Friday, March 30, 2012

What Is Speculative Fiction, Anyway?

I'm excited to welcome B. B. Griffith to Book Den! He's discussing one of my favorite topics today: Speculative Fiction.

My wife and I were out having dinner with friends the other night when the discussion came around to books and reading (as it often does). Now don’t get me wrong, I love talking about books. Reading and writing are a huge part of my life and so naturally they come up a lot, but I always sort of dread the ol’ question: So what do you like to read?

The boring, untruthful answer would be: “Anything, really. Please pass the eggrolls.”

Which is what I’d say if I was trying to keep things civil. The problem is I don’t like to read just anything. I don’t like reading most things, actually. And the things I like to read are often weird and strange. At the time I’d had a few cocktails, so I answered truthfully. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I like what’s known as ‘speculative fiction’.”

Them: “What the heck is that?”

Me: “Well, I don’t know exactly. It’s kind of a big classification. Sort of a ‘genre-du jour’, if you will.”

Them: “So you’re telling me you read it, but you don’t know what it is.”

Me: “It’s sort of like this, you have your normal fiction in this hand, right? This is the stuff about addiction and loss and inner turmoil and daddy issues and failed marriages and sexual ambiguity and whatnot that your professors made you read in college. Then in your other hand you have…speculative fiction.”

Them: “Like what? Vampires and wizards and all that junk?”

Me: “No—I mean yes, but not necessarily. It’s just fiction that is about…stuff that doesn’t exist.”

Them: “So vampires and wizards.”

Me: (sigh) “I guess, yeah. Vampires and wizards. Anybody need another drink?”

And that’s that.

The problem is, speculative fiction covers all of those “normal” topics too. Speculative fiction books address all of the addiction and the daddy issues and the inner turmoil and whatnot as well, they just do it with…vampires and wizards. And sometimes they tackle these topics with ghosts, or robots, or magic, or a whole myriad of other strange and weird things.

So you can see my problem. I have no idea what type of books I like, I just know I like them. I can tell you with some authority, however, that whatever it is that you are currently reading, I’d probably like it as well…If you were to throw a wizard or a robot in there somewhere. But then again, what isn’t improved by the addition of the odd wizard or robot?

Now, you may be wondering just how many wizards and robots I have packed into my own book Blue Fall. The answer might surprise you: None. That’s right! Not a single wizard to be seen! No elves, no ghosts, no zombies, no vampires, no post-apocalyptic scenarios. Nada. And yet, I am comfortable calling it speculative fiction. Why? Because (and I say this in the best way possible) it’s a little…off. It is the product of a wild imagination.

And maybe therein lies the best description of speculative fiction: The stuff of wild imagination.

-B. B. Griffith

Blue Fall is an award winning techno-thriller that is perfectly happy with being described as speculative fiction. It is available in print and for your Kindle.

Kindle | Amazon | B&N

Thank you so much for the discussion today, Brad!

Blue Fall is the first book in B.B. Griffith's new series The Tournament:

"There was a time...long ago, when whole nations, entire races of people, pinned their hopes and futures on individual warriors. Whole wars were won and lost on the outcome of a single battle between heroes. Entire countries were moved. Empires rose and fell..."

In Blue Fall, that time has come again.

A routine investigation throws a hapless insurance agent down the rabbit hole, into a world where the rich and powerful place wagers on the greatest game on earth. They call it the Tournament. It offers competition without limits. It is beholden to no man, and constrained by no law, and it is extremely dangerous. But where does the true power lie in this World Cup of warfare? With those who place the bets, or with the deadly players themselves? And can one man expose the secret before they find him?

Do you guys find yourselves having a hard time explaining what you like to read? Do you go by specific genres or do you find yourself using broader terms like "speculative fiction" or "YA"? I think I do a little bit of both. I love the term "speculative fiction" because it encompasses most of the genres I love to read, but sometimes it's easier just to pigeonhole myself as a "horror reader" because a lot of the books I read outside the horror genre are still dark or horrific in some way.


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Live Event | Lee Thompson

There are some exciting things happening tonight on the Darkfuse website. Lee Thompson - one of my favorite authors - will be doing a live interview.

You can read all of my Lee Thompson gushings here.

The folks at Darkfuse will be giving one lucky winner a 1-year subscription to the Delirium Kindle Club. That's 24 novellas! They are also giving away some Lee Thompson limited edition hardcovers. Those are some wicked sweet prizes.

The event starts tonight at 8 CST/9 EST. Come hang out with me!


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review | Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium is the sequel to Lauren Oliver's Delirium.

Book Description

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, pushing aside thoughts of Alex, pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school, push, push, push, like Raven taught me to do.

The old life is dead. But the old Lena is dead too. I buried her. I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

I really enjoyed Pandemonium despite not caring about pretty much half of the book. The chapters of Pandemonium are set up in an alternating "Then" and "Now" format. My first reaction was "Wow, Lena has been in the Wilds for a long time." Nope. We are only alternating between a span of less than a year. I found myself rushing through the not-so-exciting "Then" chapters to get to the that's-more-like-it "Now" chapters.

Pandemonium is a very different read from Delirium. Lena has changed, her world has changed, nothing is the same. I was longing a little for what Lauren Oliver created in Delirium, but I loved the intensity of Pandemonium. The rest of the series is wide open to be anything Lauren Oliver wants it to be. I think that is a pretty great thing.

You have probably seen lots of reactions to the ending of Pandemonium. I'll go on record saying I'm a huge fan of the ending. Add that ending to Lauren Oliver's empty canvas, and I'm super excited for book 3. The wait for Requiem will be even harder than the wait we endured for Pandemonium.

If you've read and enjoyed Delirium, it is well worth it to read Pandemonium.

7/10: Recommended Read


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review | Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box is the debut novel of Joe Hill.

Book Description

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet:

I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder . . .

For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored Mustang . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand . . .

Heart-Shaped Box has not only been sitting on my bookshelf for years, it has been sitting on my small "read this one next" shelf pretty much the entire time. It's funny how that happens. Thanks to some gentle prodding from my friends on Goodreads, I have finally taken Heart-Shaped Box off the shelf and given it a read. I'm very glad that I did.

I love how Joe Hill jumps right into the story. We learn right away about Jude's collection of grotesque and bizarre things, and he wastes no time getting straight to the ghost of Craddock McDermott. Jude buys Craddock McDermott's ghost in an online auction and gets much more than another unusual object for his collection.

Heart-Shaped Box is not your typical ghost story. Jude and those closest to him are most definitely haunted, but it goes much deeper than that. The characters are raw and the relationships complex. I did worry about the lack of mystery surrounding the ghost and its origins, but there turned out to be lots of surprises along the way.

Heart-Shaped Box also made me realize how much I miss having a good, strong dog in my stories. I haven't experienced that since I quit reading Dean Koontz.

If you're like me and you've had Heart-Shaped Box on your list for a while, let me prod you into finally giving it a read. You will be glad you did.

7/10: Recommended Read


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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Mar. 4 - Mar. 10

Only a couple of new releases caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
March 6, 2012

India Morgan Phelps-Imp to her friends-is schizophrenic. Struggling with her perceptions of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about her encounters with creatures out of myth-or from something far, far stranger...

Shoebox Train Wreck by John Mantooth
March 8, 2012

"The living haunt the dead..." These fifteen genre-bending stories are set against a backdrop of sudden violence and profound regret, populated by characters whose circumstances and longings drive them to the point of no return... and sometimes even further. A young girl takes a journey to see what is really hidden within the belly of an ancient water tower. A high school senior learns about defiance on a school bus and witnesses a tragedy that he won''t soon forget. Six survivors in an underground bunker discuss the possibility of Armageddon being an elaborate hoax. Two brothers take a walk on the dark side of the wheat field and discover that some bonds are stronger than death. And in the title story, a former train conductor must confront the ghosts of his past while learning that it''s not the dead who haunt the living, but the other way around. Traversing the back roads of the south and beyond, these stories probe the boundaries of imagination, taking the reader to the fringes of a society where the world looks different, and once you visit, you won''t ever be the same.

I hope you guys had a great week!


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review | Swan Song by Robert McCammon

Swan Song is an epic post-apocalyptic novel by Robert McCammon.

Book Description

In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets; Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station; and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gifts. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself.

Here's the bottom line: Swan Song is one of my favorite books of all time. It's one of the books I was most looking forward to rereading during my The Great McCammon Read. It stills impacts me every bit as much as the first time I read it.

Swan Song is very dark, and it's scary, but it's also one of the most beautiful and hopeful books I have ever read.

Weighing in at 956 pages, it's a huge story in every sense of the word. There are characters you will hate and fear as well as characters you will fall in love with and care about long after you've finished reading. There is magic, evil, goodness, hope, ruin, and beauty throughout the pages of Swan Song.

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, Swan Song is an absolute must read. I give it my highest recommendation.

10/10: Awesome


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wishlist | Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World!

Oops. Wrong tagline. :) Stop the Countdown. Save the World.

Seriously, though, I love countdowns to doom. Bomb timers, folks being buried alive, countdowns to the end of the earth... I can't get enough. It hooks me every time.

But this also has some chick dying and being brought back to life!

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

Why can't she fall in love with him? She's going to have to sacrifice to save the world, isn't she? Love it!

Add to Goodreads

What book are you looking forward to reading?

This post is being shared as part of Breaking the Spine's "Waiting for" Wednesday.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book Review | Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Article 5 is the first book in Kristen Simmons's Article 5 series.

Book Description

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren't always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it's hard for her to forget that people weren't always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It's hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.

Few things can sell me on a book like a lot of action. I love action packed page turners, and the idea of a YA dystopian novel with non-stop action was too good to pass up. Unfortuntely, Article 5 turned out to not really be my thing.

The dystopian premise of Article 5 is the government enforcing strict moral statutes on its citizens. I could never figure out what would cause society to evolve that way. The statutes were still being rolled out through the states yet the states enforcing these moral statutes were already executing people.

The main character of Article 5, Ember, was born out of wedlock 17 years ago. Article 5 of the moral statutes dictates that only children conceived by a married husband and wife are valid citizens. When the government updated the statute to include existing minors, Ember's mother became an automatic violator and Ember became property of the government.

As I stated, there is a lot of action in Article 5. Ember is on the run from the government and trying to save her mother. I normally love a good chase book where the characters are on the run, but I never understood why anyone cared or why all those resources were being used to such an extreme toward individual citizens like Ember and her mom.

Ember was a sympathetic character but she didn't have much snap to her. I wanted to holler at her a lot.

In the end, the action taking place throughout Article 5 wasn't enough to make me a fan. I needed a reason to believe the events would even happen and the characters were more frustrating than they were likeable. I will not be reading more books in the Article 5 series.

4/10: Not My Thing


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notable New Book Releases | Feb. 26 - Mar. 25

These are the new releases that caught my eye this week. What did I miss? Be sure to let me know what books you were excited about this week!

Heirloom by J. E. Medrick
Publication Date: February 27, 2012

Jennie only has to stay at her great-grandmother's for a few hours while her mother is at work. But if she can't keep her hands to herself, will she live to regret it?

This is a short story, approximately 3,000 words.

Partials by Dan Wells
Publication Date: February 28, 2012

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Series: Delirium #2

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, pushing aside thoughts of Alex, pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school, push, push, push, like Raven taught me to do.

The old life is dead. But the old Lena is dead too. I buried her. I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

After the Fade by Ronald Malfi
Publication Date: February 28, 2012

It was a typical evening at a local Annapolis tavern, until a girl walked in, collapsed and died.

The cause of her death was anything but natural. Something had latched itself to the base of her skull. Some type of creature unlike anything seen before.

And it didn't arrive alone.

Now, the patrons of The Fulcrum are trapped, held prisoner within the tavern's walls by monstrous things that flit across the night sky, trying to find their way in.


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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Help | I Need Dark Tower Advice: The Wind Through the Keyhole

As some of you may know, I've been slowly making my way through Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. The last Dark Tower book I read was book #4 Wizard and Glass.

Earlier this week I was browsing Goodreads, and I noticed this after the title of The Wind Through the Keyhole:

(The Dark Tower #4.5)

Wait... what?

So I read the description for The Wind Through the Keyhole:

From Stephen King's Official Site

Dear Constant Readers,

At some point, while worrying over the copyedited manuscript of the next book (11/22/63, out November 8th), I started thinking—and dreaming—about Mid-World again. The major story of Roland and his ka-tet was told, but I realized there was at least one hole in the narrative progression: what happened to Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy between the time they leave the Emerald City (the end of Wizard and Glass) and the time we pick them up again, on the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis (the beginning of Wolves of the Calla)?

There was a storm, I decided. One of sudden and vicious intensity. The kind to which billy-bumblers like Oy are particularly susceptible. Little by little, a story began to take shape. I saw a line of riders, one of them Roland’s old mate, Jamie DeCurry, emerging from clouds of alkali dust thrown by a high wind. I saw a severed head on a fencepost. I saw a swamp full of dangers and terrors. I saw just enough to want to see the rest. Long story short, I went back to visit an-tet with my friends for awhile. The result is a novel called The Wind Through the Keyhole. It’s finished, and I expect it will be published next year.

It won’t tell you much that’s new about Roland and his friends, but there’s a lot none of us knew about Mid-World, both past and present. The novel is shorter than DT 2-7, but quite a bit longer than the first volume—call this one DT-4.5. It’s not going to change anybody’s life, but God, I had fun.

-- Steve King

You can guess my question right? Which one should I read next?

I've been under the impression (aka my own assumption) that I was to read The Wind Through the Keyhole once I reached the end of the series. If The Wind Through the Keyhole is considered #4.5, should I read The Wind Through the Keyhole next instead of The Wolves of the Calla?

What would you do if you were me?


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