Ryan Chats with Ian Whates


Ian Whates is a manically busy man. He has written dozens of short stories, published several novels, and has edited several anthologies. He runs his own publishing company, NewConn...

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The Ships of Merior: No excuse not to read it


The Ships of Merior by Janny Wurts The Ships of Merior is the first part of Arc 2 of THE WARS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW, the incomparable epic fantasy series by Janny Wurts. The novel was...

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Ikigami, Volume 1 OR How to Read Manga, Part 1


Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volume 1 by Motoro Mase (Story & Art) or “How to Read Manga, Pt 1″ Though I haven’t read too much manga — pronounced...

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Recent Posts

World Wide Wednesday; July 1, 2015

Thanks to Kate for a great year of World Wide Wednesday. I hope I can meet the high standards she set for this column! As a going-away present for her, here are some location shots from the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies. These two links are overtly commercial, but they show the gorgeous Hawaiian locations, including those accordion-fold bluffs that provide the background for so many scenes.

Unicorn Defends Himself: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Awards:

The Locus Awards were announced on Saturday, in Seattle, Washington. Connie Willis acted as MC for the awards event. Congratulations to Ann Leckie for winning best science fiction novel with Read More

Uprooted: On my Best of 2015 list

Uprooted by Naomi NovikI loved Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, and I’m going to spend this review telling you exactly why. This post will be long, opinionated and possibly spoilerish. If you don’t want to risk spoilers, I recommend you read Kate’s great review of this book.

Agnieszka (Ag-NESH-ka), daughter of a woodcutter, lives in a remote valley. The valley is menaced by the Wood, a source of frightening evil and corruption. It is different from the nearby forest, where Agnieszka spends much of her time. The valley is home to a powerful wizard called the Dragon, who holds back the Wood. Every ten years the Dragon takes a seventeen-year-old girl from the valley villages to serve him in his tower. It is the tenth year, and Agnieszka is seventeen.

What ... Read More

Fiendish Schemes: Delightfully droll

Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter

Fiendish Schemes is a recent (2013) sequel to K.W. Jeter’s classic steampunk novel Infernal Devices which I have previously reviewed. Jeter, who inadvertently coined the term “steampunk” and writes in a style similar to his friend James P. Blaylock, is probably an acquired taste. Personally, I love his droll overblown style, his eccentric and morose characters who tend to be paranoid and suicidal, and his absurd plots. If you’re a fan of Blaylock, Jack Vance Read More

Stella Fregelius: Nothing to apologize for

Stella Fregelius: A Tale of Three Destinies by H. Rider Haggard

At the beginning of his 25th novel, Stella Fregelius (1903), H. Rider Haggard deemed it necessary to offer an apology to his public. In this brief foreword, the author warns prospective readers that Stella is not one of his typical tales, and one with "few exciting incidents." Indeed, those expecting the typical Haggardian mix of lost races, African adventure, big-game hunting, massive battle scenes and historical sweep may be disappointed with this book. However, I feel that Rider Haggard need not have bothered with an apology, as Stella Fregelius turns out to be one of his most beautifully written, deeply felt and truly romantic works.

Free Kindle ver... Read More

Terry chats with Dan Wells (and gives away a copy of The Devil’s Only Friend)

This week Dan Wells, author of The Devil's Only Friend, the first novel in the second JOHN CLEAVER trilogy, stops by to answer some questions about demons, mortuary science, and writing for young adults — or, as he calls it, writing. It’s a terrific book (as were all three entries in the first trilogy, here are my reviews), and Dan has some interesting things to say about it. We’ll be giving away a copy of The Devil's Only Friend to one random commenter with a U.S. address.

Terry Weyna: What persuaded you to return to John Wayne Cleaver’s story of demon-hunting now, several years after you completed the first trilogy about Cleaver, written The Hollow City, and completed t... Read More

The Years of Rice and Salt: What if the Black Plague killed the Europeans?

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

In The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson uses the Black Plague to remove the Europeans, leaving the Old World to the Chinese, Islam, and the many cultural groups that end up in India. The Chinese discover the Americas, their diseases spread through the Native American populations, and their armies plunder the Incans. The novel begins with the Plague, but its vignettes move from one period of history to the next until it reaches the end of the 20th century.

How do you write a novel about one set of characters that spans centuries? Robinson uses reincarnation to cast a set of souls in various times and places as he follows his alternate history. The characters can always be told by the first letter of their names. Bold, a soldier, eventually becomes... Read More

Field of Dishonor: The Mary Sue goes Terminator

Field of Dishonor by David Weber

David Weber’s Field of Dishonor is the fourth book in the HONOR HARRINGTON series. I have read On Basilisk Station, the first book, but not the intervening ones (though Kat has.) This review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

I liked this book more than On Basilisk Station because there was slightly less lecturing, but the entertainment value is frequently squashed flat by Honor’s perfection and the ease with which things unfold for her. Honor plays the videogame of her fictional life on the Easy setting, even when she goes Terminator on an enemy.

At this point in Honor Harrington’s career she ha... Read More

Ascendant Sun: A weird mix of hard SF and erotica

Ascendant Sun by Catherine Asaro

This review will contain spoilers for previous books.

I keep working through Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series. I keep expecting to love the next book, but here I am on book five and it’s still not working for me.

Ascendant Sun is a sequel to The Radiant Seas and a direct sequel to The Last Hawk which, frankly, I didn’t like. The Last Hawk was about Kelric, a prince of the Skolian Empire, who crash-landed and was held prisoner for 18 years on a planet with a matriarchal society. I didn’t believe in the society and I didn’t believe in Kelric’s reaction to it. Ascendant Sun, which picks up where The Last Hawk left off, i... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

The short stories nominated for the Hugo Award this year are a disappointing lot. I read a great many stories in 2014 that were far better than at least four of these tales.

“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa is told in the first person by an artificial intelligence that is a warship in space. It compares the physical humans who inhabit it to “symbiotic bacteria” that do not trust it fully and therefore do not allow it to travel without their company. It takes its orders from “posthumans,” who have uploaded themselves to machines and become the Immortal Uploaded. The story is essentially about the narrator working out whether it is worthwhile to keep humans around. Although the theme has been worked and reworked over the last few decades, there is still a lot to explore.

But Rzasa is too focused on the glory of war to probe the provocative philosophical questions that should be th... Read More

Blind Lake: Lockdown at an Interplanetary Observation Facility

Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson

Of course I know what to expect when reading one of Robert Charles Wilson’s novels: a strange technology or entity has a localized effect that snowballs until it has the potential to completely change the world. We follow the ride primarily from the point of view of one everyman character, but he just happens to know both the scientists and the politicians that are responding to the strange technology. 300 pages later, the story is finished.

But that’s not how Blind Lake works — or at least not exactly.

Yes, there is a strange technology — the O/BECs. Are the O/BECs like telescopes? Well, they allow us to see distant planets, including one that hosts sentient life (aliens!). The center of these machines is referred to as “eyeball alley,” but perhaps the true center of these machines is their quantum technology and adaptive cod... Read More