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 30, 2014
Locked in a Room With His Greatest Enemy. Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”
Chris Lough
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
Showing posts by: stefan raets click to see stefan raets's profile
Fri
Jun 20 2014 11:00am

In Dreams: The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

The Shadowed Sun NK Jemisin reviewN.K. Jemisin treated the world to The Killing Moon, a brilliant fantasy novel set in a strikingly original world and populated by some of the most fascinating characters I’ve met in years. Barely a handful of weeks later, Orbit released the second and (for now) final novel in the Dreamblood series: The Shadowed Sun.

If you haven’t read The Killing Moon yet, you should probably stop reading this now and instead go take a look at my review of that first novel (or better still, just read the book) because the rest of this review contains spoilers for The Killing Moon. If you’re just curious whether this second novel is as good as the first one before committing, rest assured: it is. Actually, it’s even better. Just don’t read the rest of this review if you haven’t read that first book yet.

[May Hananja’s Peace Be With You]

Fri
Jun 20 2014 10:00am

A Dreamlike Novel That Soars: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon NK Jemisin reviewAs is so often the case with great novels, the opening chapter of N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon offers a snapshot of the conflicts and relationships that end up driving the whole story. We meet the Gatherer Ehiru as he stealthily travels through the city-state Gujaareh at night, collecting tithes of “dreamblood” for the goddess Hananja from its dying or corrupt inhabitants. This dreamblood will then be used by his order’s Sharers to heal and help others.

Ehiru’s first commission is an old man who gladly and peacefully goes into his final dream, but the second one is a foreigner who doesn’t have the same outlook on Gujaareh’s religious practices—especially now they mean his own untimely death. He calls Ehiru a “Gualoh” or demon and then, mysteriously, tells Ehiru that he is being used...

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Wed
Jun 11 2014 5:00pm

The Mithras-Man Cometh: Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Mr Shivers Robert Jackson BennettI resolved to read everything Robert Jackson Bennett has written after reading American Elsewhere. Because I am somewhat obsessive about these things, I decided to read his books in order of publication, so last year I started out with Mr. Shivers, a book I’d maybe not have picked up elsewise because it’s billed more as horror than fantasy.

But then, what do I discover? It’s set during the Great Depression. Dear reader: I’ll read almost anything set during the Great Depression, particularly if it also touches on the Prohibition—an endlessly fascinating period in US history.

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Tue
Jun 10 2014 5:00pm

Roommates From Hell: Chasing the Moon by A. Lee Martinez

Chasing the Moon A Lee Martinez reviewDiana’s had a tough time of it lately, but finally a stroke of luck comes along: after a long search, she finds the perfect apartment. It’s affordable. It’s furnished exactly the way she likes. There’s even a jukebox with all her favorite songs.

Maybe she should have been more suspicious about how perfect it was, because once she’s moved in, she discovers that the apartment has an extra inhabitant: a monster who goes by the name Vom the Hungering and who tries to eat everything in his path. Before Diana knows it, she has acquired a small menagerie of eldritch horrors from the beyond, and she learns that the universe is infinitely more complex—and dangerous—than she ever imagined.

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Mon
Jun 9 2014 4:30pm

Deliciously Weird: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Deliciously Weird: American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson BennettMona Bright used to be a cop. She was married. They were expecting a baby. Then, abruptly, everything fell apart and her life collapsed. Since then, she’s been drifting from town to town, taking short term jobs, drinking heavily, looking for oblivion... until she learns that she’s inherited her mother’s house, somewhere in a small New Mexico town called Wink.

When Mona starts trying to find Wink, it turns out that the place is incredibly hard to track down. Resolved to grasp the chance at stability that this house represents, she digs in and finally manages to reach the isolated little town. Wink turns out to be picturesque and quiet, a quintessential American Small Town complete with lovely houses, healthy lawns and white picket fences, but it soon becomes clear that there’s something very odd about the people who live there….

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Fri
Jun 6 2014 5:00pm

Death is not the End: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Review Love Minus Eighty Will McIntoshThere are certain short stories that feel almost uncomfortably compressed, so full of interesting concepts and characters that the material just begs to be explored further. In this case, “uncomfortably compressed” is a good thing, by the way—the exact opposite of a bloated novel that takes a few hundred pages to develop the same rich level of depth.

One example of such hyper-efficient compression was “Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh, originally published in Asimov’s in 2009. It was one of that year’s most memorable short stories, deservedly winning the Hugo for Best Short Story as well as the Asimov’s Readers’ Award. Will McIntosh must have agreed that the story’s starting concept was too good, and its emotional resonance too strong, to leave it unexplored further.

Reworking a short story into a full-length novel doesn’t always work, but in this case, Will McIntosh has pulled it off and then some. Love Minus Eighty, the author’s third novel after the excellent Soft Apocalypse and Hitchers (which I reviewed here and here), has turned out to be a beautiful, emotionally resonant tale.

[My love she speaks like silence, without ideals or violence]

Mon
Jun 2 2014 2:00pm

A Gallery of Rogues: “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch

Rogues Anthology Scott Lynch review Rogues! What would fantasy be without them? You have to love the snarky, high-dexterity tricksters who add an element of surprise (and fun!) to the traditional swords-and-sorcery mix.

Ask some random readers for modern fantasy recommendations involving rogues, and you’re sure to hear more than a few people mention the names Scott Lynch and Locke Lamora—the former being the author of the wonderful Gentleman Bastard series, and the latter the main character of that series and, for my money, the best rogue character to appear in the genre in ages.

So. With that being said, I’ll go ahead and break the bad news: Scott Lynch’s contribution to the new Rogues anthology is not a Locke Lamora story. As far as I know, it’s not even set in the world of the Gentleman Bastard series. Of course, it could be: I didn’t recognize any proper names from the series, but the story might well be set on an entirely different continent or possibly in an entirely different era. Who knows, maybe Lynch is even trying to pull a Brandon Sanderson “Cosmere” trick here.

Still, for all intents and purposes, I think we can consider the story unconnected to the adventures of Locke, Jean, Sabetha et al. Not that this in any way spoils the fun, because “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” is a blast from start to finish.

[We did it and lived.]

Thu
May 22 2014 5:00pm

Oliver’s Army Is Here To Stay: Defenders by Will McIntosh

Defenders Will McIntoshIt’s 2029, and things aren’t looking good for the human race. Ever since the alien race known as the Luyten invaded Earth a few years ago, humanity has been fighting a losing war. Billions of people have died. The scattered survivors try to fight back, but their efforts are doomed from the start because the Luyten are telepathic: they always know when, where and how the next attack will happen. They use their electrocution and heating weapons with ruthless, impassive efficiency. The giant, starfish-shaped mind-readers appear to be an unstoppable foe.

It will take a miracle for the human race to survive and recapture their own planet. A miracle—or the Defenders….

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Tue
May 20 2014 12:00pm

Bear Witness: My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children Jo WaltonA wise person once told me that 50% of your life’s happiness derives from one decision: who will be your significant other? Or possibly I just heard it on Dr. Phil—I don’t know. In either case, Jo Walton’s lovely new novel My Real Children is an illustration of that idea.

Patricia Cowan, suffering from dementia, struggles to remember her daily life. She writes endless lists in her retirement home, trying to remind herself of all the little facts and tasks that are slipping away. The nurses track her mental state on her chart: “Confused Today,” it says one day, or “Very Confused,” or sometimes just “VC.” Patricia can only agree, and try to hold on as her grasp on reality inexorably fades.

[Splintered in her head]

Fri
May 9 2014 4:00pm

Far Eastern Steampunk: Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

Gaie Sebold Shanghia SparrowWhen we first meet Eveline “Evvie” Duchen, she is scraping together a living as a pickpocket and con artist on the streets of London. Things used to be very different for her: she lived in the country, in touch with the mysterious Other Folk and fascinated by the Etheric machines her mother built. As Gaie Sebold’s new novel Shanghai Sparrow continues, we slowly find out how exactly Evvie went from her earlier comfortable life to being a street urchin in London.

Then, her life changes again when Holmforth, an ambitious government agent of the British Empire, catches her trying to pull a con and makes her choose: get shipped off to the colonies, or join a secret boarding school for girls who might become useful to the Empire as spies...

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Wed
May 7 2014 4:00pm

An Abundance of Plots: The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez

The Enceladus Crisis Michael J MartinezOnce upon a time, there was an author who wrote a novel. That’s not that strange in the Age of NaNoWriMo, but what’s much more rare is that he actually sold the book. Then, the tale became even stranger, because the author had the great misfortune of seeing his publisher go under just months before his debut novel would be released.

That author is Michael J. Martinez, and the novel, entitled The Daedalus Incident, did eventually see publication when Night Shade Books was acquired by Skyhorse/Start Media. (You can read a longer version of the book’s very odd history, plus my review.) Now, just about a year later, Michael J. Martinez returns with The Enceladus Crisis, the direct sequel to The Daedalus Incident.

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Mon
May 5 2014 5:00pm

Deus Ex Medicina: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Afterparty Daryl GregoryIn the future depicted in Afterparty, Daryl Gregory’s excellent new science fiction novel, making designer drugs has never been easier. Since the Smart Drug revolution, anyone can create and print their own pharmaceuticals, whether they’re copies of old-fashioned street drugs or wild new inventions that are as likely to damage your mind as give you a solid high:

Any high school student with a chemjet and an internet connection could download recipes and print small-batch drugs. The creative types liked to fuck with the recipes, try them out on their friends. People swallowed paper all the time without knowing what they were chewing. Half the residents of the NAT ward weren’t addicts; they were beta testers.

[God, Interrupted]

Thu
Apr 3 2014 3:30pm

Not The Stuff of Homer: Irenicon by Aidan Harte

Aidan Harte IreniconThe city of Rasenna is divided, in more than one sense of the word. Geographically speaking, the city is split in two by the river Irenicon, which was blasted straight through the middle of the ancient city using Wave technology, a major feat of engineering by the Concordian Empire to subdue its main rival.

Maybe more importantly, though, the people of Rasenna are divided into factions. Competing families on each side of the river continually launch deadly raids and vendettas against each other. Bandieratori fight on the streets and roofs for dominance. Sofia, heir of the old Scaligeri ruling family and soon-to-be Contessa, is powerless to stop the waves of violence that weaken the already-divided city.

Then everything changes: Giovanni, an engineer of the same Concordian Empire that originally caused the Wave, arrives in Rasenna to build a bridge across the Irenicon. Concord once again wants to expand its reach, and Rasenna is in its way…

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Tue
Mar 25 2014 2:00pm

To Sleep, Perchance: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep Karl Schroeder reviewToby is the seventeen-year-old scion of the McGonigal family, which is in the process of colonizing Sedna, one of the countless unclaimed orphan planets that can be found in interstellar space, far beyond Pluto but light years away from the next-nearest star. To secure ownership of the planet, the McGonigals must also claim every single one of its moons, so when a distant satellite of the planet is discovered, Toby is dispatched to go claim it for the family. But then something goes horribly wrong…

When Toby wakes up from coldsleep, he makes a number of startling discoveries. For one, his ship has been drifting through space for 14,000 years. In that time, humanity has spread out across the mostly lifeless universe, populating 70,000 or so planets that are now collectively known as the “Lockstep Empire.” And, somehow, his own family is at the center of all of this: his brother Peter is the tyrant-like figure known as the Chairman.

So begins Lockstep, the newest standalone science fiction novel by Canadian author Karl Schroeder.

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Mon
Mar 24 2014 5:00pm

Return to the Vlast: Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins

Peter Higgins Truth and FearWolfhound Century by Peter Higgins was one of last year’s strongest debuts, a unique dystopian fantasy set in an alternate Stalin-era USSR with Russian mythological elements and vague hints of something science fictional happening out in space.

The story of downtrodden investigator Vissarion Lom hunting down the terrorist Josef Kantor at the behest of the totalitarian Vlast was mostly set in Mirgorod, a gray, rainy city that seemed to fall somewhere between New Crobuzon and Moscow. Wolfhound Century was one of the first novels in a long time that actually deserved the frequent comparisons to China Miéville, thanks in large part to Peter Higgins’ beautiful prose.

Truth and Fear is the direct sequel to Wolfhound Century and, as expected, picks up more or less directly where the previous novel left off—“as expected” because the one major disappointment about Wolfhound Century was its ending, which was, well, really not much of an ending at all.

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Tue
Mar 18 2014 2:00pm

The Author And The Box: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro

Her Husband's Hands short story collection Adam-Troy CastroI came to the works of Adam-Troy Castro quite late. Specifically, the first story I remember of his is “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs” in the excellent dystopian anthology Brave New Worlds, edited by John Joseph Adams. (This anthology ended up being my springboard to a number of other great authors, but that’s another story.) Shortly after I read that collection, the author’s name popped up on the Nebula short list a few times, for “Her Husband’s Hands” and “Arvies.”

I’m bringing this up because I believe that, based on the three stories I’ve mentioned so far, there may be many people who labor under the misapprehension that Castro only writes short fiction that is so extraordinarily dark that it borders on the disturbing. In the afterword for his newest collection, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories, the author explains at length that he has also written many optimistic, entertaining and uplifting stories and novels, and that he is “not just a sick bastard.” Well, sure. I’ll take his word for it. However, you really couldn’t tell from the stories in this collection, which is as grim as it is brilliant.

[Bad people doing evil things]

Tue
Mar 11 2014 2:30pm

The Red Knight Returns: The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron

The Fell Sword Miles Cameron Traitor Son CycleDespite some minor misgivings, I absolutely loved Miles Cameron’s debut fantasy novel The Red Knight, the gritty and stirring story of a mercenary company, led by the titular Red Knight, who gets drawn into an epic battle that turns out to have much wider implications than he initially bargained for. The Red Knight is a wide-ranging tale full of complex characters and some of the best medieval combat scenes I’ve ever read. As the story progresses, and especially in its final section, it becomes clear that there’s much more going on here than initially meets the eye, with the epic battle for Lissen Carak just an opening skirmish (or, maybe, just the latest flare-up) of a much wider-ranging conflict.

And now, just about a year later, Miles Cameron delivers Book Two of the Traitor Son Cycle, entitled The Fell Sword.

[Nothing about a coin is separate]

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.

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Mon
Feb 3 2014 4:00pm

Another Fantabulosa Everness Novel: Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

Empress of the Sun Ian McDonald EvernessI don’t usually get this effusive about books, but I’ve rarely had as much fun with a Young Adult SF series as I have with Ian McDonald’s Everness—now up to three books with the brand new, shiny addition of Empress of the Sun, possibly the best book of the bunch so far.

Quick intro to the series: young Everett Singh is a math whiz who, early in the series, gets access to the Infundibulum, which is essentially a map of all the parallel universes and alternate Earths. Combined with the Heisenberg trans-dimensional gates, this allows for travel to the Nine Known Worlds: alternate versions of our planet where, for example, there’s no oil or everyone has a telepathic twin or there are five different species of mankind.

[Everett Singh: goalkeeper, mathematician, traveller, Planesrunner.]

Mon
Jan 27 2014 5:00pm

When the Magic Went Away: Arcanum by Simon Morden

Simon Morden ArcanumWhat happens when the magic goes away? More specifically, what happens when a small but strategically located region that has relied on its hexmasters for centuries is forced to deal with the sudden disappearance of its all-powerful magic? Simon Morden explores the answer to these questions in his new fantasy novel Arcanum.

So far, Simon Morden is best known for his neo-cyberpunk trilogy-plus-one starring Samuil Petrovich. The original trilogy won the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award. I bounced off its first book Equations of Life and never went back, but decided to give Arcanum a try anyway, mainly to see how the author would handle this very different genre. Despite some reservations, I’m glad I did.

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