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Smugglivus Day 19 – Guest Author: Sam Sykes

Welcome to Smugglivus 2009 – Day 19!

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.

Today’s Guest: Sam Sykes, fantasy author who debuted this year with a short story in the anthology The Dragon Book.

Recent work: Humane Killer, in The Dragon Book (a story written with Diana Gabaldon!). This was one of Ana’s favourite shorts in the anthology, reviewed here. Sam’s first novel, Tome of the Undergates, is going to be published in 2010, and we cannot wait!

Please give it up for Sam with his top reads of 2009, what he is looking forward to in 2010 and an exclusive except of his book!


Bonjour, Smugglets! After the long and gruesome “Decade of Broken Dreams” (as dubbed by Time magazine), a New Year is finally upon us. Personally, I found it to be a pretty good year for me, but damn if I’m going to pass up the chance to be a part of a length of time that feeds on shattered hope and possibly the tears of orphaned kittens.

As to what’s been new and exciting this year, specifically, I can’t comment entirely. After being accepted to Gollancz Books, I began voraciously devouring their authors, in lieu of their tender hearts and sweet brain meats, to gain their knowledge and courage. To that end, though, I’d certainly like to share what I found to be some fairly substantial moments of good tidings this year.

Chief among my favorites was Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (that is the last time I’ll mention his name, since he is summoned if anyone speaks his name thrice and attempts to steer the blog toward discussions of himself). I’m an immense fan of that guy’s style and violently consumed The First Law trilogy.

His decision to produce standalone novels, I feel, is an excellent way to experiment with a variety of other styles and I would wholeheartedly urge anyone at all interested in stabbings, garrotes, poisons, murder, love unrequited and love obscene, as well as a fine aroma of suggested incest to get in on the ground floor with this book.

You probably shouldn’t tell him I said any of that, though. You can tell him that I’m going to knock his ass flat with fists made of hate, though.

It may be the penultimate sin in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but before The Steel Remains, I hadn’t even heard of Richard Morgan.

Suffice to say, I was pretty pleased to find out what I’ve been missing with this book. Having several friends in the military, the concept of what happens to heroes when there are no more dragons to slay or armies to turn back interests me greatly. If said heroes are frequently involved in various acts of sodomy, steel or combinations of both, well, so much the better, no? It’s also worth noting that the phrase “whorl of his anus” ranks among one of the most memorable combinations of words I’ve ever read in a book.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick (the V.S. stands for Versus Sea monster, I’m told) was also pretty pleasant to discover.

For something that the genre was built on and named for, we rarely get to see elements of pure imagination and instances of the fantastic in fantasy novels these days. Any author that thinks up floating cities, luminescent fish-people and loquacious rats can probably safely consider himself one of the more imaginative ones.

Now, 2010 promises to be a pretty cool year, and not just for the fact that it’s when my own piece comes out!

A lot of people have compared my style to that of Scott Lynch, author of the supremely fantastic The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies. A lot more have asked me if I’ve ever considered eating his brains to steal his ideas. These latter people, whom I will call “the police,” may have good cause to worry if his third book, Republic of Thieves comes out in 2010, as predicted. To say I’m frothing at the mouth to find out what happens (and more importantly, what happened) is horrifying…but accurate, in this case.

Like all people possessed of good morals and time on their hands, I’m looking forward to Wise Man’s Fear, the next work by Patrick Rothfuss, and I daresay it’ll probably shape a lot of opinions about the series as a whole.

Alex Bell, the most talented young lady to ever have refused me the request to hurl her like a javelin, has her new Lex Trent Versus the Gods coming out, too, I believe! She’s got style, humor and flair to spare, as well as a dog the size of a goddamn BUICK! How could you not like her?

I’ve heard tell that the one dude’s next book, The Heroes, might be out in 2010. If so, I’ll probably do my best to get my hands on it without having to pay for it, since that guy doesn’t need my money. If not, I suppose I’ll send him an envelope full of farts, because he seems like he might like that.

I suppose there might be one or two people wondering what they can expect from me in this upcoming year, though. I suppose, therefore, that I should probably tell you to expect Tome of the Undergates in April of 2010. But what exactly should you expect, beyond a cover possessed of exceedingly badass water?

Tome of the Undergates, more than anything, is a book about exploration and discovery. It’s a story about discovering friends, the kind of friends who are there for you…or not…or maybe they stab you in the back, or perhaps kill you to fulfill their cultural mandate, or possibly hide something that could kill you all.

It’s a story about discovering faith, and of always being possessed of the wonder if they’re there and listening to you, or if you should listen to the giant fish-demon telling you they aren’t as he strangles the life out of you.

It’s a story about discovering love, the kind of love that makes your creed of genocide suddenly in question, that makes you wonder if the screaming will ever stop, that makes you want to punch rocks, cut throats open and feel people up in the night.

None of that is hypothetical, by the way. It’s all in the book. But probably the best way to prove that I’m not a tremendous liar is to show you a brief excerpt…

“So,” Denaos spoke loudly to be heard over the sound of hammering, “why the sudden interest in the fairer sex?”

Lenk paused and looked up from his duty of nailing wood over their wrecked boat’s wound, casting his companion a curious stare.

“Sudden?” he asked.

“Oh, apologies,” the rogue laughed, holding up a hand. “I didn’t mean to suggest you liked raisins in your curry, if you catch my meaning.”

“I…really don’t.”

“Well, I just meant you happened to be all duty and grimness and agonizing about bloodshed up until this point.” Denaos took a swig from a waterskin as he leaned on the vessel’s railing. “You know, like Gariath.”

“Does…Gariath like raisins in his curry?”

“I have no idea if he even eats curry.” Denaos scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose he’d probably like it hot, though.”

“Yeah, probably.” Lenk furrowed his brow. “Wait, what does that mean?”

“Let’s forget it. Anyway, I’m thrilled to advise you on the subject, but why choose now, in the prime of your imminent death, to start worrying about women?”

“Not ‘women,’ exactly, but ‘woman.’”

“A noble endeavor,” Denaos replied, taking another swig.


There was a choked sputter as Denaos dropped the skin and put his hands on his knees, hacking out the droplets of water. Lenk frowned, picking up another half-log and placing it upon the companion vessel’s hole.

“Is it that shocking?” the young man asked, plucking up a nail.

“Shocking? It’s immoral, man.” The rogue gestured wildly off to some direction the aforementioned female might be. “She’s a shict! A bloodthirsty, leather-clad savage! She views humanity,” he paused to nudge Lenk, “of which you are a part, I should add, as a disease! You know she threatened to kill me back in Irontide?”

“Yeah, she told me.” Lenk began to pound the nail.


“And what?” He glanced up and shrugged. “She didn’t actually kill you, so what’s the harm?”

“Point taken,” the rogue said, nodding glumly. “Still, that’s the sort of thing you’re lusting after here, my friend. Say the Gods get riotously drunk and favor your union, say you’re wed. What happens when you leave the jam out overnight or don’t wear the pants she’s laid out for you? Do you really want to risk her making a necklace out of your sack and stones every time she’s in a mood?”

“Kat doesn’t seem like the type to lay out pants,” Lenk said, looking thoughtful. “I think that might be why I…” He scratched his chin.

“Approve of her.”

“Well, listen to you and your ballads, you romantic devil.” The rogue sighed, resting his head on folded arms. “Still, I might have known this would happen.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, you’ve both got so much common,” he continued. “You, a grim-faced runt with hair the color of a man thrice your age. And her…” Denaos shuddered. “Her, a woman with a lack of bosom so severe it should be considered a crime, a woman who thinks it’s perfectly fine to smear herself with various fluids and break wind wherever she pleases.” His shudder became an unrestrained, horrified cringe. “And that laugh of hers…”

“She has her good points,” Lenk replied. “She’s independent, she’s stubborn when she needs to be, doesn’t bother me too much…I’ll concede the laugh, though.”

“You just described a mule,” Denaos pointed out. “Though, you grew up on a farm, didn’t you? I suppose that explains a lot. Still, I suppose this particular match was meant to be.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean you’re both vile, bloodthirsty, completely uncivilized and callous people and you both have the physiques of prepubescent thirteen-year-old boys.” The rogue shrugged. “The sole difference between you is that you choose to expel your reeking foulness from your mouth and she from the other end.”

“Glad to have your blessing, then,” Lenk muttered, hefting up another log. “So, what do you think I should do?”

“Well, a shict is barely a step above a beast, so you might as well just rut her and get it over with before she tries to assert her dominance over you.”

“Uh…all right.” Lenk looked up, frowning. “How do I do that?”

“How’d you do it the first time you did it?”

“What, with Kat?”

“No, with whatever milkmaid or dung-shovelstress you happened to roll with when you first discovered you were a man, imbecile.”

Lenk turned back to the boat, blinking. He stared at the half-patched wound for a moment, though his eyes were vacant and distant.

“I…can’t remember.”

“Ah, one of those encounters, eh?” Denaos laughed, plucking up the waterskin from the sand. “No worries, then. You might as well be starting fresh, aye?” He brushed the dirt from its lip and took a swig.

“Really, there’s not much to it. Just choose a maneuver and go through with it.”

“What, there’s maneuvers?”

“Granted, the technique might be lost on her…and you, but if you’ve any hope of pleasing a woman, you’ll have to learn a few of the famous arts.” A lewd grin crossed his face. “Like the Six-Fingered Suldana.”

“And…” Lenk’s expression seemed to suggest a severe moral dilemma in continuing. “How does that go?”

“It’s not too hard.” The rogue set down the waterskin, then folded the third finger of each hand under it, knotting the two appendages over themselves. “First, you take your fingers like this. Then, you drop a gold piece on the ground and ask the woman if she wants to see a magic trick, then you—“ He paused, regarding Lenk’s horrified expression, and smiled. “Oh, almost got me to say it, didn’t you? No, no…that one’s a secret, and for good reason. If you tried it, you’d probably rupture something.”

“Maybe all this is for nothing,” the young man said, turning back to the boat. “I mean, it’s not usual to…do this sort of thing right after confessing your feelings, is it?”

“Love has nothing to do with feelings, you twit. Or at least, love-making doesn’t. It’s an art, created to establish prowess and technique.”

“I’m…I’m really not sure I want to do that, then.”

“Fine,” the rogue sighed dramatically. “I was trying to spare you some embarrassment, since I severely doubt your capabilities of conveying anything remotely eloquent to her. Then again, she is a barbarian, so perhaps just grunting and snorting will do.”

“I was planning on something like that,” Lenk said, grinning. “But, out of curiosity, if Khetashe does smile upon me…what maneuver do I use?”

“Something simple,” Denaos said, shrugging. “Like the Sleeping Toad.”

“The Sleeping Toad?”

“A beginner’s technique, but no less efficient. You simply request that your lady wait until you’re asleep, then have her do her business with such delicate sensual eroticism that you barely even stir.”

“Huh…have you ever tried it?”

“Once,” the rogue said, nodding.

“Did it work?”

Denaos looked out over the sea thoughtfully, took a long sip from the waterskin. “You know, I really have no Gods damned idea.”

So, how about that? Pretty intense, huh? I bet the guy who wrote that is a total stud and probably solves mysteries with a sentient motorcycle and a chimpanzee sidekick.

Watch for the rest of it in April! And Happy Smugglivus!


And a happy Smugglivus to you too, Sam!

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  • Sarah Rees Brennan
    December 19, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Sir, I applaud you – I’ve been keeping an eye out, and I think you’re the first dude to mention a lady’s book!

  • AnimeJune
    December 19, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Most of these recommendations sound stellar – except BEST SERVED COLD. Abercrombie holds the dubious honour of being the first author to make me physically ill while reading his book, and I’ll never read anything of his ever again. As a writer, he’s very evocative and descriptive – but when the majority of what he’s doing is describing just how a man’s guts explode out of his anus in a poetical manner…ick.

  • Rhiannon Hart
    December 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Wonderful list of recommendations. I’m going to give them to my boyfriend. (I think he’ll enjoy the exploding guts, AnimeJune!) Also, I’m looking forward to Tome of the Undergates. I think it’s out in Australia shortly.

  • RKCharron
    December 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for the post. I like your selections and thank you for the excellent excerpt.
    Happy Holidays!

  • Danielle
    December 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Guts from an anus, you say? *intrigued*

    Wonderful post, Sam. I am thouroughly sold.

  • Roxy
    December 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Those books all look very interesting. I’m also looking forward to the Wise Man Fears.

    I really had to laugh out loud at guts from the anus comment… 🙂

  • Celia
    December 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I appreciate this post not only for its guy-book recommendations, but also for the laugh-out-loud quality. Tears of orphaned kittens, etc. Great. Stuff. Thanks!

  • Carolyn Crane (CJ)
    December 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Wow, thanks for the great excerpt and these recs! The Steel Remains sounds VERY intense.

  • Kestrel
    December 20, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Agreed with the disagreement over Abercrombie. Way too dark for me!

    I have to say I wasn’t too intrigued by Tome either, since the cover looks, well…kind of cliche. But that excerpt was -fantastic-. This is now near the top of my must buy pile, for sure. xD

  • KMont
    December 21, 2009 at 11:05 am

    By golly, I like this particular post. I snorted and chuckled and even snorted some of my lunch.

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