The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz by Dan Simmons
A few years ago Subterranean Press published what has ever since been my favorite anthology of all time — Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. It’s a hefty collection of stories written by 22 authors who consider Jack Vance an influence on their own work. Each wrote a story set in Vance’s DYING EARTH universe and many of them attempted — often quite successfully —Vance’s trademark style. Each also wrote an afterward which explains how Vance influenced them personally. I’ve reviewed that anthology here.
This month Subterranean Press is releasing Dan Simmons’ contribution to that anthology as a hardcover stand-alone novella. It has previously been released on Kindle. The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz takes p... Read More
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The Guiding Nose of Ulfänt Banderōz by Dan Simmons
Doktor Glass by Thomas Brennan
“Not enough time had passed since he had sat on the side of that very bed, there, and held Sarah’s hand while the drugs had struggled to do their work. He didn’t know if he could trust himself. He felt like one of the Span’s great cables wound too tight. Even braided steel snapped under enough strain.”
To differentiate it from alternate-history fantasy or “gas-lamp” tales, steampunk almost has to have some outstanding piece of technology. It might be airborne penny-farthings, brass seam-driven motorcycles or clunky calculating machines that magically provide access to vast amounts of information. In Thomas Brennan’s novel Doktor Glass, the extraordinary thing that looms over the entire novel is the Transatlantic Span, a vast bridge that runs from Liverpool to New York Harbor — a span that is about to be inaugurated in a great public ceremony just days after the story begi... Read More
Necroscope: The Mobius Murders by Brian Lumley
Harry Keogh is a necroscope. He speaks with the dead and considers himself to be their caretaker. The “Great Majority” love him because he keeps them connected to each other and the world they left behind. In return, Harry often benefits from their collective wisdom. One deceased person who has been particularly helpful is August Ferdinand Möbius, the mathematician whose famous work in geometry led to the discovery and naming of the Möbius strip. Since his death, Möbius has continued his interest in mathematics and astronomy and has taught Harry Keogh how to travel through time and space by using the Möbius Continuum — a timeless spaceless “place” outside of the dimensions we inhabit.
Harry thought he was the only person alive who knew how to travel the Möbius Continuum, but when one day (if you can call it a “day”) he sees someone else traveling through it, he is startled. Whe... Read More
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
Zoe’s Tale, the fourth book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, is the same story we were told in book three, The Last Colony, except it’s from Zoe’s perspective. Zoe is the 17-year-old daughter of the traitorous scientist Charles Boutin. Jane Sagan and John Perry adopted Zoe when she was a small child and they’ve been farming on one of Earth’s colonies for years. Now, though, the family is off to lead the settlers of a new colony called Roanoke (uh-oh). When they get there they realize they’ve been duped and life on Roanoke has a lot more going on than just terraforming a new planet.
While I was reading The Last Colony there were several times I wondered “what’s Zoe doing?” or “what does Zoe think about this?” or even “is Zoe the sweet innocent teenager her parents think she is?” I guess John Scalzi knew I was wondering those things,... Read More
The Last Colony by John Scalzi
The Last Colony, the third book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, returns us to the perspective of John Perry, the “old man” hero of the first novel in the series, Old Man’s War. John Perry is only mentioned in the second novel, The Ghost Brigades, which told the story of how the cyborg Special Forces soldiers found and defeated the scientist Charles Boutin, a traitor to the Colonial Union. On that mission they also found Zoe, Boutin’s young daughter. Zoe has been adopted by Jane Sagan and John Perry and the little family has been farming on one of Earth’s colonies where John and Jane are the leaders.
Life is easy for them until the Colonial Union comes calling — they need leaders for a new colonization effort and John and Jane have been selected. This new colony (named Roanoke.... hmmmm... I think I wouldn’t have signed up for that) ... Read More
The Book of Lost Tales 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien
My first attempt to read The Book of Lost Tales 1 was made way too early in my life and made certain that my response was to put it on the shelf and decide that all of this background stuff, especially taken from this early phase in Tolkien’s life as a writer, was way too different from the Middle-Earth stories that I loved for me to waste any time on it.
Looking at where the bookmark from my first attempt still sat when I picked it up again, I noticed that I didn’t even get much beyond the first several pages of the introductory chapter “The Cottage of Lost Play.” I remember thinking that it was just altogether too twee for me, what with the Eldar of Middle-Earth still being referred to as ‘faeries’ and the, to me, bizarre structure of a wanderer coming to a tiny cottage (bigger on the inside than the outside) peopled by dancing and singing children and adults who primari... Read More
Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull
Chasing the Prophecy is the final book in Brandon Mull’s BEYONDERS series aimed at a middle grade audience. Jason and Rachel have joined a group of rebels who hope to take down the evil emperor Maldor. An oracle has told them that they have very little chance for success, but she’s also told them exactly what they need to do to have that small chance. Therefore the group has split up into separate teams which hope to fulfill different parts of the oracle’s instructions. Rachel is trying to muster up an army while working on her magic and Jason’s team visits a library (I loved the library!) to try to find the location of an ancient seer who has information they need. Both kids face hard work, difficult decisions, and life-threatening circumstances. Each must be willing to bend a lot to accomplish their goals.
Readers who’ve enjoyed the first two BEYONDERS books, A... Read More
Thistle & Thorne by Ann Aguirre
Mari Thistle is just trying to survive and take care of her two younger siblings. Because she lives in the Red Zone and not in the safety of the walled and guarded fortresses where the rich people live, she has to take on some dangerous jobs. Her latest job, which involves sneaking into one of the fortresses and stealing something, has gone bad and she knows she’s likely to be killed by Stavros, the boss who hired her. When she’s rescued by a guy named Thorne Goodman who’s planning to challenge Stavros’ leadership, she finds herself caught in a brutal turf war.
Thistle & Thorne is a novella which was originally published in the post-apocalyptic anthology ‘Til The World Ends earlier t... Read More
Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull
In the second BEYONDERS book, Seeds of Rebellion, Jason has made it back to his own world after attempting to destroy the emperor Maldor in Lyrian, the parallel universe he accidentally stumbled into after being swallowed by a hippopotamus at the zoo. Jason is unhappy at home because Rachel is still stuck in Lyrian and being hunted by the bad guys. After doing some research on the internet, he discovers that Rachel’s parents are desperately trying to find her, but Jason feels like he can’t contact them or he’ll be a suspect in the crime. He’s afraid to tell anyone about Lyrian — people will just think he’s crazy and he might be institutionalized. That would make it impossible for him to do what he really wants to do — go back to Lyrian, let everyone know that the quest they were on is doomed, and tell Rachel how to get back to her parents. Meanwhile, he spends plenty of time exercising so... Read More
A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull
Jason Walker, an eighth grader, was having a fairly normal day — playing baseball with his friends and working at the zoo — until he heard music coming from the hippopotamus tank. When he leaned over the rail to listen more closely, he fell in and was swallowed by the hippo. Instead of ending up in the hippo’s digestive tract, though, he ended up in a parallel universe named Lyrian. Rachel Woodford, a smart home-schooled girl around Jason’s age, was on vacation with her parents in Bryce Canyon when she followed a strange butterfly through a stone arch and ended up in Lyrian, too.
Jason and Rachel quickly meet up in this strange world and discover that they are not the first “Beyonders” to visit the place, but Beyonders have been rare since the evil emperor Maldor came to the throne. Maldor has horded all magic knowledge and is using it to terrorize his citizens. For Jason and Rachel to be abl... Read More
Limbus, Inc. edited by Anne C. Petty
Limbus, Inc., is a set of five novellas by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Jonathan Maberry, Joseph Nasisse, Anne C. Petty and Brett J. Talley all set in the same universe, involving the same mysterious employment agency. The stories vary in quality, and have a frame that is used inconsistently It’s a cool concept, but it loses something in the translation from idea to page.
The prologue describes how Ichabod Templeton takes a leather-bound book to a used bookstore owned by Matthew Sellers. Matthew is facing the prospect of closing the bookstore and getting a “real” job when Templeton comes in and asks him to publish the book. Templeton explains that “they” are after him, but that their secrets must be exposed, and only his book can do it. The four stories that make up Limbus, Inc., ... Read More
Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger
Audrey Niffenegger’s Raven Girl is a slim book that straddles categories. I thought it would be a graphic novel. It isn’t, quite. At 75 pages, I’d call it an illustrated novella. Niffenegger, in her Acknowledgments, calls it a new fairy tale. It certainly has fairy tale aspects, especially a “happy ending” that arrives almost out of nowhere, but it goes beyond traditional fairy tales. The book, Niffenegger tells us, was based on a story she created for the Royal Ballet in London, for a new ballet. If I had to pick a word for Raven Girl, I might choose “fable.”
“There once was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven,” the story begins. The postman is middle-aged, lonely and bored. He knows every step of his route in suburban London, and “… yearned to have an adventure, but suspected that he probably wouldn’t.”
In this suspicion, ... Read More
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Ubik, by Philip K. Dick, is, well, a Philip K. Dick novel. By that, I mean it has just what one would expect from PKD. Characters, and readers, lost as to what is real and what is not? Check. Sense of world and time out of joint? Check. Characters who feel something is after them, some malevolent force? Check. Drugs. Psi-powers. Attacks on consumerism. An ending that leaves you even more confused. Check. Check. Check. And oh yes, check.
Summarizing a Dick novel can be an exercise in futility. Without experiencing it in its entirety, it can sound wholly absurd (not that Dick shies away from the absurd, mind you). But here goes anyway. Glen Runciter runs the best anti-psi business going in 1992, with an especially worried focus on his arch-nemesis Hollis, who seems to run the best psi (telepath, pre-cog) organization going. At the start of the novel, many of Hollis’s top telepaths have disappeared, leaving Runci... Read More
Reaper’s Legacy by Tim Lebbon
Reaper’s Legacy is the second book in Tim Lebbon’s young-adult paranormal adventure series Toxic London. In London Eye, someone released a strange serum or toxin called Evolve into London, two years earlier, a day now called Doomsday. Millions died. The world has been told that the entire city is a poisoned wasteland, cut off from the rest of England, but within the city, the survivors are changing, mutating, developing paranormal abilities. Jack is searching the deadly ruins of the city to rescue his mother and sister; while his friend Lucy-Anne, aided by the enigmatic boy Rook, seeks her missing brother in Hampstead Heath. Lucy-Anne has precognitive dreams, and as the book opens she is haunted by a dream that ends with a nuclear mushroom cloud engulfing London.
I have not read London Eye, but I think I picked up what was going on pretty eas... Read More
Fearless by Jack Campbell
Fearless is the second book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series about Captain Jack Geary who has recovered from 100 years of cold sleep just in time to try to save the Alliance fleet from certain annihilation by the Syndics. As I explained in my review of the first LOST FLEET book, Dauntless, many soldiers in the Alliance fleet think Black Jack Geary is a hero returned from the dead to save their skins. To them, Geary can do no wrong, and they’re willing to follow him deeper into Syndic space as he tries to find an unguarded pathway home. Other officers, however, resent Geary’s attempt to instill order on a military that has become unprepared and undisciplined over many years of war. These aggressive glory-seekers are causing a lot of trouble and when they find someone to rally around, Captain Geary has a mutiny on his... Read More