The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
From The Blog
April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
Leah Schnelbach
April 22, 2015
The Old Guy Action Comeback: I’m Getting Too Old for This Sh*t
Ryan Britt
April 20, 2015
The Net is the Meat: Bruce Holsinger’s Middle Ages
David Perry
April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
Kelly Quinn
April 16, 2015
The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: Jenn Northington click to see Jenn Northington's profile
Jan 15 2014 3:00pm

The Nerdy Delights of A Highly Unlikely Scenario

A Highly Unlikely Scenario Rachel CantorWith publication of A Highly Unlikely Scenario, Rachel Cantor joins the ranks of authors who are able to turn philosophical concepts into whiz-bang plots, and make them funny as well. Throw in some family dysfunction, time travel, a librarian ingénue, and the possible destruction of the world, and you’ve got an adventure story replete with nerdy delights.

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Sep 24 2013 2:00pm

The Religious Controversy Surrounding Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman His Dark Materials It’s easy to scoff at accusations of the promotion of witchcraft in the Harry Potter series, or of pornography in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. But defending a book on the Banned Books list from charges that the author confirms—well, that’s a horse of a different color! Or is it?

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series was number 8 on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list for 2000-2009. In 2007, the Catholic League campaigned against The Golden Compass, declaring that it promoted atheism and attacked Christianity, in particular the Catholic church. In a later interview with the Guardian Pullman partially confirmed this, saying “In one way, I hope the wretched organisation will vanish entirely.”

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Sep 16 2013 12:30pm

From Zima to the Deep Web: Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge Thomas Pynhcon

‘90s and ‘00s references; Mafioso and hackers and dotcom billionaires; unscrupulous government agents of uncertain affiliation; terrorism; conspiracy theories; underground videotapes; the Deep Web; murder; karaoke nights. These are a few of the things you will find in Thomas Pynchon’s newest novel, Bleeding Edge. If that doesn’t sound so far off from Neuromancer or Ready Player One it’s because, in essence, it’s not. Bleeding Edge is both a literary and a genre masterpiece, a cyberpunk epic and a memorial to the pre-9/11 world.

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Jul 17 2013 1:00pm

Participatory Delusions: Sarah Bruni’s The Night Gwen Stacy Died

The Night Gwen Stacy Died Sarah Bruni

On the surface, it’s a simple enough plot: boy meets girl, then they run away together and have adventures in the big city. But there’s nothing simple about Sarah Bruni’s debut novel, The Night Gwen Stacy Died. As one layer after another gets added, the plot becomes a shifting landscape that the reader explores along with her characters. And as you explore the world of the novel—which is just familiar enough to make the differences all the more unsettling—you find yourself participating in their delusions, trying to negotiate the blurry boundaries between the imaginary and the real.

[Who is the hero, and who is the victim? And what are these coyotes doing here?]

Jun 22 2013 9:00am

Happy Birthday, Octavia Butler!

Octavia Butler The first Octavia Butler novel I ever read was Fledgling, and it was a revelation. While I had been taught by early exposure to Ursula Le Guin that genre fiction could be political, could comment on social and cultural morés, I never expected that someone would use vampires to discuss bigotry, racism, and slavery. It’s been almost a decade since I read it, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that sense of wonder.

And that, more than anything else, is why Butler ranks as one of my all-time favorites. Of course, her accomplishments are many—this is a woman who conquered both dyslexia and prejudice to become an award-winning writer and a MacArthur Fellow. Kindred alone is enough to put her in the ranks of influential sci-fi writers. But I am a lifelong genre fan and a somewhat-jaded reader, and I’ve read a lot of good books and many great ones too. So when I read, I’m looking for a return to that moment we’ve all felt, in which an author does something so original, so creative, so truly surprising, that it feels like your mind has been blown wide open. Octavia Butler’s books create that moment, time and again.

For the first U.S. World Book Night, I chose to hand out Kindred. There’s nothing simple about trying to convince strangers first, that you’re not trying to give them religious materials, and second, that they should take this sci-fi novel from you. And believe me, I dearly wanted to say, “Have you accepted Octavia Butler as your personal reading savior?” but wiser heads convinced me this was a bad idea. So instead, I often found myself babbling. “It’s not just a time travel novel,” I told people. “It’s a book that shows how you can use science fiction to talk about politics and society.” “It’s amazing. It will change the way you look at genre fiction.” “She’s the most famous female African-American sci-fi writer!”

I said all those things because they were true, but mostly because “It will astonish you,” doesn’t seem like enough of a pitch. But truthfully, that’s the highest praise I can give: Octavia Butler will astonish you.

Feb 12 2013 12:00pm

Horror & Humor: Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove

A book review of Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen RussellThe virtues of Karen Russell’s novel Swamplandia! have already been extolled in this column, and I am happy to report that her new short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, is tailor-made for fans of both magical realism and horror. Employing intensely awkward humor (think The Office) and melding it with dark sensibilities (think Poe), she’s written a book that belongs on your shelf next to Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Bas-Lag-era China Mieville. Russell’s subjects have grown up a bit—there are teenagers, but there are also dead presidents, ancient vampires, a middle-aged divorcé. And while Swamplandia! had plenty of darkness, the creepy factor has been dialed up here to the point where you might consider not reading certain stories after dusk.

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Oct 9 2012 2:00pm

Space Aliens, Nuns, and Bob Dylan Populate Marie-Helene Bertino’s Safe as Houses

Every now and then you discover a new author just before their first book comes out. You read their work and are bowled over by it. And then you get to be the first one to tell everyone about it! At least, if you’re lucky.

Keeping this in mind, you’ll understand that I could not be more pleased to introduce you to Marie-Helene Bertino’s debut short story collection, Safe as Houses. In its pages, characters catch glimpses of their younger selves at stoplights and go on dates with idealized versions of their exes. Robbers steal macaroni valentines, and salesmen peddle beating human hearts. Flocks of hummingbirds manifest in the middle of shopping malls. An alien faxes notes on humanity back home. Bob Dylan comes to Thanksgiving dinner.

Taking the surreal as a given, these stories spin the world around and make the familiar new again.

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Sep 11 2012 1:00pm

The Boundaries of Sanity & the Supernatural: Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver & Lucretia and the Kroons

The Devil in Silver and Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor LaValle tugs on the pigtails of genreVictor LaValle is no stranger to the supernatural, disturbed minds, or the borough of Queens! His first two novels, Big Machine and The Ecstatic, are set in Queens and include cult-survivors, paranormal investigations, and schizophrenia. But it would be a mistake to think that his new novel The Devil in Silver and companion novella Lucretia and the Kroons are covering the same ground. With these, LaValle leaves the plausible dark comedy behind and dives deep into the modern gothic novel.

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Jul 24 2012 1:00pm

Secular and Mystical Sci-Fi: G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen

Politics and fiction can be a powerful combination; classics like Wells’ The Time Machine, Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Brin’s Uplift series, all orbit around recognizable political quandaries. You can even see it on television (Battlestar Galactica, I am looking at you). But few authors chose to set these stories in the present, in our own world — a little distance, a new galaxy, a future time, these are almost de riguer.

In her debut novel (she’s written graphic novels before) Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson has chosen to buck the trend, meshing the world of information technology with the mystical aspects of Islam and contemporary life to weird and captivating effect. I spent half the book thinking, “Where can this possibly go now?”, only to find out in the next chapter. Alif the Unseen is a true chimera, combining magic and technology, fantasy and sci-fi, the secular and the mystical, literature and genre.

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Jun 26 2012 1:00pm

A Shimmer of the Unexpected: Why The Age of Miracles Delivers

Julia—the narrator of The Age of Miraclesis 11 years old when the world changes forever. It’s October, and time suddenly becomes elastic. One day, for no apparent reason, a day is suddenly 25 hours long. Three days later, 25:37 — and they continue to stretch. The Age of Miracles has the feel of an apocalyptic To Kill a Mockingbird or a more sober True Grit, with a knowing, worldly voice-over guiding the reader through the moment in her childhood that everything changed. Author Karen Thompson Walker takes the traditional literary trope of nostalgia for the timelessness of youth and makes of it a weird, subtly creepy, and engrossing novel in which time itself is a thing to fear.

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Apr 10 2012 1:00pm

Genre in the Mainstream: Ryan Boudinot’s Blueprints of the Afterlife

It’s probably only recently that a novel as stuffed with genre conceits as Ryan Boudinot’s Blueprints of the Afterlife could be shelved in the literature section. Quantum computers, neurological hacking, time loops, commercialized cloning, all are solidly on the SF side of the fence. But Boudinot’s author background — McSweeney’s, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Rumpus — and his first novel, Misconception (a coming-of-age story set during the first dot-com boom) swing him back toward the literary world. This combination is what makes Blueprints such a fantastic crossover book. At its heart it is the story of Luke Piper and Nick Fedderly, two brilliant and troubled young men, and how they changed the world — and you couldn’t pull it off without the genre elements.

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Mar 8 2012 10:37am

March Recommendations from WORD Bookstore

WORD is an independent neighborhood bookstore in Greenpoint, the northernmost neighborhood of Brooklyn, celebrating its fifth anniversary this month. Our goal is to be whatever our community needs us to be, which currently includes hosting events and  carrying a carefully curated selection of kids books, nonfiction, and fiction—from all genres.

We also host an old-fashioned dating corkboard called Between the Covers, as well as a Basketball League of which Lev Grossman was once a member! Here are our March picks for science fiction and fantasy titles.

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