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Review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie on SFSignal

Review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie on SFSignal

My review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is up at SFSignal.


Set in the world of Abercrombie’s The First Law series, Best Served Cold has no sorcery like that series, but does turn some magic in making a seemingly ordinary revenge story into multiple interesting character studies wrapped in a few bloody messes. I was certain I had figured out the plot and ending multiple times, only to be pleasantly surprised by unpredictable characters…and not by convenient out of character jumps. Now where did I put the third book in The First Law series?

General Monzacarro Mercatto, the Butcher of Caprile, the Snake of Talins, victor in many battles, returns with her brother Benna to the castle of Duke Orso, who wants to be King of Styria. In minutes, her brother is slain and she is left for dead, by a Duke who is worried that she is becoming more popular than he, and will try to take his throne. Nursed back to health by an unknown savior, Monza vows revenge against the Duke and the six (including his sons) who helped in the betrayal.

To achieve said revenge, Monza surrounds herself by a motely but interesting crew:

  • Friendly, the counting convict;
  • Morveer, the misunderstood poisoner, and Day, his ever-eating female apprentice, who may be getting better than the master;
  • Caul Shivers, the Northman (who knows the Bloody-Nine from the series) come to Styria to make himself “a better man”. Shivers makes an appearance in Before They Are Hanged, book two of The First Law (and don’t tell me if he’s in book three, it’s in my reading pile!);
  • Vitari, the female torturer, who is also in Before They Are Hanged;
  • General Cosca, who led the Thousand Swords before Monza, and became a drunk, drowning his past;
  • Monzacarro Mercatto (sounds like a race car), the victim and revenge seeker…or is it the other way around?

Read the entire review (with comments about The First Law series) here.


The Squeaking Goblin (Doc Savage #35)

This is the 18th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order.cover1

Doc goes to Maine, at the request of Chelton Raymond. He finds not only an assassin whose bullets vanish and who moves so well through the woods that even Doc cannot track him….but also an old fashioned family feud, between the Snows and the Raymonds. The assassin wears a skeletal mask, and his custom rifle makes a squeaking sound when fired. The Snows and Raymonds have a legend of such a shooter from long ago in their history. Upon his arrival, the Snows attack Doc and his men, thinking they are there to help the Raymonds. Doc encounters the Squeaking Goblin, but cannot capture him. Doc, his men and some of the Raymonds are captured by the Snows and taken to an island; Chelton Raymond escapes, but he is apparently shot, and falls in the water (Doc does not find his body). Doc finds evidence of a mysterious book about a “Black Raymond” in Chelton Raymond’s safe on his boat, but the book is stolen before he can read it.

Doc follows the Snows back to Kentucky, where the Raymond and Snow feud has escalated, and the Squeaking Goblin is there as well. He sends Ham off to investigate or find another copy of the book, while he narrows down the suspect list, and tries to stop the feud while avoiding being killed.

The identity of the Squeaking Goblin was easy to deduce in this story, but other than that it was well written, with a slightly different type of locale and criminal motive than previous ones.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: the Squeaking Goblin
  • Doc Gadget: skywriting lamps (not his invention, but pretty sweet); creates a bulletproof shield for himself out of the plane windows
  • Doc Feat: again swims and runs while carrying a fair damsel; also does a good job finding and avoiding chemically poisoned spider webs;
  • Exotic locale: Maine, the backwoods of Kentucky and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published August 1934; Bantam #35 published April 1969; Philip Jose Farmer dated June 1934

SFSignal Podcast: Social Media and the book industry

sfsignal-podcast-logo-400x100SFSignal Podcast #23 is up, and the topic is:

Is social media good for the book industry, publishing and authors?

With Twitter and Facebook, publisher, author and fan are more connected than ever before. Is this instant communication good for everyone or has it become a distraction? Are the days of the anonymous author gone forever?

Patrick Hester hosts, with Jay Garmon, Jeff Patterson, Jessica Strider and me live, with Lisa Paitz Spindler and Charles A. Tan adding comments at the end.


The King Maker (Doc Savage #80)

This is the 16th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order and the first one not written entirely by Lester Dent (Harold A. Davis is co-author).cover

This finishes a sprint of sorts, reading 5 Docs in the last 30 days, so that I can get to the Radio Archives version of the Adventures of Doc Savage (which feature the 17th and 19th books in the series) and review it for SF Signal.

In this story, Doc finally gets to become King. Two warring factions, the current rulers of Calbia (led by the King Dal Le Galbin, his, of course, beautiful daughter the Princess Gusta LeGalbin, and the head of their armies, Captain Flancul) vs. the rebels, led by Conte Conzonac, who fancies himself the King Maker, try to convince Doc to be on their side. The “King Maker” offers Doc the throne if he helps overthrow the current tyrants. A weapon (the current of a scud missile with eyes, pretty scary for 1934) that appears to be in the hands of the royalty pushes Doc’s decision to head to Calbia, to attempt to stop the bloodshed and see who is really behind the development of this weapon.

The trip to Calbia is full of intrigue. First, Long Tom decides not to make the journey to work on a project, an unheard of even (he later shows up, having been secretly instructed by Doc to fly ahead of the team). The team is discovered on a Calbian boat, named as traitors to the crown, and set off in a launch. One of the heat-seeking scud-like missiles finds them, but, of course, they were already out of the launch, waiting to be picked up by Long Tom.

The part of the story in Calbia is marked by Doc and his gang remembering war; part of their origin story is that they all met during WWI. Doc also uses the unique strategy (unique at least so far in these stories) of telling the five men different tasks, but not sharing those tasks in case they are captured while at war. This departure made me wonder if this was Harold Davis voice; they are other differences (Doc at one point tells the Princess she is a “brick”, a large departure from his past personality).

A precursor for the WWII involved stories to come, this was also enjoyable by the science that was explained as the basis for the heat seeking and guide missiles, quite science fiction at the time.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent and Harold A. Davis
  • Villain: Muta, Conte Conzonac, the King and Princess of Calbia, Captain Flancul…everyone looks like a villain at first.
  • Doc Gadget: a heat emitter in the form of a box with six cooking stoves lit in it, to draw away the heat seeking missles.
  • Doc Feat: taking out Renny again, this time disguised as a Calbian mountain man;
  • Exotic locale: the Kingdom of Calbia (in the Balkans), the Mediterranean Sea and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published June 1934; Bantam #80 published February 1975; Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1931

2011 – The year of the Indie Bookstores

Many of my friends will derive from the title of this post that I am still under books_logothe influence of New Year’s libations. With the demise of Border’s and the rise of eBooks, it would seem that Indie Bookstores are in further jeopardy.

But several factors are giving Indie Bookstores who will take advantage of new offerings and changes a huge competitive advantage.

These factors are:

  • Google Books/Editions;
  • Amazon’s recent feature mimicry;
  • iPads and eReaders;

Google Books, formerly Google Editions, Google’s recently announced foray into selling books, would seem to be a “me too” event. Given the issues that Google ran into with authors and publisher rights with their “copy and provide everything” Google Books strategy, they would seem to be just bulling their way in.

But insightfully, Google eBooks allows for Indie Bookstores to resell these eBooks and make a referral fee from this referral. It also allows the stores to sell a print-and-ebook bundle. This is different in many ways that the Amazon Associates referral program, in that the Google eBooks store becomes the Indie Stores “eBook store”. Bundles with print and eBooks purchased from the same store at a discount are one example of features targetted for Indie Bookstores. (more…)


The Mystery on the Snow (Doc Savage #69)

This is the 15th story in Street and Smith’s original publishing order.cover2

A sleazy mystic named Mahal is checking up on Doc, but doesn’t know that Doc has found him out and is having him followed and bugged by Renny. Renny overhears a conversation with Mahal and Stroam, Mahal’s boss, about trying to stop a man named Ben Lane from getting to Doc for help. Seems that Mr. Lane has discovered something in far Northern Canada that Stroam wants for himself (as always, the identity of Stroam is not revealed until the final pages, but in this instance it was a bit of a surprise). Of course there is a beautiful w0man involved: Midnat D’Avis, a private investigator from Canada hired by Ben Lane. Stroam and Mahal capture Renny, and then Long Tom and Johnny when they come to find Renny. Midnat is taken as well. Doc tracks them with cool shoes that he just had all of his men wear.

One of the enjoyable parts of Lester Dent’s writing is the factual history and science that he integrates into most of the stories, such as this passage where Doc is describing how the shoes work to Monk: (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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