Tepper has become pretty formulaic these days - though her eco-apocalyptic feminism is a formula I appreciate. But she used to write really, really weTepper has become pretty formulaic these days - though her eco-apocalyptic feminism is a formula I appreciate. But she used to write really, really weird books. Strange characters, bizarre landscapes, weird turns of phrase. This is the weirdest Tepper I've read yet, full of genuinely skin-crawling menace, and I loved it. ...more
I was pretty bitter when Night Shade dropped this series. I'm glad to see that this has been picked up by distributors at last. It's not quite as wellI was pretty bitter when Night Shade dropped this series. I'm glad to see that this has been picked up by distributors at last. It's not quite as well edited as the previous installments - it drags a little in spots, could be tighter, and the short story at the end has a few outright typos - but fellow fans of the series will not be disappointed. I maintain that Williams is one of the sharpest writers working in sci fi, and though the Snake Agent books are breezier than her stand alone novels, they remain rewarding entertainment....more
Like any collection, this one is uneven. Please don't throw things at me, Border fanatics. I assure you that I love Bordertown as much as anyone. TheLike any collection, this one is uneven. Please don't throw things at me, Border fanatics. I assure you that I love Bordertown as much as anyone. The unevenness can be divided roughly into two groups: good and bad. For a change of pace, I'm going to start with what was so very good about this anthology, in a disjointedly listing sort of way. Like so:
Nalo Hopkinson and Catherynne Valente, turning out two ass-kickingly awesome stories, of the type which manage to feel epic and mythic despite their short size. Deep. Scary and beautiful.
Poetry can be an iffy thing in an anthology - it's likely to be too precious, or pretentious, or boring, or just sucky. The poetry selections in this book were great, and more importantly, helped add depth and backstory. Neil Gaiman, with his creepy little song, furthered my theory that he's at his best when most concise.
The old guard of Emma Bull, Terry Windling, and the rest: so good, and always so consistently good. It reminded me of this 'outlaw country' show I went to a couple of years ago. The night was largely young, exuberant people into old-timey music - lots of stomping, and drinking, and the happy sort of bellowing. We were all dancing and sweating and singing. It was great. Then these old guys who had been sitting towards the back, listening, came up for their set, and very politely and thoroughly handed all the young musicians their asses. I mean, these guys could really fucking play. It was sort of humbling and inspiring at the same time. The younger writers in this collection suffer a bit in the same way and for the same reasons - they just don't have the same mastery of the craft. But the most beautiful thing about Bordertown is its generosity. The kids will get there, eventually.
I know I put the poetry in the 'good' column, but Jane Yolen shouldn't try hip hop. Well, what the hell. She's Jane Yolen, and I guess she's earned the right to do whatever she wants, even if it turns out sort of awkward and weird.
Annette Curtis Klause. This pains me, because I loved "Blood and Chocolate" so much, and her story here is just not at all good. I can see it might be irresistible to try to get vampires into Bordertown somehow, but this story had too many unconvincing gaps and loose ends to work. I kept thinking that maybe if it was scrapped as a short story and turned into a novel, it might turn out better.
Holly Black sits solidly in the bad category, and Cassandra Clare can join her, for the astonishingly crappy short story they jointly contributed. Yes, you're saying, but Sarah, we already know how you feel about Holly Black, and it seems neither fair nor surprising that you're bashing her contribution now. But I actually had high hopes for this story. True! Holly Black utterly won me over with her charming introduction. Oh Holly Black, I thought, I've maligned you without cause. I felt a warm sense of solidarity with her. And I remembered how good the story 'Poison Eaters' was. Clare has been talked up to me a lot at work, and so, all in all, I was really looking forward to this story. Really. You may be thinking that my change of heart is implausible and untrustworthy, but it actually happened. I was ready to start a new, more charitable chapter with Black. So imagine my sense of betrayal. This story, Rowan something, is about nothing. Noting happens. Things almost happen. We almost learn things about the characters. There's almost an adventure. It starts out promisingly, with a gruesome murder! But then nothing comes of it. The lead characters get into almost trouble and then everyone is saved at once and the plot, which never did get very far, is forgotten in favor of some crude jokes and a romantic jaunt into the sunset. Lord. For further emphasis, I'd just like to point out that my fiance's teenage daughter, who is a HUGE Holly Black fan, totally hated this story. This is extra maddening, because she started out with this one, being excited about Holly Black and all, and hated it so much that she wouldn't even try any of the rest of it, or any other Border related story, for that matter. THANKS A LOT.
No Midori Snyder. This made me sad.
I'm going to put Cory Doctorow right in the middle. He's like that friend we all have, who wants to chew your ear off all the time about the boring thing he's obsessed with, and will use any sort of excuse to work it into any conversation. Borderlands? Let's talk internet!! I'm not one to judge. I drove a very attractive young man clean away once, when, on our first and only date, I got started on medieval papermaking techniques. I think it's a common nerd affliction. The plus side about Doctorow is that he's a) fairly charming, even while preaching, and b) you really should know the shit he's trying to explain to you, because it's important.
So, all in all, there was more good than bad. But it still felt strangely bittersweet. It feels important for Bordertown to get handed over to a younger generation, and it also feels important that it keeps going. I think no other series speaks so strongly and so hopefully to the young, the fucked up, the irredeemably weird, the desperate, and the wounded. Is this the book that will win a whole new crop of fans? I hope so. I just wish it felt more solid....more
Most totalitarian governments eventually figured out that the most efficient sort of mind control is the kind that is self enforced, and that self cenMost totalitarian governments eventually figured out that the most efficient sort of mind control is the kind that is self enforced, and that self censorship, carefully instilled, is the most effective way to control public discourse. A similar form of self policing occurs today, despite our free societies. Urban anonymity coupled with the internet allows us to only associate with the like-minded (as many other people have more gracefully pointed out already). No longer forced to congregate with random strangers, we can spend all of our time - virtual or otherwise - with people who share our affection for superhero costumes or radical politics or hardcore industrial music - while filtering out the vaguely distasteful mass of humanity streaming around us. It can sometimes feel as if the elements of urban life exist on separate planes, close but not quite touching.
But what if this schism was somehow made actual, either by ancient and unknown devices or by the force of our collective belief? And here we get into the heart of The City and The City. The perceptual contortions and self-censorship required by such a setting is just one of the deeply unsettling ideas Mieville explores. Or toys with, is maybe a better way to put it, because this is a surprisingly fast-paced read, full of thrills and shivery chills. The story’s big ideas are handled with a light touch, and never bog down the main plot - a gripping, gory murder mystery, fraught with conspiracies, corrupt government officials, and militant terrorist cells, and filled with the creeping, paranoid weight of constant surveillance. The heroes - two hard-boiled, expletive spouting, cynical police officers, straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel - make a strangely endearing counterpoint to the seriousness of the subject matter, providing a needed dash of wry humor.
I originally got an advance copy of this book way back in - I think - the winter of 2008. It looked intriguing, but I really wasn’t a big fan of Perdido Street Station, and I was a little reluctant to give this one a try. Now I’m sorry I waited so long. If you’ve had doubts about Mieville, set them aside and grab this book - now out in paperback, for your convenience! - and dive in. Prepare to stay up all night, be very late to work, and ignore your phone - I hardly ever stay up all night to finish a book anymore (getting old? maybe) but this I really couldn’t put down.
Like most anthologies, this is a mixed bag - a few great pieces and some mediocre ones. Robinson's notes are thoughtful, and I thought the inclusion oLike most anthologies, this is a mixed bag - a few great pieces and some mediocre ones. Robinson's notes are thoughtful, and I thought the inclusion of poetry was ambitious, if not successful. Particularly good were the R.A. Lafferty story "Boomer Flats" and Robert Silverberg's "House of Bones". ...more
It won me over. Couch starts off as a typically Northwestern tale of woe: three underemployed guys - a laid-off programmer, a fey pie-baking hippie boIt won me over. Couch starts off as a typically Northwestern tale of woe: three underemployed guys - a laid-off programmer, a fey pie-baking hippie boy, and a smooth-talking con artist - share a dismal Portland apartment, down on their luck and starting to feel desperation creeping in around the edges. When they are forced out of their den of lethargy by a flood, they discover that their perniciously comfortable couch may, in fact, be evil, and certainly possesses a mind of its own. As they try to figure out what exactly the couch wants, they are drawn into an epic road trip involving secret societies, hobos, lost civilizations, space aliens, drunken fishermen, revolutionaries, and girls, lugging the couch the whole way. Awesomely ridiculous and strangely profound, a thoroughly worthwhile read. ...more
There are some books that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. They may be small, but are so densely layered that they feel like they're openThere are some books that are bigger on the inside than on the outside. They may be small, but are so densely layered that they feel like they're opening onto infinite space, and when you finish reading you're dazed, like you've woken up from a vivid dream to find your waking life transformed. Engine Summer is such a book, a deceptively slim novella set in a far-future world, which is at once a picaresque tale of love and adventure, and a dreamily gorgeous story about the nature of time, identity, consciousness, and the stories that make us really live.
On your way to grab your copy of Twilight in the Young Adult section, you may have passed Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters, with its haunting cover art byOn your way to grab your copy of Twilight in the Young Adult section, you may have passed Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters, with its haunting cover art by Shaun Tan. Link's been getting major raves and critical acclaim for years for her small-press collections of short stories, and this, her first major-publisher book, is her strongest work yet. Link is one of the most innovative and interesting writers of young adult fiction, with more good ideas in one story than most writers ever have in their whole careers. Tan's dark and beautiful illustrations are just the icing on the cake.
There is so much to love about this book, and a second read doesn't disappoint. Elizabethan intrigue, shadowy interdimensional alien overlords, poisonThere is so much to love about this book, and a second read doesn't disappoint. Elizabethan intrigue, shadowy interdimensional alien overlords, poisonous gardens, alchemists and jackal-headed pilgrims. Truly delicious....more