Thursday, June 30, 2016

Friend or Foe: Science Fiction Debates the Alien Agenda by Claudine Kapel (guest post)

Friend or Foe: Science Fiction Debates the Alien Agenda
by Claudine Kapel

From ET to Independence Day, countless works of science fiction have envisioned how human encounters with aliens might unfold – for better or worse.

Science fiction engages the imagination because it contemplates what types of life might exist beyond our small blue planet, in the endless reaches of space.

As humans, we have a natural wonder about our place in the cosmos. We experience a sense of awe when we see images from our solar system or galaxy, such as those shared by NASA or captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

We gaze up at the night sky and we ponder: Is there other life out there?

Both scientific analysis and speculative fiction suggest that it is indeed highly likely that other types of life share this universe with us. Given the vastness of space, many see it as statistically unlikely that our own Earth would be the only life-sustaining planet in the cosmos.

But as much as we find the possibility of alien life intriguing, for some it can also be a cause for concern. After all, what if these aliens arrive and they aren’t very nice?

That possibility has long been rich fodder for science fiction. Some works, such as the long-running Stargate SG-1 television series, or the Men In Black films, portrayed aliens – or at least some of them – as having the potential to be friends and allies.

Other works, such as the Star Trek franchise or the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, suggested beings from other worlds also have the potential to be teachers and guides who can help illuminate the unknown territory of space for us.

But science fiction often has a darker tone. Consider the X-Files, which depicted encounters with aliens that were more sinister in nature, including the abduction of humans.

And then there are the works that explore the possibility of an alien invasion of Earth, although plucky humans often prevail, even against insurmountable odds. Films such as Independence Day or Battleship have centered on the ability of humans to rise to the challenge when faced with an alien threat, not to mention superior alien ships and weapons.

All in all, the imaginative potential for science fiction is as boundless as the reaches of space. Yet at the same time, what gives science fiction a sharper edge is the possibility that some of what is conveyed on the page or screen might reflect a deeper truth.

We may indeed be sharing the cosmos with others – and perhaps even many others.

And the evidence that we are not alone may be closer than we think. Consider, for example, the work of UFO research group, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) – which tracks reports from people around the world who say they have witnessed an unidentified flying object. MUFON compiles so many reports that it updates the listing on its website frequently, sometimes on a daily basis.

For now, though, we can only speculate on the alien agenda, deciding for ourselves whether they are likely to be friend or foe.

Yet until we have close encounters of our own, we can continue rely on science fiction to help us envision what may lie beyond the stars – and what our planet might be like if beings from other worlds came knocking.

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About the Author

Claudine Kapel is the Canadian author of the Ryan Cole adventure series, which features a team of investigators who contend with alien agendas on Earth. The series includes A Darker Rain, as well as the recently published A Chance of Light.

Claudine can be found online at claudinekapel.com.

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About the Book

A Chance of Light (A Ryan Cole Adventure, Book 2)
by Claudine Kapel 

Spaceships don’t just disappear...

When an alien spaceship vanishes after crashing in the Mojave Desert, Ryan Cole and his team are tasked with finding the craft and securing its cache of advanced technology.

The investigation proves perilous as others are also hunting for the ship, including arms dealer Antoine Drake and his alien allies.

When Cole agrees to help a woman from his past, it leads to a dangerous encounter with Drake and startling revelations about the alien presence on the planet. He finds himself in a race against time to uncover the location of the spaceship and the nature of its mission.

But discovering the secrets of beings from other worlds comes with a price. Because when humans and aliens collide, the truth can be deadly.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Twilight of the Dragons by Andy Remic

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Twilight of the Dragons by Andy Remic
Published Sept 6th 2016 by Angry Robot

During a recent dwarf civil-war deep under the Karamakkos Mountains, the magick-enslaved dragonlords have broken free from centuries of imprisonment and slaughtered tens of thousands throughout the Five Havens before exploding from the mountain and heading in fire and vengeance for the lands of Vagandrak.

Two once-noble war heroes of Vagandrak – Dakeroth and his wife Jonti Tal, an archer and scholar, the Axeman, the White Witch and a Kaalesh combat expert find themselves in a unique position: for they have discovered the ancient dragon city of Wyrmblood, and a thousand unhatched dragon eggs.

Dakeroth and his companions must work with their enemies, Skalg and the Church of Hate, in order to bring down the dragonlords and save the world of men and dwarves. But there is no bartering with these ancient dragons; for they seek to hatch their eggs and rebuild the cruel Wyrmblood Empire of legend.


Following up on The Dragon Engine, which was set in the same world as The Rage of Kings, this promises to be another mature, more adult, no-hold-barred fantasy novel.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

#Horror Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. There is so just much potential in the concept. Handle it right, and you've got yourself a horror/mystery that is destined to become a genre staple. Fumble it at any point, however, and you have two separate camps of fandom ready to critique, condemn, and drag you to . . . well, Hell.

Fortunately, Paul Kane knows his stuff, and what we have here is no mere imaginative lark. Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is a very carefully constructed story that considers the legacies of both Doyle and Barker, and which not only finds a point at which the two can meet, but one in which that intersection actually adds something to each respective story.

In terms of narrative, this absolutely feels like a Sherlock Holmes story. Kane captures the voice of Dr. Watson exceptionally well, and explains away any irregularities by presenting it as a tale that Watson never intends to publish. Furthermore, he sets it after the incident at Reichenbach Falls, using the Hellraiser mythology to cleverly explain the shift in Holmes' character and personality in those latter tales. He also does some clever work with The Hound of the Baskervilles, taking one of the most horrific Sherlock Holmes tales and casting some doubt upon its casual dismissal of the supernatural.

As far as Hellraiser is concerned, reading this is like an epic Easter Egg hunt. Kane touches upon all aspects of the extended mythology, including details from the original Hellbound Heart tale; the Hellraiser films; Barbie Wilde's tales of Sister Cilice in Voices of the Damned; and even several tales from the Hellbound Hearts anthology. There are some very nice parallels to the original story of the Cotton family; some fantastic background on the Lemarchand family and the Lament Configuration puzzle box; a gloriously grotesque band of Cenobites; and a vivid exploration of Hell that fits in very well with last year's Scarlet Gospels.

In bringing the two worlds together, Kane remains true to the feel and the style of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but drags the story into darker, more decadent corners of the Victorian world. There is torture aplenty in this tale, both of the human and the Cenobite variety, and a BDSM-themed brothel that really allows him to play with (and foreshadow) the dark eroticism of Baker's sadomasochistic fantasies. Ultimately, however, it's the relationship between Holmes and Watson that makes the story work, testing the deepest, darkest bounds of friendship, and exploring the absolute darkest chapter in their shared story.

If you do choose to open the cover of Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, be forewarned that once you're well-and-truly hooked, the pages (like the puzzle box) do tend to turn themselves.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: July 12th 2016 by Solaris

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Unboxing this month's #HorrorBlock

I have to admit, when I got my first Nerd Block (Classic) last month, I was disappointed. The two Back to the Future pins were kind of lame; I have zero interest in a Sixteen Candles Funko Pop; I have no frame of reference to know whether the Rick & Morty t-shirt was cool or not; and the Iron Man mug was (sadly) more of a ceramic shot glass with a handle. The only thing I didn't give away or toss out was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man plush.

Not wanting to be disappointed a second time, I switched to the Horror version this month - and it kicks ass!


I opened the box to find not 1 but 2 Funko Pops staring back at me, including Dr. Goodweather from The Strain and Angel from his Buffy days. Very nice.


Beneath that was a very cool Jaws T-shirt, and an Elm Street pillow case (come on, tell me that's awesome!). I'm not only ready to go back in the water, but I'm all set for a long nap afterwards.



Still not done yet, however, as there was also a cheesy new Turbokid DVD to watch, and the latest issue of Rue Morgue (which saves me from picking up a copy).


With Psycho, Friday the 13th, and Treehouse of Horror on tap next month, I think I'll stick with the Horror Block.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


Fantasy Review: The Shadowed Path by Gail Z. Martin

Necromancy Light and Dark guest post by Gail Z. Martin

Waiting On Wednesday: Jerusalem by Alan Moore

Horror Review: Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories edited by Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward

On Creating a Heroine guest post by Dan Jolley


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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

Just 1 new review title this week, but since it's an October release, it doesn't really count against my summer scheme to clear out the review shelves.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
Expected publication: October 25th 2016 by Tor.com

Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.


For Father's Day, my wife got me an Indigo gift card, so I made good use of that. Stephen King is always best enjoyed as a pocket paperback (the same way I discovered him long ago); The Dinosaur Lords I want to re-read and take the time to enjoy before picking up the next book; Max Gladstone is an author I've been meaning to read for a while now; and A Crown for Cold Silver is one of those books I wasn't in the right mood to review as an ARC, but which I want to enjoy in paperback.



Finally, I did pick up a pair of Kindle titles that I am sure you'll be seeing on a WTF Friday sometime soon.

 

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.


Berzerkoids by MP Johnson
I'm a little late in getting to this, but looking forward to stories "so shockingly, oozingly awesome, you just have to read ‘em all!"

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane
Technically, this one is a bit deeper into the review queue, but I've waited long enough. I've been waiting for this for over a year, and it's time to see Holmes meet Hellraiser.


 

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fantasy Review: The Shadowed Path by Gail Z. Martin (with #GIVEAWAY)

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a decade since Gail Z. Martin debuted on the fantasy scene with The Summoner, the first book of her Chronicles of the Necromancer. I can still remember spotting that brilliantly designed cover on the shelf, and being completely sucked in by the promise of dark magic and sweeping epic fantasy.

If you've read the series, then you are already well acquainted with Jonmarc Vanhanian. You know the man, and you know much of his story, but The Shadowed Path still has some surprises to go along with the 'ah-ha' moments we expect. If you are new to the world of the Chronicles, however, this collection of short stories stands alone just fine, and should serve as a perfect introduction.

The way the stories are structured here reminds me of those classic collections of Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and Elric. Each story stands on its own, but they are loosely linked together, working to tell a larger life story. Yes, there are gaps between them, and sometimes you're all too aware that the developments you'd expect in the next chapter of a novel are missing from the next story, but there's a definite charm to flow of narratives.

If there's a common theme to these stories, it's one of loss . . . of heartbreak . . . and of suffering. Cursed from the moment he first picked up a sword, Jonmarc watches as friends, families, lovers, and comrades are stolen from this life. Time and time again he moves on, rises above the tragedy, and reestablishes himself in a new life . . . only to lose it all again. Even if we already knew the facts of his life, watching him suffer through each challenge adds a whole new facet of sympathy and understanding to an already well-developed character.

As for the stories, they are all fantastic, full of action, adventure, and some real tension. Even though we know Jonmarc must survive them all, it's clear early on that nobody else is safe, and that sense of legitimate peril is something that sets these aside from most prequel tales. Caves of the Dead, Blood’s Cost, Bad Places, and Dark Passage were my favorites in the collection, and if those titles suggest a little something about my dark tastes in fantasy . . . well, it's not entirely wrong. All in all, whether you're a fan or a new reader, The Shadowed Path is well work kicking back with for some summer reading.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Solaris

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

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