Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Sliding Void by Stephen Hunt



Sliding Void
by Stephen Hunt

Sliding Void is a fun space opera tale that sets up the series of the same name. It is the story of how erstwhile Prince Calder Durk of the frozen planet Hesperus meets Captain Lana Fiveworlds of the starship Gravity Rose

Lana's ship is an independent freighter and she's looking for a cargo run to get her off of the "Planet of the Balls" (as the first chapter is called). Before she is completely desperate a courier vessel arrives. The courier passes on a message to Lana from a former crewman, Rex Matobo. The message says, "I would appreciate it if you came quickly." There were co-ordinates. As it turns out, Rex is in trouble on Hesperus.

Sliding Void is a fast-paced science fiction story that doesn't overstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more. It is classic SF space opera, and the beginning of the promise that eBooks can fill the voids left behind by mainstream publishers. There are not many straight forward science fiction adventure books getting onto store shelves these days. Kristine Rusch's Diving series is a welcome exception to that rule. 

But now, because of ebooks,  authors can write what they want to write and easily publish it themselves, regardless of what the publishers are interested in doing or what their marketing departments think will sell. I'm not even sure that the publishers are really trying to sell books anymore. I think they shoot for a hand full of blockbuster best sellers to keep themselves afloat and then sell movie rights to make a profit.

Regardless, what the big publishers do doesn't matter as much to me anymore because individuals like Stephen Hunt, KW Jeter, Mike Stackpole, Kris Rusch, and Dean Smith are writing what excites them and putting them out on their own. As with everything else, the internet has allowed niche interests to find their audience.

I will reading more about Lana Fiveworlds and her crew in the next book called, Transference Station, also an ebook original. Stephen Hunt is most famous for his steampunk novels including, The Court of the Air, Rise of the Iron Moon (Great Title!), and The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

For this review I read the ebook of Sliding Void. I give it an 7.5 out of 10. This is solid, well written space opera. I may have to delve into Mr. Hunt's steampunk as well.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Robin Hood: Arrow of Justice by I.A. Watson



I.A. Watson is a writer to watch. His second Robin Hood novel is as delightful as the first and I can't wait for the concluding chapter that will be released next year. This series is a real gem and a feather in Airship 27 Production's cap. Look for the printed book here and the ebook here.

The first volume, King of Sherwood, established the famous Robin Hood and the whole cast of characters, including the vicious, spiteful Sheriff of Nottingham. In Arrow of Justice, the story continues and while there are no shocking surprises, the tale is well told and the characters are vividly brought to life. If I was forced to find a fault with the book the only thing I could think of would be that on the cover of a book called Arrow of Justice, you might want to have the hero holding a bow.

For this review I read the ebook, priced at only $3. That, my friends is a steal. I am looking forward to the final book of this trilogy (although I hope the series continues past that) called Freedom's Outlaw.

Arrow of Justice is a great read that I would recommend for all readers from teens to adults. Cheers to IA Watson!

The cover painting is again by the very talented Michael Manly. I think he captures Robin and Marion's charm nicely.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Natalya Kaminski


The newest release in the FFG Tannhäuser universe is a Russian that stomps around in power armor carrying a seriously righteous Lightning Cannon. Natalya Kaminski is a Matriarchy Epic Hero that worked with Oksana Gusarenko on restoring and enhancing some of Tesla and Rossum's cast-offs.

The Kostjak Bronka Apparat Suit and the Volta Lightning Cannon are the main part of her arsenal. The rest of her kit boils down to support for these two items.

The KBA Suit allows Natalya to re-roll up to two dice on your shock roll. However, if the re-roll rolls a natural 1, Natalya takes an additional wound.

The Lightning Cannon is a Heavy Automatic weapon that allows you to target an additional adjacent character to the character you are attacking. You make one attack roll and each target rolls their own shock roll.

The Command Pack also includes that token MASSIVE that allows all allies adjacent to Natalya to roll an extra die on their shock rolls. Nice.

While the illustration of Natalya is one of my favorites in the Tannhäuser universe, the figure itself is one of the worst. The sculpture is chunky and limited in detail compared to the others in the line. In addition, the pose is not great and her head is too big. She is big, though. Now to test her in battle...

The Ladies of Tannhäuser

I feel U-Chronic!!!



Monday, December 5, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Goliath by Scott Westerfeld


Written by Scott Westerfeld
Illustrated by Keith Thompson

Goliath is the concluding book in the Steampunk alternate history World War I trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson. Wow is this book good. It is a fantastic conclusion to a marvelous series. This is a great, globe-spanning book. It rivals and perhaps surpasses part one, Leviathan, in quality and imagination.

One of the most satisfying things about the book is how it changes and adds many things (locale, supporting players) but stays true to the heart of the series and truly wraps it us in a way few series manage. I really enjoyed the way that Westerfeld wove additional historic figures into the story. We meet Tesla, William Randolph Hearst, and a certain Mexican outlaw general. Goliath is a top notch book and if you are a reader that doesn't like to start a series until all the books are written, you can dig in now.

Goliath is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in  science fiction, steam punk, or adventure fiction. The novel is full of many surprises and twists and turns and some moments of terrific action and emotional resonance. 

Thompson's copious illustrations illuminate and propel the pace of the story. Westerfeld himself has remarked on how seeing the drawings led to changes in the text. This time the drawings don't just sit on one page, but cross two on occasion.

This is a strong contender for best novel in many categories, and I will be adding Goliath to my Pulp Factory, Pulp Ark, Locus, and Hugo nominations.

I hope you enjoyed that fun bit of art. It's is a joke, a gag, a laugh that appeared on Scott Westerfeld's tumblr. It is not a spoiler, but it is a fun piece of art.

If you like adventure, read the Leviathan Trilogy.



200,000 is cool

The Savage Tales blog has hit 200,000 page views.

Thanks to all the readers and lurkers and drive-bys.

I'll have a lot of cool stuff coming up in 2012. The big thing for  me will be to get a bunch of novellas up for every eReader under the sun, and to build a proper website for my publishing.

thanks again, everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Incoming!


Here is your Tannhäuser upcoming product update...

The Natalya Hero Pack is on the truck and headed to stores! You should be able to buy this NOW.

 Operation Hinansho is on the boat and should be in store before the end of the year.

The Matriarchy Troop Pack is still listed as being at the factory, so who knows...



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 29



July, 1935 - Quest of Qui

The opening of Quest of Qui is a classic.  A Viking Longship drifts lifelessly alongside an eighty-foot yacht. The passengers and crew of the wealthy ship come out to have a look. Then, startlingly, Vikings pour out of the Longship's hold and swarm the yacht, forcing everyone aboard to trade ships. The yacht cruised to parts unknown and the Longship, after much struggle, arrives at a harbor on the tip of Long Island.

That same night, William Harper Littlejohn was at the movies and saw footage of the ship in a newsreel. His expert eye gave him little doubt that the ship was authentic. He left a message on Doc Savage's answering machine and headed to Long Island in the morning.

Thus begins the 28th supersaga, a story of ice, snow, near freezing and falling in ice crevasses. Oh, and lost civilizations, but you probably already figured that out.

Quest of Qui is more prime goodness from Street and Smith. It was great to see Johnny get the opening scene, using all his archaeological knowledge and to be recognized while he is examining the Longship.

From the scene where Johnny is at the movies - "William Harper Littlejohn was a very erudite gentleman, but he occasionally attended the cinema for relaxation." - we can see that movies then were kind of like television is now. It has the perception of being for the masses, whereas in fact, almost everyone watches TV.

The Hidalgo Trading Company is firebombed, destroying all of Doc's planes.

There is also a rare scene where there is a bit of racism sneaking into the text. Doc asks Ham if he has cold weather clothes. "Brand new," Ham admitted. "Made by the best fur house in the city. No crude Eskimo work on them."

The story also mentions a passenger "Tri-motor biplane." I hadn't heard of such things, but here you go… Well a model of one anyway...
Quest of Qui also features the expression, "Nerts to you!" meaning "you get nothing," or "up yours."

Doc also does one of the most amazing things he has ever done in one of these stories. He shoots the wiring off a plane engine that is circling high overhead. He wanted to bring it down, but at the same time be able to fix the motor and use the plane. That is good shooting!
I'll give Quest of Qui an 8 out of 10. It has some great stuff, but there is way too much floundering in arctic snow. It gets repetitive. And Johnny is wearing just a jacket with blankets wrapped around his feet. While people get cold, there are no repercussions for not being well enough equipped. 
The pulp cover by Walter Baumhofer is a head shot of Doc, which may have been created for other purposes and reused here. The pulp interior illustrations are by Paul Orban. 
The Bantam paperback cover is by James Bama and is one of the great Doc covers. There was also a Golden Press edition, which has a beautifully composed cover by Ben Otero.

Once again, a big thanks to Chris Kalb's 86th Floor website for the interior illos...



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Ganymede by Cherie Priest



Author Cherie Priest returns to the Clockwork Century in her new book, Ganymede.  This marks a glorious fourth book in the series. In Ganymede, Priest turns her eye again to Andan Cly, the airship Captain, and sometime pirate, introduced in the excellent novel Boneshaker. If you have not read Boneshaker, go buy that book, read it, then read Ganymede.

In this adventure, Captain Cly is trying hard to escape his pirate ways. He gets a mysterious offer from an old flame from New Orleans, Josephine Early, who is in need of an airship captain. But Cly is looking to settle down a bit in Seattle, finding himself attracted to the local Sheriff (remember the end of Boneshaker?), but decides to take the offer which when finished will allow him to pick up a load of supplies that Seattle desperately needs. Cly and crew take his airship to New Orleans, but as it turns out, Josephine doesn't need his ship at all. She wants Cly and his crew to pilot a captured ship prototype and deliver it to the Union forces. She is hoping the new ship's capabilities will bring an end to the war.

New Orleans is a city occupied by the Texians on behalf of the Confederacy. Rebels are fighting this occupation, but the battle is tough and Texas is looking to rout the rebels from their hideaway in the swamp. Josephine and her brother are part of the rebels.

I loved the interplay between Andan Cly and Josephine Early. They have the tug of lost love and the reality of the now. Can the flames rekindle, or not. Josephine runs the Garden Court Boarding House which is better known as "Miss Early's Place" and the home of "Miss Early's Girlies." Josephine is a great character; tough, sassy and vulnerable. The scenes with the two of them are outstanding.

The novel is chock-a-block with other great characters, some new, some familiar. There is Ranger Korman from Dreadnought, Josephine's rebel brother Deaderick, a few of the "Girlies", Airship Naahmah Darling crew Huey and Fangand, and mysterious voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau. Rest assured, there are rotters here, their presence has spread to the bayou, though the locals call them zombis (not a typo) not many of them are convinced of their reality. Hardly anyone knows about or believes the zombis exist.

There are air pirates and sea battles, and tons of inventive adventure in between. I loved this book and will not spoil it in this review (as usual). Cherie Priest has delivered the goods here and I look forward to further books in the series.

The cover once again is by Jon Foster. He has done all four books in the series.

I give Ganymede a 9 out of 10.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Game Spotlight - Dungeon Run


Dungeon Run is Plaid Hat Games second outing with a big box game. They entered the game market with 2 small starter packs for Summoner Wars and when the game exploded, they were ready with lots of well play-tested expansions and then this summer, the Master Set, a big expansion in a big box with room for everything you already had for Summoner Wars. 

Now they have published a greatly expanded version of Mr. Bistro's print-and-play game, Dungeon Run. Why are you running, you ask? Because your friends are trying to kill you.

Here's why... Your party enters a dungeon for the ultimate prize in all of Itharia - a Summoning Stone.

Yes, Dungeon Run is part of the Summoner Wars Universe. Here you will battle Goblins, Ghouls, Ghosts and scads of things that don't begin with G, like Mummies, Skeletons, Fire Drakes, and Mole Ogres. The character that exits the dungeon with the Summoning Stone wins.

The credits of this game reinforce the fun factor. Designer: Mr. Bistro (fun name). Producer: Colby Dauch (Summoner Wars designer). Editor: Chris Dupuis (Heroscape fans will remember Sir Dupuis. He also worked on a little thing called Risk: Legacy...

The art is by Summoner Wars artists John Ariosa and Sergi Marcet and the figures were sculpted by Chad Hoverter.

Where the P-n-P version was a solitaire game, Mr. Bistro expanded the published version into a competitive / cooperative hybrid that is a whole lot of fun. There is a ton of options available which should keep the game fresh through many plays.

As an example, you can play with 1 to 6 players. There are 35 different encounter cards, 8 base characters (each with 10 different ability cards available), 26 treasures and artifacts, 4 bosses (the big baddies in the Dungeon), and 26 dungeon tiles.

The players can charge in and attack the dungeon together, or they can attack each other. Usually it will be some of each. Some of the baddies are tough enough it is worth it to help each other to kill it, especially the big game ending creatures, the Bosses. They are tough, but you don't want to weaken yourself too much fighting the Boss, because after the Boss is dead you will be fighting the other players.

Of course you could try to kill the other players first, but that may make it a whole lot tougher on yourself.

As the game goes on you will defeat monsters and disarm traps. You can trade the cards you earn to level up and make yourself more powerful. You do this by trading 2 of the creature and trap cards you have earned and drawing 2 ability cards - but you can only keep one. The other is discarded out of the game.

When more than one character is in a particular dungeon space each player can chose to assist, sabotage, or do nothing when the other character is in combat.

Dungeon Run is one of those games that creates stories that you will remember long after the play is over. There is yelling, cussing, and laughing. If you haven't figured it out yet, I think it is a great game.
Adding to the quality of the game are the terrific components, starting with the shiniest box I have ever seen. The cards are durable linen finished, the tiles and counters thick, the figures are great, and the art and graphic design sell the theme. There are 20 dice included as well. I happened to get a review copy from Plaid Hat Games, but you can pick it up at your local store or internet retailer. Miniature Market has it for $33. You get a lot of fun for that cheap a price.

Did I mention the figures are great? Yep I did and I'll do it again. The figures are great and Plaid Hat Games should be proud of the quality of this game. I am not alone in loving this game. 

Drakkenstrike said, "Dungeon Run was really one of my favorite games to be showcased at the 2011 Origins game fair… When having sat down at both events (Origins and Gen Con) to play demonstrations of the game with my wife, we agree that this was the best light dungeon crawler out there…"

Tom Vasel recently ranked Dungeon Run as the 48th best game of all time and said, "I love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love this game. I really, really do. The components, the miniatures are great, the variety is huge… The characters are very different, the combat system is neat, and the backstabbing element is huge…

There you go. If you like fun, this is it. Fun.

The game can be played by 1-6 players, but I would recommend 4 as the sweet spot. The solo play is ok, but it is much more fun with other people to mess with.

You can buy Dungeon Run Here.