Posts Tagged ‘Angry Robot’

I would say that the title of this one gives it away – The Deaths of Tao – that there was going to be a sad ending. Okay, maybe a somewhat sad ending tinged with a mite of hopefulness, but sad nonetheless.

Wesley Chu’s sequel to The Lives of Tao will keep you on the edge as lead character Roen Tan, whose body and mind are inhabited by alien Tao, fights to save humanity from another group of evil aliens. Centuries old, Tao has imparted all the wisdom of his years on Roen. He explains how his alien race of Quasings from Quasar crashed landed on Earth and shaped historical events the planet, molding and manipulating earth creatures, including humans to their own ultimate goal of being able to return to their home world. In Deaths, the evil Genjix Quasings have begun sacrificing humans & Quasing alike in their attempts to facilitate successful procreation of their species and create a Quasar-like atmosphere in which they can survive long periods of time. The Prophus battle the Genjix for supremacy but they respect humanity and see humans as more than mere vessels, hosts, or tools.

In this sequel, Roen has abandoned his wife Jill (also inhabited by a Quasing) and their son Cameron. Roen has sequestered himself at the suggestion of his Quasing Tao while he investigates Genjix’s operations. Roen faces soul-searching anguish in his conflicting desires to be with and protect his family and his main mission of saving humanity.

Throughout the book, Chu gives us high energy battle and fight scenes. His first hand experiences as a “Kung-Fu master” and stuntman shine though with the realism Chu injects into each fight.

Although somewhat expected, as I said at the beginning, we knew someone wasn’t going to make it out alive of this sequel. With that said, I still enjoyed the ending. Toward the middle of the book, the pace bogged down somewhat as Roen’s team jumped from place to place on their missions. However the fight scenes and political intrigue provided by Roen’s wife Jill helped to break up the slower pace, keeping it interesting.

I highly recommend both books as well thought-out alien science fiction. I would imagine we haven’t seen the last of Tao. Or have we?

Madeline Ashby is the author of the stellar novel, vN: The First Machine Dynasty and the soon to be released, eagerly anticipated sequel, iD: The Second Machine Dynasty. I’ve been lucky enough to get Madeline to grace my blog and answer a few questions, since she is most assuredly extremely busy with the upcoming launch of iD.

 TS: First thing, how did you come up with the premise for vN and then subsequently iD?

MA: The first novel came about more slowly and organically (pun intended). At first, I started writing a short story about a man who discovers that his wife and daughter are robots. Then I realized that was a Twilight Zone episode, so I figured I should take it from another angle. And then I wrote the prologue to vN. At least, a version of it. And everyone in my workshop basically told me that I wasn’t finished, yet, that what I’d written wasn’t really a story. But I could see the story, and so I wrote it. 

With the sequel, it was a lot faster. A lot of things had changed in my life. I was sitting with my partner (horror writer David Nickle), and we were eating French fries with honey-wasabi sauce at a bar in Toronto’s Greektown, where he lived at the time. We were about to move in together. We were ragged from packing, and we both had books to write as soon as we set up our new office. I had most of the opening of iD sketched out and written, but I needed to go further and I was stuck. So we talked about it, about what that story needed to say and the places it needed to go. And later, when I was still a little bit scared of where it was going, I spoke with my therapist about it. He’s counseled a lot of artists, so we discussed how to invert some of the things I’d done in that first novel, and really show the world from a different perspective. 

TS: In vN, Amy appears as the centralized main character and Javier the “sidekick” ( a very enjoyable one). What made you decide to switch the focus towards Javier in iD?

MA: I felt like I had gone as far as I could, with Amy. At the end of vN, Amy has gone through a metamorphosis that I wasn’t ready to depict just yet. I wanted to see her from the outside — I wanted to see how other people, especially those close to her, would perceive that change. And I thought Javier would be the perfect vehicle for that. He’s such an active character. He always moves the plot along so fast and so decisively. So I knew he could carry that weight. I knew he could dance his way through a whole book, and I knew he had more to say about himself. 

TS: One of my favorite scenes in vN is the way that you could tour the different time periods of the destroyed city of Cascadia. Can we expect similar wonders in iD?

MA: I think you can. False environments, themed environments, branded environments, have always fascinated me. And I really wanted to pick up on that in the second novel. One word: Stepford.

TS: With writing the sequel, was it difficult trying to match the same tone and setting as that in vN or did it come naturally?

MA: I would say it was difficult, but only in the sense that it was difficult for me personally. The actual process was easy, but the mental game was hard. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, because the first book had done so well. I thought there was no way to make lightning strike twice. I had to let go of that expectation first, before I could move forward. And when I finally did, things were a lot easier. The thing about Javier as a character is that he’s terrifically strong — once he’s with me he’s with me, and so I really don’t have to worry about achieving the right voice. 

TS: If you could sum up vN, iD, and the entire “Machine Dynasty” so far, in one or two sentences to those readers unfamiliar to your world: What would you say?

MA: Imagine a world in which robots replicate themselves, like a set of Russian nesting dolls. Imagine that they’re programmed to love us, to care for us no matter what, to fulfill our every need and desire. Now imagine that they start to learn what we’re really like as a species. 

TS: What is your biggest surprise since the publication of vN?

MA: I think the emotional reactions of the people who read the books are always a surprise. I didn’t really think of the first novel as all that disturbing. I recognize, now, that says more about me than it does about other people. But I have people tell me that they were a little scared, a little disturbed, a little swept up. And that’s always a surprise, because they weren’t in the weeds with me, and they didn’t see all the time spent agonizing over word choice. It’s always weird when someone tells you that they read it in a single sitting, or a single day. On the one hand, you’re so very pleased. On the other hand, you almost wish they would read it again slower this time, so they could see everything you did. The first impulse is obviously better: a second, slower read would doubtless expose all the mistakes you made. 

You can find Madeline at her website, or follow her on twitter.

Setting: Chicago, the windy city.

Antagonist: Ismael Fisher, a sniper of unimaginable skill gone rogue.

Conflict: Some dirty political secrets that stem to the very tip of our government are on the brink of being exposed.

Hero: John Lynch, a detective way in over his head; let’s hope he can tread water fast enough.

Take out your blender, toss in a dash of perfect setting,  a pinch of deadly antagonist, a smattering  of conflict worth killing for, and top it all off with a smooth talking detective. I’ll take my Penance “…shaken, not stirred.”

The first thing to take note of in Penance is the character cast at the very beginning of the book. While it may seem a tad intimidating at the onset, by the end of the novel, I guarantee that you will appreciate the nifty bit of magic Dan O’Shea has crafted here. The lineage connections from one family generation to the next smacks you in the face with a shocking truth: Money, position, and power tend to stay within families and those families in Penance will do anything to remain in control of that power, much like those in real life.

I Love The Setting. My 83-year-old insane grandfather has been living in the same house in Chicago all his life and my mother grew up there; this book reminds me of him so much. He would always talk about the mayors, segregation, different racial neighborhoods, and cheaper gas in Indiana. This book’s setting has it all and more, it’s spot on.

There are so many fantastic things about Penance: The ease of which O’Shea incorporates his expertise / knowledge of weaponry is flawless. I don’t know if it is all completely accurate or not, but for me it worked seamlessly. I can only imagine the amount of time any other author would have spent researching some of this stuff to even try and compete with O’Shea.  Ishmael Fisher’s underlying motive for killing his seemingly innocent victims is so damn perfect… (Will not give out spoilers.)

With most novels you can get close to guessing the outcome. Penance had my head scheming up a whirlwind of different conclusions and even in the final few pages I felt the novel could turn down so many different alleyways with a single gunshot.

Pour out yourself a strong glass of Penance, add a couple more fingers worth, and shoot it straight. You might get a fierce burn in the back of your throat and by the time you’ve finally run out, you will be thanking O’Shea for crafting such a rare piece of fine art. Penance is my second novel from Exhibit A; Wounded Prey was the first, and I have Lawless & The Devil of Euston Square up next. Exhibit A has stepped up to the plate with some killer books. Watch your back.

Man, oh, man – where can I get my own Tao? Having a super-wise, ancient alien being sharing my brain would be too, too cool! Ok – maybe I do get the conflicting moral dilemmas that main character Roen Tan struggles with as he wrangles with alien Tao – but still – to have the thoughts, the knowledge, and the memories first hand in your very own brain of many illustrious figures in history like Genghis Khan and the guy who invented Tai Chi – come on – who wouldn’t want that?

In The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu, Roen is taken over by a Quasing from the planet Quasar. The Quasings crashed on Earth thousands and thousands of years ago while the dinosaurs still roamed the planet. In order to survive on our planet they needed a host, a warm organic body to protect them – be it a turtle or a human. Throughout the years, the Quasings split into two warring factions, the Prophus and the Genjix. Tao represents the good-guy Prophus who respect humans, while the Genjix see humans only as tools or pawns in their attempts to crush the Prophus, conquer all the humans and ultimately return to their planet.

After high level operative Tao’s host sacrifices himself for Tao, Tao is forced to find a new host immediately to survive. He finds a most unsuitable host in overweight and out-of-shape Roen Tan. Tao and his associates must whip Roen into shape if there is any hope of surviving the fight against the Genjix.

It’s thoroughly entertaining following Roen & Tao as their symbiotic relationship is tested to the limits. Will Roen adapt to and adopt his new partner or will he reject Tao, forcing Tao to live out a mundane existence? Once a Quasing adopts a new host, they can’t choose another until their current host dies or gets killed; quite the dilemma for them both.

Chu does a clever job of intertwining world history and historical events and figures with the war that has been raging between the two alien factions for centuries. In Tao’s version of human history, every fact of human existence was manipulated by either the Prophus or the Genjix in their battles for dominance. Each side consistently conspired to plot and manipulate humans and Quasing alike.

The Lives of Tao is full of fast-paced action, chase scenes, and plenty of hand-to-hand battles to keep you on edge. I could certainly imagine many of these scenes on the screen. I also enjoyed Chu’s choice of the everyday and average man, Roen, as alien Tao’s eventual choice as a new host. It’s always fun to watch the marshmallowy guy get ripped and ready to rumble! We love to root for the underdog and see him win, even if it is a little rocky along the way.

The Lives of Tao is a fun, exciting, alien, sci-fi romp through history and espionage. Tao has had way too many lives to meet them all, but you should be sure to give it a shot by reading this book! 9 out of 10 Liams

It is really hard to write a review on a book that already has so many excellent reviews previously penned about it by hundreds of fantastic reviewers around the world. So for Nexus, since I’m so far delayed in writing this, I’m going to try and make this review a bit more personal. I actually had some fears walking into reading this book after finding out some information about  author, Ramez Naam. Just take a look at his “about” page, HERE.  The man is scary brilliant, and it made me think twice about how Nexus sounded from the write up:

“In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link humans together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.”

So back to my original point, if you haven’t bought this book maybe you are a bit intimidated by it, I know I was. I wasn’t sure if everything would simply fly over the top of my head and leave me staring there asking myself what the hell just happened.

In truth it’s really not that difficult to follow at all and the writing all the way through the plot is fantastic. So if you were worried about this being some bizarre techno-babble-heresy-thriller, you don’t have to worry anymore.

My second fear? I was worried that since this book was so “Far-future and Technologically based” that it would be somewhat dull and action-less. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Start to finish Nexus is a thrill ride taking our main character Kade into one unforgettable scene after another. Kade has a freaking Bruce Lee combat application that he can access at anytime and that is low grade stuff compared to some of the others.

Naam plays havoc with every character in this mind turning book, burning their lives down from the inside out. Very few books would I wish to see turn into a film adaptation but I think Nexus could rock the big screen and have a similar feel to the recent blockbuster Inception. If you are still on the edge about what I would consider a fantastic, action-packed psychological thrill ride of what might possibly be the not-so-distant future, then nothing I or anyone else can say will change your mind.

Nexus By Ramez Naam 9 out of 10 Liams, read it and witness a glimpse of what might be.

Tons of thanks as always to Angry Robot Publishing and Darren Turpin for feeding my AR Book addiction and providing me with this review copy.

I’m a huge fan of Gav Thorpe’s Black Library work so when I finally received a copy of The Crown of the Blood, I couldn’t wait for some free time to dig into this monster.  The setting for Crown of the Blood is my forte; I love this genre of epic fantasy: a young leader, such as Ullsaard, thrown into a conflicted and hostile world of warring nations, internal intrigue, and a bit of dark magic.

The initial start of the book wasn’t exactly an info drop, but when Ullsaard’s best friend Noran arrives bearing an important message involving the wellbeing of the heir to The Crown of Blood (which sets everything in motion, I might add), their trip back to Askh is filled with all the tidbits about the lands and people the under Askhsan rule. So for me this beginning was a tad slow. It also takes a moment to gather in all of the characters and keep track of them and there is a ton of interesting individuals of all varying races and backgrounds. I enjoyed the mindset of Ullsaard, the ideals by which he rules, and how each of his three wives serves completely different purposes to him; it was a very foreign concept for my thought process to comprehend but very Askhan.

Thorpe writes the majority of the novel from the view point of Ullsaard as he commands his vast legions across the hot and cold lands, orchestrating his masterful plans of conquest. Occasionally we get a glimpses of different views from inside The Brotherhood, the secretive sect that seems to control everything in Askh; Noran, Ullsard’s friend; Anglhan – debt-owner-turned-rebel-turned much, much more, and Gelthius – debter-turned-rebel-turned legionnaire. The grasp Thorpe has on this world is mindboggling, especially considering the enormity of everything that is encompassed story-wise within The Crown of the Blood.

Ullsaard’s desires quickly become apparent early on and Thorpe throws him through a nearly impassible gauntlet of obstacles that most wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. In the end it boils down to how much Ullsaard is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve victory and at the finale we still aren’t sure of the ultimate cost. I was surprised at some of the depths to which he actually sunk and how quickly Ullsaard rid himself of a few of those around him I thought were potentially key players.

Some of the graphic scenes with The Brotherhood left me with chills and I definitely want to see more of them in the next installment in the trilogy along with the inhuman Nemurians. The final dual between Ullsaard and an unnamed individual is most assuredly my favorite along with the closing scene of the book. The Crown of the Blood doesn’t end here thankfully and there are another two whole books in the series waiting for me on my bookshelf! My only true regret is that I hadn’t read this one sooner. 8 out of 10 Liams.  If this has been one of those books you are on the edge about getting, don’t think twice about grabbing a copy the next time you see it on a shelf, you won’t be disappointed.

Kudos to my Fiance for winning this copy from Gav Thorpe’s contest !







The entire ensemble that Angry Robot Books put together in marketing The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a thing of true beauty to any lover of books. The cover is intriguing, “A tale of Love, Loss and Robots” is a fascinating tagline, and even the synopsis on the back entices the reader, thus leading me to choose The Mad Scientist’s Daughter over all my other books waiting to be read.

When reading and reviewing books the tendency to compare them frequently comes into mind, even when perhaps the books or characters are from completely different worlds and settings.  For the first three quarters of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, I can’t shake the comparison and mental attachment of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Cat to that of Jenny from Forest Gump. Cat starts out as this innocent young wildflower and metamorphosed into something completely unexpected once she breaks free from her cocoon and heads off to college.

Just like Jenny, Cat comes into contact with an assortment of men, none of which can compare to her perfect Finn nor will they ever because Finn isn’t human. She encounters drugs and eventually finds her vice in cigarettes. Cat marries a rich and powerful man, Richard, but buried deep inside her, Cat is still in love with Finn and ultimately it is this love that destroys her marriage. Cat is, for the majority of the story, a very tragic heroine filled with a powerful and sometimes overwhelming confusion of emotions.

Cat also feels like somewhat of a hippie for her time, while the majority of civilization seems to be moving in the direction of pro-technology and anti-robot rights. Cat is on the exact opposite path in nearly all aspects of her life.

The shocker for me in The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was that I wasn’t expecting any sex scenes in this book and when it first occurred I was actually kind of shocked initially. I then found them somewhat amusing after my early surprise wore off. For the prudish of us, while maybe not tastefully written, Clarke does a wonderful job in my eyes of toeing the proverbial line between what my limited knowledge tells me is the boundaries of erotica and romance.

The ultimate disappointment for me was my own imagination running away with the conflict. I had my heart set on some unholy lovers’ union of robot and human and then the ensuing apocalyptic battle between them and the rest of the world. In the end the conflict, which in a way is similar to my imagined one, mostly remains solely on Cat trying to fight her emotions of loving and not loving Finn. There is no real war, only the one inside her.

The world, the writing, everything is top-notch and what you would expect it to be from an author writing under the Angry Robot regime. I just wish the novel had gone a little farther and done a bit more in certain areas to increase the conflict.

Readers and reviewers are going to absolutely love The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. 7.5 Liams out of 10, Cassandra Rose Clarke has proven she can write with the best of them in this one and I expect this was just a taste of what is to come from her.

Tons of thanks as always to Angry Robot and Darren Turpin for providing me with these review copies.

You can find out more about The Mad Scientist’s Daughter and Cassandra Rose Clarke here.

Cora and her husband Ben hunt monsters. They’ve been doing it for over ten years but in the small mining town of Leadville, Colorado they might have finally met their match.

I’m not a fan of anything western, I don’t like country music, and much to my chagrin Daniel Craig’s Cowboys and Aliens was a sub-par movie at best. So why then, I keep asking myself, did I enjoy The Dead of Winter so much?

My conclusion is that The Dead of Winter reads more like an action-adventure novel when compared with anything else. Sure, Cora is an alcoholic, mad woman who enjoys gambling and blasting away at the innumerable horrors that lurk in the shadows, but in truth there is more to this stubborn broad’s story than a simple western tale.

I also enjoyed the contrast between Cora and the English vampire hunter chap. I think they could pair up and make an interesting duo together as their chemistry seems spot on.

I’m going to brag a little here but midway through this book, I had filed away a huge conflicting bit of information that just kept nagging at me the farther I rode into the story. I actually intended on ripping this flaw to shreds until I finished the book and realized that the reason for this was actually the subtle maneuvering by Lee Collins and the plot twist he sneakily throws out there. I just couldn’t put my finger on it but something seemed a tad fishy and luckily in the end it pans out spectacularly. (Good luck reading this story and trying to figure it out, before it smacks into your face like buckshot.)

The book reads ridiculously fast and multiple times I had to physically slow my pace down lest I skipped over any crucial details. I still finished it in about four or five hours of read time over two days.

The story line for The Dead of Winter is compact and solid.  It also severs off most of the loose ends quite nicely at its conclusion. The fact that The Dead of Winter was originally a Nanowrimo piece is also freaking awesome! I’d give this novel 8.5 out of 10 Liams and I’ll definitely be looking into the sequel, She Returns From War.

Thanks again to Angry Robot Publishing and Darren Turpin for the review copy.

Katya’s World is a water world filled with predators, and each predator is like a shark, eager to take a bite at the first scent of blood. Katya Kuriakova’s very first submarine voyage as a navigator is instantly ruined when a FMA (Federal Maritime Authority) officer commandeers her sub for a prisoner transport. From that point on, Katya’s trip only sinks deeper into the unforgiving oceans of Russalka.

First, disaster strikes Katya’s sub, then when it seems that that safety has finally reached their shores they realize it’s only for a brief stint.  Then pirates attack.  How much more danger could Katya possibly float into? Treachery, loyalty, and hidden alliances fill these electrified pages, leaving the reader scrambling to uncover the next unforeseeable event sure to be lurking around the nearest corner.

There are two main characters in my mind that stand out predominantly.  Katya is a brilliant young navigator who has a knack for coming up with wild ideas and has a stubborn determination to be involved with each and every decision and action taken. The second character is the infamous pirate Kane Havilland, for whose amusing dialog and characterization alone it is worth reading the entire book. Kane is a ‘Captain Jack Sparrow-esque’ figure with an amount of secrets piled so high, he could fill the very void of space with them.  Even at the closure of Katya’s World there are still untold mysteries about Kane left unresolved.

Russalka is a former colony of Earth before “winning” its independence in a vicious war. The author’s idea of lumping together similar ethnicities for colonization of habitable planets is fantastic for giving this book its vibrant Russian texture, due to the nature of Russalka’s ancestors being of Russian descent.

There are multiple twists and turns within Katya’s World, but the major one Howard throws into play is a game changer. It also smashes the doors wide open for a sequel and I’d be intrigued to see possible contact with other unmentioned colonies.

I’ve only read a few YA novels and frankly find only minimal differences between them and your standard adult Sci Fi / Fantasy genres. Katya’s World definitely has a slight, girl-coming-of-age feel to it and in this regard Katya does tend to question herself immensely and put a vast amount of the burden squarely on her shoulders. Whether she is able to handle it and how her character evolves from a young innocent and newly anointed navigator into something much grander progresses rapidly throughout the book.

Katya’s World is a great start to what is earmarked as the Russalka Chronicles and I’d love to see how the author would expand on them.  He has a million different paths he could traverse within this gritty universe he has constructed. 8 out of 10 Liams for Strange Chemistry’s Katya’s World by Jonathan L. Howard and in case you haven’t caught on yet, I would love to see what magic Mr. Howard would weave with a second book in this series.

Thanks to Amanda Rutter for the copy! You can find Strange Chemistry Here and Jonathan L. Howard Here.

(Liam wishes he had a toy submarine!)

But I won! Mostly thanks to my girlfriend! Over on the Mechanical Hamster, Gav Thorpe was running a competition for his Crown of Blood series by asking for a comical version of the next possible title in the series and I won.

I’m pretty stoked because I actually haven’t read these yet and have been meaning to.

The title suggestion from my girl was: “The Crown of the Soldier Who Took an Arrow to the Knee.”

Expect a review of these books sometime!