Monday, August 31, 2009

World Fantasy Award Nominee: The Graveyard Book

Monday, August 31, 2009 0

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman
2008
Nominated for the World Fantasy Award: Best Novel

You know how a book (or anything) can receive an extraordinary amount of hype and buzz and good word of mouth and critical acclaim, so much so that by the time you get around to reading you wonder if it can possibly be that good? That’s The Graveyard Book. It has won the Newberry, the Hugo, is nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Can it possibly be as good as all that?

Well, yes. Actually.

The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody Owens. The novel opens with the murder of his parents and sister. The killer, Jack, would have killed Bod except that very young Bod managed to wander off and escape into the neighboring graveyard. The ghosts of the graveyard decide to take Bod in and raise him and protect him from the outside world, specifically from the man who still wishes to kill him. Bod is given the Freedom of the Graveyard, which offers him far more over the years than a simple permission to live there.

Through the eight chapters (and one interlude) readers will watch Nobody Owens grow from a toddler to a fifteen year old young man, have a variety of adventures both inside and outside of the graveyard, and face down the man who killed his family. This spoils nothing, this is implied throughout the novel.

The Graveyard Book is beautifully written, it is graceful and it is clever, and beyond all of that – it’s a hell of a good story. In short, it is everything you want from a story. It is quietly funny.
Really, he thought, if you couldn’t trust a poet to offer sensible advice, who could you trust?
There is tension, action, discovery, hidden plots and secret histories. There is a boy who lives in a graveyard and counts ghosts and his friends and family.

The Graveyard Book is the sort of book where you don’t talk about genre or publishing categories when you talk about it. You just hand it to a friend, your mother, your priest, your cabbie, a stranger and say “read this. It’s really good,” and expect them to thank you later.

Outstanding. Spectacular. Delightful. Wonderful. There are all sorts of adjectives to use when talking about The Graveyard Book. Choose one. I’ll probably have meant that one, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Queen of the Iron Sands: Scott Lynch to serialize novel

Sunday, August 30, 2009 0
In 1943, Violet DeVere and her fellow WASPs did their part to help destroy an axis of brutal dictators that threatened the future of planet Earth.

In 1950, Violet DeVere will be kidnapped across a hundred million miles of space, to an impossible empire on the ancient planet Mars, where she will rise alone to defy an invincible tyranny that dooms fifty million souls...
Queen of the Iron Sands is a "planetary romance unfolding weekly", from Scott Lynch.

Lynch has joined the ranks of those serializing novels online and for free.

Lynch writes,

So, let's set some ground rules.

First, those of you doing a potty dance for a certain forthcoming novel should know this won't slow down my work on that, because I can't let it. I've taken a couple of hours to set the HTML for this project up, but after this, I won't be writing for Queen of the Iron Sands for some time. I've got five finished installments lined up like bullets ready to be fired, and even with the accelerated pace of my first-week releases those will keep me for a month.

Second, this story is free. It's got nothing to do with any existing contract, it's no publicity stunt for any upcoming project (though it is, for damn sure, a publicity stunt for my work in general, meant to end my long silence in the loudest possible fashion). I have a donation button, for those that wish to throw some coins in the jar, but think of it in those terms-- pay what you like, as a tip, to show that you enjoy the story, and to help me keep presenting it. If you don't like the story, you don't owe me nothin'.

I'll check this out. The two novels he has published were outstanding, so I have high hopes for this while we wait for Republic of Thieves. Because we're waiting for Republic of Thieves, and Lynch is well aware of the score.

The first chapter is up now.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Paul Cornell's Thirty Comics for Hugo Voters

Saturday, August 29, 2009 3
A week ago Paul Cornell posted a list of thirty comics that are worth considering for the Best Graphic Novel category next year at the Hugos.

I've only just been getting into comics this last year, so this is a great resource to find some comics to read.

There's some good stuff that I've heard of, some that I've read, and a whole lot that I now want to read.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kitty Raises Hell, by Carrie Vaughn

Friday, August 28, 2009 2
Kitty Raises Hell
Carrie Vaughn
Grand Central Publishing: 2009


With her sixth Kitty Norville novel Carrie Vaughn offers the first truly direct sequel of the series. Kitty Raises Hell directly follows the events of Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand. After Kitty’s wedding in Las Vegas (this is nothing like Zach and Kelly’s Saved By the Bell wedding, by the way) and accompanying adventures and conflicts with a troupe of performing werewolves attempting to resurrect Tiamat, an ancient demon, she returned back home to Denver knowing she left enemies in Vegas.

Carrie Vaughn remains at the top of her game. By the sixth book of any series, the characters and the setting and the situations are no longer shiny and new. The new story smell has worn off. To maintain the interest of readers by this point the author just has to be good. Tell a good story. Vaughn succeeds. Kitty faces unexplainable supernatural attacks, interacts with the crew of Paradox PI (a show very similar to Ghost Hunters), and is introduced to what may be a major conflict in future volumes though it is only a minor one here. See, a vampire comes to town and for vampires Denver is Rick’s town. He is the Master. The new vampire offers a solution to Kitty’s problems, but Kitty doesn’t trust this new vampire. The offer is too good to be true, and Kitty knows how the saying goes.

Regarding Paradox PI...this is an aspect of the novel that was very well done. The introduction initially seems to be ripping the show Ghost Hunters.
The whole thing had a reality-TV aesthetic, lots of shaky video footage of people talking, the occasional expletive bleeped out. It promoted a sense of artificial urgency. They'd never come up with something as definitive as an image of Jacob Marley rattling his chains, but they always pretended that they might. Bottom line: It was a TV show, not paranormal investigation.
Kitty's viewpoint damn near castigates the show, but when she meets up with the crew she realizes that though the show has its own presentation, the investigators are really trying to prove (or disprove) as much as they can knowing full well that any evidence is shaky. It's respectful, and that's cool.

What works so well in Kitty Raises Hell is that Carrie Vaughn introduces new elements to her world, and does so in a natural way. She has Kitty question things in her job as a radio host, and she shows different perspectives as to what may be possible and what Kitty herself believes. Vaughn doesn’t make things clear cut and, in a sense, has Kitty play the role of the skeptical audience. This, along with Kitty being a likeable and relatable (for being a werewolf) lead character really drives the novel. There are challenges and Kitty would rather hide away but stands and faces and investigates and solves. It’s not that Kitty Norville is wish-fulfillment, but Carrie Vaughn consistently tells an entertaining story with a believable heroine who isn’t superwoman. Vaughn also raises the stakes and expands the reader’s understanding of this alternate (or semi-hidden) world of lycanthropes and vampires, which is also a world populated with real people.

Let’s just say that I remain impressed with Carrie Vaughn and the Kitty Norville series.


Reading copy provided courtesy of the Hatchette Book Group


Previous Reviews
Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Kitty Goes to Washington
Kitty Takes a Holiday
Kitty and the Silver Bullet
Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Update! Republic of Thieves Prologue

Thursday, August 27, 2009 0
Folks, the prologue to Scott Lynch's forthcoming The Republic of Thieves is available and out in the wilds of Lynch's website. Check it the hell out. This will be our first glimpse at Sabetha.

Lynch has also provided us patient readers a 40,000 word excerpt from Red Seas Under Red Skies complete with notes after each chapter. Lynch mentions that's something like 140 pages of mmpb. Duuuude.

Lynch's note regarding the excerpts is here. He also mentions that there will be a new, lengthy, Lies of Locke Lamora excerpt next week.

Good stuff, folks. Good stuff.

There is still no announcement regarding a publication date, but I think it's safe to assume that we are actually nearing both an announcement as well as publication.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Federations, by John Joseph Adams

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 0

Federations
John Joseph Adams (editor)
Prime Books: 2009

Though he has only been editing anthologies for a two years, John Joseph Adams has been quite prolific. With his first anthology appearing on shelves January 2008 (the excellent Wastelands), Federations in his fourth anthology. Two more are still due this year (By Blood We Live, and The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), two in 2010 (The Living Dead 2, The Way of the Wizard), and one so far for 2011 (Brave New Worlds). Expect more from Adams. What should be evident by this point is that JJA has an excellent eye for picking out a good story, be it a reprint or a never before published piece of fiction. With Federations John Joseph Adams blends stories original to this anthology with reprint stories from the likes of George R. R. Martin, Alastair Reynolds, Robert J. Sawyer, and Anne McCaffrey.

In the introduction, Adams writes,
These classic federations have revealed and shaped much of American life. But with this anthology, we look to see what comes next. What will the interstellar federations of the future look like now that our society accepts (for the most part) racial and gender equality?...There will always be federations on the horizon, in our future, describing who we wish we were, or might become.
Through a blend of reprints from the masters and stories original to this anthology, Federations does exactly that. The strongest story in this anthology is Robert J. Sawyer’s “The Shoulders of the Giants.” This is a story which takes the idea of the first interstellar ship sent out from Earth to colonize another world. Twelve hundred years to the world of Soror and the colonists come out of cryo-freeze to find that what they left Earth so long ago to do have long been done. On one hand this is a sad story because it is a dream that when realized is nothing like what it was supposed to have been. But, it is a story that recognizes that everything that humanity has accomplished is built upon the shoulders of those who came before. It’s a beautiful story. It’s worth the price of admission.

Alastair Reynolds delivers another standout with “Spirey and the Queen”, and “Warship” by George R. R. Martin and George Guthridge is a short and dark tale of plague on a starship. The reprints offer some serious quality, but the original stories stand up well.

L.E. Modesitt Jr delivers a solid story in “Life-Suspension”, as does Yoon Ha Lee with “Swanwatch”. “Swanwatch” is a story of an impossible exile, a life sentence with a once a decade chance to product an artistic masterpiece so good that the judges will commute the sentence. Allen Steele tells a new Coyote story with “The Other Side of Jordan”, which is a world I’m not familiar with but the story is enough to make me want to find out more. “Eskhara” from Trent Hergenrader is another solid one.

Usually an anthology can be considered to be worth reading when the good stories outweigh the bad, and with any luck there are will be one truly standout story. Federations is so much more than that. There are only a couple stories which actually disappoint (the John C. Wright is the most glaring example), most stories are more than just good, and a couple rise to be truly excellent (Robert J. Sawyer’s contribution stands out). Federations is an outstanding anthology.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Prime Books

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Total Oblivion, More or Less

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 0
You know that Forthcoming list I posted recently about what I was looking forward to in the fourth quarter of 2009?

Yeah, I've got something to add to it. The debut novel from Alan DeNiro, Total Oblivion, More or Less. DeNiro is the author of the story collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead.
In the summer between Macy Palmer’s junior and senior year of high school in Minnesota, Scythians, Thracians, and other ancient European tribes invade the Midwest. America becomes a ravaged land where modern technology barely works, a strange plague is rampant, and American citizens flee for their lives. Many end up doing what the Empire–which comes equally out of nowhere to keep the peace–tells them to do. Macy and her family find themselves torn from their ordinary lives and in a refugee camp just outside of Minneapolis. They end up making a desperate journey down the Mississippi River, which has mutated into a dangerous waterway.
Seriously, folks. How can I not want to read that?

Total Oblivion, More or Less is set to publish November 24. Nothing says Thanksgiving like post-apocalyptic novels.

Starfall, by Stephen Baxter


Starfall
Stephen Baxter
PS Publishing: 2009


Beginning with an interstellar war as distant colonial star systems intend to wage war back on the home Sol System for their independence, Starfall is a tense and exciting novella. It is a story which spans decades, from the first wave sent out to attack Earth to the battle itself, and the aftershocks of the war. The details about the background of this future galaxy is fascinating and begs further exploration. For all that this is a novella of fewer than 100 pages and not a 800 page gargantuan Hamilton-esque novel, Starfall is a story rich with detail and history. Starfall is as fully realized as any longer novel, it’s just all compressed into a smaller package. There’s technology, wormholes, sentient computer viruses, interstellar war, scientific future history, time travel, and it’s all told in a smooth, but fast paced manner.

I want more of it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Samuel R. Delany Interview at Omnivoracious

Monday, August 24, 2009 1
There's an interview of Samuel R. Delany up at the Amazon blog Omnivoracious. Matthew Cheney is the interviewer, and wrote the introduction to Delany's revised book of essays The Jewel Hinged Jaw.

It's worth reading.

World Fantasy Award Nominee: Strange Roads


Strange Roads
Peter S. Beagle
2008
Nominated for the World Fantasy Award: Best Collection

Strange Roads is a short collection of three original stories from writer Peter S. Beagle. Published by DreamHaven Books, a Minneapolis based specialty bookstore, Strange Roads was limited to 1000 printed copies. The three stories collected in Strange Roads are “King Pelles the Sure”, “Spook”, and “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel”. “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel” is also nominated the World Fantasy Award as Best Novella, and has been reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Three.

This is a slim volume, only 69 pages, but the three stories contained within these 69 pages are impressive works of Peter Beagles imagination.

The collection opens with “King Pelles the Sure”, the story of a monarch of a small unnamed nation. This nation is peaceful and filled with happy people. Even the peasants. Everyone except King Pelles, of course. King Pelles dreams of war and glory, but only a small war without much killing. Just the glory and excitement would be enough, and then the nation could go back to its peaceful and tranquil ways. The Grand Vizier, the King’s advisor, advises against this course of action (as advisors are wont to do), but the King is insistent. Pelles gets his war and, being a war, is neither small nor glorious.

The story begins with a slight air of fable, and at its core “King Pelles the Sure” is a story of a lesson learned, but Beagle tells this story with such a gentle touch that even through the devestation readers can’t help but be charmed. It’s a story about how one handles mistakes and owns up in the end, a story about what people leave behind, and a story about how the words and deeds of a person can live on. In terms of what happens to the characters I don’t know that the story ends well, but for the readers “King Pelles the Sure” ends well indeed.

The second story in Strange Roads is “Spook”, a more modern tale which features three men, a ghost, and a duel of bad poetry. Seriously. The opening of the story did not hook me in right away, but the concept of a 170 year dead ghost believing a modern man was his murderer and challenging the man to a duel is outstanding. It gets better from there when the man has the choice of weapons and selects Bad Poetry to the death. The poetry is bad (and is excerpted as part of the story), but contextually funny and the reactions of the characters (including the ghost) is outstanding. The funny is not knee slappingly outrageous, but the second half of “Spook” makes it a funny story. In the end, “Spook” is a better story than I originally expected. It is the least of the three stories in Strange Roads, but it’s a good tale.

Beagle closes the collection with the World Fantasy Award nominated novella “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel”. Narrated by the ten year old nephew of Uncle Chaim, this story deals with what happens when an angel demands to be the muse of a seventy six year old painter. The angel commands Chaim to paint only herself from that day forward. After some grumpy arguing, that is exactly what Chaim does. The story follows Chaim through the heady days of success and the growing suspicions of Aunt Rifke and even Chaim’s friend Jules. The conversations between Chaim and the angel suggest that something isn’t quite right, but in no way is Chaim is being harmed. Except for withdrawing only to paint, Chaim and his family is reaping financial benefits. But there are questions. Peter Beagle answers the questions and he does so in a graceful and beautiful way. By the end of “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel”, the one word that came to mind was “beautiful”

Uncle Chaim was silent for some time, squinting at her face from different angles and distances, even closing one eye from time to time. Finally he grumbled, more than half to himself, “I got a very bad feeling that we’re both supposed to learn something from this. Bad, bad feeling.” He filled the little glass for the first time that day, and went back to work. pg 46

Not that the other two stories were loud, but this is a quiet story. There is nothing flash here, but we are left with something quite wonderful in the end. A story of grace and power and beauty, a story that ends just when it needed to and leaves the reader satisfied.

With only 69 pages to Strange Roads, it is logical to ask how a collection this short is worthy of a World Fantasy Award nomination. Not that length should generally be a requirement of anything more than distinguishing between a short story, novella, and novel, but at this length the three stories would have to be special indeed to hold up against longer collections from Jeffrey Ford, Kelly Link, and Nisi Shawl (Shaun Tan is a special case here). Not having read the other four collections yet, it is difficult to say exactly how Strange Roads will stack up. On its own merits, Strange Roads is a strong collection of stories. There’s not a lot of content, but what content is here is quite good. I don’t know how I might answer someone who said that no matter how good it may be, a three story collection still isn’t enough for a nomination. These three stories are worthy (note the novella nomination) and Strange Roads feels longer than its page count.

This is all just to say that this is an excellent collection and one which is well worth tracking down a copy to read.


As kind of an afterword to this review, I wanted to briefly touch on the copy on the back cover of the book.

Peter S. Beagle presents three tales inspired by the engaging sculptures and paintings of Lisa Snellings-Clark. A collaboration characterized by the wonder inherent in each of the artists’ work, Strange Roads is a perfect companion to Strange Birds.

I confess, I had never heard of Strange Birds and had to do some digging to find out what it was that Strange Roads was a perfect companion to. It confused me, and I couldn’t find another Peter Beagle book by that name or a book written by Lisa Snellings-Clark. Until I found the info on Snellings-Clark’s website. Strange Roads is the second volume in the “Strange” series, following 2006’s Strange Birds. Strange Birds was a similar collaboration, but featured two stories from Gene Wolfe inspired by the work of Lisa Snellings-Clark. Like Strange Roads, Strange Birds was also a limited edition publication put out by DreamHaven Books.


Final Afterword: All three stories were later published in Beagle's collection We Never Talk About My Brother. Expect a review of that volume in the next three weeks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SF/F/H Reviewer Linkup Meme, 2nd Edition

Sunday, August 23, 2009 0
Here's the Second Round of John Ottinger's big reviewer linkup. Well...the list is big, he isn't necessarily implying that the reviewers are. If you click the previous link it'll provide instruction on how to link it up on your blog / site / thingy.

So, here you go. Reviewers A-Plenty.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German


A





7 Foot Shelves

The Accidental Bard

A Boy Goes on a Journey

A Dribble Of Ink

Adventures in Reading

A Fantasy Reader

The Agony Column

A Hoyden's Look at Literature

All Booked Up

Alexia's Books and Such...

Andromeda Spaceways

The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ask Daphne

ask nicola

Audiobook DJ

aurealisXpress

Australia Specfic In Focus

Author 2 Author

AzureScape



B





Barbara Martin

Babbling about Books

Bees (and Books) on the Knob

Best SF

Bewildering Stories

Bibliophile Stalker

Bibliosnark

Big Dumb Object

BillWardWriter.com

The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf

Bitten by Books

The Black Library Blog

Blog, Jvstin Style

Blood of the Muse

The Book Bind

Bookgeeks

Bookrastination

Booksies Blog

Bookslut

The Book Smugglers

Bookspotcentral

The Book Swede

Book View Cafe [Authors Group Blog]

Breeni Books



C





Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]

Charlotte's Library

Circlet 2.0

Cheryl's Musings

Club Jade

Cranking Plot

Critical Mass

The Crotchety Old Fan



D





Daily Dose - Fantasy and Romance

Damien G. Walter

Danger Gal

It's Dark in the Dark

Dark Parables

Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews

Darque Reviews

Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog

Dead Book Darling

Dear Author

The Deckled Edge

The Doctor is In...

Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

Drey's Library

The Discriminating Fangirl

Dusk Before the Dawn



E





Enter the Octopus

Erotic Horizon

Errant Dreams Reviews

Eve's Alexandria



F





Falcata Times

Fan News Denmark [in English]

Fantastic Reviews

Fantastic Reviews Blog

Fantasy Book Banner

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Book Reviews and News

Fantasy By the Tale

Fantasy Cafe

Fantasy Debut

Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings

Fantasy Literature.com

Fantasy Magazine

Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' News and Reviews

Feminist SF - The Blog!

Feybound

Fiction is so Overrated

The Fix

The Foghorn Review

Follow that Raven

Forbidden Planet

Frances Writes

Free SF Reader

From a Sci-Fi Standpoint

From the Heart of Europe

Fruitless Recursion

Fundamentally Alien

The Future Fire



G





The Galaxy Express

Galleycat

Game Couch

The Gamer Rat

Garbled Signals

Genre Reviews

Genreville

Got Schephs

Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

Grasping for the Wind

The Green Man Review

Gripping Books



H





Hasenpfeffer

Hero Complex

Highlander's Book Reviews

Horrorscope

The Hub Magazine

Hyperpat's Hyper Day



I





I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending

Ink and Keys

Ink and Paper

The Internet Review of Science Fiction

io9



J





Janicu's Book Blog

Jenn's Bookshelf

Jumpdrives and Cantrips



K





Keeping the Door

King of the Nerds



L





Lair of the Undead Rat

Largehearted Boy

Layers of Thought

League of Reluctant Adults

The Lensman's Children

Library Dad

Libri Touches

Literary Escapism

Literaturely Speaking

ludis inventio

Lundblog: Beautiful Letters



M





Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review

Mari's Midnight Garden

Mark Freeman's Journal

Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars

MentatJack

Michele Lee's Book Love

Missions Unknown [Author and Artist Blog Devoted to SF/F/H in San Antonio]

The Mistress of Ancient Revelry

MIT Science Fiction Society

Monster Librarian

More Words, Deeper Hole

Mostly Harmless Books

Multi-Genre Fan

Musings from the Weirdside

My Favourite Books



N





Neth Space

The New Book Review

NextRead

Not Free SF Reader

Nuketown



O





OF Blog of the Fallen

The Old Bat's Belfry

ommadawn.dk

Only The Best SciFi/Fantasy

The Ostentatious Ogre

Outside of a Dog



P





Paranormality

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

Patricia's Vampire Notes

The Persistence of Vision

Piaw's Blog

Pizza's Book Discussion

Poisoned Rationality

pornokitsch

Post-Weird Thoughts

Publisher's Weekly

Pussreboots: A Book Review a Day



Q





R





Ramblings of a Raconteur

Random Acts of Mediocrity

Ray Gun Revival

Realms of Speculative Fiction

Reading the Leaves

Review From Here

Reviewer X

Revolution SF

The Road Not Taken

Rob's Blog o' Stuff

Robots and Vamps



S





Sandstorm Reviews

Satisfying the Need to Read

Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics

Science Fiction Times

ScifiChick

Sci-Fi Blog

SciFiGuy

Sci-Fi Fan Letter

The Sci-Fi Gene

Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]

SciFi Squad

Scifi UK Reviews

Sci Fi Wire

Self-Publishing Review

The Sequential Rat

Severian's Fantastic Worlds

SF Diplomat

SFFaudio

SFFMedia

SF Gospel

SFReader.com

SF Reviews.net

SF Revu

SF Safari

SF Signal

SF Site

SFF World's Book Reviews

Silver Reviews

Simply Vamptastic

Slice of SciFi

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Solar Flare

Speculative Fiction

Speculative Fiction Junkie

Speculative Horizons

The Specusphere

Spinebreakers

Spiral Galaxy Reviews

Spontaneous Derivation

Sporadic Book Reviews

Stainless Steel Droppings

Starting Fresh

Stella Matutina

Stuff as Dreams are Made on...

The Sudden Curve

The Sword Review



T





Tangent Online

Tehani Wessely

Temple Library Reviews

Tez Says

things mean a lot

Tor.com [also a publisher]

True Science Fiction



U





Ubiquitous Absence

Un:Bound

undeadbydawn

Urban Fantasy Land



V





Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic

Variety SF



W





Walker of Worlds

Wands and Worlds

Wanderings

Wendy Palmer: Reading and Writing Genre Books and ebooks

The Weirdside

The Wertzone

With Intent to Commit Horror

The Wizard of Duke Street

WJ Fantasy Reviews

The Word Nest

Wordsville

The World in a Satin Bag

WriteBlack

The Written World



X





Y





Young Adult Science Fiction



Z





Romanian





Cititor SF [with English Translation]



French





Elbakin.net

Mythologica



Chinese





Foundation of Krantas

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [with some English essays]

Yenchin's Lair



Danish





Interstellar

Ommadawn.dk

Scifisiden



Portuguese





Aguarras

Fernando Trevisan

Human 2.0

Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm

Ponto De Convergencia

pós-estranho

Skavis



German





Fantasy Seiten

Fantasy Buch

Fantasy/SciFi Blog

Literaturschock

Welt der fantasy

Bibliotheka Phantastika

SF Basar

Phantastick News

X-zine

Buchwum

Phantastick Couch

Wetterspitze

Fantasy News

Fantasy Faszination

Fantasy Guide

Zwergen Reich

Fiction Fantasy



A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eclipse Three, Jeff VanderMeer, Thoughts

Saturday, August 22, 2009 0
Jeff VanderMeer talks a little bit about the lineup for Eclipse 3.
Jonathan Strahan has announced the line-up for Eclipse 3 and it’s extremely strong. Let me blunt. In the wake of the fall-out from the mindblowing SF stories antho being all white males, it’s just as important if not more important to celebrate anthologies that seem more diverse and inclusionary. In other words, being proactive means not just complaining about what seems wrong but praising what seems right.
And
The more anthos like this that succeed in the marketplace, the more diversity you’re going to see, and less reliance on the same safe names (from a book sales point of view–which is the main way that publishers gauge how they think an anthology is going to do). The more anthos like this that don’t succeed in the marketplace, the more you’re going to see a fall-back reliance on what’s comfortable for publishers. Activism means letting your money talk for you, sometimes.
Exactly.

When I posted the TOC for Eclipse 3
I didn’t say anything about it at the time and I should have. Not necessarily because of the Mindblowing SF fallout, but because I was critical of the TOC of Eclipse 2 (which was in response to the lack of women on the cover of Eclipse 1). It’s all to easy to be silent when stuff doesn’t raise my irk-level, but VanderMeer is right. The line-up for Eclipse 3 IS extremely strong. It’s an exciting list of authors and includes Nnedi Okorafor, Nicola Griffith, Peter Beagle, Daniel Abraham, Jeffrey Ford, Elizabeth Bear, and Ellen Klages – to mention seven names which make me pay attention. There is gender diversity. I can’t speak to other forms of diversity because unless I’ve been to the writer’s website, I don’t know skin color, and I don’t know orientation unless it has come up elsewhere.

This is just to say that Jonathan Strahan has exceeded expectations for what a diverse anthology lineup should and could look like. More, I have complete trust in Strahan’s editorial eye that he has also selected the best stories possible. That’s what he does, and what he should do. What the TOC shows is that the net was cast widely.

This is a TOC which truly excites me and that I feel compelled to read. I expect the highest levels of quality, because that is what Strahan delivers with his anthologies and that is what these writers deliver with their fiction.

Uncle Hugo's is Minnesota's Authentic American Experience

Via File 770

My favorite local bookstore, Uncle Hugo's, has been featured on Time.com's listing of 50 Authentic American Experiences. The author, Reed Tucker, selected Uncle Hugo's as Minnesota's Authentic American Experience.
In this age of the world-devouring chains, an independent bookstore is as rare a sight as a first edition of Harry Potter. An independent bookstore devoted to science fiction is even rarer still. But since 1974, Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis has been stocking its shelves with a huge variety of new and used sci-fi books and earning a national rep among fans of the genre.
Awesome!

I am a big fan of browsing the used shelves of Uncle Hugo's and seeing what I can find. I've picked up more than a few C.J. Cherryh novels in book club edition hardcovers, the early Steven Brust Vlad Taltos novels, and my greatest discovery (for which I need to give credit to Etoile9 for making sure I didn't miss it)...nearly the entire set of Wild Cards novels in paperback. 13 of them, all at once. And other stuff, of course.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Language of Dying, by Sarah Pinborough

Friday, August 21, 2009 0

The Language of Dying
Sarah Pinborough
PS Publishing: 2009


This is a long, slow, story of grief and death. The narrator, a thirty-nine year old woman, tells the story of The Language of Dying to you, her father. It’s a first person narrative, but the use of “you” gives the impression of second person. You are dying and you are taking a long time of it.

Standing there in the kitchen I still think that death is a clinical thing. You look so sick. You’ve given up. You haven’t drunk anything. I think this should surely be enough to make death take over. I am wrong of course. You have so much more dying to do yet. You have to become so much less before you go. The doctor is in fact, spot on. One week. Maybe a little less. The body fights, you know?

Through each chapter the experience of a woman waiting for her father to die while simultaneously caring for him becomes more and more stark. Her siblings show up and in flashbacks the reader is given glimpses of the home life of their childhood, how they were together and what home was like back then. This is in striking contrast to the narrator's understanding that the death of her father will likely cause the siblings to slowly drift away from each other with no anchor left. This resonates.

When I hear other people say they have unusual families, I smile. Our family has so much colour that the brightness is damaging.

As Graham Joyce points out in his introduction, Sarah Pinborough is best known as a horror writer, but here the horror is not the supernatural. The horror is what we will all have to face eventually and in a variety of ways. The horror is the personal horror of waiting while a loved one dies slowly.

The Language of Dying is a beautiful, painful, stunning story. It doesn’t do anything so cliché as pluck at heartstrings. It is a realistic portrayal of a woman and a family dealing with her father dying slowly in her house. It’s not easy, but damn is this an outstanding story.


Reading copy provided courtesy of PS Publishing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best American Fantasy 3: Table of Contents

Thursday, August 20, 2009 0
Jeff VanderMeer has posted the Table of Contents for Best American Fantasy 3: Real Unreal, and has some info regarding the future of the series. Also of note is that joining the guest editors for volumes 4, 5, and 6 are Minister Faust, Junot Diaz, and Catherynne M. Valente.

Further of note, helping out on the editorial side are Larry Nolan and Fabio Fernandes. Very cool for those two.
“Safe Passage” by Ramona Ausubel (One Story, Issue 106)
“Uncle Chaim, Aunt Rifke, and the Angel” by Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
“Cardiology” by Ryan Boudinot (Five Chapters, 2008)
“The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children” by Will Clarke (The Oxford American, Issue 61)
“For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing” by Martin Cozza (Pindeldyboz, July 6 2008)
“Daltharee” by Jeffrey Ford (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
“Is” by Chris Gavaler (New England Review, Volume 39, Number 2)
“The Torturer’s Wife” by Thomas Glave (The Kenyon Review, Fall 2008)
“Reader’s Guide” by Lisa Goldstein (F&SF, July 2008)
“Search Continues for Elderly Man” by Laura Kasischke (F&SF, September 2008)
“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF, January 2008)
“The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” by Stephen King (F&SF, October/November 2008)
“Couple of Lovers on a Red Background” by Rebecca Makkai (Brilliant Corners, Summer 2008)
“Flying and Falling” by Kuzhali Manickavel (Shimmer, The Art Issue 2008)
“The King of the Djinn” by David Ackert & Benjamin Rosenbaum (Realms of Fantasy, February 2008)
“The City and the Moon” by Deborah Schwartz (The Kenyon Review, Spring 2008)
“The Two-Headed Girl” by Paul Tremblay (Five Chapters, 2008)
“The First Several Hundred Years Following My Death” by Shawn Vestal (Tin House 34)
“Rabbit Catcher of Kingdom Come” by Kellie Wells (Fairy Tale Review, The White Issue)
“Serials” by Katie Williams (American Short Fiction, Summer/Fall 2008)

I really need to get back to that first volume. I read the first story a year ago, liked it, but never read the rest of the volume. It's weird, because I'm excited about this anthology series.

Bone & Jewel Creatures publication date and jacket copy

More Elizabeth Bear news, this time for her "book made of steampunk and shambling undead", and who can beat that?

Bone & Jewel Creatures is slated for publication in March 2010 and it now has jacket copy. You can read all about it (including the jacket copy) over at Bear's livejournal.

Forthcoming 2009: Q4

Welcome to the latest installment of "Stuff I'm Looking Forward To This Year". As always, I take my information from the Locus Forthcoming list, plus a little bit of extra research when I'm aware of things that should be on the Locus list and are not. Not a big knock on Locus, though, because that list is a primary source in seeing what major works are coming out during the year. The list does need to be updated, though, and pushed out into 2010.


My standard opening statement:
Usually early in whatever quarter of the year we're in I like to take a look at the Locus list of books coming out in the next quarter. I just like to see what's coming out that I should keep an eye out for. It's about that time. So, here's what I think looks good in the fourth quarter of 2009. Obviously, publishing schedules can and do change.


October
A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin: Yes, yes. We know that this isn't coming out in October. It's just not. But because I'm using the Locus Forthcoming list for this, I just had to mention it. Whenever this comes osut, it's my anticipated novel of the year. I should really start my series re-read, though.

Canticle, by Ken Scholes: The sequel to Lamentation. Let's see how Scholes develops this series and what he has up his sleeve. Lamentation was a very solid debut.

Eclipse Three, by Jonathan Strahan: The new installment from one of my two favorite original anthology series (the other being Fast Forward). I must read this. I also must read Eclipse Two, which I have sitting on my shelf at home. So, yes, the strength of that first volume was enough that Eclipse will be perpetually anticipated.

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld: Everyone says this is awesome. What Westerfeld I have read has been awesome. Therefore, I must read this.

Under the Dome, by Stephen King: New Stephen King. It's another 1000+ page sprawling monster of a novel. Will it be good? Oh, god, I hope so.

The Best Horrors of the Year 1, by Ellen Datlow (editor): Honestly, this is my wild card. I wasn't a reader of the Datlow / Grant / Link Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series, but Ellen Datlow is one of the preeminent editors working today and I am quite curious what she has in store with an Best Of anthology.


November
Makers, by Cory Doctorow: By this point Cory Doctorow's name is enough to get me to read something, be it a short story or a novel (the disappointing yet Hugo nominated "True Names notwithstanding). Makers is currently being serialized on Tor.com and for no good reason, I'm avoiding the serialization. I want my Doctorow in one complete package. As such, I have no idea what this novel is about. All I know is that I must read it.

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest: New Cherie Priest. Must I say more? If so, you haven't read her four previous novels and you are not aware this is a Civil War Steampunk novel that has enough promise that I think it could be one of the year's best and could even breakthrough to the mainstream. I may be projecting, but I think very highly of Cherie Priest's work.

By the Mountain Bound, by Elizabeth Bear: This is Bear's follow-up to All the Windwracked Stars.

The Silver Skull, by Mark Chadbourn: The beginning to a new series from the author of the Age of Misrule trilogy. The Age of Misrule is solid, and Pyr's purchase of Chadbourn's work and bringing it to the States was a major deal, and I really want to see what Chadbourn is all about.

The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: Do I need to say it?

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories, by Mary Robinette Kowal: I haven't written about Kowal recently, but if you've been paying attention you know how much I like her stories. This is her first collection, a short chapbookish set from Subterranean Press.


December
Suicide Kings, by George R. R. Martin (editor): It's a new Wild Cards novel. Seriously folks, that should be enough to get everybody pumped for it. If you don't know Wild Cards, go quick read Inside Straight and see what the hell I'm talking about. Love it. Then go read Busted Flush. That'll prepare you for Suicide Kings (it's the third book of the Triad). After all that, you'll be ready to go back and read all the other books in the series.

The God Engines, by John Scalzi: Scalzi does fantasy and he does so without humor. He's been quite successful with his science fiction, so much so that I really want to see what else he has in his bag. This is a novella from SubPress.

Gunpowder 2, by Joe Hill: You can guess from the title, but this is a follow up to the first Gunpowder novella. I imagine the title will change.

The Iron Khan, by Liz Williams: The fifth volume in the Detective Inspector Chen series. The first three are quite good and I plan to start the fourth volume (Shadow Pavilion) shortly. It's mystical detective work in the Eastern city of Singapore Three and prominently features Demons (one is a major protagonist), plus Heaven and Hell.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Czech cover to Elizabeth Bear's Hammered

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 0
Folks, have y'all seen the new Czech cover to Elizabeth Bear's first Jenny Casey novel Hammered? Well, probably not if you aren't following the Czech SF scene or if you don't read Bear's livejournal.

If you've missed it, check it out.

Can't wait to see more from this Elizabeth Bearova.

Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation, by Martin Millar


Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation

Martin Millar
1987

Here’s a short novel that is just about as bizarre as they come. Alby is a 26 year old paranoid who believes nearly everybody is out to get him, either for his rare comic collection or because he is the cause of the drastic decline in sales of milk. The thing about being paranoid is that when folks really are out to get you, you’re not wrong. Of course, Alby sees enemies everywhere and his actions are increasingly erratic.

We’ll gloss over the comic collection and talk about milk for a moment. See, Alby had been consistently telling his doctor that he was sick and the doctor consistently told Alby that nothing was wrong with him. But when Alby tried a new diet where he fasted for five days, gradually added simple food items back into his diet, and discovered he was allergic to milk. That should have been the end of it, except Alby told someone else about the diet and that person was also allergic to milk. That person brought another to Alby to learn about the diet, and quite soon there was an epidemic of people believing they were allergic to milk. Alby achieved a certain level of notoriety with his “starvation diet” and milk sales plummeted with the newfound fear of milk. Taking steps to eliminate Alby and regain profits, the Milk Marketing Board hires assassins to kill Alby. Yes, people really are out to get Alby.

There are a number of storylines which will eventually converge into one big mélange of dénouement. There are two Chinese guys, Cheng and Wu, who were once friends and now rivals at the arcade. Their contests are the stuff of legends and when they play, everybody else watches. There is June, the assassin hired to kill Alby. June goes about her work and generally doesn’t like people. There are Fran and Julie, two party girls who are Alby’s friends. There is a University Professor digging for the lost crown of Ethelred the Unready and a psychic woman watching him. There’s a bunch of things going on in this novel that do not seem to have any connection to Alby’s storyline. That’s the crazy thing about Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation. In such a slim volume, Martin Millar packs in a number of stories and a variety of strange concepts (The Milk Marketing Board hiring contract killers, for one. The Big Value subplot is another)

Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation is a crazed semi-gonzo novel with an extraordinarily unlikeable and uninteresting protagonist. The front cover has a positive blurb from Neil Gaiman and I believe the novel gets at a certain punk sensibility in which the ravings of a deluded man can really change the “system” and get an “average” guy involved with some pretty crazy people. I believe this is a novel that engages some readers on a level that I just don’t have. That Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation is a novel which has a number of admirers is something I do understand, but this is a novel which I failed to engage with on any level. Though the novel is only 170 pages, I hoped for an assassination of Alby in the first third of the novel so that I didn’t have to read his paranoid whinings anymore. The semi-random side stories seemed to be exactly that, random. They are not, of course, because the conclusion to the novel brings absolutely everything together in one big shmoz.

Readers who appreciated A Clockwork Orange or Trainspotting (the books or the films) may well find much to enjoy with Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation. It’s that kind of story. Only problem here is that I am not the audience for that kind of story and as such, cannot truly judge how successful Martin Millar was in telling this story. That Soft Skull reprinted the novel some 20 years after it was first published would suggest that Millar was quite successful in his storytelling. If you like this sort of story, it’s likely worth checking out. It’s just not for me.


Reading copy provided courtesy of Soft Skull Press

Eclipse Three Table of Contents

Jonathan Strahan has announced the Table of Contents for Eclipse Three and it's a great lineup. Now I really can't wait to read the book!

"The Pelican Bar", Karen Joy Fowler
"Lotion", Ellen Klages
"Don’t Mention Madagascar", Pat Cadigan
"On the Road", Nnedi Okorafor
"Swell", Elizabeth Bear
"Useless Things", Maureen F. McHugh
"The Coral Heart", Jeffrey Ford
"It Takes Two", Nicola Griffith
"Sleight of Hand", Peter S. Beagle
"The Pretender’s Tourney", Daniel Abraham
"Yes We Have No Bananas", Paul Di Filippo
"Mesopotamian Fire", Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
"The Visited Man", Molly Gloss
"Galápagos", Caitlín R. Kiernan
"Dolce Domum", Ellen Kushner
And check out that cover art!

Just as wonderful is Strahan's confirmation that there will be an Eclipse Four.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

placeholder post holds places

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 0
On my mini-vacation this past weekend I managed to hit up two used bookstores and came home with a buncha books I didn't leave Minnesota with.

Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds
Boys Life, by Robert McCammon
Godbody, by Theodore Sturgeon
Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Manifold: Time, by Stephen Baxter
Once, by James Herbert
Selling Out, by Justina Robson


If that's not enough, I did a little bit of reading on vacation (that's what happens with two flights)

Federations, by John Joseph Adams (editor)
Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation, by Martin Millar
Burnout, by Rebecca Donner
Asimov's Science Fiction: June 2008
300 pages of It, by Stephen King

I was a busy Joe. And Busy-Joe needs to get some reviews lined up for this week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fate of Thorik, by Anthony G. Wedgeworth

Monday, August 17, 2009 1

Okay, y'all. I know I have a general policy of not reading self-published books, but this is a special situation. I received a review copy to review this book elsewhere and at that time, neither party realized this was self-published. The fact that it was precluded publication elsewhere and it sat in limbo for a few months.

Now it is free, and this one is so special I just had to share it with all of you. Also note that this is being gentle and an attempt to be both fair and professional in the review. Did I succeed?

PS: I think George Lucas needs to sue someone, because I kept waiting for a brownie to scream out "I stole the baby! I stole him from a stupid daikini who was taking a pee pee!" I also expected Thorik Dain to be called a peck, and someone to find Cherlindrea's Wand. Seriously. I'm half tempted to re-write this damn thing for humor, but we'll just go with what I originally wrote back in April.

Also, the above was not part of the fair review. The below is.

Fate of Thorik
Anthony G. Wedgeworth
2008


With a five page prologue Anthony Wedgeworth introduces readers to the world of Terra Australis, a land in danger. “Now that the council members are dead, no one else knows of the upcoming attack. The fate of the land now rest on my shoulders. Its imperative that I survive,” thinks the wizard Ambrosius. After the prologue the true story of Fate of Thorik begins. The reader is introduced to Thorik Dain, a sixteen year old polenum. Num, for short, as nums are dwarf / hobbit / nelwyn-esque. The polenum of Thorik’s village find Ambrosius injured and nurse him back to health. Ambrosius convinces Thorik to help him save the world. Joining Ambrosius and Thorik are a small band of Num.

Thus the stock epic-fantasy traveling party is assembled and the journey begun. The one difference here is that rather than a band of dwarves, or human rangers, Thorik’s party consists of his disapproving teacher, a child, a pretty she-num, Thorik’s primary rival, and Thorik’s borderline Alzheimer’s suffering grandmother who, of course, dispenses wisdom like candy. Not the stock troupe, but soon they join with a pacifist giant and a dragon named Draq. Really.
Fate of Thorik is a standard fantasy quest novel. Young man has a destiny beyond his mundane existence and with the appearance of a mysterious stranger, will spend at least one novel chasing that destiny. Many fantasy novels use this basic set up in a variety of ways. The best of them are so good that even when the author follows the carefully charted map the reader does not mind, or even notice until later reflection. Fate of Thorik follows a fairly generic story-map, but unfortunately Wedgeworth’s skill is not up to the task.

This is a poorly written, poorly edited novel. The quote from the first paragraph of this review is a good example. Page 53 offers another.

“His heart raced, chest tightened and emotions upset his stomach. Terrified to follow her lead he had the same level of desire to let go of his self-inflicted inhibitions and be free. Closing his eyes, he swallowed and chose the latter.”

This is not simply three sentences taken out of context. This is representative of what readers can expect to find in the novel. With stronger prose readers may overlook other flaws. With this sort of prose readers will notice that on page 26 Ambrosius refers to December 13. Anthony Wedgeworth certainly does not need to come up with strange and creative ways to name the months in Terra Australis, but December pulls the reader out of the story (assuming the reader was ever in the story). The anachronism grates. On the other hand, Wedgeworth has given far more creative names to the various creatures populating Fate of Thorik. Chuttlebeats, ov’unday, blothrud, and bandercats are only some of what readers can expect to find in this novel. Readers might have overlooked the multiple mentions of marshal law. Whether this is an instance of poor editing, a simple mistake, or ignorance, there is little question that the context is martial law. It is distracting, but Fate of Thorik is one instance after another like this, to the point that when Ambrosius mentions that a ride may be a smooth as “yakka cream” the only response available is to laugh. What else is left?

This ignores that each chapter is given a “Historical Date”. The novel opens on the Historical Date of 4.0649.0913. This breaks out to the 4th Age, 649th Year, 9th Month, 13th Day. Specific dates are not overly important in a fantasy novel (or in most novels), but having to translate the timecode each chapter is a bit much. It is just one more thing.

All of this is to say that Fate of Thorik is to be avoided. To say that there are better novels out there would be to suggest that the sky is blue or that water is wet.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On the Death of Asmodean

Thursday, August 13, 2009 0
I'd never seen this before, but Leigh Butler (she of the Tor.com re-reads) pointed out a very comprehensive look at Asmodean's murder.

It's a good reminder and doesn't clear anything up, but the fact that it doesn't says a lot for how cloudy Asmodean's death was.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bone Dance, by Emma Bull

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 0

Bone Dance
Emma Bull
1991

When it was first published Emma Bull’s Bone Dance was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Given that each nomination came from a different pool of readers, it’s an impressive achievement. There is some overlap, sure, but the Nebula is peer voted, the Hugos are fan voted, and World Fantasy is a juried award. Which is to say: Holy crap!

Which is to say that years later, Bone Dance has a lot to live up to.

Bone Dance is the story of, and is narrated by a character named Sparrow. Sparrow’s gender is not made clear in the first half of the novel, and I’m not going to write much about what happens in the second half, but what I am willing to say is that I initially read Sparrow as being female. I suspect the cover art has something to do with this, but it is also the impression I got from the text.

Sparrow is…well, Sparrow is a collector and a seller. Sparrow makes deals and finds rare artifacts from the past – movies, CD’s, and the related. See, this is a post apocalyptic world where the city is called The City and it runs on barter. That’s what Sparrow does, [she] makes finds stuff and makes the Deal. Sparrow’s problem, one of them anyway, is that occasionally [she] blacks out and when [she] wakes [she] is someplace else – sometimes an unknown part of the city, with no recollection of was done or said or why.

The first half of the novel (or so) sets all this up, gets Sparrow into some trouble with very dangerous people, and fairly well keeps the reader in the dark as to what is happening. The second half of the novel reveals the background to what was going on and some of the history of how the apocalypse happened that we are now in the post of. Emma Bull also challenges everything we thought we knew about this world and more specifically about Sparrow. Things ain’t what they seem. Gender isn’t inherently essential to Bone Dance, but since gender is part of identity, I’m being purposefully vague as to what is going on. Besides, Bull herself is vague on the details in the first half of the novel. My gender choice to describe Sparrow is entirely tied into how I read the character for the first half of the novel.

Of course, just by pointing this out I call attention to it that might not have otherwise been there. If I don’t mention gender do you think about it?

Switching gears: What I found exceptionally cool is that The City is Minneapolis. Emma Bull never explicitly states that, but the first hint was when the Nicollet Mall was referenced. I just made an assumption at that point. Then I-394. I’m sure if I were more familiar with Minneapolis I would have picked up a lot more early on, but alas, I am not. But the locks and dams, I-94 to Cedar, and later the names of surrounding suburbs pretty well nails The City as Minneapolis.

Not that this really matters. It doesn’t. The City *could* be any city. I just like seeing SFF set in Minnesota.

Bone Dance is subtitled “A Fantasy for Technophiles”, which is to suggest that while there are strong fantasy elements (things that don’t and can’t exist), it is set in a SF milieu. Post apocalyptic, lots of broken down technology. That sort of thing. It’s post apocalyptic urban fantasy where urban fantasy simply means fantasy set in an urban environment (like War for the Oaks) instead of paranormal romance.

There’s something else I want to bring up – the chapters of Bone Dance are built around cards of the tarot, and there are three definitions given on each chapter beginning. I very much believe this is important and that Emma Bull didn’t waste her time putting that information into the book. My confession, though, is that it didn’t make a lick of sense to me. Not as I was reading the book and not going back and looking at some of that those chapter headings. I can’t make head nor tail of them. I suspect that this will enhance the reading experience of some, but it was a distraction for me.

The first chapters of the novel did not completely sell me on the forthcoming narrative. But once Emma Bull drew me deeper into the central mystery of what is happening to Sparrow and to the core conflict of Bone Dance, then I was hooked.

I don’t know if Bone Dance was the best novel the year it was published or if it was truly stronger than other novels not nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. What I do know is that Emma Bull can tell a good story and this is a stronger novel than her excellent debut War for the Oaks, and that Bull has improved with each of the three novels I have read (in publication order, mind you). Emma Bull is a major talent and Bone Dance is a strong novel that is not without its flaws (it can get a bit confusing, and even as a narrator Sparrow is not entirely a sympathetic character…which isn’t necessarily a flaw), but as a whole, Bone Dance is a solid and mostly impressive novel. It’s worth the read.


Reading copy provided by Tor Books.


Other Review
Territory

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Karen Traviss quits Star Wars

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 14
I’ve got some disappointing news, folks. Karen Traviss has decided to stop working in the Star Wars franchise. The forthcoming second season of The Clone Wars Animated Series is apparently going to force changes to her depictions of Mandalore and Mandalorians and would necessitate wholescale changes to her future SW novels. Rather than make the changes (and invalidate a whole lot of work she has put into those books + spend a whole lot of time on the changes), Traviss decided to leave the franchise. She will have two novels left (Imperial Commando: 501st and Imperial Commando 2) and then nothing.

This leaves readers without future Imperial Commando novels or the promised Boba Fett book. Plus whatever else would come through the pipeline. Del Rey and LucasArts is clearly happy with the work (and sales) of Karen Traviss since they keep giving her money to write more. There would probably be more.

As a reader of the Star Wars novels I believe that the franchise will be weakened by not having more from Karen Traviss. In my view, she is one of the strongest writers working on Star Wars (along with Matthew Stover, Michael Stackpole, and Aaron Allston – all for very different reasons) and the loss will be felt. It will also be felt because Traviss writes from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground and gives a view not from the Big Name Jedi. The view from the clone commandos (and from some of the Jedi leading them) is very different from, say, Obi Wan or Anakin. It’s the story of the characters without the big picture but who have to live with the decisions on the ground.

It’s realistic and dirty in a way that Star Wars frequently is not.

Now, if you read the message boards on theforce.net, you’ll see a lot of Traviss-Hate…which seems to stem from a fundamental disagreement with A) her focus on Mandalorian culture, B) perceived changes to canon and continuity, and C) her perceived Jedi hate.

I can’t speak to B, because I just assume everything fits together somehow without dealing with the nuts and bolts. I think A is a mark in her favor because it brings to life another culture from Star Wars and she’s the only writer who really works from that perspective…so maybe 9 novels out of more than 100. C, in my mind, stems entirely from the fact that Karen Traviss writes from a very tight third person perspective. So tight that readers get the view from a very limited selection of characters – frequently the Clone Soldiers or Mandalorians: Characters who have NO REASON to like the Jedi and who have their own opinions. So, while these may be the views of Traviss towards the Jedi, it should be read specifically as the views of those characters. Meaning – and this is what irks me about that forum – not everyone loves the Jedi and some have legitimate gripes based on their perception and life experiences. And yes, there are Jedi who become disillusioned with the war and the order because of their experiences with soldiers on the ground. They say Traviss glorifies the soldiers and the Mandalorians – and yes – from the perspective of those who live it. I doubt that Yoda would have the same experience. And yes, Jaina was somewhat seduced by the lifestyle – but bear in mind she’s soldier trained as much as she is Jedi trained. There probably is a certain seductiveness to that culture for some people.

This is all to say that I will read with great joy the remaining Star Wars novels Traviss has left, and that I will look forward to the hinted at original (read: creator owned) series she has planned. Her six volume Wess’har Wars (start with City of Pearl and thank me later) is outstanding and as much as I like her SW work, I really want more from her own universes. With any luck things will work out between Traviss and LucasArts and she’ll eventually get back to Star Wars. But, if not…

Good luck Karen. Thank you for the stories.
 
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