Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
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Showing posts by: Liz Bourke click to see Liz Bourke's profile
Jan 2 2014 2:00pm

The Kindred of Darknes James Asher Barbara Hambly The Kindred of Darkness is the fifth installment in Barbara Hambly’s James Asher vampire novels, after 2012’s Magistrates of Hell, and the third to be published by Severn House.

Any novel that followed Magistrates of Hell would have a hard act to follow: it is a testament to Hambly’s talent and her mastery of her craft that The Kindred of Darkness more than equals its predecessor.

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Jan 1 2014 3:00pm

Carousel Sun Sharon Lee The image on the cover of Sharon Lee’s* Carousel Sun, sequel to the oddball contemporary fantasy Carousel Tides (2010), is unusual even from a publisher famed for its peculiar choices in cover art. A giant cockerel looms behind a shaggy-haired man and a woman whose hands trail sparks and who looks like she’s twisting her head away from a vile smell. A rooster! Prospective readers may be excused a raised eyebrow or a momentary double-take: what do male chickens have to do with a fantasy set in a small town on the seaboard of Maine?

It’s not fowl after all, though: it turns out that the cock is actually a plastic carousel mount, a replacement for the batwing-demon beast that transformed and departed during the climax of Carousel Tides. For Kate Archer, our protagonist, runs the carousel at Archer’s Beach, and she can’t open for the summer season one mount short.

[I’ll stop trying to make chicken puns. Promise.]

Dec 31 2013 12:00pm

It’s hard to believe that the year is already drawing to a close. Time seems to go faster with every year; does anyone else notice that? An artefact of perception: the more time we experience, the faster it seems to pass, relative to previous time. There’s something quite fantastical about that.

But musings on the fantastical nature of perceived time aside, this is the season to look back on 2013 and pick out the best of the year—according to me.

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Dec 16 2013 4:00pm

Ascension Tangled Axon Jacqueline Koyanagi

It’s not every day you read a space opera novel featuring a queer woman of colour who stows away on a starship. Still less often do you read a space opera novel that includes a main character who suffers from a chronic illness while not being about the illness, or one which includes respectful, negotiated polyamorous relationships.

A novel which embraces all these things? It might not be unprecedented, but it’s pretty damn rare.


Dec 10 2013 11:00am

Disability in Science Fiction Kathryn Allan Kathryn Allan, an independent scholar whose work focuses on the connections between technology and the body, has put together a rare beast. Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure is an unusual collection of academic articles: it combines interesting scholarship with an remarkable degree of accessibility to the general reader.

If you have no real idea about disability studies and science fiction studies as areas of academic concern, much less their intersection, fear not! For the most part, the articles contained herein are quite plain about their bases and goals, and provide much food for thought about the way we read science fictional technologies, bodies, and (post)human futures.

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Nov 26 2013 12:00pm

Jacqueline Carey Dark Currents Autumn Bones Agent of Hel Jacqueline Carey is perhaps best known for her richly-described Kushiel novels, set in a fantasy world whose regional cultures owe a significant debt to real-world historical or legendary counterparts. Her young adult novels Santa Olivia and Saints Astray demonstrated her ability to write outside the epic fantasy context that made her reputation. Now, with 2012’s Dark Currents and 2013’s Autumn Bones, the first two novels in the Agent of Hel series, Carey makes an entry into the urban fantasy field.

It’s an entry I really rather like.

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Nov 19 2013 12:00pm

Encre L Marquet Eugene Grasset

There was a little bit of discussion about SWM: Reading, Writing, Radicalisation. Now that a couple of weeks have passed, I thought it might prove interesting to revisit the topic—but this time, with a couple more perspectives.

To recap Reading, Writing, Radicalisation: your correspondent spends so much time seeking out and reading books by female authors that there’s very little time left to read books by men. I said:

“[This] has brought home in many ways how women’s influence on literary developments in genre is often written out of the general narrative of who influenced what, and when. It has brought home just how many women are writing and have written a broad and varied array of SFF novels, and how seldom their names are brought up, in contrast to men’s names. And it has brought home just how in so many ways Joanna Russ’s How To Suppress Women’s Writing is still immensely applicable,”

and suggested that as an experiment, one could try to read all the new books by women for a six-month period, to see whether one’s perceptions of the genre change at all.

[Read more]

Nov 12 2013 6:00pm

Trade Secret Liaden Universe Sharon Lee Steve Miller Trade Secret, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, is the latest novel set in their long-running Liaden Universe, after 2012’s entertaining but problematic Necessity’s Child.

Trade Secret, fortunately, fails to contain awkward “space gypsies.” Instead, it makes a return to the history of the Liadenverse: as a direct (and long-awaited) sequel to 2004’s Balance of Trade, it takes place in an era when Terran-Liaden interstellar trade and relations are much more rough-and-ready; when the status quo has not yet attainted the modicum of stability it possesses at the start of the Agent of Change sequence.

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Nov 12 2013 12:00pm

CS Friedman In Conquest Bar ...gang aft agley, as the poet says. And so have most of my plans for this column this autumn and winter. Back in spring I talked most hopefully of spending a month each reading the works of Sherwood Smith and Tanya Huff, and maybe taking some time to talk about writers from the Antipodes. I’m sorry if anyone was looking forward to that, since circumstances have conspired against that happening this year.

This week I had in mind to discuss a novel by C.S. Friedman (AKA Celia Friedman), called In Conquest Born. Originally published in 1986, it’s been reprinted since, and in 2012 received an audio version. It’s science fiction, the science fiction of space empires and psychics, battles and cultures in conflict.

[In which both IN CONQUEST BORN and HALO:FORWARD UNTO DAWN are spoken of]

Nov 5 2013 12:00pm

On a Red Station Drifting Aliette de Bodard I don’t know if it’s possible to call Aliette de Bodard’s On a Red Station, Drifting (from the UK’s Immersion Press) a quiet work, although under other circumstances I might be tempted to do so.

Riven with tension so well-strung the prose practically vibrates under its influence, its contained setting and ever-tighter circling of consequences essentially subverts the popularly-understood derogatory overtones of domestic conflict.

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Oct 29 2013 11:00am

The Rise of Ransom City Felix Gilman

Today I’m taking a wee holiday from banging the drum about women writing science fiction and fantasy to maunder over a contrast I’ve noticed in a certain subgenre between books set in Britain, and those set in and around the USA.

I’ve been rolling over some thoughts about the difference between steampunk fantasies set on opposite sides of the Atlantic for a little while now. (Ever since reading Lilith Saintcrow’s The Iron Wyrm Affair and The Red Plague Affair.) I’m not as well read in the subgenre as I wish I could be, but comparing Saintcrow’s steampunk magic, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate novels, and T. Aaron Payton’s The Constantine Affliction to Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series and Felix Gilman’s The Rise of Ransom City (to take a reasonable selection of examples) leaves me with the impression that certain contrasts can be drawn. These contrasts are most visible when it comes to the treatment of geographic and political space. It would require closer and more academic reading than I’ve done to investigate whether similar contrasts can be mapped in social space, but I suspect that may well be possible, too.

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Oct 24 2013 4:00pm

Reflections Rhapsody in Blood Volume Two Roz KaveneyWhen I sat down to review Kaveney’s Reflections, I had no idea how to begin. I can’t pretend that my reaction to this book is anything other than a tangled, excited, gleeful concatenation of emotions. Like its predecessor, Rituals, which Jo Walton reviewed last year, it made itself so very immediately and so very intensely dear to me that my ability to see its flaws is almost entirely blinded by that emotional response.

I still don’t know how to begin, but I know how to end: read this book.

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Oct 23 2013 4:00pm

Jack Campbell Lost Stars Perilous Shield This makes the third Jack Campbell novel I’ve reviewed for It’s Campbell’s—the open pseudonym of writer and former US naval officer John G. Hemry—eleventh novel in his Lost Fleet continuity, and the second novel in The Lost Stars spin-off series. At this point, Dear Readers, I think you probably already know if you’re part of Campbell’s audience. If you don’t already know, this eleventh/second series novel is not the best introduction.

It’s not the best continuation, either.


Oct 22 2013 11:00am

Lilian Harvey reading

I didn’t set out to stop reading work by men. And I haven’t, entirely. But writing Sleeps With Monsters has, slowly but surely, altered the way I choose my reading material, and altered the way I respond to many forms of entertainment across a variety of media. When the good people here at were brilliant/mad enough to invite me to write a column on feministy things, I had no idea how utterly it would change my reading habits.

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Oct 16 2013 8:30am

The text that follows contains some intemperate language.

Sarah Silverwood is perhaps better known as Sarah Pinborough, whose horror writing has been recognised by the Shirley Jackson Award. (Pinborough has also written two novels for the Torchwood franchise: there’s your random fact of the day.) The Nowhere Chronicles is a trilogy aimed at young adults, comprising The Double-Edged Sword (2010), Traitor’s Gate (2011), and The London Stone (2012). As novels, they’re a cross between urban fantasy and portal fantasy: the worldbuilding is imaginative, but the narrative logic is full of holes.

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Oct 15 2013 11:00am

Not so long ago, I watched 2012’s Dredd, a stylish, brutal, and many-layered adaptation from the Judge Dredd comics, for about the seventh time. (See also Tim Maughan’s review, “A Comic Book Movie That Explodes Across The Screen.”) Watching it afresh, it struck me anew how well-made it is: its thematic arguments are actually arguments, and ones put forward with a degree of nuance. The figure of Dredd, a man who has given over his conscience to the brutal and unforgiving edifice of Law, has a parallel in the character of Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, in an excellent performance), a crime boss whose conscience, if she ever had one, was long since given over to acquiring and maintaining Power.

They both represent order, of a kind, but their orders are fundamentally opposed. The tragedy of Dredd’s dystopia is that neither of them are capable of making different choices: their entire world mitigates against it. For them, in the words of one of the film’s minor characters, Mega City One is nothing but a meat grinder: “People go in one end. Meat comes out the other. All we do is turn the handle.”

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Oct 8 2013 2:30pm

The White Goddess Robert Graves Recently, I picked up a (terrible) book which referred to “the great classicist Robert Graves.” This is relevant, in its way, for while Graves is certainly a great poet and novelist, he is in no sense a scholar whose work can be trusted for its accuracy. (And therefore anyone calling him a “great classicist” is Officially On Crack.)

Rather, Graves approaches history and mythology as the Renaissance alchemist may have approached the work of creating the lapis philosophorum: convinced that the goal he has in mind is attainable from the material at hand, and disinclined to ever examine the goal in light of the evidence, he proceeds onwards with imperturbable conviction.

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Oct 8 2013 11:00am

I have of late been ill. And when I’m ill—but not quite so ill as to crawl into a corner and wait for death—I read things. Lovely, distracting, fictional things.

(Well, that and complain about snot all over Twitter. But that’s not nearly as interesting.)

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Sep 24 2013 11:00am

Sleeps with Monsters book recommendations It’s that time again, when I briefly scrabble around for an interesting topic in the detritus of my brain cells, come up with OUT OF CHEESE ERROR, and fall back on talking about my recent reading.

There are several books that I’d like to call particularly to your attention in this column. I have a list!

[Not a short one...]

Sep 19 2013 4:00pm

Book of Iron Elizabeth Bear This is a jewel of a book.

Elizabeth Bear is a versatile author as well as an award-winning one. Book of Iron, her new novella from Subterranean Press, is the latest addition to an extensive and varied bibliography. Set in the same world as Range of Ghosts, albeit many centuries after, it forms a prequel—of sorts—to another of Bear’s Subterranean Press novellas, the acclaimed Bone and Jewel Creatures. It’s also connected to one of her earlier short stories, “Abjure the Realm”

Bijou the Artificer is a Wizard of Messaline, the City of Jackals. Together with the Bey’s second son, Prince Salih, she and Kaulas the Necromancer solve problems of a magical nature. They’re adventurers in the prime of their lives and partnership.

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