the news networks upside down. Major political stories are now being broken by The National Enquirer and political sites like Big Government and, like it or not, the major news networks and the White House are being forced to acknowledge these stories-- pretty much against their will. I think this is what the new regulations are really about. But can the FTC, or any other Federal organization, control the net? I'm a little blogger who gets a few books. I'm not someone the FTC should worry about, and I'm sure they won't. But there are more and more bloggers who are taking on politics and it's proving to be very profitable for some. Granted, not every Joe Schmoe who writes political opinion is going to make a name on the net. The vast majority don't. But people are increasingly getting their information on the net. No matter what your political bias happens to be, you can find a site, a very profitable site, that will share your view. YouTube is being used more and more as a means for various campaigns to push their agenda. I'm not suggesting the government is trying to control free speech through taxing revenue. That's too much of a tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy for me. But I think the FTC is seeing a means of communication that is way, way out of their control and financial crackdowns are the first steps toward taming the beast. I think this is what the Fed is looking to monitor and potentially control and the worries of little bloggers like me are little more than a tempest in a teapot. At least, as long as I don't post something "news worthy." So, I'll disclose the books I receive, just in case. And track the pennies I earn in advertising. Just in case. But really, I'll be watching the news and waiting to see the direction in which the Fed dedicates their efforts in the near future. Something tells me that the bloggers who come to the attention of the Fed aren't going to be writing scifi reviews. We'll see.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Giveaway! "Red Claw" by Philip Palmer

I have some more books I need to get up for giveaway, so let's get this week started with a new book, courtesy of Orbit Books. Red Claw by Philip Palmer. Philip Palmer turns science fiction on its head in this breathtaking thrill ride through alien jungles filled with terrifying monsters and killer robots. Space marines and science heroes! Gryphons and Godzillas! It's all here in this gripping tale of man versus nature. If this sounds good to you, just enter your information in the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded after the contest is over) and I will randomly pick a winner by Monday November 2nd. No multiple entries please. Open everywhere. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Subterfuge Part 5 [Last]

People, we have reached the final post as far as this anthology is concerned and I am presenting you with the last of the "Subterfuge" stories. Keep your eyes out on the final summary of this anthology with general opinions and analysis. “Multitude” by Dave Hutchison, Pages 38: Officially the longest short story in this anthology “Multitude” dabbles with my favorite mélange of genres: post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy. In this rendition of Earth the reader is introduced to a planet, torn after long wars and then at its weakest conquered by the elves, which appear to be the original race on Earth to begin with. The elves however are bit on the animalistic, homicidal side and humans play the role of small game for the slaughter. Bar owner of the Duke of York in Norfolk Kaz Mackoviak has the misfortune to be visited by elves and from then on life goes downhill for him. As the story progresses more secrets float to the surface from the murky depths of the past and revelations deliver one shock after another. Hutchison has painted a very grim and believable world, which I enjoyed immensely. “The Rhine’s World Incident” by Neal Asher, Pages 14: I didn’t find anything profound or a certain twist that would make this review long, but I don’t think that Asher has intended this short story to be anything more than fun and action packed military sci-fi, depicting the war between two fractions: human partisans and A.I. Subterfuge here is present in the ingenuity both sides apply to the battlefield and I was generally in for a pleasant surprise at seeing how the A.I machines fight back and manage to overcome the human partisans. An adrenaline delight to be sure. “Thirstlands” by Nick Wood, Pages 12: I spent a long time trying to decide on whether I liked this story and why did it have to close this particular anthology. In the end I decided that I did not like this one at all, because first I couldn’t click with the main character or understand his world and his relationship with his wife. Although the short story has science fiction elements as the plot revolves around a near future Africa, where the droughts have reached a new level of danger for the people on this continent, it reads more or less like a mainstream slash slightly philosophical read, digging around human principles and moral. However the delivery didn’t work for me. However I did understand why it was positioned as last. Whereas “Darker Than Void” started the anthology with the negative aspect of what subterfuge is aka keeping a secret or applying lie to achieve a certain goal, “Thirstlands” takes subterfuge, in this case the protagonist’s hidden water well, and disperses the secret in order for it to be used for good.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Giveaway! "Traitor's Gate" by Kate Elliott

I am starting to get quite the collection of duplicates (ARC's and final copies) of various books and it's time to weed out my collection by sharing some books. Thanks to Tor Books I have one copy "Traitor's Gate" by Kate Elliott to give away to one lucky winner. Traitor's Gate by Kate Elliott In Spirit Gate and Shadow Gate, Kate Elliott took readers to the fascinating world of the Hundred, a land teeming with an array of cultures, gods, and conflicts blighted by the shadow of chaos and destruction. Now, with the same intensity and dramatic sweep that has brought this epic to life, Elliott returns to the exquisitely crafted cities and landscapes of the Hundred, in a thunderous conclusion to the saga. In the darkness of war and destruction, forces gather to reclaim the peace: Those immortal Guardians who still serve justice seek a means to end the devastating reign of one of their own; a hired outlander army struggles to halt the advance of the horde that has despoiled vast lands and slaughtered countless people in its murderous wake, while still guarding against a burgeoning threat from an aggressively expansionist empire; and the eagle reeves who have long been the only law enforcers of the Hundred struggle to reorganize after a devastating massacre has decimated their numbers. But even as these forces give hope to those who would live in peace, a terrible danger looms: a traitor with Imperial ambitions, the most dreaded, least anticipated threat of all… For a chance to win just enter your information into the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded after the contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Saturday October 31st. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open everywhere. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Friday, October 16, 2009

Subterfuge Part 4

“The God Particle” by Steve Longsworth, Pages 12: This one is definitely a quirky charmer. It starts with Bertrand Russel’s quote “Never be absolutely certain of anything” and manages to stay true to it, delivering one amusing situation after another. I can say that subterfuge here is all in the variables and when it comes to variable quantum physics has them. In the end this is the ultimate unification of science and religion as tests to find the God Particle give staggering results. The science lingo can be overwhelming as well as the theories the characters produced to explain what happened during the experiment, but all the more power to the writer for getting all the elements right. In the end this is acceptable and enjoyable. “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Una McCormack, Pages 10: I loved the topic here. We have a band that almost made it big listening to a tribute band formed in their honor, performing their early works. The nostalgia and surrealistic atmosphere are comfortable, but I am not exactly sure what to make out of the ending and I am not a fan of having to keep guessing, even when that quality is intentional and part of the mystery. “Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream” by Nik Ravenscroft, Pages 12: Time travel has always excited me and whenever I do get the chance I enjoy a time travel story, especially one with a dirty twist in the end capable of making me smirk evilly. The reader is introduced to bright Toby Maitland, who happens to be intellectually gifted, but suffering in his personal life, which has brought him to a mental break down one day. That day in the park he meets a very strange man, with whom he speaks the same language, but as anything in this world nothing is random and nothing is obvious.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Giveaway! Short Story Collection (#7)

I'm going to come clean. This contest exists solely so I could feature "Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies." You look at that cover and tell me you could resist? Thanks to Penguin Books I have the following collection of short stories to giveaway to one lucky winner (you know you want to read about killer bunnies...) To enter, just leave your information in the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded after the contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Friday October 30th. No multiple entries please. Open everywhere. Good luck! Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes From a farmer at war with Nature's creatures, to dangerous doings when the henhouse goes on-line, to the hazards of keeping company with a book wyrm, here are ingenious tales that will make readers laugh or cry-or double-check to make sure that their windows and doors are firmly locked against the things that prowl the night. Intelligent Design by Denise Little (Editor) These ten original stories explore one of the most heatedly debated topics today. From a tale that examines whether life on Earth is an out-of-control science project, to one which reveals which species will inherit the planet, to a portrait of a scientist determined to discover the truth about God, the stories in this anthology tackle the big questions in ways that range from startling to satirical—and are always entertaining. The Trouble With Heroes Edited by Denise Little These 22 all-new tales pay tribute to the true heroes-the people who enable and put up with heroes. From what it's like to be Hercules' wife (complete with an appearance by Hercules in drag) to the trials of H.P. Lovecraft's housekeeper, from the perils of being King Kong's girlfriend to the downside of dating a shapeshifter, this anthology turns heroism on its head, revealing the behind-the-scenes drama, as opposed to glorious rescues. From the Pied Piper's power trip to David acting like a giant you-know-what after slaying Goliath, these stories show heroes in all their ignominy and shine a light on the unsung faithful standing in their shadows. **Contest Closed**

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Subterfuge Part 3

“Underbrain” by Tony Ballantyne, Pages 28: We’ve officially hit the middle with the second longest short story in the anthology, which is also a sort of slipstream fiction and subterfuge is presented in the profoundly global manner, which can shake a human being down to the very core and leave an empty shell. The proportions and chill factor of this beast are impressive and so far this has been one of my personal favorites. The setting is a world inhabited by giant spiders and humans as well. Although the spiders seem benevolent and are used as cattle herders, the status quo is not as obvious as it is presented. Capel doe Mistletroe suspects that something is very wrong with her country’s history, but she isn’t prepared, when her sister’s husband reveals the whole truth. A definite charmer this one. “Underfog (The Wreckers)” by Tanith Lee, Pages 12: I was very excited to read a horror entry in the anthology and I am ecstatic to report that Tanith delivers as a bone chilling tale without using a twist ending or explosive pace. The best horror in my opinion is to be able to direct a mirror through one’s prose and just reflect how gruesomely cruel humans can be. It never hurts to have a ghost ship in it as well. The subterfuge in this short story is not so much the secret as it is watching desperate people applying desperate measures to ensure their survival and in this case it would mean luring ships during stormy weather to crash into the rocks near their village. “They Left the City at Night” by Sarah Singleton, Pages 14: As hard as I could I failed at getting into this story, which I left unread. I believe it was a mixture of the setting being Russia after the revolution and not as exciting prose that left me thinking of everything else when I should have been concentrating on the story.

Subterfuge Part 2

“Noble Deceit” by Juliet E. McKenna, Pages 16: This short story is fantasy and portrays the theme of subterfuge through intricate court intrigues and world building, which is enchanting and frightening. Thian Hindrie has been born with an unusual talent, which due to high value and rarity for the monarchy is kept secret, until the king would need it. When the call comes forth, Thian is swallowed by court plans and as he accomplishes his greatest feat with his talent the world around him reveals a different face. It’s typical court intrigue, where everybody has spoken half truths or lies, but this time in noble context, proving that some things are best left unsaid. “Tales from the Big Dark: Lie of the Land” by Pat Cadigan, Pages 10: Science Fiction has always been fond of abductions and Cadigan decides to portray what happen beyond being abducted. In this case it means becoming a specimen in a galactic zoo. The protagonist is a human doctor, who after overcoming the shock of being abducted acts as a councilor to new abductees in order to adapt to the new environment. However everyone is prone to crash mentally and in an environment, where nothing ever happens without a purpose it’s impossible to determine what is true and what is not. I liked the mind games involved here, leaving the reader to guess whether everything indeed is meticulously engineered and deceit follows through or perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in a situation, where no immediate exit is conceivable. “The Moth” by Neil Williamson, Pages 14: Fantasy as a genre is always filled with intrigue and verbal chess games, which is part of the spirit of high fantasy or political fantasy. This is such a story, which I have to admit has been skillfully crafted in its games of subtleties and details in techniques. However I didn’t feel much of a connection for the Markady, the spy and protagonist, who is sadly from the worst kind of spies, the spineless ones. The reason he excels in what he does is because he receives compliments on his work and no matter how scared, insecure or nervous he is, he keeps pushing forward. Nevertheless he was portrayed with the three dimensional believability one would expect and that contributed to a more enjoyable experience.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Servant of a Dark God" by John Brown

Fire, as it's known in John Brown's debut novel, Servant of a Dark God, is the substance that makes up the days of a person's life and it can be bought and sold to another person to increase stamina and strength. The only people who are allowed to harvest the fire are known as Divines, and they rule the land. But there are those who steal fire from humans and animals alike, known as Sleth, who become twisted by the power they draw. Talen is a young clansmen just growing into adulthood when rumors of Sleth throw his world into turmoil. Tensions between clans only get worse when the clans decide to muster a hunt for "soul eaters" and Talen's family becomes a target of suspicion. What Talen doesn't know is that not everyone is content to leave the power in the hands of the Divines and trusted friends and family have been using the forbidden arts. And a dark power is growing in the valley; animating a dark creature that seeks the fire it sees burning brightly in Talen. John Brown's "Servant of a Dark God" is a surprisingly complex debut novel. First, the story follows several viewpoints, from that of Talen, his cousin Nettle, his older sister River, his father Hogan and his uncle Argoth. Each person is integral to the story and each time we read their differing viewpoints a little piece of puzzle is filled in. Brown's writing style is likable and assured. The beginning chapter establishes Talen's character through a humorous incident that has the siblings squabbling over a stolen pair of pants. Then the narrative smoothly transitions to the rising conflict between clans and the accusations of "slethery" that begin running rampant through the territory. The only time "Servant of a Dark God" falters is when Brown gets mired down in the descriptions of the magic system of the story. The idea of magic being hoarded and jealously guarded by the powerful isn't a new idea but Brown generally does a good job of establishing a unique world and system of magic. The problem is that, at times, the explanations are overly complex and I found myself pulled out of the story as I attempted to work it all out, and it seemed unnecessary. The characters are generally very good. Talen has his moments of seeming unusually obtuse, but that's not unrealistic for a young man on the verge of adulthood who has seen all his preconceptions thrown aside rather abruptly. And I especially like the villains of the story. The creature that is the main source of dread through the early part of the book is more of a tragic figure, one we can pity, even as we hope he doesn't catch up to our heroes. I've read my fair share of series' debuts this year and "Servant of a Dark God" is one of the better ones. I do wish there had been less of an info-dump feel to some of the chapters but I am optimistic that now that the foundation has been laid, the story may have a smoother feel going forward. And, like most good books, the characters are the thing, and they are done very well. I'll definitely be reading the sequel and if I had to make a prediction, I'd say John Brown is the name of a fantasy author we'll be hearing about for a long time to come.

Giveaway! "Bite Marks" by Jennifer Rardin

Courtesy of Orbit Books I have one copy of Bite Marks (Jaz Parks) by Jennifer Rardin to offer for giveaway. Jaz is possessed. After biting the neck of a domyter during a forced visit to his territory, she now has unwelcome voices in her head. While fighting for supremacy in her own mind, she finds herself confronted with a near-impossible task: perform perfectly on her next mission or face the unemployment line. This goal wouldn’t be unreasonable, except that her newest target, the leader of a security software firm, plans on transporting a boatload of gnome larvae into NASA’s deep space communication complex. Why gnomes? Let’s just say that their god is a little peeved with humanity and plans on the usual: total annihilation. Joining Jaz and Vayl are their old buddies Cole, Bergman, Cassandra and Jack the malamute, each of whom has his or her own agenda. Between Cassandra’s curse, Jaz’s literally mental personal demons, and a host of angry gnomes, this mission is definitely going to be more complicated than any that have come before If you're a fan of the Jazz Parks series and would like to get your hands on this, then just enter your information into the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will only be used for the purpose of this contest. All entries will be discarded when the contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Tuesday October 27th. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open everywhere. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Monday, October 12, 2009

Anthology Spot: Subterfuge, Part 1

Posted by Harry Markov

As per with the last anthology I had the pleasure of reading “The Living Dead” I will be segmenting the review of “Subterfuge” into several posts of three stories. I am expecting a lot smoother run this time with five posts of short stories to come and a closing one with general and summarized feedback. Here is the official introduction: The book features a cover by award winning artist Andy Bigwood and fifteen original stories, themed on Subterfuge: A clever device or strategy used to evade a rule, escape a consequence, or to hide something.' Presenting original fantasy from the likes of Tanith Lee, Juliet E. McKenna, Neil Williamson and Sarah Singleton, SF from John Meaney, Neal Asher, Pat Cadigan, Tony Ballantyne and Jaine Fenn, slipstream from Gary Couzens and more... Full contents: 1. John Meaney – Emptier than Void 2. Jaine Fenn – Collateral Damage 3. Gary Couzens – Jubilee Summer 4. Juliet E. McKenna – Noble Deceit 5. Pat Cadigan – Tales from the Big Dark: Lie of the Land 6. Neil Williamson – Moth 7. Tony Ballantyne – Underbrain 8. Tanith Lee – Under Fog (The Wreckers) 9. Sarah Singleton – They Left the City at Night 10. Steve Longworth – The God Particle 11. Una McCormack – The Great Gig in the Sky 12. Nik Ravenscroft – Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream 13. Neal Asher – The Rhine’s World Incident 14. Nick Wood -- Thirstland 15. Dave Hutchinson – Multitude

“Emptier than Void” by John Meaney, Pages 24: After my introduction to anthologies in general I have began to view them as intricate and intelligent puzzles, which reveal great intellect and smart design, if they are successful. As such the beginning story has the most responsible function. It has to open the doors to the readers and introduce the theme with a colorful, powerful or with a mixture of both presence. “Emptier than Void” succeeds as it introduces to a fast-paced action-packed science fiction story as a mind-reader combats his machine-induced monstrous hunger and functions as an assassin in order to receive treatment for his hunger. As a game of cat and mouse unravels, which is used as a base for the character’s contemplation on humanity and identity, players change their agendas every step of the way. Subterfuge is presented as cruel machinations and a game of chess. “Collateral Damage” by Jaine Fenn, Pages 14: As far as my genre recognition skills go I can tag this one as slipstream with a mélange of sci-fi and dystopian society. In the City politicians are bound to serve the city or else. Charlie’s Angels meets Big Brother and their bastard children are the Angels, City sanctioned assassins, who dispose of any politician found guilty of abusing their power. They can do what they can please with no questions asked. Collateral damage is shrugged off, but not all collateral damage is obvious. This is the lesson Malia, a new Angel, learns as she is sent on her first kill. I can speak of subterfuge here in the form of human insincerity and hidden motifs, which are my favorite kind of twist in a story. “Jubilee Summer” by Gary Couzens, Pages 12: One of the shortest stories in the anthology and for me also one of the least memorable and confusing as to where the element of subterfuge lay. The reader is introduced to Thea, who returns to her home town on a business trip, and follows her as she recalls her childhood memories of a friend long dead or maybe not quite. This one is quite mainstream, but with that air of mystique, where you sense that there is a million ways this can blossom into fantasy or sci-fi, but it doesn’t. I guess the beauty is in exactly that quality, although I didn’t exactly feel as drawn to it as the author had intended. Perhaps the otherworldly moments and the subterfuge lay on the contemplation and acceptance of death under a disguise. As I said I am not entirely certain.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teenage Girls are Ruining All the Good Monsters

I was talking to my husband the other day about the current trends in vampire fiction, ranging from "Twilight" to "The Vampire Diaries," and it occurred to me that teenage girls seem to be driving the direction that genre is going. And it's driving me crazy. As the mother of a "tween" I can see why the trend has developed. Between "Hannah Montana" and "The Wizards of Waverly Place," and the marketing that goes along with them, it's not hard to see the power young girls have when it comes to getting mom and dad to pay lots of money to keep their little girls happy. But I wonder if the push to keep little girls happy has forced us all to compromise our taste and accept sub-standard entertainment. I'm not going to lie, "Twilight" represents all that is wrong with the world of vampire fiction as far as I'm concerned. I know, I know. It's hugely popular. I hear women all the time tell me how much they loooove it. They read it with their teenage daughters, join book clubs with other like-minded women and flock to see the movies. I get it. And I resent the heck out of everyone who has made it a phenomenon because vampires are losing their monster status. Vampires who roam about in the daylight and shimmer are not vampires. And let's face it, "Twilight" isn't about vampires, it's about the plain girl who gets the hot guy. It's vicarious wish fulfillment for every girl (and woman) who was ever the wallflower. Vampires have been hijacked by romantic comedy fans. It's unfair of me to judge. Really, I know that. Not everyone should have to share my taste in entertainment. But it drives me up a wall when Hollywood decides to go after a trend and drive a genre into the ground. We've all seen it happen before. Take Batman for example. No, teenage girls haven't ruined that franchise yet. But Batman went through a long dry period in which it was forgotten that he was supposed the dark, brooding guy we've all come to know and love. I remember growing up watching the 60's television series starring Adam West as the caped avenger in the campy show featuring silly graphics saying things like "Pow!" and "Bam!" every time Batman and Robin would get into a fight and I liked it. But I was a kid and didn't know any better. When the late 80's rolled around and Tim Burton took on the story it seemed like it was going back to its darker roots-- and Jack Nicholson made for a fairly terrific Joker. But it seemed as if Batman couldn't entirely escape the silliness that lingered long after the television series was over and, before we knew it, they put him in a suit with nipples. I'm just sayin'. Christopher Nolan, my hero, finally saved Batman with the wonderful "Batman Begins" in 2005, but it was a long time coming. I can't help but wonder, are we in for a long period of teenage romantic fantasies featuring vampires and werewolves? It isn't the fault of teenage audiences though. It isn't even the fault of the adult fans of paranormal romances. I like to think I'm the last one to judge. I love mass market fiction. I'm not afraid to say it. But I dislike it when Hollywood gets its teeth into a fad and buries anything else of value. Let's face it, Hollywood isn't known for being driven by quality, it's known for being driven by what makes money (despite any current anti-capitalistic rhetoric-- we all know Hollywood is all about the profit). Heck, any entertainment industry is like that. That isn't inherently a bad thing. But quality can be overlooked in that environment and who knows how long it will be before Hollywood remembers that Dracula started it all and he wasn't a broody hunk fighting his urge to drink blood. He was a monster. But I suppose there is hope on the horizon. There is "The Wolfman" starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins which looks like it will remember that a werewolf should be frightening. That is, unless The Vampire's Assistant doesn't ruin the genre forever by bringing in all the teenage boys. Sigh.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Winners! The 'Not Changing the Name' Contest

I have deliberately let this contest run late (as opposed to just being flaky) so I could update the book selection for the winners. I have randomly picked two winners to pick TWO titles from the post on my giveaway page. The first place winner is -- Ricardo Perez, Scott AFB Illinois and the second place winner is-- Wendy Erwin Congrats! Check out the giveaway page and let me know what your book selections are (Ricardo gets first pick as the first place winner) and I'll get them right off to you. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Got Any Good Ghost Stories?

I don't often think of changing my blog for the holidays, but I've been inspired by my friend and contributor, Stewart Sternberg, to add a little Halloween spirit to the page. Stewart has had a great series of posts on his blog with Halloween motifs, including posts about vampires, creatures that inspire fear, werewolves and the rush we get from being scared, and I realized as I read his posts that so many topics encompassed by fantasy & scifi are tailor made for Halloween. I just reviewed a book about zombies-- as an example. But Halloween has it's own special associations. Granted, it has become a holiday about candy and costumes; but it's also a day that kind of brings out the creepy and the weird. Look at the costumes when the kids come down the street and see how many ghosts, mummies, vampires and witches you see. And then think of how often you see those very characters in your fantasy fiction. Nowadays you can't walk through the bookstore or turn on the television without seeing vampires. But as I was watching television tonight, I was reminded that ghosts are also the subject of an increasing number of reality shows. I may have mentioned before that my husband is a reality-show junkie. I can't say I'm a fan of the genre in particular. In fact, I'd pretty much dump most of them. But there are a few that have their charm-- Stewart himself had mentioned Ghost Hunters at one point. But the show we watched tonight (dare I say, the latest cheese-fest?) was Celebrity Ghost Stories. "Celebrity Ghost Stories" is an interesting conundrum for me. I actually believe in ghosts. I'm one of those people who is open to pretty much anything because I think there is likely all kinds phenomena that we simply don't have explanations for. Ghosts may be wandering spirits or the sightings may be windows into a different time and space. Who knows? We may never know. But like any other unknown, there's always the potential that it's real. But when a celebrity tells the story I'm actually predisposed to skepticism because, well, most celebrities are attention whores. Not all of them... but a lot. And "Celebrity Ghost Stories" is populated with it's fair share of reality show regulars, including Scott Baio, Belinda Carlisle, Debbie Mazar and Carnie Wilson. And yet, it's kind of compelling. I like ghost stories that are corroborated by a second party. Joan Rivers, for example, tells a story that could potentially be confirmed. She claims that her New York City apartment is haunted by the niece of J.P Morgan, who apparently owned the building for many years. She also says that many of the other apartment dwellers have had sightings as well. Is it true? So far, I haven't found any accounts online that back up the story. But you gotta admit, it would be strange for her to tell a story that could so easily be debunked. On the other hand... you know.. publicity whore. But a lot of people I know have ghost stories. My in-laws have a pretty good one in fact. They collect antiques and one time they bought a cradle that was built in the 1800's, and both of them swear that once they brought it into the house they would occasionally hear an infant cry. They also saw ghostly apparitions. My in-laws are not flaky people and they both saw and heard the same things. Spooky. I've never had a close encounter but sometimes I wonder if I'm too prosaic for my own good. My house, for instance, makes a lot of weird noises. Sometimes when I'm home alone I hear a noise that sounds like someone is running across my bedroom upstairs. But I'm convinced it's the acoustics of the house. I'd swear by it. I've never had the someone is looking over my shoulder feeling in my home, so it's easy for me to explain it away by thinking it has something to do with how the breeze blows through my windows. Or maybe I'm just not sensitive to certain vibes... So are ghosts real or are most stories simply a case of the imagination run amok? And more importantly, do you have any good ghost stories?

Monday, October 05, 2009

"Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest

"Get off me, boy. I'm walking all right. It stings a little, but it won't be the end of me." "Good," Briar said. "Because we've got problems." From inside the lift, a mournful groan came echoing. Pounding hands beat at the roof above, or from other spot around the lift's basket. Then there was a splintering, breaking smash...and they came tumbling inside. One or two blazed the trail, and then they poured in greater numbers through whatever passage they'd forced. The first three rotters off the lift and into the corridor were once a soldier, a barber and a Chinaman. Briar pumped the rifle and aimed it fast, catching the first two in the eyes and blowing off the third one's ear. "Mother!" Zeke shouted, "Behind me, both of you!" she commanded, but Angeline wasn't having any of it and she used her own shotgun to take down the third. Scrambling hungrily over those three bodies came another round of rotters, half a dozen bodies wide and at least that deep. "Back!" Angeline cried. "Back this way!" she said, even as she continued shooting. The noise in the corridor was deafening, and both Zeke and Briar had heads that were already throbbing. But it was either shoot and aim high or sit down and die; so the women kept firing as Zeke blazed a backward path, acting as scout and lookout while he tried to follow Angeline's directions. "To your right! I mean, to your other right," she corrected herself. "There ought to be a door there, at the end of the way. Beside the office!" "It's locked!" Zeke shouted. The second word was drowned out by the calamity of his mother's Spencer, but Angeline got the general idea. ~Excerpt from Boneshaker by Cherie Priest I am very, very lucky in that I get a lot of books for review-- you won't hear me complain about that. But there are times when all I really want is a book to read for my own enjoyment; something I don't have to review. One book that has been getting a lot of attention is "Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest so I decided to buy this one as a birthday present to myself-- and all I have to say is wow! This is, hands down, the best book I've read all year. In short, "Boneshaker" is one heck of a creation; a steampunk novel with zombies. Set in an alternative American history, "Boneshaker" takes place during a drawn out Civil War. Rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike have drawn prospectors in an Alaskan gold rush. Russian investors have sponsored a contest for a machine that can dig through the ice and Leviticus Blue wins the contest with his plans for the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine. But something goes horribly wrong when Levi tries to test the engine and it rips through the ground beneath Seattle, destroying whole blocks, killing untold numbers of people and somehow releasing a horrible gas that turns anyone who comes into contact with it into the living dead. Sixteen years after the Boneshaker tore through downtown Seattle, the affected blocks have been walled off to contain the blight that has contaminated the city. Living just outside the walls of the blight zone Levi's widow, Briar Wilkes, ekes a living working at a water purifying plant while raising her son Zeke under the cloud of suspicion that has hovered over her ever since the incident. Growing up as the son of the man who destroyed the city has been hard for Zeke Wilkes. Hoping to prove that his father didn't set the Boneshaker through the city's bank vaults on purpose, Zeke decides to enter the walled-in portion of the city and find his parent's old home in hopes of finding some proof that will clear his father's name. But the city is full of dangers, not the least of which are the rotters who seek human flesh. A man in mask, rumored to be Leviticus Blue, has become a powerful force in the strange underground city that has developed inside the walls. And Briar, who has entered the city in search of her son, will have to face her past in order to save Zeke. "Boneshaker" is primarily a steampunk novel, though Cherie Priest herself questions what precisely qualifies as steampunk in a humorous guest post over at, even repeating a joke that steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown. But all kidding aside, Priest does a fantastic job of finding a steampunk sensibility and bringing it to life. She said that she was going for a character driven story with steampunk elements, but I have to contend that she has excelled at every aspect. A lot of traditional steampunk inventions, like goggles and airships are included; but the addition of items like the Boneshaker, blight masks and an ingenious mechanical arm, wonderfully described, add great detail and depth. And the zombies. Let's not forget the zombies. I don't know whether it's coincidence that "Boneshaker" arrives, zombies and all, just as zombies seem to be the newest rage in fantasy fiction. And, frankly, I don't care because the zombie element works. I don't know how Priest came up with a steampunk/zombie combo, but darned if it doesn't fit. But what I liked most about "Boneshaker" is that the story has a great villain. Dr. Minnericht, the man who may or may not be Leviticus Blue, doesn't actually appear until about two-thirds of the way into the book, but his presence is felt almost from the very beginning. Brilliant and deranged, Minnericht is an excellent mask-wearing mad-scientist who controls the Seattle underground through fear, and the safety his inventions provide from the roaming zombies. I almost never give 5 stars to any book, but "Boneshaker" tickles my fancy in every way possible. It's a stand-out among the piles of books I read every year and is sure to become known as a steampunk masterpiece. Maybe I gush, but "Boneshaker" is uniquely entertaining. It's inventive, strong on character development, full of action and I can't think of a single thing I would change. Loved it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Continuing the "Fantasy Firsts" Contest...

Not too long ago Tor Books hosted a "Fantasy Firsts" book giveaway featuring authors Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan. Due to the popularity of the giveaway, Tor has decided to expand the contest and now I can offer THREE sets of the first books in two great series'. From the original Tor contest... Enter for a chance to win a copy of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson and The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan! Remember the first time you discovered an amazing new fantasy series? Now give that gift to a friend! This October 27th, 2009, Tor releases The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the first of three novels to conclude the legendary Wheel of Time® series. In honor of that occasion, we’re offering the chance to introduce your friends and family to the book that began it all: The Eye of the World. With that, you will also receive Mistborn, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s wonderful Mistborn trilogy, for your own enjoyment. Keep Mistborn and give The Eye of the World to a friend. And if you’ve read both of them already, give them both to a well-deserving loved one! If you'd like a chance to win one set of these two books, then enter your information into the form below (all information is guaranteed to remain confidential and not used for any purpose other than this contest. Entries will be discarded after contest ends) and I will randomly pick 3 winners on Monday October 19th. Entries will be limited to the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Multiple entries will be disqualified (I allowed multiple entries the last few times, and it has gotten out of control!) And, as an added bit of background about how Brandon Sanderson came to be chosen to finish Robert Jordan's series, here's an interview with Robert's widow, Harriet McDougal, and Brandon Sanderson. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Flash Forward

This time every year I hit my DVR to record and start watching the new shows of the season. It's rare that I pick up more than one or two news shows a year, especially given the cancellation rate of network TV shows, but I'm curious enough to want to check out the new offerings-- especially if there is a scifi twist. Flash Forward, this year's answer to "Lost," intrigued me for a couple of reasons. First, it stars reclusive British actor Joseph Fiennes ("Shakespeare in Love") and, secondly, the show is supposed to be loosely based on a novel by science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer. ("W.W.W. Wake") As the show opens, F.B.I agents Mark Benford (Fiennes) and Demetri Noh (John Cho) are in the middle of staking out an international terrorist and soon find themselves in the middle of a high speed chase. In the middle of the chase they are caught up in an event that causes them to black out. Thinking at first that the terrorist they were chasing somehow caused a local incident, using something like a dirty bomb, the agents hazily find the car they were chasing and try to sort out what happened. But as crowds gather around the two officers looking for answers, they begin to realize something much larger is going on. Despite widespread chaos, it doesn't take long to figure out the blackout was a worldwide event. For 2 minutes and 17 seconds virtually every person in the world lost consciousness and had a vision of the future. Agent Benford had a vision of being in the middle of trying to figure out the cause of the blackout, or flash forward as it has come to be known, and soon convinces his boss, agent Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) to allow him to spearhead the effort to solve the mystery. "Flash Forward" is an interesting show for a variety of reasons. It's a typically slick TV production and has all the meaningful glances, dialogue and dramatic music I've come to associate with series television. It's clear that "Flash Forward" is being positioned to fill the void that will be left when "Lost" ends by having numerous twists and mysteries. But it also gains something by being based on a solid piece of fiction. As I understand it, "Flash Forward" the TV show has been significantly altered from the version written by Sawyer-- I haven't read the book so I can't say for sure. But, from what I have read, many important elements remain that might save the show from spinning off into abyss of never-ending plot devices. Primarily the strength of "Flash Forward" is the philosophical questions it brings up by giving everyone a glance into their own future. As expected, some people have positive, almost dreamlike visions, while others have visions that scare them to death. Still others don't have any visions at all and are left wondering if that is a premonition of their death. The show is only two episodes in and it's already dealing with whether the future is fixed or changeable and if knowing the future will cause us to try to make it happen. These aren't new questions but it still makes for good television. The show certainly isn't flawless. I found myself bugged by the fact that there didn't seem to be that much chaos for a world-wide blackout. The main character's wife is a doctor-- and she still manages to make it home in time for dinner. She even drives her car home and something tells me the roads wouldn't be clear if everyone in the world was knocked unconscious for two minutes. That kind of lack of credibility does tend to take me out of the show; though I am willing to allow that the writers chose not to focus on the initial chaos and get straight to the meat of the story. My other, minor, complaint is that Fiennes, who I did like in "Shakespeare in Love," has a tendency to talk without moving his lips and it makes him hard to understand at times. What can I say, I like my actors to enunciate. Like most new shows I haven't come to a firm conclusion as to whether or not I'll stick with "Flash Forward." I wasn't blown away like I was when I first watched "Battlestar Galactica," but I'm not turned off the way I was when I tried to watch "N.C.I.S. Los Angeles" (maybe it's me, but that show was awful). I am certainly interested enough to stick with it for awhile and see what new mysteries appear and, if I had to guess, I'd say that "Flash Forward" will be around for a few seasons.