This slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild compositeThis slim alternative history takes us to WWII Paris, still occupied by the Nazis, but equally so by the colorful shifting visions and wild composite creatures of the Surrealist movement*. Harnessed by occult methods and released in a conjunction of greed and crossed ideological wires, a prodigious blast of imaginative power - the "S-Bomb" - rolls in waves over the city, transforming everything as it goes. Partially contained in the high-numbered arrondissements, traditionally bohemian, and cordoned off from the Nazi-occupied center, the citizens of "New Paris" go about life during wartime in a brave new world.
In Mieville's best book since Embassytown, his politics, playful imagination and innate Weirdness find a charming balance. In a tale that's part spies and rebels, part art history, and all wide-eyed phantasmagoria that wonders what it would be like if art really could change the world, Mieville packs his best aspects into a small but unforgettable gift. I loved this book. 5 stars.
*Familiarity with the Surrealists isn't absolutely necessary, but be prepared to Google some of the more obscure elements. Mieville thoughtfully includes notes on his sources, and you'll really want to take a look at this stuff anyway....more
Tobler's prose and story are both rich and strange, but The Kraken Sea, a longish novella, might have gained a fifth star had it been, well, even longTobler's prose and story are both rich and strange, but The Kraken Sea, a longish novella, might have gained a fifth star had it been, well, even longer. Fueled by characters you'll remember in a world that feels like the tip of an iceberg, the racing story seems to be over just as the reader is finding her footing. I'm no fan of gigantism for its own sake, but for a change I'm going to say a book could have used another hundred pages....more
Another great entry in a fantastic series. You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . but what I NEED to know, is (view spoiler)[ where the hell is Lying Cat? (hiAnother great entry in a fantastic series. You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . but what I NEED to know, is (view spoiler)[ where the hell is Lying Cat? (hide spoiler)] I'm worried....more
Holy cow, this book is every bit as nuts as I'd heard it was. It's an utterly original marriage of horror, comedy, postmodern lit, urban fantasy and mHoly cow, this book is every bit as nuts as I'd heard it was. It's an utterly original marriage of horror, comedy, postmodern lit, urban fantasy and magical-realism that completely knocked me on my ass. I really, really wish I could write a book as weirdly wonderful as The Library at Mount Char.
That being said, I've also heard it described as "too weird," and that may be the case for many readers. Because it is weird, there's no denying. The Library at Mount Char drops readers down into completely unexplored territory, and expects them to keep track of all the bizarre goings on, as well as a peculiar set of characters whose motives are murky at best. (view spoiler)[ But gods are all about murky motives, right? (hide spoiler)]
Father took them in, a dozen children, after the disaster that destroyed their homes and killed their parents. Father took them in and made them his apprentices, asking each to apply their intellect to a different skill. Father can be cruel, but none of them would have survived without him. Now Michael speaks the languages of animals, while Jennifer studies the skills of the healer. David practices the art of war, while Rachel and her ghost children look into the future. Margaret visits with the dead, quite literally. But it's Carolyn, whose "catalog" is languages, who knows "every word that had ever been spoken," who first becomes curious about Father's prolonged absence. It's Carolyn, in many ways the most normal of her siblings, who comes up with a plan, and orchestrates the search for Father. It's also Carolyn who dares go out among the "regular Americans" to find help . . . in her own unique way. The Library at Mount Char is the story of her search. Sort of.
Along the way you'll be amazed and enthralled by the twistiness of the plot and the vividness of characterization and description. It's funny, it's gross, it's humane, and it's internally consistent. (So important!) Despite including talking animals, the disappearance of the sun, and repeated resurrections of the dead, the plot actually makes sense, and the resolution is bang on. The Library at Mount Char insists on careful reading (I re-read the first 90 pages immediately and have even more admiration for Hawkins' skill now that I see how it was put together), and requires patience as its layers unfurl. But if you're not grossed out by the mayhem, or offended by its (view spoiler)[ decidedly un-Christian view of (hide spoiler)] cosmology, you just might enjoy the hell out of this book. 5 stars, no questions asked. ...more
I'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus materiI'm always swearing I'm not going to start any new series, but when I read the first chapter of this book, "The Red Empress," included as bonus material in Unseaming, I was instantly hooked. (Proof: I haven't reviewed Unseaming yet.)
Dark, disturbing, and inventively disgusting, The Black Fire Concerto envisions a post-apocalyptic America where The Storms, otherworldly and deadly, have mutated the land and its people. They also brought magic, new and powerful and sometimes very black. Here there be ghouls -- and worse than ghouls: cannibal cultists and megalomaniac magicians who aren't afraid to harness the horrors the Storms left for their own ends.
This book really is unflinchingly gory and body-horror heavy, but there's also something that is bright and refreshing about The Black Fire Concerto: its two protagonists. Erzelle, a young harpist in servitude as house musician at a gruesome gastronome's club, and Olyssa, the imposing, mysterious traveler that rescues her -- are both women. So rarely do we see women cast as epic heroes that Allen's tale took me by surprise.
And it certainly is something different. When Erzelle joins the majestic Olyssa (think King's Gunslinger crossed with the goddess Athena in a bad mood) on a quest to find Olyssa's missing sister, they face events and obstacles by turns magical and utterly nightmarish. But it's their master-and-apprentice pairing that makes the story pure gold. I don't usually get exerted over lack of adequate female representation in fantasy, but I guess it must be pretty bad for me to react so strongly to seeing it done right.
Not for everybody, and definitely not for the squeamish, The Black Fire Concerto is luxuriously nightmarish dark fantasy, and I'm going to be tapping my foot impatiently for the next book in "The Stormblight Symphony." Now, please, Mr. Allen....more
It is true that the title is an awkward mouthful. There, I've said it. But that's pretty much the only thing wrong with this, the first entry in ButchIt is true that the title is an awkward mouthful. There, I've said it. But that's pretty much the only thing wrong with this, the first entry in Butcher's new series "The Cinder Spires." (And that titular jumble does make sense, once you've read the book. It's a kind of joke.) I was, let's not say skeptical, exactly, but mildly concerned that JB had jumped on the steampunk train just as the trend itself was losing steam (ba-dum-dum). But I've read every one of his novels, and by now I trust him to deliver the goods. And holy moly does he, proving that steampunk isn't done, as long as it's done well.
Some random thoughts on Butcher's brave new world: - The story starts in the middle of an air battle and the action pretty much goes full throttle all the way through its 640 pages. Good thing JB always gives great fight sequence. - There are easily as many heroic, kick-ass female characters as male, leaving aside the machismo of the cover art. (And, really, what's a Butcher book without a hero on the cover?) - Moderately complex politics and suitably villainous antagonists. Though it feels like only the surface of a major conflict is touched on here, it's clear there's a lot more meat to feed a series. - Creepy, icky-sticky critters! - A key POV character is a cat. An actual cat. An AWESOME cat. A cat who really needs a spin-off series, or at least some side stories. - A cool magical system that manipulates "etheric currents." - And, for the record, characters in The Aeronaut's Windlass don't go parading around in ostentatious goggles and leathers unless they are being exposed to the elements on an airship deck. This is not steampunk for style's sake; it's steampunk because bloody big airships are necessary to Spire Albion, a world functioning at great heights. Trucks or boats, not so useful way up in the sky. - And that world is fascinating, and still hugely unexplored . . . the other Spires, more monsters -- and I can't wait to find out what extra nastiness is lurking way down there on the planet's toxic surface. (Wait! What if it's the Vord?!? What a spectacular crossover opportunity!) - Lastly? Yay! A new series from Jim Butcher!