Terry Weyna

TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

The Girl with All the Gifts: Even a worn-out meme can have power

Reposting to include Rachael's new review:

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Melanie is ten years old, with skin as white as snow, just like in the fairy tale. But she doesn’t live in a tower; she lives in a cell, and is taken from there through the corridor to the classroom, and the shower room, where she is fed grubs once a week before a chemical spray falls from the ceiling. She knows that the place she lives in is called the block, and that the block is on the base, which is called Hotel Echo. They’re close to London and part of Region 6, which is mostly clear because the burn patrols kill the hungries. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, who makes school days interesting and full of fun.

We quickly learn that the hungries are zombies — and at that point, I groaned; not another zombie novel! Haven’t we worn out this meme yet? But Read More

Dragonfly Falling: It’s weird, but it works

Reposting to include Kevin's new review:

Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Between introducing the uniquely imaginative concept of ‘Insect-kinden’ and showcasing a well-rounded display of characterization, world-building, story, pacing and prose, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold was not only an impressive debut, it was also a memorable start to an exciting new fantasy series. A direct continuation of Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling is basically more of the same, just on a larger and more entertaining scale.

Like Empire in Black and Gold, the highlight of Dragonfly Falling is once again the Insect-kinden who, with their diverse Arts and philosphies, continue to lend the saga a distinctive quality despite utilizing such... Read More

Empire in Black and Gold: Ought not to work

Reposting to include Kevin's recent review:

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

If all I had to go by was the cover art (Tor 2008 edition), the title of the book and the synopsis, I probably wouldn’t give Adrian Tchaikovsky’s debut a second glimpse. After all, the artwork fails to capture the eye, the book title is bland, and the summary makes the novel sound formulaic. I mean how many times have authors written about a powerful ‘Empire’ bent on conquering the world and the unlikely heroes determined to stop them? For that matter, how many novels feature youthful protagonists who become much more than they ever dreamed of, haunted forests, a spy who can steal peoples’ faces, rescuing characters from slavers, inciting a revolution and so on? These are all common fantasy conventions utilized by Adrian Tchaikovsky, not to mention the requisite world map, hefty page count, and inevitable ... Read More

The Shining Girls: Scary in all the right ways

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

A serial killer is at a serious advantage when they can jump through time at will, as Harper Curtis of Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls can. This does not bode well for Kirby Mazrachi, intended victim of said serial killer who should’ve died after Harper sliced open her stomach and slit her throat. But Kirby miraculously survived the attack and is determined to find the man that derailed her life.

The problems with trying to find a time-travelling serial killer, however, are obvious. Harper Curtis jumps between 1929 and 1993, killing his ‘shining girls.’ Quite why they shine is never explicitly explained, but they all have the potential to change the world in some way. Harper is able to time travel through the House (note the capital H), an entity which is, again, left so... Read More

Terry and Bill chat with Kameron Hurley

Today we welcome Kameron Hurley, the author of THE WORLDBREAKER SAGA, published by Angry Robot Books. The first two volumes are The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant, with a third, The Broken Heavens, expected to see publication in August 2017. Hurley’s saga deals with race, gender, sex roles, war, survival, slavery, genocide and many other hot topics in the context of war between and countries and between alternate worlds, with a number of philosophical issues raised along the way. We discuss the difficulty of writing about more than two genders, moral choices, and the challenge of writing about numerous societies and races and their counterparts in an alternate universe.

One lucky (and random) commenter with a U.S. address will win a copy of both The Mirror Empire and ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Novelettes, 2014

The Hugo-nominated novelettes are, as a general rule, better than the Hugo-nominated short stories. As was true of the short stories, however, none of the nominees is a story I would place among the best of the year.

“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner is a fragment of something more, not a stand-alone novelette. It opens well, with a repairman traveling a billion klicks to see why a roboship broke down; he has no one for company except an artificial intelligence, which beats him at game after game of chess. Lerner uses his first chapter to explain that robots are not powered by artificial intelligences, which remain bodiless by design, suggesting that this story will be about artificial intelligences struggling for autonomy. But the repairman disappears after the first chapter, as does the suggested theme. Instead, this becomes the tale of Hunters (an intelligent species in the... Read More

Terry chats with Dan Wells

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

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

The Library at Mount Char: Science and magic intertwine in this phenomenal debut

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 cataclysmic afternoon. Black revealed himself to be something far more than human and took twelve local children in... Read More

Wylding Hall: “It’s all a bit Wicker Man”

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand is one of my favorite writers, prose-wise, and I just love languidly relaxing into her style. I feel like I’m always looking for the same kind of writing in other authors — and having been remiss in reading Hand for the last few years, it was nice to finally enjoy the real thing again with the short novel Wylding Hall. Her prose is actually more spare than usual; it has to be, as the entire story is told in dialogue. Hand makes it work, though, and Wylding Hall is as atmospheric as her earlier works.

The frame story here is a documentary about the folk band Windhollow Faire, who in the early seventies made a brilliant album that was also their downfall. The band had retreated to the crumbling Wylding Hall to record the album and to regrou... Read More

The Devil’s Only Friend: Triumphal and bleak

The Devil’s Only Friend by Dan Wells

This review contains spoilers for the first JOHN WAYNE CLEAVER trilogy.

John Wayne Cleaver is a seventeen-year-old boy who wants very, very much to kill people. Lots of them, one right after the other, in terrible, bloody ways. Paradoxically, because he longs to do that, he has been taking extraordinary lengths to avoid becoming a serial killer. His struggles were related in a trilogy consisting of I Am Not A Serial Killer (reviewed here), Mr. Monster (reviewed here), and I Don’t Want to Kill You (reviewed here). That trilogy showed how John’s efforts to avoid ac... Read More

Next of Kin: A surprisingly gentle tale

Next of Kin by Dan Wells

“I died again last night.” It’s a compelling first sentence to a novella told from the point of view of Elijah Sexton, a demon, and it promises a different and exciting new start to Dan Wells’s JOHN CLEAVER series.

Sexton drinks memories. For a time, he killed people himself, “topping off” his memory as he pleases. Soon, though, imbued with a hundred thousand lives, he could no longer bear to kill. Instead, he works in a morgue and drinks the memories of the newly dead. He lives

from death to death, sometimes two weeks, sometimes three, holding on as long as I can while my brain slips away like sand in an hourglass, grain by grain, loose and crumbling, until I can barely remember my own name and I have to find another. I drink their minds like a trembling addict, desperate and ashamed.


Other demons mock Sexton fo... Read More

Magazine Monday Special Edition: Nebula-Nominated Novellas, 2014

No, you have not jumped forward in time two days; it’s still Saturday. But the Nebula Awards will be handed out tonight, so this special edition of Magazine Monday discusses the nominated novellas.

The late, lamented Subterranean Magazine first published Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté.” The story is about Mara, a 12-year-old child who is dying of cancer, her father, who loves her very much, and the android Mara’s father has built that mimics Mara in every way, right down to her thoughts and feelings. It is an amazing technological accomplishment that Mara’s father sees as a gift to his daughter. Mara, however, sees it as a replacement for her, a confirmation of her fear that she is going to die. The story is about the comp... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Novelettes, 2014

Here are the novelettes nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

“We Are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller is narrated by Angel Quinones, nicknamed Sauro because he likes dinosaurs — though the other kids in his twelfth group home believe it’s because he’s as big as a dinosaur. Sauro is just about to age out of the system, and that’s even worse than the horror of being in the system. Sauro meets Case when one of the other boys is beating him up outside Sauro’s door. Sauro immediately desires Case, even though desire is dangerous, and he avoids it whenever he can; but this time, he knows he can’t. And Case, the only white boy Sauro has ever seen in a group home, desires Sauro right back. Both boys have cloud ports in their heads, which means that their brains serve as part of a huge data processing grid. Case has a plan for t... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nebula-Nominated Short Stories, 2014

Here are the short stories nominated for a 2014 Nebula Award:

In “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard, the main character, Rechan, is pregnant. She must find her breath-sibling before she gives birth, or the baby will be stillborn. That, and the fact that they are carved by adolescent women from a special stone called lamsinh, are all we know about breath-siblings at first. Most women have their breath-siblings with them once they are created, but Rechan’s has remained in the mountains from which it was carved during a time of war on her planet. “The Breath of War” is a very alien story, setting up a world and a biology that are so different from ours that the wonder of the story comes from discovering the natu... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 171-173

The most recent issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, No. 173, dated May 14, 2015, opens with “Out of the Rose Hills” by Marissa Lingen. It starts promisingly, with a merchant’s daughter and her companion coming through the title hills on an unexplained but apparently urgent mission. The first person she sees when she comes out of the hills and into the city asks her if she is the princess, as prophesied for generations. She denies it, but a voice comes from behind her (where there should have been nothing but rose-covered hills). A shadow woman has followed her, who contradicts everything she says. It’s an interesting set-up, but the story doesn’t move forward much from that point, and seems to be just getting under way when it abruptly ends.

I’m not usually one for humorous science fiction, but I found “The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell amusing. It’s a mash-up of G... Read More

Magazine Monday: Forever Magazine, Issues 1-3

Forever Magazine is a new venture by Neil Clarke, editor of the esteemed Clarkesworld. He explains in the introduction to the first issue of the magazine that it is a monthly publication focused on previously published works, mostly from this (still new) century. Clarke is the entire staff of the magazine. The Kindle subscription price is currently $1.99 per month.

The first issue opens extremely well, with a novelette by Ken Liu, “The Regular,” about a serial killer who targets high-end prostitutes. Ruth is a freelance detective who is hired by the mothe... Read More

Mile 81: One frightening novella

Mile 81 by Stephen King

One of the best things about e-books is that many more novella-length works get stand-alone publication. You don’t have to search them out in magazines, or wait for the author to write several of them and combine them in a collection, or spend a large chunk of change for a special printing from a small press. As I’ve always thought that the novella was the form best suited for short science fiction, I’m pleased with this advance; it almost makes up for not being able to hold a real book in my hands, turning real pages.

One of the worst things about e-books, though, is that they disappear on one’s Kindle (or Nook, or tablet; whatever). You can’t really search through them the way you can scan a bookshelf. When you’re an inveterate collector of books, those e-book deals fill up your reader until you’ve forgotten you bought that cool novella by one of your favorite writers that you couldn’t wai... Read More

Fifth Annual FOGCon + Giveaway!

Last month Marion and I attended FOGCon 5 in Walnut Creek, California (in the San Francisco Bay area) where I served on a panel called “When the Setting is a Character.” FOGCon, which stands for Friends of the Genre Convention, has a literary bent. Marion and I are going to discuss our experience here, and we've got a book to give away to a commenter.

Marion, what did you think of your first FOGCon?

Terry, I expected FOGCon to be fun because you recommended it, but this conference exceeded my expectations! From the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel staff – consistently helpful, friendly and cheerful – to the thoughtful and varied panels, this was a great weekend. And I love that they had a “Ghost of Honor,” Joanna Russ, devoting an... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 169-170

Carrie Vaughn opens Issue 169 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with “Sun, Stone, Spear,” a story about as different from her KITTY NORVILLE series as it seems possible to get. Two young women, Elu and the narrator, Mahra, have decided to leave their home village; Mahra seeks adventure, while Elu wishes to be the chief astronomer of any village in which she lands — not a position she is likely to get in her home village, where there are four apprentice astronomers ahead of her. Their travel to a new village is one frought with danger, from bandits, from demons, even from gods. Though they seem reasonably well-prepared and sufficiently cognizant of the dangers about them to fight them, it is a difficult journey. And always the question hovers over them: have they done the right thing by leaving their home village? The story made me think of dozens of stories starring youn... Read More

Magazine Monday: The Dark, Issues 2 through 7

I was excited by the first issue of The Dark, which I reviewed in 2013. The following issues fulfill the promise of the first, containing lovely and mysterious stories of dark fantasy. Reading the sweep of the magazine from Issue 2 to Issue 7 reveals that a particular type of story is likely to catch the editors’ eyes: stories that are often elliptical, gentle, hinting at more than they say, and rich in poetic language.

Issue 2 is as wonderful as was Issue 1.  “Our Lady of Ruins” by Sarah Singleton opens prosaically, when the protagonist’s car breaks down two hours away from the city, in the middle of a forest. He can’t get a cell signal, and there’s no passing traffic, so he’s feeling at a loss when he sees a girl wearing a red coat in the forest. He follows her because she seems like the only source of help available to him. Events ... Read More

Rolling in the Deep: A horror novella by Mira Grant

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

Every now and then I happen upon a story that reminds me why I love science fiction so much. I love its imagination, the way an author extrapolates from the factual to the bizarre; and the more she can pack her fiction with solid science, the happier I am. Mira Grant achieved this for me in her NEWSFEED trilogy and her PARASITOLOGY series. Now she does it again, even better than before, in her new novella for Subterranean Press, Rolling in the Deep.

Grant starts from the premise that Imagine Network (which bears a striking resemblance to Syfy TV in our own reality) has moved from B-grade horror movies and reruns of science fiction classics into the production of documentaries. These documentaries, however, are not straight reporting; they involve sear... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 167-168

K.J. Kabza opens Issue 168 with “Steady on Her Feet,” in which two men who purport to be physicians advertise that they are able to provide a surgical augmentation of one’s character. Holliday, a poor child, is induced to enter their shop by a shop boy who promises a free consultation, though Dr. Mortleaus isn’t too keen on helping a mudlarker — one of those who makes a living pulling valuable materials the river leaves behind when the tide goes out. But his partner, Dr. Svartlebarrt, persuades him to examine Holliday, and what they find surprises them: she is of excellent character, despite her humble circumstances. They induce her to become a shop employee, but it is evident immediately that they have ulterior motives. The story is a trifle inconsistent in that Mortleaus and Svartlebarrt have the aura of snake oil salesmen, and Kabza clearly means them to be do what they purport to be able to do. Still, it’s merely a mix-up about what sort of evil they’... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, February 2015

The February 2015 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine opens with “The Last Surviving Gondola Widow” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The first person narrator of the story is a woman living in Chicago who works as a Pinkerton (that is, a detective employed by the Pinkerton Agency, established in 1850 as one of the first such agencies) who was on Michigan Avenue the day the Gondolas came in from the South to rain hell down on the city. Now it appears that the widow of one of the Gondolas — for that’s how the engineers who piloted them were named, as the Gondolas would respond to the voice and touch of their own engineer like living beings — is not only still living in Illinois, but holds a position of prominence. The story is a steampunk adventure that includes a sort of engineering magic combined with a feminist sensibility. I found the story diff... Read More

The Keeper: This is a writer you’ll want to know

The Keeper by Sarah Langan

Bedford, Maine, is a town with one industry: the paper mill. It’s been poisoning the water and air for generations, and workers have all sorts of physical complaints from breathing sulfur and other toxic fumes, but if anyone thought about it, they’d know that the recent closing of the mill probably dooms their town.

But no one’s thinking about the mill and the town’s economy. Instead, they’re all focused on Susan Marley. She’s a silent, beautiful woman in her mid-20’s who lives in squalor, turning a trick now and then to stay supplied with Campbell’s tomato soup, which she eats straight out of the can. She appears nightly in just about everyone’s nightmares, making her a sort of literary ghost of Dickens’s Jacob Marley.

One of the people most haunted by Susan is her sister, Liz. Liz is in high school, and is planning to put Bedford behind her as soon as possible and nev... Read More

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