A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 22, 2014
What is it Like to be a Malfoy Post-Battle of Hogwarts? Rowling Reveals All on Pottermore
Stubby the Rocket
December 18, 2014
Mistborn Fans Will Get TWO New Novels Next Year!
Tor.com
December 15, 2014
Steven Erikson: On Completing Malazan
Tor.com
December 12, 2014
When My Wife Put Her Face in a Fireball for Epic Fantasy
Brian Staveley
December 10, 2014
Even More Standalone Fantasy Fiction!
Stubby the Rocket
Showing posts tagged: reviews click to see more stuff tagged with reviews
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.

[Read More]

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...

[Read More]

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’.

[Read More]

Wed
Dec 10 2014 3:00pm

A Bicycle Built For You, But Not You. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “What They Become”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: What They Become

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two has been a high-energy experience, progressing from jaw-dropper to jaw-dropper, deepening its characters, and having fun with the complexity that the Marvel Cinematic Universe naturally generates. Where we are by its mid-season finale, “What They Become,” feels far more mature than where we were in the season premiere “Shadows,” and that’s quite a trick to pull off in only ten episodes.

It’s thanks to the consistent quality of these episodes that “What They Become” can be forgiven for being so. very. boring. The mid-season finale certainly had some exciting moments and developments, but they were a puzzling exception to an episode that, despite a lot of fighting and interpersonal drama, came off flat.

[Read more]

Tue
Dec 2 2014 3:30pm

Reading Room: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

the strange library review haruki murakami

A couple of months ago, a story about the closure of yet another local library caught my eye at the same time as I was searching for a subject for the sixty-some students I teach to tackle—a problem of sorts for them to set about solving. I had in my head an exercise which would require each pupil to suggest a selection of strategies that might make the local library relevant again.

Quite quickly we hit a wall, as I recall. It wasn’t that the kids didn’t grasp the task at hand; if anything, they understood the problem too well. None of them, you see—not a one—had even been to a library, far less used its facilities. In short order I saw that I’d based the week’s work on a false premise: that local libraries had ever been relevant to them.

They certainly were to me, once—as they are to the narrator of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: a nearly new novelette from the author of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

[Read More]

Mon
Dec 1 2014 12:00pm

The Walking Dead, S5 E8: “Coda”

The Walking Dead: Coda

And thus ends the midseason finale, not with a bang but with a whimper. This season had such a great start, but ended on a scattered, half-baked note. I don’t know what happened in the writers room the days they broke “Crossed” and “Coda,” but whatever it was it couldn’t have been good. The last two eps were way off the mark, tonally, character-wise, plot-wise, everything. Thematically I liked what both had to say, but the means by which the writers chose to express those themes was underwhelming at best.

[“I get it now.”]

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.

[Read More]

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.

[Read More]

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]