Five Books With Deadly Pop Music

If reading has taught me anything, it’s that pop stars are not to be trusted. They’re all up to something—whether they’re fleshy marionettes of literal spiders from Mars (as in David Lapham’s Young Liars) or just run-of-the-mill Satanists and serial killers. And that’s just the talent. If you have the extreme misfortune of meeting a producer… don’t take their card or shake their thick, ring-encrusted hand; just run.

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The Word-Worlds of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, is one of my favorite books of all time—a thousand-page journey to another world that feels just a step removed from ours. It achieves this “existence-next-door” effect in a hundred different ways, but one of the most significant and pervasive is the book’s vocabulary, the very language Stephenson uses to tell his story.

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“I’m not the bad guy” — Daredevil

Daredevil was created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, based on a character design by Jack Kirby. DD has one of the more ingenious superhero disguises, as his secret identity is a blind lawyer named Matt Murdock. Thanks to the early-Marvel catch-all of radiation = super-powers, young Matt was blinded by a radioactive canister, but his other senses were expanded a hundredfold.

The character was always something of a B-lister, never having the same level of prominence as Spider-Man and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and in the 1980s, the title was on the verge of cancellation, when writer Roger McKenzie departed the title and his artist, Frank Miller, was given the chance to write the book. Under Miller’s guidance, the book was increased to monthly and became immensely popular, as Miller built on the darker tone McKenzie had started, and focused on DD as a city vigilante, fighting gangsters and such, in particular a minor Spider-Man villain, the Kingpin of Crime, as well as ninjas—lots of ninjas.

DD’s popularity meant that the spate of early 21st-century movies featuring Marvel characters almost had to include ol’ Hornhead.

[Muggers don’t usually wear rose oil or high heels—at least not this far from Chelsea……]

Series: 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

Fractured Bonds: Revealing Kim Wilkins’ Sisters of the Fire

We’re excited to share the cover for Sisters of the Fire, the second book in Kim Wilkins’ Norse-flavored fantasy series. In Daughters of the Storm, five very different sisters—the warrior, the magician, the lover, the zealot, the gossip—team up against their stepbrother to save the kingdom. The series continues in Sisters of the Fire, as an old enemy threatens the fragile peace they have built…

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The Wheel of Time Named One of America’s 100 Most Beloved Books

Tor Books and are excited to announce that Robert Jordan’s iconic work of fantasy, The Wheel of Time, has been named as one of American’s 100 most beloved books by PBS’ Great American Read series!

Jordan’s epic will be included in its entirety (all 10,173 pages!) making it the longest entry in the list of 100 books vying to be named America’s favorite in PBS’ Great American Read, an eight-part television and online series, hosted by Meredith Vieira and designed to spark a national conversation about reading.

[More titles included in the Great American Read]

Black Lightning: The Family That Fights Together, Stays Together

In the very first moments of the premiere of Black Lightning, a bleeding Jefferson Pierce lies face-up in a bathtub, open wounds gushing all over him, as he gazes into his wife Lynn’s eyes and promises that he will leave the superhero game for good.

Obviously, if you’re watching a show called Black Lightning, it’s because you assume that he will never keep this promise. Part of us may even cruelly want to see how long Jefferson can keep toeing the line between his own sense of duty and the concerns of his family. How does one keep the streets clean and keep their family’s minds at ease at the same time? Many a superhero show would have their protagonist hide from that pressure for as long as they possibly could.

This show takes a different path—not only does Lynn already know the score, but Jefferson’s daughters Anissa and Jennifer learn about his superhero moonlighting quite early compared to other shows of its kind, and they also learn that they’re all irrevocably connected to the troubled history of their hometown itself. As it stands, they have very little choice about whether they will be forced to respond to that history—the only questions are how, and how much will be asked of them.

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The Frankenstein Chronicles Is What Grimdark Should Be

What is this new devilry?

The Frankenstein Chronicles—the ITV Encore production starring Sean “They have a cave troll” Bean currently streaming on Netflix—is exactly what I wish all grimdark fiction would be, and I wish more writers would take a page or two from its book. I may be a high fantasy-loving Tolkien nut, but I’ve also been a fan of horror since forever. The more gothic, the better; the more supernatural, the better. And so, as a period crime show with supernatural elements, The Frankenstein Chronicles is precisely my cup of cold and galvanized tea.

The show is NOT, as other reviews have misguidedly stated, a reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix or its producers have marketed it as such to help draw people in. Still, this isn’t a drawback. It’s a selling point, as far as I’m concerned, in an age so full of reboots and rehashed past works. Here, then, is my largely spoiler-free review.

[Beware the beast with the head of a man.]

Never Let Mei Go — The Expanse: “IFF”

The Expanse is back, and so am I! I’ve missed you, weird blue show. After Molly Templeton’s stellar write up of last week’s episode I’ll be reviewing The Expanse moving forward—but next week Molly will return with additional “Notes for Book Nerds,” since I’m still woefully behind on my reading…

Now, on to this week’s episode! “IFF”—“identification, friend or foe”did a great job of ratcheting up tensions that had already been pretty well ratcheted, but also offered a tiny bit resolution in the end.

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Conspiracy, or Madness? Before Mars by Emma Newman

Before Mars is the third novel in Emma Newman’s Planetfall universe, loosely connected to its predecessors, 2015’s Planetfall and 2016’s After Atlas. Readers of After Atlas will come to Before Mars with some foreboding: we already know that the creeping sense of horror Before Mars’ protagonist experiences will have to pay off, one way or another—especially as it becomes clearer how the timeline in Before Mars lines up with that of After Atlas.

[Review: Before Mars by Emma Newman]

The Robinsons Are Charming as Ever, But Lost In Space is Definitely Lost

Cousin of 1960s science fiction mainstays like Star Trek and Doctor Who, Lost in Space was lighter fare for fans of space travel, and never managed the same longevity that its counterparts did. But with new generations come new reboots, and Netflix has revived the series for the first time since the ill-fated 1998 film.

And things are a little different this time.

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The NOMMO Awards Announce their 2018 Nominees

The African Speculative Fiction Society have announced their shortlists, including The Ilube Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African and the shortlists for Nommos in the Novella, Short Story, and Graphic Novel categories. We’re pleased to report that two Publishing titles, Binti: Home and The Murders of Molly Southbourne, have been included.

Click through to see the shortlists, and congratulations to all the nominees!

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Is Killing Giants Ever Justified? The Evolving Tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk”

Last week, we talked about the first literary version of Jack and the Beanstalk, a weird tale from 1734 framed by discussions of Christmas traditions, witches, hobgoblins and ghosts, that hinted at revolution and overthrow. And pretty much stated flat out, without hinting, that before Jack went up the beanstalk, he was involved in some entertaining bedtime fun with his grandmother, an enchantress, fun that eventually allowed him to become the ruler of an entire world. Ahem.

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Halfway to Nowhere: On Enjoying the Narrative Journey

Like so many other readers, I am frustrated by interminable series that never end. I complain. Loudly. Publicly. In print (well, HTML). I do this because it’s the right thing to do. I may have a twinkling of a hope that some authors will wake up and conclude their series. But that hope is as long-lived as a firefly. Alas.

I do make an exception for works in which the destination is never the point, in which the goal is simply to enjoy the journey.

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The Barbarians: Conan Without Conan

Conan the Barbarian came out in 1982. It was a hit, and it catapulted a muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger into action stardom.

That success led to a sequel—Conan the Destroyer, in 1984—as well as a host of mid-80s Conan knock-offs like Krull (1983) and Masters of the Universe (1987).

These are all Really Bad Films, and I might well review them all before my time here is done.

Starting today… with The Barbarians (1987).

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Series: Medieval Matters

Patrick Rothfuss Reads His Introduction to The Adventure Zone Graphic Novel

This July, First Second is publishing the graphic novel adaptation of wildly popular podcast The Adventure Zone, titled Here There Be Gerblins. The Adventure Zone is a live-play D&D podcast starring the three McElroy brothers and their dad. The McElroys have their own unique brand of off-kilter humor and action that’s truly magnetic—the podcast has been downloaded tens of million of times, has spawned sold-out live shows to thousands of fans, spin-offs, a fanzine Kickstarter, and a rabid fan-base.

One of the biggest and most outspoken fans of The Adventure Zone is fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss, who actually wrote the introduction for the graphic novel out of the kindness of his heart and his passion for The Adventure Zone. While First Second were originally just planning to reveal the text of the introduction, the McElroys thought Patrick would do a fantastic job reading it aloud, hence this video, which starts with some wildly funny bloopers…

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