This book has a more straight-forward narrative style rather than the more poetic one of the last few stories. Chronologically, it takes place after tThis book has a more straight-forward narrative style rather than the more poetic one of the last few stories. Chronologically, it takes place after the events of Beneath the Sugar Sky. Books 4 and 4.5 are prequel novellas.
In addition to completing (maybe?) the story of the Wolcott sisters, McGuire continues to explore the themes they've been laying down throughout the series. What does it mean to ask children to "be sure"? How much trauma can children (and teens) take? And other topics like body dysphoria - taken to an extreme here with the main plot point.
As the back of the book text says, once again we have the students breaking the "no quests" rule. I'm unsure whether this is McGuire setting up a future conflict or backing themselves out of a narrative corner. The amount of time we've spent with Eleanor's thoughts in books 3 and 5 make me think something is being set up here. Perhaps even something sinister. But I'm not sure.
I think if you've been enjoying this series of novellas and short stories so far, there's no reason to stop now. This is both more of the same and an expansion of themes. I think it provides enough newness to keep from dulling my interest in the series. Looking at the Goodreads series page it seems that McGuire plans to release at least 10 novellas in the series. I think if there's a narrative plan (McGuire being a plotter rather than a pantser) then I think we're in for quite a treat because so far the stories have flowed well back and forth and even the prequels haven't fallen victim to the usual annoying prequel tropes.
This is the last book I already owned in the series, so I'll probably take a pause as I work my way through various series that I'm in the middle of. But I won't remain far from this series for long!...more
SCIENCE FICTION The Archronology of Love (Caroline M. Yoachim) - This short story involves an interesting idea where an alien race has created a VR hisSCIENCE FICTION The Archronology of Love (Caroline M. Yoachim) - This short story involves an interesting idea where an alien race has created a VR history, but to make an analogy with archeology, when you view part of the history, you mess up that record and if you move around you mess even more up. (Similar to how digging up an archeology site disturbs the very record being observed) The story isn’t just a neat gimmick - it also has a nice little love story that goes along with it.
To Market, To Market: The Branding of Billy Bailey (Cory Doctorow) - This is a reprint form 2000, but it almost reads as if it was written yesterday (May 2023) as a critique of the concept of influencers. I guess Doctorow was ahead of the curve in seeing what was coming along the pike. This story (which also satirizes the corporate naming of everything - think in real life of how your team plays in a stadium named after a bank or something) involves a kid in elementary school considering how his actions align with his brand. Combine that with Doctorow’s usual sense of humor and you’ve got a winner.
Gundark Island, or, Tars Tarkas Needs Your Help (Matthew Corradi) - a love letter to science fiction and (according to the author interview) a semi-autobiography. Also a story about growing up
The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin (Michael Swanwick) - this story takes a hard turn from where it appears to be going at first. Strong recommendation. FANTASY Blur (Carmen Maria Machado) - an interesting story, but seemingly no ending or anything actually fantastical? (Unless I "blinked" and missed it)
The Seeds of War (Ashok K. Banker) - the last of the shirt stories released prior to the first Burnt Empire book. It's the most directly related to the plot in that book. The magical conception in this story makes me glad it doesn't work that way in the real world.
The Lady of Shalott (Carrie Vaughn) - a parody of Arthurian tales that goes to a VERY unexpected place. I like Vaughn's sense of humor.
A Conch-Shell’s Notes (Shweta Adhyam) - my favorite story in this issue. It's a deconstruction of The Hero's Journey and has a fun tone to the narrative. NOVELLA The Speed of Belief (Robert Reed) - A rarity for SF, this story actually explores the idea of a completely different type of organism (ie not humanoid) and how that affects the way it thinks and acts. Also plays with the concepts of technology allowing some humans to be effectively immortal. EXCERPTS Upon a Burning Throne (Ashok K. Banker) - after having read the short stories that take place in this world, it was fun to finally read the first chapters of this book. I’ll probably move it up in my “to read” list this year. NONFICTION Book Reviews: April 2019 (Chris Kluwe) - A series of books around the concept of knowing oneself. Great introduction by Kluwe. I appreciated for each of the reviews that Kluwe included a “for fans of” to help folks get a good idea of whether they would enjoy it (in addition to the few paragraphs they had written about the book).
Media Review: April 2019 (Christopher East) - I’d heard lots of good things about the show Russian Doll. This review makes me want to check it out. I’ll have to add it to my ever-growing media queue.
Interview: Rebecca Roanhorse (Christian A. Coleman) - An interview mostly focusing on the Sixth World series....more
This is a short story that was posted to Tor.com that fills in a key story that was briefly mentioned in In an Absent Dream. Even though it was a key This is a short story that was posted to Tor.com that fills in a key story that was briefly mentioned in In an Absent Dream. Even though it was a key plot point in that book, it makes a lot of sense to be separated out from the novella. It would have changed the pacing as well as lessened the emotions from the novella.
It's written almost slightly more poetically than the novella from which it comes and was an absolute delight to read - at least prose-wise. As you know, based on where it takes place in the book, it's not exactly a delightful tale.
Highly recommend reading this immediately after In an Absent Dream to get the strongest emotional connection out of it....more
Another prequel entry in the Wayward Children series. I read this almost entirely in one sitting because I was transfixed. I love logic fantasy worldsAnother prequel entry in the Wayward Children series. I read this almost entirely in one sitting because I was transfixed. I love logic fantasy worlds and I loved the idea of this one where the world enforces a sense of balance and fairness. As with many of the novellas in this series, it has a lot of tragic twists and turns for the portal worlds are not forgiving places. (A solid deconstruction of the idea as also explored the Magicians trilogy)
I saw a lot of myself in Lundy and I saw a lot of my eldest in her too.
This continues to be an incredible series to read. ...more
This book continues the story from book 1, not book 2. (Which makes sense since Down Among the Sticks and Bones was a prequel) We're introduced to somThis book continues the story from book 1, not book 2. (Which makes sense since Down Among the Sticks and Bones was a prequel) We're introduced to some new characters and get a little more background on some of the others.
I found it to be a very interesting plot considering the world that McGuire has set up. In a way, because of the existence of nonsense, it feels like McGuire actually needs stricter rules (in her world bible) to keep from either painting themself into a corner or ending up with a cheap-feeling deus ex machine.
It wasn't quite as emotional as novella #2, but it was a good story that made me never want to stop reading....more
The Synapse Will Free Us from Ourselves (Violet Allen) - a story that seems (however horrifying) even more likely now than it did when SCIENCE FICTION
The Synapse Will Free Us from Ourselves (Violet Allen) - a story that seems (however horrifying) even more likely now than it did when this issue was first printed. I don't want to give anything away so I'll say it would make a great episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone.
On the Shores of Ligeia (Carolyn Ives Gilman) - a nice breath of fresh air in that this story is mostly a story of how and discovery without any dystopian elements.
A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime (Charlie Jane Anders) - If you listen to the podcast Our Opinions are Correct, you know that Charlie Jane Anders has a whimsical streak. That is on display in this story full of strange expressions and dad joke humor. I did find myself longing for more stories involving our main characters, so the story definitely has that going for it.
My Children’s Home (Woody Dismukes) - I have read lots of short stories and they all have varying amounts of world building with the short amount of word count they are given. This story stands out to me as one in which we learn both so much and so little. It seems to be a steampunk world and yet there are birthing vats. And what is the Auction? And why is it that way? Is this an alternate Earth or a completely different world entirely? And yet we have so much emotion in this story that it almost doesn’t matter. The world seems to be “real” even if we see so little of it.
Self-Storage Starts with the Heart (Maria Romasco Moore) - This story had me hooked from the get-go. It had such a neat premise that makes me wonder about how the world works differently than ours.
Ambitious Boys Like You (Richard Kadrey) - a horror story. I was able to guess part of the plot, but the twist I would never have been able to guess
A Hundred Thousand Arrows (Ashok K. Banker) - a fun adventure and more time with Vrath. Awesome!
Those Are Pearls (Kat Howard) - curses as a metaphor for social norms (especially as regards societal norms placed upon women). Quite compelling.
Of Love and Other Monsters (Vandana Singh) - I haven’t had too much occasion to read Indian SFF (outside of the Burnt Empire series that’s been serialized in the past few issues of Lightspeed), so it’s interesting to see it here. It seems less sterile than American SF and less “magical”/spiritual than African SF. The story itself was very neat. It could be seen (at least partially) as a metaphor for the fluidity of gender and identity, but that’s more of a background element to the story, which is mostly about solving the mystery we are given in the first few pages. I definitely will keep my eye out for more stories by Vandana Singh.
A Memory Called Empire (Arkady Martine) - reads like a combination between the Imperial Radch and The Independencey. Definitely want to read it one day. It's already on my TBR list from when I head about it on the podcast Imaginary Worlds.
Book Reviews: March 2019 (Arley Sorg) - A review of the excerpted novel, a directive novel, and an anthology.
Media Review: March 2019 (Carrie Vaughn) - a review for Mortal Engines that made me add it to my to watch list.
Interview: Sarah Pinsker (Christian A. Coleman) - focused on how history and music influence the short stories Sarah Pinsker writes....more
SCIENCE FICTION Life Sentence (Matthew Baker) - This story’s a real doozy. It’s about a potentially different way to handHere are my reviews per story:
SCIENCE FICTION Life Sentence (Matthew Baker) - This story’s a real doozy. It’s about a potentially different way to handle criminal punishment. Because this is a well-written story, it’s not simple to decide which system is more cruel - the one in the story or the one in which we currently live. They’re both evil in their own ways. Definitely a powerful story that I recommend to anyone, especially if interested in criminal justice reform and/or abolishment. Also has the added layer (if I’m not misreading the story) of the protagonist being of First Nations descent, which makes it even worse, given the historical injustices.
Okay, Glory (Elizabeth Bear) - A great sendup of Siri/Alexa/etc plus the SmartHome with a modernized plot whose origin goes back to the 1960s. (url for Smarhome ep of OOACPod)
The Incursus by Asimov-NN#71 (Gord Sellar) - Not to get all woo-woo, but this is ANOTHER story that hits harder for me reading it in 2023 than it would have when originally reprinted in Lightspeed in 2019. It uses a more SF way to essentially predict where we are now with LLMs like ChatGPT. In the shadow of those new developments, this story is very prescient. WIthout spoiling anything, it definitely goes off in a direction that I did not expect when I first started reading it.
Marlowe and Harry and the Disinclined Laboratory (Carrie Vaughn) - A steampunk alternate history. Not too much happens in this particular story, but that’s because (as the author interview reveals) this is a pair of recurring characters for Ms Vaughn. The world sounds fun and I hope I come across more of these stories. - ######### FANTASY The Perpetual Day (Crystal Koo) - not a fan of the narrative style. But it does paint a scary picture of a world in which no one can ever sleep again.
Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon (KT Bryski) - a fun variant on a folktale about escaping death. Enjoyed it.
The Terrible Oath (Ashok K. Banker) - This story returns to what I loved about the first story in this series of short stories (Lightspeed is publishing a series of short stories in The Burning Throne world) - the bonds between humans and what they’re willing to do for each other. Very well done.
Healing Benjamin (Dennis Danvers) - it's hard to talk about this story without any spoilers, so I'll just say it was incredibly powerful.
########### NOVELLA Hath No Fury (Kat Howard) - I haven’t bothered looking up the chronology, but there has been a recent trend of, for lack of a better term, feminist readings/retellings/reconstructions of Greek mythology. Given how much of our current culture comes from Greco-Roman Mythology, I welcome these new ways of looking at things. This novella transports the idea to modern day New York City although it has some very clever ties to its source material. It would have been quite the story when it was first printed in 2014, but it would have been quite powerful in 2019 when it was reprinted for Lightspeed Magazine amongst all the gendered discourse in the news in the USA. Even today it hits hard in a way that is sad because the truths spoken by the story are still too true.
##### EXCERPTS Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones (Micah Dean Hicks) - A story that makes the concept of a ghost town a lot more literal. From the excerpt, it seems depressing AF, so not for me. But the prose seems quite well written - it might be for you.
##### NONFICTION Book Reviews: February 2019 (LaShawn M. Wanak) - Mostly books I hadn’t heard of, but authors I enjoy.
Media Reviews: February 2019 (Christopher East) - Focuses on Netflix genre movies and shows. Hadn’t heard of any but the last one, but some of them sounded promising.
Interview: Lilliam Rivera (Christian A. Coleman) - The author is a New York Puerto Rican author who has (at the time of the interview) written a science fiction story that takes place in a future dystopian NY and has a lot of PR elements. ...more
I think the only story here that didn't really click with me was "With Teeth Unmake the Sun". It was beautiful and I appreciated that, but it wasn't mI think the only story here that didn't really click with me was "With Teeth Unmake the Sun". It was beautiful and I appreciated that, but it wasn't my fave. "Midway" hit me very hard at this age. Endor House is definitely my favorite story in this issue.
Here are the reviews per story:
Science Fiction With Teeth Unmake the Sun (A. Merc Rustad): This story definitely has beautiful prose, but it also made it very hard to understand what was going on at first. Not my favorite kind of short story when metaphors are real and it’s hard to get a grip on what’s actually happening. Still, a neat set of concepts.
Engine at Heartspring’s Center (Roger Zelazny): Zelazny shows why he is one of the 70s-era (Silver Age?) SF writers that folks recognize as a good writer. The prose is definitely of its era - not quite Golden Age SF and not quite modern - but it actually works perfectly for the entity at the center of the narrative.
Midway (Tony Ballantyne): Especially as I get nearer to this age, I appreciate more SFF authors considering protagonists that are a little older. Very interesting universe that our character inhabits, too.
The Book Collector (Sarah Micklem): somewhat smaller in scope and plot, but reminded me of the Ryan Reynolds movie Free Guy, but from the point of view of the designer. You could also compare it to the HBO adaptation of WestWorld. Of course, right after I thought of those examples came the obvious; Pygmalion. Definitely contains some rated R material, but it's also thought-provoking.
########## FANTASY The Emerald Coat and Other Wishes (Emily B. Cataneo): I don’t know if this is meant to be a metaphor for contemplating suicide, but it could certainly function that way.
Son of Water and Fire (Ashok K. Banker): Not quite as moving as the first entry in this series of short stories taking place in Banker’s India-ish universe, but still pretty compelling. It’s a very interested world he’s created and I definitely want to see more.
The Pilgrim and the Angel (E. Lily Yu): The author uses fantasy (in this case a story and a character that I believe is in both the Bible and Koran) to explore very human ideas about family ties in the modern world.
Endor House (Meg Elison): A bio piece in a magical magazine that explores generational relationships. It presents a lot of neat ideas, including a device that allows the author of the magazine to go forward in time to be able to write the magazine piece and cover the entire lifetime of the subject. The story presents some neat ideas that I’d love to see expanded - although I guess we’ll eventually get to see it with Brandon Sanderson’s books - magic and science fiction combined (and not just in a Star Wars sort of way).
######### NOVELLA What There Was to See (Maria Dahvana Headley): A ghost story based on real historical figures, this was a crazy story. I found myself anxious to see how it ended.
####### EXCERPTS The City in the Middle of the Night (Charlie Jane Anders): An interesting introduction to this world. It would be interesting to see how the folks in this story deal with their daylight locked planet compared to the characters in Sanderson’s Taldain.
####### NONFICTION Book Reviews: January 2019 (Chris Kluwe): A trio of books about outer space.
Media Reviews: January 2019 (Christopher East): Two genre-blending shows, including one of my favorites: Counterpart.
Feature Interview: Henry Lien (Christian A. Coleman): Not to bring this review “there”, but it’s interesting to see JKR referred to as an LGBT ally in this interview. My, how a few years change everything. But the book this interview is primarily about sounds awesome and I’m going to get it for my kids....more
I was part of the kickstarter that funded this book
I did not immediately jump into this book (Sanderson's Secret Project #2) because it was not a CosmI was part of the kickstarter that funded this book
I did not immediately jump into this book (Sanderson's Secret Project #2) because it was not a Cosmere book. (The Cosmere being the equivalent of the MCU for almost all Sanderson's fantasy books) Once I finally got to it, I was a little hesitant at first. The tone was somewhat like an adult version of Sanderson's Alcatraz series (a middle grade series). Although, seemingly like Sanderson, I'm a fan of dad jokes - this could get a bit tiring over the course of a novel.
But I kept on and, helped by sporadic pages from an in-universe book, it seemed to take on a tone not dissimilar from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The book intercuts between our hapless protagonist and a guidebook written by a relatively shady corporation.
I found that as our character learned more and more about their situation and we started to see the scope of what was happening, I got more and more addicted to getting to the end. The chapter cliffhangers became real cliffhangers.
I think it's a no brainer to check out the story if you're a Sanderson fan. It might not be one of your favorites (my dad wasn't into it; a work friend seemed lukewarm on it), but it's still in his wheelhouse. If you liked Hitchhicker's Guide - this isn't nearly as British - but I think you'll still likely find it fun.
One last note: If you happen to listen to the audiobook (I didn't this time around, even though I have it), track down a copy of the physical book or e-book. Every other page has an illustration at the bottom in light blue. At first it just seemed like nonsense drawings that matched some of the illustrations from the in-world book. But eventually I realized that the artist was telling a second story in silent-film form on the bottom of every other page. It was pretty fun to see that along with the main story....more
Relatively quick read this month. Here are the reviews per story:
Enchanted Mirrors Are Making a Comeback. That's Not Necessarily a Good Thing. (Mari NRelatively quick read this month. Here are the reviews per story:
Enchanted Mirrors Are Making a Comeback. That's Not Necessarily a Good Thing. (Mari Ness): I recognized the author’s name, but I couldn’t remember where I recognized it from. Then it hit me, Ness is the author of a series of Tor.com articles that I love in which they compared Disney movies to the original fairy tales and also wrote about production issues and other background information about those movies. So of course Ness would write a short story with this subject. I think it’s done with the appropriate amount of wit and humor to keep it from sliding into eye roll territory. I hope to see more short fiction from Ness in the future.
The Will of the God of Music (P.H. Low): a metaphor for pain and medical intervention told as someone dealing with the after-effects of asking a god to choose them as an avatar.
Moments of Doubt (Aimee Ogden): this story's so short that I can't really talk too much about it without spoiling it. However, I will say that it takes a well-worn story and does something new with it. The story takes a look at the trope from a point of view without morals and just looks at the human cost.
There's magic in Bread (Effie Seiberg): Perhaps it’s a little too soon, but the present-day narrative of this story really bummed me out. The story in the past was pretty neat, even if it was also a depressing era. I kept wondering how the title was going to connect with the story and the eventual twist was really neat.The author interview confirmed what I expected - that it was semi-autobiographical.
A great selection of stories this month! Here are my reviews per story:
The Dizzy Room (Kristina Ten): While I didn’t have the ESL issues the main charA great selection of stories this month! Here are my reviews per story:
The Dizzy Room (Kristina Ten): While I didn’t have the ESL issues the main character has, I definitely got my first computer around the same time. I remember playing all these edutainment games like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and (of course) Oregon Trail while my brothers played Reading Rabbit. I really enjoyed the twist - since it was in a horror magazine, I knew it was coming, but it was great seeing it gradually emerge.
Terms of Service (Dominica Phetteplace): Sure, South Park did it a few years ago with the CentIPad, but this was a still a fun, horror version of the concept. As a flash fiction story it didn’t overstay its welcome either.
Laura Lau will Drain You Dry (Wen-yi Lee): This was such a great story that I really enjoyed. As the author mentions in the author interview, it’s in the vein of Jennifer’s Body - a female who is punished for sexuality who comes into her own. It’s a great use of horror and I loved the ending.
Alternate Rooms (Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan): a horror poem.
The H Word: A plea for horror to return to monsters (eg vampires, etc) rather than having humans who are evil because that’s too real for some people, the author included.
Then review of The Menu and author interviews....more