Where the Trains Turn November 19, 2014 Where the Trains Turn Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen His imagination runs wild. The Walk November 12, 2014 The Walk Dennis Etchison Creative differences can be brutal. Where the Lost Things Are November 5, 2014 Where the Lost Things Are Rudy Rucker and Terry Bisson Everything has to wind up somewhere. A Kiss with Teeth October 29, 2014 A Kiss with Teeth Max Gladstone Happy Halloween.
From The Blog
November 18, 2014
The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix
Ada Palmer
November 17, 2014
In Defense of Indiana Jones, Archaeologist
Max Gladstone
November 14, 2014
An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!
Leah Schnelbach
November 13, 2014
Why Do We Reject Love as a Powerful Force in Interstellar?
Natalie Zutter
November 11, 2014
The Well-Lit Knight Rises: How 1960s Batman Shaped Our Bat-Thoughts Forever
Ryan Britt
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
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]

Fri
Oct 10 2014 1:00pm

Engaging Explosions: A Call To Duty by Timothy Zahn and David Weber

A Call to Duty Honorverse David Weber Timothy Zahn review

A Call To Duty is the latest novel in the universe of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels. In some respects one could just as easily refer to it as the earliest: it’s set shortly after the founding of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, before the discovery of the Manticore Junction wormhole, at a period where its fledgling navy’s very existence is under threat from political manoeuvring and budget squabbles.

Our protagonist is Travis Uriah Long, who enlists in the Royal Manticorean Navy at the age of seventeen in search of structure. Travis believes in following the rules, but also has a strong sense of loyalty and an ability to think outside the box when the situation warrants. His rule-following tendencies bring him trouble when he runs up against slackness up the chain of command in his specialty training school after bootcamp; his ability to think outside the box brings him to the attention of his officers during a crisis—even if the captain never puts the idea into practice, and even denies him credit for it.

[Read More]

Thu
Oct 9 2014 4:00pm

Destinies Are At Stake: The Knight by Pierre Pevel

The Knight Pierre Pevel review The Knight is the tenth novel by French fantasy writer (and Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire winner) Pierre Pevel, and the fourth to be published in English translation.

Gollancz brought Pevel to the attention of the Anglophone reading public with his Cardinal’s Blades (Les Lames du Cardinal) trilogy—Dumas-inspired novels of swashbuckling conspiracy, Parisian mud, and Spanish dragons. Now they’re following up with The Knight (Le Chevalier), a much more straightforward epic fantasy.

It’s not quite as fun.

[Read More]

Tue
Oct 7 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Sea Change and September Girls

Sea Change SM Wheeler September Girls Bennett Madison

S.M. Wheeler’s Sea Change, along with Bennett Madison’s September Girls, are not quite last two novels on the James Tiptree Jr. Award shortlist for 2013 that I haven’t yet discussed in this column. (I haven’t talked about Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince yet—nor N.A. Sulway’s winning Rupetta, for which paper copies are thin on the ground.)

Warning: Contains spoilers.

[Read More]

Mon
Oct 6 2014 2:00pm

Urban Fantasy without the Tropes: Jacqueline Carey’s Poison Fruit

Jacqueline Carey Agent of Hell Poison FruitJacqueline Carey is best known for her lush and sprawling epic fantasies, begun in 2001 with Kushiel’s Dart. But her most recent trilogy—of which Poison Fruit is the final instalment—takes place in a slightly more mundane setting, a small township in middle America.

The town of Pemkowet is one of the few locations home to an active underworld—a place claimed as home by a god from one of the lesser pantheons. For Pemkowet, that god is Hel, goddess of the Norse land of the dead, and Pemkowet profits by the association, for its tourist board advertises the presence of magical beings as a visitor attraction. (Fairies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and all manner of other creatures make Pemkowet their home.)

Daisy Johanssen is Hel’s liaison with Pemkowet’s mortal authorities. She’s the daughter of a demon and an innocent mortal woman, and has no magical talents of her own—nor will she ever have, unless she claims her heritage from her father, an act which could bring about the end of the world.

[Spoilers]

Tue
Sep 30 2014 4:00pm

Popcorn Reading: The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell Lost Stars Imperfect Sword review I have a small wee habit of complaining about the difficulties of reviewing series books. And yet I still find myself saying “Oh yes, definitely, I’ll review that! Love to!”

If you’re already familiar with Jack Campbell’s The Lost Stars series, a spin-off to his ever-longer-running The Lost Fleet sequence, you already know whether or not you’re interested in reading this one. You also know what you can expect: Campbell is nothing if not predictable. If you’re not familiar with this series, here isn’t the place to start: The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword is the third book in a series that began with The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight and continued in The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield.

[Read More]

Tue
Sep 30 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Books, Redux

So here we are again, as summer slides towards autumn in the northern hemisphere. Another week, another column. Let me know if you guys are getting bored or anything with all this talk about books: I’m sure I could find a controversy to stick my oar in on if I really tried...

(On second thought, let’s not.)

So, books! Let me tell you about some more of them! Specifically, let me tell you about four titles marketed as Young Adult, and one book aimed at a slightly different audience...

[Read More]

Tue
Sep 16 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Laurie R King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

Sleeps With Monsters The Beekeeper's ApprenticeThe Beekeeper's Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen is the first in a series of mystery novels by Laurie R. King, which feature an elderly Sherlock Holmes and a youthful half-American student of theology, one Mary Russell. It was first published in 1994, and has to date seen eleven novel-length sequels. It’s not science fiction or fantasy—I may have felt the need for a wee break from SFF—except inasmuch as it involves Sherlock Holmes, a character frequently beloved of many people who’re also SFF fans—but it is a brilliant book.

I may be the last person in the world to realise that this book existed, and that it was good. But in case there are any other poor benighted souls out there who, like me, somehow escaped hearing about its virtues in the last couple of decades, I propose to tell you about them.

[It has many admirable virtues.]

Tue
Sep 9 2014 8:30am

Sleeps With Monsters: Another Post About Some Books

sleeps with monsters reviews

I’m a little bit too tired and short of brain to address any of the controversies cropping up in the realms of SFF this month. Or to get my teeth into a properly juicy matter for discussion: forgive me, friends. The spirit is willing, but the rest is weak.

So instead of proper thoughtfulness, this week I’m talking about all the lovely books I’ve read recently. And maybe mentioning the books I wish I was reading right now. (For some reason, there’s never enough time to read all the things I want to read. This is deeply unfair. Had I but world enough and time! etc.)

[Read More]

Tue
Sep 2 2014 8:00am

A More Intimate Scale: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword Ann Leckie Ann Leckie’s debut novel, Ancillary Justice, has won six awards—latest and not least the Hugo Award for Best Novel—and appeared on the shortlists for at least two more. After such a successful first outing, the major question with Ancillary Sword has to be: how does it compare? Has Leckie caught the same lightning in a bottle twice?

I loved Ancillary Justice. For me, it was one of those books you’ve wanted to read your whole life, an empty gap where you didn’t realise how wide a gap existed for it to bridge until you read it. I had a very strong positive emotional response to Ancillary Justice, is what I’m saying.

Only time will tell whether Ancillary Sword achieves the same success in the wider world, but for me? It already has. It turns out that I love Ancillary Sword just as much as its predecessor, if not more.

[Read More]

Fri
Aug 29 2014 8:00am

Werewolf Mercenaries and Mentors: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson Shifting Shadows Patricia Briggs switched to writing urban fantasy after her first eight novels—which took place in various different second-world contexts—and has achieved no small measure of success with them. The Mercy Thompson series—about a coyote shapeshifter car mechanic set in a world where werewolves, vampires, and fae live among humans—has many flaws, but Briggs knows how to tell an entertaining story.

Shifting Shadows is her first short fiction collection, and consists of stories set in the Mercy Thompson continuum.

[A review]

Thu
Aug 28 2014 8:00am

Tasty, Tasty Angst: Sarah J. Maas’s Heir of Fire

Throne of Glass Heir of Fire Sarah J Maas review I have a confession to make. A guilty secret, if you like: Sarah J. Maas’s first two novels, Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, are the kind of books I love to hate. Implausible, inconsistent in characterisation, populated by protagonists who are all in their own way some variety of Mary Sue, operating according to Opposite World logic, and with the kind of scattershot worldbuilding and wrongness-in-small-details that makes me bang my head against walls, they nonetheless possess an indefinable quality that keeps me reading all the way to the end. I think it may be the tasty tasty angst.

Heir of Fire is the third volume in Maas’s ongoing series about youthful assassin Celaena Sardothien. It marks the first occasion where I feel that Maas may one day mature into a writer whose work I enjoy in its own right, and not mainly for the pleasure I find in taking it apart.

[Read More]

Tue
Aug 26 2014 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Some Books and a Night of Awards

Fairs' Point Queen of the Tearling Hardship

Fairs’ Point by Melissa Scott (Lethe Press, 2014) is the long-awaited novel-length continuation of the novels of Astreiant. The first two Astreiant books, Point of Hopes and Point of Dreams, were co-written by Scott and her late partner, Lisa A. Barnett, over a decade ago. In 2012, Scott released a novella, Point of Knives, whose events take place between the original two novels, but this is the first true sequel.

And damn, is it an excellent book. The city of Astreiant is a vivid and compelling setting, in all its early-modern-approximate glory—it feels like a real and complex city, with a real city’s currents swirling through its streets. The magic of Astreiant’s world is the magic of Hermetic science, reliant on astrology—but astrology is a key part of everyone’s lives, and everyone consults horoscopes: I love it.

[Read More]

Mon
Aug 25 2014 1:00pm

“Brave People are Afraid. I’m Not Afraid Anymore.” Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire

The Mirror Empire Kameron Hurley review Kameron Hurley’s nonfiction writing recently won awards in two separate categories at this year’s Hugo ceremony (Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work, to be exact). Her first science fiction novel, God’s War, was shortlisted for, among others, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the BSFA Award. The Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy (God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture) heralded the arrival of new, uncompromising voice in the SFF field. Hurley’s first outings proved her ability to innovate: to mix really weird elements of worldbuilding with visceral brutality and strong characterisation, in stories that have interesting arguments about social change, war, and survival at their core.

Stories with a deeply, angrily, feminist vein.

The Mirror Empire takes what Hurley’s already shown us she’s capable of with regard to science fiction, and applies it to the vast canvas of epic fantasy. This isn’t the epic fantasy we’re all used to, though, recognisably inspired by cultures from our own history—and that mostly northern European ones. No: this is epic fantasy that builds its world from the ground up, and that world is deeply, fascinatingly weird.

[Filled with bad shit on its way...]