Station Eleven: A quiet and lovely post-apocalyptic novel

Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel

“Quiet” and “lovely” are not usually words one reaches for when describing a post-apocalyptic novel. Not with the reverted-back-to-savagery cannibals; the road-raging-mohawk-sporting highway warriors; the gleeful told-you-so rat-a-tat of survivalist gunfire, or the annoying mumblespeak “braiiinnnnss” from the shambling zombies. But quiet and lovely are exactly the words I’d use to describe Station Eleven, the post-apocalyptic novel from Emily St. John Mandel that is happily missing all the above and shows the modern world ending with neither a bang nor a whimper, but with a gentle murmur.

Mandel’s chosen method of ending the world is the Georgia Flu, an incredibly virulent bug that wipes out 95+ percent of its victims within a span of 48 hours. In true form for the eventual tone and shape of the novel, though, Mandel opens not with a ma... Read More

The Book of Koli: Has pretty much everything I want

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

Koli lives in a far-future post-apocalyptic England. He has never been beyond the walls of Mythen Rood, his tiny village, because outside are wild animals, vicious plants, and who knows what other dangers. The leaders of Mythen Rood are the Ramparts, a small group of people who have magic that allows them to work the salvaged technology of the ancient humans who used to be masters of the Earth (that's us).

When kids in Mythen Rood turn 15 years old, the Ramparts test them to see if they have the magic to work the technology. If they do, the kids join the Ramparts. If not, they’re relegated to lower jobs. After Koli fails to pass the test, he discovers a secret the Ramparts have been hiding from the villagers. Then, after stealing some technology from the Ramparts, Koli is banished from Mythen Rood.

Koli is completely unprepared to be in the wilderness on his own -- he has no idea wha... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Reading during a pandemic

If you’re coming to this site, then you’re most likely a fellow reader. Which means during these unsettled times, like us, when you can, you take refuge in what has always been a solace to you — books. That’s often a connecting thread amongst readers, though how we find that needed comfort varies.

Some of us may find it by learning as much as we can about what’s scaring us, tracking the idea of “knowledge is power” and so giving us a semblance of control, even if it’s illusory. Even if we know it’s illusory. So we read everything on this particular virus, or infectious diseases, or histories of, say, the Spanish Flu. Other may go the opposite path, turning away from the too-real world and diving headlong into fantasy, the more removed from our own world the better. Give me dragons! Give me invincible Dark Lords overcome! Or maybe we’ll go the obvious route: I’m feeling sad; I’ll find a book that will make me laugh (or read some Pratchett and kill ... Read More

WWWednesday: March 4, 2020

Not genre at all, but interesting: The Washington Post explores the need for, and implications of, the “momcation.”

Awards:

File 770 is gathering information to help people vote on the Hugos. This column discusses those eligible for Best Editor, Long Form.

World:

The Centers for Disease Control have issued guidelines for Read More

2020 Books we can’t wait for! (Giveaway!)

Here are some of the books we can’t wait for in 2020!

Hover over the covers to see what our reviewers said about each book.

Which books are you looking forward to this year? One commenter wins a book from our stacks. Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Sixth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest

Time for our sixth annual SPECULATIVE FICTION HAIKU CONTEST!  Anyone can do this!

As a reminder, here are the rules:

For haiku, the typical subject matter is nature, but if you decide to be traditional, you must give it a fantasy, science fiction, or horror twist. We expect to be told that the peaceful wind you describe is blowing across a landscape of an unfamiliar, distant planet. And if your poem is about a flower, we hope that elegant little touch of beauty is about to be trampled by an Orc. We welcome the sublime as well as the humorous, the pedestrian along with the momentous.

Though you may use the traditional three-line haiku following a 5-7-5 syllable pattern, feel free to break that pattern. Many poets who write English haiku adhere to other expectations:

Written in three lines, though sometimes in two or fo... Read More

A Boy and His Dog at the end of the World: Took a while but won me over

A Boy and His Dog at the end of the World by C.A. Fletcher

A Boy and His Dog at the end of the World (2019), by C.A. Fletcher (aka Charlie Fletcher) bears no small resemblance to Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, which, it turns out, is not a bad thing. Both are quiet, elegiac stories set in a post-apocalyptic world and focused on a main character who sets out with his faithful dog on a journey that becomes less about finding what is sought and more about learning about oneself. Both had me unsure at the start if I’d finish, and both won me over, though Fletcher somewhat less fully than Heller. If you’re looking for a typical post-apocalyptic story with c... Read More

Good Morning, Midnight: Your book club might enjoy this

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s general fiction novel, Good Morning, Midnight (2017), is literary in nature but uses speculative elements to contemplate isolation, hope, despair and human connection. The book has beautiful prose, especially in some of the descriptions of the arctic, and interesting insights into human nature, but it was not a completely satisfying book for me. In a few places, the hand of the author can be seen forcing events in order to make the story work, and some of these tropes, particularly the literary ones, felt too familiar. Still, it’s worth checking out for the writing alone.

Good Morning, Midnight follows two characters who are about as far apart spacially as one can imagine. Augustine is an astronomer who has remained behind at an arctic observatory site after it has been evacuated. To his surpri... Read More

Sunday Status Update: April 15, 2018

We've had an interesting week of reading!

Jana: This week I was a bit more of a tortoise than a hare, and ended up getting a bunch more of my outstanding reviews knocked out (hooray!) as well as a few of my TBR books actually read, which was a great feeling. I read Emma Newman's Before Mars (and loved it),  Read More

Bannerless: A thoughtful detective story in a post-apocalyptic world

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

In Bannerless (2017), Carrie Vaughn ― perhaps best known for her KITTY NORVILLE urban fantasy series inhabited by werewolves and vampires ― has created a reflective, deliberately paced post-apocalyptic tale with some detective fiction mixed in. It's about a hundred years in our world’s future and after an event simply called the Fall, when civilization collapsed worldwide. The cities are now ruins, abandoned by all but the most desperate people. Climate change has resulted in, among other things, deadly typhoons that periodically hit the California coast, the setting for our story. What's left of humanity is living a far simpler lifestyle than most of their twentieth century ancestors.

Along the Coast Road, a largely agrarian society has developed in which people ... Read More

The Fireman: Baby King delivers his own incendiary apocalypse

The Fireman by Joe Hill

First of all, Joe Hill‘s The Fireman is no horror story. It's apocalypse-lit through and through but without the hackneyed zombies and vampires. Second of all, The Fireman is thoroughly infected with the 'King' family genetics. If there were any doubt about a connection between Joe and his old man, Stephen King, put those doubts aside. Actually, put them in the way-back storage room in the furthest, darkest corner of your basement.

Fires run rampant across the world. It started in the far north of the Arctic Circle, but only hit the public American radar when Seattle’s Space Needle toppled over in flames, bodies falling in a replay of 9-11. This was not a terrorism-fueled horror... Read More

Sunday Status Update: April 3, 2016

Character update on break this week, but we kept reading!

Jana: This week I read (and really enjoyed) Philip Reeve's latest YA science fiction novel, Railhead: it's full of fun Easter eggs and features sentient trains! Review to come shortly. I re-read "The Cage," by A.M. Dellamonica, which I'll review soon, and I started Daughters of Ruin, by K.D. Castner, a YA fantasy novel which follows four princesses who have been raised together though their home nations are at war. It'll be interesting to see what Castner does with the characters and their internal/external conflicts, especially since "YA princesses" is undeniably over-used as a tr... Read More

Oryx and Crake: A scathing condemnation of the world we are creating

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood details an apocalyptic plague, introduces a new species of creatures that have been genetically designed to replace humanity, and the villain is a mad scientist in love. What could be more “SFF” than Oryx and Crake?

Quite a lot, according to Margaret Atwood, who prefers to describe her novel as “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction.” In interviews promoting Oryx and Crake, Atwood explained that everything that takes place in Oryx and Crake is based on trends that we can see today, as opposed to distant planets that have an allegorical connection to our lives. Atwood is “speculating” about where our society is headed. It’s a distinction that some readers may choose to reject, but it’s an approach that ... Read More

The Gracekeepers: Sea and circuses

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

In Kirsty Logan’s watery debut, the world as we know it still exists, only it is entirely underwater. Eerie and poetic, The Gracekeepers has been dubbed a dystopia, but it actually reads much more like a regular fantasy. Small scraps of land are all that remain of earth’s continents after rising water levels, leaving humanity in two groups: “clams,” the lucky few who cling to the land and “damplings,” those that must live out on the sea. The two groups have an uneasy relationship: half-mistrustful, half-fascinated by one another.

Our story opens with North, a dampling who is part of the Excalibur, a floating circus that performs across the islands and archipelagos for the clams who live on land. There are sinister clowns, horse riders, acrobats and a ringmaster that seems to have more glitter in his veins than blood. North’s is one of the sta... Read More

Sunday Status Update: December 13, 2015

This week, Leia. Because Star Wars has engulfed popular culture for a week or two, and there's just no fighting the tides.

Princess Leia: So, finally got the story out of Luke once Lando and I got him back on the Falcon. Apparently he decided to get into a lightsaber battle with Darth Vader, the man who deflects blaster bolts with his open hand. How he thought this was feasible is largely beyond me. He keeps going on about how he's had all this training from some little swamp gnome or something, but come on. It's been a few days, tops. I didn't even change out of my Hoth clothes until yesterday. That is the crashiest of crash courses. Hell, if that's all it takes to become a Jedi, I'll do it. Sign me up with Master No-Duh. We'll do a correspondence course or something.

Bill: This week I reread The Sparrow Read More