João Eira

JOÃO EIRA, one of our guests, is a student at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, one of the oldest universities in the world, where he studies Physics and Economics. Having spent his formative years living in the lush vistas of Middle Earth and the barren nothingness in a galaxy far far away, he has grown to love filling his decreasing empty bookshelf space with fantasy and science fiction books. For him a book’s utmost priority should be the story it is trying to tell, though he can forgive some mistakes if its characters are purposeful and the worldbuilding imaginative. A book with no story can have no redeeming quality though. João probably spends more time fantasizing about books than doing productive things.

The Silver Metal Lover: A book of personal discovery

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

It's unfortunate that Tanith Lee had to pass away for me to get the jolt of interest needed to read her work. The Silver Metal Lover (1981), one of her most loved works, is a story about an immature love that blossoms into a fully realized one, and about an immature girl who cries too often and falls in love too easily but blossoms into a strong-willed, independent woman. It's a story about Jane, and her relationship with her robot lover, Silver.

Were this tender novel published today, it would be shelved in the Young Adult section of a bookstore, but such a label had yet to be conceived when it was first published in 1981. It features some of the defining characteristics of that genre as well: a dystopic world whose foundations are crumbling (though in Read More

Permutation City: A staple of transhumanistic fiction

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Permutation City by Greg Egan

What would you give in exchange for immortality? Greg Egan's unabashed answer to that question in Permutation City is simple: Your humanity. Its sounds cliché, but Permutation City is a book that is able to do what only the best science fiction books can: make you think of questions you never knew you had, and imagine futures that seem ever more possible as time passes.

Around the mid-21st century, mind-uploading technology has been perfected, but its use is still limited to those few who can afford it. Moore's law no longer holds, and computing power is an ever scarcer and costlier commodity, so much so that Copies without the requisite funds to run indefinitely are put on hold until the computing resources become available. Paul... Read More

House of Chains: Good but with some rough edges

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House of Chains by Steven Erikson

Being the fourth entry in Steven Erikson’s sprawling series THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN, House of Chains continues with the storyline first started in Deadhouse Gates and somewhat loosely with the repercussions of the explosive climax to Memories of Ice. I won’t bother trying to summarize the setup of the book, and readers are expected to have knowledge of the previous books. So, if you have not yet read them — and I would suggest you give at least Gardens of the Moon a try — then I wouldn’t recommend reading this review.

Breaking from tradition, the first chapters of House of Chains lets go of the juggli... Read More

Downfall of the Gods: As good a novella as his award-winning ones

Downfall of the Gods by K.J. Parker

Who do you fear when you're an immortal god?

Your father seems worthy of your fear. He is older, more powerful, perhaps wiser. His wrath can make your life a living hell, and you don't want to be the one god in your family that strays far from the godly path you're born to follow. Your life is eternal, and that is both blessing and curse. Fortunately, there are a handful of talented human beings in every generation, and a truly wonderful musician has arisen. Lysippus is his name, and you know for a fact that there will never be anyone else capable of dreaming up music like the ones he creates. It's a shame that he chose to sleep with the wife of his best friend; his friend didn't take kindly to that and murdered him. Can you in your godly wisdom forgive the murderer of your most cherished mortal? Not likely, but when your father pressures you into doing so, what is a goddess to do?

... Read More

SevenEves: Our scientists love it. Others don’t.

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Reposting to include Joao's recent review.

SevenEves by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson doesn't shy away from big concepts, long timelines, or larger than life events. His most recent novel, SevenEves, begins with the moon blowing up. Readers never find out what blew up the moon, because all too quickly humanity discovers that the Earth will soon be bombarded by a thousand-year rain of meteorites — the remnants of the moon as they collide with each other in space, becoming smaller and smaller — which will turn Earth into an uninhabitable wasteland. Humankind has a 2-year deadline to preserve its cultural legacy and a breeding population. The solution is to make extended life-in-space a possibility. The first two thirds of the book follows a group of astronauts and scientists who are among those who will form the new colony orbiting Earth, waiting a ... Read More

The Madonna and the Starship: Giant blue lobster aliens with a side dish of logical positivism

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The Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow

Blue logical positivist lobster aliens give a prize to a writer of a scientific-minded kid's show and plan to wipe out 2 million religious people from the face of the Earth. And don't forget to drink your Ovaltine and eat your Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops, with the sweetenin' already on it.

James Morrow's novella, The Madonna and the Starship, manages that delightful act of being a laugh out loud funny story at the same time that it intelligently deals with serious issues. You would be excused to think that a story featuring blue lobster aliens would hardly have anything to say about religion, yet in The Madonna and the Starship, Morrow offers criticisms on aspects of how both religious and hardcore atheists behave, at the same time that he offers some meta perspectives on being... Read More

The Philosopher Kings: Surprises and philosophy, with a touch of Greek mythology

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The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

My jaw remained open whilst I read the last pages of Jo Walton’s The Just City, and for a little while afterwards. Released earlier this year, Walton’s first novel in a new trilogy saw the start of a story whose foundational ideas are so wild, so daring, that only an author with the fullest grasp of her talent could even think of trying to wrestle with them, let alone to actually subdue and then use them to write an engaging story.

In that novel, scholars and philosophers from different times and places are selected by the goddess Athene to build the ideal society depicted in Plato’s famous dialogue, The Republic. To accomplish that, she gifts them multiple robots from the future whom we later learn are able ... Read More

João chats with Stephen Aryan

Now winding down his hectic promotion schedule, Stephen Aryan joins us at Fantasy Literature to talk about his debut fantasy novel, Battlemage, his literary influences, and to tease us about what may be in store for the sequel, Bloodmage.

Three random commenters, two with a US address and one with a UK address, will win a copy of Battlemage. Start your comment with (US) or (UK) according to where you live to enter the giveaway, and please welcome, Stephen Aryan!

João Eira: Hi Stephen, hope everything is going well. To start things off, could you say something about your path to publishing Battlemage, your debut, and how Battlemage came to be?

Stephen Aryan

Read More

SFM: Dickinson, de Bodard, Andrews, Lemberg, Bourne

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“Please Undo This Hurt” by Seth Dickinson (2015, free at Tor.com) 

Not speculative fiction, but a very insightful and poignant story of Dominga, an EMT on the verge of burnout after the man she loves breaks up with her. Her friend Nico is in a tough spot as well, after breaking up with his girlfriend because he thought she deserved better, and losing his cat to a coyote attack. Dominga and Nico feel so overwhelmed with the uncaring universe around them that they just want a way out of it: not suicide, that would be selfish, just a way to erase every speck of their exist... Read More

Battlemage: One of my favourites this year. Best read while listening to heavy metal.

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Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

Not too long ago, as I pondered which book to read next, it came to me on a whim that I was craving an epic fantasy novel where wars were battled with not only bow and sword, but with devastating magic. Granted, it’s a simple wish. I wasn’t looking for a deep exploration of human relationships or an allegory about the state of our current world. I just wanted to read about some big-ass battles fought with dazzling magic. I went to Amazon to search for that hypothetical book and the first search word that popped into my mind was “battlemage.” Lo and behold, right there as the first result of my query, was Stephen Aryan’s debut, aptly named, Battlemage. I read its description and it felt as if all my prayers had been answered. I clicked the pre-order button.

The premise of Battlemage is simple. War is... Read More

Sunset Mantle: Two takes on this short epic fantasy

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Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss

One of the discoveries I made this year about my reading preferences was that I really enjoy shorter reads. It may have been because the behemoth volumes typical of fantasy series made me sceptical that you could, gasp, actually tell a good story that would leave me satisfied in fewer pages, but I am glad now that I am actively looking for stories that I would have otherwise neglected to take into consideration. Alter S. ReissSunset Mantle is one of those stories which I would have missed were I to only read doorstoppers, and it reinforces my love for shorter works because Sunset Mantle is a fantastic book.

Cete is a veteran with decades of experience in the art of warmaking. Pragmatic and honest to a fault, he was exiled from his home for having slain his leader after he was taken by ... Read More

SFM: Vernon, Sloan, Parker, Poe, Wood, Bear

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

"Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon (2014, free at Apex Magazine, podcast available)

Ursula Vernon's "Jackalope Wives" is the winner of this year's Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award for short story and deservedly so. It certainly has my vote. It isn't clear where the story is set. All we know is that on the outskirts of town lies a desert, and in the desert the jackalope wives comes out at night to dance a wild dance. What are jackalope wives? This isn't immediately clear, we are drip fed tantalising details of their long ears and smooth coats which they shed in order to dance. They entrance the young men of the town and one in particular. But what happens when you catc... Read More

Wolves: A remarkable novel in spite of, and because of, its flaws

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Wolves by Simon Ings

“When we fall in love with someone, we fall in love first with their world. Sometimes love for the person follows. Sometimes not.”

Four pages into Simon Ings's newest novel, Wolves, and I am already underlining things with a pencil for their insight into the human psyche, something which, if I am to be honest, I find lacking in many genre novels and am most likely to find in the so called literary novels. Wolves has been hailed as a triumphal return to science fiction by UK-based author Ings, even though the speculative elements which are characteristic of science fiction are sparse and only come into importance toward the final two thirds of the novel. Wolves is at the same time a coming of age tale and a whodunnit story, but even more than those archetypes, i... Read More

SFM: Jingfang, Emrys, Plait, Norton

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

"Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu) (2015, free at Uncanny Magazine)

Hao Jingfang’s novella “Folding Beijing” stayed with me long after I finished reading it. It wasn’t just the images of her fantastic city, where buildings fold down into cubes and once a day the entire city revolves like a tossed coin. It wasn’t just the descriptions of the lives of people in Third Space, Second Space and First Space. At the core of this story is an “ordinary” man, risking his freedom and maybe his life for money, and as his motives become clearer, I grew to care more and more about him.

Lao Dao works lives in Third Space and wo... Read More

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps: A strong and original debut

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The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

In The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, the double debut of celebrated short story writer Kai Ashante Wilson and novella publisher Tor.com, the sons of gods and angels walk the Earth and big caravans of merchants roam dangerous roads in search of riches untold. Demane is one of such demigods, and decades after his godly progenitors have chosen to ascend and abandon the world, he is working as a guard to a merchant caravan where his brothers, the other caravan guards, call him Sorcerer for his otherworldy abilities.

To reach their destination, Olorum, the caravan must first pass through the Wildeeps, a stretch of jungle in a land that sees little rain and the magic and technology of the long gone gods runs strong and wild. To pass through it Demane and the caravan must stay on the Road, which is magic... Read More

Savages: A solid new novel by K.J. Parker

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Savages by K.J. Parker

A pacifist who inherits his father's failing arms business, a general who wins all of his battles and sets in motion the fate of empires because of decisions he makes in the last second before a battle commences, a tribesman who loses his family and survives an attempt at his life to become, well, every single thing he chooses to be. Those and many other memorable characters populate K.J. Parker's newest standalone novel, Savages, a solid offering that is sure to please readers of the author's previous works.

There's a war between two nations, as there usually is, and the losing nation has managed to get a hold of a brilliant strategist by the name of Calojan, whose name means little dog in his home nation and whose father was a famous artist ... Read More

The Darkness That Comes Before: Intelligent fantasy

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The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

I believe it warrants mentioning in the beginning of this review that I find myself in a position where my own review might not be, well, very critical. I have been holding off having to review R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness That Comes Before because, to put it bluntly, I love it so much that I don't think any review I could write would serve its purpose qua review. However, after some insistence from the powers that be — that would be the inimitable Kat Hooper, FanLit's founder and savior — I decided that maybe I did have something borderline cogent to say about it.

The Darkness That Comes Before is the first book of R. Scott Bakker's THE PRINCE OF NOTHING trilogy, ... Read More

Chimpanzee: A haunting imagination plagued with off-putting style

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Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley

In the midst of a severe depression, where government officials are obsessed with micromanaging everything they can lay their hands on in the name of efficiency and the public good, Benjamin Cade loses his teaching job and finds himself, along with the majority of the population, unemployed. Unable to pay back his student loans, Ben must face the logical conclusion, and Darin Bradley's haunting extrapolation, of viewing education as a product to be bundled and sold: His degrees in literature and literary theory will have to be repossessed.

In Darin Bradley’s debut Noise, which I reviewed previously, the US has fully collapsed in on itself. In Chimpanzee, the country stands at the edge of a very sharp knife, with chronic unemployment a reality and... Read More

Noise: A Lord of the Flies for our modern times

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Noise by Darin Bradley

Tell me if this doesn't sound like a dream come true for those who regularly visit survivalist forums: In the near-future, the United States experiences a collapse of its economic institutions, which leads to the collapse of every social institution mankind has built to function as a society. All order has been destroyed, and from now on your survival against the challenges of nature, both human and not, depends on nothing but yourself. The classical dog-eat-dog world is in session.

Hiram, the protagonist in Darin Bradley's debut novel Noise, has spent his formative years immersed in the group narratives that he and his friends have created through playing Dungeons & Dragons, defeating monsters and rescuing the disadvantaged, as knights are wont to do. But for Hiram, being a knight wasn't something he was when you were transported into... Read More

Firefight: A fun, exciting superpower romp

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Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight, second book in the superhero-dystopian RECKONERS series, is a good young adult novel. It's fun, it's lively, and the pacing never drags. I do have a handful of quibbles, but none of them are vastly troubling. If all you really want to know is whether Firefight is worth reading or a worthy successor to Steelheart, then you have your answer: a solid affirmative on both counts.

Anyway, our story starts off a few months after the previous novel left off (and shortly after the intervening novella) with the Reckoners struggling to hold Newcago in the aftermath of Steelheart's demise. Numerous Epics (Sanderson's word for superhumans) have turned up to make our heroes’ lives miserable, but a majority of them seem to be coming from Babilar (Graffiti Art New Yor... Read More

The Just City: Plato’s Republic in Atlantis, with Greek gods and robots

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The Just City by Jo Walton

When you’re Apollo, son of Zeus, and a nymph prefers to turn herself into a tree rather than have sex with you, you know it’s time to think seriously about the life you’re leading.

After asking his sister Athena why the nymph Daphne didn’t want to have sex with him, a notion that perplexes him initially (for, as a god, Apollo isn’t used to people not wanting to have sex with him) he decides to reincarnate in the body of a newborn child to become a part of Athena’s latest experiment: An actualized version of Plato’s Republic run by people from all human eras who have dreamed of living in Plato’s creation, and populated by thousands of 10-year-old slaves bought at slave markets to be modeled into the perfect citizens of the Republic.

Thus is the just city constituted, a city where “you will become your best selves. You will le... Read More

Defenders: It will make you think long after you’ve read it

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Defenders by Will McIntosh

How do you fight an enemy that can read your every thought, and another that has been designed and bred for war? In 2029, according to Will McIntosh’s novel Defenders, that’s the most impending question humanity needs to answer if it wants to survive.

Having achieved critical acclaim in 2013 with Love Minus Eighty, McIntosh’s newest novel is a fast-paced and visceral exploration of morality and war. Earth has been invaded by the Luyten, a race of enormous starfish-like aliens that can read your mind. They can know what you are going to do before you do it, and know where you are, despite your best efforts to hide yourself. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that humanity’s war efforts against the invasion have been nullified and three billion people have perished from the war. Even when hope has ... Read More

Ender’s Game Alive: A new way to experience Ender’s Game

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Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card

This review assumes you have read Ender's Game, or are familiar with it, so it may contain some spoilers for Ender’s Game.

Before becoming one of the of most accomplished science fiction authors of his generation, Orson Scott Card worked as a writer of full-length plays for BYU, where he studied. He also wrote audioplays on LDS Church history. It follows from his experience then, that when Orson Scott Card set his sights on adapting his hit novel Ender's Game into Ender's Game Alive, a full-cast audioplay, the result could be nothing less than that classic novel deserves.

If you've read the novel you know how it goes. Ender is the third child in a time where a couple is only allowed to have two children. Supposed to have... Read More

The Three-Body Problem: Imaginative SF with a mind melting problem

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The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

When Cixin Liu opens his novel The Three-Body Problem during the abject years of China’s Cultural Revolution, you realize just how much of Chinese history and myth is already deep into speculative territory for most of us.

The teaching of quantum mechanics is forbidden, the Copenhagen interpretation that posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function is considered “the most brazen expression [of reactionary idealism].” When physicist Ye Zhetai continues to espouse such reactionary ideas, he is killed by four girls during a “struggle session” meant to discover and purge the country of the enemies of the Cultural Revolution.

This is how we meet one of the ... Read More

Academic Exercises: A collection of stories from an original voice

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Academic Exercises by K.J. Parker

K.J. Parker is a relatively recent discovery of mine, and she (?) is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Known for her dry cynicism, understated humor, and intriguing explorations of morality, her stories are set in a historically informed world fleshed out with Parker’s rich historical knowledge.

Collected here in her first anthology, Academic Exercises, her short fiction has so far won two World Fantasy Awards for her novellas “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let Maps to Others.” Included in this anthology are also three non-fiction essays on historical subjects such as siege warfare, and the history of swords, and armor.

K.J. Parker's short fiction differs from her longer works in that they frequently feature magical elements, something that her longer wo... Read More

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