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. La Signora August 13, 2014 La Signora Bruce McAllister If love is not enough, then maybe death... Sleeper August 12, 2014 Sleeper Jo Walton It is best to embrace subjectivity.
From The Blog
August 22, 2014
Mercy Thompson Series Sweepstakes!
Sweepstakes
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
August 15, 2014
We’re Holding Out for a (New) Hero: How Heroes and Villains are Evolving
Leah Schnelbach
August 14, 2014
Doctor Who: “Deep Breath” (Non-spoiler Review)
Chris Lough
August 13, 2014
Eight Essential Science Fiction Detective Mash-Ups
David Cranmer
Wed
Jun 18 2014 12:00pm

Built to Last: Barricade by Jon Wallace

review Barricade Jon Wallace

Battlestar Galactica meets Mad Max in a dystopian debut that doesn’t disappoint: Jon Wallace’s Barricade is a bona fide barnstormer of a book about a dysfunctional future in which people are a problem our genetically engineered successors have almost solved.

In the first, the Ficials were created to help humanity. To do our dirty work—to serve and slave and slog and so on—thus they were bred to be better. Some have superhuman strength, others endless endurance; many are exceptionally intelligent, most are massively attractive. None of them have a heart, however. Pesky emotions would only have distracted them from their duties.

[What could possibly have gone wrong?]

Thu
Jun 12 2014 5:00pm

Abduction, Actually: Descent by Ken MacLeod

Descent Ken MacLeod review

The truth is out there, somewhere. But pinning it down can be pretty tricky.

In “an iffy skiffy future like none I would or could have imagined in my teens,” Scotland is independent, airships ride high in the sky, everyone wears capture glasses, and the poke bonnet has come back into fashion. Ridiculous, right? But that’s reality for Ryan—a teenage boy at the beginning of Ken MacLeod’s Descent—whose coming of age is dictated by the close encounter he has in the company of his neanderthal pal Calum.

It’s not as if they set out to see something weird—they’re just bored boys who decide one day, mid revision, to hike up a hill—but “that’s how it always begins,” isn’t it? “You wanted a walk. It was a wet afternoon and you fancied a drive. The night was vile and you were minded to check on the cow.” And then the aliens came!

[Read More]

Wed
Jun 11 2014 2:00pm

Aaron and Bach: A Tale of Two Rachels

Rachel Aaron Rachel BachRachel Aaron is an Orbit author, through and through, under both her real name and the pseudonym Rachel Bach. She is a writer who was cultivated by Orbit and whose audience grew through some smart publishing decisions in the early days of Orbit’s US imprint. To wit, Orbit US launched in 2007 and her debut, The Spirit Thief, published in October 2010.

Orbit learned from the successful publishing plan they employed for Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy (and Del Rey employed for Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels)—monthly sequential publication for immediate shelf presence. It proved successful for Aaron, too.

[Let’s meet Eli and Devi…]

Wed
Jun 11 2014 7:30am

Science Fiction Falling

Hannu Rajaniemi The Casual Angel

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Someone on the internet thinks that “contemporary SF published in the UK is punching well below its weight.” Someone else agrees. Me? So moved am I by the arguments advanced that I set about planning a not-for-profit publisher to fund the future of science fiction.

This edition of the Focus also features the announcement of the nominees for the British Fantasy Awards, PS Publishing’s celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Best New Horror books, Richard Dawkins’ fight against the fairytale, and finally, something happy happening at Hachette.

[Read More]

Fri
Jun 6 2014 4:00pm

It Reaches Out: Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

James S A Corey Cibola Burn review

In the aftermath of the announcement of SyFy’s adaptation of The Expanse, interest in the series has reached fever pitch in recent weeks—interest which Cibola Burn is apt to satisfy. It’s another solid installment of the ongoing blockbuster space opera, but the most focused narrative in the saga so far lacks, alas, the scope of the other stories James S. A. Corey has told, and character-wise, it’s a mixed bag at best.

The embiggening of The Expanse intimated in Abaddon’s Gate does seem set to continue in Cibola Burn, which begins several years since the revelation of the Ring: a great alien gate linking the Sol system to an expanse of space formerly far beyond people’s reach. The OPA is holding it down at the moment, supposedly so that surveys into the area’s safety can be conducted without disruption, but precious few forces have faith in its explanation, particularly given that a bunch of Belters have already settled the nearest habitable planet—the same planet that representatives of the UN have been commissioned to colonise.

[That’s where things start to fall apart.]

Thu
May 29 2014 7:00am

Citizen Supersoldier: Defenders by Will McIntosh

Defenders Will McIntosh review

Having stormed onto the scene with Soft Apocalypse, moved a great many with the heartbreaking Hitchers, and taken on relationships by way of Love Minus Eighty, Will McIntosh is back to asking the big questions in Defenders, a science fictional fable about humanity’s inherent barbarity which begins in the wake of an alien invasion.

It’s 2029, and our species is all but beaten. “Humanity had been whittled from seven billion to under four in a matter of three years. They were surrounded by the Luyten, crowded into the cities, starved of food and resources. All that seemed left was for the Luyten to wipe out the cities.” They don’t have to, however. Silly as it sounds, the Luyten are interstellar starfish with telepathic powers, so the second someone decides to do something, they’re aware. Accordingly, plans are pointless; plots to take back the planet are basically fated to fail. Hope, it follows, is almost a forgotten commodity.

[Read More]

Wed
May 28 2014 12:00pm

Brave the Rain: No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe

James Smythe No Harm Can Come to a Good Man review

Pay attention, people of America, for today is a day unlike any other.

Today, I want to talk to you about tomorrow; I want to talk to you not about what the world was, but about what the world will be. Today, it is my tremendous pleasure to introduce you to your next president, so put your hands together, please, for a father, a son and a husband—for a family man who can. For a soldier, a senator, a standard bearer of vibrant views and vital values. Ladies and gentlemen... Laurence Walker!

[Read More]

Tue
May 13 2014 2:00pm

Look to the Future: Nebula Awards Showcase 2014, ed. Kij Johnson

The Nebula Awards Showcase series has been published on an annual basis since 1966, reprinting in each edition a selection of the previous year’s finest speculative fiction. It’s is a long legacy, then, which guest editor Kij Johnson—herself a recipient of the Best Novella Nebula for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”—evidences a welcome awareness of.

In her introduction she discusses how things have changed in the nearly fifty years since the founding members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America rewarded its first round of genre authors—Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, Brian Aldiss, and Harlan Ellison, which is to say an array of talent no award can match today—as well as touching on those things that have stayed the same.

In this fitting fashion the 2014 edition of the Nebula Awards Showcase series begins... with a look back at beginning. But as Johnson reminds us, this is a time to look to the future too.

[Read More]

Tue
May 6 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Daughters of the Dai Viet

The Waiting Stars Alliete de Bodard

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly feature dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

Of all the short stories I’ve read in the eighteen months I’ve been contributing to this column, ‘Immersion’ by Aliette de Bodard is certainly among the most memorable. An entrancing narrative set in the Xuya universe, which the author has explored in a handful of her other efforts, I inspected ‘Immersion’ in the context of covering all six of the fictions shortlisted by the British Science Fiction Association for Best Short Story.

It didn’t win that award—the honour went to Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales instead—but de Bodard’s story didn’t disappear into the ether either. Later in 2013, it took home the Locus, and the Nebula as well. So when another of the author’s Xuya universe stories was nominated for a second successive Nebula, then a Hugo too, I knew what I had to do.

[Read More]

Fri
May 2 2014 11:30am

Ctrl Alt Delete: Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority Jeff VanderMeer Southern Reach

In Annihilation, the first of three novels in the Southern Reach series by Jeff VanderMeer, a party of unidentified individuals ventured into Area X, where they discovered—amongst other appalling alterations to that lost landscape—a tunnel, or a tower, and descended into its demented depths.

What they saw there, what they felt—the writhing writing, the lighthouse keeper creature, the impossible passage it protected—I don’t expect to forget. Not now, not never. They have, however. They’ve forgotten the lot, not least how they ended up back in the land of the living.

[Read More]

Tue
Apr 22 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Come As You Are

Nirvana Adam Johnson

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

Which, as it happens, is exactly what The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award is trying to do too: raise readers’ awareness of a form of fiction that’s obscenely easy to overlook. That said, this a prize with a particularly high profile. Each year, the winner of the world’s richest and most rewarding award for a single short story takes home £30,000—a princely pot that has given short fiction valuable visibility since the Sunday Times first presented the prize in 2010.

[Read More]

Fri
Apr 18 2014 2:00pm

Behind the Simulated Sky: The Forever Watch by David Ramirez

The Forever Watch David Ramirez review

No one on the Noah knows how or why or when the Earth went to hell—only that it did, and if humanity is to stand the slightest chance of surviving, the monolithic generation ship that these several thousands souls call home for the moment must succeed in its ambitious mission: to populate the planet Canaan.

Even the best laid plans have a habit of unravelling, however, and 800 years yet from its eventual destination, unrest is on the rise aboard the Noah.

[Read More]

Fri
Apr 11 2014 10:10am

Rassenkampf: The Empire of Time by David Wingrove

The Empire of Time David Wingrove

It’s the year 2999, and what do you know? The world is at war... or else what’s left of it is.

Only “the remnants of two great nations” remain—Russia and Germany, refreshingly—and having lasted this long, and suffered so much over said centuries, neither side will accept anything less than the eradication of its eternal enemy. Thus, they fight. But with the Earth a nuclear blast-blackened shadow of its former self, the only battleground they have at hand is the past.

[Read More]

Wed
Apr 9 2014 10:30am

Aman Iman: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor Lagoon

At the outset of Nnedi Okorafor’s new novel, three strangers meet on Bar Beach, “a place of mixing” which provides “a perfect sample of Nigerian society.” But this evening the sea is uneasy, for from the Gulf of Guinea comes a booming sound so deep that it rattles the teeth of the few who hear it.

Agu is a military man who’s been attacked by his ahoa after refusing to stand silently by while his superior officer sexually assaulted a civilian. He’s come to the beach to take stock of his situation—as has Adaora, a marine biologist and mother of two whose “loving perfect husband of ten years had hit her. Slapped her really hard. All because of a hip-hop concert and a priest. At first, she’d stood there stunned and hurt, cupping her cheek, praying the children hadn’t heard. Then she’d brought her hand up and slapped him right back.”

[Read More]

Tue
Apr 1 2014 7:00am

There’s Not Been Enough of Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. DelanySamuel Delany was born in New York on April 1st 1942, which makes today his seventy-second birthday. Happy birthday, Chip!

I could write a considered post about Delany’s significance to the field, but I’m just too enthusiastic about his work to do it in a properly calm way. Delany’s just one of the best writers out there, and he always has been, from his emergence with The Jewels of Aptor (1962) and The Fall of the Towers. (1963-5) to last year’s Through The Valley of the Nest of Spiders. His major work—Babel 17 (1966) (post), The Einstein Intersection (1967), Nova (1968) (post), Dhalgren (1974) (post), Tales of Neveryon (1975), Triton (1976) and Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) (post)—is right at the top of what science fiction has ever achieved.

[Read more]

Fri
Mar 28 2014 9:00am

Death After Death: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

You will die, one day. As will I. Our time will come, and we will go. As the most memorable character in Claire North’s astonishing novel notes, that is “the fundamental rule of this universe. The very nature of life is that it must end.”

Many of us spend our days denying death, yes, but whether it is conscious knowledge or not, the inescapable fact that the worst will occur factors into our every decision. The paths we take, the choices we make—all are dictated by the finiteness of our futures. With just one life to live, our achievements are all the more meaningful. With no guarantee, really, that there’s more than this, our mistakes have to matter.

But what if they didn’t? What if death were not the end? What if there were... exceptions?

[Read More]

Fri
Mar 21 2014 2:00pm

The Price of Life: The Happier Dead by Ivo Stourton

The Happier Dead Ivo Stourton

As one of the twentieth century’s most missed musicians once wondered, who wants to live forever?

A better question to ask, perhaps: who among us doesn’t? As far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s first literary works, we have dreamed as a people of sidestepping death; as far back as that, and further, immortality—whether through mythical or material means—has fascinated us in fiction and in fact.

According to certain scientists, these discoveries may be made mere decades from today, thus the promising premise of The Happier Dead. In the near future of Ivo Stourton’s new book, eternal life is indeed achievable, but far from free, I’m afraid. You could spend your entire natural life putting every penny you earn in a pot and you’d still struggle to cough up the deposit.

But in a society where passing away has become an embarrassment, what price wouldn’t you pay to avoid dying one day?

[Read More]

Tue
Mar 18 2014 5:00pm

Miso Soup at Midnight: Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions by Hal Duncan

Hal Duncan Rhapsody Notes on Strange Fictions Hal Duncan, in Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions, turns a critical eye to the genre of SF—considering not just the turf wars and definitional spats, but also the deeper functions and facilities of the “strange fiction” mode in literature. Employing sardonic and often cutting analysis delivered within convincing theoretical frames, Duncan deposes various received-wisdom ideas about the genre and offers in their place a well-reasoned, thorough conceptualization of what it is we’re talking about when we talk about SF.

Rhapsody, though it is Duncan’s first long-form critical work, is a strong and elegant—and sometimes wickedly crass—project, complexly argued and incisive while also managing to remain eminently readable and engaging.

[A review.]

Mon
Mar 10 2014 9:30am

Abduction, Actually: Descent by Ken MacLeod

Descent Ken MacLeod review

The truth is out there, somewhere. But pinning it down can be pretty tricky.

In “an iffy skiffy future like none I would or could have imagined in my teens,” Scotland is independent, airships ride high in the sky, everyone wears capture glasses, and the poke bonnet has come back into fashion. Ridiculous, right? But that’s reality for Ryan—a teenage boy at the beginning of Ken MacLeod’s Descent—whose coming of age is dictated by the close encounter he has in the company of his neanderthal pal Calum.

It’s not as if they set out to see something weird—they’re just bored boys who decide one day, mid revision, to hike up a hill—but “that’s how it always begins,” isn’t it? “You wanted a walk. It was a wet afternoon and you fancied a drive. The night was vile and you were minded to check on the cow.” And then the aliens came!

[Read More]

Thu
Mar 6 2014 1:00pm

A Library In Your Pocket: How Having an E-reader Has Changed My Reading Habits

I bought an e-reader almost two years ago. My son had one first, but he’s a technophilic early adopter. I on the other hand am a panda who likes to stick to my one comfortable grove of bamboo. But when my son came with me my signing tour in January 2011, he took his Kindle and I took eleven books. Then I bought more on the way and had to post some home from San Francisco. Even I could see the advantages of an e-reader for travel. There never was a more reluctant purchaser though.

[Read more: But now I love it]