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.
From The Blog
April 13, 2014
Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Theresa DeLucci
April 11, 2014
This Week’s Game-Changing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was Exactly The Problem With The Show
Thom Dunn
April 8, 2014
Let’s Completely Reimagine Battlestar Galactica! Again. This Time as A Movie!
Emily Asher-Perrin
April 4, 2014
The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Lough
April 3, 2014
A Spoonful of Music Makes the Nanny: Disney’s Mary Poppins
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Apr 15 2014 5:00pm

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.]

Apr 11 2014 1:00pm

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.]

Apr 1 2014 11:00am

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.]

Mar 25 2014 11:00am

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.]

Feb 28 2014 4:30pm

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]

Feb 27 2014 12:00pm

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]

Feb 25 2014 12:00pm

“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 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]

Feb 21 2014 5:00pm

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.]

Feb 21 2014 1:00pm

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]

Feb 20 2014 11:00am

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]

Feb 11 2014 6:00pm

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.]

Feb 11 2014 3:00pm

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!]

Feb 4 2014 12:00pm

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]

Jan 27 2014 4:00pm

Patricia Briggs Night Broken Mercy Thompson Night Broken is the eighth instalment in Patricia Briggs’ popular Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series, after 2013’s Frost Burned. Readers familiar with Briggs’ series already know whether or not they are interested in reading this one: it follows faithfully in the footsteps of its predecessors, delivering a tidy urban fantasy adventure featuring the regular cast.

Readers until now unfamiliar with Mercy Thompson could probably drop in here and still enjoy the ride: while previous knowledge of the characters and the world would add depth and context, nothing in this novel actively requires an acquaintance with what has gone before. It stands alone pretty well, and in a landscape increasingly filled with works demanding a series’ worth of involvement, that makes it stand out. To be honest, I say that because I’ve gone very fuzzy on the details of Night Broken’s predecessors, and it didn’t do any harm.

[Read more]

Jan 14 2014 3:00pm

The Tropic of Serpents Marie Brennan A Natural History of Dragons: a memoir by Lady Trent opened a new series by Marie Brennan. In it, Isabella, a gentlewoman from the nation of Scirling—which bears a passing resemblance to Victorian England—begins the tale of how she became the foremost dragon naturalist of her age. The voice is a retrospective one, that of a mature woman reflecting on the experiences of her youth, and it is this choice of perspective that lends Natural History a great deal of its appeal.

The Tropic of Serpents shares Natural History’s voice, and—to my mind, at least—exceeds its appeal.

[Read More]

Jan 13 2014 3:00pm

Michelle Sagara Touch The Queen of the Dead Touch is a novel I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Silence, its well-received predecessor, was Michelle Sagara’s first foray into Young Adult waters: a story of ghosts and friendship, grief and compassion, and higher stakes than are initially apparent. As a sequel, Touch more than lives up to expectations.

It can be difficult to review quiet books. Books where the emphasis is on the interpersonal moments, where all the freight falls in the relationships between characters, in subtle cues and moments. Books where the tension is mostly between people of good will and the exigencies of circumstance. Touch isn’t a flashy book. You only realise how well it’s succeeded as a novel when you pause to reflect on how much it’s made you care, and in what ways.

[Read more]

Jan 10 2014 5:00pm

David Weber Safehold Like a Mighty Army

David Weber’s Safehold series, now into its seventh volume, has thus far followed a very consistent pattern: people invent or rediscover new technologies, and use them to kill their enemies in new and inventive ways. I understand the general appeal of paragraphs on paragraphs describing the mechanisms and applications of a breech-loading rifle, and the chapters on chapters that give snapshots of military engagements, a lot more after having discovered the entertaining possibilities of real-time strategy games than I did before—but I remain convinced that the extent of Weber’s technological exposition detracts significantly from his ability to tell a good story.

Mind you, the fact that I’m still reading his novels tells you a lot about the triumph of hope over experience.

Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead!

[Read more]

Jan 7 2014 10:00am

When I sat down to write this column, I thought I’d be writing enthusiastically about the books I was looking forward to reading over the next half-year or so. That was before I realised that I’m not actually looking forward to reading an awful lot of new fiction this year: in fact, the thought of all those new books coming into the world when I haven’t caught up on the old ones has begun to fill me with fear and trembling.

Mind you, I’ve been informed that fear and trembling is the native state of all postgraduate students who see their thesis deadline looming into view, so maybe it’s not the books’ fault after all.

[Read more]

Jan 6 2014 4:30pm

Amalie Howard The Almost Girl

The older I get, the harder I am to satisfy. Certainly I grow crankier: Amalie Howard’s The Almost Girl impressed me with how thoroughly it managed to annoy me. And not, I hasten to add, for the most common reasons: retrograde or thoughtless prejudices, poor treatment of its female characters, poor or clichéd prose.

No, The Almost Girl annoyed me because it is almost more than a set of shiny ideas thrown together with no particular concern for world-building, pace, character development, and logic. It is, in fact, almost a book.

[Read More]

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.

[Read more]