After taking on the fae in 2010’s The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff turns her considerably skilled pen to the subject of angels and demons in The Space Between. The story begins in Pandemonium, the steel garden realm of demons so exquisitely captured by artist Nekro (Anna Dressed in Blood) on the cover. Here we meet the emotionally detached but secretly tormented Daphne, the daughter of Lilith and Lucifer. Daphne has only really ever connected with her half brother Obie, who unlike their demonic siblings, doesn’t work in ‘Collections’ but rather helps the half human/demon children on Earth. This is the first of many role reversals that occurs in traditional angel-demon mythology in this book. When Obie tells Daphne that he’s leaving Pandemonium permanently because he’s fallen in love, and then vanishes, she offers to make her first visit to Earth and find him.
Cas Lowood is the kind of character who leads you through his story with such vitality that he’s feels as real as anyone you’ve ever met. He’s a seventeen year old ghost killer, a job he inherited after his father was murdered. He’s spend the last three years of his life traipsing across the country with his mother, following tips and rumors about the not-so-departed, hoping to learn enough to finally defeat the ghost who killed his father.
And that’s when he hears about Anna Dressed in Blood .
Anna was only sixteen when she was murdered in 1958. Trapped in the Victorian home where her throat was slit, she lingers, a ghostly horror in her once white dress now stained red from her eternally dripping blood. The whispered rumors in the town say she kills anyone who steps inside. But when Cas shows up, she spares him, saves him.
It started with vampires, werewolves, and witches, then angels and demons hit big, but I don’t know too many people who predicted that zombies would be the next supernatural phenomenon to break out of the horror genres and take over urban fantasy. Maybe take over is too strong a term, but they are enjoying an unprecedented popularity of late, and not just as the monsters other characters fight either. Dust by Joan Frances Turner, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion, Die For Me by Amy Plum, and my favorite, My Life As A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland all feature zombies as main characters with thoughts, emotions, and motivations beyond shambling after brains.
The latest book to feature a zombie protagonist is Working Stiff, the first book in the new Revivalist series by Rachel Caine (available now from Roc) who is well known for her inventive Weather Warden series (and it’s spinoff Outcast series) and her endlessly entertaining Morganville Vampire series.
This week we’re looking at the 2011 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel. You’ll be able to find all the posts in this ongoing series here.
Feed by Mira Grant (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2011) can pretty much be summed up in three words: Politics, journalism, and zombies. In that order. The story revolves around sibling journalists Georgia and Shawn Mason who are leaders among the burgeoning bloggers-as-legitimate-reporters phenomenon that sprang up the wake of The Rising, aka the zombie apocalypse. They land a coveted position reporting on the campaign trail with Presidential hopeful Senator Ryman.
Lets talk about the good, or in this case the phenomenal. The worldbuilding along is worth the Hugo nomination. I was hoping for a complex and plausible zombie apocalypse and I got that and more. The details about the origin of the zombie virus known as Kellis-Amberlee, or the KA virus, are insane (like Michael Crichton insane). Half the time it felt like I was reading about a real event because the details were so precise and exhaustive. The science behind the virus is frighteningly realistic as are the motivations behind the scientist who originally set out to cure the common cold, the activist group who stole it and released it to the public, and the research organization who were curing cancer (turns out we can eradicate cancer and colds but with one tiny side effect: zombies).
Four years have gone by. Four battles have been fought. Four victories have been won. The fifth book in J.K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OotP), marked a pretty significant change in tone from the previous books. Harry had watched a friend die in Goblet of Fire, and, as we quickly learn, he’s had to endure a summer of public ridicule and derision from the Wizarding community, denouncing his claims that He Who Must Not Be Named had returned as lies or merely the ravings of a crazy boy. Combine that with the fact that he turns fifteen in the book, and it’s not surprising to find that a new cross, moody, and short tempered teenage Harry has replaced ‘The Boy Who Lived.’
“So that’s it, is it? Stay there? That’s all anyone could tell me after I got attacked by those dementors too! Just stay put while the grown-ups sort it out, Harry! We won’t bother telling you anything, though, because your tiny little brain might not be able to cope with it!” -Harry
Series: Potterpalooza on Tor.com
Me: Hey, I just watched/read/played this amazing zombie movie/show/book/game. You have to try it.
Friend: That’s nice, but I don’t really like zombies.
Me: But this one is really good. I promise you’ll like it.
Friend: No, thanks. I don’t like undead things.
Me: What about vampires?
Friend: Oh, I like vampires.
Me: Vampires are undead.
Friend: But it’s different.
Me: How so?
Friend: Zombies are gross.
Me: Have you seen the trailer for Priest? They’re not all sparkly.
Friend: I just don’t like zombies.
Zombies maybe bigger than ever right now, but there are still lots of people, like my unnamed friend, who refuse to go near anything that features the truly undead. I aim to change that. Sure zombies may represent American consumerism, remind you of your own mortality, or scare the begeeses out of you, but there’s no reason they can’t entertain you in the process. I’m giving you my picks for the best zombie movie, TV show, book, game, and music video. Even if you think you’re one of those zombie abstainers, these are the places to start if you want to embrace change:
Back when there were bookstores, The Council of Shadows by S.M. Stirling is exactly the kind of book I would have picked up. It has a gorgeously gritty cover by one of my favorite artists (Chris McGrath), it’s categorized as urban fantasy, and it’s description included the words “shadowspawn,” “brotherhood,” and “apocalypse.” So why didn’t I like it more?
It starts out well enough, with an intriguing world secretly populated with Shadowspawn, “an ancient subspecies of Homo sapiens who formed the basis of legends about vampires and werewolves and have been secretly controlling the world for most of the 20th century.” When The Council of Shadows begins, the ruling Shadowspawn have grown weary of hiding and are ready to take their rightful place at the top of the food chain by culling the human population down to a more controllable size. Fortunately for humanity, not all of the Shadowspawn are as keen on the idea of mass murder. There’s the Brotherhood, who are a group of vampire hunters, and the protagonist Adrian Brézé, a former Brotherhood member and a Shadowspawn himself who has turned against his own kind.
Worldbuilding is vitally important in this genre, and Stirling has set up a good one, but it came at the expense of character development, plot, and pacing, all of which fell pretty flat.
What sixteen year old boy wouldn’t love finding out that his family legacy can be traced back to the most famous group of vampire hunters ever? Jamie Carpenter, for one.
When he finds out that his great grandfather, along with Van Helsing, founded a secret government agency to rid the world of vampires, his rush of adrenaline at entering Department 19 is short-lived. He is met with open hostility by most of the operatives (with the exception of Frankenstein’s Monster) because, as it turns out, his family legacy isn’t so illustrious. His own father was a traitor. And he’s the reason that Jamie’s mother has been abducted by the most powerful vampire alive.
Holy Urban Fantasy Sidekicks, Batman!
The army of urban fantasy fans from Tor.com Urban Fantasy Facebook and Twitter is fast becoming an amazing resource the paranormal community. Ask a question and the responses come flying in. Most recently, the topic of sidekicks came up.
Where would Batman be without Robin? Frodo without Samwise? Han Solo without Chewbacca? Frodo would be caving it up with Gollum, Hans would still likely be frozen in carbonite, and Batman…okay, I’m guessing Batman would be fine, but the others hold true. But sidekicks aren’t simply relegated to comics and SFF. Urban fantasy has it’s share. How long would Harry last without Bob? Rachel without Jenks? Angel without Wesley?
If you couldn’t tell from my Top 10 Best Werewolves in Movies & TV post, I appreciate the old school werewolves that rely primarily on makeup effects, costumes, and animatronics. I have very little patience for CGI effects, which is why you will see a lot of them on this list.
As hard as it was narrowing the best werewolves down to ten, the worst list was that much harder. There are a seemingly endless supply of terrible looking werewolves, many of which were suggested by the Tor.com Urban Fantasy Facebook and Twitter followers, and Hollywood keeps churning them out. If I could, I’d give honorable mentions to at least ten more that, while horrendous in their own right, weren’t quite bad enough to crack the top ten.
The best thing about connecting with hundreds of urban fantasy lovers on Tor.com Urban Fantasy Facebook and Twitter? Book recommendations! I asked the Tor.com Facebook Urban Fantasy followers to give their best “If you like X, you should try Y” urban fantasy recommendations.
Here are more that we came up with:
Horror is typically a genre I tread lightly around, at least when it comes to books, and I inevitably think of slasher films when I hear the words “horror movie.” I’ve seen an embarrassingly low number of slasher films; to say nothing of actually liking them. Freddy has never been invited to my sleepovers, I don’t know much about Jason except that he has mommy issues, and as far as I’m concerned Jigsaw is just another world for puzzle. But ask me about monster movies and I perk right up, especially if said monsters are werewolves.
We’ve entered the final countdown to Valentine’s Day. The air is charged with love and romance and consumerism. Hallmark has begun it’s shock and awe campaign. Grocery stores are literally assaulting unsuspecting shoppers with those little candy hearts, gaudy cupid balloons, and boxes of Twilight-themed cards.
Not to be outdone, I’ve gathered 14 urban fantasy-inspired gifts to give your supernatural sweetheart. Most of these gift ideas are for the ladies, but we haven’t completely overlooked the guys either. Take a look and let us know if you’ll be giving any of these gifts this year or if you have any other ideas in the comments.
When it comes to urban fantasy, forget the famous James Brown song, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”: it’s women who rule paranormal fiction. Male protagonists are about as common as tan lines on a vampire. For every one Harry Dresden there are a dozen Anita Blakes, Mercy Thompsons, and Rachel Morgans. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of male characters in urban fantasy, but usually they are seen through the eyes of a female protagonist.
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