Summerlong is the latest stand-alone work by Peter S. Beagle, an author widely lauded and4 stars from Jana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Summerlong is the latest stand-alone work by Peter S. Beagle, an author widely lauded and respected for his skillful turns of phrase, complicated characters, and his ability to credibly blend the fantastic into the mundane. In Summerlong, Beagle turns his gaze on Puget Sound and a small island off Seattle’s coast, an unremarkable little place which undergoes a transformation over the course of just a few months, changing the lives of its residents in profound and irrevocable ways.
The greatest changes come to Joanna Delvecchio and Abe Aronson, a late-middle-aged couple who have settled into a comfortable routine over their two decades of coupleship: she’s a flight attendant and basketball fanatic, he’s a history professor and homebrewer. When Del isn’t flying the friendly skies, she stays at Abe’s place on Gardner Island, eating at their favorite diner — the Skyliner — or spending time with her adult daughter, Lily. One February night, Del and Abe meet a uniquely beautiful new waitress, who introduces herself as Lioness Lazos, and ends up moving into Abe’s garage because she has nowhere else to stay. As weeks pass and an early, unusually potent spring settles over the island, Del and Abe begin to wonder if Lioness’ past might hold more than a difficult marriage, they each begin to explore seemingly unattainable interests, previously considered no more than youthful flights of fancy, and Lily quickly moves from infatuation with Lioness to obsession....read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE ...more
The Doomed City is a late 1980’s work by, according to my jacket liner, the two “greatest4 stars from Bill, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
The Doomed City is a late 1980’s work by, according to my jacket liner, the two “greatest Russian science fiction masters”: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Having never read their other works, or much at all by any other Russian sci-fi authors, I can’t speak to the validity of that statement. But certainly The Doomed City, translated here by Andrew Bromfield, is a fascinating and thoughtful work, one that I thoroughly enjoyed even as I sensed I was probably missing some of the layers/allusions more specific to their homeland.
The setting is a roughly 50-square-kilometer metropolis lit by an artificial sun and bounded by an endless void on one side and a towering yellow wall on another. What lies to the north (and to a lesser degree the south, past the farms and swampland) is a mystery. The city is the “lab” for a grand experiment being run by “the Mentors,” a group of beings who have recruited, seemingly at random, Earthfolk from various times and regions and plunked them down here for their mysterious purpose. The inhabitants are well aware that they are part of an experiment — each has their own mentor with whom they speak at times, and the line, “The Experiment is the Experiment” is frequently tossed around by the Earthpeople to shrug off whatever odd events happen, such as a sudden onslaught of baboons, as happens in the first few pages. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE ...more
Disclaimer: This audiobook, and the series, is extremely popular and has high ratings at2.5 stars from Kat, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Disclaimer: This audiobook, and the series, is extremely popular and has high ratings at Goodreads and Audible. I will explain why I am not enthusiastic about it, but please take my opinion with the proverbial grain of salt.
The Naked God (1999 print, 2016 audio) is the third and final book in Peter F. Hamilton’s NIGHT’S DAWN trilogy. It begins immediately after the events of the previous book, The Neutronium Alchemist which follows the first book, The Reality Dysfunction. At this point in the story, the possessed (souls that have come back from the Beyond to inhabit the bodies of alive humans) have nearly taken over the universe, thanks to the work of Al Capone (one of the souls who has returned), Marie Skibow (a hot chick possessed by a returned soul who is using Marie’s body to tempt unpossessed people into joining them) and Quinn Dexter (a depraved Satanist). Several good guys, including a few who are actually possessed, are trying in various ways to thwart the invasion of souls from the Beyond. These are the same people we know from the previous books (e.g., Joshua, Ione, Louise, Fletcher, Ralph, etc.). They each have subplots that are eventually resolved at the end of The Naked God...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
In her follow-up to her acclaimed novel The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton adopts a dual t4 stars from Tadiana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In her follow-up to her acclaimed novel The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton adopts a dual timeline structure, following the lives of two creatively gifted women separated by time and place, but linked by a luminous, long-hidden painting that bodes well to take the art world by storm, and a decades-old mystery about the artist. The Muse (2016) lacks the subtle element of magical realism that lent a mysterious aura to the dollhouse and the titular miniaturist who furnished it in her debut novel, but there are other compelling mysteries and themes that drive the plot of The Muse and knit together its two timelines.
In 1967 London, Odelle Bastien, an educated Trinidadian immigrant who has lived in England for the past five years, is working in a shop selling shoes. London hasn’t turned out to be quite the promised land it once seemed to the younger Odelle: job opportunities always seem to evaporate when she meets employers face to face. Her last shoe sale is to a woman who has no toes on her feet ― a portentous moment that sticks with Odelle, and eventually makes its way into a short story that she publishes. Odelle is an accomplished poet and author, but struggles with her writing and with allowing others to see it. She’s delighted to finally get a better job as a typist for an art gallery, bringing her closer to the world of art and culture that she loves. One night she meets Lawrie Scott, who shows her a painting he’s inherited from his mother that he has in the boot (trunk) of his car. When Lawrie tracks down Odelle later at her job, he brings the painting into the gallery, where it causes a sensation....read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE ...more
Girls and Goddesses: Stories of Heroines from Around the World, written by Lari Don and3.5 stars from Bill, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Girls and Goddesses: Stories of Heroines from Around the World, written by Lari Don and illustrated by Francesca Greenwood, is a collection of thirteen folktales in a wide range of time and place. While the language is a little flat, for the most part I found it an enjoyable read. And it’s yet another alternative to all those princess-rescued-by-the-boy-hero that used to be the norm. The cultures/regions included are:
China Sumeria France Greece Cameroon Native American Venezuela Scandinavia Japan Scotland India Russia
The tales are relatively short, ranging from six to twelve pages, with most in the 6-8 range. They therefore move along sprightly and, in usual folktale mode, don’t spend a lot of time on description, either with regard to character or setting. I wouldn’t have minded just a little more of the latter due to the global nature of the collection, but that doesn’t mean the tales are stripped of their cultural touch points. For instance, the main character in the Chinese story “Chi and the Seven-headed Dragon” makes inventive use of sticky rice to defeat the creature that has been appeased by weekly sacrifices of young girls....read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
The 1950s and 60s was a time in the US rife with social tension and conflict. With unpop5 stars from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
The 1950s and 60s was a time in the US rife with social tension and conflict. With unpopular wars being fought on foreign soil, blood was also being shed on American streets as ethnic, gender, and counter-culture concerns often turned to violence. Partially a reaction to these social issues, the New Wave science fiction movement, spearheaded by such writers as Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and others shifted the genre’s gears, moving away from a hard science, extra-terrestrial focus toward Earth-side concerns. John Brunner is an author who made the shift — highly successfully — and began incorporating the concerns of the day directly into his sci-fi. Examining prejudice, social fragmentation, weapons production, paranoia, and existentialism in a dystopian setting, his 1969 The Jagged Orbit is one such book. Undoubtedly part of the platinum standard of the New Wave, the novel has only become more relevant as society evolves closer to his frightening vision.
The setting of The Jagged Orbit is late 21st century America. Heavy racial segregation is occurring in the wake of ethnic tension, with various parts of the US seceding to form politically independent enclaves. In mixed areas, hate crimes occur daily, the racism open and unabated. Fully enabling the enmity, a family of arms manufacturers, the Gottshalks, play both sides against the middle, their profit line the beneficiary. Fear and paranoia are the selling points, so ordinary citizens arm themselves as the cycle of violence spins faster everyday. People barricade themselves at home and tread the streets in fear, society is unstable, and life forever seems one step away from complete chaos. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
If you were to ask me to name my top two or three favorite fantasy novels, the answer wo5 stars from Sandy, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
If you were to ask me to name my top two or three favorite fantasy novels, the answer would take me a long time to come up with, given the overwhelming number of possible choices. But if you wanted to know my top two or three fantasy films, well, I could give you that reply fairly quickly. One of them would of course be The Wizard of Oz (1939), which I steadfastly maintain must be viewed on the big screen. Next up, for me, is The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), co-created by Dr. Seuss himself. And third, a film that has been charming me (and millions of others) for decades now, 1947’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The only one of these three to be shot completely in B&W, the film provided one of my very favorite actresses, Gene Tierney, with one of her greatest roles (Laura Hunt in 1944’s Laura and Ellen Berent in 1945’s color noir Leave Her to Heaven being her two greatest, natch), and she was perfectly matched by Rex Harrison’s gruff but likeable portrayal. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz helmed his film with great sensitivity, while composer Bernard Herrmann provided a lush and haunting score, years before his many collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock.
But while this film has been a favorite of many for almost 70 years now, few, I have a feeling, have read the picture’s source novel, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, released in 1945 and written by R.A. Dick (the pseudonym for Irish authoress Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie, who passed away in 1979). Now, however, thanks to Doubleday’s Vintage Movie Classics series (“novels that inspired great films”), a new generation will finally be able to read this long-out-of-print wonder. And as it turns out, Dick’s original is every bit as good as its film, with some significant differences. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
This is essential reading (or listening) for all fans of SF who want to see why Ursula5 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
This is essential reading (or listening) for all fans of SF who want to see why Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the giants of the SF/fantasy field. Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands contains a host of impressive stories, both her famous award-winners and lesser-known gems. All of them are intelligent, thought-provoking, understated, and beautifully written. It’s hard to underestimate the influence she has had on the genre, fans, and how much respect she has gained in the greater literary world. I can’t wait to see the upcoming documentary about her life and legacy being produced by Arwen Curry called Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin scheduled for completion by 2017.
As we journey through the various imaginary worlds she weaves, many set in her shared far-future Hainish universe, what becomes clear is that Le Guin is an anthropologist at heart, which is hardly surprising considering both her parents were well-known anthropologists: Alfred Kroeber, a renowned Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, and his wife Theodora Kroeber, both of whom did pioneering work on California native American tribes, including the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe, named Ishi....read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
At the beginning of Brooke Johnson’s steampunk fantasy-romance novel The Brass Giant2.5 stars from Marion, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
At the beginning of Brooke Johnson’s steampunk fantasy-romance novel The Brass Giant (2015), Petra Wade, our protagonist, is a strong-willed young woman with a driving desire: she wants to be an engineer. Specifically, she wants to attend the University and Engineers Guild, which does not admit women. Petra, an orphan, has learned clockwork from an elderly shopkeeper, but her talent for engineering is far beyond that, and she thirsts to use her ability to improve the world.
Emmerich Goss is a wealthy, good-looking University student with copper-colored eyes, and he asks for Petra’s help powering his automaton, which is distinctive because it responds to controls that are manipulated remotely. Eager to prove herself, Petra agrees to disguise herself as a boy and sneak into the University to help him, but soon the young people uncover a conspiracy that involves Emmerich’s father, and the history of Petra’s parentage is revealed to her. (The reader may have already deduced it.) ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were two writers who initially established themselves no5 stars from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were two writers who initially established themselves not only in the world of realist fiction, but also as effective observers on society. As a result, their later novels Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World are heralded as two of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, with literary purists even willing to make allowances despite the sci-fi leanings. Perhaps it is John Brunner’s misfortune that his career was established in the world of science fiction. When Stand on Zanzibar was published in 1968, only those within the genre took notice of its qualities. As poignant literature that transcends genre, it too comments with profound relevance on the human condition.
The book’s title is based on the idea that 7 billion people would require an area of land the size of Zanzibar to stand shoulder to shoulder, front to back. The image that arises is a stifling clot of humanity, and Brunner’s goal in the novel is to outlay the social, economic, and psychological pressures that result from extreme population growth and densely packed lives, particularly in cities and urban areas. Though we have 7 billion people in the world today and do not (yet) deal with many of the problems Brunner describes, the overwhelming majority of the book will leave the reader stunned for its reflective and prescient view of 2010. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
One of the definitive aspects of Ben Aaronovitch‘s PETER GRANT series is the fact that it’4 stars from Ray, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
One of the definitive aspects of Ben Aaronovitch‘s PETER GRANT series is the fact that it’s set in the big smoke (aka London, for all you non-Londoners). So it may come as a surprise to discover that Foxglove Summer (2014), the fifth instalment of the series, is actually set in the countryside. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is story about sleepy village life and the occasional nosy neighbour. Far from it. Peter Grant is back along with a myriad of supernatural problems, and he’s just as incompetent as he’s always been…
Two eleven-year-old girls have gone missing in the rural town of Leominster, Herefordshire. Constable Peter Grant is sent on a routine assignment to check up on an old wizard living in the area, but he finds himself getting dragged into the missing persons case. When a dead mobile phone turns up, Peter suspects its microchip has been fried by magic, and he enlists the help of Beverley Brook — sassy river goddess from the first few books — to try and untangle the mystery. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Putting it simply, China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris is a “China Miéville” st3.5 stars from Ryan, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Putting it simply, China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris is a “China Miéville” story. For many readers, that’s sufficient information to begin reading.
But here are some additional details, just in case. The Last Days of New Paris is a novella length alternate history in which the Nazis and the resistance fight to control Paris. Something weird is going on in this timeline: surreal creatures called “manifs” wander the streets of Paris after an S-Blast took the surreal creatures out of the artworks and into the world. The “manifs” don’t like Nazis, and so the latter counter the former by making a deal with demons from Hell.
There’s much in The Last Days of New Paris that will please Miéville’s fans. Most importantly, it’s just as weird and imaginative as his other works. The writing is inventive, though his fans will likely find it startling in a familiar way. The monsters are powerful and bizarre, and in addition to providing an overview of the manifs and their sources, Miéville further illustrates some of them. I recall that Miéville once said in interview that he’d like to write a story in every genre. I always found that idea admirable and interesting, though I never expected to learn that surrealism was on the list. Miéville’s books are always thoughtful, and I enjoyed letting my thoughts wander around the relationships between imagination, oppression, and art while reading this one....more
All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life (2016), by Jon Willis, i4 stars from Bill, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life (2016), by Jon Willis, is structured around a simple proposition: if you had four billion dollars to spend (Willis explains why that number late in the book) to seek out non-terrestrial life, where would it make the most sense to spend it? Willis gives his readers a head start by narrowing their choices at the outset to five “plausible scenarios:”
1. Mars (of course) 2. Europa 3. Enceladus 4. Titan 5. An exoplanet
Willis begins by offering up a relatively quick but sufficiently detailed overview of the conditions that apparently were necessary for life on Earth (liquid water, magnetic field, atmosphere, plate tectonics, a basic shared biochemistry, and a few others), and though he is careful to remind us multiple times throughout All These Worlds Are Yours that we should not close our minds to the possibility of other forms of life, he is realistic in the difficulty of discovering/recognizing such. After covering the famed Miller-Urey experiment (throw together some early-Earth chemicals, add some “lightning,” see what happens), he then explores in general terms the same or similar elements in non-Earth terms, discussing for instance the “habitable zone” and the amount of energy from the sun each planet receives (deciding in what may come as a surprise to readers that “there does not appear to be any point or boundary beyond which we can state definitively that the sun is too weak to support photosynthetic life”). ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
In the Courts of the Sun is an interesting novel, built Frankenstein’s-monster-like from3 stars from Jason, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In the Courts of the Sun is an interesting novel, built Frankenstein’s-monster-like from the elements of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller, Gary Jennings’ Aztec series, and one of Stephen Baxter‘s unique spins on time travel. I enjoyed the book, but it’s uneven. The book was written by artist Brian D’Amato and is the first in the JED DE LANDA two-book series.
The story is heavily character-driven, led by Jed DeLanda, a supremely intelligent, anti-social, hard-core gamer of Mayan descent. DeLanda is one of the few people in the world who can play an ancient Mayan game used to help see into the future. Capitalizing on the real-world 2012 doomsday popularity, D’Amato’s story places Jed in position to help decipher a recently discovered Mayan codex, and play his game to help unravel mysterious clues about the end of the world as predicted to take place on December 21, 2012. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
Warning: May contain spoilers for A Princess of the Chameln
One of the mysteries laid out 3 stars from Kate, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
Warning: May contain spoilers for A Princess of the Chameln
One of the mysteries laid out in Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of Chameln is the identity and whereabouts of Aidris’s cousin, the child of Elvedegran, her mother’s sister and the queen of Mel’Nir. The common understanding is that, because of a monstrous birth defect, the child and the mother both died. However, late in A Princess of Chameln, Aidris receives news that confirms her mother’s deathbed prophecy: Elvedegran’s child lives.
Yorath, the titular character of Yorath the Wolf (1984), the second in the RULERS OF HYLOR series, is that child. He is saved by Hagnild the court physician and raised in the woods, in obscurity and ignorance of his own heritage. His childhood is checkered; at times he lives in security and comfort with Hagnild. At other times, he is sent to town to apprentice and, because of his looks, thrown into the street to live an urchin’s life. But, despite his birth defect, he grows up strong and larger than the men around him. He eventually becomes a soldier in a lower royal household, going on to fight in the wars over Mel’Nir and being confronted, at one point, with rulership himself. ...read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In his wonderful breakdown of the genre in The Strategies of Fantasy, Brian Atterbery dev1 star from Jesse, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In his wonderful breakdown of the genre in The Strategies of Fantasy, Brian Atterbery devotes an entire chapter to the sub-genre of science fantasy, stating that of the “works that mingle the rhetoric of science fiction with that of fantasy, nearly all can be classed as either humorous or mythological.” Though citing a scene from A Princess of Mars wherein love develops between a human male and an egg-laying Martian, what Atterbery is too coy to say directly is that humor and absurdity go hand-in-hand. But he does not mention Poul Anderson’s 1960 novel The High Crusade, which may, in fact, be the poster example of science fantasy silliness.
How does this look on a genre wall: medieval English knights are one day attacked by ray-gun wielding, blue-skinned aliens. The knights push back the attack, and in the aftermath are able to take an alien hostage. It learns Latin in the time it takes Anderson to write a paragraph, and soon enough the knights are taught to fly the ship and embark for France to destroy their sworn enemy. Trouble is, the alien tricks the knights. Instead of France, the ship is on autopilot. Destination: the alien’s home planet. Upon landing, the group of knights lay waste to the technologically advanced aliens with nothing more than spears, bows, and arrows — the beam weaponry and power shields they encounter are no match. And that’s only the first 40 pages…read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more
In A Princess of the Chameln, Cherry Wilder tells the story of Aidris Am Firn, whose pa3.5 stars from Kate, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE
In A Princess of the Chameln, Cherry Wilder tells the story of Aidris Am Firn, whose parents, the king and queen of the Firn and one half of the rulership of the Chameln, are attacked in front of her. As her last living act, Aidris’s mother gives her a magical stone that will aid her in the future, and commands her not to let anyone else see it. Not long after, another assassination is attempted on her life and the life of her cousin, Sharn Am Zor, the prince who is destined to rule at Aidris’s side when they are grown. Aidris is sent to live with regent after regent, constantly on the run for her life, while she tries to seek out who poses a threat to her rule.
In some ways A Princess of the Chameln felt episodic rather than following one clearly-defined course of action. Aidris moves from location to location, learning new skills and hiding her identity, until she is finally able to announce her queenship when her closest friend and protector, Count Bajan, arrives to support her claim to the throne. One of my favorite parts of the book was Aidris’s training as a warrior, part of the Kedran, a group of female soldiers meant to protect a house. It seemed like one of the happiest and most carefree parts of her life, living among other women with no suspicion that she is royal....read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE...more