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Hollow City: I wanted to love it, but ended up only liking it

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City picks up almost immediately after the events of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the first book in the MISS PEREGRINE’S PECULIAR CHILDREN series. From the very beginning Hollow City is an action-packed adventure in all the places that the first book was a thoughtful, eerie mystery. I enjoyed the change of pace Ransom Riggs set in this sequel, though this new territory brought with it its own problems. (Please note: this review will contain spoilers throughout due to the mysterious nature of the first book. Some points I will be discussing were not known until most of the way through Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children but I have found them integral to talking about Hollow City... Read More

The Sorcerer’s House: Beautifully otherworldly

The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe

In 2010, Gene Wolfe published The Sorcerer’s House, a surprisingly accessible novel using standard fantasy tropes to tell an interesting story about families, legacies, and lies. Wolfe returns to the style of his very early works with a book that uses letters and notes to tell its tale.

Baxter Dunn, recently released from prison after serving three years for fraud, has ended up in the town of Riverscene. When he explores an abandoned house, he discovers — much to his surprise, having believed that he was completely broke — that he owns it. Things get stranger until Bax is dealing with werewolves, vampires, magical devices, and a house that grows and shrinks without warning. Bax also battles his perpetually-angry brother George, meets a set of twins connected to the house, and acquires a set ... Read More

Edge of Dark: Humanity vs. the natural and the unnatural

Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper

In Edge of Dark, Brenda Cooper comes back to the world she created in her RUBY'S SONG duology. In it, humanity has driven AI robots to the edge of the galaxy — to the titular “Edge of Dark” — and maintained their own perimeter of ships and space stations, called The Glittering, around habitable planets, keeping warmth and life to themselves. However, the robots (called, ominously, The Next) have come back, invading a lone scientific space station, killing most of the crew, and uploading the consciousnesses of a chosen few into “soulbot” bodies. As a result of this, human and robot denizens of the three worlds — the planets, the Glittering, and the Edge — are thrown together in a tense political, environmental, and metaphysical drama that spans the galaxy.

If this s... Read More

Murder on the Orient Elite: A short GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES story

Murder on the Orient Elite by Larry Correia

For fans who just can’t wait for the next installment in Larry Correia’s GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES, you can get a quick fix by reading Murder on the Orient Elite. In this short story (only 1 hour and 15 minutes on audio) which is set in an alternate 1937, not too long after the events of Warbound, Jake Sullivan is contacted by Dr. Wells to do an undercover job on Wells’ dirigible, The Orient Elite. Wells, the psychopathic (and maybe also paranoid) psychologist, suspects that one of his passengers is planning to blow up the luxury airship on its maiden voyage and he wants Jake to figure out who the saboteur is. When Jake comes aboard, he realizes the ship is full of his usual enemies — Russian, German, and Japanese agents. Jake must uncover the plot ... Read More

Deadeye: Entertaining, but not too innovative

Deadeye by William C. Dietz

Deadeye
is a new novel, the first in THE MUTANT FILES series by William C. Dietz. After reading some of Dietz’s LEGION OF THE DAMNED books I was more than curious about what his work in a different genre would be like. Deadeye feels like a post-apocalyptic zombie novel mixed with a police investigation novel: everyone is still some version of human and the hero is a police detective.

Cassandra Lee is a detective working in a special division of the Los Angeles police department. She is the child of a cop and comes with all the trappings of a typical heroine. Basically, she’s deadly, ultra-intelligent and very, very good at what she does. She is honestly nothing new, but Dietz writes her well enough that re... Read More

Horrible Monday? Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King

For the most part, being sheriff of Castle Rock, Maine is a peaceful job — that’s what Sheriff Alan Pangborn tells himself on difficult days. And for the most part, Alan’s right. Castle Rock is indeed a peaceful little town. Sure, there are frictions. The Catholics are planning to have a Casino Nite, which angers the Baptists. Wilma Jerzyck thinks she knows best, and she isn’t afraid to bully anyone in the town until they accept her way. And everyone knows that Buster Keeton abuses his authority as the town’s selectman. Still, one day in Castle Rock mostly leads into the next without incident.

So everyone’s abuzz when a new shop, Needful Things, opens. Needful Things is an unusual shop: it’s run by an urbane newcomer, Leland Gaunt; there are no prices on any of his stock; and although no one knows precisely what Needful Things sells, the townspeople will soon learn that Gaunt has someth... Read More

I Shall Wear Midnight: Tiffany faces another Hiver

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

When Tiffany thinks about her age, she thinks that she’s “nearly sixteen.” On the Chalk, “nearly sixteen” means, for many girls, thinking about marriage. Tiffany might lack her peers’ enthusiasm for boys, but she has delivered babies and tended to the terminally ill. Tiffany has dealt with domestic abuse. As a witch, Tiffany’s job is to take care of everyone, the young and the old alike, and to face the things, every day, that people just do not like to face. Tiffany is wise beyond her years, and she’s certainly not thinking about boys and marriage.

But Tiffany does know that Roland is getting married to a bimbo. But children do ask her whether witches even have “passionate parts.” But she did kiss the Wintersmith.

(More of a peck, really. “No tongue!” Tiffany reminds one witch.)

Kissing the Wintersmith is a problem, or it’s a... Read More

The Diamond of Darkhold: A satisfying, but not thrilling, conclusion

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

When the Roamer, Maggs, drives her carriage into the small town of Sparks, she finds a desperate people with nothing to trade. Sparks used to be reasonably flush for a post-apocalyptic society, but absorbing the refugees from Ember just before winter has used up almost all of its resources. People aren’t starving, but they might be soon. Maggs is about to leave when Doon and Lina spot an old book in her carriage. Doon wants the book, but Maggs has been using the book as fuel for her fires, so she insists that Lina pay at least one match for it.

The book turns out to have been written by the Builders for the people of Ember — probably to help them after they return to the surface, reasons Doon. Only eight pages remain, but they inspire Doon to return to Ember in order to find whatever the Builders left for them — and to scavenge any food that might still remain in the subterranean cit... Read More

Trigger Warning: Diamonds, pearls, and fool’s gold

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

In Trigger Warning, his latest collection of what he calls “Short Fictions and Disturbances,” Neil Gaiman gathers together several short stories and poems which examine that most interesting of creatures: a person, or a small group of people, under pressure. How will they react to the unknown? What decisions will they make in a crisis? Whether it’s something seemingly innocuous, such as a child’s request for a bedtime story or a letter from a man to his beloved, or something far grander, on the scale of mystical doors between worlds or a cave which grants gold in exchange for a terrible price, each character must face a trial. Success is never guaranteed.

So what is a “trigger warning?” Dictionary.com defines it as “a stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especi... Read More

The Aylesford Skull: Absurd steampunk with a subtle wit

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock

James P. Blaylock is most famous for being a protégé of Philip K. Dick and, along with his friends K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers, developing the steampunk genre of fantasy fiction in the 1980s. Blaylock’s most popular steampunk stories take place in Victorian England and feature gentleman inventor Langdon St. Ives and his archnemesis Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, a hunch-backed necromancer. The Aylesford Skull is considered to be the seventh installment of THE NARBONDO SERIES, though each of the LANGDON ST. IVES novels can stand alone.

In Th... Read More

Saturn’s Children: Fun and adventure in a post-human galaxy

Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

In the future of Charles StrossSaturn’s Children, humans have somehow managed to kill themselves off. But, before they did, they developed an array of artificial intelligence machines to serve them. Some were sent out to explore and settle the galaxy. The universe now contains all sorts of robots and cyborgs. They’ve set up a class-structured society with “aristo” robots owning those that humans had fitted with loyalty-inducing slave-chips. This strange new feudal society carries on with normal business, free from the oversight and lordship of humans.

Freya is one of these cyborgs. She was designed to be a “companion” (to put it nicely) for humans, so she is humanoid in appearance and exhibits most human emotions and motivations. She was spawned from a “mother” named Rhea ... Read More

The Book of Lost Tales 2: Framework for Tolkien’s fantasy epic

The Book of Lost Tales 2 by J.R.R.Tolkien

In volumes one and two of The Book of Lost Tales, we have a more or less full picture of the earliest work J.R.R. Tolkien did in the development of his personal mythology which later grew into the tales of Middle Earth. It was a mythology meant to provide England with something he felt it sorely needed: a foundation myth. Also, it was a vehicle which allowed him to explore and expand upon his own fascination with the world and stories of Faery, and his love for the invented languages of his youth. The frame of the entire mythology at this point centred on the character of an English mariner (initially called Eriol and later Aelfwine, each with varying origin stories) who was shipwrecked upon the isle of Tol Eressëa, the last bastion of the Elves who have all but fled the mortal world. Here are recounted t... Read More

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz: Stay away from girls named Gale

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

If you happen to know Dorothy Gale, let me advise you to stay away from her. The girl attracts natural disasters like she’s some sort of magnet. This time, it’s an earthquake. Dorothy and her cousin Zeb are traveling on a wagon in California when it strikes. Down they go into a big crack in the earth and keep falling until they land in a city made of glass buildings. There are several clues that they have entered a fairy realm: Zeb’s horse (Jim) and Dorothy’s kitten (Eureka) can suddenly talk, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (who was also in California) shows up with nine tiny piglets in his pocket, and the inhabitants of the city turn out to be made of vegetable matter. Dorothy and her friends can’t get out of the earth the way they came, so they decide to try to walk to Oz where they know they’ll be welcome.

First they are nearly killed while trying to fight their way past the... Read More

Firefight: A by-the-book fast-paced explosive novel

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

This review contains spoilers for Steelheart, the previous novel in the series.

With great power comes great responsibility, or so the saying goes. When an inexplicable event grants superpowers to common men and women, instead of the heroic deeds of superheroes, the world witnesses its destruction when those same superpowers corrupt those who wield them. Such is the setting Brandon Sanderson introduced us to in Steelheart, the first book in his new young adult series, THE RECKONERS.

Firefight follows just a few months after the ending of Steelheart, with David, now called by his fellow Reckoners as Steelslayer, having killed Steelheart and liberated the city of Newcago from the tyranny of the High Epic, avenging his father’s death in the process. Having ac... Read More

Half a Crown: The most optimistic, but weakest, book of the trilogy

Half a Crown by Jo Walton

(Warning: may contain spoilers of the two previous books.)

In the foreword to Half a Crown, Jo Walton says that she is by nature an optimistic person and that’s why she wrote the SMALL CHANGE series (which she refers to as Still Life with Fascists). Half a Crown, the final book in the trilogy, is admittedly more optimistic that the first two. Sadly, in several ways it’s the weakest of the three, although still worth reading.

The final book is set in 1960, more than ten years into the repressive fascist regime of Prime Minister Mark Normanby. Peter Carmichael is now the head of the Watch, Britain’s Gestapo. Within the Watch, Carmichael and his lieutenant Jacobson, the agency’s “model Jew,” run the clandestine Inner Watch, an underground railroad that sends Jews and other people deemed ... Read More

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