Bill chats with K.M. McKinley

This week K.M. McKinley, author of The Iron Ship, stops by to answer some questions about her fascinating debut novel set in a quasi-industrial world and centered on a quintet of...

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The Grey King: Newbery Medal winner

Readers’ average rating: The Grey King by Susan Cooper Although it is not my personal favourite, The Grey King, the fourth book in The Dark is Rising sequence is generally...

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The accidental novel, and other surprises (giveaway!)

Today Bradley W. Schenck stops by Fantasy Literature to discuss his writing process for Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom, an illustrated retro-futuristic novel that pays homage to...

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We’re interested in your thoughts about the books we review, and we know this information will be helpful to other readers, so we’re asking YOU to rate books...

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Recent Posts

House Rules: Did Not Finish

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House Rules by Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill’s CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES novels have been brain-candy reading for me for a few years now. The books are quick reads that don’t require a lot of thinking but provide action, romance, humor, and occasional pathos. But, sad to say, I think I’m breaking up with this series.

I had high hopes at the beginning of this seventh book, House Rules. Neill introduces a mystery: two rogue vampires have gone missing, last seen at one of the vampire registration offices the new mayor has set up. In the other main plot, Cadogan House has voted to secede from the Greenwich Presidium, and that would surely shake things up a bit.

The series, however, has fallen into the same trap that Neill’s DARK ELITE series did for me. The plot often seems secondary to immature bickering among the characters. It’s not funny enough to work as co... Read More

The Jack Vance Treasury: A wide array of Vance’s oeuvre

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The Jack Vance Treasury by Jack Vance (edited by Terry Dowling & Jonathan Strahan)
While I don’t think there’s any one novel or short story or even collection of Jack Vance‘s work that comes close to capturing all the best aspects of his writing, I do think that this 633-page Subterranean Press collection does a fairly good job of exposing the reader to a wide array of Vance’s oeuvre. In addition to eighteen stories that span much of Vance’s writing career, there’s a brief comment from Vance himself after each story that gives a little view into how his mind worked while in creative mode, as well as some of the authors and factors that had a major impact on him in developing his writing (note to self after reading one of his comments: re-read P. G. Wodehouse, then find and read some Jeffrey Farnol, two of the writers he says influenced him). There’s also an “Appreciation” by Read More

Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters

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Communion Town by Sam Thompson

I really wanted to like Communion Town, the collection of linked stories by Sam Thompson. For one, I’m a fan of “city stories,” such as Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities or the cities of China Miéville and the like. I’m also generally a big fan of the structure — a series of stories linked by theme or setti... Read More

Aurorarama: This glittering Tesla-punk 19th century novel pastiche actually works

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Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat

Other reviewers on Fanlit will probably be surprised by the number of stars I’ve given this book, because they’ve had to read my kvetching about it for several Status Updates. I finally finished it, and to my surprise, I think in Aurorarama, Valtat succeeded in his Tesla-punk 19th century adventure novel pastiche.

It is early in the 20th century, and New Venice is a city in the Arctic, powered by Tesla-like machines, filled with art, music, entertainment, drugs, censorship, science and magic. The city was founded by the Seven Dreamers, who rest in cryogenic tubes in some undisclosed location. Currently, the Council of Seven governs New Venice, and it is policed by the Gentlemen of the Night. The Council is trying to gain control of the city’s greenhouse, and drive out the native people, the Inuit, while the Gentlemen of the Night wage a reign ... Read More

I, Robot: Some of Asimov’s best stories

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I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

“..all conflicts are finally evitable. Only the Machines, from now on, are inevitable"

Most science fiction fans know Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

Robots must not hurt human beings or allow them to come to harm.
Robots must obey human beings so far as it doesn’t violate Law 1.
Robots must not harm themselves as long as this doesn’t violate Laws 1 and 2.

In I, Robot, Asimov presents nine stories within a frame story that explore the implications of these Three Laws of Robotics. The introduction presents the frame story, which introduces Dr. Susan Calvin, who has recently retired from a 50-year career as the world’s first robopsychologist. A reporter is attempting to interview the somewhat reclusive Dr. Calvin, who is reluctant to share her experiences. Through clever flattery, questions an... Read More

Firebrand: Breathes new life into old tropes

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Firebrand by Gillian Philip

When Firebrand opens, Seth, a 16-year-old Sithe, has a crossbow trained on his brother, Conal. Conal is thin, his face half-blacked and bloody, his hair shaved from his head. Conal is about to be burned as a witch at the tail-end of the sixteenth century at the urging of a minister who smiles at the thought of the horrible deaths his victims are about to endure. Seth will kill his brother to spare him the agony of burning at the stake.

It’s a prologue that grabs the reader’s attention firmly. Turn the page and Seth is only eight years old. He’s been sent by his mother, an adviser to the queen, to live with his father, who is bound to another Sithe woman. Seth’s mother was but a dalliance, a bit of unfaithfulness not unusual or immoral among the Sithe, though Seth’s stepmother is not exactly enamoured of him nonetheless. Seth is eager for his father... Read More

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter: Beautifully written but disturbing

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The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

“Cat, this is Finn. He’s going to be your tutor.”

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter
by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a beautifully written story. Clarke evokes a beautiful contrast between the wild gardens and streams Cat inhabits as a child under the watchful eye of her tutor, and the cold, sterile, unfeeling world she inhabits as an adult in contact with other humans. At its core, this is a romance between a human and a cyborg. Though an interesting examination of what it means to be human, and the role of sentience in humanity, I felt that the role of sexual desire in defining humanity was overplayed in this book.

Clarke is especially skilled in describing a world that has suffered through an ecological disaster and is slowly rebuilding itself. The politics of humans versus robots as the economy and societies rest... Read More

Reflex: Exciting sequel to Jumper

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Reflex by Steven Gould

Reflex is the second book in Steven Gould’s JUMPER series. Ten years have passed since we left Davy and Millie. Now they’re married and Davy works occasionally for the National Security Agency. On one of his trips to Washington D.C. to meet with his contact there, he gets drugged and kidnapped by a group of people who want to use his powers for their own evil purposes. As they work to get Davy under their control, Millie uses her skills as a psychologist to search for him. She needs some help from the government, but she isn’t sure who she can trust. There seem to be leaks in high places.

Just like Jumper, Reflex is pretty compelling reading for the most part. Davy’s experiences as a captive are fascinating as we watch the bad guys use operant conditioning to try to bend him to their wills. This eventually starts to pall... Read More

Magazine Monday: Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2013

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The latest issue of F&SF is stuffed with good reading. I can’t pick a favorite, as I often do; many of the stories hit that sweet spot. Robert Reed’s short story, “Among Us,” is a good example: it’s about the Neighbors, creatures who look exactly like humans but are not, though they may not know that themselves. The narrator studies the Neighbors in every way possible — almost. There comes a moment when he is not willing to let research take its course, and whether that proves something to him, to the researchers, or to the Neighbors themselves (or even all three at once) is not entirely clear. Reed's story is full of wonder, which is why he remains one of the best short story writers in the field.

“The Blue Celeb” by Desmond Warzel, another fine story, tells the tale of two men who opened a barbershop together in Harlem after they returned from Vietnam. They’ve watched the nei... Read More

The Green Man: Genuinely creepy

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The Green Man by Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis's sole horror novel, The Green Man, had long been on my list of "must read" books, for the simple reason that it has been highly recommended by three sources that I trust. British critic David Pringle chose it for inclusion in his overview volume Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, as did Michael Moorcock in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books AND Brian Aldiss in Horror: 100 Best Books. As it turns out, all of this praise is not misplaced, and Amis's 1969 novel of modern-day satire and the supernatural is as entertaining as can be.

The tale concerns a middle-aged man named Maurice Allington, who owns an inn called The Green Man in ru... Read More