Showing posts with label Tor Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tor Books. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers [Review] -- Does It Bring the Big Guns?

Unlike many genre fans, I have a great deal of respect for "media tie-in" fiction. I believe that some of the best science fiction and fantasy fiction has been the result of hard work by a media tie-in author. William King's Gotrek and Felix stories are wonderful Sword & Sorcery duo fiction, Diane Duane has written some wonderfully entertaining Spider-Man novels, and no list of praise for this sub-genre would be complete without mention of Paul S. Kemp's tales of Erevis Cale. These three authors merely scratch the surface of the high quality work that can be found in media tie-in fiction.

One of the things that most impresses me about well written media tie-in fiction is how an author can bring their own spark of originality to a world that has potentially been thoroughly explored by the media creators. Writing a novel tale within a world without being crushed by restrictions created by other creators, or without writing too far outside the box as to not be working within the shared world, takes a high level of skill. 

The media tie-in author is writing for two audiences: the existing fans of the setting and fans of the genre who may be unfamiliar with the television show, video game, or role playing game where the story takes place. The job of the author is to make fiction fans of the media fans and turn genre fans into fans of the underlying media. This is a difficult challenge.  Fans of a setting can be your harshest critics if they believe that you have written a story that violates the rules of the setting, even if the tale itself is creative and entertaining.  Even if the author manages to satisfy the fans of the setting/game, they also need to appeal to the genre fan in the hopes of making them fans of the underlying property. To put it in the crudest terms, media tie-in fiction are both a way to interact with existing fans of the media and are advertisements to future fans. It's a delicate balance between entertainment and advertisement.

One of my own personal favorite intellectual properties, and game settings, is the Weird West setting created by Shane Hensley (and friends) for the Deadlands role playing game. The game was originally published in the late 90s and has always had related fiction published for the game. I often re-read the "Dime Novels" that were written in the early days of the game. This year (2015) is the year that Deadlands has really exploded into the media tie-in market with comic books and novels being published for the setting. The novels are being published by Tor Books.  One of the largest, if not the largest, publisher of speculative fiction. 

The first Tor novel is entitled Deadlands: Ghostwalkers and was written by talented horror veteran Jonathan Maberry who has written the Joe Ledger and Pine Deep series of books. He's an excellent writer, but how well is he able to combine his own talents with the requirements that come with writing a media tie-in novel?

The Book

Ghostwalkers is the tale of Grey Torrence, a former Union soldier with a haunted past who now wanders the Weird West as he flees the ghosts of his former misdeeds. Torrence is a combination of John Wayne's character Col. John Marlowe in The Horse Soldiers and a Peckinpah badman with a dash of James West. Like Marlowe, he was caught behind enemy lines during the Civil War, but where Marlowe escaped triumphant Torrence's mission ended in failure. In Ghostwalkers, Torrence finds himself continually compelled to do the right thing even against overwhelming odds. He does this in part to atone for his past failings.

This reflexive heroism leads him into companionship with Thomas Looks Away of the Ogala Toyospaye in what could have been a simple Lone Ranger and Tonto tale. Maberry is too talented to fall into that trap and instead of giving us the Native American mystic, he gives us a Native American Mad Scientist more in the mold of Artemis Gordon than Tonto. It's a refreshing change and one that signals that the author might be giving us a couple more twists as well.

Torrence and Looks Away, two of the heroes of our tale, are caught in the middle of an apocalyptic time. What separates the Weird West from the Old West is that in 1863 a ritual opened the doors to the Happy Hunting Grounds and created a Hell on Earth where the dead rise from the grave and scientific innovation is fueled by a substance that seems to scream in pain when burned as a means to create power for Weird and impossible gadgets.

These heroes, and some additional companions, face off against the horrors of the Weird West. They fight the Walking Dead and resurrected Dinosaurs, but no opponent is as fearful as the greed and lust for power of their fellow man.

The Good

Maberry manages to introduce those unfamiliar with the Deadlands setting to the world in a seamless fashion.  By focusing the narrative on a character unfamiliar with most of the changes that have taken place in the world, he has a perfect cipher for our own experiences. Maberry also introduces the Weird West in small doses. He doesn't try to convey the entirety of the differences between this fictional West and our own. Instead, he lets us discover how the Los Angeles and California of this world differ from ours at a steady pace. We see the world unfold as the characters encounter it. It's good world building technique used to reveal existing information.

I was particularly impressed with how Maberry was able to show how the influence of the Reckoners, particularly Famine, affected the world in a way that only fans of the game would notice. Genre fans get a good story, but there was a nice easter egg for the media fan. Since the knowledge of the world is passed on by people who live in it, and since they would be unfamiliar with the Reckoners, it was demonstration of solid storytelling. Additionally, modeling some of the characters and narrative on Wild, Wild, West was also a good choice. I don't know if it was intentional or sub-conscious, but I would have loved to watch this book as episodes of that classic show.

The Bad

There were a couple of moments I was pulled out of the text. Given Maberry's use of "Harrowed" characters, read the book to find out what those are, I kept expecting to see Stone (an iconic Deadlands character) around every corner. That never happened, and the story is better for it, but I kept expecting it and was a barrier in my reading.

There were also a couple of sentences/phrases that pulled me out of the fiction. The first was when Maberry discussed Juniper trees early. He wrote, "The mingled blurs coalesced into a canopy of Juniper leaves..." which left me wondering if he had ever seen a Juniper. One wouldn't normally use the term "leaves" when describing them. It seemed more like he was describing Oaks than Junipers. That could just be me though.

The second sentence included the phrase "mound of sobbing frilly whites..." as a means of describing clothes that were still wet from a demon rain storm.Given that I read an advance copy, I hope this got corrected before the final version. Clothes tend to be sopping wet, though in Deadlands it wouldn't be impossible to find sobbing clothes.

As you can see, "the bad" in the tale is pretty minor. When you are resorting to nitpicking as your criticism, you have read a pretty entertaining piece of fiction.

The Ugly?

Aside from a sex scene that made sense narratively, but was still a little too "because HBO" as it seemed unnecessary as a demonstration of affection, I found it near impossible to put the book down once I started reading. Maberry's tale has wonderful pacing and the right combination of mystery, horror, and action to reflect the underlying intellectual property.

There were only a couple of moments where I could "hear the dice drop" in the background. Grey's heroism sure seems more like a Savage Worlds Hinderance than an actual character trait, but moments like this were rare. If you like Westerns and Zombies, you should love Maberry's work here. I know that I did.

It was an entertaining mash up of The Wild Wild West, John Ford, and Sam Peckinpah. I can think of no higher praise than that.
3.5/5 stars.Dea

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ambrose Bierce's "That Damned Thing," 12 Days of Lovecraft, and Why Seamus Cooper is Wrong

While I was reading the notes regarding the collaboration between C L Moore and Forrest Ackerman on her story "Nymph of Darkness," (I posted about the collaboration here) I was intrigued by Moore's reference to Ambrose Bierce's "That Damned Thing" as an inspiration for the way Nyusa's invisibility worked. I knew that Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" featured a creature made of a color no one had ever seen before, and that Ambrose Bierce was one of Lovecraft's influences. I had just never taken the time to read Bierce's tale "That Damned Thing" ...until last night.

"That Damned Thing" is a short and enjoyable tale, that isn't at all what I expected based on my earlier assumptions. Having read Moore's correspondence with Ackerman, and Lovecraft's description in Supernatural Horror in Literature, I expected something Gothic and atmospheric. I expected a tale filled with madness and despair. Lovecraft's description of "That Damned Thing" points to it as an exception in Bierce's narrative style, a style which Lovecraft describes as "a jaunty and commonplacedly artificial style derived from journalistic models." Gothic and atmospheric are not words that I would use to describe "That Damned Thing." It certainly has its disturbing elements, and it is a wonderful commentary on willful disbelief, but it is a shockingly straight-forward tale.

"That Damned Thing" is a perfect example of the modern procedural tale. The story opens with men, Mountain Men to be specific, gathered around a table upon which lies the body of Hugh Morgan. The use of Mountain Men is likely very intentional with regard to what Bierce is aiming at with the story. Frederick Jackson Turner's presentation on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" had been made earlier in the year that "That Damned Thing" was published, and the stages of Turner's hypothesis are witnessed in the tale.

First, we have the Mountain Men those rugged adventurers who explore the vast unknown wilderness. Then we have the "coroner," a figure who is one of the Mountain Men in dress and composure, but who has a job associated with greater civilization. In fact, the reason the men are gathered around the table is to perform a kind of coroner's inquest and decide upon the cause of Hugh Morgan's death. Finally, we have William Harker, the young journalist and fiction writer who had come to the Frontier to write a story about Hugh Morgan. William completely represents the final stage of development in Jackson's work. We have explorer's, law bringers, and the civilized, and they are all gathered around a table to guide us through the narrative.

The narrative is broken into four clear acts.

There is the establishing act where we find out that the men have gathered as a jury and that William Harker will testify regarding how Hugh Morgan died. We also learn that there is an additional piece of evidence, a book, that will play a role in the story even after it fails to play a role in the jury.

The next act consists of Harker's testimony about his hunting trip with Morgan and the beast that they encountered, a beast responsible for Hugh's death. A couple of things stand out here. We are finally given hints as to the location of the story. Bierce consistently uses the term chaparral when describing the environment, a flora commonly associated with the West. The use of chaparral lends further evidence to the Turner-esque nature of the story. When the beast is introduced, it is described as "the wind" moving vegetation. It is only after Morgan shoots at the beast, and it charges Morgan, that Harker realizes that they have encountered some invisible creature. The description of the invisibility is intriguing and somewhat puzzling.

"At a distance of less than thirty yards was my friend, down upon one knee, his head thrown back at a frightful angle, hatless, his long hair in disorder and his whole body in violent movement from side to side, backward and forward. His right arm was lifted and seemed to lack the hand -- at least, I could see none. The other arm was invisible."

We know from Harker's description that the creature is invisible, and transparent. We can see through it as it moves through the bushes in the earlier description. We also learn that things within its grasp are similarly obscured from our vision in the places where the creature holds its victim. There is obviously some cause, other than mere transparency, for the beast's invisibility.

In the third act, the Jury deliberates and determines that the death was caused by a mountain lion. The coroner assures the jurors that there is no other evidence available to help them in their determination of cause of death. The jury rejects a purely supernatural cause for the death, but acknowledges that Harker bears no fault. We also learn that the coroner was lying when he said that there was no other useful evidence. The book the coroner had been reading at the beginning of the tale happens to be Hugh Morgan's diary.

The final act is where all is made clear, in non-supernatural terms. Morgan's diary reveals to the audience that Morgan had indeed been encountering an invisible creature for some time, but Morgan had a scientific explanation. This was no mythic beast, rather the creature only reflects light that the human eye cannot see. Somehow light bends around the creature. This is where the description of the invisibility of the creature is at its strongest and weakest. The reason for the invisibility is ingenious, the execution is lacking. Bierce refers to Morgan noticing the creature because its form blocked his ability to see a couple of stars, yet he can "see through" the creature to the world behind it. In essence, the creature may not actually be invisible in the sense we tend to think of invisibility. Rather we may just be unable to see the thing, no black absence of light and no true transparency. A little awkward, but still cool.

What is even more interesting is what Bierce is doing here. One can readily understand why authors might write tales about the inability of those who follow a material metaphysic to acknowledge or engage with the supernatural. THE EXORCIST is a wonderful horror tale of this sort. The science being applied to the victim of possession is as horrifying as, if not more than, the effects of the actual possession. What happens in Bierce's tale is a material metaphysician, or rational realist if you will, in the form of the coroner unable to cope with a plausible scientific description of an unimaginable thing. Some scientists might want to explore the chaparral to find the beast, but the coroner essentially asserts that it is "better not to know." One wonders if Bierce was critiquing particular rigid dogmatists in the scientific community with this tale.

One can see why Lovecraft and Moore were inspired by the piece. Lovecraft liberally borrows names from "That Damned Thing" in his story "The Colour Out of Space." The only person who will share the tale of the invisible beast stalking the lands around Arkham is named Ammi Pierce -- clearly Ambrose Bierce -- and the name Nahum Gardner is close enough to Hugh Morgan for government work. The reluctance of the townsfolk to talk with our narrator in "Colour" fits with the jury's reluctance to deal with the unknown. Which brings me to today's 12 Days of Lovecraft Tor website post by Seamus Cooper.

Cooper asserts that "The Colour Out of Space" is quite bad. A strong opinion regarding a story that Lovecraft thought his best, and about a tale that is largely praised among Lovecraft fandom. Cooper believes that "Colour" is "ill-conceived and poorly executed." This belief seems to largely stem from the fact that Cooper believes that the stakes of the tale have already taken place and that there is nothing left to chill the spines of the reader.

He is wrong on both counts. Kenneth Hite discusses some of the merits of the tale in his Tour de Lovecraft, so I won't repeat them here. Instead, I'll make a couple of my own observations.

With regard to the tale being poorly executed, one finds this a particularly baffling claim. The story begins with what may be the best written first sentence and introductory paragraphs in all of Lovecraftian fiction, "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut." The words are poetry without purple prose. Lovecraft sets the tone of the wild and unexplored marvelously, and he sets the tone for the foulness of the place itself in exquisite fashion. This story is rife with beautifully constructed wordsmithing, something I wouldn't often credit Lovecraft's fiction.

It is also remarkable how Lovecraft has transformed a hunting encounter with an unknown beast into a horrifying encounter with an alien presence. An encounter, I might add, that extends the interaction between the alien and the scientific beyond the mere coroner. In the end the beast does vanish, leaving a small piece behind trapped in a well, putting a seeming end to the stakes. But given the fact that there is soon to be a reservoir on top of the location of the small (trapped) piece, and the nature altering and mind altering affect this piece has on the land and the people surrounding it, one wonders what will happen when the reservoir comes and possibly frees the beast.

The end of this tale is as creepy as the end of the first FRIDAY 13th, when we discover that it might be possible for Jason to rise from the bottom of the lake, or John Carpenter's THE THING. The creature is destroyed at the end of Carpenter's movie...or is it. The same is true here. Just how has the beast altered those around it? What effect will it have?

The stakes are subtle, rather than grotesque. They are social, rather than personal. But the stakes are horrifying none the less.

This beast represents something more than a colorless thing. No wonder the story inspired the source story for THE THING and the narrative of THE BLOB.

"Can't git away...draws know summ'at's comin', but 'tain't no use..."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lovecraft for Christmas, Kenneth Hite, Seamus Cooper, and "From Beyond" on Hulu Recommendation Friday

All this month, Tor is hosting a "December Belongs to Cthulhu" event on their website. I mentioned earlier the historic connection horror and the winter season have with each other, as perfectly described by Manly Wade Wellman.

The Tor site has even begun a series of posts entitled "The Twelve Days of Lovecraft" as a part of the celebration. The "Twelve Days" posts feature a discussion of twelve of Seamus Cooper's favorite Lovecraft tales, with a discussion of why they are so effective and what their greatest problems are. Cooper wrote the entertaining Mall of Cthulhu, which I reviewed earlier this year, and is a natural selection for a series of articles about Lovecraft's fiction.

I think it would be interesting to compare the entries to the indispensable "Tour de Lovecraft" web entries provided by polymath extraordinaire, and author of the Trail of Cthulhu roleplaying game (the BEST Lovecraftian RPG ever written, though the author would quibble with that praise), Kenneth Hite. Hite's "Tour de Lovecraft" is the yardstick by which I measure all story discussion blog posts.

Let's just say that in presenting this story, Hite's entry is useful to the neophyte and the veteran where Cooper's entry is useful primarily to the neophyte -- though Cooper does sprinkle in some good humor. As I noted in my review of Cooper's Mall of Cthulhu, Cooper makes a point of discussing Lovecraft's racism and the obscurity of Lovecraft's prose. Two things that are interesting to point out to the neophyte, but which without new insights into root causes (as William Jones has done in his discussions of Lovecraft and Eugenics) it's really beating a dead horse. Hite references the racism as well, because it really is blatant and must be mentioned, but focuses his post on comparing Lovecraft's storytelling with Edmund Burke's aesthetics. Now that is a connection that I might not have made, and I've read Burke's Enquiry.

Both authors note that "Dunwich Horror" is a Gospel-esque tale, but only Hite notices that there are two Gospels being presented. There is the supernatural Gospel of the creature and the secular Gospel of Armitage. Hite also discusses the work as pastiche. Something fans of Lovecraft often overlook is the influence prior authors had on Lovecraft's own writing, and Hite is right to remind us here that Lovecraft's story is not purely Lovecraft. It should be noted that while Hite's article is the "deeper" of the two, in this case, it is also the more confusing one to the uninitiated. If you haven't read the story before diving into Hite's conversation, you could quickly become lost. This is not the case with Cooper.

The sharpest distinction between the Cooper and Hite posts is their reactions to Lovecraft's description of the town. Cooper is bored by the length and clumsiness of the description of the town and Hite draws maps of Innsmouth based on the description. One can imagine that for most readers a description long and accurate enough to base a map upon might be a trite dull. Cooper and Hite also disagree with regard to Lovecraft's use of the "native" in the story. For Cooper, it is further evidence of Lovecraft's obsession with racial purity -- and it is. For Hite, it is something more. He sees Lovecraft's use of primitive mythology as a subversive one, where he inverts which mythology (Western or "other") is more important. In this tale, the mythical worldview of the other is more accurate. Though the eugenics narrative is still overpowering.

But this isn't "analyze Cooper and Hite Friday," this is Hulu Recommendation Friday. Given the Lovecraftian bent of the post so far, I feel that I must give a Lovecraftian offering. Without further ado, I give you the awful (as in not very good) , From Beyond.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Tor Books Offering Cthulhu Christmas Cards and Baby Onesies

As a part of Tor Books Cthulhu themed December, the book publisher announced today that they will be selling Cthulhu themed Christmas cards and Baby Onesies in their online store. Looking at the quality of the artwork, and the fact that my twin daughters already have D&D themed onesies from Jinx (a gift from my dear friend Eric), this item will definitely be finding its way onto my list of Geek recommendations for Christmas this year.

Looking at the front of the onesie, we see a happy Santa with a happy H.P. Lovecraft sitting on his lap. If you look closely at the chair, you can make out some disturbing iconography. Instead of cheerful woodland animals sculpted into the frame, we see something more squamous and rugose.

Where we really see the sinister nature of these shirts is on the back side. Here we see that Santa isn't who we originally thought, instead of hailing from the North Pole he hails from Sleeping R'lyeh. Poor little H.P. is getting what he always dreamed about for Christmas, but we don't always want what we see in our dreams.

You can buy the shirt here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Real Cthulhu and the Meaning of Christmas

While the winter season is a season of celebration and family, it is also a season in which much of nature "dies" covered in a white shroud and under a bleak sky. In his story, "Sorcery from Thule," Manly Wade Wellman wrote of the connection -- in the human imagination -- of winter and terror. Wellman's story contains a brief section demonstrating why dark magics from Hyperborea, and the horror of Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness all share a quality in their use of frigid climates to add to their sense of terror.

He paused a moment, even then, to ponder the connection between thoughts of evil and thoughts of the Arctic. Lovecraft, who wrote and thought as no other man about supernatural horror, was forever commenting upon the chill, physical and spirtual, of wickedness and baleful mystery. The ancients had believed in whole nations of warlocks to the far north -- Thule and Hyperborea. Iceland and Lapland had been synonyms for magic. Where did one find the baleful lycanthrope most plentiful? In frozen Siberia...Death's hand is icy. The Norseman's inferno is a place of utter dark and sleet.

There is something chilling, pardon the pun, about the chilling season.

In this haunted spirit of the season, Tor books have decided to follow up on their "Steampunk" month theme by having December be their "Month of Cthulhu."

Their first offering this month is a welcome piece of evangelism for H.P. Lovecraft as writer and as person, written by Weird Tales editor Steven H. Segal. His article focuses on Howard, as he calls him in the piece, as Geek -- as one of us. It is a nice portrait and runs smack against the typical portrayal of Lovecraft as recluse, though the piece does call Howard emotionally backward early on.

Segal presenting Lovecraft as "one of us" is important and helps dispel images of some attic dwelling weirdo, though Kenneth Hite's easy dismissal of Lovecraft as recluse in Cthulhu 101 does an even better job, which is an image that -- if cultivated -- will introduce Lovecraft to those who might otherwise overlook him. People read Neil Gaiman because, in addition to being a very good writer, he looks accessible and cool. Lovecraft might never look "cool," but he should certainly be viewed as accessible.

One thing that Segal leaves out in his litany of things Lovecraft would do if he lived as a modern geek is blogging. Lovecraft would blog. He would blog oceans of text. He would comment on innumerable other blogs. And his blog would be one of the most popular blogs on the internet. Lovecraft would be bigger than 4chan or Penny Arcade.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is Mel Gibson Preventing New "Fahrenheit 451" Film?

In an interview with Tor Books, Ray Bradbury enthusiastically discusses his desire to see Frank Darabont's adaptation of Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 into a feature film completed -- but there seems to be a road block in the way. Mel Gibson owns the rights to make the Fahrenheit 451 film and isn't helping with the raising of funds for the film.

Is Gibson sitting on the film rights until he can have full control of the project? Does anyone know more information?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Space Vulture Now Available in Paperback

Last March, Gary K. Wolf (Who Censored Roger Rabbit) and Archbishop John J. Myers' wonderful pulp science fiction novel Space Vulture was released in hardback. The novel contains a gripping and action packed yarn that is reminiscent of the serial movies that once played in theaters. Reading the book one is transported into a world of rocketships (not spacecraft), rayguns (not lasers), and where Faster than Light travel exists regardless of any scientific explanation. In short, the novel contains pure fun and none of the baggage that can weigh down "hard" science fiction.

While it might be easy for some to dismiss Space Vulture as "juvenile" fiction, I would recommend against such shortsightedness. While the tale is certainly appropriate for youth, and also conforms to the old "Space Opera" stereotype of being a Western in Space, there is nothing wrong with that as long as the tale is well written and has some greater truth (or Truth) to offer the reader. Space Vulture does indeed have the layer beyond the yarn that transforms a story from a story read during ones youth that is merely looked back upon nostalgically, for fear that the reality doesn't live up to the nostalgia, into a story that is worth reading again as a treasure to share with one's children.

Space Vulture subtly addresses the philosophic underpinnings that lead us toward a moral, or immoral, life. Of the four adult characters (two "heroic" and two "villainous"), two begin the tale as apparent two dimensional characters. The other two contain the complexities necessary to draw the other two adult characters from the "four color" and into the "real." This is a story that speaks to the importance of family, of the proper relationship between siblings, and to what really makes on a hero. Good stuff this, even if it lacks a discussion of Unified Field Theory.

Last year, I was lucky enough to have both Gary and John visit my podcast Geekerati for a little conversation. Have a listen.

Then, after your appetite for adventure has been whet buy the book. It just came out in paperback.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eric Nylund Discusses Mortal Coils on Geekerati Tonight

Tonight at 7pm Pacific, SF and media tie-in author Eric Nylund will be discussing his upcoming book Mortal Coils with me and my fellow hosts on Geekerati. Join Bill Cunningham, Shawna Benson, Eric Lytle, and me as we discuss video game writing and this exciting new novel with Eric Nylund.

Eric Nylund is a New York Times bestselling and World Fantasy Award nominated author of several novels (including HALO: GHOSTS OF ONYX and DRY WATER). MORTAL COILS will be his ninth novel.

Nylund is also a writer and story consultant for Microsoft Game Studios where he helps develop and maintain blockbuster billion-dollar game franchises such as GEARS OF WAR and HALO. He has helped shaped the intellectual property for some the world's best videogame developers including BIOWARE, ENSEMBLE STUDIOS, and EPIC GAMES.

In January 2009, Nylund will have his first comic mini-series published, BATTLESTAR GALACTIC: THE CYLON WAR—a prequel to the television show, which chronicles why the machines started a war against humanity...and how the humans survived!

Also out in the Spring of 2009 is Nylund’s graphic novel, HALO: Genesis, which will appear in the Limited Collector’s Edition of HALO WARS.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a Master’s degree in theoretical chemical physics. He graduated from the prestigious Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in 1994.

MORTAL COILS is a modern fantasy novel about two twins who find out that they have an unenviable heritage that just may tilt the balance in the war between the Immortals and the Infernals.

The people at Tor Books have been kind enough to share the first nine chapters for your reading pleasure.


Nestled in a small town between San Francisco and the heart of the California wine country, a set of twins—a brother and a sister—live a life of mundane obscurity. Fiona and Eliot Post dream of running away from the oppressive rule of their grandmother, who has raised them since infancy after their parents were killed in an accident at sea. They hate being part of such a strange family—with all of its restrictive rules. Audrey Post insists on home schooling her grandchildren and forces them to work at a local pizzeria where they are bullied by a tyrannical boss. She seems to truly love Fiona and Eliot, but refuses to allow them to explore the beauty of the world that surrounds them.

On the eve of their fifteenth birthday, however, everything changes. It begins with hauntingly familiar violin music played by a homeless man who reeks of sardines and sulfur; a victorious confrontation with their bully of a boss; and a visit from two mysterious strangers, one known only as "a Driver" and the other who claims to be their long-lost uncle.

It turns out that Fiona and Eliot are much more than ordinary teenagers. They are the result of a single mistake: Years ago, an immortal goddess…and the infernal Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, fell in love. To protect them from their dangerous heritage, Audrey Post valiantly kept the twins hidden and camouflaged from the entities that have sought them over the years, transforming the divine into the dull.

But now they have been found—not only by their maternal relatives, but also by their paternal ancestors. For millennia, the Immortals and the Infernals have abided a strict law that they may not meddle in each others' affairs. The twins represent a new balance of power, however, and can potentially open a door into the unknown. If they tip one way, they can be a great boon for the Immortals. If they tip the other way, they will be a powerful asset to the Infernals.

Each family is determined to gain control of Fiona and Eliot. But in order to establish the twins' proper place and rightful allegiance, they each must devise tests to determine which side the twins favor. The Immortals create three heroic trials inspired by urban legends, taking them into deeper and more dangerous pockets of mythology incarnate in the modern world. The Infernals fashion three diabolical temptations for the twins, each one an attempt to forever isolate brother from sister.

The time has come for Fiona and Eliot to be judged, and it is a matter of life—and death—that they band together and learn to use their fledgling powers. For family allegiances are constantly shifting and the twins' actions could ultimately cause a war of apocalyptic proportions.

Readers will remember Fiona and Eliot long after they've finished the last page of MORTAL COILS, and will eagerly anticipate their next adventure

By Eric Nylund

A Tor Trade Paperback Original
ISBN: 0-7653-1797-4
$14.95/608 pages
Publication date: February 3, 2009

ABOUT GEEKERATI RADIO – Geekerati Radio is an online radio show hosted by Christian Lindke, Shawna Benson, Bill Cunningham, and Eric Lytle which features discussion of popular culture by geeks for geeks and is a featured show in the BlogTalkRadio network. The Geekerati Radio show airs Wednesday nights at 7pm Pacific and the archives are available 24/7.