Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jimmy and His Dolls: The Conjuring (2013)

What is with James Wan and dolls?

Putting Billy in Saw was a stroke of masterpiece, giving an otherwise not-TV-friendly film franchise a mascot that was both highly recognizable and easy to use in all sort of settings. Whether you consider it a good or a bad thing, it's hard to argue that the Saw franchise could have lasted for seven films if not for Billy's presence. The role of puppets was just as important, if not more so, in Dead Silence, where they played a central role in the film. In Insidious, a roomful of dolls existed entirely for creep factor in a single room with no explanation.

In The Conjuring, a doll features as well. This time, Annabelle is a doll possessed by a demon that exists in a movie-within-the-movie. Technically, it's not possessed, but for all intents and purposes, it is. To use the language of the film, the Annabelle doll is a conduit through which a demonic spirit enters the world.

It is through this story that we meet two of our main characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The couple exists in real life, and demonology were their real careers. Save for how it influences the plot, I will not be delving into their real lives, for several reasons. For the purposes of this review, the characters in this film are fictional adaptations of the Warrens the same way that characters in South Park or Robot Chicken would be – not that The Conjuring treats them nearly the same way.

In fact, much of The Conjuring is slice of life, and here is where it might start to lose some people. Fifteen minutes might go by of the Warrens and the Perrons – the other family the film focuses on – going about their day to day life. Then, something strange will happen. At least, that is the perception. After all, a dog refusing to go into a house, or finding a bruise on your leg, or seeing a known sleepwalker sleepwalk isn't that strange, right? Then, maybe eight minutes of the same will pass before something else strange happens. Then four minutes. Then two minutes, or a minute. Then thirty seconds. Fifteen seconds. Eight seconds. Suddenly four seconds later, we're in the movie proper.

If Insidious was James Wan's take on Poltergeist – a strange haunting that takes the youngest child to another world with a parent in pursuit – The Conjuring is his take on The Exorcist. I doubt this was intentional – the writing and production teams, as well as the studio, are all different – but all of the elements are there. It doesn't seem that way at first; rather, it seems as though the house itself is haunted, despite there being hints at a demonic possession tilt in the prologue. Still, the talk early on is of demons and possession, and a lot of the scares and imagery are modeled after The Exorcist. On top of this is the religious tilt.

After the slow buildup, this is the second place where the film may lose some viewers. In order to follow the film, you must either believe in, or suspend your disbelief of, Christianity. While the film does not come down on the side of one religion, it does definitively state that there is a powerful source of evil whose followers refer to it as Satan. It also states that demons believe in Christianity enough to be offended by its symbols as well as to go out of their way to mock it, and that successful demon hunters are Christian and allied with the Catholic church.

As these elements are introduced, the Exorcism parallels build steadily, up to and including an exorcism scene. However, many of these elements are much larger. Rather than the source of terror being a single, clear demon, the film begins with a strange haunting by multiple spirits. After an investigation into the matter, the source of these spirits is discovered, as well as which is most dangerous, but that only escalates the danger they're all in. I have to recognize the Hayes brothers here: they are fully aware that they are writing for a savvy audience in the days of Scream and Tvtropes.

In fact, this is part of why the buildup takes so long. When the audience expects one fake-out, the movie gives them two. When the audience expects a jump scare, it either doesn't give one, or it gives a small fake-out. When the audience expects to see a corpse, we don't get one. “Don't go out there,” the savvy audience member says, “something will kill you.” Then the character walks out onto the pier, and nothing terrible happens. Nothing, that is, other than finding something that works to her advantage later. This does drag the movie out a bit, but it also makes the scares all the more satisfying when they do come.

Which brings us right back around to the doll. Annabelle is, in fact, a huge fake-out. She exists in scenes primarily to build her up as one of the most terrifying things the Warrens have ever seen. This works well, largely because audiences have been bred over years to think “doll” equals “scariest thing ever”. When dolls start doing things you don't want to, it's either because they're going to simultaneously molest and murder your child or because the thing haunting your house is so scary that its very presence incites every doll in the house to action. Or both.

The Hayeses cash these years of built-up terror, plus their scenes of building up their own doll, in one scene: a scene of someone holding the doll, rocking on a rocking chair, while the doll turns its head to look at someone. The scene continues from there, but that is the end of Annabelle's participation as a threat, and it is brilliant. Someone finally managed to do “build up the big, scary character (or thing, in this case) and have it be completely outclassed just to show how powerful someone else is” and have it work. In no way does this scene make Annabelle look like a bitch, which allows the doll to sit atop a throne made of Worf, Wolverine, Piccolo, Vegeta, Rodan and countless others.

Another thing that really helps this film is that the male leads are easily distinguished from one another. I generally have a lot of trouble telling multiple leads apart, particularly in a film where eleven characters share much of the screen-time evenly. The females are pretty simple to tell apart: generic very young girl, slightly older girl who is usually afraid, older girl who wears glasses, and even older girl who acts like, well, a teenaged girl who has just been moved out of her home, and the two adult women who are almost always in the company of their husbands. As for the men, we have traditionally attractive white male (the hero), traditionally attractive white male with a porn 'stache and sideburns, younger Asian male, and a white male who doesn't look like any of them. I wouldn't be able to pick Ron Livingston as he looks in this film out of a crowd, particularly in 1971, but he definitely stands out against the three I described. Altogether this is brilliant, or at least something that is frequently overlooked that James Wan did not ignore here at all.

The Conjuring is not a film for everyone. However, if you are still reading, you are aware of the two main caveats and the only things I think will really fit into deciding whether not to watch the movie. It fits right alongside recent films that I greatly enjoyed such as Insidious and The Woman in Black, and is probably smarter than either of them. If you like horror, particularly haunting and possession films, you don't want to pass this up on the big screen.

Waiting on Wednesday-- "Charming" by Elliott James

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books.

This week's WoW selection is:

Charming (Pax Arcana) by Elliott James
Publisher: Orbit
Date: September 23, 2013
Pages: 400

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

I love any kind of modern take on fairy-tale characters. Not every book of this kind lives up to its promise but "Charming" definitely has potential.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

An Unearthly Podcast: Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways

The Unearthly Podcast crew has finally tackled the Ninth Doctor!  Here we discuss the finale of Series 1, the two-parter Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways.

And of course, you can view the whole playlist here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: Shianshenka: The Rise and Fall of the Perfect Creation by Rowen Sivertsen

A book reviewer is the first line of defense for the public.  Well, actually, the second; even as a critic there have been novels that the marketing team was kind enough to inform me would be travesties to my sense of good and bad by their inscriptions on the back of the book.  Still, the result is that very often something will make it onto my shelves without really having any idea as to what it is.  A Sci-Fi pitch, Fantasy cover art, an image filter that makes Rowen Sivertsen look like Tom Baker, and a back cover blurb that could describe anything between a Blade Runner-esque story and “The Little One Said Roll Over”, and no word of mouth.

To top off my confusion, Birch Tree Road Publishing is located in Norway.  Not knowing Norwegian myself, I couldn’t even tell whether The Rise and Fall of the Perfect Creation was a subtitle or a translation.  Ultimately, there was only one way for me to learn anything about this book: to open it up and read it.

I hope that by this point I’ve instilled the utter cluelessness, the curiosity and faith that I put into opening this book and reading the first page.  I say this not to scare you from it, but because Shianshenka is a particular kind of book, one that I was right to be uncertain about prior to it completely drawing me in.  This isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up; luckily for me, it is the kind of book I like to read from time to time.  Generally I prefer the threat to exist at the start of the book, the Science Fiction to exist as much in the execution of the novel as the setup, and a main group of characters to be discernible, even if there are many.

What Shianshenka is, however, is an anthropological tale.  It tells the story of the race of the Zhongzi on Shianshenka, from their original creation by human hands through discoveries such as language, civilization and the ability to reproduce more often than dying, through colonization, technology, and ultimately ideological warfare.  In the midst of all this, the audience learns things that the Zhongzi know: how they move, how they eat, how they reproduce.

Shianshenka starts slowly.  The first twenty one pages (after the prologue) are spent developing language and society.  As the “characters” at this point can just barely be termed as sentient, and the narration is very tight around the viewpoint of the characters, it can sometimes be a chore to read - the kind of chore that you know is going to result in an improvement in your life, but you still don’t rush to face it.

I actually didn’t rush to finish Shianshenka at all, though I did find myself reading more pages at a clip with each day.  It’s a slow novel, one without heavy action and where the progression of society over time is more important than any single character.  I read it slowly, first a page at a clip, until I was reading 30 pages a day by the time I finished it.  I certainly found myself gripped in the story, eager to find out what was going to happen on the next page, for pages at a time - but not for chapters at a time.  This was helped by the urging on the last page: “When humans return decades later, they find only one survivor, a messenger sent up into the sky to bring the story of the Zhongzi to whoever might find him”.   While it’s normally a bad idea to give away the ending of your book, this knowledge was a large source of the tension.  It provided a question: How could this possibly happen to such a thriving society?  Is it war?  Overpopulation and famine?  Mutation?  Or something worse?

I find Shianshenka to be the kind of book to visit once a day, the way you might visit a digital pet to see its progress.  You chart its growth, you gauge its mood, you enjoy its company, but unless you’re one of the few who are seriously drawn to it, you don’t dally over-long, and look for something a little more worldly to occupy you for longer stretches.  It’s not built to be an action piece where you’re constantly wondering how each character is going to survive, but one to give you time to think.  It’s a social experiment, and a xenobiological exposition as well.

Now, let it be said for the record, I hate chapter breaks.  There are certain times, such as my first week reading this book, that I’ll actually stop at a chapter break.  More often, I tend to just keep reading as though they were yet another point of view change.  I tolerate them from Stephen King because the passages he includes between chapters and short, and from Mira Grant because they’re written in the same style as the rest of the book.  The songs that punctuated many of the chapter and other breaks of Shianshenka, on the other hand, I largely skipped.  I just don’t like disrupting the flow of what I’m reading that much, and when I did stop and return, I was more interested in what was happening next than the song that the character was telling.

This method of reading works perfectly fine for Shianshenka as you don’t actually miss any important details.  If you prefer to take your time reading and savor these breaks, however, you might find that the book is even more suited to you than it would seem so far.  This is because ten of the songs included in the novel were recorded and posted to Youtube, including brilliant animated images.  Like the book, these short music videos (which can be found on Youtube or by scanning a QR code inside the book) are slow, colorful and moody, and spare no effort.  While they have no flashy visuals or million dollar budget, they’re on the outer end of what someone at home could produce, meaning that they clearly took both effort and talent, both in the audio and video side of the production.  This is something that I’d like to see more authors who are talented in other realms do with their books.

If Star Wars is the rock and roll of Science Fiction, Doctor Who the Disco and Star Trek the marching band, Shianshenka is the easy listening channel.  It’s the Discovery channel documentary soundtrack of Sci-Fi novels, with native music spread throughout in the form of the actual soundtrack of the book.  If you’re a fan of anthropological Fantasy and Sci-Fi, this book might be something for you to spend hours on learning about the various Zhongzi (there is a cheat sheet in the Appendices to help you keep track, by the way).  If this isn’t the type of book you read every day, but you enjoy scenes like Tolkien telling you about the lives of elves and goblins or experiencing new worlds in general, you might enjoy this at a slower pace, something that you check into when you’re in the mood.  In either case, if you’re a fan of books set in strange, unusual places and your enjoyment of the book doesn’t hinge on action and other immediate results, it’s something that’s worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday- "Delia's Shadow" by Jaime Lee Moyer

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to highlight upcoming books.

This week's WoW selection is:

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer
Publisher: Tor Books
Date: September 17, 2013
Pages: 336

It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.

And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.

I love a good ghost story! And one with a serial killer? Even better.

"Catching Fire" -- Trailer

Sunday, July 21, 2013

EBook: Reel Horror by Ernie Garrett

When I was first offered the chance to review Reel Horror, I didn’t know what to make of it.  It was by far the longest ebook I had ever attempted to read, although at 180 pages and not exactly a dense word count per page, it wasn’t exactly a feature length novel either.  Following an unlikable character through this cheesy, implausible story did not sound very appealing to me, yet once the story started, I found myself drawn in, standing beside these characters and having a stake in the outcome as what I’d come to expect from the medium was challenged.

Those who have read the story are hopefully seeing what I’ve done there and laughing their ass off, which is good, because that means the dramatization of above events were worth it.  I truly didn’t know what the hell to do with this book when I found out it was an ebook, though.  It’s just never been a genre that appealed to me, and the short length of the novella was probably as important a part in my going forward with it as my upgrading to an Android phone.

Reel Horror is a horror B-movie in ebook form, in more ways than one.  It reads like a screenplay, which means that instead of getting deep thoughts and frightening descriptions, we get matter-of-fact descriptions of often impossible things. Of course, this also comes with overly emphasized actions that bring the story farther across the line between movie in prose form and screenplay. Of course, the writing follows most of the rules of prose fiction, but it has just enough screenplay elements to translate in your mind as a movie.

I wasn't lying when I said that I found Rich to be unlikable. It's not that I found him to be unbearable- most readers have a friend like him- it's that he has just enough traits I don't like in a person and just few enough things in common with me that we wouldn't have any reason to be interested in one another, save through his girlfriend, Sandra, who I wish had more screen time. Page time.  In any case, I hope she gets both, should there be a sequel.

The third character is probably the least "horror movie" of the novella. That is because Shane, despite being an obnoxious character with an interest in adult entertainment (not in that way, you pervs), is not killed. This isn't much of a spoiler, considering that Shane’s not exactly put in what you would call “danger” during the story.

Even with Shane, though, you get a bit more depth than a story that fits what I’ve described might be expected to portray.  This is a story with love.  It could be called self-congratulatory (This genre we like is so clever and we’re so smart for getting it!) but I don’t really see it as being any more so than the posts that many fandoms would do on Facebook: This is why we like this awesome thing.

In the end, the simplest way to describe this is also the simplest way to recommend it.  This is a horror B-movie (PG-13, yes) written in novella form, with traces of screenplay.  It’s clearly an independent work (some of the inconsistencies in formatting bug me, and a bit more of a budget would have been quick to get rid of such things), but that doesn’t hurt the story much at all, especially at this length and in this style.  I’d like to see it as part of some larger horror anthology, the formatting tidied up a bit and placed alongside a few stories by the likes of Stephen King and Mira Grant.  That’s not to say that Reel Horror is in the same league (or even tries to be) as those other authors, but still, a good horror anthology with a theme that drew such different styles together would be worth my money.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm terrible at doing these: The Podcast goes on

While I don't always make it to the blog, be it because we've done many of these recordings late at night, or simply because I've been making other posts, we have been continuing to record episodes of "An Unearthly Podcast".

I've compiled the episodes (which are spread over several Youtube channels) into a single playlist.  This should keep updating, although unfortunately Youtube currently neither allows me to embed it in Podcast form or allows you to subscribe to the playlist itself in any way.  As of now there are 21 episodes in the playlist, and one that we discovered was missing from Youtube that I am re-uploading tonight.  Episode 23 was recorded this weekend, and vanished off the face of the internet; we'll figure something out.

Please be forewarned that some of the language may be NSFW, and that podcasts of older series episodes may not be particularly sensitive to whether or not you are familiar with the show.  It's not entirely exclusive (When the show started last Autumn, I was not familiar with Classic Who), but we don't make any special effort to clarify EVERYTHING we discuss.

Our review of Ghost Light:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Books Received

The Thousand Names: Book One of The Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel—but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic....

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

Requiem (The Psalms of Isaak) by Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes’s debut novel, Lamentation, was an event in fantasy. Heralded as a “mesmerizing debut novel” by Publishers Weekly, and a “vividly imagined SF-fantasy hybrid set in a distant, postapocalyptic future” by Booklist, the series gained many fans. It was followed by Canticle andAntiphon. Now comes the fourth book in The Psalms of Isaak, Requiem.

Who is the Crimson Empress, and what does her conquest of the Named Lands really mean? Who holds the keys to the Moon Wizard’s Tower?

The plots within plots are expanding as the characters seek their way out of the maze of intrigue. The world is expanding as they discover lands beyond their previous carefully controlled knowledge. Hidden truths reveal even deeper truths, and nothing is as it seemed to be.

The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo

In this dystopian, post-apocalyptic literary novel, Italy is on the brink of collapse: borders are closed, banks are refusing to distribute money to their clients, the postal service is shuttered, and food supplies are running short. Armed gangs of drug-fueled youth rampage through the countryside as the nation descends into chaos.

Leonardo was once a famous writer and professor before a sex scandal ended his marriage and his career. With society collapsing around them, his ex-wife leaves their daughter and son in his care as she sets off in search of her new husband, who is missing. Ultimately, Leonardo is forced to evacuate and take his children to safety, but to do so he will have to summon a quality he has never exhibited before: courage.

Inhuman by Kat Falls

Never let them tame you.

In the wake of a devastating biological disaster, the United States east of the Mississippi has been abandoned. Now called the Feral Zone, a reference to the virus that turned millions of people into bloodthirsty savages, the entire area is off-limits. The punishment for violating the border is death.

Lane McEvoy can't imagine why anyone would risk it. She's grown up in the shadow of the great wall separating east from west, and she's curious about what's on the other side - but not that curious. Life in the west is safe and comfortable . . . just how she likes it.

But Lane gets the shock of her life when she learns that someone close to her has crossed into the Feral Zone. And she has little choice but to follow. Lane travels east, completely unprepared for what she finds in the ruins of civilization . . . and afraid to learn whether her humanity will prove her greatest strength or a fatal weakness.

Kat Falls brings you to the very edge of civilization and dares you to jump.

Phoenix: A Black City Novel by Elizabeth Richards

Weeks after his crucifixion and rebirth as Phoenix, Ash Fisher believes his troubles are far behind him. He and Natalie are engaged and life seems good. But his happiness is short-lived when he receives a threatening visit from Purian Rose, who gives Ash an ultimatum: vote in favor of Rose’s Law permanently relegating Darklings to the wrong side of the wall or Natalie will be killed.

The decision seems obvious to Ash; he must save Natalie. But when Ash learns about The Tenth, a new and deadly concentration camp where the Darklings would be sent, the choice doesn’t seem so simple. Unable to ignore his conscience, Ash votes against Rose’s Law, signing Natalie’s death warrant and putting a troubled nation back into the throes of bloody battle.

The White Forest: A Novel by Adam McOmber

Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable and frightening gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. She finds solace in her only companions, Madeline and Nathan, but as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by jealousies and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Antioch (The Circle) (Volume 1) by William E. Harlan

"Armageddon is arrived." Threatened by an unnatural plague that raises the dead, an ancient order of mystics must choose between keeping its secrets and saving humanity.

Kind of like Star Wars with zombies.

Editor's Review: Antioch is a great fantasy adventure novel with plenty of sword fighting and monsters (zombies), but the heart of the book is its characters, complex story and clean, imaginative prose.

From the pious yet conflicted paladin Michael to the loudmouthed but lovable sailor Ditch, the characters in Antioch are multifaceted and unique. There are no stereotypes within these pages, yet through the use of humor and seamless dialog, the characters are relatable and believable. This is a rarity in books even by many seasoned authors.

The story begins with slaughter and mystery, then turns to small-town life under the shadow of fear as the citizens of Antioch prepare for Armageddon. Still, questions about the origin and nature of the plague remain and the eventual discovery of the answers is as exciting as the final showdown with death. My only complaint is that the story is left unfinished, and like everyone else who reads Antioch, I have to wait for the rest of the series to discover the final fate of my favorite characters and the answers to all my questions.

The writing in Antioch is clear and precise. I can testify that the author agonized over every word, and it shows in the careful phrasing and brilliant imagery of the story. This, in my opinion, is the mark of a not just a great book, but a great writer.

Highly recommended for any fantasy fan.

The Transformation of Adam Higgins (the Corin Chronicles, Volume 2) by Marvin Amazon

"We never choose our destiny. It chooses us."

It's been five thousand years since the gods withdrew from the galaxy, leaving the men of each planet to rule themselves. For millennia, the worlds lived in relative harmony. But once again the order has been shaken.

On Corin, a prince's courageous quest has released a ruthless demi-god that can bring the disgraced planet back to its former glory-or destroy it.

On Earth, a young man is ripped across a universe he didn't know existed and inextricably tied to an ancient conflict that he can't begin to understand.

And all the while, the immortal Siroco pursues his own mysterious ends.

Who are the true heroes? Who is the Chosen One?

Battles rage and families crumble in this second installment of Marvin Amazon's mythic fantasy series, where once again the lines of right and wrong blur around the individual experience, and even the best of intentions cannot control a galaxy on the brink of destruction.

Before the Fall (A Rojan Dizon Novel) by Francis Knight


Rojan Dizon just wants to keep his head down. But his worst nightmare is around the corner.

With the destruction of their power source, his city is in crisis: riots are breaking out, mages are being murdered, and the city is divided. But Rojan's hunt for the killers will make him responsible for all-out anarchy. Either that, or an all-out war.

And there's nothing Rojan hates more than being responsible.

The fantastic follow-up to FADE TO BLACK!

Limit by Frank Schatzing

This ambitious, multilayered thriller balances astonishing scientific, historical, and technical detail. Against this backdrop, award-winning author Frank Schätzing convincingly extrapolates a possible near future when humankind’s ingenuity may become the greatest risk to its continued existence.

In 2025, entrepreneur Julian Orley opens the first-ever hotel on the moon. But Orley Enterprises deals in more than space tourism—it also operates the world’s only space elevator, which in addition to allowing the very wealthy to play tennis on the lunar surface connects Earth with the moon and enables the transportation of helium-3, the fuel of the future, back to the planet. Julian has invited twenty-one of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals to sample his brand-new lunar accommodation, hoping to secure the finances for a second elevator…

On Earth, meanwhile, cybercop Owen Jericho is sent to Shanghai to find a young female hacker known as Yoyo, who’s been on the run since acquiring access to information that someone seems quite determined to keep quiet. As Jericho closes in on the girl and the conspiracy swirling around her, he finds mounting evidence that connects her to Julian Orley as well as to the entrepreneur’s many competitors and enemies. Soon, the detective realizes that the lunar junket to Orley’s hotel is in real and immediate danger.

Spirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts - a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children - and the world - have been changed forever.

Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you.

The City of Death by Sarwat Chadda

Ash escaped THE SAVAGE FORTRESS . . . but can he survive THE CITY OF DEATH?

Meet Ash Mistry: eighth grader, pretty good video gamer, guy with a massive crush on the beautiful Gemma . . .

Oh, and the Eternal Warrior of the death goddess Kali.

Just when Ash has settled back into his everyday London life, his friend Parvati arrives with a mission: The evil Lord Alexander Savage is plotting to steal the Koh-I-Noor diamond from England's crown jewels. Ash and Parvati manage to intercept it, but at a terrible price-Gemma's death.

Outcast and heartbroken, Ash returns with Parvati to India, where he meets up with old friends and develops new powers. But he's haunted by Gemma, by thoughts of revenge against Savage, and by horrifying, blood-soaked dreams. As he hunts Savage all the way to an astonishing, long-hidden kingdom, Ash must face the prospect that he may no longer be entirely human . . . and his warrior side may lie beyond his control.


Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .

RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”

Blood of the Lamb by Sam Cabot

The Historian meets The Da Vinci Code in this exhilarating supernatural thriller set in Rome, where rival groups are searching for a document that holds a secret that could shatter the Catholic Church.

This document, dear friend, will shatter the Church…..

Reading these words in a letter in a dusty archive, Thomas Kelly is skeptical. The papers to which they refer have vanished, but Father Kelly, a Jesuit priest, doubts that anything could ever have had that power—until the Vatican suddenly calls him to Rome to begin a desperate search for that very document.

Meanwhile, standing before a council of her people, Livia Pietro receives instructions: she must find a Jesuit priest who has recently arrived in Rome and join his search for a document that contains a secret so shocking it has the power to destroy not only the Catholic Church, but Livia’s people as well.

As cryptic messages from the past throw Thomas and Livia into a treacherous world of art, religion, and conspiracy, they are pursued by those who would cross any line to obtain the document for themselves. Thomas and Livia must race to stop the chaos and destruction that the revelation of these secrets would create. Livia, though, has a secret of her own: She and her people are vampires.

In a sprawling tapestry that combines the religious intrigue of Dan Brown with the otherworldly terror of Stephenie Meyer, Blood of the Lamb is an unforgettable journey into an unthinkable past.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

The World of the End by Ofir Touche Gafla

As an epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn appreciates an unexpected ending. But when that denouement is the untimely demise of his beloved wife, Ben is incapable of coping. Marian was more than his life partner; she was the fiber that held together all that he is. And Ben is willing to do anything, even enter the unknown beyond, if it means a chance to be with her again.

One bullet to the brain later, Ben is in the Other World, where he discovers a vast and curiously secular existence utterly unlike anything he could have imagined: a realm of sprawling cities where the deceased of every age live an eternal second life, and where forests of family trees are tended by mysterious humans who never lived in the previous world. But Ben cannot find Marian.

Desperate for a reunion, he enlists an unconventional afterlife investigator to track her down, little knowing that his search is entangled in events that continue to unfold in the world of the living. It is a search that confronts Ben with one heart-rending shock after another; with the best and worst of human nature; with the resilience and fragility of love; and with truths that will haunt him through eternity.

Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter

In 1986 K. W. Jeter coined the term "steampunk," applying it to his first Victorian-era science fiction alternate-history adventure. At last he has returned with Fiendish Schemes, a tale of George Dower, son of the inventor of Infernal Devices, who has been in new self-imposed exile…accumulating debts.

The world Dower left when he went into hiding was significantly simpler than the new, steam-powered Victorian London, a mad whirl of civilization filled with gadgets and gears in the least expected places. After accepting congratulations for his late father's grandest invention—a walking, steam-powered lighthouse—Dower is enticed by the prospect of financial gain into a web of intrigue with ominously mysterious players who have nefarious plans of which he can only guess.

If he can locate and make his father’s Vox Universalis work as it was intended, his future, he is promised, is assured. But his efforts are confounded by the strange Vicar Stonebrake, who promises him aid, but is more interested in converting sentient whales to Christianity—and making money—than in helping George. Drugged, arrested, and interrogated by men, women, and the steam-powered Prime Minister, Dower is trapped in a maelstrom of secrets, corruption, and schemes that threaten to drown him in the chaos of this mad new world.

Monsters of the Earth (Books of the Elements) by David Drake

Governor Saxa, of the great city of Carce, a fantasy analog of ancient Rome, is rusticating at his villa. When Saxa’s son Varus accompanies Corylus on a visit to the household of his father, Crispus, a retired military commander, Saxa graciously joins the party with his young wife Hedia, daughter Alphena, and a large entourage of his servants, making it a major social triumph for Crispus. But on the way to the event, something goes amiss. Varus, who has been the conduit for supernatural visions before, experiences another: giant crystalline worms devouring the entire world.

Soon the major characters are each involved in supernatural events caused by a struggle between two powerful magicians, both mentored by the deceased poet and mage Vergil, one of whom wants to destroy the world and the other who wishes to stop him. But which is which? There is a complex web of human and supernatural deceit to be unraveled.

This new novel in David Drake’s ongoing chronicles of Carce, The Books of the Elements, is a gripping and intricate work of fantasy.

Possession: A Greywalker Novel by Kat Richardson

Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker, treading the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she’s discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of “strange” cases.

When a comatose woman suddenly wakes up and starts painting scenes she’s never witnessed, with a skill she’s never had, medical science has no explanation. As more bizarre phenomena manifest, including mysterious writing appearing on the patient’s skin and strange voices issuing from her mouth, even her doctors start to wonder whether the woman may be possessed.

Frustrated, frightened, and at the end of her rope, the patient’s sister reluctantly turns to Harper Blaine to discover who—or what—is occupying her sister’s body. As Harper digs into this case of apparent possession, she discovers other patients struck with the same mystifying afflictions and a disturbing connection to one of the most gruesome episodes in Washington’s history.

The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke

Biologist Domenica Ligrina fears her planet is dying. She might be right.

An atomic disaster in Germany has contaminated Northern Europe with radioactivity. Economic and political calamities are destroying the whole planet. Human DNA is mutating, plant species are going extinct, and scientists are feverishly working on possible solutions. It becomes increasingly apparent that the key to future salvation lies in the past. In 2052 a secret research facility in the Vatican is recruiting scientists for a mission to restore the flora of the irradiated territories. The institute claims to have time travel. When Domenica’s sometime-lover tells her that he knows her future but that she must decide her own fate, she enlists despite his ambiguous warning.

The Middle Ages hold Domenica spellbound. She immerses herself in the mysteries, puzzles, and peculiarities of a culture foreign to her, though she risks changing the past with effects far more disastrous than radiation poisoning. Perhaps there is more than one Domenica, and more than one catastrophe.

The Goliath Stone by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington

Doctor Toby Glyer has effected miracle cures with the use of nanotechnology. But Glyer’s controversial nanites are more than just the latest technological advance, they are a new form of life—and they have more uses than just medical. Glyer’s nanites also have the potential to make everyone on Earth rich from the wealth of asteroids.

Twenty-five years ago, the Briareus mission took nanomachinery out to divert an Earth-crossing asteroid and bring it back to be mined, only to drop out of contact as soon as it reached its target. The project was shut down and the technology was forcibly suppressed.

Now, a much, much larger asteroid is on a collision course with Earth—and the Briareus nanites may be responsible. While the government scrambles to find a solution, Glyer knows that their only hope of avoiding Armageddon lies in the nanites themselves. On the run, Glyer must track down his old partner, William Connors, and find a way to make contact with their wayward children.

As every parent learns, when you produce a new thinking being, the plans it makes are not necessarily your plans. But with a two-hundred-gigaton asteroid that rivals the rock that felled the dinosaurs hurtling toward Earth, Glyer and Connors don’t have time to argue. Will Glyer’s nanites be Earth's salvation or destruction?

Scare Scape by Sam Fisher

Three wishes go awry in a middle-grade debut as comical as it is spooky.

Toxic Vapor Worms. Shark Hounds. King-Crab Spiders. Two-Headed Mutant Rodents.

These are just a few of the beasts featured in the pages of Scare Scape, the creepiest comic book around. They are vicious. They are terrifying. They are, luckily, totally made up.

Morton Clay is a huge fan of Scare Scape, so he isn't easily frightened. He's not afraid of the dark, or grossed-out by bugs and slugs. But when Morton and his siblings, James and Melissa, find an old stone statue buried in their yard, they discover that there is good reason to be afraid. 

Spooky, funny, and fresh, Sam Fisher's middle-grade debut explores the bonds and rivalries that are unique to siblings . . . even as it revels in monstrous mayhem!

The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby

In this extraordinary adventure story, Billy Bartram, his father, and a secret society of philosophers and scientists venture into the American wilderness in search of the lost people of the Welsh Prince Madoc, seeking aid in the coming war against the French. Traveling in a flying airship, the members of the expedition find their lives frequently endangered in the untamed American West by terrifying creatures, a party of French soldiers hot on their trail, and the constant threat of traitors and spies. Billy will face hazards greater than he can ever imagine as, together with his father, he gets caught up in the fight for the biggest prize of all: America.

THE LOST KINGDOM is an epic journey filled with marvelous exploits, courage and intrigue, and a bold reimagining of a mythical America. Matthew J. Kirby brings his signature storytelling prowess and superb craft to this astonishing story of fathers and sons, the beginnings of a nation, and wonder-filled adventure.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.