Suicide Kings edited by George R.R. Martin
Suicide Kings is the third part in the latest reincarnation of the long-running WILD CARDS series. Together with Inside Straight and Busted Flush it forms the Committee trilogy. I guess you could consider this trilogy WILD CARDS the next generation. These books are meant to be an entry point for new readers. Like most of the previous novels, Suicide Kings is a collaborative effort. This volume is written by six authors — Daniel Abraham, S.L. Farrell, Victor Milán, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector and Read More
Suicide Kings edited by George R.R. Martin
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I was looking for nothing in particular when I found The Bone Season on the Science Fiction shelf of my local library. This was the saving grace of my reading experience of Samantha Shannon’s debut novel. It was not until after finishing the novel that I discovered the hype surrounding the first in Shannon’s planned seven-part series (of which Bloomsbury has already signed her up for three novels).
The novel centres around Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant who can move in and out of the minds of other people. The slight spanner in the works is that the government (of futuristic 2059) don’t like clairvoyants. In fact, they pretty much capture and get rid of them on contact. So when Paige is caught doing her psychic thing, she is carted off to Oxford, where the Bone Season is occurring. Here she has to fight a bunch of monsters whilst under the control o... Read More
Dragon by Steven Brust
Dragon is the eighth novel in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. As you’re reading the series, it probably doesn’t matter when you read Dragon since it’s really a stand-alone story which tells of a battle that occurred earlier in the series’ chronology, just after the events of Taltos, which was a prequel to the first three VLAD TALTOS novels. (As you can see, the books jump around in time). But Dragon is not one of the better volumes, so I wouldn’t recommend, say, reading it first and basing your judgment of the entire series on this novel. Read Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla and Taltos first.
Most of the VLAD TALTOS books are named after one of the ... Read More
Jokers Wild edited by George R.R. Martin
Jokers Wild is the third volume in the long-running WILD CARDS series edited by George R.R. Martin. These books are written by a writer's collective in a style that they refer to as mosaic. Most of the books are written by a group of writers, and Martin (increasingly assisted by Melinda M. Snodgrass) edits them into one story. The series has gone though several changes in publisher but, partially carried by the success of Martin himself in recent years, seems to be going strong at the moment. This third volume was first published in 1987 and features contributions by Leanne C. Harper, Lewis Shiner, John J. Miller, Edward Bryant, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Walton Simons and George R.R. Martin himself.
Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers
Tim Powers’ fourth novel, The Anubis Gates, was such a perfectly crafted, fully self-contained work that I doubt very much if any of his legion of fans could have reasonably expected a sequel. Released originally in 1983, the book has gone on to become a classic of sorts in both the “steampunk” and “secret histories” fantasy subgenres, deservedly earning itself both the Philip K. Dick Award and a pride of place in Jones & Newman’s Horror: 100 Best Books. Showcasing Powers’ gift of seemingly limitless imagination combined with a staggering amount of historical research, the novel was a true dazzler; as I enthused after my initial read, its “way-out plot manages to conflate the brainwashed ‘ka’ of Lord Byron, a body-hopping werewolf, an underground criminal society headed... Read More
Codex Born by Jim C. Hines
Codex Born is the second book in Jim C. Hines’s MAGIC EX LIBRIS series, featuring the libriomancer Isaac Vainio. In the first book we learned about Hines’s delightful magical system in which gifted people can materialize objects out of books — mostly famous or well-beloved books. In the first book, Libriomancer, part of the pleasure was watching Hines name-check classic science fiction and fantasy books, and that joy continues in Codex Born.
This book also takes some time to develop the character of Lena Greenwood, a dryad who isn’t a real dryad. Each chapter opens with a section in Lena’s point of view, giving us scenes from her past. It’s helpful, and humanizes someone who was basically a magical sidekick in book one. These sections take the form of journal entries, and one of them, a poem, is lov... Read More
Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey
Each of Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels is a stand-alone fairytale retelling. Some of the novels have overlapping characters, but you can read these books in any order. The fourth book, Phoenix and Ashes, is a mostly pleasant Cinderella story set in England during The Great War. Maya, the Indian doctor from The Serpent’s Shadow, is a minor character. I listened to Michelle Ford narrate the audio version of Phoenix and Ashes (Audible Studios). She is perfect for this tale.
Unlike some of the other ELEMENTAL MASTERS stories, Phoenix and Ashes stays pretty close to the source material; you can tell this is a Cinderella story. Eleanor Robinson’s father is killed during WW1 and Eleanor is left living in the house she grew up in with her socially-c... Read More
Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra by Poul Anderson
Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra is the sixth part in Baen's project to publish all of Poul Anderson's works in the Technic Civilization universe in chronological order. This edition is again marred by some truly horrific cover art. I have a hard time deciding which of the volumes with Flandry in the title has the worst cover. I guess Baen is trying to emphasize the James Bond is space image of Flandry but it could have been done a bit more tastefully. Can you see yourself reading this on the train going home from work? I'm going to have to keep this cover carefully hidden from visitors. Let’s get back to the actual content. This volume contains three full length novels as well as well as a short story. The most interesting piece was the last novel in the collection, A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.
The... Read More
Drawn Blades by Kelly McCullough
Drawn Blades is the fifth book in Kelly McCullough’s FALLEN BLADE series. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.
Aral Kingslayer has finally emerged from his mental paralysis after the death of his Goddess, Namara. It has taken eight years, a lot of alcohol and the death of some friends for Aral to reach this point. With a new-found set of ideals, Aral is ready to start making a difference.
Siri Mythkiller was the First Blade of the order of Namara before its fall. Her talents in the arts of the assassin were top shelf, but her ability in magic had taken her to pinnacles others could match. After she is assigned the task to kill a powerful quasi God who has been imprisoned for many years, she finds herself gradually being possessed more and more by The Smoldering Flame. When Siri reaches out from distant Sylvani to ask f... Read More
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Many Waters is the fourth book in Madeleine L’Engle’s TIME quintet. The previous three books, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet have all focused on Meg Murray and her strange little brother Charles Wallace as they travel through time and space. Many Waters is completely different. In this story, Meg’s twin brothers Sandy and Dennis mess with a computer in their mother’s lab and get blasted back to the time of Noah before he built the ark. From there the story turns into a strange historical fantasy whose source text is Genesis 6.
In this well-known biblical story, God declares that humans are violent and corru... Read More
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
When Cixin Liu opens his novel The Three-Body Problem during the abject years of China’s Cultural Revolution, you realize just how much of Chinese history and myth is already deep into speculative territory for most of us.
The teaching of quantum mechanics is forbidden, the Copenhagen interpretation that posits that external observation leads to the collapse of the quantum wave function is considered “the most brazen expression [of reactionary idealism].” When physicist Ye Zhetai continues to espouse such reactionary ideas, he is killed by four girls during a “struggle session” meant to discover and purge the country of the enemies of the Cultural Revolution.
This is how we meet one of the novel’s main characters, Ye Wenjie, Ye Zhe... Read More
Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Everyone thinks of Rin as her mother’s shadow. She belongs to a large extended family that all live near each other in the forest and, until recently, Rin has always been her hard-working mother’s helper. She cooks, cleans, fetches the water, helps take care of all the kids, etc. When she needs a little peace, she communes with the trees of the forest. She doesn’t really “speak” with them, but just feels their love and the constant harmony they provide.
But then Rin did something bad and the trees have withdrawn their love. She feels their disappointment and disgust with her. Now Rin feels unworthy and unloved and begins to sink into depression. In an attempt to help, her big brother Razo invites her to join him and his new wife at the Bayern court. There she meets Queen Isi and admires her strength and confidence. As Rin tries to find her place at court, she manages to tag along on a quest t... Read More
Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg
In Lord Valentine’s Castle, Robert Silverberg created an exotic planet filled with peoples and landscapes, all bursting with imagination. Silverberg also gave his audience a strong, lovingly crafted main character in Lord Valentine, a man recovering after his throne was wrongfully swept out from beneath his feet. The conclusion of the tale, Valentine Pontifex, is the other side of the coin, however. How does Valentine deal with the weighty exigencies of leadership, all the while getting older? Not as fresh or original as Lord Valentine’s Castle, Valentine Pontifex is nevertheless a fair read that continues to define Silverberg’s take on science fantasy on the vast planet Majipoor.
Ten years have passed since Lord Valentine retook the throne that was rightfully his, and in the time s... Read More
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
Falling Free is an early stand-alone story in Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA. It takes place before the events we read about in the other books and tells the story of the Quaddies, those genetically engineered “mutants” who have four arms and no legs and who, therefore, make good workers for zero-gravity situations. They were created in secret by a corporation who is using them as free labor.
The story starts when Leo Graf, an engineer, is hired to train students on a distant planet. Leo doesn’t know, and isn’t told, that his new students are Quaddies, so he’s quite surprised and repulsed when he first meets them. Despite their strange anatomy, though, the Quaddies are just as smart as other humans and their four arms makes them better at some mechanical tasks. Soon it becomes apparent that the Quaddies are really just children and ... Read More
Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson
David and the Reckoners have freed Newcago from Steelheart’s dictatorship, but the people are slow to believe in themselves. Epics have divided and dominated America for so long that many people are leaving before another Epic arrives to take over Steelheart’s domain. David takes comfort in the return of Chicago style hotdogs and in the steady trickle of people that choose to enter the city each day in search of freedom and a better life.
However, a new Epic does attempt to take over Newcago in Brandon Sanderson’s short story, “Mitosis.” An Epic, Mitosis is a little like Marvel’s Multiple Man: he has the power to split into multiple beings and he lives so long as one of his copies lives. Thankfully, David and his friends are developing a knack for discovering the Achilles heel of the Ep... Read More