Marion Deeds

MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

The Changeling: A rich dark fairy tale for the Information Age

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The Changeling by Victor LaValle

“How do we protect our children?" Cal said quietly.
Apollo watched the soft little shape in his hand. "Obviously I don’t know."


Victor LaValle’s novel The Changeling (2017) is a five-star book, one of the year’s best. I predict this thoughtful modern dark fantasy novel — or it might be horror — will be shortlisted on several awards and Best Of lists.

LaValle takes the tropes of traditional middle European fairy tales and blends them perfectly with a view of modern living, specifically modern living in New York City. He uses this blend to explore the terrifying state of parenthood, when a person’s life, and heart, become inextricably yoked to another human being.

Apollo Kagwa’s ... Read More

WWWednesday; June 21, 2017

The name for the sound a quail makes is called curkling. That’s this week’s word for Wednesday.

Radiance (c) Likhain



Solstice:

Solstice occurred at 04:24 UTC, and June 21st will be the longest day of the year. Don’t forget sunblock. 

Awards:

Com... Read More

Spoonbenders: Come for the psychic shenanigans, stay for this eccentric family

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Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory, is multi-generational family saga. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a psychic adventure story and a weird conspiracy tale for lovers of shadowy CIA projects like MKULTRA. It’s a gangster story. There’s a heist. There is a long con, and a madcap comedy along the lines of classic Marx Brothers routines. There are a couple of romances, a direct-distribution scheme, a medallion, a cow and a puppy. If we’re talking genre, I don’t know what Spoonbenders is. I know I loved it. I know it was fun and made me laugh, I know it was scary at times and I know I closed the book feeling happy and sad. And I know it’s a five-star book.

The book follows the Chicago-based Telemachus f... Read More

Barsk: A wonderfully thoughtful, imaginative work of science fiction

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

When I put in my ARC request for Lawrence M. Schoen’s new novel Barsk, all I knew about it was that the setting involved a group of worlds inhabited by a variety of anthropomorphic space-faring animal species, with the main focus on elephants (thus its subtitle: The Elephant’s Graveyard). C’mon. El-e-phants in Spaaaaaccce! How could I resist? But Barsk is much more than a funny-but-cool premise; it’s a thoughtful, moving, and provocative exploration of a host of issues, including but not limited to memory, history, free will, and power. Eve... Read More

WWWednesday; June 14, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is the noun aquatile. An aquatile is a creature that lives in water. I’m guessing it can also be used as an adjective. Can one have “an aquatile lifestyle?”

Books and Writing:

Likhain is an artist, currently on the shortlist for a Hugo in 2017. File 770 printed the Artist Guest of Honor speech she gave at Continuum 13.

The New York Times has a story about Books of Wonder, a famed children’s bookstore, that is opening a second location as a contingency against a possible lease hike in 2019.

Foul language in the headline, Read More

The Kill Society: There are parts of Hell even Sandman Slim hasn’t seen

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The Kill Society by Richard Kadrey 

The Kill Society (2017) is the ninth SANDMAN SLIM book, even if Stark prefers to go by Stark now, rather than the name he was given when he fought in the arena in Hell. Hell is not the eternal absence of God, or some theoretical dimension of punishment; it’s a county, a landscape. And Stark, alive or dead, is very familiar with it. In The Kill Society, Kadrey takes Stark, and us, on a tour of a previously unseen area of Hell, the Tenebrae. Even Stark is not very familiar with the desert-like stretch of Tenebrae with its mummified ghost towns. He’d prefer to be in Pandemonium, the capital, but he has no choice, because he’s been captured by a charismatic, mad soul who calls himself The Magistrate, and his caravan of killers called the horde.

(This review... Read More

Robert Jackson Bennett talks DIVINE CITIES… and we’ve got 3 copies of CITY OF MIRACLES to give away!

Robert Jackson Bennett first came to our attention in 2010 with his Depression-era dark fantasy Mr. Shivers. He won the Shirley Jackson Award for that book. He has since published The Company Man (which won an Edgar Award and a special citation from the Philip K. Dick award), The Troupe and American Elsewhere, which garnered him another Shirley Jackson Award. The first book in his breath-taking DIVINE CITIES trilogy, Read More

Cibola Burn: The flagship space opera series

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Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

In my review of the third EXPANSE novel from James S.A. Corey (actually a collaborative effort from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), I said this:
How did Corey do, based on strengths I highlighted in reviews of the first two books?

fluid prose: check
likable characters: check
mostly strong characterization: check
humor that runs throughout: check
nice balance of shoot-em-up action, political fighting, and personal conflicts: check, check, and check
quick pace that had me knock of a 500+ page book in a single setting: check
a feel (in a good way) of old-time sci-fi along the likes of Heinlein or Asimov: check
a ratcheting up of tension and stakes: check and check
a sense of risk thanks to not al... Read More

A Gathering of Shadows: Rich characterization makes for a strong sequel

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

While I didn’t fall in in love with V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, I quite enjoyed it, giving it four stars in my review. Schwab is back in this universe now with a sequel, A Gathering of Shadows (2016), which carries forward the strengths of the first book, making for yet another strong story.

Set four months after the events of book one (and yes, you’ll definitely want to read book one if you haven’t and possibly wish to skim it or find an online synopsis if you have... Read More

Abaddon’s Gate: A great ride!

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

After reading the first two books in James S. A. Corey’s EXPANSE series, Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War, I came to book three, Abaddon’s Gate, with some pretty solid expectations. How did Corey (really Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) do, based on strengths I highlighted in reviews of the first two books?

fluid prose: check
likable characters: check
mostly strong characterization: check
humor that runs throughout: check
a nice balance of shoot-em-up action, political fighting, and personal conflicts: check, check, and check
a quick pace that had me knock of a 500+ page book in a single setting: check
a feel (in a good way) of old-time sci-fi along the likes of Heinlein or Asimov: check Read More

A Darker Shade of Magic: Well-executed, intriguing setting

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I was a big fan of V.E. Schwab’s 2013 novel Vicious, noting in my review how she had overcome the possible burden of overfamiliar concepts (it’s a folks-with-powers-who-have-some-gray-to-them kind of novel) with supremely polished execution. Well, she’s pretty much done the same with her newest novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, which takes many of the usual fantasy tropes and, again, just handles them all so smoothly that you simply don’t care much that you’ve seen them all before.

The basic concept is a nicely focused tweak of the multi-verse model, with a series of par... Read More

WWWednesday; May 31, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is the adjective rattatattatory, which means “consisting of repeated sounds or tapping,” as in, “the fireworks exploded in a rattatattatory burst.” This word should win an award for carrying onomatopoeia to absurd lengths. Thanks once again to Haggard Hawks.

Awards:

Charles Stross was awarded the Alberto Lisiero award, given to those who contribute to the popularity and quality of science fiction writing.

Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons



Tooting Our Own Horn:

Bill’s review of Read More

SFM: Wong, Shehadeh, Buckell & Schroeder, Sieberg, Anderson, Honeywell, Taylor, Rustad

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.




You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay, Alyssa Wong (2016, free at Uncanny, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue) 2017 Nebula and 2016 Hugo award nominee (novelette)


Alyssa Wong sets her novelette You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay in a Western mining town, focusing this second-person tale on Ellis, a young boy who works at the town’s brothel... Read More

WWWednesday: May 24, 2017

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Manchester, Greater Manchester, England.



There is still time to donate to JustGiving who is raising money for families affected by the horrible attack at a concert in Manchester, Greater Manchester,England, Monday night. Here is a link.

Zora ONeill shares ten English words that make more sense when you know their Arabic roots.
Stranger Than Fiction:

It’s just awkward when real-life news outstrips the imagination and weirdness of a dedicated speculative fiction/fantasy/horror writer and reader like myself, like it did last week. The real world insisted on delive... Read More

Lucifer, Volume One: Cold Heaven by Holly Black

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Lucifer, Volume One: Cold Heaven Written by Holly Black  and Drawn by Lee Garbett and Stephanie Hans

Vertigo’s Lucifer, Volume One: Cold Heaven is a murder mystery and a family saga. Released in 2016, it is the point where Holly Black takes over writing the saga of Lucifer Morningstar. Lucifer left his assignment as ruler of Hell to confront his father (God) and then left this universe completely, giving it to the daughter of Archangel Michael to caretake. Now he’s back, weakened and wounded. Another angel, Gabriel, is on his trail, accusing him of murdering The Presence, or God. Since Lucifer didn... Read More

City of Miracles: A perfect close to one of the best trilogies in recent memory

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City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bill: I think it’s going to be impossible to review City of Miracles (2017) without reference to events from Robert Jackson Bennett’s first two books in the series (City of Stairs, City of Blades). or without discussing the major precipitating event (no real pangs of guilt here; that event is also detailed in the official bookseller summary), so consider this your fair warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Bennett picks up the story years after the close of book two, with Sigrud off in lumberjack country, haunted b... Read More

WWWednesday; May 17, 2017

On Sunday, in honor of Mother’s Day, Syfy Wire posted a list of the best moms from Star Trek. 

Awards:

Locus has published the finalists for the Locus Awards, which will be awarded at the Locus Weekend, June 23-25, 2017, in Seattle, Washington. Locus has more categories so more winners: best SF novel, best fantasy novel, best horror novel and best first novel as an example. Some of our favorites made the lists, including Malka Older’s Infomocracy in the Best First Novel category, Read More

The Truth: This by-the-numbers Discworld outing failed to satisfy

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The Truth by Terry Pratchett

The truth about Sir Terry Pratchett’s novel The Truth is that for the first time a DISCWORLD book failed to satisfy me. While there is nothing seriously wrong with the story, the feeling that Pratchett was bolting set pieces together to make a whole overwhelmed the general fun of the book.

First published in 2000, The Truth is 25th in a 49-book series according to Wikipedia. The DISCWORLD books break into definable categories, even if fans give those categories different names; my name for Going Postal, Making M... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2016 Nebula Awards

This year’s Nebula conference (May 18-21) will be held in Pittsburgh, and the 2016 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

As with the Hugo finalists, there are some unexpected names, some shocking omissions, and the authors we would expect; for instance, I expected to see Jemisin, but I’d also expect to see Dexter Palmer’s Version Control on the finalists list. Here are the finalists. Click the links to read our reviews:

BEST NOVEL:

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Read More

WWednesday; May 10,2017

Poster for 2017's Forum Fantastico in Lisbon, Portugal. Thanks to File770



This week’s word for Wednesday, courtesy once again of Haggard Hawks, aganippe (noun) is a source of inspiration or power.

Awards:

Colson Whitehead’s brilliant novel The Underground Railroad won him the Pulitzer Prize. You can reread Bill’s  5-star review here.

Books and Writing:

Robert Jackson Bennett Read More

The Library at Mount Char: We all love it

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Ever wonder what might happen if a god went missing? The Library at Mount Char is Scott Hawkins’ fiction debut, and in my personal opinion, it is flawless. There are no wasted words, no unnecessary plot digressions, no moments in which a character says, “Wow, this crisis is important! We should respond right away!” and then tootles off to fold laundry for ten paragraphs. Each detail is crucial, even if the reader doesn’t realize it for a hundred pages or more, and the resulting novel feels enormous and expansive though the page count doesn’t hit 400.

Garrison Oaks was a lovely little slice of Virginian 1970s suburbia, where Adam Black roasted meats in an enormous metal bull and shared beer with his neighbors. Things changed, though, in one catacl... Read More

Certain Dark Things: I thought I was tired of vampires; then I read this

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Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I’ve gotten tired of vampires. All too often, their social models are those of decadent, louche aristocrats with their courts and their bloodsucking royalty, or mafia-like crime lords. There isn’t much new about the process of drinking blood, either; they host a demon; or they are demons, or they have a virus. (Yawn.) I didn’t think anyone could make vampires interesting for me again until I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. Her vampires are crime lords, but not mafia; they run narco-cartels, and Certain Dark Things (2016) tells a story about a vampire and her human sidekick in a way that is gritty, romantic, action-y and new.

Moreno-Garcia’s story choices range from the R... Read More

The Dispatcher: An interesting premise that made us think

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Reposting to include Marion's review of Subterranean Press's new hardback edition.



The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

A weird thing has happened in our world. Suddenly, people who are murdered can come back to life. Nobody knows why. It doesn’t happen when people die naturally — only when they’re murdered. To take advantage of this new death loophole, the job of Dispatcher has been created and Tony Valdez is one of them. His job is to murder people so they can end up in their own beds a few hours before they died. For example, in one scene we see Tony murder a man who is about to die on the operating table and in another we see him shoot a woman who just got hit by a bus. Dispatchers occasionally do less savory jobs, too, such as shooting injured stuntmen on movie sets so the studio won’t get su... Read More

Final Girls: Intriguing, but overall, did not satisfy me

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Final Girls by Mira Grant

Stories about people trapped in virtual reality have been thoroughly done, and the trope of the horror-story “final girl,” the lone survivor or almost-survivor who makes it to the end of the movie, at least, is pretty familiar too. In Mira Grant’s latest story, the novella Final Girls (2017), she mixes both of these with a dash of science fiction for an interesting tale that didn’t completely work for me.

Dr. Jennifer Webb is a visionary who has created proprietary VR technology designed to help people address and ultimately heal old traumas. Webb’s favorite VR technique is to run the patient (or patients, if it is a family situation) through a horror movie scenario. With all the safety subroutines in place, the patient can use fleeing fro... Read More

WWWednesday; May 3, 2017

Awards:

John Langan’s novel The Fisherman won the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in a novel. Haven, by Tom Deady won for best first novel, and that guy has the perfect last name for a horror writer. See all the winners here.

Books and Writing:


George R.R. Martin says his first published work was a fan letter he wrote to Marvel Comics when he was fourteen years old.  Here, as part of the History Channel’s Superheroes Decoded, he reads it aloud. My favorite... Read More

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