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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April 13, 2014
Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
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April 11, 2014
This Week’s Game-Changing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was Exactly The Problem With The Show
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Let’s Completely Reimagine Battlestar Galactica! Again. This Time as A Movie!
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The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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A Spoonful of Music Makes the Nanny: Disney’s Mary Poppins
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Showing posts by: Stefan Raets click to see Stefan Raets's profile
Sep 27 2013 9:00am

How the World Became Quiet Rachel SwirskyJust the most basic book description should be enough to set some people running to their preferred purveyor of books to purchase this new title from Subterranean Press: “How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present and Future is a collection of short stories by Rachel Swirsky.” Yep. That’ll do it for me.

If you follow short-form SF and fantasy at all, you’ll probably be familiar with the author’s name. If you’re like me, the possibility of owning a collection of her stories may send you into the same type of frenzied excitement most commonly seen in felines when people dangle catnip in front of their faces. (“Want. Want! Want NOW!”) And if you’re not familiar with the author yet, you’re in luck, because you can sample some of Swirsky’s finest work right here on before (inevitably) purchasing the book. My personal favorite, out of the ones published on this site at least, is the stunning, Hugo-nominated “Eros, Philia, Agape.”

So, the abridged version of this review: I love this collection and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who has an interest in intelligent, emotionally powerful and occasionally challenging short fiction. Not every story was a slam dunk for me, but taken as a whole, this is an excellent collection.

[Read more]

Sep 25 2013 4:00pm

Linda Nagata The Red First LightThere are many possible reasons why I’ll choose certain books for review. Most often it’s simply because they look promising. Occasionally it’s because I’m a fan of the author, series, or (sub-)genre. Sometimes I just get drawn in by something intriguing or odd in the publicity copy.

But every once in awhile there’s a book that, I feel, just deserves more attention, a book that’s not getting read enough for some reason. In those cases, it’s wonderful that I can take advantage of the generous platform gives me to introduce people to what I consider hidden gems.

Case in point, Linda Nagata’s excellent, independently-published military SF novel The Red: First Light, which, if I can just skip to the point for people who don’t like to read longer reviews, you should go ahead and grab right now, especially if you’re into intelligent, cynical military SF. If you want more detail, read on.

[Read more]

Sep 18 2013 2:00pm

The Incrementalists Steven Brust Skyler WhiteWith certain authors, I’m reaching the point where I feel like I may as well stop reviewing them, because their books have become so reliable it verges on the predictable. Not that I’d stop reading them: I enjoy their works, and there’s always something reassuring about a nice slice of comfort pie. It’s more that I feel like I’m running out of things to say about them.

And then there’s Steven Brust, who is not one of those authors. About 20 of his books are set in the same (Dragaeran) universe, but they still constantly surprise the reader in the way they experiment with form and style, switch narrators, juggle the internal chronology, and use a host of other tricks and techniques to keep things fresh and exciting. Outside of that universe, his books range from a retelling of the Revolt of the Angels to what’s possibly my favorite vampire novel ever to, well, just take a look at his bibliography to see how he has reinvented himself in the course of his career. Brust plays hopscotch with his readers’ expectations.

[“I believe in Better because I was never any good at Good.”]

Sep 17 2013 2:00pm

The One-Eyed Man L E ModesittIn early 2012, Tor editor David Hartwell launched what came to be known as the Palencar Project: a set of short stories based on a painting by John Jude Palencar. The project would end up including stories by Gene Wolfe, James Morrow, Michael Swanwick, Gregory Benford and, yes, L.E. Modesitt Jr. All five stories are available on or can be purchased as an ebook.

In a conversation with Tor publisher Tom Doherty (and later in a separate blog post) Modesitt explained that his first attempt at the Palencar story ran to over 10,000 words with no end in sight. He decided to set this story aside and write a new one, which is the “New World Blues” story that was included in the Palencar Project. Later, in a break between novels, Modesitt went back and finished up the first story, which turned into his latest stand alone science fiction novel, The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, with Winds and Accompaniment. (And yes, the gorgeous and distinctive cover illustration is the Palencar painting that started it all.)

[Are fingers smart?]

Sep 2 2013 11:00am

It’s been almost a decade since the release of Killswitch, the third novel in Joel Shepherd’s excellent Cassandra Kresnov series. In that time, Shepherd wrote a series of four fantasy novels entitled A Trial of Blood and Steel (also excellent, by the way). Given the long break, I’m sure that many readers assumed that the Cassandra Kresnov series was done at three books. At least, it came as a complete surprise to this fan when an advance copy of 23 Years On Fire, a brand new novel in the Cassandra Kresnov series, landed on my doorstep.

First things first: if you’re new to Cassandra Kresnov, you probably shouldn’t start with 23 Years On Fire. Some time has passed in the internal chronology since the end of the previous novel, which makes the book feel like a series reboot of sorts, or even the start of what will possibly turn out to be a whole new trilogy. Whatever the case may be, you’ll be lost if you haven’t read the first three novels in the series: Crossover, Breakaway, and Killswitch.

[Read more]

Aug 21 2013 10:00am

Brandon Sanderson Tom Doherty

Who better to interview a living legend than another living legend? Welcome to the fourth installment of “Talking With Tom”, a series in which Tor publisher Tom Doherty chats with one of the many authors and industry icons whose careers he helped launch and shape. Previous installments covered conversations with L.E. Modesitt Jr., Harriet McDougal, and Gregory Benford.

Tom and Brandon discussed the start of Sanderson’s career, his work on the Wheel of Time, his new YA novel The Rithmatist, his writing schedule for the near future, and many other subjects.

Please enjoy this fascinating conversation between Tom Doherty and Brandon Sanderson.

[Read more]

Jul 29 2013 10:00am

Dangerous Women Once upon a time and a very good time it was there were a great many readers eagerly awaiting the sequel to Lev Grossman’s bestselling novels The Magicians and The Magician King. The weeks became months, and the months became years, and still no third book appeared. The readers grumbled and griped, and finally settled down in a sullen sort of silence. “Such is the plight of the fantasy reader,” the wiser ones would say. “Look at Lynch. Look at Martin. It’ll be done when it’s done. Calm down already. Don’t make me paraphrase that Neil Gaiman thing at you.”

But then, eighteen months into The Wait, a message appeared. Grossman fans blearily looked up from their umpteenth reread of The Magicians. Noting the date, some of them muttered: “Really, people. It hasn’t even been two years. Bringing Martin and Lynch into this conversation was maybe pushing it a little, don’t you think?” To which the more bitter ones replied: “Would you look at who wrote the damned message already?”

For yes, it was George R.R. Martin who, while announcing Dangerous Women on his famed Not a Blog, heralded the new Lev Grossman story “The Girl in the Mirror” (excerpt here). The sizable contingent of Grossman fans who also hoped that Martin would deliver his next novel sooner rather than later groaned. (It is said that, if you hold a copy of the Game of Thrones DVD set to your ear, you can still hear faint whispers of “Oh man, Martin isn’t writing what he’s supposed to be writing again.”) Until, that was, they all noticed the paragraph below the new anthology’s Table of Contents, which described the new story as a “tale of life at Brakebills.” And there was much rejoicing.

[Read more]

Jul 8 2013 5:00pm

The Curiosity Stephen P KiernanThe struggle for life after death has been a theme in science fiction for ages. From Frankenstein, to cryogenics in all its myriad permutations, to uploaded cyber-consciousness, to even, in a sense, generation starships and other attempts to find and colonize viable planets to replace our Earth, there’s been a focus on all the various ways individual humans or humanity in general can keep going after the final decline ever since SF became a recognizable genre.

The latest example of this provides an interesting twist: in The Curiosity (excerpt here) by Stephen P. Kiernan, the body of a man who has been frozen in the Arctic ice for over a century is reclaimed. Thanks to an experimental technique that’s so far only been used to revive small creatures like krill and shrimp for a limited amount of time, the frozen man is returned to life in our present time. It’s cryogenics meets Rip Van Winkle.

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Jul 3 2013 2:00pm

The Thousand NamesKhandar, a colony of the Vordanai Empire, has rebelled. The empire’s colonial army has been kicked out of the capital city Ashe-Katarion by a coalition of the religious fanatics known as the Redeemers and Voltarai desert tribes led by the mysterious, ever-masked Steel Ghost. After the armed uprising, the Vordanai Colonials have to flee the city to the run-down Fort Valor to wait for reinforcements from the motherland.

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, the commander of the dispirited Colonials, is mainly happy that soon he’ll soon be able to hand over responsibility for the entire sorry mess to his new superior, Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran. Meanwhile, Winter Ihernglass is promoted to Sergeant, which makes the young ranker’s enormous secret even harder to hide: after a horrible youth in an orphanage, she has been masquerading as a man to start a new life in the Vordanai colonials.

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Jun 7 2013 5:00pm

Austin Grossman You

We were feeling something they never had— a physical link into the world of the fictional— through the skeletal muscles of the arm to the joystick to the tiny person on the screen, a person in an imagined world. It was crude but real.

Father, forgive me, for I have sinned: it’s been a month since I last read Austin Grossman’s second novel You, and I still haven’t reviewed it. I’m not even sure how to approach reviewing it. I read it. I loved it, despite a few misgivings. I thought about it a lot. I went back and reread a few chapters, to see if I really loved it as much as I thought I did, and to see if those few misgivings were really justified. I did, and they were, yet I still didn’t know how to sum up my reading experience in such a way that it would possibly make sense for others.

[For some reason, I felt as close to having a life as someone who had no life could possibly feel.]

Jun 3 2013 4:00pm

Review The Daedalus Incident Michael J MartinezThe Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez offers two separate and wildly different storylines. The first one takes place in 2132, when a seemingly impossible earthquake on Mars sets off a chain of even stranger events. The second one is set in 1779 on the HMS Daedalus, which is just departing Portsmouth on a course set for Jupiter, where it will assist in the blockade of the Ganymedean city New York.

Guess which one of those two storylines drew my attention, when I saw a plot summary of this novel?

The Daedalus Incident is an interesting SF/fantasy hybrid. The 1779 section is incredibly bizarre and fascinating, starting off on what feels like a period-realistic ship of the British Navy in an alternate universe that shares its politics and economics with the end of our 18th Century but in which sailing vessels can navigate outer space and most planets and moons seem to have a breathable atmosphere. It feels a bit like Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, in which the Napoleonic Wars are changed completely by the addition of an Air Force comprised of dragons, but Michael J. Martinez takes the idea a lot farther.

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May 31 2013 2:00pm

Review Love Minus Eighty Will McIntoshThere are certain short stories that feel almost uncomfortably compressed, so full of interesting concepts and characters that the material just begs to be explored further. In this case, “uncomfortably compressed” is a good thing, by the way—the exact opposite of a bloated novel that takes a few hundred pages to develop the same rich level of depth.

One example of such hyper-efficient compression was “Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh, originally published in Asimov’s in 2009. It was one of that year’s most memorable short stories, deservedly winning the Hugo for Best Short Story as well as the Asimov’s Readers’ Award. Will McIntosh must have agreed that the story’s starting concept was too good, and its emotional resonance too strong, to leave it unexplored further.

Reworking a short story into a full-length novel doesn’t always work, but in this case, Will McIntosh has pulled it off and then some. Love Minus Eighty, the author’s third novel after the excellent Soft Apocalypse and Hitchers (which I reviewed here and here), has turned out to be a beautiful, emotionally resonant tale.

[My love she speaks like silence, without ideals or violence]

May 21 2013 5:00pm

Review The Blue Blazes Chuck WendigIf, like me, you were introduced to the wonderful and somewhat insane world of Chuck Wendig via Blackbirds, eagerly lapped up its sequel Mockingbird, and then found yourself desperately looking for more, well, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news—I’m just going to go ahead and say it—is that The Blue Blazes is not the new Miriam Black novel. That would be Cormorant, due out at the end of this year from Angry Robot.

The good news is that, if you liked the Miriam Black novels (which I reviewed here and here), The Blue Blazes should be right up your alley: a dark contemporary fantasy that somehow manages to be fun and unnerving at the same time. (Bonus good news: another gorgeous cover by Joey Hi-Fi!)

[Below the mine shaft roads, it will all unfold]

May 20 2013 2:00pm

Review Antiagon Fire L.E. Modesitt Jr.My standard spoiler warning for this series: Antiagon Fire is the seventh novel in L.E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Imager Portfolio series, and the fourth one following the adventures of Quaeryt Rytersyn. The first three novels in the series had a different protagonist and were set in the same fictional world but several centuries after the events portrayed in the Quaeryt novels.

In other words, you may want to stop reading this review if you haven’t at least read the first three Quaeryt novels: Scholar, Princeps and Imager’s Battalion. If you’d like a refresher, you can find my reviews of those novels here, here and here. (You can also find my look at the initial Imager trilogy here.)

So, in summary: if you’re not familiar with this series yet, please check it out because it’s excellent—but stop reading this review here to avoid spoilers.

[Read more]

May 17 2013 2:00pm

Talking With Tom Doherty Greg Benford

Who better to interview a living legend than another living legend? “Talking with Tom” is the third installment of a series in which Tor publisher Tom Doherty chats with one of the many authors and industry icons whose careers he influenced. Previous installments covered conversations with L.E. Modesitt Jr.and Harriet McDougal.

Please enjoy this fascinating and wide-ranging conversation between Tom Doherty and award-winning science fiction author Gregory Benford.

[The sound of time’s sure falling]

May 9 2013 4:00pm

Review Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha LeeConservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee is a terrifying collection of short stories to review. The stories themselves are rarely scary in the traditional sense, but their individual complexity and astonishing level of variety make this an impossible book to encompass in just a few paragraphs.

It’s not that there aren’t any hooks or approaches; it’s more that there is such a bewildering number of them that, as a reader or reviewer, you feel somewhat like you’ve wandered onto a hitherto undiscovered island full of skittery, unfamiliar species that keep turning out to be something else than what you initially expected. More than a review, Conservation of Shadows needs its own monograph. Towards a Taxonomy of Yoon Ha Lee’s Short Fiction, maybe.

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Apr 24 2013 4:00pm

Review The Alteration Kingsley AmisIt’s 1976, and the rule of the Roman Catholic Church is absolute. A stable theocracy prevails across Europe. The Reformation never happened. A papal crusade prevented Henry VIII from taking the throne. Martin Luther became Pope Germanian I. The Church is in charge of all aspects of life, from government and culture all the way down to personal relationships.

Ten year old Hubert Anvil is an incredibly gifted soprano, but as puberty approaches, his voice will break, inevitably destroying his ability to sing in the higher registers. Hubert’s superiors are considering an “alteration”: removing the offending parts of his anatomy before hormones ravage his angelical voice….

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Apr 19 2013 4:00pm

Five Autobiographies and a Fiction Lucius Shepard Book ReviewLucius Shepard’s new collection Five Autobiographies and a Fiction is required reading for fans of the author. People who have never read anything by Shepard may love it too, but because of the specific nature of this set of stories, it’ll definitely have more impact on readers who are familiar with the author. If that's you, I’d go as far as saying that this is nothing less than a must-read, because it will dramatically change and enrich your understanding of the author and his works.

As the title of this new collection indicates, Shepard approaches aspects of his own life and personality from five different directions.  Calling these stories “autobiographies” is as meaningful as it is deceptive. “Pseudo-autobiographies” or even “meta-autobiographies” would be more appropriate, but it’s understandable why Shepard and Subterranean Press avoided those horrible mouthfuls.

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Apr 12 2013 2:00pm

Tunnel Out of Death Book Review Jamil NasirHeath Ransom, the main character of Jamil Nasir’s new novel Tunnel Out of Death, is an endovoyant investigator, which means he uses his enhanced sense of empathy, combined with futuristic immersion tank technology, to solve mysteries and track people in the etheric world. While trying to find the consciousness of a rich comatose woman in the astral sphere, he encounters something he’s never seen before: a black tear in the not-quite-reality he accesses during his investigations.

Inexorably pulled into this odd black tunnel, Ransom’s mind enters the body of a young man who has just been given a drug overdose in an attempt to make his death seem like a suicide. While inhabiting this unfamiliar reality and body, Ransom discovers that the initial investigation he was contracted for has much farther-reaching implications than he could have possibly imagined….

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Apr 10 2013 5:00pm

Across The Event Horizon Mercurio D Rivera CollectionOver the last few years, Mercurio D. Rivera has published some great, intriguing science fiction short stories in markets such as Interzone and Asimov’s. He’s been anthologized in one of Hartwell & Cramer’s annual “Best of” collections, received several honorable mentions in the Gardner Dozois ones, and had a story included in the John Joseph Adams anthology Other Worlds Than These. Thanks to NewCon Press, you can now find a goodly number of his short stories in the excellent new collection Across the Event Horizon.

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