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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Reposting to include Ray's new review.

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 ... Read More

The Golem and the Jinni: A magical mural of the immigrant experience

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Reposting to include Ray's new review.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

A Genie. A golem. Nineteenth-century New York City. Boy, did I want to love this book. Drawn by its come-hither characters, its promise of poetry, and by its dark side in the form of a truly nasty character, I really, really wanted to love it. And truth is, I liked The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. But in the well-trod words of middle school, I didn’t “like like” it. Oh, it was fun, it made me smile sometimes and think sometimes and feel a bit sad at other times. I enjoyed hanging out with i... Read More

WWednesday: August 2, 2017

Obituaries:

“Again? That trick never works!” The actor who voiced Rocket J Squirrel (Rocky and Bullwinkle), Natasha Badinoff, and many other famous cartoon characters, June Foray, passed away last week . She was 99 years old. She will live on the hearts of all of us who love the adventures of Moose and Squirrel.

Playwright Sam Shepherd also passed away this week.

Awards:

Colson Whitehead’s novel Underground Ra... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2017 Hugos, Who Will Win? Who Ought To Win?

The WorldCon75 Committee announced that, when the Hugo voting closed, they had received 3319 ballots, the third highest turnout in the history of the award.

This year, in addition to the familiar categories, the Hugos added a Best Series category. I’m interested to see who wins, and what people even think of the category as a concept.

Best Novel finalists are: (click the links for our reviews)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (winner of the Nebula for Best Novel and the Locus award for Best Fantasy Novel)
A Closed and Common Orbit by B... Read More

WWWednesday; July 26, 2017

From Haggard Hawks, “to meet the Skerrymen” is to keep as a secret the identity of someone with whom you had a meeting.

Conventions:

San Diego Comic-Con kicked off last Thursday. Syfy Wire has some nice cosplay stills here.

WorldCon 75 Mascot in Space



You know who didn’t like Comic-Con? United Airlines, that’s who. They restricted the packing of comic books in checked luggage.  United assured passengers, via Twitter, that this was a TSA requirement. Read More

Magic for Nothing: The youngest Price child gets her own story

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Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

Magic for Nothing, (2017), Seanan McGuire’s sixth INCRYPTID novel, finally gives the youngest Price child, Antimony, a story of her own. The rebellious, roller-derby daughter has enough on her plate coming to grips with her newly manifested pyrokinetic abilities when she is thrown into a dangerous undercover assignment, and to her way of thinking, she has her sister Verity to blame for it.

I have only read the first two books in the series and one short story featuring Antimony, so I may commit inadvertent spoilers. In the prologue, we learn that Verity, on a live broadcast of a New York dance-competition show, revealed her cryptozoologist powers, and challenged the Covenant of St. George, a secret society, military ... Read More

Expanded Universe: Demonic Muscle Cars and Undead Motorcycle Gangs

Laurence MacNaughton entered the urban fantasy universe with his DRU JASPER series, It Happened One Doomsday and A Kiss Before Doomsday. The adventures of crystal witch Dru Jasper and her magical friends as they race to stop Doomsday has a neat twist; demons and heroes who drive muscle machines, particularly a demonic car named Hellbringer.

We asked Laurence to tell us how the unholy 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona came to be, and he wrote us this guest column explaining the car’s origins. He also shares a scene from the newest book, A Kiss Before Doomsday.


Three random commenters will receive a copy of A Kiss Before Doomsday.
Read More

WWWednesday; July 19, 2017

Music:

Electric cellist Tina Guo plays the theme from Game of Thrones. (Personal note; I had never heard this song except for a parody of it by Weird Al Yankovich, then I heard it twice in one day. This was the second one.)



Awards:

The British Fantasy Award finalists have been announced. While you're there, check out their logo. That's a nice take on a Celtic dragon!

This year’s Shirley Jackson awards for horror writing have been announced. The Girls, by Emma Cline, won Best Novel, and “The Balla... Read More

Nemesis Games: Provides the backstory we’ve all been craving

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Reposted to include Marion's new review.

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

Naomi swirled the milky liquid in her glass, watching it slosh against the sides, a miniature sea, complete with little icebergs. “We need to talk,” she said.

Holden winced a bit inside, but forced his words to come out lighter than they felt in his head. “You mean man-woman talk, Captain-XO talk, or . . .”

“More of the ‘or’ type.”

“So, what’s on your mind?”  He leaned back against the bulkhead. Space-grade permasteel she thought, but between man and metal, she knew which she’d count on more.

“We need to review this book.”

“We’ve reviewed books before. And survived.”  He winced again, outwardly this time. “Mostly.”

“Yeah, but there are some killer revelations and plot twists i... Read More

WWWednesday; July 12, 2017

UPDATE: Kelly Lasiter won Jeopardy last night!
Awards:


Baen Books has announced the finalists in the Baen Adventure Award. The award will be presented at GenCon on August 19, 2017.

Fairy Ring by John Waterhouse



Books and Writing:

Junot Diaz interviews Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a thoughtful and terrifying interview.

Here is an interesting article about an artist who visited the sites of Read More

The Refrigerator Monologues: Is your book group adventurous enough for this?

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The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

In her Afterword, Catherynne M. Valente lays out the inspiration for 2017’s collection of linked short stories The Refrigerator Monologues. Valente was inspired partly by the work of comics writer Gail Simone, who created and popularized the term “Women in Refrigerators” as a way to describe women cape-and-mask heroes, and how they are treated in conventional comics. As for structure, Valente looked toward Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking theatrical work The Vagina Monologues. To no small extent, though, Valente was galvanized into writing this collection because of her anger at how Gwen Stacy is treated in one of the rece... Read More

WWWednesday; July 5, 2017

Annular solar eclipse Courtesy of NASA



For readers in the USA, I hope your Fourth of July was fun, exciting and grass fire-free; and that you enjoyed your annual Syfy Twilight Zone marathon.

Cons:

The original Comic-Con will stay in San Diego at least through 2021, according to this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Thanks to File 770.)

Books and Writing:

This anthology has a time-travel theme and a contest! You can submit your own story. The window for submissions closes August 25, 2017. And here’s Read More

Obernewtyn: Post-apocalyptic YA fantasy from the 1980s

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Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Elspeth has dreams that come true. She can read thoughts, even the thoughts of animals, especially the strange cat Maruman. These gifts make her a Misfit, marked for death in her world.

Isobelle Carmody’s post-apocalyptic fantasy Obernewtyn, published in 1987, follows Elspeth from the “orphanage farm,” where she and her brother Jes were sent after the execution of their parents for sedition, to the strange mountain compound of Obernewtyn, a place of mystery, power and great danger.

In this world a strict government and a stricter religious order called The Herders control the population after a catastrophe, the Great White, nearly destroyed all life. It appears from the toxicity of the soil and the mention of whole sectors that are “badlands” that the event might have been thermonuclear. Any... Read More

WWWednesday; June 28, 2017

Today’s word for Wednesday is the noun doggindales, which means the patches of mist on a hillside. Once again we have the Scots to thank for this lovely evocative word. It appears to have come into use around 1866.

Her Domain, (c) Jeff Sturgeon



Awards:

The Locus Awards were announced last weekend. Winners include Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Best SF Novel); All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (best fantasy novel) and The Fireman by Joe Hill (best horror novel. Read More

Winter Be My Shield: A second-world fantasy from Down Under

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Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier

Winter Be My Shield, by Jo Spurrier, was nominated for an Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel in 2012, in her home country of Australia, and Spurrier herself was nominated for a Ditmar. While the roughly 30 reviews on Amazon are mixed, there are plenty of enthusiastic 5-star ones. All of this is to say that many people like this book more than I do. You’ve read my reviews, you know my taste, so be guided by that.

Winter Be My Shield is Book One in the CHILDREN OF THE BLACK SUN series. It was printed in the US in 2013. This second-world fantasy follows a fugitive mage named Sierra as she attempts to escape from the blood-mage Kell, who serves the Mesentreian king. Sierra’s magic draws power from the pain of others. So does Kell’s. More than she fears the sadistic... Read More

Daryl Gregory talks SPOONBENDERS, the ‘Mom test’, and gives away FIVE books!

Daryl Gregory won the Crawford Award in 2009 for his first novel Pandemonium. His 2014 novella “We Are All Completely Fine” won the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2015. His other novels include The Devil’s Alphabet, Afterparty (which we loved), and his YA Lovecraftian novel Harrison Squared. Gregory has also written many short works, graphic novels, and has written for television.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Gregory relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in California in 2016. His latest novel, described by some... Read More

An Augmented Fourth: Otherworldly, rock and roll horror

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An Augmented Fourth by Tony McMillen

Tony McMillen’s An Augmented Fourth (2017) is heavy metal rock and roll horror at its wailing-guitar best. Set in 1980, the point of transition from heavy metal to punk, An Augmented Fourth blends inter-dimensional eldritch horror, David-Cronenberg-movie grotesquerie, and psychedelia in a thrash-metal twenty-minute-guitar-solo of a story.

It’s December, 1980, and Codger Burton, bassist and lyricist of the UK’s once-premiere heavy metal band, Frivolous Black, wakes up in a Boston hotel to find the city snowed in. Codger slept through the evacuation call — at least, that’s what he thinks happened.

The power is off and the city center is eerily empty, but the Hotel Alucinari is not exactly deserted. Before too long, a hungover Codger meets John, a bellho... Read More

A Kiss Before Doomsday: Crystals, demonic cars, the undead and 70s Disco-wear; this one’s got it all

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A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughtonLaurence MacNaughton is back with the second installment of his urban fantasy DRU JASPER series. This one, A Kiss Before Doomsday (2017), takes place shortly after the first book ended. Dru, a crystal witch working in Denver, Colorado, believes the love of her life, the demonically possessed Grayson, died helping her escape from the netherworld, but we know Grayson is alive and at risk. He’s been abducted by the undead, and faces a terrible fate, as does the world, if Dru cannot find him and can’t stop the remaining two seals from opening and ushering in Doomsday.

Like It Happened One Doomsday, this book boun... 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

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

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

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