Tweaking the Formula in Andre Norton’s Moon Called

I started reading Moon Called in a somewhat cranky frame of mind, after the disappointments of Yurth Burden. Oh no, I thought. Another paint-by-numbers plot. Still more rigid dualistic determinism. Much of it, of course, in ancient underground installations full of Evil Rat Things.

Most of that is in fact true. Protagonist Thora is a Chosen One of the Moon Goddess, referred to as HER (sic) and The Lady. She was born with a special birthmark and destined for divine service. She wears a special jewel that serves as a magical weapon, and of course her home and family and apparently her entire order of Moon Priestesses are destroyed by evil pirates right before the story begins. She then proceeds to wander more or less without deliberate purpose, but it’s quickly evident that she’s being moved, game piece fashion, by the Lady.

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Elizabeth Knox’s The Absolute Book Arrives at Last

The Absolute Book arrives in the United States more than a year after its initial publication with New Zealand’s Victoria University Press. Although Elizabeth Knox’s books have always been critically acclaimed, most of her titles have never escaped the Antipodes. Happily for American readers, a rave review by Dan Kois, a Slate critic briefly resident in New Zealand inspired a bidding war for U.S. rights, and now any American can open The Absolute Book. As someone who has been looking forward to it since the Slate review, I’m happy to report that the novel was worth the wait. 

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Priestess of a Lesser Goddess: H.M. Long’s Hall of Smoke

The basic four archetypes for a D&D-like party are the Fighter, the Rogue, the Wizard and the Cleric. In secondary world fantasy novels, the first three are very well represented, to the point of many variations and subclasses and versions of same. But the Cleric is far rarer. It’s not that there are none, mind you, but they are far, far less common as protagonists. Why is that? That is perhaps beyond the scope of this piece, but I think I know why

Evil priests of dread Gods as antagonists and cannon fodder to kill? That’s common. But a pious holy woman dedicated to her Goddess as a protagonist? Much fewer in number, especially when you are looking at female protagonists. And that is why H.M. Long’s Hall of Smoke is welcome, as we get front and center Hessa, a priestess of a Goddess of War.

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15 SFF Books That Demand a Soundtrack

There are two main obsessions in my life: books and music. You can usually find me hunched over a book with a pair of headphones slapped securely over my ears. Both obsessions have lead me to wonderful things; I am an avid writer and a truly abysmal guitar player. They’ve also started to mix together in my weird, wormy brain. Books have begun to take on soundtracks of their own as I read them. Words become notes and chords, narrative themes become bands, and soon I can’t read a certain book without having to pair it with an album or playlist, like pairing wine with a specific dish.

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Young Einstein Is Serious Alternate History Hidden Behind a Campy Exterior

“It hit me like a ton of bricks one day. I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, ‘Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it’s the most wonderful living art form.’” –Yahoo Serious, The New York Times, 1989

Okay, so, taking Young Einstein—ahem—seriously may, initially, seem like taking Plan 9 from Outer Space seriously. Roger Ebert gave this film one star, and seemed to begrudge it even this tiny reward. The movie is ridiculous: a fictive debut out of Australia from an art school reject; made on a shoestring budget; produced, starring, and directed by this same art school reject; and no script doctors or test audiences were employed in the making of this film as far as I can tell. It is, at best, a B-movie.

However, the auteur definitely took his subject matter seriously, and saw comedy and his film persona as a way of communicating something deep and powerful through what is a fundamentally goofy and campy lens.

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Seven Excellent Escapist Adventure Fantasy Books

It’s never a bad time for adventure fantasy, but I would posit that now is the best time for adventure fantasy.

Here are some of my favourites, hand-selected for escapism, intrigue, high density of swordfights, and sheer enjoyment. Ideal if you have a fire handy to curl up beside. (Surely I am not the only one with a persistent daydream of sitting in a huge wingback armchair before a crackling hearth?)

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Hold Your Breath for the Epic Shadow and Bone Trailer

The Shadow Fold is real, and it’s dark as hell. The first full trailer for Shadow and Bone, the Netflix series based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, is here, and it’s just as impressive and epic as anyone could have wished. It’s a perfect introduction to the series’ world, full of dark and light magic, mysterious powers, and the question of how a humble mapmaker has light for blood.

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HBO’s Time Traveler’s Wife Finds Its Stars in Rose Leslie and Theo James

In 2018, HBO won a bidding war for former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat’s adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Audrey Niffenegger’s novel had been adapted once before—into a movie starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams—but Moffat had been in love with the book for years; he wrote “The Girl in the Fireplace” in response to Niffenegger’s story. His adaptation has been chugging along behind the scenes, and now is one step closer to filming with the casting of Theo James (Divergent) as the time-traveling Henry, and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones, pictured above) as Clare, who meets Henry over and over again at different points in time.

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5 SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry

Some hundred years ago, visionary hydroelectric pioneer Adam Beck proposed a grand scheme for electrically powered trains that would service the transit needs of southern Ontario. Such is the blinding speed at which modern society moves that scarcely a century later, something akin to a much-reduced version of Beck’s proposal became reality in the form of Waterloo Region’s Ion Light Rail System. For the most part the Ion is perfectly functional, some curiously patron-hostile stops aside, but an unexpected emergent property of the system very quickly became apparent: Kitchener-Waterloo drivers are terrible at noticing train-sized objects. You’d think a massive, whale-sized object bearing down on your car would draw attention … but apparently not.

Anyone who has read A. J. Deutsch’s 1950 short, “A Subway Named Möbius” could have predicted that something unexpected would happen.

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