Marion chats with Richard Kadrey


Richard Kadrey, author of the SANDMAN SLIM novels, recently did a reading and signing event at a Copperfield’s Books, a local independent bookstore. I attended, and participated...

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Guards! Guards!: A great place to start with DISCWORLD


Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett The city of Ankh-Morpork is the setting for this DISCWORLD novel, the eigth in the overall series to be published, and the first of what are...

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Day Men


Day Men by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson (writers) and Brian Stelfreeze (art) This past year I’ve been trying out a wide variety of new series by buying a ton of #1 issues....

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Our favorite books of 2014


Here are our favorite books published in 2014. Hover over the cover to see who recommends each book and what they say about it. Please keep in mind that we did not read every SFF...

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Recent Posts

Inside a Silver Box: Too-unorthodox storytelling and a jumbled plot. DNF.

Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley

Sometimes you read a book and think, “Well, that was a bad book.” And sometimes you read a book and wonder, “Was that a bad book?” Walter Mosley has been a widely praised author for decades, has won a host of major awards, and is known for his sharp characterization and compelling plotting. So when I read a book of his that just throws me wholly for a loop, one in which I can’t abide either the characters or plot at all, so much so that I have to force myself to reach the halfway point before finally giving up, I have to wonder, “Was that a bad book, or did I miss something?”

Inside a Silver Box offers up an all-powerful being/machine — the titular silver box — whose goal is to stop the last of a genocidal alien race from regaining control of the box (it had been the aliens’ super-weapon) and using it to wipe out an entire species y... Read More

Surface Detail: Another wild ride in Iain Banks’ far-future universe

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

Surface Detail (2010), the penultimate CULTURE novel, is another wild ride in Iain Banks’ far-future universe. Interestingly (or at least I think so), this novel deals with the afterlife, as does the final CULTURE novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, which was published several months before Banks’ unexpected death of gallbladder cancer in 2013.

Though speculation about what happens beyond death is a heavy subject, Banks deals with it flippantly in Surface Detail (and also to a lesser extent in The Hydrogen Sonata). The premise here is that Hell is simply a virtual reality computer simulation. That’s an interesting idea that becomes pretty funny when you consider that if hell is an MMORPG, then someone must be “hosting Hell” and others are trying to hack it. The ... Read More

Hive Monkey: This fun, fizzy concoction is not completely satisfying

Hive Monkey by Gareth L. Powell

Hive Monkey is the second book in Gareth L. Powell’s ACK ACK MACAQUE series, originally dubbed a trilogy but now, apparently, fated to be a quartet. The eponymous monkey, who likes cigars, rum and flying a refurbished WWII Spitfire, plays a large role in this book, gleefully wreaking mayhem on the bad guys. His sidekicks, Victoria Valois, journalist-turned-airship-captain, K8, plucky girl hacker, and Paul, a hologram, also have roles to play as they battle the colonized drones of an evil hive-mind.

It all gets very exciting, so I was baffled to start Chapter One with a boring, stereotypical character, William Cole. Cole is a meth-addled science fiction writer. He opens the book by standing on a wharf looking at scenery and mourning his dead wife ... Read More

C.T. Adams talks about the cover (and gives away a copy) of The Exile

Thanks to Tor, we've got a copy of C.T. Adams' The Exile (Book one in her new FAE series) to give away to a reader with a U.S. or Canadian address. Just submit the form below if you'd like to enter the drawing.

I haven't read The Exile yet, but the striking cover keeps beckoning me and I will surely give in soon. I asked C.T. Adams what she thought about the cover and whether an artist's rendering of her characters might influence how the author might view and/or write the character in future volumes of a series. Here's what she said:
The cover for The Exile is gorgeous. I think it really pops and will fly off the shelves.

 

Unlike a lot of authors, I have a clause in my contract that allows me to have cover consultation. Ultimately the publisher has the final say – they have to worry about sales after all. But Tor and my edito... Read More

The Fifth Heart: Moving and thoughtful

The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons

There are several issues with Dan Simmons’ new novel, The Fifth Heart. It’s too long for one, its 600+ pages probably a good 100-150 pages too many. Simmons has fallen too much in love with his research, slowing the book in multiple places. He drops one of the more intriguing storylines a bit too easily. And the mystery/resolution are a bit anti-climactic. That said, The Fifth Heart still works as a smart literary mix of adventure, historical fiction, and metafiction, even if it could have been better with some pruning.

The year is 1893 and Henry James, depressed over his career, his fast-approaching mid-century birthday, and the recent death of his sister is about to commit suicide by stepping into the Seine River when a man steps out of the shadows and interrupts him. The man, to James’ surprise, is Sherlock Holmes, whom Jam... Read More

Chimpanzee: A haunting imagination plagued with off-putting style

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 people having to depend on government hando... Read More

Soda Pop Soldier: A poor imitation of better media options

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

Soda Pop Soldier essentially takes the e-sports concept (DOTA 2, Starcraft, etc.) that offers the promise of making buckets of money by playing video games to talented gamers, and mixes it up with a heavy dose of corporatization (well, a heavier dose than it already has) and a heaping serving of teenage boy wish fulfillment.

See, gamer PerfectQuestion (yes, that’s his name) fights for ColaCorp in an online wargame called WarWorld, where other megacorporations battle each other for dominance in the real world of advertising. That’s right: somehow, these mega-companies have agreed to tie the possibility of advertising on, say, the Times Square Jumbotron to the level of success a bunch of gamers have in a virtual Modern Warfare-style war game. At the same time, the battles are broadcast successfully to millions of viewers, who even have the chance to be recruited a... 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

Horrible Monday: Rolling in the Deep 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

The Dark Water: The story switches from SF thriller to lost world fantasy

The Dark Water by Seth Fishman

The Dark Water is the sequel to last year’s The Well’s End, a fast-paced and suspenseful YA SF thriller that I enjoyed despite its reliance on several well-worn teen themes. To discuss The Dark Water, I’ll have to spoil a little of the plot of The Well’s End, so if you’re planning to read that novel, you may want to stop after the next paragraph.

The Well’s End was written in first person from the perspective of Mia Kish, a nationally-ranked swimmer who attends an elite boarding school. When Mia was a toddler, she fell down a well and was eventually rescued as the world watched on CNN. (This story was inspired by Baby Jess... Read More