Pillar to the Sky: Optimistic and nostalgic

Pillar to the Sky by William R. Forstchen

While reading William R. Forstchen’s Pillar to the Sky, I kept thinking this is what would have happened if, back in the 1960’s, NASA had commissioned Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein to co-write a story that would get Americans excited about space exploration... and then forgot to send it to an editor. Pillar to the Sky has an exciting premise and an appealing nostalgic feel, but it’s marred by some annoying editorial issues.

The story is about a couple of innovative scientists — Ukranian Eva Morgan and her husband Gary Morgan — who want to build an equatorial space elevator à la Arthur C. Clarke’s in The Fountains of Paradise. The proposed “pillar” would make it easier and... Read More

A Stranger in Olondria: An exquisite tour of a world of danger, magic and beauty

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

In A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar takes us on a journey that is as familiar and foreign as a land in a dream. It’s a study of two traditions, written and oral, and how they intersect. Samatar uses exquisite language and precise details to craft a believable world filled with sight, sound and scent.

The book follows Jevick, who journeys from Bain, the Harbor City of the land of Olondria to a distant valley, on a quest to settle the ghost that haunts him. Along the way, he becomes a pawn between two warring political factions, and learns much about this strange land he is visiting.

Jevick is the second son of a wealthy pepper grower in the Tea Islands. His father brings back a tutor fr... Read More

Bluecrowne: Wonderful prose, compelling storyline, captivating main character

Bluecrowne by Kate Milford

In 2010, I put Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker on my list of favorite books of the year. In 2012, I put her The Broken Lands on my list of favorite books of the year. Well, another two years have passed, Milford is out with another story, and, well, you know the rest . . .

Though maybe not all the rest, as there’s a bit of a twist to her newest work, Bluecrowne. Like her last work, The Kairos Mechanism, this brief novel (220 pages) is part of her Arcana Project, a Kickstarter project to self-publish smaller stories that weave in and out of her BONESHAKER world, acting as both a sort of connecting tissue binding together the larger, traditionally published novels and as a tide-you-over gift to those of us impatiently waiting for those lar... Read More

Sky Raiders: A new children’s fantasy series by Brandon Mull

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Sky Raiders is the first book in Brandon Mull’s new FIVE KINGDOMS series for Middle Grade readers. It’s about a boy named Cole who takes his friends, including a girl he has a crush on, to a haunted house on Halloween Night. The occupants of the house lure the kids into the basement where they’re abducted, taken to another world called The Five Kingdoms, and sold into slavery.

As you might guess, Cole feels a little guilty about this. He’s determined to escape and free his friends. He outwits enemies and battles giant snakes, scorpions, and even a cyclops. Then he finds an ally in a girl named Mira, a girl from the Five Kindgoms who is also a slave. Can Cole and Mira free Cole’s friends? Can Cole get back to Earth? Well, he does make some progress toward that end in Sky Raiders, but there’s plenty more to accomplish in the next volume of THE FIVE KINGDOMS.
... Read More

Expiration Day: Give it a pass

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell

Expiration Day, by William Campbell Powell, was a book I almost didn’t bother finishing and only ended up doing so because of that added sense of obligation of having received it for free to review. Had I picked it up on my own, I almost certainly would have dropped it somewhere about halfway in. As usual, in these cases, this will be a relatively short review so as not to belabor the issue.

In 2049, humanity has all but died out and is racing to find a cure to this plague of infertility that has been around for some while now. Meanwhile, to give the race hope and meet the parenting instinct, “teknoids” (sophisticated androids) can be rented by couples to be brought up as their own child, with regularly scheduled “revisions” to mirror the physical development due to aging. Everyone knows this happens, but it’s considered ill manners to speak of it too bluntly, so nobody is ev... Read More

The Mapmaker’s War: An ancient, unconventional utopia

The Mapmaker’s War by Ronlyn Domingue

The Mapmaker’s War might be the ideological and literary opposite of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, bound and printed with lovely woodcut illustrations. While Martin’s scope covers multiple continents and more characters than I could ever truly care about (I’m down to Arya and Tyrion, and godhelpme Jaime), Domingue’s world exists only through the eyes of a single woman. Where Martin glories in the grunge of sex and violence, Domingue contemplates the damaging social constructions that surround both practices. While readers are dragged through every grimy inn, every grueling journey, and every unfortunate wedding in Westeros, The Mapmaker’s War moves at a dreamy, almost fable-like pace that contains a woman’s entire life. The fantasy re... Read More

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl is one of those perfect YA science fiction stories that you wish had been written years ago so you could have read it as a kid — which means that you’re gonna want to get this book in the hands of a child in your life. Just make sure you get a chance to read it first.

The story begins when Zita and her friend find a strange object that has fallen from space — a square, hand-held device with a big, red button on it. Just imagine what you’d do: Would you press that button? Guess what the young child Zita does? That’s right — she presses the button. Instantly, a door of light opens before her and the arms — tentacles? — of a strange creature reach into our... Read More

Idoru: More delicious futurology from Gibson

Idoru by William Gibson

Idoru, William Gibson’s 1997 middle entry into the BRIDGE trilogy, takes the baton of Virtual Light’s conclusion and runs with it. Celebrity worship, pop culture, media influence, and the futuristic tangents advanced technology offers these take-it-or-leave-it facets of modern existence are the centerpiece. Less standard noir than Virtual Light, Idoru expands the themes into an imaginative, singular story that develops the series positively.

Like Virtual Light, Idoru features a young woman and man as main characters. Chia MacKenzie is a fourteen year old member of the Seattle chapter of the Lo/Rez fan club who has been asked to go to Tokyo to investigate wh... Read More

Malvolio’s Revenge: A quick but fun read

Malvolio’s Revenge by Sophie Masson

I've read plenty of Sophie Masson's novels and enjoyed them all, but I'm fairly certain that Malvolio's Revenge may end up being my favourite. Though Masson usually writes straight-out fantasy stories, this is a more of a mystery with a few supernatural trappings thrown in.

The book's title is a bit misleading, for this book isn't a sequel to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Instead it refers to the title of a play that the travelling troupe of actors who comprise our main characters are performing all around Louisiana. Set primarily in New Orleans in 1910, the story begins on a terribly stormy night when the Trentham Troupe of Players stumble upon an old estate that promises food and shelter.
... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mouth, to say the least. And, as it turns out, all the ballyhoo back when was fully justified, as this really IS some kind of superb work. As J... Read More

The Revolutions: A hodgepodge that works

The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

At not quite the halfway point in Felix Gilman’s The Revolutions, the main character — Arthur Shaw — reacts to a particular text he is reading:

It was a hodge-podge of Masonry, Greek myth, Egyptian fantasy, debased Christianity, third-hand Hinduism, and modern and ancient astronomy, promiscuously and nonsensically mixed . . . The Book was riddled throughout with paradox and absurdity and contradiction . . . But after a week or two of study, Arthur began to enjoy it.

And it is at this point where a reader might stop and think, “Yes, yes I am,” even as he/she mentally expands that list of hodge-podge foundations: “And C.S. Lewis and Burroughs and Yeats and Poe and Stevenson and The Sun and maybe a bit of... Read More

Shattered Pillars: Still fantastic

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s entire ETERNAL SKY trilogy is now sitting in a neat row on my bookshelf. I adored the first book and consumed the second one so quickly it went by in a blur of semi-divine horses and cool but unpronounceable names. Before I read Steles of the Sky(released on April 10th), it’s worth pausing to reconsider the middle book in what might be one of my favorite fantasy series in recent years.

In Shattered Pillars, Temur and his band of loyal and enigmatic followers continue their quest. But the quest is stranger and less certain than it used to be. Temur wants to save Edene, his horse-riding lady-love, but also reclaim his grandfather’s throne and oust his rival Qori Buqa. In a vast and fractured political landscape dominated by independent city-states, this turns out to be ... Read More

Night Watch: You can’t repeat the past (Of course you can)

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Sam Vimes of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch has all but arrested Carcer, a serial killer who specifically targets members of the Watch, when they are thrown back in time.

Time travel is always inconvenient, but it is particularly trying for Sam Vimes, who is about to become a father. Worse, Vimes soon realizes this time in Ankh-Morpork’s history is especially awful because the city is about to revolt against the Patrician, Lord Winder. The people will revolt, Vimes remembers, and cavalrymen will put them down.

Vimes had only just joined the Watch when he first lived through the revolution, but he remembers many of the details, especially his old mentor, Sergeant John Keel. Keel taught Sam how to be a copper, a... Read More

Time Enough For Love: For masochists only

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein

You’d think I’d learn, but no, I just keep torturing myself with Heinlein’s adult novels. That’s because when I was a kid, Heinlein was one of my favorite authors, so I still think of him that way. I know it’s not that my tastes have changed because I still love those books I read as a kid. The problem is that many of the books he wrote for his adult audiences, especially those he wrote in his later years, are just horrid. And Time Enough for Love (1973), even though it’s a classic, is one of these. It’s everything I hate about Heinlein’s later novels. In fact, if I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say “YUCK!”

Time Enough for Love is the last of Heinlein’s novels about Lazarus Long. In fact, the full title is Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long. Lazarus is 2000 years old. He feels like he’s done it all and he’s refusin... Read More

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse: Amusing and thoughtful

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

Humorist Wayne Gladstone takes on the American obsession with the internet in Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, an amusing but thoughtful look at what might happen to our culture if the world wide web went down for good.

Gladstone himself is the protagonist of his story. Since both his job and his free time activities depend on the internet, he has no idea what to do now that it’s gone. So he begins keeping a journal about how the world is handling the crisis. Accompanied by a guy he’d previously met online and an Australian girl who earns her living selling online access to her in-shower webcam, Gladstone sets out on the streets of New York City to try to find out what happened to the internet. Is it a government conspiracy? Right-wingers? Muslim terrorists?

Many of the people Gladstone meets are trying to find low-tech ways to replace what they loved ab... Read More

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