One day, in the very distant future, a man decides to go outside for a walk.  Never mind that the outside air is a toxic mix of very unfriendly gases, that no other human would dare volunteer for such a pastime.  Never mind that this walk will be a very short, one way trip.

I introduced myself to John Scalzi’s writing earlier this year with Redshirts, a book that springs from the very important question of just why so many unfortunate space explorers wearing red uniforms die in the Star Trek universe.  I was immediately impressed with Scalzi’s witty choice of story concept, his handling of larger themes, and use of unconventional plot devices.  I enjoyed meeting his characters and engaging in their quick, intelligent dialogue.  The world he built felt fresh, young, and bright.  So, I was very eager to pick up Lock In, hoping to find more of the same, and I wasn’t disappointed.

If you can survive the opening scene of The Last Son of Ahriman, you’ll be doing good.  I don’t mean that in a it-takes-a-while-to-get-into-the-story kind of way.  I mean it in a do-your-best-not-to-get-eaten-by-a-horrible-monster-or-sucked-into-a-terrifying-portal-to-a-hell-dimension kind of way.

A Steampunk fantasy from Harper Voyager, The Clockwork Dagger is Beth Cato’s first novel in what will be a series in this universe. I was a little wary when I noticed that it was not only Ms. Cato’s first novel, but was 354 pages long. (Sorry, but all sorts of red flags go up in my head when I see long page counts on first books.)  Fortunately, Ms. Cato knows what she’s doing, as I quickly got caught up in the very rich and descriptive world she has created.

I love reading novels set in different times and places which is probably why I’m such a huge fan of Steampunk, science fiction, and fantasy. Dragonfly Warrior, Jay Noel’s first novel from 4 Wing Press, is a solid and enjoyable story set in an alternate Steampunk Asia.

Superheroes seem to be everywhere in current pop culture; their movies break bank at the box office, their comics consistently sell well, and children collect figures and video games featuring their favorites; however, society forgets that these superheroes didn’t evolve in a vacuum. Marvel and DC didn’t wake up one day and decide to invent individuals with extraordinary powers.  Author and storyteller Csenge Virag Zalka uses her book, Tales of Superhuman Power, to explore and reveal the ancient roots of many current superpowers.  Through her collection of fifty-five folktales, readers can learn how humans have been fascinated with exceptional skills since the creation of stories.

Those who follow my reviews (Thanks for reading, by the way!) may be tired of hearing my constant praise for Smart Pop Books and their awesome publishing line, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m about to stop anytime soon! For those who are unaware, Smart Pop’s publishing line is sure to thrill any fan of geek culture, debate, and discussion and also features a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Star Wars, Veronica Mars, and many, many more! It’s amazing offerings like these that make Smart Pop the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.

A walled city of crime, drugs, and prostitution in the middle of a prosperous enclave sounds like something out of a creative dystopian novel; however, it was the reality in Hong Kong until Kowloon Walled City was demolished between March 1993 and April 1994.  New author Ryan Graudin blends reality and fiction in her second novel, The Walled City, to create an eerie, harsh world where emotional ties can cost you your life, and the best policy is to trust no one.

Shiva and his tribe eagerly accept an invitation from the Suryavanshis (sun tribe) to migrate from rural Tibet to the fertile land of Meluha to leave behind the struggles of fighting other tribes for resources and simple survival in the harsh terrain; however, when the young man experiences a strange reaction to the Somras, a special life extending medicinal drink, his new country hails him as a predestined savior who will lead them to triumph over their enemies, the Chandravanshis (moon tribe). As he rapidly tries to absorb customs and rules of his new life Shiva also searches to resolve his feelings about his elevated role.  Does he want to be held up as a symbol of hope for an entire people, and is he really capable of doing what the prophecies foretell anyway?

When it comes to my reviews of volumes put out by Smart Pop Books, I can’t help but start every article with a gushing endorsement of the publisher and their products. Smart Pop’s publishing line is a geeky reader’s dream come true, featuring a number of brilliant and highly enjoyable essay anthologies focusing on popular culture subjects like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games, Veronica Mars, and many, many more. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Smart Pop Books established itself a long time ago as the go-to publisher for the intelligent and introspective geek.

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