The Sound of Useless Wings January 28, 2015 The Sound of Useless Wings Cecil Castellucci Of insect dreams and breaking hearts. Damage January 21, 2015 Damage David D. Levine Concerning a spaceship's conscience. And the Burned Moths Remain January 14, 2015 And the Burned Moths Remain Benjanun Sriduangkaew Treason is a trunk of thorns. A Beautiful Accident January 7, 2015 A Beautiful Accident Peter Orullian A Sheason story.
From The Blog
January 28, 2015
Heists and Capers Redux!
Stubby the Rocket
January 26, 2015
Why Obi-Wan Lied to Luke Skywalker
Emily Asher-Perrin
January 23, 2015
11 Winter’s Tales For Your Chilly Reading Needs!
Stubby the Rocket
January 23, 2015
Winter 2015 Anime Preview: Season of Sequels
Kelly Quinn
January 21, 2015
Don’t Touch That Dial: Midseason SFF
Alex Brown
Showing posts tagged: reviews click to see more stuff tagged with reviews
Fri
Jan 30 2015 11:00am

Song of the Shennachie: The Visitors by Simon Sylvester

The Visitors Simon Sylvester review

A contemporary twist on an old fisherman’s myth complete with an immensely atmospheric setting, a strong yet sympathetic central character and a missing persons mystery that’ll keep you guessing till all is said and done—and then some—The Visitors by Simon Sylvester has everything including the girl going for it.

For all it has to offer, Bancree has seen better days. As a remote island off the coast of Scotland—bleakly beautiful, to be sure, but truly brutal too—it and its inhabitants have been hit hard by the economy’s catastrophic collapse. “There was nothing on the island that wasn’t already dying. Half the houses were for sale. The island population numbered only a few hundred, and that dripped away, year on year.”

Little wonder, as the only booming business on Bancree is whisky, and Lachlan Crane, the son set to inherit the local distillery, is at best “a bully and a womaniser,” and at worst? Well. Time will tell. For him and for Flo.

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Wed
Jan 28 2015 12:00pm

Pull List: Nimona

Once upon a time, a bored blogger was endlessly scrolling through Tumblr when she came across some really awesome fanart. She checked out the OP and was pleased to discover a gem of a webcomic. The blogger was immediately hooked and spent the next few hours devouring everything the artist had ever created. She reblogged the artist’s mini-comics, bought copies of her fanart, and devoured her webcomic with the kind of single-minded intensity she usually reserved for 40,000+ word fanfics. Even though the webcomic has come to an end, the blogger still keeps the RSS feed on her bookmarks toolbar, because every now and again she gets a craving.

And now it’s time for you, dear reader, to fall in love with Nimona, Ballister, and Goldenloin just as your fair blogger did...

[“Aw yeah! Let’s make some evil plans!”]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 5:00pm

Delicate and Sincere: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest review Holly Black In her newest stand-alone young adult novel, The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black returns to familiar and exciting territory: faeries and dark magic at the crossing between human and nonhuman worlds. Most folks are familiar with Black’s series “A Modern Tale of Faerie” (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) which ran from 2002 to 2007; that series set up Black as a daring and clever writer of young adult stories that tend to feature queer kids and deal honestly with complex emotional and social issues.

The Darkest Part of the Forest follows also on the heels of Black’s last young adult novel, another stand-alone (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)—and I like the trend that these two books have been setting for her work going forward. Both are solid, well-paced and play interesting games with the tropes of the genre of supernatural YA; both star girls who make fucked-up decisions and are trying to learn to care about themselves and others in the aftermath. The shared narrative of growth here is more complex than just “getting older” and instead deals more with “learning to cope and be whole.”

[That’s the sort of thing I’m interested in seeing…]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 5:00pm

Don’t Touch That Dial: Midseason SFF

Midseason Television

Caped crusaders not enough for you? Need an SFF fix? Well, you’re in luck. On our second misdseason installment of “Don’t Touch That Dial,” let’s take a gander at a time-traveller trying to prevent the end of the world (12 Monkeys), an exorcist with a chip on his shoulder trying to prevent the end of the world (Constantine), and a pair of holy witnesses trying to prevent the end of the world (Sleepy Hollow). I’m sensing a theme here...

[“Without the threat of apocalypse, what is my place in the world?”]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 3:00pm

Supernatural: Dark and Monstrous

Supernatural

Previously on Supernatural: Dean creeps closer to evil, Sam becomes a total worry wort, Cas tries to figure out what women want, Crowley goes full mama’s boy, Rowena cackles and stabs her way through Hell’s hierarchy, Hannah takes a timeout, and Claire has some issues.

[“Ok, who talks like that?”]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 10:00am

Creatureville: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

The Rabbit Back Literature Society review

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen proposes that places, like people, have particular interests. Some specialise in film; some in food. Others areas boast about an abundance of athletes, or artists, or authors. The small town of Rabbit Back “was known to have no less than six writers’ associations, and that was without counting the most noteworthy writers’ association, the Rabbit Back Literature Society, which accepted members only at Laura White’s invitation.”

Laura White is an almost mythical figure in the Finland of this baffling but beautiful English-language debut, which is fitting considering the contents of her Creatureville series:

The local ceramicists for the most part produced water sprites, pixies, elves, and gnomes. Laura White had made these creatures popular all over the world through her children’s books, but in Rabbit Back in particular you ran into them everywhere you looked. They were presented as prizes in raffles, given as presents, brought to dinner as hostess gifts. There was only one florist in Rabbit Back, but there were seven shops that sold mostly mythological figurines.

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Wed
Jan 7 2015 3:30pm

This Awakening World: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven Emily St John Mandel review

The “lost world” of Station Eleven, our world, is not recovered—it can never be that, alas—but it is remembered in Emily St. John Mandel’s aching account of the apocalypse: a tale of two times which takes as its basis the affairs of the folks affected, both before and after the fact, by the actor and philanderer Arthur Leander.

The man himself dies of a massive heart attack in the first chapter, passing away onstage during the climactic fourth act of a performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, an apprentice paramedic in the audience that evening, does his level best to save the day, but Arthur Leander is already lost: the last celebrity to fall before the Georgia Flu takes them all.

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Wed
Jan 7 2015 2:00pm

Rich and Strange: “The Boatman’s Cure” by Sonya Taaffe

Ghost Signs Sonya Taaffe Happy New Year, and welcome back to Rich and Strange, where I look with some depth at short fiction that has astonished and delighted me. This week I want to draw your attention to Sonya Taaffe’s novella “The Boatman’s Cure,” included as the concluding portion of her just-released poetry collection Ghost Signs, from Aqueduct Press.

Full Disclosure: I would be honoured to consider Sonya Taaffe a friend, but for the fact that she keeps my heart in a salt-encrusted bottle on her window-sill, and will insist on giving the bottle a shake whenever she knows I am reading her words.

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 6 2015 10:00am

Primal Scream: Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti

Monkey Wars Richard Kurti review

Imagine a marketplace in Kolkata. Can you see the vendors selling stalls full of colourful fruit? Smell the heady scent of spices lacing the hazy air? Hear the buzz and the bustle of customers bargaining and bartering? Good.

Now picture the marketplace populous with as many monkeys as men and women.

Were they peaceful creatures—the monkeys, I mean—it’d be a magnificent thing; a memory to truly treasure. But they aren’t, and it isn’t. These monkeys have no money, no manners, no morals. They take what they want, when they want it, and if someone comes between them and their ends... well. People have been hurt. But because “devout Hindus believe that all monkeys are manifestations of the monkey god, Hanuman,” authorities are unable to take action against said simians.

A true story, I’m told, though the tale screenwriter Richard Kurti spins out of it—an all-ages allegory of the rise of the Nazis arranged around a tragic romance right out of Romeo and Juliet—is as much fiction as fact.

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Mon
Jan 5 2015 5:00pm

Messenger as Metaphor: The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

Like The Best of All Possible Worlds before it, The Galaxy Game is a restrained space opera committed to splitting the difference between sweeping themes and smaller, sweeter story beats. It achieves this by focusing on unsuspecting characters caught up in machinations more elaborate than they can imagine—a pretty typical trajectory, to be sure, but don’t be fooled, folks: This is the most normal thing about these extraordinary novels, which take the tropes of science fiction as starting points and twist them both conceptually and intellectually.

In place of the love story of Karen Lord’s last, The Galaxy Game gives us a study of spacefaring infrastructure-cum-coming of age chronicle of a boy from The Best of All Possible Worlds. The son of the previous protagonist’s sorry sister, Rafi Abowen Delarua also happens to have inherited the same ability to influence that his abusive father made such dubious use of—so, for a year he’s been left to languish in the Lyceum.

The sinister facility’s mandate—“to bring together all the rogue and random psi-gifted of Cygnus Beta and teach them ethics, restraint and community”—is simple; deceptively so, Rafi realises, when his masters make plain their plans to cap him.

[Read more]

Mon
Jan 5 2015 2:00pm

Here Be Lions: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown reached for the stars in Red Rising—a non-stop sprawl of story about striving and surviving as a slave to the lies of society that reminded readers of Katniss Everdeen’s plight in Panem—and almost hit that monumental mark. In Golden Son, he gorydamn does. It’s a far superior sequel, in fact: one of the rare breed of reads that improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable category.

In the first instance, this is a bigger book, with still bigger ambitions, played out across a markedly larger and more elaborate canvas—which is to say, we are no longer stuck in the Institute, where the games our carved protagonist Darrow had to play to prove his worth to the masters of Mars took place. Rather, the central Red—a rebel determined to unseat the same Society that hung his young lover for daring to sing a song—has already risen.

But that which rises must also fall...

[Read more]

Mon
Jan 5 2015 12:00pm

Philosophilia: The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City Jo Walton

There’s a touch of time travel in The Just City, and a rabble of robots that may well be self-aware, but please, don’t read Jo Walton’s thoughtful new novel expecting an exhilarating future history, or an account of the aggressive ascent of artificial intelligence. Read it as a roadmap, though, and this book may well make you a better person.

A restrained, if regrettably rapey fable with a focus on exposing the problems with philosophy when it’s applied as opposed to lightly outlined, The Just City takes as its basis a certain social experiment proposed by Plato:

The Republic is about Plato’s ideas of justice—not in terms of criminal law, but rather how to maximise happiness by living a life that is just both internally and externally. He talks about both a city and a soul, comparing the two, setting out his idea of both human nature and how people should live, with the soul a microcosm of the city. His ideal city, as with the ideal soul, balanced the three parts of human nature: reason, passion, and appetites. By arranging the city justly, it would also maximise justice within the souls of the inhabitants.

That’s the idea, at least. Alas, in reality, justice is far harder to achieve than the great Greek believed.

[Read more]

Mon
Jan 5 2015 10:00am

Intarra’s Tears: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire Brian Staveley

Attracting complaint and acclamation in almost equal measure, Brian Staveley’s debut proved precisely as divisive as I imagined it might: there were those readers ready to invest in its incredible potential, and there were those bored by its borderline by-the-numbers nature.

The Emperor’s Blades undoubtedly did suffer from some significant issues—its manifest mistreatment of women in particular irked this critic—but at the same time, I found in the fantasy saga’s first volume quite a lot to like. What little there was of its world was wonderful; the cosmic horror of its monsters was a welcome exception to certain unwritten traditions; meanwhile most, if not all of the narrative’s central characters were well developed by the conclusion of what was an engrossing chronicle overall.

At the end of the day, I dare say I enjoyed The Emperor’s Blades. My reservations, however, came back to me in a flash when the time came to see about the sequel. By taking the better part of a hundred pages to begin, it doesn’t put its best foot forward, I’m afraid... but beyond that? Boy oh boy. The Providence of Fire stands as a lesson in a sense: that great things can spring from small beginnings.

[Read more]

Wed
Dec 31 2014 2:30pm

Pull List: Saga

There are a lot of good comics out there. Sure, there are quite a few bad comics, and a ton of mediocre ones, but the really great ones are few and far between. Those are the comics that don’t just break the rules, they shatter them into a million unidentifiable pieces. They shove convention and tradition out the window and do whatever the hell they want. The graphics are more art than illustration, and the text more literature than natter. The great ones push the boundaries of what is acceptable, what is deviant, what is perverted, and what is awe-inspiring. They force the reader to really think about their world, and revel in the thrill of the reader forging a personal connection to the characters or material. They take the medium and elevate it to such great heights that the very concept of “high quality” is redefined.

And then there’s Saga.

[“Life is mostly just learning how to lose.”]

Fri
Dec 26 2014 3:30pm

Defanged, but Not Declawed: Into the Woods

Into the Woods, Little Red Riding Hood

Into the Woods has been a point of concern to everyone who knows the show since the Disney and Rob Marshall set out to make it happen as a film. Why? Let’s just say there are many aspects to the tale that are not exactly Disney-friendly, particularly in regard to how Disney does fairy tales. And while it’s good to find they didn’t abandon the ugliness of that world altogether, they do pull enough punches to make it irritating.

[I wish…]

Mon
Dec 22 2014 2:00pm

The Hobbit Reread: Concluding with The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit Battle of Five Armies

Welcome back to the chapter-by-chapter reread of The Hobbit, which is now concluded with this discussion of The Battle of the Five Armies, a.k.a. the adaptation of the last seven chapters.

Previously: we reread The Hobbit chapter-by-chapter (and The Lord of the Rings before it). I liked An Unexpected Journey more than I expected, but found The Desolation of Smaug to be like butter that has been scraped over too much bread—which is apparently the reverse of the general critical consensus.

What about this movie, the last adapting The Hobbit and the last Tolkien movie we can expect for the foreseeable future? (Before someone makes the inevitable Silmarillion-in-fifty-parts joke: it would have to be literally over the dead bodies of both Christopher Tolkien and his son, and even then I wouldn’t count on it.) Behind the jump, I’ll discuss what I thought the movie was trying to do, how well it achieved that, and a bit of what might have been. As always, spoilers for the movies and everything Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and various posthumous tidbits).

[Read more…]

Mon
Dec 22 2014 1:30pm

You Gotta Deal With It: The Legend of Korra is Over

Legend of Korra finale

Tor.com’s offices are here in the Flatiron Building in New York City, a distinctive architectural wedge. Seeing Korra face down Kuvira’s giant platinum Colossus in The Legend of Korra series finale from atop a sharp triangular building in Republic City was a fun coincidence, huh? Really makes you feel like you’re in the thick of it...but then, I felt the same way when they put the Daily Bugle in the Flatiron Building in Spider-Man. Hey, and J.K. Simmons, Tenzin’s voice actor, played J. Jonah Jameson. Weird.

I know I’m rambling, but I’m still filled with nervous energy from the cliched-but-truly stunning conclusion of the series, and trying not to use a spoilery image at the top of the post. The Legend of Korra ended with action and romance and most importantly of all, the series ended with Korra continuing the arc of the Avatar spirit, begun in Aang: towards greater compassion, greater empathy.

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Wed
Dec 17 2014 2:00pm

What of the King Under the Mountain? The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Thorin, Bilbo

It was a cue that the overall tone of the final Hobbit film had been altered when it’s subtitle was changed from There and Back Again to The Battle of the Five Armies. And while the film has its fair share of dazzling moments, it does prove what many fans had bemoaned from the very start of this enterprise: it should have been two films, not three.

Minor spoilers for the film (and book) below.

[Tea is at four. Don’t bother knocking.]

Mon
Dec 15 2014 5:00pm

All Your Giant Mecha Dreams Come True! The Legend of Korra, “Kuvira’s Gambit”

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

That’s...quite an eponymous ploy, hm? This episode of The Legend of Korra is named “Kuvira’s Gambit,” and I frankly was expecting something like the inverse of the Gaang’s invasion of the Fire Nation, or the Rebel’s plan on Endor, or Suyin’s assault on Kuvira in the first place. Make a distraction and let an elite team take out essential targets. I was expecting Kuvira and a crack assault time to ride in on, I don’t know, a heavy paratroop drop, and hit Republic City in the heart.

But no, I had it all wrong: Kuvira’s gambit is a 25 story tall mecha suit. It’s a short jump from last week’s “Operation Beifong”: now that the crew is back together—kit and caboodle—they’ve almost got a chance to prepare...

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Wed
Dec 10 2014 4:00pm

“Operation Beifong” Strikes Back on The Legend of Korra!

Legend of Korra Operation Beifong

What is the sibling term for “Linsanity?” Su-per Sa-yin? Okay, that’s pretty dumb, but Suyin cutting loose in this episode of The Legend of Korra, oh boy! I should say all the Beifongs bring the pain, and I do mean all the Beifongs—excepting Batar Jr. I suppose—because guess who came out of retirement to kick some butt? That’s right, the Original Beifong. Yeah, it’s a Beifong blitz!

But despite the episode title “Operation Beifong,” it isn’t all about the Beifongs. The heroic Bolin from “Battle of Zaofu” steps up to maturity, Zhu Li gets up to some new tricks, and Korra reaches out to the Spirit World. After last week’s more focused character piece, I am ready to see some earthbenders go toe-to-toe-to-toe...to-toe-to-toe! There are a lot of bare toes in this episode is what I’m sayin’.

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