In his funniest novel to date, Arthur Phillips ("Prague", "The Egyptologist", "Angelica", "The Song Is You"), pokes fun at the genre of memoir and of...moreIn his funniest novel to date, Arthur Phillips ("Prague", "The Egyptologist", "Angelica", "The Song Is You"), pokes fun at the genre of memoir and of Shakespearean scholarship in his irresistible "The Tragedy of Arthur", which allegedly one William Shakespeare wrote as a play that was left out of the 1597 Folio edition of his plays; those recognizable to anyone familiar with Shakespeare's oeuvre. Pulling no punches, Phillips casts himself as the befuddled famous literary son of his father, the artful dodger and the likely forger of this "Shakespeare" play. Having inherited the play's manuscript from his deceased father, Phillips finds himself the unlikely protagonist of this tale, authorized by Random House in editing and preparing for publication this long-lost "Shakespeare" play. And once he realizes that this manuscript is most likely an excellent forgery, he finds himself legally compelled by his Random House publisher Jennifer Hershey and her colleagues (both real and fictitious, including his Random House publicist whom I have met) to fulfill his contract by producing a publishable manuscript.
Much of "The Tragedy of Arthur" is an extensive Introduction that describes the complex relationships which Phillips has had with his father, his stepfather and with his twin sister Dana; an introduction that quite literally pokes fun at the genre of memoir itself (Anyone expecting the luminous lyrical prose of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes", may be disappointed, since Phillips's Introduction isn't as memorably written, and yet, it is still a most fascinating work of memoir from another fine American author, the real Arthur Phillips himself.). Phillips has to contend with his sister's objections to his decision to withdraw this manuscript from publication, once he realizes that the play "The Tragedy of Arthur" was apparently forged by their father.
Those willing to wade through Phillips's memoir will be richly rewarded by the play itself, with introductory notes from a Professor Roland Verre. Readers shall find most hysterical, the literary back and forth, the slingshot duel of bon mots between Phillips and Verre, with Verre denouncing Phillips's claim that this "Shakespeare" play is simply a forgery cleverly conceived and executed by his father. All of these comments are listed as footnotes, with competing explanations for certain lines provided both by Verre and Phillips.
Taken as a whole, "The Tragedy of Arthur" is a most elegant comedy of errors conceived by Arthur Phillips. It's one of the funniest novels I have read in years, and definitely this year's best. Phillips has added yet another remarkable novel to his oeuvre, and one which confirms his place as among the finest American writers of my generation.
You don't need to be familiar with the writings of Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking, or even be a devoted fan of science fiction (though that would he...moreYou don't need to be familiar with the writings of Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking, or even be a devoted fan of science fiction (though that would help, else one would miss some of the inside jokes), to fall in love with Charles Wu's "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe". It's an especially personal, and quite poignant, take on the classic science fiction trope of time travel, told in winsome, frantic prose from Wu, who is definitely one of the bright new lights of contemporary fiction; either mainstream or science fiction or both. I haven't heard of Wu before, though his earlier book, the short story collection "Third Class Superhero" was the recipient of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award. If nothing else, this fine short novel merely reaffirms the literary promise of Wu's award-winning short story collection.
Told primarily from the perspective of a memoir, "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe" recounts time travel technician Charles Yu's quixotic search for his long-lost father, the inventor of time travel, and a desperate effort in preventing the bleak future that awaits him. Accompanied by TAMMY, the time travel machine's Artificial Intelligence operating system, with a personality steeped in low esteem, Yu travels back and forth through time, mostly within the pocket universe known as Minor Universe 31. Lost in his anxiety about his imminent future and the fate of his father, Yu recounts a gripping love story of his father and himself, as seen through the eyes of a young child, describing their very first trip in his father's newly built time machine, and how that invention leads inexorably towards Yu's career as a time travel technician.
With the notable exceptions of William Gibson's "Neuromancer", Matt Ruff's "Fool on a Hill" and Jonathan Lethem's "Gun, With Occasional Music", I can't recall a debut novel of fantasy and science fiction which I found as captivating and as exhilarating to read as Wu's. Of course that doesn't mean that Wu will have a literary career as interesting or as important as Gibson, Ruff or Lethem's. However, it does mean that Wu has carved out for himself already a unique niche in the science fiction literary landscape, and one, I suspect, many -not only science fiction fans - will find themselves returning to again and again. Not only is "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe" an important debut novel from an important new voice in American contemporary literature, it is also one of this year's finest, in an already impressive list that includes new novels from the likes of Gary Shteyngart, Rick Moody and William Gibson, among others.
Former astrophysicist Alastair Reynolds demonstrates why he is one of the most impressive new voices in European and indeed, World Science Fiction in...moreFormer astrophysicist Alastair Reynolds demonstrates why he is one of the most impressive new voices in European and indeed, World Science Fiction in "Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days", this spellbinding collection of two novellas set in his Revelation Space universe. While both novellas are not as texturally rich as his novels "Revelation Space" and "Chasm City", they are still excellent examples of his splendid prose and development of intriguing characters. "Diamond Dogs" is a nail-biting, gripping macabre tale in the style of an Indiana Jones cinematic adventure, recounting the saga of some explorers seeking to unlock the secrets of an alien, living tower on the remote planet of Golgotha. Others have compared this tale to "slasher" films and I think this comparison is most apt, since the gore count goes up as the explorers head deeper within the tower, trying to cope with its unexpected, often deadly surprises. "Turqouise Days" is also an exciting tale in its own right, as a young woman scientist is forced to contend with the unexpected consequences of a visit by a starship and its crew to her remote planet Turquoise; one of many predominantly oceanic worlds inhabited by the alien Pattern Jugglers. How she deals with these consequences will affect the course of her planet's future in the Revelation Space universe. (less)
A Fresh Take On Klingon Cosmology Courtesy of Dembski's Bizarre Usage of Probability Theory
Trying to read "The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance th...moreA Fresh Take On Klingon Cosmology Courtesy of Dembski's Bizarre Usage of Probability Theory
Trying to read "The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities" is like trying to understand a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta or a James Joyce novel without having had any prior exposure to their works. One doesn't really need to have a first rate understanding of theoretical probability and statistics (which I don't since I am at best, a decent applied biostatistician), to realize that Dembski's argument holds little intellectual weight, in its preposterous claim that the likelihood of extremely rare events would point to the existence of an unseen "Intelligent Designer" (I wonder whether such events would be the result of random variation, which would not in itself point to an "Intelligent Designer", or rather, dare I say it - GOD - as the source of these events.). Or perhaps Dembski's rather ponderous text might be more appropriately, a suitable intellectual exercise demonstrating why Klingon cosmology does exist, replete with a Klingon heaven and hell (After all, since we see Klingons often on television, then they must truly exist.).
I had the unique opportunity of speaking to William Dembski a few years ago, after a debate on Intelligent Design held at the American Museum of Natural History, in which Dembski and fellow Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe argued in favor, while opposing them were philosopher Robert Pennock, author of "Tower of Babel" (which contains a devestatingly brilliant critique of Intelligent Design) and my friend Ken Miller, author of "Finding Darwin's God (which has a superb critique of Behe's notion of irreducible complexity as proof of an unseen "Intelligent Designer"). Much to my amazement, Dembski could not answer well a trivial question I had regarding probability and statistics. So can I truly regard his book as a great leap forward in theoretical probability? Of course no, since "The Design Inference" is a philosophical text that should be of interest to those who enjoy hearing the "technobabble" of recent "Star Trek" television series, especially when such "technobabble" is translated into Klingon.
Nearly seventy years ago, another Brunonian, Nathanael West, wrote "Day of the Locust", a classic satire about Hollywood culture. Now Rick Moody has w...moreNearly seventy years ago, another Brunonian, Nathanael West, wrote "Day of the Locust", a classic satire about Hollywood culture. Now Rick Moody has wrought a bold, ambitious novel about Hollywood which deserves favorable comparison to West's novel. But "The Diviners" is a bold, ambitious novel which may not find favor with those who prefer linear fictional narratives, but rather, with those, like myself, who prize elegant, stylistic prose, even if it tends to be frequently overwrought; more in the style of a Neal Stephenson than a William Gibson (Though here Rick shares Gibson's recent interest in telling tales that are rather short on plot and are much more fascinating as stylish, well-written character vignettes.), for example. It's because I truly treasure Rick's lyrical prose that I regard him highly on my list of favorite authors (He ranks third in fiction after William Gibson and China Mieville; I will also confess that he was a classmate of mine in a writing seminar taught by a visiting professor, novelist Angela Carter.), and here in "The Diviners", he doesn't disappoint at all.
Set around the time of the 2000 American presidential election, "The Diviners" is ostensibly the tale of Vanessa Meandro, the ruthless, dictatorial head of the independent film production company "Means of Production", who believes that she has found the next hot property; a sprawling television miniseries about dowsers, "The Diviners", which is a veritable history of Mankind and his insatiable search for water. But the delightful Ms. Meandro, addicted to Krispy Kreme donuts, doesn't know that neither a treatment nor a script exists for this NEXT BIG THING emanating from Hollywood. She must rely upon the able assistance of her assistant - and aspiring filmmaker - Annabel Duffy and a Grade B film actor, Thaddeus Griffin, best known for his roles in Doug Limonesque action thrillers, in conjuring up the script. Along the way she has to contend with her hospitalized mother from Park Slope, Brooklyn, who has "visions" in her hospital ward, hires a Sikh cab driver as her television guru, deals with some rather vain and pretentious New York City publicists, and a larcenious accountant who steals tens of thousands of dollars from the production company, illegally writing it off as business expenses. Meanwhile, Annabel's brother (They are the adopted Afro-American offspring of a WASPy Boston minister and his sociologist wife.) is the prime suspect in the attempted murder of an Asian-American art dealer in Manhattan. And Thaddeus Griffin heads out to Sonoma County, California to meet with the world's greatest writer of wine, Randall Tork (He's a hilarious doppleganger for the "greatest" literary critic of our time, one Dale Peck, who thinks of himself as the next Walter Kirn or Michiko Kakutani.), seeking his assistance in writing the script for "The Diviners".
"The Diviners" may be a bloated gem of a novel, but it is also irresistably hilarious. It's the funniest book published this year that I have read so far. To his credit, Rick offers an amusing sendup of Joss Whedon's "Buffy, The Vampire Slayer" in his fictional popular television drama "The Werewolves of Fairfield County" (And perhaps you, the reader, might have thought that he has forsaken completely his fictional roots in suburbia as evidenced in his novels "Garden State", "The Ice Storm" and "Purple America"? I think that you're in for a splendid, downright silly surprise!). Although "The Diviners" may not be the genuine literary classic which "The Ice Storm" has become, without question, Rick Moody has written his best work of fiction since that slender, elegantly-crafted novel.
Mark Helprin's elegant prose has never shone more brightly in this great work of fantasy set in a timeless vision of New York City. His splendid prose...moreMark Helprin's elegant prose has never shone more brightly in this great work of fantasy set in a timeless vision of New York City. His splendid prose has a Homeric quality to it, replete with many poetic passages. This became my favorite novel when it was published back in the 1980's; it is one of the few I'll read repeatedly. One friend has remarked how Helprin's tale is rich with magic realism; akin to such great Latin American writers as Borges. Peter Lake, the protagonist, is one of the finest literary creations in American literature during the last half of the 20th Century; Helprin's writing is at its finest as it chronicles Peter Lake's adventures during the early 20th Century and at the dawn of the Third Millenium. Yet I must confess I am never disappointed with any of Helprin's words; each time I read this novel I am captivated, completely spellbound, by his rich fantasy vision of New York City. Those who yearn for a more innocent vision of New York City, especially after the city's recent encounter with terrorism, may find "Winter's Tale" a powerful literary potion. "Winter's Tale" is certainly one of the greatest novels ever written by an American writer.
An Important Collection of Papers Discussing the History and Analyzing the Veracity of Creationism
"Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design...moreAn Important Collection of Papers Discussing the History and Analyzing the Veracity of Creationism
"Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond" is an important updated edition of an earlier volume focusing on the history and claims made by "scientific creationists" back in the 1980s. This recently expanded edition, edited by Andrew J. Petto, editor of the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, and Laurie R. Godfrey, the editor of the original edition, takes a long, hard look at the history, scientific claims and educational implications of creationism, especially in its latest, most virulent, flavor, Intelligent Design. This superb tome is subdivided into three parts; the first is a historical and philosophical survey of creationism. The second part explores its most important scientific claims in ample detail. The third section examines creationism from the perspective of trying to understand science, discussing how and why it fails to meet the rigorous self-imposed centuries-old standards of peer-reviewed scientific research. The sixteen contributors include a diverse group of scientists, philosophers, and other educators, including such luminaries as philosopher of science Robert Pennock, geochronologist G. Brent Dalrymple, vertebrate paleobiologist Kevin Padian and historian Ronald Numbers. This is truly an important, exceptional book which deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone seeking to understand the history and aims of American creationist movements, especially that of Intelligent Design.
The opening section on the history and philosophy of creationism features superlative essays written by Ronald Numbers and National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott. Numbers' essay starts this section with a terse, but vivid, account of the history of American creationism. Scott follows with an in-depth examination of the Intelligent Design movement itself, emphasizing its recent legal debacle, the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. Anthropologist John Cole's concluding essay focuses on the significance of the Discovery Institute's notorious "Wedge Document" as a "blueprint" for inserting Intelligent Design creationism into almost every important facet of American educational and cultural life.
In the book's second section, there are several essays that I found especially useful. Physicist Victor J. Stenger explains creationism's fascination with cosmology, along with a lucid mathematical rebuttal of Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski's concept of Complex Specified Information. Geochronologist G. Brent Dalrymple's extensive essay on the ages of the universe and the Earth is the most succinct examination of this issue that I've come across, and one I recommend highly to all. Kevin Padian and Kenneth D. Angielczyk's "'Transitional Forms' versus Transitional Features" is an extensive overview of "missing links" in paleontology and their significance in constructing testable hypotheses about degrees of relationship between different species (or higher taxonomic units) as depicted in cladograms. Marine biologist Wesley Elsberry's extensive refutation of Dembski's Explanatory Filter/Design Inference demonstrates how and why this peculiar abuse of flow-chart diagrams and mathematical logic is quite nonsensical; here Elsberrry has demolished effectively the elaborate - if poorly "designed" - "mathematical" argument that Dembski has offered as "proof" of Intelligent Design.
Ending on a powerful note, the final section of "Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism" contains exceptional essays from philosopher Robert Pennock and evolutionary geneticist Norm Johnson. Pennock - whose superb "Tower of Babel" Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism ranks foremost on my required reading list of books on creationism - tears apart the creationist canard of arguing from ignorance - the so-called "God of the Gaps", by asserting that absence of evidence does not automatically imply support of creationism, especially its Intelligent Design variety. Johnson follows with an insightful overview from his perspective of Drosophila genetics research, demonstrating how pioneering work, early in the last century, showed that evolution was indeed a valid scientific theory. The book's editors offer an intriguing, persuasive, closing essay explaining why it is necessary to explain the "controversial" aspects of contemporary evolutionary theory as part of the standard curricula of biology science classrooms. (less)
Once more John Shirley gives a fascinating, riveting tale about 21st Century Fascism attempting to take hold in the Un...moreA Fine Work Of Cyberpunk Fiction
Once more John Shirley gives a fascinating, riveting tale about 21st Century Fascism attempting to take hold in the United States and Western Europe, in the waning phases of a conventional war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Dissent and treachery are rife in the leadership of the Christian Fascist Second Alliance (SA) and its primary opposition, the New Resistance (NR). The SA's grip on Western Europe grows tighter as it bids to win control of FirStep, the orbiting space colony. A splendid tale filled with mesmerizing characters that is among the finest works of cyberpunk fiction.
A Spellbinding Collection of Short Stories from Nathan Englander
Nathan Englander is one of our great young American writers of fiction and his latest...moreA Spellbinding Collection of Short Stories from Nathan Englander
Nathan Englander is one of our great young American writers of fiction and his latest short story collection, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”, is one of the finest I have read lately, replete with ample instances of humor and tragedy. Although Englander’s stories deal with the vicissitudes of fortune experienced by Jews in America and Israel, his stories are quite insightful explorations of human character whose universal themes of love, remorse and revenge should appeal to those ignorant of Jewish culture and traditions. The title story is a literary homage to one of Raymond Carver’s best stories, recounting how two long-lost friends from childhood compare and contrast their lives one afternoon, culminating in the sharing of a pot joint between themselves and their husbands; it’s a most humorous fictional exploration of two rather divergent segments of Jewish society and culture. “Sister Hills” is a most vivid evocation of the trials and tribulations faced by some Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, spanning four decades in a few pages. Most of the other stories touch on various aspects of Jewish life in the United States, though the final story in the collection, “Free Fruit for Young Widows”, is a rather harrowing exploration of the emotionally wrecked soul of one Holocaust survivor still haunted by the demons of his youth despite enjoying years of relative tranquility in Israel. “Peep Show”, one of the middle stories in this collection, is the one most unlike the others, a fantasy-inspired romp about an older Jewish man’s experience in a Times Square peep show parlor that’s uncannily reminiscent of some of noted American science fiction and fantasy writer Michael Swanwick’s fantasy tales in the latter’s “The Dog Said Bow Wow” short story collection. Without question, Englander’s second story collection is a most memorable set of tales emphasizing his high literary art.
Haruki Murakami returns to the surrealistic, magic realism fiction of "Kafka on the Shore" in his gen...moreThe Best New Novel Published in English Last Year
Haruki Murakami returns to the surrealistic, magic realism fiction of "Kafka on the Shore" in his genre-bending "1Q84", ably translated by his long-time translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, collaborating with them on what is quite possibly the most impressive novel published in the English language last year. Murakami playfully bends genres and literary conventions in "1Q84", which could be viewed as a psychologically dark homage to George Orwell's "1984", but should be regarded instead as a vivid fictional exploration into the totalitarian nature of fanatical religious cults, and the nature of one's own existence. "1Q84" succeeds admirably as an elegant example of alternative history science fiction crossed with pulp detective crime fiction, in creating a parallel Japan where the rules of existence depend exclusively on illogical means. Into that parallel existence, a young woman, Aomame realizes that she has emerged into "1Q84", noting discrepancies in her knowledge of Japan's recent history as well as the unexpected appearance of two moons in the nocturnal sky. A long-lost friend from her youth, struggling novelist Tengo, recognizes the subtle changes in reality too, as he revises the enigmatic debut novel of a teenager, who, like himself and Amomame, have escaped from highly secretive, quite fanatical, religious cults. As he realizes that the novel may possess some semblance of reality, Tengo not only searches for the meaning of his own existence (as well as the teenager's), but finds himself propelled by unforeseen events over the course of the year that will intersect with Aomame's own destiny. Readers unfamiliar with modern Japanese culture may be confounded by Murakami's descriptive, almost visionary, prose; but that's a minor complaint in what is otherwise one of the best novels I have read regarding the nature of one's own personal identity and emotional ties to both family and friends. Nor does the seemingly excessive length of the tale itself should give potential readers a reason to ignore this great work of fiction; in composing the intricate, tightly woven sagas of Aomame and Tengo, Murakami has offered readers a compelling work of fiction that should be viewed favorably by most. (less)
A Fascinating Exploration of a Family’s Secrets Courtesy of Mark Haddon
Best known for his best-selling “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-T...moreA Fascinating Exploration of a Family’s Secrets Courtesy of Mark Haddon
Best known for his best-selling “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, Mark Haddon offers a fascinating, often compelling, exploration of an extended family’s secrets in “The Red House”, which, stylistically, owes more to British writers such as Ian McEwen than to American ones such as Jonathan Franzen, Rick Moody and Tom Perrotta. This comparison is most apt since the novel occurs over a span of a week in the vacation home of a wealthy doctor, Richard, somewhere in the English countryside. In the span of that week, two families become one; the families of Richard and his estranged sister, Angela, in which we see vividly via Haddon’s sharply written, terse prose, the inner demons and aspirations of both families laid bare, replete with ample resentment and guilt.
Haddon offers readers a most relentless narrative with occasional references to contemporary culture (e. g. Coca-Cola, Harry Potter novels), replete with lyrical passages emphasizing the active tense of his language via declarative sentences such as these:
“Dirty orange streetlights in the not-yet-dawn as she walks across the wet black tarmac of the Whelan Centre car park. Wet air and the clang of lockers, the flash of a blue verruca sock, pound in the slot, slam shut, key hand twisted out. She walks through the footbath into the hard white light of the pool, pushing her hair up into the rubber swim hat and snapping it down over the ears. The shriek and whistle of that ringing echo. She spits into her goggles and licks the rubber seal before flipping the elastic over the back of her head and sitting the lenses just right over her eyes. She stands and stretches beside the stack of polystyrene floats, arms over her head, fingers laced, palms toward the ceiling. The black second hand ticks on the big white clock.”
I have no doubt “The Red House” will become an instant favorite amongst book club readers, eager to decipher the past histories and current motivations of each of Richard and Angela’s families. Haddon has rendered a most vivid fictional portrait of these families, transforming the mundane into situations often replete in suspense. Without question, “The Red House” must be viewed as among the more impressive novels published in 2012 and a worthy addition to Haddon’s oeuvre of literary fiction.
Entertaining Debut Novel on Marketing That Mixes Genres Well
Irresistibly funny and smart, Alex Shakar’s “The Savage Girl”, is a great blend of genres,...moreEntertaining Debut Novel on Marketing That Mixes Genres Well
Irresistibly funny and smart, Alex Shakar’s “The Savage Girl”, is a great blend of genres, throwing in elements of fantasy and science fiction into a briskly paced fictional exploration of marketing that is written in a literary style which resembles Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon, while also evoking Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Luis Borges in its reliance on magical realism. It’s also a fine satirical critique of popular culture as viewed from the lens of marketing, and, as such, compares favorably with William Gibson’s “Blue Ant” trilogy (“Pattern Recognition”, “Spook Country” and “Zero History”) even if it doesn’t quite echo Gibson in the latter’s uncanny ability to make the present day read like an engrossing chapter envisioned by Gibson in one of his early classic cyberpunk science fiction novels and short stories. “The Savage Girl” is set in some alternative reality of the present and near future, in an American city, Middle City, that sits on the slopes of a volcano. In this reality we encounter former art student Ursula Van Urden as she comes to grips with the publicity surrounding her older sister – and celebrated fashion model - Ivy’s suicide attempt and starts her new job as a trend spotter with marketing firm Tomorrow, Limited. She’s told to “find the future” and soon finds it in the form of the “savage girl”, a homeless child who hunts for her food, making her the key aspect of a marketing campaign that goes awry. Shakar’s very well written novel is yet another fine literary debut by a fellow Stuyvesant High School alumnus (e. g. Matt Ruff’s “Fool on the Hill” and David Lipsky’s “The Art Fair”), and one that should remind readers of Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” with regards to the latter’s dark humor –tinged post-cyberpunk science fiction.(less)
A Memorable Post-Cyberpunk Novel Set in a Wasted, Near Future Europe
“Fairyland” remains one of the most impressive works in post-cyberpunk fiction, co...moreA Memorable Post-Cyberpunk Novel Set in a Wasted, Near Future Europe
“Fairyland” remains one of the most impressive works in post-cyberpunk fiction, conjuring a nightmarish vision of a near future Europe in which biotechnology has run amok, creating new species of humans designed for pleasure and violent sport. Paul J. McAuley’s novel is a fast-paced thriller reminiscent of William Gibson and John Shirley’s early cyberpunk novels in its pacing. Succumbing to the charm and vision of a megalomaniac brilliant young child, Milena, genetic engineer Alex Sharkey helps unleash a dire threat to humanity’s existence, allowing “dolls” – bioengineered beings based on human DNA, designed for pleasure, slavery and wanton destruction in gladiator-like amusement games – the opportunity to think for themselves and understand the notion of free will. He will pursue these beings and other, similar, creatures across decades across a European landscape wasted by the ravages of war and poverty, searching for Milena and a means to ensure humanity’s survival. Without question, “Fairyland” is still one of Paul J. McAuley’s greatest works in fantasy and science fiction, demonstrating his great gifts in storytelling and writing. (less)
What if the Gods walked amongst mortals, acting capriciously and with ample foresight in a majestic capita...moreExceptional Fantasy Debut from N. K. Jemisin
What if the Gods walked amongst mortals, acting capriciously and with ample foresight in a majestic capital city? This is a most intriguing premise from writer N. K. Jemisin, and one well executed via her tightly plotted storyline and fine prose. It's one of the most compelling debuts in fantasy literature I have stumbled upon, as memorable as Saladin Ahmed's "Throne of the Crescent Moon" for both its engrossing plot and excellently crafted fiction. Jemisin introduces us to the city Sky, where mortals and Gods dwell. An older girl, Yeine Darr, arrives as a refuge from Darr, the barbaric High North nation that's a long, long journey to Sky, seeking answers to some mysteries that have haunted her regarding her mother's life and death. Told in a compelling first person narrative as seen through Yeine's eyes, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" chronicles a power struggle between the Gods and mortals that may be the difference between life or death for Yeine. To her everlasting credit, Jemisin is a compelling storyteller and a fine prose stylist whose debut novel will remind readers familiar with Roger Zelazny of his "Amber" series, especially with regards to its intricate plotting. Without a doubt, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" represents the arrival of an important new voice in fantasy literature. (less)