The Sound of Useless Wings January 28, 2015 The Sound of Useless Wings Cecil Castellucci Of insect dreams and breaking hearts. Damage January 21, 2015 Damage David D. Levine Concerning a spaceship's conscience. And the Burned Moths Remain January 14, 2015 And the Burned Moths Remain Benjanun Sriduangkaew Treason is a trunk of thorns. A Beautiful Accident January 7, 2015 A Beautiful Accident Peter Orullian A Sheason story.
From The Blog
January 28, 2015
Heists and Capers Redux!
Stubby the Rocket
January 26, 2015
Why Obi-Wan Lied to Luke Skywalker
Emily Asher-Perrin
January 23, 2015
11 Winter’s Tales For Your Chilly Reading Needs!
Stubby the Rocket
January 23, 2015
Winter 2015 Anime Preview: Season of Sequels
Kelly Quinn
January 21, 2015
Don’t Touch That Dial: Midseason SFF
Alex Brown
Showing posts by: Liz Bourke click to see Liz Bourke's profile
Tue
Jan 27 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Competence is Important in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age Inquisition

Having spent a little over 100 hours playing through Bioware’s latest RPG epic, I can say that Dragon Age: Inquisition is a seriously ambitious attempt to merge character-based storytelling and open-world exploration. As a purely narrative achievement, it’s less successful than its predecessors: the open-world gameplay tends to dilute narrative urgency, and—since the player-character opens the game with no existing ties and no solid contextual grounding—many of the choices the player gets to make during the narrative end up feeling as though they lack heft and meaning. They lack actual weight, since the writing never quite sells, on an emotional level, why any of those choices really matter.

But for all my complaints about its narrative effectiveness—and niggling irritations about gameplay and display, I mean seriously the font size and that menu screenDragon Age: Inquisition does at least two things that are the next best thing to revolutionary. And those two things primed me to love it, even despite its flaws.

[Read More]

Fri
Jan 23 2015 4:00pm

A Vision of the Future-Past: Cobra Outlaw by Timothy Zahn

Cobra Outlaw Timothy Zahn review Timothy Zahn has been writing Cobra novels since the 1980s. After the first trilogy (Cobra in 1985, Cobra Strike in 1986, Cobra Bargain in 1988, rereleased in omnibus as The Cobra Trilogy in 2004), however, two decades intervened before the publication of a second trilogy (Cobra Alliance, Cobra Guardian, and Cobra Gamble, 2009-2012).

Now, with 2013’s Cobra Slave and this year’s Cobra Outlaw, one finds oneself in the middle of a third Cobra trilogy—and it makes for an interesting reading experience.

[Read More]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 4:00pm

Comfortingly Local: Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee

Carousel Seas Sharon Lee review Carousel Seas is the third novel in Sharon Lee’s Carousel trilogy, after Carousel Tides (2012) and Carousel Sun (2014). Like its predecessors, it’s set in the small Maine seaside town of Archer’s Beach, a town that’s home to rather more strangeness than most of its residents suspect. For Earth is only one of several worlds in a chain of magic in the universe: but Earth is the Changing Land, where things can alter their nature, can change and grow, and that makes it both dangerous and useful to powerful people across the worlds.

Kate Archer is the Guardian of the Land for Archer’s Beach, connected to it by ties she can’t break and charged with its protection and preservation. She’s also the last survivor of a magical lineage from another world, and—potentially, at least—something of a magical heavy hitter. But in all likelihood, that won’t be enough to protect her or Archer’s Beach, should the Wise—the people who control, essentially, the gates between worlds, among other things—discover that Kate was complicit in a magical jailbreak.

[Read More]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 11:00am

Weird Magic: Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire review Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire is Greg van Eekhout’s latest novel, a fast and slick sequel to last year’s California Bones. It situates itself in the same peculiar subgenre as California Bones, a subgenre so unusual that I find it difficult to think of many examples outside van Eekhout’s own work but one that nonetheless feels like a subgenre in its own right: the fantasy heist novel.

The heist story—the caper plot—is a thing unto itself. It often crops up in espionage thrillers or as part of some larger narrative. California Bones is a heist novel whose major focus is the heist itself. Pacific Fire combines elements of the heist with the more straightforward thriller narrative of bad things are going to happen and SOMEONE has to stop them.

[Contains spoilers]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 12:00pm

Sleeps With Monsters: Agent Carter, I Think I’m in Love

Agent Carter Hayley Atwell

At the time of writing, I’ve seen the first two hours of Marvel’s Agent Carter miniseries.

And I think I’m in love.

[Which is not to pretend that it has no problems]

Tue
Jan 20 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: One Book Leads to Another (and Another...)

Sleeps With Monsters

This was supposed to be a post about Canadian author Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel Radiant. Between reading Radiant and settling down to write about it, though, I chanced to read two more books I’d really quite like to talk about: another debut, Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, and S.L. Huang’s second independently-published novel, Half Life.

Come for one! Stay for three!

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 13 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: I Want More of Everything I Like

Ancillary Justice The Goblin Emperor

2015 is starting to look like it’s well underway. And may it live up to the best of all our hopes!

When it comes to thinking about books, though, I haven’t quite caught up to the new year yet. I’ve spent the past little while, in fact, dwelling on the kinds of books I’ve read (and reread) in the last year, and considering the kinds of books I would give a wisdom tooth to see more of.

[Read More]

Tue
Jan 6 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Books to Look Forward to in the First Half of 2015

sleeps with monsters new releases 2015

Last time I wrote one of these posts, I tried to be comprehensive, and talk about almost everything I knew about that was a) written by a woman, and b) forthcoming in the six months covered by the post’s title.

I learned something from that. I learned that it’s impossible to be comprehensive. So this time, I confess up front, I’m not even going to try. From me, you’re just going to hear about the books that I know about and find interesting—or am excited for. And one or two of them, I’m really excited for.

And I’ll trust you guys to fill in the gaps in my knowledge in the comments.

[Read More]

Tue
Dec 30 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn JohnsonThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Arthur A. Levine, 2013) is the last finalist from last year’s Tiptree Award that I’m going to talk about in this column—and I’ve just squeaked it in under the 2014 wire, I think. (Shamefully, I doubt I’m going to get to read N.A. Sulway’s winning Rupetta before the next set of finalists are announced.)

And, wow.

It’s easy to see why The Summer Prince has received a significant amount of acclaim. This is a tight, compelling book with an awful lot of things to say about art, about politics, about principles and compromises, about the prices people have to pay to make a difference, and about power and inequality. At less than 300 pages long, it’s a very compact story: it’s also incredibly effective.

[Read more]

Tue
Dec 23 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Looking Back On 2014

sleeps with monsters 2014 year in review

At the time of writing, I’ve read approximately 230 new-to-me books in the past calendar year. Twenty-seven, according to my records, were nonfiction, and maybe another half-dozen were ARCs for books that won’t be out until next year. Of what’s left, a little over eighty were novels written or co-written by women published prior to 2014, and something over fifty were novels written or co-written by people who identify themselves as women and published in 2014.

[What I want to do in this post is talk a little about the kinds of new books I read in 2014, and what I think were the best of them.]

Tue
Dec 2 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Still Talking About Books

Recent weeks have seen me turn to reading novels that I personally categorise as “fluff.” There’s much to be said for books that do predictable things with verve and energy, and much to be said, too, for books that take an utterly ridiculous premise and turn it into a fun read.

[Read more]

Wed
Nov 26 2014 4:00pm

A Detective Novel Trapped in a Space Opera: Undercity by Catharine Asaro

Undercity Catherine Asaro review Skolian Empire Catharine Asaro is a science fiction writer best known for her Skolian Empire series, a loosely-connected set of books that mixed space opera and romance before SFF Romance became a subgenre in its own right. In Undercity, she returns to the Skolian Empire universe, to a new set of characters and a fresh set of circumstances.

Major Bhaajan used to be a Skolian military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Retired from active service, she’s become a private investigator, a fairly good one. When a mysterious client offers a lot of money for her services, she finds herself returning to Raylicon, the planet of her birth, where a cloistered young man of extremely good family has gone missing. The Majdas are the second most influential family in the empire, even though the empire’s ostensibly democratically ruled, and they’re old-fashioned to boot: they keep their men in seclusion, in the tradition of old Skolian matriarchy. The young man who’s just disappeared from their carefully-guarded household was in line to marry a member of the most influential family in the empire, and the Majdas are understandably eager to get him safely back home.

[Read More]

Tue
Nov 25 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: What I Did On My Holidays — INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair

Chandra Rooney introducing Maggie Stiefvater at INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair

My impression of Toronto is a whirl of chilly weather, excellent people, amazing food, and books. So many books, so many of them my kind of books.

Admittedly, my view of Toronto as a city of books might just have a little to do with the fact I was there to attend the first INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair (hereafter referred to as the TIBF, because I distrust names in all caps with exclamation marks). The TIBF, in concert with Tourism Toronto, flew in seven bloggers to cover the event, leading some people to conclude the organisers had more money than sense: the amazing Book Smugglers, Jane of Dear Author, Kelly of Book Riot, a Canadian mother and daughter blogging team called Chapter By Chapter, and your humble correspondent.

[Read more]

Wed
Nov 12 2014 11:30am

Marking Time: Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer

Ben Aaronovitch Foxglove Summer review

Foxglove Summer is the fifth instalment in Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, about a junior London copper who finds himself apprentice to the only wizard still active on the force.

Foxglove Summer doesn’t answer the question posed by the end of Broken Homes. It steps away from the whole issue of the Faceless Man and the ongoing arc for a bit of a procedural ramble in the countryside. Two eleven-year-old girls have gone missing in rural Herefordshire, near Leominster. Inspector Nightingale sends Peter out on a routine check to make sure that the ancient, retired former wizard who’s made his home nearby has nothing to do with it. Mere routine: but Peter can’t keep his nose out of other people’s business, and when he finds nothing immediately to raise his hackles, he volunteers his services to the local police forces instead of returning to London.

Contains spoilers.

[Read More]

Thu
Nov 6 2014 9:00am

Hash-smoking, Tattoos, Sexual Freedom, and Horses. Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons

The Amazons Adrienne Mayor For Roger Just, the author of Women in Athenian Law and Life (Routledge, 1989), the Amazons represent an inversion of the established ancient Greek social order. They are paralleled with the centaurs in art: barbarous, warlike, and uncivilised; alike refusing to respect the laws of marriage and the norms of polis-based society, living beyond the limits of the Greek world. “But if the Centaurs are arrived at by combining man and beast, the Amazons are arrived at simply by postulating a society of women unruled by men.” (Just, 1989, 249.) When they meet with proper (Greek) men, they’re always defeated and either killed or domesticated by marriage—and so the Greek social order always re-establishes its primacy, as in the story of Herakles and the belt of the Amazon queen, in the marriage of Theseus and Antiope, the showdown between Achilles and Penthesilea, and the legendary Amazon invasion of Athens. “But meeting with proper men,” Lysias says of the Amazon women involved in this last, “they got for themselves psyches like their natural form.” That is to say, their hearts and spirits became womanly: weak.

It’s often held that the Amazons were wholly a product of the Greek imagination. Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World (Princeton University Press, 2014) argues that this is not the case. Mayor’s thesis is that the Amazon stories of the Greek world, and the depictions of Amazons in art, reflect Greek contact with “Scythian” (a catch-all term, hence the quotation marks) horse nomads—a culture group from Central Asia whose way of life meant that both men and women could participate in hunting, skirmishing, and making war.

[Read More]

Mon
Nov 3 2014 12:00pm

An Unusual Fantasy: The Future Falls by Tanya Huff

The Future Falls Enchantment Emporium review Tanya Huff The Future Falls is the third novel by Tanya Huff in her “Gale family” contemporary fantasy series from DAW Books, after 2009’s The Enchantment Emporium and 2011’s The Wild Ways. The Enchantment Emporium focused on the character of Allie, one of the only Gales without sisters, while The Wild Ways spent more time with Charlie, musician and Wild Power, Allie’s cousin and sometime lover, and the teenage Dragon Prince Jack. The Future Falls continues in this vein, with Charlie and Jack carrying the weight of the narrative.

The Gale family are terrifyingly powerful. Ruled by the aunties, their influence on the world is mostly benign: unless you piss one of them off, they tend to only involve themselves in matters that directly affect the family. But when the aunties get involved in anything, the aunties take over—or at least try very hard to get their own way.

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 28 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Again With The Books

Laughing in Ancient Rome book recommendations

Every time I set out to write one of these book round-up posts, I feel simultaneously as though I should have read more books faster, and that I’m talking too much about too many books. Since I can’t resolve this mental contradiction, let’s just roll right on into the literature of the moment...

Although this time I’m going to diverge from talking about SFF novels not just once, but twice: there’s a lovely historical YA and a delightful piece of historical nonfiction that I think are perfectly relevant to our interests around here.

[Can you hear the laughter in Ancient Rome?]

Fri
Oct 17 2014 1:00pm

Nostalgic Space Opera: Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford

Empire of Dust Jacey Bedford review Empire of Dust is Jacey Bedford’s debut novel. When I consider how to describe it, the first word that comes to mind is “old-fashioned”: there is little to say this space opera novel could not have been published two decades ago, or even three, and it suffers by comparison to the flourishing inventiveness of Ann Leckie and Elizabeth Bear, James S.A. Corey and Alastair Reynolds.

Though it may be unfair to judge it by those standards.

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 14 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Ann Leckie Answers Eight Questions

Ann Leckie Imperial Radch trilogy

This week, we’re joined by the very shiny Ann Leckie, author of the multiple-award-winning novel Ancillary Justice, and the just-released (and just as good) Ancillary Sword. Ann was good enough to put up with my fangirling in person at Loncon3, and agreed to answer a few questions for us here.

Read her books, people. They’re really good.

[Let’s get to the interesting bit]

Mon
Oct 13 2014 3:00pm

A Failed Tragedy: Clariel by Garth Nix

Clariel Garth Nix review It has been nearly twenty years since the first publication of Australian author Garth Nix’s acclaimed Sabriel, the first of the “Old Kingdom” novels: more than ten since the publication of the well-received second pair, Lirael (2001) and Abhorsen (2003), which together form a tightly-connected duology. It’s hardly to be wondered at that Nix should chose to return to a world that has in the past been the site of such triumphantly entertaining stories.

The wonder is that Clariel is less a triumphant success than an interesting failure.

[Read More]