Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land August 20, 2014 Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land Ruthanna Emrys Stories of Tikanu. Hero of the Five Points August 19, 2014 Hero of the Five Points Alan Gratz A League of Seven story. La Signora August 13, 2014 La Signora Bruce McAllister If love is not enough, then maybe death... Sleeper August 12, 2014 Sleeper Jo Walton It is best to embrace subjectivity.
From The Blog
August 22, 2014
Mercy Thompson Series Sweepstakes!
Sweepstakes
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
August 15, 2014
We’re Holding Out for a (New) Hero: How Heroes and Villains are Evolving
Leah Schnelbach
August 14, 2014
Doctor Who: “Deep Breath” (Non-spoiler Review)
Chris Lough
August 13, 2014
Eight Essential Science Fiction Detective Mash-Ups
David Cranmer
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Mon
May 19 2014 4:00pm

Science Fiction in a Fantasy World: Jane Lindskold’s Artemis Awakening

Jane Lindskold Artemis Awakening review Jane Lindskold has written or co-written twenty-two novels to date, in a career spanning twenty years. Artemis Awakening is her twenty-third, and the first novel in a new series.

It’s a pretty good read.

The planet of Artemis was created by a technologically advanced human empire as a rustic, “primitive,” playground for its most elite citizens. Technology was concealed, and the human and animal inhabitants of Artemis were biologically and socially engineered to help their guests enjoy their visits. But the empire fell apart in a terrible war, and its successors lost many of their technological marvels.

[Occasional spoilers]

Tue
May 13 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Sophia McDougall Answers Five Questions

Sophia McDougall Sophia McDougall set her first three novels, Romanitas, Roman Burning, and Savage City, in a world where the Roman empire had survived to the modern day. They’re genre-bending work, with the sweep of epic fantasy and the sensibility of science fiction, and I recommend you give them a shot. She’s also well known as the author of “The Rape of James Bond,” an incisive, biting article about “realism” and sexual violence in fiction.

Her most recent novel is Mars Evacuees: something of a change of pace from her earlier books, for Mars Evacuees is a bit of old-fashioned adventure science fiction, written for the nine-to-twelve age-group. I think you guys in the US would call it a middle-grade book. I enjoyed the hell out of it and I want to read the sequel as soon as humanly possible.

Sophia has graciously agreed to answer a handful of questions. Without further ado...

[Questions and answers]

Fri
May 2 2014 4:00pm

Easy Exoticism: Douglas Hulick’s Sworn in Steel

Sworn in Steel Douglas Hulick Douglas Hulick’s debut novel, Among Thieves, came out in the spring of 2011. It’s taken three years for the sequel, Sworn in Steel, to be ready to hit the shelves (and ebook vendors) of the world. With such a long wait, it’s hard not to expect great things.

That’s probably an unfair expectation.

[Spoilers for Among Thieves]

Tue
Apr 29 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: “It is Very Simple, but in War the Simplest Things Become Very Difficult”

Alice Sheldon James Tiptree Jr

“What makes for the most effective presentation and treatment of female characters in fantasy fiction?”

This is the text, more or less, of a question someone asked me recently. It’s a question for which I’ve been having some difficulty formulating an answer, because to me that’s like asking, What makes for the most effective presentation and treatment of human characters in fantasy fiction? It is a question so broad it has no effective answer, because it essentially asks Well, what are women like? as though that were one whit less dependent on context, and socialisation, and individual experiences of the world than Well, what are Germans like? What are South Africans like? What are Brazilians like? What are Americans like?

[Read More]

Fri
Apr 25 2014 3:00pm

YA Without the Emotional Pitch: Kelley Armstrong’s Sea of Shadows

Kelly Armstrong Sea of Shadows Kelley Armstrong has a history of writing entertaining novels, from her long-running Women of the Otherworld series to her moderately well-received Darkest Powers/Cainsville and Darkness Rising Young Adult trilogies. Sea of Shadows marks the start of a new trilogy aimed at the YA market.

To the best of my knowledge, it also marks the first time Armstrong has written a novel entirely in a second-world setting: where her other works are working within the urban/contemporary fantasy subgenre, Sea of Shadows takes its inspiration from the epic fantasy tradition.

[Spoilers]

Mon
Apr 21 2014 12:00pm

Sleeps With Monsters: How About Those Hugos?

Hugo Awards Well. It’s an interesting year for the ballot, isn’t it? I confess I’m rather disappointed to see indications of organised bloc voting in the fiction categories: it strikes me as not entirely in keeping with the spirit of the matter. (It is entirely understandable, even at times inevitable, in anything awarded by popular vote, and yet it still disappoints the idealist in me.)

Yet set the fiction categories aside for the moment, and we see an awards shortlist reflecting a decidedly newer, and in many cases—like the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (which is not, as is constantly repeated, actually a Hugo, despite being voted on during the same process)—a more diverse vision of the SFF community than has often been the case.

[Read more]

Fri
Apr 18 2014 1:00pm

Wings Gleaming Like Beaten Bronze: Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky Trilogy

Eternal Sky Elizabeth Bear

“Better a storm crow than a carrion bird.”

–Range of Ghosts, Elizabeth Bear

This is not a review. The Powers That Be here at Tor.com have asked me to write about Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky trilogy as a whole now that it’s available in its entirety for your reading pleasure. Because I love it, you see. I love it so much, now that it is done, that the small criticisms I may have had for the middle book fade into insignificance: it has the kind of conclusion that raises up everything that has gone before, that adds fresh meanings to previous events in the light of new knowledge, new developments, new triumphs and griefs.

[Read more]

Tue
Apr 15 2014 5:00pm

Wandering America’s Highways: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire InCryptid Sparrow Hill Road I’ve lost track of how many novels the amazingly prolific Seanan McGuire, and her alter ego Mira Grant, have published between them. Suffice to say that at this point, McGuire’s had a great deal of practice, and it shows.

Sparrow Hill Road is her latest book, set in the same universe as her InCryptid series but not featuring any overlap with characters or events introduced in those novels. It is more a collection of linked stories than a single unified novel—which makes sense, because Sparrow Hill Road originated as a series of short stories first published at Edge of Propinquity in 2010. These are the stories of Rose Marshall, dead at the age of sixteen in 1954, killed by a man called Bobby Cross who made a deal at the crossroads to live forever.

She’s been wandering America’s highways as a ghost ever since.

[Read more. Some spoilers for the book.]

Fri
Apr 11 2014 1:00pm

Dragon Age: The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes

This is the first videogame tie-in novel that I’ve had for review. It’s been a little difficult for me to figure out where to start talking about it. Do I start with the world, with the games, or with a story that should stand on its own: a story that, without the context provided by Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2, never actually will?

Maybe a media franchise tie-in novel doesn’t need to stand on its own, though. Certainly I’m not alone in really having enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins and DA:2 (for all their flaws) and in wanting to see more exploration of the interesting aspects of the world of Thedas, and places that have not yet been visited in the videogames. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire does a little of this, but it fails to avoid the major problem with the majority of media franchise tie-ins.

[Minor spoilers follow.]

Tue
Apr 1 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Between Lagos and Mars and LA and the Stars

Someday soon again, I imagine, I’ll use this column to focus on a single work or single writer in detail—or even a single theme. But not until I escape the gravitational pull of my present black hole. (Ask me about the cult of Asklepios in Greek antiquity sometime, but only if you think you can handle the screaming.)

Meanwhile, let me tell you about some books I’ve had the privilege of reading lately.

[Some of them are set in Lagos. Some of them are set on Mars.]

Tue
Mar 25 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Always So Many Books, So Little Time

It’s March, and I’m still nowhere near caught up on needful reading. Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni eyes me accusingly from my shelf, from alongside Ioanna Bourazopoulou’s What Lot’s Wife Saw and Chris Moriarty’s Ghost Spin, to say nothing of Glenda Larke’s The Lascar’s Dagger... and as of this writing, I’m still not more than halfway through Nnedi Okorafor’s odd, brilliant, alienating Lagoon.*

[But let me tell you about some books that I have managed to read.]

Fri
Feb 28 2014 4:30pm

Symbols Without Substance: Rjurik Davidson’s Unwrapped Sky

Unwrapped Sky Rjurik Davidson Some years ago, I attended a French literature lecture. The specific topic was—if I remember rightly—19th century French poetry, and during the course of the hour the speaker delivered a lengthy encomium on the meaningfulness of its meaninglessness: a paean to the anomie and empty symbols of existential nihilism.

Reading Rjurik Davidson’s debut novel, Unwrapped Sky, I was ineluctably reminded of that incredibly frustrating, unforgettable hour. For Unwrapped Sky takes all the creative power of language and sets it in service of hollow symbols of dissolution and decay. It turns revolution into a directionless treatise on corrupted wills and compromised moralities: its characters are more symbols than affective individuals.

[Symbols without real substance]

Thu
Feb 27 2014 12:00pm

Bite And Sting: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse Marie RutkoskiKestrel is the daughter of General Trajan, the Valorian general who conquered the Herran peninsula and enslaved its people. She leads a comfortable, even pampered life in the subjugated Herrani capital. Her real love is music, but with her eighteenth birthday approaching, she will soon be forced to choose between enlisting in the army or marrying. In the first chapter of the novel, Kestrel finds herself purchasing a young male Herrani slave named Arin, who comes advertised as a blacksmith as well as a singer of some talent...

One of the signs you’re reading a good—or at least interesting—book is that you can’t wait to discuss it with friends. So it went with The Winner’s Curse, a promising new YA novel by Marie Rutkoski. Liz Bourke and I ended up reading it more or less simultaneously and, in the process, started chatting about it. After a while, we decided it would make more sense to make this a collaborative review of sorts. So, here we go.

[Read more]

Tue
Feb 25 2014 12:00pm

Sleeps With Monsters: But I’m Not Wrong... About Books. I Hope.

“Really, it’s terrible,” says Electra in Sophocles’ eponymous play, “to speak well and be wrong.” (ἦ δεινὸν εὖ λέγουσαν ἐξαμαρτάνειν, l. 1039.)

February saw a lot of speaking and quite a lot of being wrong over the increasing professionalism of SFWA. It seems a shame to pass over it in silence, but everything I could have added has already been said elsewhere, and better. But the resistance to new voices—to, especially, women’s voices, and in that regard let me recommend both Joanna Russ’s How To Suppress Women’s Writing and this piece by Mary Beard on “The Public Voice of Women”—displayed by elements within the SFF conversation is one of the reasons I’m grateful to Tor.com for the opportunity to continue writing this column.

(And hey, did I mention Sleeps With Monsters has been shortlisted for the BSFA’s Best Non-Fiction Award?)

Rather than dwelling on the sediment in the churning ponds of the internet, though, this month I want to draw your attention (again!) to some new books.

[Read More]

Fri
Feb 21 2014 5:00pm

The Potent Stamina of Goat Mint: Anna Kashina’s Blades of the Old Empire

Blades of the Old Empire Anna Kashina Blades of the Old Empire: Book One of the Majat Code is not, contrary to my initial impression, Anna Kashina’s debut novel. Three of her previous novels were published by the small press/independent publisher Dragonwell Publishing; with two others published by different small outfits, and she has in addition published a further two novels in Russian. Angry Robot Books seems resolved to bring her promptly before a wider Anglophone audience, though, with a second volume in the Majat Code series already scheduled for July of the year.

Angry Robot’s editorial team and I clearly have very different ideas of what constitutes a good book.

[“Are we there yet?” he asked sleepily.]

Fri
Feb 21 2014 1:00pm

Space Opera Bona: The Sea Without A Shore by David Drake

David Drake The Sea Without a Shore The Sea Without A Shore is the tenth instalment in David Drake’s popular and long-running Republic of Cinnabar Navy series, starring Signals Officer Lady Adele Mundy, librarian and spy, and Daniel Leary, decorated officer of the Royal Cinnabar Navy. Drake writes some of the best space opera in the business, and while The Sea Without A Shore has somewhat less space action than previous RCN novels, it’s still opera bona.

Forgive me the Latin pun: I’ll return to the RCN series’ classical inspirations, and those of The Sea Without A Shore in particular, shortly.

[Read More]

Thu
Feb 20 2014 11:00am

Building Bridges: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

It took me some time to begin writing this review. For some days after I read The Goblin Emperor (and I read it three times straight through in three days), I had to sit on the urge to open any discussion of this novel with CAPSLOCK EXCLAMATIONS OF ENTHUSIASM, continue the discussion with more such exclamations, and conclude with CAPSLOCK JOY.

As you can see, the urge hasn’t entirely gone away.

[Read More]

Tue
Feb 11 2014 6:00pm

Espionage and Revolution: Cauldron of Ghosts by Eric Flint and David Weber

David Weber Eric Flint Cauldron of Ghosts It’s probably best not to think too deeply about cover art when it comes to Baen books, but sometimes—often—I can’t help but wonder what the artist was trying to evoke. The central figure on the cover of Cauldron of Ghosts, the third book in the spinoff David Weber Honorverse series co-authored by Eric Flint (after 2009’s Torch of Freedom), is vaguely reminiscent of Mal Reynolds from long-ago Firefly—an association that’s more than a little misleading.

[Although there is a small band of wise-cracking heroes.]

Tue
Feb 11 2014 3:00pm

An Engaging Adventure: Emilie & the Sky World by Martha Wells

Emile and the Sky World Martha Wells Most of you are, I hope, already familiar with Martha Wells. (And if not, what are you all waiting for?) Emilie and the Sky World is her second book from YA imprint Strange Chemistry, a direct sequel to 2013’s Emilie and the Hollow World.

Sky World picks up immediately where the Hollow World left off, on the doorstep of our eponymous protagonist Emilie’s cousin’s house. In this respect, it feels almost more like the second instalment of a fast-paced television serial than the next novel in a series: don’t expect much time here to catch your breath!

[Keep up, keep up!]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 12:00pm

Sleeps With Monsters: Elizabeth Bear Answers Eight Questions

Elizabeth Bear Today we’re joined by the amazing Elizabeth Bear, who has graciously agreed to answer some questions. Bear is the author of over twenty novels and more short fiction than I dare to count—some of which is available in her collections The Chains That You Refuse (Night Shade Books, 2006), and Shoggoths in Bloom (Prime, 2013). She’s a winner of the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and Hugo Awards in 2008 and 2009 for her short story “Tideline” and the novelette “Shoggoths in Bloom,” among other accolades.

Many of her novels feature highly in my list of all-time favourites (and I’m really looking forward to her next one due, The Steles of the Sky) so I’m thrilled to be able to interrogate her here today. Without further ado, then, let’s get to the questions!

[Read more]