Books received 3/9/2014 Pyr edition

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

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Blood and Iron
The Book of the Black Earth
Part One

by Jon Sprunk
Cover by Jason Chan

Promo Copy:

This action-heavy EPIC FANTASY SERIES OPENER is like a sword-and-sorcerySpartacus set in a richly-imagined world.

It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn’t even begin to understand.

Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn’t last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen’s court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire’s caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both.

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Books received 3/9/2014

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

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Empty Hearts
Stories by Mark Finn

Cover by Sharon Nash

 Promo copy:

A young woman alone in the big city, a mobster looking to make a fresh start, an old monster hunter with one last job to do, a magical grocery store where love grows like tomatoes on a vine… These are just some of the people and places you’ll meet in Empty Hearts, a new collection of stories by Mark Finn. Set in and around the magic-steeped city of San Cibola, the characters come to life in Finn’s deft prose with humor, warmth, and compassion. Even the unlikeable people have strange and fascinating stories that make them compelling. The stories in Empty Hearts all turn on the theme of love, passion, and desire. Whether it’s a misguided crook’s tributes to an underworld organization, a passionate academic’s pet theory, or a child’s love of Christmas, the characters and stories in Empty Hearts ultimately reflect ourselves with humor, horror, and a dash of magic.

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STAPLE 2014: Coffee, monsters, pulp, etc

This previous weekend was the 10th annual STAPLE, Austin’s independent media expo. As I have for the past seven years, I attended the festival. Sadly, I was only there on Saturday, though that didn’t stop me from getting some goodies, visiting some friends, and hopefully make some new ones.


One of the show’s pleasant surprises was the unexpected appearance of Shannon Wheeler. As long time readers know, Shannon and I go way back (chronicled here, here, and other places) so it was nice to catch up. We discussed the success of God Is Disappointed in You, the Too Much Coffee Man beer (yes, really!), his kids, and other stuff in our lives.

Then Shannon made me a very generous offer, he gave me the original of a Too Much Coffee Man strip!

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Stuff received 3/1/2014

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror

by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Promo copy:

At every point, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby raised the bar.

When they came to comics, Superman had been around for about a year, and the medium was still in its infancy. They took the action and made it explode, breaking out of the panels and sprinting across the page. They showed what comics could do, experimenting with layout and design, creating the first full-page panels and double page spreads.

Their first million-seller was a superhero (Captain America), and their next was military adventure that outsold Superman (DC’s Boy Commandos). These two guys from Rochester and Brooklyn broke all the rules when they created the first romance comics, and they blazed trails in every genre: horror, science fiction, crime etc …

Their work in the legendary title Black Magic was acclaimed by readers. It was held up on national television by the Senate Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, where experts claimed Black Magic contributed to the corruption of American youth! Also included here are the Simon and Kirby stories from the experimental terror title Strange World of Your Dreams.

WOW! (Watch for a review in a forthcoming Nexus Graphica)

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Nexus Graphica launches at SF Signal



After 6+ years and 138 bi-weekly Nexus Graphica columns, Mark London Williams and I started to find it difficult to continue producing at that rate. We both enjoy time-consuming freelance writing careers of varying success, yet we both still liked writing the missives about comics. Plus we felt that things had started to grow stale. Something had to change. Mark and I decided it was time to shake things up a bit by moving the column to a new site with a different format and a slightly different readership.


The first of the new monthly columns (Mark and I will alternate issues) premiered on February 20 at its new home, SF Signal. I recount the origins of the column (and the unusual name) plus review Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët, The Wake Part One by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy, and Sheltered, Volume One by Ed Brisson & Johnnie Christmas.

Books received 2/18/2014 Del Rey edition

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

Crown of Renewal
Paladin’s Legacy

by Elizabeth Moon

Promo copy:

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Moon spins gripping, richly imagined epic fantasy novels that have earned comparisons to the work of such authors as Robin Hobb and Lois McMaster Bujold. In this volume, Moon’s brilliant masterwork reaches its triumphant conclusion.

The mysterious reappearance of magery throughout the land has been met with suspicion, fear, and violence. In the kingdom of Lyonya, Kieri, the half-elven, half-human king, struggles to balance the competing demands of his heritage while fighting a deadly threat to his rule: evil elves linked in some way to the rebirth of magic.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, a set of ancient artifacts recovered by the former mercenary Dorrin Verrakai may hold the answer to the riddle of magery’s return. Thus Dorrin embarks on a dangerous quest to return these relics of a bygone age to their all-but-mythical place of origin. What she encounters there will change her in unimaginable ways—and spell doom or salvation for the entire world. Continue reading

Stuff received 2/18/2014

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

The Future of the Mind
The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind

by Michio Kaku

 Promo copy:

The New York Times best-selling author of Physics of the Impossible, Physics of the Future and Hyperspace tackles the most fascinating and complex object in the known universe: the human brain. 

For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist.
The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics.  One day we might have a “smart pill” that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a “brain-net”; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe.

Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about “consciousness” and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness.

With Dr. Kaku’s deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, The Future of the Mind is a scientific tour de force–an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience. Continue reading

Locus recommends THE APES OF WRATH

Cover by Alex Solis

Cover by Alex Solis

In the same February issue of Locus where Gardner Dozois reviewed Rayguns Over Texas, he included The Apes of Wrath among his recommended reprint anthology reads for 2013.

The best reprint anthology of the year was Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell & Patrick Nielsen Hayden. There were also two big reprint anthologies for fans of the time-travel story, The Time Traveller’s Almanac, edited by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer, and The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF, edited by Mike Ashley, and a book of ape stories, The Apes of Wrath, edited by Richard Klaw. There was also a collection of stories written at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30 th Anniversary Anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow.

I’m honored to be included among such esteemed company.

It could be just that he reviewed Apes not that long ago and it was still sitting next to his computer, but I prefer the idea that Apes was indeed among the best of the year.


Cover by Rocky Kelley

Cover by Rocky Kelley

For the February Locus, Gardner Dozois reviewed Rayguns Over Texas.

In spite of the title, which implies freewheeling space opera, there’s only one raygun to be found in Rayguns Over Texas, an original anthology edited by Richard Klaw; most stories here don’t take us off Earth, and most don’t have anything to do with aliens (attacking or otherwise) or armadas of battling spaceships. That doesn’t mean that the anthology isn’t fun, though.


Big Names of the loosely defined school of Texas SF – Bruce Sterling, Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Lisa Tuttle, Lewis Shiner – aren’t represented here with fiction (Sterling provides an introduction), but the writers who are here do a decent job of delivering that difficult-to-classify stuff typical of the Texas School of SF, somewhere between gonzo fantasy and horror in tone with occasional touches of cyberpunk, that was once called ‘‘outlaw fantasy,’’ or occasionally ‘‘cowpunk.’’

(Not including the “Big Names” was very a purposeful decision. One of the rules of the volume was that the writers needed to currently be living in Texas. Of all he mentioned, only Waldrop currently lives here.)

The most enjoyable story here is probably Mark Finn’s ‘‘Take a Left at the Cretaceous’’, in which Good Ole Boy long-distance truckers tangle with dinosaurs, but there’s other fun stuff as well.

Dozois’ other fun stuff included stories by Lawrence Person, Aaron Allston, Derek Austin Johnson, Chris N. Brown, and Jessica Reisman.

Stuff received 1/26/2014

Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived at the Geek Compound.

Raising Steam

by Terry Pratchett

Promo copy:

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man with a flat cap and a sliding rule. He has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it’s soon drawing astonished crowds.

To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork’s formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari, no one is in charge of this new invention. This needs to be rectified, and who better than the man he has already appointed master of the Post Office, the Mint, and the Royal Bank: Moist von Lipwig. Moist is not a man who enjoys hard work—unless it is dependent on words, which are not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. He does enjoy being alive, however, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse.

Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs, and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all from going off the rails . . .

Almost lost my fingers yesterday as Brandy snatched this from me, screaming gleefully, “The NEW Pratchett! Gimme!”

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