Hello and welcome to the first Robot Round-Up of 2013! It’s been three weeks since our last, pre-holiday-season Round-Up, which means there’s absolutely loads to tell you about. So, without further ado or faff, strap yourselves in and off we’ll go.

Nexus by Ramez NaamIt’s been a titanic few weeks for Ramez Naam, whose debut sf thriller Nexus was officially published on January 3rd, but actually came out in the US and ebook editions in mid-December. Here’s a run-down of the review coverage that we’ve seen so far:

• Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing: “Nexus is a superbly plotted high tension technothriller … full of delicious moral ambiguity … a hell of a read.”
• James Floyd Kelly at Wired.com’s GeekDad blog: “It’s good. Scary good. Take a chance and stop reading now and have a great time reading a bleeding edge technical thriller that is full of surprises.”
• Tom Shippey for the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Naam sees all the angles of future technology almost too imaginatively to keep up with … Nexus joins Paul McAuley’s Fairyland (1995) as a double-edged vision of the post-human.”
• David Pitt at BookList: “Naam has set himself a difficult challenge here: he’s telling a story in which much of the action and dialogue takes place inside the characters’ minds. But he succeeds admirably”.
• Ben Goertzel at H+ Magazine: “Nexus, as well as being a fun read, has something to contribute to the dialogue that humanity is now having with itself, as it creates the transhuman future.”
• Mieneke at A Fantastical Librarian: “Nexus was a fabulous read. The plot was riveting and this near future SF thriller was not just exciting because of its action scenes, but also because of the questions it poses the reader. It’s a compelling, intelligent and, above all, fun story that will keep you reading for far longer than you intended.”
• Dragana at Bookworm Dreams: “Nexus by Ramez Naam reminds me of my favorite science fiction authors: Cory Doctorow with dystopia/government conspiracy themes, Michael Crichton with unexpected twists and action/adventure, Arthur C. Clarke because everything Ramez Naam described has a scientific background.”
Upcoming4me.com called it “Great and thought provoking stuff reminiscent of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson or Accelerando by Charles Stross.”
• Katherine McCarthy, writing for the Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technologies said: “If it isn’t the cinematic handling of some very futuristic images or the curious immersion of cybernetic pondering into the narrative flow; Ramez Naam’s Nexus will impress a reader with one very unusual device: it is the unadulterated humanity with its entire heritage that is the most alien and unfamiliar of this world.”

Meanwhile, Ramez was interviewed by tech portal Ars Technica about the genesis of Nexus. And by Trevor Hogg at Flickering Myth about the evolution of technology. And by Brenda Cooper for SFSignal on the subject of trans-humanist fiction. And by Kristin at My Bookish Ways, talking about all things Nexus and sci-fi in general. And he was named Geekwire’s Geek of the Week in an interview with them.

Ramez was also a guest poster on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, where he explains the Big Idea behind Nexus and he talked about re-wiring the brain over at IO9.com. He was a guest of the 41st episode of the Audio Tim Podcast with Tim Ward, and the 35th episode of Cesar Torres’s Labyrinth Podcast as well.

The Merchant of Dreams, by Anne LyleLikewise out this month we have the second instalment in Anne Lyle‘s Night’s Masque saga of Elizabethan fantasy and intrigue, The Merchant of Dreams, which has been reviewed by Mieneke at A Fantastical Librarian, who said: “The Merchant of Dreams is a fantastic sequel to The Alchemist of Souls … Lyle is a master of blending historical fact and fantastic fiction and she’s only gotten better with her second book.” And Shadowhawk at The Founding Fields said: “Full of vitality and some spectacular sequences, The Merchant of Dreams is simply fantastic.”

Anne was also a guest poster on Mary Robinette Kowall’s My Favourite Bit column.

Coming to a bookstore near you in a few short weeks, Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter has also been attracting more attention of just the kind we like to see:

• Michelle at BCF Book Reviews said: “At it’s heart, it’s a beautifully written story, not only exploring the complexities between Cat and Finn, but also her changing relationships with her parents, and the other men who enter her life.”
• Leah at LeahRhyne.com said: “I read this book with a constant sense of impending doom…I expected disaster and drama around ever corner. But this isn’t one of those books. This book is more subtle, a much more realistic picture of an imagined world, and I loved it.”
• Zuleeza at **QWERTY** was definitely feeling the lurve: “this book is heavy on the romance side. The science fiction element is there but very subtle but not as much until it becomes superficial. Instead, it gives the story this otherworldly quality.”
Escapism Fanatic was likewise enamoured: “It was a story of love, temptation, need, growing up, about friends and most important it was about never changing hopeless love. Does love conquer all? No, certainly not but yes, it changes you … The story was heart breaking and tragic yet it left you content that perhaps love is all you need.”
• Katie at Turner’s Antics clearly concurred: “This book is about LOVE mostly and family, betrayal, emotion and what happiness means, but so totally science fiction. It is an amazing book and I enjoyed so much that I will be looking for more books by Cassandra Rose Clarke.”

Cassandra wrote a guest post on eihics and robotics for The Qwillery and another on the most Magical of Christmases ever for Starmetal Oak Reviews.

The Dead of Winter, by Lee CollinsLee Collins‘s November release, The Dead of Winter, was reviewed by Mihir at Fantasy Book Critic said: “Lee Collins marks himself out with his debut that has an eclectic mix of genres and some pretty terrific prose and characterization to dazzle readers with.” And by Keith at Adventures Fantastic, who said: “This is a fantastic blend of western and horror, a fine addition to the subgenre of weird western. If your tastes run to weird westerns, monster hunting, or some combination of the two, then you’ll want to pick this one up.”

Lee was the subject of a New Author Spotlight at SFSignal.com as well.

David Tallerman‘s Crown Thief was reviewed by Ros at WarpCoreSF: “[Easie] Damasco is the kind of vivacious, irreverent character who will steal your affections, and any book with him in it is too short.”

Adam Christopher‘s Seven Wonders was reviewed extremely enthusiastically by Stephan at The Ranting Dragon: “If you are a fan of comic books and superheroes, Seven Wonders may well be your perfect read. Its grand scale and impressive prose will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys comics. Its flamboyant action and incredible characters will entertain you for hours.”

Chuck Wendig‘s Blackbirds was reviewed by Amanda at Opinions of a Wolf, who called it “a dark, gritty tale that literally takes urban fantasy on a hitchhiking trip down the American highway.” And the second Miriam Black book, Mockingbird, was reviewed by Ashik at The Ranting Dragon: “Chuck Wendig’s Mockingbird is a fast-paced and horrific urban fantasy with sharp dialogue, nuanced characters, and an original voice in a glutted genre. Wendig grabs you by the collar then throws you down a set of literary stairs and leaves you begging for more.”

Jo Anderton has written a guest post for Abhinav Jain’s ‘Names: A New Perspective’ blog post series, entitled ‘A Squishy Treasure Map‘ and just how that applies to the world-building behind Debris and Suited.

The latest instalment in Emma Newman‘s ongoing Split Worlds short story series, ‘The Quiet Librarian’ has been posted and hosted by Emma Pass.

And now, time for some Awards and Plaudits!

‘Tis the season for end-of-year-reviews and best-of-year-lists, and we’re chuffed to bits that our authors have been mentioned, recommended and plaudited by the following reviewers and bloggers (many thanks, all!)

Madeline Ashby‘s debut vN was named in IO9’s Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2012, alongside the luminary likes of Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Scalzi, Patricia McKillip…

Blackbirds, by Chuck WendigAfter a hard-fought battle over several rounds of public voting, the Ranting Dragon Most Beautiful Cover of 2012 award went to Chuck Wendig‘s Blackbirds, featuring the gorgeous design work of the always-awesome Joey Hi-Fi! Huge thanks to all who voted and please feel free to click the cover image to see a larger version in all its detailed glory.

Meanwhile, polling is currently open to name The Qwillery‘s 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars Cover of the Year and we have three awesome pieces of artwork in the final ballot: Dead Harvest, Blackbirds and The Dead of Winter. You can cast your vote here, should you be that way inclined. (Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that if you do decide to vote for any of the other nine shortlisted covers, we will be forced to release the robo-hounds on your ass. Just sayin’.)

Abhinav Jain named Lee Collins‘s The Dead of Winter as his Best Book of the second half of 2012, with honourable mentions for The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm and Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher as well. Plus, The Dead of Winter, Adam Christopher‘s Empire State, Chris F. Holm‘s Dead Harvest and Anne Lyle‘s The Alchemist of Souls were all named in his Best Debuts of 2012 list! Wow. Cheers, Abhinav!

Adam Christopher‘s Seven Wonders, and Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes were both included in the Top 5 Novels of the Year by Eric at SuperheroNovels.com.

Roqoo Depot declared Paul S. Kemp‘s first Egil and Nix adventure, The Hammer and the Blade, to be the Best Book of 2012.

Matthew Hughes, Chuck Wendig and Lee Collins were all mentioned in Larry’s ‘Top New-to-Me Authors of 2012’ list at 42Webs.

Aaaand… that’s your lot. Phew! You’ve read and memorised everything already? Good. We shall be asking questions later… but probably not before our compiler-bot has been for a bit of a lie down and a shot of something suitably medicinal (ohhh, my aching digits…)

Until next week: be good to one another. And if you can’t be good, be quick on your propulsion-units.