The language of the originators defines reality, every word warping the world to fit its meaning. Its study transforms the mind and body, and is closely guarded by stodgy, paranoid academics. These hidebound men don’t trust many students with their secrets, especially not women, and more especially not “madwomen.” Polymede and her lover Erishti believe they’ve made a discovery that could blow open the field’s unexamined assumptions, and they’re ready to face expulsion to make their mark. Of course, if they’re wrong, the language will make its mark on them instead.
In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
Today I’m going to do something a little different: Instead of reviewing a favorite book, I’m going to review a favorite comic. Like countless people around the world, I was saddened to hear of Stan Lee’s recent death. As I paused to reflect on all his works meant to me, one comic book in particular stood out in my memory—an issue of the series Sergeant Fury and the Howling Commandos where they meet the superhero Captain America and his sidekick, Bucky. Others may better remember Spider-Man, or the Fantastic Four, or Hulk, or Daredevil, or the Mighty Thor, but to me, this issue reflects some aspects of Lee and his work that shouldn’t be overlooked.
In Big Damn Hero, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.
The Firefly Encyclopedia is a lavish guide to Joss Whedon’s much-loved creation. The book includes a detailed timeline of events, in-depth character studies from Badger to Zoe, a guide to the science of the show, and sections of script with accompanying notes from the author. Alongside all of this are countless images of the characters, ships, weapons, props and sets. This is a must-have item for all fans of the ‘Verse.
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Some words don’t like to get out on their own. You can’t be spick without being span too, while “nitty” pines away unaccompanied by “gritty.” Similarly, “bedfellow” has hardly ever appeared without a preceding “strange.” Like its one-word title, Jeremy Shipp’s new novel, Bedfellow, is unnerving and unusual. And like a bedfellow without its strange, there’s something missing.
City of Broken Magic is Mirah Bolender’s debut novel. I’ve read a lot of debut novels in my time (and will undoubtedly read many more), so I feel confident in my conclusion that City of Broken Magic is the kind of debut one calls promising.
City of Broken Magic sets itself in a secondary fantasy world where humans live huddled into well-defended cities. Hundreds of years before the novel’s beginning, a colonised people tried to fight back against their colonisers by creating a weapon that ate magic. They succeeded a little too well, creating something that can hatch from broken or empty magical amulets and that can consume everything in its path. These infestations, as they’re known, are extremely dangerous and require specialised knowledge and equipment to combat. The people who do this job are known as “Sweepers,” and their mortality rate can be high.
If I were a cleverer sort of person, I’d find a nice thematic commonality that links Molly Tanzer’s Creatures of Want and Ruin and Juliet Kemp’s The Deep and Shining Dark, two books that I want to tell you about this month, and spin a persuasive line on why they’re connected (when really, I’m talking about them together because I read them back-to-back). But while they share a concern with community (communities) and with the bargains one might make with intangible powers, they approach these concerns in ways that are sufficiently different that I’m hard-pressed to find any other points of commonality.
Series: Sleeps With Monsters
The original Halloween isn’t all that scary, except for little moments here and there. Like every time that iconic score starts up, and it gets the heart racing at the same rapid beat. Or when teenager Laurie Strode happens to catch a glimpse of masked Michael Myers just watching her from behind some hanging laundry. These moments, of the killer stalking his prey, are terrifying. But once he actually catches up to her… a lot of the terror just drops away. The trap he lays for her, the way he slowly tracks her to the closet where she’s moaning like a caged animal—these are key horror-movie moments, but they’re experienced at a remove.
That’s due in large part to the fact that it’s never made clear why Michael is so obsessed with Laurie. Her chasteness, her responsibility compared to the horny teenagers shrugging off babysitting to hook up, must certainly fascinate him, considering how he murdered his sister Judith post-sex. And he certainly targets her, with the final grotesque vignette involving her friends’ bodies, clearly designed to drive her to utter hysteria. But why her?
Later (bonkers) installments in the franchise attempted to explain this by having Laurie be Michael’s other sister, to connect them by blood. But the new Halloween (a soft reset of the franchise and direct sequel to the 1978 original) retcons this in such a cheeky, on-the-nose way: Laurie’s granddaughter shrugs off this theory as “That’s just a story someone made up to make themselves feel better.”
There’s never going to be a satisfying answer as to why Michael is obsessed with Laurie, so the filmmakers brilliantly turned it around and made her obsessed with him.
As you’ve probably heard, Amazon has announced that it’s producing a show set in Middle-earth, the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien in his landmark novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. With the new series reportedly headed into production in 2019, I thought it was time to revisit the various TV and big screen takes on Tolkien’s work that have appeared—with varying quality and results—over the last forty years.
Hellooooo Tor.com! Take a break from your frantic menu-planning and org chart of Political Discussion Deflection Tactics for the dinner table and read a Reading, won’t you?
This blog series will be covering the first 17 chapters of the forthcoming novel The Ruin of Kings, first of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.
Today’s post will be covering Chapter 6, “The Rook’s Father,” which is available for your reading delectation right here.
Read it? Great! Then click on to find out what I thought!
Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Debut author Jenn Lyons has created one of the funniest, most engrossing new epic fantasy novels of the 21st century in The Ruin of Kings. An eyebrow-raising cross between the intricacy of Brandon Sanderson’s worldbuilding and the snark of Patrick Rothfuss.
Which is why Tor.com is releasing one or two chapters per week, leading all the way up to the book’s release on February 5th, 2019!
Not only that, but our resident Wheel of Time expert Leigh Butler will be reading along and reacting with you. So when you’re done with this week’s chapter, head on over to Reading The Ruin of Kings for some fresh commentary.
Our journey continues…
Series: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
Despite a fire that almost takes Hurin’s life, the pacing of Chapters 30 and 31 of The Great Hunt have a slightly slower feel to them, perhaps because they aren’t packed quite as full of new information as the few chapters previous. As a result, our characters have a bit of a chance to breathe and take stock of themselves, and since that pause is coinciding with the reunion of Loial, Hurin, and Rand, with the party they were so abruptly separated from back in Chapter 13, we get to see the interplay of a lot of relationships and observe, as Perrin does, how things are beginning to change for Rand. A lot of questions still remain to be answered, including how long Mat can go on without the dagger and what Verin is really after, but first let’s check in with Rand and the others after the harrowing ordeal in the Illuminator’s chapter house.
Series: Reading The Wheel of Time
Possibly the most influential thing I read this week was this review of Netflix’s new holiday movie, The Princess Switch. I am no more likely to watch The Princess Switch than I was before I read the review—television takes a looooong time, ya’ll. I’ve got some pretty major commitments on the pie crust front this week before I get too busy celebrating the winter holidays to watch movies about other people who are also celebrating the winter holidays. But I strongly recommend the review which a) was a hoot and a half and b) made me a happier person.
Why is that here, in this blog post about Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, a book that is not on Netflix, and is also not set at the winter holidays? Because holiday movies are made of tropes that make us feel warm and fuzzy, and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is also made of these tropes. We are very much in the section of the book where we roam from scene to scene feeling warm and fuzzy.
Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga
Whenever the conversation turns toward horse movies, one of the first mentioned is always The Black Stallion. Everybody knows this one, and just about everybody loves it. It’s an icon.
Even horse people include it in their Best Of lists. Next to The Man From Snowy River, it’s an all time favorite. Many a horsekid imprinted on Arabians, and especially black Arabian stallions, because of this film.
The second of five Fantastic Beasts films has hit theaters, filling in gaps and corners of J.K. Rowling’s rebranded Wizarding World. But while the first outing charmed a fair number of viewers with Eddie Redmayne’s endearing turn as magical zoologist Newt Scamander (a portrayal that remains endearing throughout the sequel), The Crimes of Grindelwald fails to reproduce the fun of the original—and fills Rowling’s Potterverse with a slew of gaping holes.
These are the crimes of The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Hello and welcome again to the Good Omens reread! This Monday, we’re tackling Friday. Pour yourself some coffee and strap in—here’s where things really start to go off the rails!
Series: Good Omens Reread
This week marks a milestone for all of humanity—Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the first broadcast of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The first ever episode, “The Green Slime” was shown on a small Minneapolis cable-access channel called KTMA on November 24, 1988.
There are many things to say about MST3K, (and eventually I plan to say all of them) but since this is Thanksgiving week I wanted to thank the show’s writers for helping me with a very specific issue I had as a kid.