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 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
Tor.com
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: Alyx Dellamonica click to see Alyx Dellamonica's profile
Fri
Dec 19 2014 4:00pm

Tim Powers Unlocks Another Gate in Nobody’s Home

Nobody's Home The Anubis Gate Tim Powers review The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, had been out a good dozen years when I first read it in 1995 or so. Published in 1983 and winner of the Philip K. Dick award, this landmark steampunk novel is the story of Brendan Coyle, an English professor who finds himself trapped in a 19th century alternate London where ghosts lurk in the shadows, magicians vie for power over old gods and time travel gates, and guilds of penniless beggars and confidence tricksters scramble to pick up any crumbs dropped by the wealthier and more magically privileged classes of their intensely stratified society.

In The Anubis Gates, Coyle runs afoul of a magician, Amenophis Fipkee, more widely known as Dog-Face Joe. As a side-effect of a magical rituals gone wrong, Joe has become a grotesquely intimate form of serial killer. Every so often he must switch bodies, taking possession of a new victim. His new host immediately begins to grow a dense pelt of all-over body hair.

[Expanding The Anubis Gates universe]

Tue
Oct 28 2014 1:15pm

The Lesser Dead is Christopher Buehlman’s Greatest Yet

The Lesser Dead Christopher BuehlmanJoey Peacock looks fourteen... at least, most of the time he does. He’s actually pushing fifty. He was turned by a vampire who used to be his housekeeper, a fearsome Irishwoman named Margaret. The two of them carve out a comfortable existence in 1970s Manhattan, where Margaret is the undisputed alpha of a tight, clean-living vampire crew who inhabit the New York subways, mesmerizing people on the rare occasions when they run into trouble, leaving most of their victims alive.

Sustainable hunting practices aside, these vampires are settled into a comfortable routine with each other. They share a laundry; they’re practically family. Each maintains a set of regular human victims, whom they visit and drink.

Then one day Joey sees a bunch of little undead kids on the subway, using their charm to lure a hapless dad type into the tunnels. Somehow these new arrivals don’t look like they’re playing catch-and-release.

[Read more]

Fri
Sep 19 2014 8:00am

Angels and Ending: Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven

Jay Lake Last Plane to Heaven The title story in Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection is about a girl who falls from the sky... and into the hands of those who see her, first and foremost, as a possible military asset. To that end, a team of mercenaries in the South Gobi desert is tasked with (really, blackmailed into) assessing her combat-readiness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this doesn’t end well for Team Free World.

“Last Plane to Heaven: A Love Story” is something of a tough love opener: it’s not without flashes of sweetness, but the mercenary at its core is rough-edged, unpleasant and at the end of his proverbial rope. The bleak backdrop of Outer Mongolia, vividly evoked in Lake’s always-precise prose, adds to the sense of menace in this piece. As an entry point into the book, it makes a definitive statement: these tales wind a path through places of shadow and fire.

[Read more...]

Tue
Aug 26 2014 12:30pm

Echopraxia: The Latest Attempt by Peter Watts to Stomp Your Assumptions to Death

Peter Watts Echopraxia review Scientist Daniel Brüks is what everyone sneeringly calls a baseline, a human being with so few augments that even the drugs he uses to make himself smarter (drugs required so he can qualify for tenure at his university job) are taken in pill form rather than via the clever synthesizer and pump arrangement all the cool kids use. He accesses the Internet much as we do, looking at displays rather than dumping the information right into his brain.

This outmoded and retro approach to technology gets him branded ‘old school’ by people who really mean technophobic, wimpy, and downright eccentric. But Dan has bigger PR problems than mere Luddism. Some of his research has been used to kill people, and guilt has driven him out to the desert. There he camps, hides, and commits research, sampling the local wildlife to see whether any of them might be baselines in their own right, or if all of their DNA has been overridden by humanity’s various runaway biotech projects.

[Can’t a fellow even enjoy a good sulk without the zombies showing up?]

Thu
Aug 7 2014 9:00am

That Was Awesome: Starfish by Peter Watts

Starfish Peter Watts Rifters Peter Watts didn’t become my favorite hard-SF author right away.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot that I loved about Starfish from the get-go. The science was cutting edge, and as a practicing biologist, Watts was in an excellent position to write about his source material with both authority and panache. The book was indisputably inventive: a sort of bastard cousin of a first contact novel, one where the aliens are unknowable but the humans are, in their way, even more intricate and mysterious. It is laden with wonders and terrors, residents of a deep-sea setting that appeals to me on an almost visceral basis.

[But!]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 8:00am

Everything I Learned from the Buffy Rewatch

Buffy rewatch wrap up

Once upon a time, a girl was chosen for a singular destiny, a life of solitary combat, ending, inevitably, in a premature but possibly noble death. She wasn’t the first, and nobody expected her to be the last. She was a dutiful soul, and went to war with the forces of evil, just as fate seemed to require. Then she expanded the fight, redefining her destiny by putting together a group of committed and powerful allies. In the end, she and these followers remade the world.

Vast oversimplification, right?

[Read more...]

Wed
Jun 18 2014 3:00pm

Attack of the Logical Positivists! James Morrow’s The Madonna and the Starship

The Madonna and the Starship review James Morrow A pair of fresh-faced young writers working in the brand new medium of television face off against homicidal lobster-like aliens in James Morrow’s The Madonna and the Starship, a light romp which celebrates Golden Age SF, logical positivism, and the undisputed value of keeping an open mind.

The heart of the story is Kurt Jastrow, an aspiring science fiction writer. Kurt has all but fallen into a job as the do-it-all creative force behind an inexpensive gee-whiz TV show called Brock Barton. This is exactly what it sounds like: Brock heads up a plucky ship’s crew and they bounce about having adventures. In space! Which always looks like the studio back lot!

[Read More...]

Mon
Mar 31 2014 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: In which it is, after all, about power.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chosen

“Chosen,” by Joss Whedon

Kissing! As an appetizer for the very last televised episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer we jump right in with a taste of BuffAngel. It’s all nostalgia, you know, a bone thrown to those who long for the good old days when Buffy’s biggest problems centered around whether getting sweaty and intimate with her certain special someone would make that person evil, and/or ruin her birthday.

In time, she comes up for air—he doesn’t breathe, remember—and thinks to ask why he’s come back to Sunnydale. But before they can properly discuss the First and what it’s been up to lately, we find out that Caleb’s not as dead as previously supposed.

[Read more...]

Mon
Mar 24 2014 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Then there were two...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days

“End of Days,” by Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson

We ended last week with Faith and the Slayettes, going toe to toe with a big honking bomb. There’s just enough time for Faith to shout a warning as it counts down single digits. And then it all blows up in face: kaboom!

As the dust settles on that fiasco, we check in on the mad bomber himself, down in his favorite ancient wine cellar. Buffy, having shed the need to watch out for anyone else’s survival as she tries once again to clean Caleb’s clock, is seeing a bit of success. She has found herself a shiny scythe-shaped object. It’s a gift, clearly, so perhaps its name is Death. Maybe she’ll call it Katie. Either way, Caleb boasts that he’s going to seriously murder her long before she can pry it out of all that rock.

Except—pop!—it wants to come. Later, Buffy will refer to this as King Arthuring it out of the stone. I do love the way Team Joss tends to verb.

Once and future king references aside, this completely foreseeable development unsettles Caleb. He remains game to take her on. The First turns up, though, and says to desist. Firstie also mentions Faith and the bomb. Caleb obediently backs down and Buffy sprints off.

[Neither of them told her where the Slayettes were...] 

Mon
Mar 17 2014 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Counting down from three... two... one...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched

“Touched” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner  

The wind-up of the last TV season of BtVS has truly begun by the time we get to “Touched,” which opens with an immense meeting that is all Scoob and no Slay. Everyone’s gathered except Buffy, Spike, and Andrew. Buffy, of course, got the boot last week, and Spike would have made the Scooby uprising far more difficult, what with his enormous powers of guilt-tripping. Andrew’s absence is simply a bonus.

The topic of this meeting, mostly, isn’t who do they fight or how do they win so much as it is who’s in charge, and how do they decide things? I hate this kind of thing in real life, and am practically getting hives just watching it now. Mercifully, Faith points out that they’re all exhausted and scared and should maybe adjourn to bed. Great idea! Except then the power goes out, creating a new bubble of panic. 

The good news is the sudden onset darkness isn’t a prelude to an attack. The bad news is that the power company has given up on electrifying Sunnydale.

Elsewhere, Buffy is telling a gun-toting homeowner to get the heck out of Dodge while she takes over his house.

[Attack of the cool kids...]

Mon
Mar 10 2014 12:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Tell anyone we had this conversation and I’ll bite you.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Clem

“Empty Places,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

Sunnydale is emptying out as fast as humanly—and demonly—possible. Buffy’s strolling through the traffic-jammed streets, watching the exodus. The extent of the fear is underlined when she runs into, of all unpeople, Clem. He’s fleeing, too. He tries to express confidence in the Slayer’s ability to save the town, if not the world from the First. Sadly, he’s less than convincing.

It’s different this time, he says. But, you know. Good luck and all!

Then he zooms away.

[Rumblings of discontent...]

Mon
Mar 3 2014 1:40pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Am I The Good Slayer Now?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dirty Girls

“Dirty Girls,” by Drew Goddard

A young woman is fleeing the Bringers and she flags down a knight in shining pick-up truck, as portrayed by Nathan Fillion. You’d think this would be a good thing, even if he is dressed as a preacher with unfortunate hair.  He gives her a gentle talking-to about being out at night, and for a time everything seems obnoxiously wholesome.

They establish that he’s named Caleb and she’s named Shannon, and everything seems to be going supergreat until he asks if the Bringers were after her because she’s a whore. 

Wha?

[It’s all downhill from there...]

Mon
Feb 24 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: A trigger, a soul and a chip walk into the high school

Buffy the Vmpire Slayer, Lies My Parents Told Me, Nikki Wood

“Lies My Parents Told Me,” by David Fury and Drew Goddard

New York, 1977:  Nikki Wood whales on Spike, and vice versa, while wee tiny Robin watches from behind a park bench. It’s hard to say which of the three is the most adorable. Nikki is looking as though she might get bit when Robin distracts Spike. Who decides that since he’s gone to all the trouble of stalking another Slayer—he knows her name, and has come looking for her just for the joy of it—he should drag out the hunt. Also, he loves her coat.

Having covered his otherwise sketchy motives for giving up on a fight he’s essentially won, Spike bails and Nikki gives Robin a big dose of tender loving care. She explains that she loves him but she also was born to Slay, and thus he must go be babysat by a Watcher who surely adores being put on childcare duty. Giles doesn’t know how good he has it. Oh, wait—Giles is now running a school for wayward young ladies.

[Cut to the present...]

Mon
Feb 17 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Home Movies hit Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Storyteller, Andrew

“Storyteller,” by Jane Espenson

Previously on BtVS, we have tended to start our episodes in one of Sunnydale’s abundant graveyards, at the Bronze, or, until they blew it the heck up, Sunnydale High Mark One. But today we get one of the most unconventional opens, possibly the most unconventional in a tie with “Once More with Feeling,” when the start of “Storyteller” unfolds more like an episode of Masterpiece

We find ourselves watching Andrew, of all people, as he reads an (imaginary) book by an (imaginary) fire whilst rhapsodizing about how awesome it is to get lost in a good narrative.  He invites us, his gentle (imaginary... wait! are we real?) viewers, to come hear a Buffy story.

Okay, now we get a shot of Buffy on the Slay... in a local cemetary. All’s right with our world again. She shoots a vamp with a crossbow as Andrew narrates—referring to them as VampEERs—and then gets into a round of martial arts with a second. The action’s getting intense when a rapping at the door reveals Andrew in his true surroundings. He’s in the bathroom at the Summers house, weaseling into a camcorder. When he tells Anya he’s “entertaining and informing,” she demands: “Why can’t you just masturbate like the rest of us?

Which is why, dear Anyanka, we heart you!

[Get your steaming Andrew here...]

Mon
Feb 10 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Drop the bone already!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get It Done

“Get It Done,” by Douglas Petrie

Buffy wanders through her own darkened house, dressed casually and taking in the camping Slayettes all over her floor. Her general vibe is den mothery. There are a lot of girls now. One, Chloe, is crying in a corner. Before Buffy can ask what’s wrong, the First Slayer knocks her down the stairs and tells her: “It’s not enough.”

At this point I’d be wishing I could have prophecy dreams set in Tahiti. I mean, she can roam through the Potential-infested house when she’s awake.

[Read more...]

Mon
Feb 3 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Try our new Spike, now without chips!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, First Date, Giles

“First Date,” by Jane Espenson

Flashback to Giles getting an ax swung at his head, by a Bringer, while he talks to a half-slain Watcher named Robson. It turns out the Bringer had squeaky shoes, and thank goodness for that. Giles, though, plays up his own excellence and razor-sharp instincts in sharing this little vignette with the Potential Slayers. He and they and Buffy are in a graveyard, training in a pack, and as he continues to expound about his honed state of combat alertness, Spike tackles him from out of nowhere. 

Spike hadn’t heard that Giles wasn’t the First, see, and as they climb to their feet there’s a bit of Brit on Brit head-butting. Giles calls Spike a berk (a term I have only ever heard Giles use) and demands to know why the Initiative chip didn’t jolt everyone’s favorite leashed vampire straight into Painesville for attacking him.

[Gambling with a lot of lives...]

Mon
Jan 27 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Conversations with Live People. Mostly.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Killer in Me, Willow

“The Killer in Me,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

This episode begins with Giles preparing to head out somewhere, all the while expressing concerns about whether the group will be okay in his absence. It turns out he’s taking the Potentials off to spirit quest with the First Slayer.

The point of it all, mostly, is that Giles is conspicuously not touching things—he has Dawn run a notebook out to Vi, while the Slayettes fight over who gets to drive the car. (Apparently Rupert’s California driver’s license is defunct.) He’s been not touching anything for awhile now, and when you’ve already seen this season once, it’s pretty obvious. If you haven’t, it’s been pretty elegantly done. As story elements go, it’s been noticeable, but not screaming in your face. (The style of this misdirection brings The Sixth Sense to mind, in my opinion).

[Read more...]

Mon
Jan 20 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Wouldn’t you like to be a Slayer too?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Potential, Amanda

“Potential,” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner

Rona and Vi are out in a graveyard, looking scared and for good reason: something in here is hunting them.

Oh, wait, it’s Spike. He knocks Rona aside and takes a juicy bite out of Felicia Day...

...then it turns out, naturally enough, to be a training exercise. Buffy and the other Slayettes are on hand to debrief on why the two got killed. Rona whines about how it’s not a fair fight, since she and the others don’t have Buffy powers. (She could be whining about why she’s been ruled “dead” when all Spike did was give her a push, but that doesn’t occur to her.)

Buffy tells them all that that they have potential that ordinary girls lack—vampire-fighting instincts, basically— and talks a bit about learning to make the fight their own, even if what their finely tuned instincts are saying is “Run for the hills, wimp!” She and Spike get into a little demonstrative sparring, which turns into a tender gravestone-side moment where she’s worried she’s hurt him. And all but petting his manly bruises.

[Come on guys, not in front of the kids...]

Mon
Jan 13 2014 1:45pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: This is Slayerdome

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Kennedy

“Showtime,” by David Fury

Night in oh-so-safe Sunnydale, California. A cute young Potential named Rona gets off the bus. A bunch of Bringers are waiting to meet her, but fortunately Buffy is there too. Soon enough she’s stepping past the bodies to pick her latest recruit/dependant/apprentice off the tarmac, and from there leading her homeward.

Back at the Summers house, Kennedy is trying to lure Willow—who is on the floor in a sleeping bag—into easy cuddling range. Willow isn’t having any, and so instead they talk about the ever-growing number of Slayettes and the looming shortage of bathrooms. This in turn leads to some chatter about Kennedy’s wealthy upbringing, her many childhood homes and their many wings. It doesn’t lead to any kind of suggestion that maybe she should have her parents send a truckload of food and toilet paper, or the deeds to the house across the street. It’s sad, in its way, that Anya isn’t in the room. She’d get them to ante up.

[Read more...]