A Cup of Salt Tears August 27, 2014 A Cup of Salt Tears Isabel Yap They say women in grief are beautiful. Strongest Conjuration August 26, 2014 Strongest Conjuration Skyler White A story of the Incrementalists. Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land August 20, 2014 Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land Ruthanna Emrys Stories of Tikanu. Hero of the Five Points August 19, 2014 Hero of the Five Points Alan Gratz A League of Seven story.
From The Blog
August 30, 2014
Locked in a Room With His Greatest Enemy. Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”
Chris Lough
August 25, 2014
Animorphs: Why the Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care
Sam Riedel
August 20, 2014
The Welcome Return of the Impatient and Cantankerous Doctor Who
David Cranmer
August 19, 2014
The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: Introductory Post
Leigh Butler
August 19, 2014
Whatever Happened to the Boy Wonder? Bring Robin Back to the Big Screen
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts tagged: reviews click to see more stuff tagged with reviews
Tue
Sep 2 2014 11:00am

The End is the Beginning: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance Jeff VenderMeer review

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was... well. That’d be telling. Because the Word was whatever you wanted it to be. The Word was possibility. The Word was promise. For in the Word was the beginning, to boot, and beginnings are simple. They’re questions, essentially. It follows, then, that endings are answers. And it is far harder to answer questions satisfactorily than it is to ask ’em.

Acceptance is the end of the Southern Reach series, which began with Annihilation—with its countless cosmic questions. What is Area X? Where did it come from? Who—or what—created it? Not to mention: when? And why?

Readers are apt to approach Acceptance expecting answers, and they’ll find a fair few, to be sure; Jeff VanderMeer does indeed complete the sinister circle of the Southern Reach series here. But when all is said and done, much of the mystery remains. Area X is, in the end, as unknowable as it was when we breached its impossible border at the very beginning of the trilogy. It has lost none of its promise. Possibilities still spring from its fantastical firmament. In the final summation, I can’t conceive of a finale more fitting.

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Mon
Aug 25 2014 1:00pm

The Legend of Korra Season Finale: “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”

Avatar The Legend of Korra

So you want a big, two-part, smash ’em up finale? The Legend of Korra delivers and still leaves enough room for a bittersweet not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper capstone. I’m left thoughtful in the wake of everything that happens; in a lot of ways, this feels like the spiritual sequel to the end of Book Two in Avatar: the Last Airbender, and the preponderance of crystal and gurus makes me think that’s quite intentional. As the same time, these episodes intensely channel the series finale of “Sozin’s Comet,” but with the clever conceit of a role reversal. Here the nimble, evasive airbender is the villain, and the one soaring around on jets of flame is the Avatar.

Book Three of The Legend of Korra has been great, not just in comparison to the first two seasons but on its own, and it concludes here. It’ll all end in tears, but what kind of tears?

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Fri
Aug 22 2014 5:00pm

Among Myths: Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew review

World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar has it that Benjanun Sriduangkaew may be “the most exciting new voice in speculative fiction today,” and on the basis of Scale-Bright, he might be right. A love story set in heaven and Hong Kong arranged around a troubled young woman’s belated coming of age, it’s the longest and most involved tale Sriduangkaew has told to date, and considered alongside The Sun-Moon Cycle, it represents an achievement without equal.

“An orphan who spent seven years hating equally the parents that died and the extended family that did not,” Julienne, when we join her, lives what you might describe as a quiet life with her adoptive aunts, Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo. The fact that they’re myths in mortal form complicates things a little, admittedly.

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Fri
Aug 22 2014 10:00am

What Happened, If It Happened: J by Howard Jacobson

J Howard Jacobson review

Alongside Us, The Bone Clocks, and How To Be Both, J by Howard Jacobson was one of a number of novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in advance of its publication date. A source of frustration for some, I’m sure—though this has ever been the panel’s habit—but for others it represents a reason to update reading radars.

This year, I found myself amongst the others above, because if not for the nod, I doubt I’d have looked twice at this book. When I did, additionally, it was with some scepticism; after all, Jacobson has won the Booker before, for The Finkler Question in 2010—the first comic novel to take the trophy home in 25 years—and pointedly acknowledging former nominees is another of the panel’s practices.

Not today. J, I’m pleased to say, is in every sense deserving of its spot on the longlist. It’s a literary revelation wrapped in understated dystopian clothing; a wonder of wit and whimsy that takes in the chilling and the ridiculous—the hilarious and the horrific. That said, it’s a novel that requires rereading to appreciate completely.

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Mon
Aug 18 2014 3:00pm

Is The Legend of Korra’s “The Ultimatum” the End of the Line?

Avatar Legend of Korra Ultimatum

Let’s not everyone freak out at once. Just last episode we talked about the knife edge of doubt that an “all-ages” show like The Legend of Korra has been able to walk when it comes to violence. The Earth Queen’s demise could have been the Earth Queen’s defeat until the burden of context clues pushed it over. Heck, this episode we see a number of seemingly fatal falls turn out to be misdirection, on all sides, so I guess my point is: all we can do is speculate about the ultimate fate of one of our favorite characters.

One thing I’ve said this entire season is that the stakes and the tension are high; it feels like anything can happen. I’m hoping the fallout from this recent turn of events is more of a melancholy sad, with more of an “Appa’s Lost Days” feel to the consequences than what the worst case scenario could be. Enough of all of this vague spoiler-free mummery; let’s talk brass tacks, below the cut.

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Thu
Aug 14 2014 5:00pm

When in Rume: The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Incorruptibles John Hornor Jacobs

A grimdark fantasy about mercenaries protecting precious cargo as it’s transported through treacherous territory, The Incorruptibles gives Red Country a run for its money, if not its funny, but what sets it apart from Joe Abercrombie’s wild west diversion is its unexpected perspective.

Fisk and Shoe have been partners in crime for a lifetime. One is a pious man, the other “damned as surely as the sun rises.” Why? Because “he loves the Hellfire. He loves his gun. He’s a hard, unyielding man, with a long memory and impervious to regret. But there’s kindness, too, under all that.” Sounds like an anti-hero to me!

Surprisingly, John Hornor Jacobs’ new novel is more interested in the man of God—or rather Ia—than it is in the man of action I expected to find front and centre of the alt historical events The Incorruptibles documents.

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Wed
Aug 13 2014 5:00pm

An Empty Vessel: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgramage Haruki Murakami

“From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.”

So begins Haruki Murakami’s first novel since the bloat of the book many expected to be his magnum opus. Happily, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is essentially the inverse of IQ84. It’s short and sweet where that last was extended in its dejection; gently suggestive rather than frustratingly overbearing; and though the ending is a bit of bait and switch, it’s one which feels fitting, unlike IQ84’s dubious denouement.

If you were worried, as I was, that Murakami may have had his day, then rest assured: his new novel represents a timely reminder of the reasons you fell for his fiction in the first place.

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Tue
Aug 12 2014 4:00pm

No Kings, No Masters in The Legend of Korra’s “Long Live the Queen”

Avatar Legend of Korra Long Live the Queen

Well, The Legend of Korra continues to be amazing. Like, old-school, top of its game, Avatar the Last Airbender good, that’s what I’m talking about. Zaheer...ah, I’ll sing his praises as this season’s villain enough later on in the post, no need to start now. Asami, sure, I’ve been asking for more Asami and now I’ve got it. Basically at this point I’m starting to get a little cocky—can I just ask for anything and get it? Stock in Cabbage Corporation? I never got that Koh the Face-Stealer cameo I was hoping for from the Book of Air with Amon or from the Book of Spirits’...well, spirits. Maybe I’ll be in luck next week; at this point, anything seems possible. I’m very excited about this show right now, and I really hope the “digital transition” is going well. If there was ever a time to proselytize a show to show the number-crunchers and bean-counters what’s what, it’s now.

[Read More]

Wed
Aug 6 2014 4:00pm

Urbosynthesis: Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollack Our Lady of the Streets review

There was always something special about Beth Bradley; something which went beyond her quick wit, her evident intelligence. Wasn’t so long ago she was one among many—a badly-behaved teenager suffering through school, as exceptional individuals like Beth tend to—yet even then she was set apart by her street art; by graffiti which came to life because of her partnership with Pen, who’d append poetry to her pictures, turning still images into stories. Stories of the city.

Stories such as those Tom Pollock has told over the course of The Skyscraper Throne: an inventive and affecting urban fantasy saga which comes full circle with the release of Our Lady of the Streets. Be prepared to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Beth and her best friend, then... but not before they’ve had one last adventure together. An adventure as incredible as it is desperate; as tragical as it is magical.

[Why? Because Beth Bradley is dying.]

Tue
Aug 5 2014 12:00pm

What We Know Not: Irregularity, ed. Jared Shurin

Irregularity anthology edited by Jared Shurin review

Most books are dedicated to people near and dear: to friends or family members of the minds behind the literary leaps such documents detail. Sometimes other authors or artists—figures of miscellaneous inspiration without whom some key element of the texts in question may have foundered or failed—are acknowledged in the aforementioned fashion. It’s a rare thing, though, to see a dedication made not to a someone, but a something.

Irregularity is exactly that. It’s an anthology dedicated to an idea, to an abstract: “to failure,” in fact—though the text itself is a tremendous success. As an enterprise it is “no less than wonderful, and it seemed to me that every man of scholarship, every man of imagination, regardless of his language or place of birth, should find in it something extraordinary.” Lo, like The Lowest Heaven before it, the latest collaboration between Jurassic London and the National Maritime Museum showcases an audacious assemblage of tales arranged around an inspired idea: that we as a people were in a way robbed by the Age of Reason.

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Mon
Aug 4 2014 2:30pm

The Legend of Korra’s “Stakeout” Yields Answers to Big Questions.

Avatar the Legend of Korra Stakeout

This episode of The Legend of Korra gives us what we’ve been waiting for—a glimpse into the inner workings of Zaheer and his “Red Lotus” gang. I’m going to unpack that and sort through what we learn about our antagonists a-plenty, but that isn’t all we get, not by a long shot.

Last week I’d said we’d seen almost every kind of specialized bending, except the plantbending of the swamp folk. Well, now we’ve seen the Mos Eisley of the sandbenders, so check one more off the list. The desert seems “painted,” more brightly colored than the one where Sokka went cactus-juice crazy, but it still vibes Tattooine, right down to spirits being denied access to a saloon the way droids might be kicked out of a cantina. All this casual discrimination and political oppression! Almost makes you wish someone would do something about it, doesn’t it?

[Read More]

Thu
Jul 31 2014 11:00am

Dovebuckets and Face-Crabs: The Sandman: Overture Issue 3

Sandman Overture #3 Neil GaimanThe Sandman: Overture Issue #3 has finally arrived! I’ll skip over the part where I snark about how long it’s taking, because the art is so amazing I’m cool with it taking three times this long. I’ll also say upfront that I think some of the writing is shaky in this issue, but that I’m still happy to be along for Morpheus’ journey to try to save the universe. Again.

I am faced with my usual conundrum of how much to say here… I want to talk about the issue, but I also want to stay as non-spoilery as possible. Let’s start off with the basic plot...

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Wed
Jul 30 2014 2:00pm

Pull List: Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel

Captin Marvel Carol Danvers Kelly Sue DeConnick

Welcome to Pull List, a new monthly comics column. We’ll look at everything from decades-spanning titles to oneshots and miniseries, from graphic novels to caped crusaders to webcomics. There’ll be a strong focus on works with high marks in diversity and feminism, out-of-the-box artistic creativity, and envelope-pushing, as well as some old school silliness every now and again.

Being a comics fan ain’t easy, especially if you don’t fit the outmoded paradigm of straight white male. As someone who doesn’t meet two thirds of that criteria, I avoided the whole comics thing for ages. I had the joy of growing up with the X-Men, Justice League, Superman, and Batman cartoons, and the supreme displeasure of discovering that comics-on-tv was pretty much the only space in which I was allowed. For years, whenever people asked me my favorite comics characters, my go-to were Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Jubilee, Storm, and Oracle, but my knowledge of them was strictly television-based.

[The first thing I bought? Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 5:00pm

Dreamwalk With Me: Kill Baxter by Charlie Human

kill baxter review charlie human

The antidote to Harry Potter is back in Charlie Human’s bawdy new novel: a lively elaboration of the mad as pants brand of South African urban fantasy advanced in Apocalypse Now Now which, whilst thrilling, makes some of the same mistakes its predecessor did.

Kill Baxter kicks off a matter of months on from the apocalyptic conclusion of Human’s debut. Our sixteen year old protagonist may have saved the world, however his heroics haven’t made a lick of a difference to his unlikely life.

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Mon
Jul 28 2014 3:00pm

A Tale as Old as Time: The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano

Anna Caltabiano The Seventh Miss Hatfeild review

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is seventeen year old Anna Caltabiano’s second novel: a scientific romance, after a fashion, and indeed, an extraordinary feat for someone so young. I can’t in good conscience recommend it, however—much as I might like to champion the work of such a promising new author.

It’s 1954, and Cynthia, a lonely little girl on the edge of adolescence, has become fascinated by her new neighbour: a strange lady who has spoken to no one in the weeks since she moved into the street. The better to get a glimpse of this antisocial character, Cynthia puts away her doll one day to take Miss Hatfield a package the postman abandoned when she refused to open her door. To her surprise and delight, she’s invited in for a glass of freshly made lemonade. Her host, however, slips some mysterious liquid into her drink: a drop of water from a lake discovered in the distant past by Ponce de Leon which immediately makes her immortal.

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Mon
Jul 28 2014 1:30pm

The Legend of Korra Goes Digital: “The Terror Within”

Avatar Legend of Korra

It’s sad that we have to wait to discuss “The Terror Within”—one of the tensest episodes to date, bringing back the sense of real menace that Amon had—in order to talk about how the sausage gets made, but we should. There is an elephant koi in the room: Nickelodeon has decided not to air the rest of The Legend of Korra and instead will make the remaining episodes available online. I know, I’d rather talk about how we finally get to see an all-out battle between Zaheer and his team of what fans are calling the “Red Lotus Society” versus Team Avatar and the Metal Clan, but we need to discuss the nuts and bolts of how we’re going to be able to see the stories, while we’re at it. I mentioned I was worried last week, but it was too little, too late. At least the episode we actually did get was excellent, right?

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 9:00am

Entanglement: Breakfast with the Borgias by DBC Pierre

Breakfast with the Borgias DBC Pierre

I haven’t been so relieved to finish reading a novel in recent years than I was Breakfast with the Borgias.

This from someone who’s had to review some utter rubbish—books which tested my patience from the first page. Here, however, we have a completely different beast. Coming as it does from the Man Booker Prize winning author of Vernon God Little, it’s no surprise that Breakfast with the Borgias is brilliantly written; that its themes are thoughtful, its execution deft; that its gregarious cast of characters come alive even as its slight story excites.

The trouble? The tension. It’s almost intolerable. Especially in the first section, DBC Pierre’s inaugural Hammer Horror is intensely stressful, like a bad blind date you can’t escape.

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Wed
Jul 23 2014 3:00pm

Something Wonderful This Way Comes: Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

review Smiler's Fair Rebecca Levene There’s something for everyone at Smiler’s Fair. Be you young or old, small or tall, green around the gills or hardened by the horrors of war, the travelling carnival will welcome you with open arms before attending to your every pleasure.

Say you want to drink yourself into oblivion or dabble in drugs from distant lands—head on over to the mobile market. Perhaps your deepest desire is to look Lady Luck in the eye at the high stakes tables, or earn enough money wheeling and dealing to make your way in the wider world—well, what’s stopping you? Maybe what you’ve always wanted is to satisfy some carnal fantasy with a well-kept sellcock. Smiler’s Fair doesn’t care... not so long as the coin keeps coming.

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Mon
Jul 21 2014 2:00pm

The Legend of Korra Keeps Kicking Butt and Taking Names with “Old Wounds” and “Original Airbenders”

Avatar Legend of Korra

I’m incredibly impressed with this season of The Legend of Korra. No more shaky footing, no more “well, lets see how it plays out,” none of that, no doubt, no wait-and-see, just constant high-quality action. If you have friends who drifted away from the show, or if you are that friend? Grab them (or yourself) by the scruff of the neck and drag them back. I admit, I’m a little worried about Nickelodeon’s commitment; this “let’s air two episodes at a time” doesn’t strike me as a good sign. The show is firing on all cylinders, but I’m worried it will be too late for some of the fans... so trust me, Book Three: Change is pure perfection. “Old Wounds” and “Original Airbenders” really continue the tradition at the heart of what made Avatar: The Last Airbender so great: focusing on character conflict and growth.

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Fri
Jul 18 2014 5:00pm

We’re Off To Sue The Wizard: The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt

Tom Holt The Outsorcerer's Apprentice review

An affectionate send-up of the fairytale from the author of such sarcastic tracts as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages and May Contain Traces of Magic, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice features overlords and underlings, self-aware wolves and woodcutters, plus a prince from another world: ours.

Benny isn’t a prince of anything hereabouts, however. Point of fact, he’s in a bit of a pickle when the book begins. He has his final exams at Uni in a few weeks, and with his whole future before him, all of a sudden he doesn’t have a clue what he’s been doing. Studying to be a mathematician, maybe? In a moment of inspiration that some might mistake for laziness, he realises what he really needs is a good, long break to take stock of his situation. To that end, he borrows his Uncle’s “omniphasic Multiverse portal” and travels to a parallel reality where he can pretend to be a powerful person... because of course.

[Wouldn’t you if you could?]