Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild. The Walk November 12, 2014 The Walk Dennis Etchison Creative differences can be brutal. Where the Lost Things Are November 5, 2014 Where the Lost Things Are Rudy Rucker and Terry Bisson Everything has to wind up somewhere. A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween.
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November 28, 2014
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer is Live
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November 21, 2014
Never Wait for a Sequel Again: 17 Standalone Fantasy Novels
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November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
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November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
Showing posts tagged: reviews click to see more stuff tagged with reviews
Tue
Nov 25 2014 4:00pm

The Farthest Star: Ultima by Stephen Baxter

Ultima Stephen Baxter review

Worlds and times collide in the concluding volume of the absorbing duology Proxima kicked off: “a story that encompasses everything that will be and everything that could have been,” just as Ultima’s flap copy claims, but fails, I’m afraid, to take in the little things—not least characters we care about—in much the same way as its intellectually thrilling yet emotionally ineffectual predecessor.

Ultima ultimately advances Stephen Baxter’s ambitious origin-of-everything from the nearest star to Earth at the inception of existence to the end of time on the absolute farthest, but first, the fiction insists on exploring, at length, what the galaxy would look like in terms of technology if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen in the fifth century.

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Mon
Nov 24 2014 11:00am

The Walking Dead, S5 E7: “Crossed”

The Walking Dead Crossed

The end is nigh and all the pieces are moving into place. In seasons past, an episode like this would’ve triggered an entire post railing against yet another time-killing episode. Now, however, episodes like this work well. It’s one thing to understand that sometimes you have to spend time setting the table and another when you realize it’s only happening because the people in the kitchen don’t know what they’re doing and are delaying the inevitable as long as possible. “Crossed” is functional but endearing, and if nothing else, at least we got to see Tara’s face light up as she played with that yo-yo.

[“So, what’s next on the agenda?”]

Fri
Nov 21 2014 12:00pm

Fire is Catching: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part I

Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Jennifer Lawrence

While the choice to split Mockingjay, the final Hunger Games book, into two movies was clearly a move to make more money (ala Harry Potter and The Hobbit), the real question was always going to be whether or not Mockingjay had enough material to create two films. Interestingly, the filmmakers seem to have pulled it off with very little effort—simply by focusing on the fire that stokes a rebellion.

[And if we burn, you burn with us.]

Thu
Nov 20 2014 10:00am

We Are Family: Symbiont by Mira Grant

mira grant symbiont review

On the back of the unsightly excitement of Parasite, something like rigor sets in as the second half of what was a duology turns into the middle volume of a tolerance-testing trilogy. Symbiont isn’t a bad book by any means—it’s accessible, action-packed, and its premise remains appallingly plausible—but absent the ambiguity that made its predecessor so very unsettling, it’s lamentable for its length and lack of direction.

The first part of Parasitology chronicled the apocalyptic consequences of SymboGen’s latest and greatest innovation: the ubiquitous Intestinal Bodyguard—a magic pill meant to protect against allergy, illness and infection—was a worm which, in time, turned; a symbiotic organism supposed to support its host yet set, instead, on supplanting said. Before long, of course, this conflict of interests turned the population of San Francisco and its suburbs into zombies of a sort—sleepwalkers, as Mira Grant would have it.

The transition went differently for a few folks, though. After a catastrophic car crash, and at the cost of her every memory, Sally Mitchell’s parasite saved her life... or so she thought.

[Read More]

Mon
Nov 17 2014 4:00pm

The The Legend of Korra’s “Reunion” is All About the Ties that Bind

Avatar Legend of Korra Reunion

Well okay, with this episode of The Legend of Korra, Kuvira seems to be well and truly beyond the pale. Ethnic concentration camps, Kuvira? Yep, you’ve gone and Godwin’d yourself. Not to mention that all the guys have the sides of their heads shaved, all Hitler Youth style. It’s a good look in Sleep No More, but here it is frankly just ominous. There is no doubt in my mind that the next stage in Kuvira’s plan is the “re-unite” the Earth “Empire” is marching to conquering Republic City. It looks like she’ll be in black-and-white by the time she gets there, though this season’s theme of “Balance” still gives me hope of some nuance in the final ethical calculus.

Worry not: this is a fun episode; a nice change from last week’s episode that features Asami’s stun glove, Bolin’s hot lava, the Noah’s Ark of Bumju, Naga, Pabu and some sky bison & flying lemurs, and Korra back in Water Tribe duds.

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Tue
Nov 11 2014 2:30pm

Kuvira Ascendant: The Legend of Korra, “Battle of Zaofu”

Avatar Legend of Korra Battle of Zaofu

The real winner of last week’s episode of The Legend of Korra was Zhu Li, making the winner of this week’s episode is fair turn about: Varrick! The absence of his much-needed assistant has made his heart grow three sizes. The other big winner in this episode is Kuvira, which means—you guessed it—that everybody else from Korra to Suyin is a loser. Varrick and Bolin are the only non-losers, and while I’m proud of those two disasters for somehow managing to evade trouble—Varrick, above all else, has a knack for that—I don’t quite know if “winning” sums up Bolin’s rather desperate situation. I think “not losing” just about covers it.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 11 2014 10:00am

Short Fiction Spotlight: Uncanny Magazine #1

Uncanny Magazine #1Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Before a brief October hiatus, we last talked about The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 edited by Karen Joy Fowler, Debbie Notkin, Pat Murphy, and Jeffery D. Smith—a couple of posts devoted to older stories, for a change. So, this time around, I thought I’d return to some current publications and catch up with recent stories: specifically, the first issue of Lynne and Michael Thomas’s new project, Uncanny Magazine.

Uncanny was launched via a highly successful crowdfunding campaign—which is no surprise considering the editorial work the Thomases have done singularly and as a pair in the past. Intended to be a magazine that has both a contemporary edge and diverse contributor base, as well as a sense of the pulpy history of the genre, Uncanny Magazine has a pretty wide editorial remit; I’ll be interested to see how the tone begins to develop over time. This first issue, though, spans November/December 2014 with six original stories, one reprint, several poems, and also a handful of essays.

[Onward.]

Tue
Nov 11 2014 9:30am

Something Happened: Revival by Stephen King

Stephen King Revival

Whether you love his work or loathe it—and there are those who do, difficult as that is for those who don’t to discern—you’ve got to give Stephen King credit, in the first for working so damned hard. Over the forty years of his career, he’s written fifty-odd novels, and financially, you have to imagine he’d have been sitting pretty after the first five.

This, then, isn’t a man who does what he does for the money. Demonstrably, I dare say, he does it for the fun, and that’s a fine thing, I think; after all, to paraphrase Dreamcatcher’s central character, doing the same shit day after day does get dull, and dull is the last thing a writer writing recreationally can afford to be. To escape that fate, King has reinvented himself repeatedly in recent years. He’s come up with a couple of very credible crime thrillers, commingled conspiracy with the stuff of science fiction and composed love letters to the old days and ways.

In that respect, Revival is a real throwback. A supernatural horror novel of the sort Constant Reader hasn’t seen since Duma Key, it’s classic King, complete with fantastic characters, a suggestive premise and an ending I’m going to politely describe as divisive.

[Read More]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 5:00pm

Click-Clack: Wolves by Simon Ings

Wolves Simon Ings review

Wolves has been hailed as Simon Ing’s “spectacular return to SF,” and it is that, I think—though the text’s spare speculative elements only come into focus in advance of the finale, when the augmented reality Conrad’s company conceives of matures into something more meaningful than an idea.

The rest is something else: a catastrophic coming of age tale complicated by a macabre mystery which reminded me of This River Awakens. At the book’s beating heart, however, is the frustrated friendship between Conrad and his schoolmate Michel:

Michel was quiet, lugubrious, self-contained. For me, at any rate, he had extraordinary presence. A glamour. If he understood my feelings for him, he never let on. He showed very little tenderness for me. He wasn’t interested in my weaknesses. He wanted me to be strong. He cared for me as you would care for your side-kick, your familiar, for the man you had chosen to watch your back. He said we had to toughen up.

[For what? Why, for The Fall, folks!]

Fri
Nov 7 2014 11:00am

Desolate Plain at Dawn: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu review

What would you do to save the world?

That is, the planet as opposed to the people—we’re the problem, after all—so better, perhaps, to ask: what would you do for a solution? Would you kill your own comrades, if it came to it? Would you sacrifice yourself? Your sons and daughters? Would you betray the whole of humanity today for a better tomorrow?

These are some of the provocative questions posed by The Three-Body Problem, the opening salvo of Galaxy Award-winner Cixin Liu’s fascinating science fiction trilogy, which takes in physics, philosophy, farming and, finally, first contact.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 4 2014 2:00pm

Born Again: Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory

Wakening the Crow Stephen Gregory

Stephen Gregory pulls precisely none of his punches in Wakening the Crow, a darkly fantastic fiction about family which, like The Waking That Kills before it, is interested in the ties that bind us together largely because these lead to the lies that drive us apart.

Oliver Gooch is “a dabbler and a dilettante,” someone who would “always procrastinate if there was an easier option,” and this past year, there has been. He and Rosie, his hard-working wife, have come into a substantial sum of money—enough, though the numbers go undisclosed, to purchase a church: an old Anglican in one of Nottingham’s nicer suburbs.

“No, not the whole building,” Gooch is quick to qualify. “As the congregation had dwindled to almost nothing, the commissioners had closed the church and sold it as two parcels. The body of the building was now a furniture warehouse. We’d bought the tower,” to live in, and the vestry as well—a very special space our protagonist plans to turn into a bookshop. Specifically “a specialist outlet of strange and occult and arcane books. The shop I’d daydreamed foolishly about having.”

[Read More]

Sun
Nov 2 2014 4:45pm

Let’s adjust those Intimacy Settings. Doctor Who: “Dark Water”

Doctor Who, Dark Water

The first part of Doctor Who’s season finale is here, and… I’m sorry, I’m about to all-caps vomit all over the keyboard, so I’ll just stop there. Go below the cut for thoughts. And shouting.

I’m a very happy Whovian today.

[“I’m not a Dalek.”]

Fri
Oct 31 2014 10:30am

Worlds Apart: Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney

Paul Kearney Riding the Unicorn

The third of three resplendent reissues of Northern Irish author Paul Kearney’s very earliest efforts completes the sinuous circle described in his dreamlike debut, A Different Kingdom. Riding the Unicorn is a darker fiction by far—it’s about the abduction of a man who’s likely losing his mind by the conniving by-blow of a hateful High King—but it’s as brilliant a book as it is brutal, not least because our hero, Warden John Willoby, is a horrible human being; fortunate, in fact, to find himself on the right side of the cages he keeps his prisoners in.

He has, in the first, a truly terrible temper. To wit, he’s wholly unwelcome in his own home, where his wife and daughter strive each day to stay out of his way. Willoby isn’t an idiot—he’s well aware of their disdain—he just doesn’t give a two bob bit.

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Wed
Oct 29 2014 1:30pm

Amazing Grace: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things Michael Faber review

Michel Faber’s first novel since The Fire Gospel—a sterling send-up of The Da Vinci Code and its ilk—is a characteristically compelling exploration of faith which takes place “in a foreign solar system, trillions of miles from home,” on a wasteland planet populated by hooded beings with foetuses for faces.

So far, so science fiction. Factor in first contact, a spot of space travel, and an awful lot of apocalypse, and The Book of Strange New Things seems damn near destined to be speculative. Unfortunately for fans of the form, as the author warns early on, “there was nothing here to do justice to [that] fact.” Or, if not nothing, then very little aside the superficial. Even in addition to the aforementioned trappings, honeydewed drinking water and a dizzying day/night cycle do not add up to much more than an unlikely lens through which to look at love: in the first between mere mortals, but above and beyond that, the love—and the love lost—between man and maker.

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 29 2014 1:00pm

Pull List: Joe Hill’s Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland

It’s almost Halloween, which means the Brown household is in the middle of its annual Joe Hill October (Joetober? Octohill?) Celebration. Between consuming Wraith, Horns the movie, and Horns the book for Tor.com, I’ve also spent my lunch breaks at work binging on his ebook short stories.

At this point, most of you should be at least passingly familiar with Joe Hill, but to quickly sum up, he’s a masterful writer of horror fiction who has also spread his talents into graphic novels. For this special Halloween edition of Pull List, we’re talking Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, but I also highly recommend The Cape (no, not the TV show Abed was obsessed with) and, of course, the excellent Locke & Key.

[“We’re on our way to Christmasland!”]

Wed
Oct 29 2014 9:00am

Bring Me a Cuddly Marshmallow Robot: Big Hero 6 Will Make You Cry, and That’s Okay

Big Hero 6

Another Disney-Marvel venture that comes from the pages of a comic book, Big Hero 6 was already set to combine our favorite sci-fi buzz words—superheroes, robots, alternate realities—and deliver something fun for the whole family. But the movie supersedes those expectations to ruminate on invention, family, and how grief transforms us all... for better or for worse.

Spoiler-light review below.

[I am satisfied with my care.]

Thu
Oct 23 2014 2:00pm

City of Contradictions: Retribution by Mark Charan Newton

Mark Charon Newton Retribution Drakenfeld

The laid-back detective drama of Drakenfeld marked a propitious departure for Mark Charan Newton: an assured move from the weird and sometimes wonderful fantasy with which he had made his name to a tale of mystery and alt-history not dissimilar to C. J. Sansom's Shardlake stories.

But with all-out war in the offing—in large part because of Drakenfeld's discoveries at the end of the text so titled—and a serial killer torturing and slaughtering some of most prominent people in the kingdom of Koton, the darkness of the Legends of the Red Sun series is back; a change of pace Newton paves the way for on the first page of his new book.

“In over thirty years of life, a decade of which has been spent as an Officer of the Sun Chamber,” Lucan Drakenfeld remarks, “the world has long since robbed me of my limitless optimism.” To be sure, he appears a pretty positive protagonist compared to grimdark Princes like this year's Jalan and Yarvi, yet the events of Retribution are still to take their toll—on its hero and, indeed, its reader.

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Tue
Oct 21 2014 3:00pm

Cosmic Chaos: Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll

Jonathan Carroll Bathing the Lion

Jonathan Carroll’s first full-length work of fiction in six years is as rooted in the real as it is the surreal its synopsis suggests. Bathing the Lion is about a quintet of cosmic mechanics who can read minds and remake the mundane recovering their talents in advance of the arrival of a fearsome force called Chaos—which seems, I’m sure, like a properly science fictional plot. But it’s not.

To wit, the World Fantasy Award-winning author evidences precious little interest in the ultimate result of this clash between... not good and evil, exactly, but order and its opposite. Rather, Carroll restrains his tale to the strictly small scale, in the process pointedly refusing the reader’s needs.

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Tue
Oct 21 2014 10:00am

Everyone is Trying to Prove They’re Relevant: Birdman

Birdman movie, Michael Keaton, Riggan

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, as it says) was an experience. One that I will try to parse out below. But frankly, though I can go on about the true merits of the film, I expect my take to be wildly different from anyone else’s—it is a piece of art designed to speak to many people, in many walks of life, and much of what it has to say is dependent entirely on who is watching.

Minor spoilers for the film below.

[Read more]

Mon
Oct 20 2014 2:00pm

Kuvira Always Gets What She Wants: The Legend of Korra’s “The Coronation”

Legend of Korra The Coronation

The politics in The Legend of Korra are getting down to brass tacks. It’s hard not to see Kuvira as a net positive. There is no reason whatsoever to support the royal dynasty. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, there was every reason to support its overthrow. An actual caste system, an apartheid of rings that is so culturally ingrained that even the mall in Republic City’s “Little Ba Sing Se” is segregated by class. A powerful secret police, kidnapping and press-gangs. Propaganda and cruel whim and extortion. I’m with Bolin on this one.

I think Kuvira should hold an election—why wouldn’t she, she’s beloved—and then just claim authority thus. President Raiko sets a precedent for it. Then there you go. We should be so lucky: I kind of want to see Bolin succeed at keeping her on the strait and narrow...even as tensions increase.

[Read More]