A Cup of Salt Tears August 27, 2014 A Cup of Salt Tears Isabel Yap They say women in grief are beautiful. Strongest Conjuration August 26, 2014 Strongest Conjuration Skyler White A story of the Incrementalists. 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.
From The Blog
August 25, 2014
Animorphs: Why the Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care
Sam Riedel
August 20, 2014
The Welcome Return of the Impatient and Cantankerous Doctor Who
David Cranmer
August 19, 2014
The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: Introductory Post
Leigh Butler
August 19, 2014
Whatever Happened to the Boy Wonder? Bring Robin Back to the Big Screen
Emily Asher-Perrin
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
Showing posts by: niall alexander click to see niall alexander's profile
Fri
Aug 22 2014 5:00pm

Among Myths: Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew review

World Fantasy Award winner Lavie Tidhar has it that Benjanun Sriduangkaew may be “the most exciting new voice in speculative fiction today,” and on the basis of Scale-Bright, he might be right. A love story set in heaven and Hong Kong arranged around a troubled young woman’s belated coming of age, it’s the longest and most involved tale Sriduangkaew has told to date, and considered alongside The Sun-Moon Cycle, it represents an achievement without equal.

“An orphan who spent seven years hating equally the parents that died and the extended family that did not,” Julienne, when we join her, lives what you might describe as a quiet life with her adoptive aunts, Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo. The fact that they’re myths in mortal form complicates things a little, admittedly.

[Read More]

Fri
Aug 22 2014 10:00am

What Happened, If It Happened: J by Howard Jacobson

J Howard Jacobson review

Alongside Us, The Bone Clocks, and How To Be Both, J by Howard Jacobson was one of a number of novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in advance of its publication date. A source of frustration for some, I’m sure—though this has ever been the panel’s habit—but for others it represents a reason to update reading radars.

This year, I found myself amongst the others above, because if not for the nod, I doubt I’d have looked twice at this book. When I did, additionally, it was with some scepticism; after all, Jacobson has won the Booker before, for The Finkler Question in 2010—the first comic novel to take the trophy home in 25 years—and pointedly acknowledging former nominees is another of the panel’s practices.

Not today. J, I’m pleased to say, is in every sense deserving of its spot on the longlist. It’s a literary revelation wrapped in understated dystopian clothing; a wonder of wit and whimsy that takes in the chilling and the ridiculous—the hilarious and the horrific. That said, it’s a novel that requires rereading to appreciate completely.

[Read More]

Sun
Aug 17 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Late August New Releases

British Genre new releases August

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

There’s lots to look forward to in late August if you’re itching for a genre fiction fix. There are the big hitters—books like The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks, Lock In by John Scalzi and Jo Walton’s new novel, My Real Children—and there are a good few little books that could, including the revised version of Marcher by Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Chris Beckett, The Race by Nina Allan, and the finale of Ben H. Winter’s underrated Last Policeman series.

This edition of the Hitlist also features new books by Kanae Minato, Mark Walden, Ian Whates, Lilite Saintcrow, George Mann, Salome Jones, D. J. Molles, Michael Grant, Lloyd Shepherd, Josephine Angelini and Dana Fredsti.

[Read More]

Thu
Aug 14 2014 5:00pm

When in Rume: The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Incorruptibles John Hornor Jacobs

A grimdark fantasy about mercenaries protecting precious cargo as it’s transported through treacherous territory, The Incorruptibles gives Red Country a run for its money, if not its funny, but what sets it apart from Joe Abercrombie’s wild west diversion is its unexpected perspective.

Fisk and Shoe have been partners in crime for a lifetime. One is a pious man, the other “damned as surely as the sun rises.” Why? Because “he loves the Hellfire. He loves his gun. He’s a hard, unyielding man, with a long memory and impervious to regret. But there’s kindness, too, under all that.” Sounds like an anti-hero to me!

Surprisingly, John Hornor Jacobs’ new novel is more interested in the man of God—or rather Ia—than it is in the man of action I expected to find front and centre of the alt historical events The Incorruptibles documents.

[Read More]

Wed
Aug 13 2014 5:00pm

An Empty Vessel: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgramage Haruki Murakami

“From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.”

So begins Haruki Murakami’s first novel since the bloat of the book many expected to be his magnum opus. Happily, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is essentially the inverse of IQ84. It’s short and sweet where that last was extended in its dejection; gently suggestive rather than frustratingly overbearing; and though the ending is a bit of bait and switch, it’s one which feels fitting, unlike IQ84’s dubious denouement.

If you were worried, as I was, that Murakami may have had his day, then rest assured: his new novel represents a timely reminder of the reasons you fell for his fiction in the first place.

[Read More]

Tue
Aug 12 2014 2:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Mother of Suns

The Archer Who Shot Down Suns Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

One of the highlights of this month for me is the release of Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a new novella—the author’s first, in fact—blending “Chinese myth, interstitial cities, and the difficulties of being mortal and ordinary when everyone around you has stepped out of legends.” But before there was Scale-Bright, there was The Sun-Moon Cycle, a trio of long and lustrous shorts published at the commencement of Sriduangkaew’s creative career.

[Read More]

Wed
Aug 6 2014 4:00pm

Urbosynthesis: Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock

Tom Pollack Our Lady of the Streets review

There was always something special about Beth Bradley; something which went beyond her quick wit, her evident intelligence. Wasn’t so long ago she was one among many—a badly-behaved teenager suffering through school, as exceptional individuals like Beth tend to—yet even then she was set apart by her street art; by graffiti which came to life because of her partnership with Pen, who’d append poetry to her pictures, turning still images into stories. Stories of the city.

Stories such as those Tom Pollock has told over the course of The Skyscraper Throne: an inventive and affecting urban fantasy saga which comes full circle with the release of Our Lady of the Streets. Be prepared to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Beth and her best friend, then... but not before they’ve had one last adventure together. An adventure as incredible as it is desperate; as tragical as it is magical.

[Why? Because Beth Bradley is dying.]

Tue
Aug 5 2014 12:00pm

What We Know Not: Irregularity, ed. Jared Shurin

Irregularity anthology edited by Jared Shurin review

Most books are dedicated to people near and dear: to friends or family members of the minds behind the literary leaps such documents detail. Sometimes other authors or artists—figures of miscellaneous inspiration without whom some key element of the texts in question may have foundered or failed—are acknowledged in the aforementioned fashion. It’s a rare thing, though, to see a dedication made not to a someone, but a something.

Irregularity is exactly that. It’s an anthology dedicated to an idea, to an abstract: “to failure,” in fact—though the text itself is a tremendous success. As an enterprise it is “no less than wonderful, and it seemed to me that every man of scholarship, every man of imagination, regardless of his language or place of birth, should find in it something extraordinary.” Lo, like The Lowest Heaven before it, the latest collaboration between Jurassic London and the National Maritime Museum showcases an audacious assemblage of tales arranged around an inspired idea: that we as a people were in a way robbed by the Age of Reason.

[Read More]

Sun
Aug 3 2014 10:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Early August New Releases

British Genre fiction focus new releases August

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

The Focus may be on hiatus over the holidays, but the Hitlist is still here, readers! Just as well, what with all of the awesome new releases due out in early August, beginning with a bunch of big hitters—such as the start of Robin Hobb’s new series, Fitz and the Fool; a bumper alien invasion tale from award winner Peter Watts; Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami; and the very end of The Malazan Empire, by way of Assail.

Add to all that an array of exciting debuts, headlined by The Buried Life by Carrie Patel and The Godless by Ben Peek; the continuation of The Dagger and the Coin by Daniel Abraham; the conclusion of The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock; and the completion of The Fourth Gwenevere by the late, great John James.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 29 2014 12:30pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: The Man Who Was A Monster

Stephen Volk Whitstable

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

Seems like Spectral Press has been in the news a whole lot lately; at least, the news I read—and write. A few Focuses ago we heard about The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, an exciting new anthology inspired by the cult classic Pan and Fontana annuals of the 60s and 70s. Simon Marshall-Jones’ indie outfit was also acknowledged by the British Fantasy Society with a number of award nominations, most notably for Best Small Press—this for the third time in a row, I think—but also for several stories by Steven Volk.

You might not know the name—he hasn’t written a whole lot of prose fiction—but Brits in particular will be familiar with his notorious Halloween hoax show, Ghostwatch, as well as the tremendous ITV series Afterlife. Afterlife’s cancellation was a Bad Thing, believe you me, but it did come with something of a silver lining: in the aftermath, Volk took to the short fiction form like a fella possessed. To wit, this week, we’re going to be reading Whitstable, his British Fantasy Award-nominated novella.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 5:00pm

Dreamwalk With Me: Kill Baxter by Charlie Human

kill baxter review charlie human

The antidote to Harry Potter is back in Charlie Human’s bawdy new novel: a lively elaboration of the mad as pants brand of South African urban fantasy advanced in Apocalypse Now Now which, whilst thrilling, makes some of the same mistakes its predecessor did.

Kill Baxter kicks off a matter of months on from the apocalyptic conclusion of Human’s debut. Our sixteen year old protagonist may have saved the world, however his heroics haven’t made a lick of a difference to his unlikely life.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 3:00pm

A Tale as Old as Time: The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano

Anna Caltabiano The Seventh Miss Hatfeild review

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is seventeen year old Anna Caltabiano’s second novel: a scientific romance, after a fashion, and indeed, an extraordinary feat for someone so young. I can’t in good conscience recommend it, however—much as I might like to champion the work of such a promising new author.

It’s 1954, and Cynthia, a lonely little girl on the edge of adolescence, has become fascinated by her new neighbour: a strange lady who has spoken to no one in the weeks since she moved into the street. The better to get a glimpse of this antisocial character, Cynthia puts away her doll one day to take Miss Hatfield a package the postman abandoned when she refused to open her door. To her surprise and delight, she’s invited in for a glass of freshly made lemonade. Her host, however, slips some mysterious liquid into her drink: a drop of water from a lake discovered in the distant past by Ponce de Leon which immediately makes her immortal.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 9:00am

Entanglement: Breakfast with the Borgias by DBC Pierre

Breakfast with the Borgias DBC Pierre

I haven’t been so relieved to finish reading a novel in recent years than I was Breakfast with the Borgias.

This from someone who’s had to review some utter rubbish—books which tested my patience from the first page. Here, however, we have a completely different beast. Coming as it does from the Man Booker Prize winning author of Vernon God Little, it’s no surprise that Breakfast with the Borgias is brilliantly written; that its themes are thoughtful, its execution deft; that its gregarious cast of characters come alive even as its slight story excites.

The trouble? The tension. It’s almost intolerable. Especially in the first section, DBC Pierre’s inaugural Hammer Horror is intensely stressful, like a bad blind date you can’t escape.

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 23 2014 3:00pm

Something Wonderful This Way Comes: Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

review Smiler's Fair Rebecca Levene There’s something for everyone at Smiler’s Fair. Be you young or old, small or tall, green around the gills or hardened by the horrors of war, the travelling carnival will welcome you with open arms before attending to your every pleasure.

Say you want to drink yourself into oblivion or dabble in drugs from distant lands—head on over to the mobile market. Perhaps your deepest desire is to look Lady Luck in the eye at the high stakes tables, or earn enough money wheeling and dealing to make your way in the wider world—well, what’s stopping you? Maybe what you’ve always wanted is to satisfy some carnal fantasy with a well-kept sellcock. Smiler’s Fair doesn’t care... not so long as the coin keeps coming.

[Read More]

Sun
Jul 20 2014 8:00am

British Genre Fiction Hitlist: Late July New Releases

british genre fiction focus new releases UK July 2014

From the fold of the British Genre Fiction Focus comes the British Genre Fiction Hitlist: your biweekly breakdown of the most notable new releases out of the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

The British genre fiction industry is on fire! But whatever you do, don’t put it out, because me? I appreciate the heat—and what with all that there is to look forward to in late July, you should do too.

There are new beginnings in abundance, such as Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene, The Queen of the Tearling by Erica Johansen and The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano. Ahoy endings, as well, including The Casual Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi, which concludes the story started in The Quantum Thief, whilst Deborah Harkness’ All Souls saga wraps up by way of The Book of Life.And that’snot to mention a marvellous miscellany of new books by Lauren Beukes, Ben Aaronovitch, Charlie Human, Mitch Benn, Nicola Griffith, Eric Brown, and—last but not least—the one and only Lisa Tuttle.

[Read More]

Fri
Jul 18 2014 5:00pm

We’re Off To Sue The Wizard: The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt

Tom Holt The Outsorcerer's Apprentice review

An affectionate send-up of the fairytale from the author of such sarcastic tracts as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages and May Contain Traces of Magic, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice features overlords and underlings, self-aware wolves and woodcutters, plus a prince from another world: ours.

Benny isn’t a prince of anything hereabouts, however. Point of fact, he’s in a bit of a pickle when the book begins. He has his final exams at Uni in a few weeks, and with his whole future before him, all of a sudden he doesn’t have a clue what he’s been doing. Studying to be a mathematician, maybe? In a moment of inspiration that some might mistake for laziness, he realises what he really needs is a good, long break to take stock of his situation. To that end, he borrows his Uncle’s “omniphasic Multiverse portal” and travels to a parallel reality where he can pretend to be a powerful person... because of course.

[Wouldn’t you if you could?]

Wed
Jul 16 2014 7:30am

And Finally, For Now, the Fall of the Novel

Young Adult Literature Convention

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

In this, the last edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus before the column goes on hiatus over the holidays—more on which in a moment—we’ve got some pretty Patrick Rothfuss cover art, a round-up of some of the conversations to come from the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention, and an argument that the modern novel may be “losing the narrative arms race.”

All that, plus the Waterstones Children’s Laureate comes over all Klingon, author Allan Ahlberg takes a stand against Amazon, the first male Queen of Teen is crowned, and more.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 15 2014 1:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: China Miéville, The Movie

China  Mieville

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a weekly column dedicated to doing exactly what it says in the header: shining a light on the some of the best and most relevant fiction of the aforementioned form.

I’ve missed China Miéville.

But fair’s fair—the bloke had earned a bit of a break. A new novel bearing his name appeared every year from the publication of The City & The City in 2009 through the release of Railsea in 2012. After that, he scripted fifteen issues of the underrated and unfortunately ill-fated Dial H for DC Comics, and sure, there have been some short stories since: in The White Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and The Apology Chapbook, which was distributed amongst attendees of last year’s World Fantasy Convention.

I haven’t read any of them, though. They were hella hard to get hold of, and if they were rarities then, these days they’re like liquid silver: hot and costly.

[Read More]

Mon
Jul 14 2014 4:00pm

Endgame: The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Causal Angel Hannu Rajaniemi review

The finale of the stellar science fiction saga that The Quantum Thief kicked off begins days after the devastating denouement of The Fractal Prince, with Jean le Flambeur, the trilogy's fin de siècle frontman, finally free... if crestfallen after the abject failure of his latest caper. His partner in crime, meanwhile, finds herself in terrible peril, in part because of the last act of her sentient spidership Perhonen:

When a Sobornost hunter attacked us, the ship tried to save Mieli by shooting her into space. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. [...] The problem is that Mieli served the Sobornost for two decades and carries a Founder gogol in her head. There are too many forces in the system that was access to that kind of information, especially now. For example, the Great Game Zoku, the zoku intelligence arm. They might be nice about it, but when they find her, they are going to peel her mind open like an orange. The pellegrinis, the vasilevs, the hsien-kus or the chens will be less polite. Let alone the mercenary company she infiltrated and betrayed on Earth.

The Causal Angel is as daunting a novel as this early excerpt suggests, requiring from its readers such deliberate commitment that those who come to their fiction for fun—though there is some—would be best to leave this baby be. Accessible it ain't, I'm afraid. What it is is brilliant: far more focused than the books before it, and as fulfilling, finally, as it is indubitably difficult.

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 9 2014 11:40am

Battling the Embuggerance

Discworld Con British Genre Fiction Focus Terry Pratchett

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

Sometimes the news is good. In addition to informing folks about facts, it can inspire, entertain and engage us. Equally, of course, it can cause frustration, anger, sadness and so on. This week in the British Genre Fiction Focus, we walk the line—between an inescapably upsetting story about Sir Terry Pratchett’s early-onset Alzheimer’s and several exciting items, not least news of Adam Nevill’s imminent next novel and a new Harry Potter short by J. K. Rowling.

[Wait, you what?!]