Monthly Archives: March 2008

Everyone’s got one.

That secret pile of novels, so very well regarded by the literary world, sitting in a dark corner of their house, sadly neglected despite assurances by so many others that “you’ve got to read them!” It’s a secret Pile ‘o Shame that haunts readers, always calling out longingly to be conquered but always growing bigger.

There’re simply too many novels out there (even if you only count the ones worth reading) for anyone to tackle all of them, and so the pile grows bigger. It’s so shameful that many readers hide it, boastfully playing on Internet message boards and blogs, pretending they’ve read them, or at the very least have given them a meaningful glance – catch them in their lie and they’re quick to exit the conversation.

I thought it would be fun to come out of the closet with my Pile o’ Shame every once in a while, crucifying myself before the masses by laying bare the gaps in my knowledge of the genre. I’ll explain a little of why I haven’t read them before – whether it’s ignorance, taste, fear or otherwise – all in hopes that someone will come along and convince me exactly why a particular novel or series deserves to be the next wiped off my Pile o’ Shame.

So, let’s get this started.
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Tim Holman, Publishing Director at the US branch of Orbit Books, recently put together an interesting post on why US and UK covers for novels differ and also pulls back the curtain a bit on the process.

This is the issue, I think, at the heart of the Great SFF Cover Debate/War. It’s nothing to do with where the book is being published in the world; it’s to do with the question that every genre publisher has to ask themselves: do we want our books to stand out or do we want them to fit in? Most genre publishers would say both: they want their books to stand out by looking exceptional, but they also want them to fit in by being immediately recognizable to readers of similar books within the genre. Depending on where you put the emphasis, though, the cover for a particular book can go in some very different directions.

The Orbit covers for several books by Iain M. Banks.

Of course there are always exceptions, but I think it’s safe to say that the UK editions of novels generally sport better cover art. It’s interesting to hear from Orbit, who publishes both in the US and the UK, and just why they change the covers for each region, sometimes just subtly, sometimes quite drastically.

You can read the whole thing HERE.

Paper Cuts, a blog by the editors of The Book Review, needs little introduction – hell, they have 194 comments on one post, almost a third the amount of comments on the entirety of A Dribble of Ink – and they’ve certainly earned their reputation. So, needless to say, when they speak up, it’s wise to listen.

Bob Harris, one of the bloggers, recently wrote a funny, informative post listing what he considers the “Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing” and it’s definitely worth a look. Here’re are a couple of my favourites:

lyrical: Reviewers use this adjective when they want to say something is well written. But using the word loosely misses the sense of expressing emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. Save lyrical for your next review of Wordsworth.

eschew: No one actually says this word in real life. It appears almost exclusively in writing when the perp is stretching for a flashy synonym for avoid or reject or shun.

I’d love to say I was exempt from using these words… but I’m pretty sure I’ve used each and everyone of them at least once in one of my reviews! You can find the whole article HERE.

What words make you cringe when you read them in a review?

Editor’s note: For the record, I must be the only person who would actually use the word eschew in conversation. I guess I’m weird!

Alas, this edition of Free Readin’ contains no full novels, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t damn exciting anyway! What I’ve pulled together here are two early excerpts from some eagerly anticipated novels and the third is a collections of excerpts from one major publishers latest catalog.

Pyr Sampler

Pyr is offering anyone interested 327 pages of free PDF glory. Included in the download are the first chapters from many of Pyr’s most prominent authors:

Excerpts are from Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged, Kay Kenyon’s A World Too Near, Theodore Judson’s The Martian General’s Daughter, Robert Silverberg’s Son of Man, David Louis Edelman’s Infoquake, and Mike Resnick’s Stalking the Unicorn and Stalking the Dragon.

You can download the Sampler HERE and also download a copy of their catalog HERE. Also be sure to check out their blog, Pyr-o-mania.

R. Scott Bakker

Switching gears a little, R. Scott Bakker, best known for his The Prince of Nothing trilogy, a gritty, dense fantasy, he know brings readers a contemporary thriller, Neuropath. Pat, from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, really liked it:

As you guys know, I really enjoyed Neuropath, as much as it was the most disturbing book I ever read. And if you click on this link, you can now check out the first chapter and get a feel for what could potentially be a controversial novel when it’s released this spring. If you think the excerpt is a bit fucked up, believe me when I say that you have seen nothing yet!

Luckily Fantasybookspot is offering an exclusive peek at the first chapter from the novel, which you can find HERE.

J.V. Jones

Last up is the prologue for the upcoming novel from J.V. Jones, Watcher of the Dead. This is the latest installment of her increasingly long (but still highly regarded) series, Sword of Shadows.

You can find the prologue HERE and also many other excerpts from all her novels HERE.

Over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a blog I’m sure every single one of my readers is well aware of, Pat started an interesting discussion about current things in the blogosphere and the comments section of the post has turned into a nice, revealing debate about the way blogs work.

Many influential and well known SFF bloggers have dropped by to add their thoughts (Neth from Neth Space, Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen, Wert from The Wertzone, John from Grasping for the Wind, and a whole lot more) and you’ll even see me get a good talking to near the bottom of the page. It’s definitely worth checking out and, no matter where you stand, I encourage you to leave your own thoughts (either here or on Pat’s blog) about the situation. I’m always curious to see what readers think about these issues.

You can check out the whole conversation HERE.