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An Autumn War: Even more exciting than the first two novels

An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

This third novel in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET is even more exciting than the first two novels. In the first book, A Shadow in Summer, we saw the Galts (the enemies of the city-states of the Khaiem) destroy the industry of the Khaiem’s most glorious city, Saraykeht. In the second book, A Betrayal in Winter, the Galts attempted to get control of the city of Machi by killing off the Khai’s sons and installing their own man as Khai. However, the failed poet Otah, the youngest son of the Khai, managed (with the help of his old friend Maati) to uncover the plot and become Khai in Machi.

Fourteen years later, the Galts have not given up. That’s because they still suffer from the way they were treated by the Khaiem generations ago when the Khaiem’s andats destroyed Galt and turned part of their land into a vast wastelan... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman

The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman

The Necromancer's House, by Christopher Buehlman, is a scary, funny, fast-paced urban fantasy novel with a rich voice and likeable characters. With its multiple viewpoints and several satisfying reveals along the way, it is one of the most well-crafted and exciting books I have read in a while.

Buehlman tells the story of Andrew Blankenship, a charming, brilliant modern wizard who drives an antique Mustang, wears his long black hair in a samurai bun, and goes to AA meetings regularly. He lives in the woods of upstate New York, in a house stocked and protected with ancient magic, much of it stolen from Baba Yaga in Soviet Russia. He's in love with his lesbian apprentice, sleeps with a rusalka (a mermaid in Slavic myth), and is served and protected by the reanimated heart of his dead dog in the body of a wicker man. To put it simply, his life is not without ... Read More

Stardust: Full of magic and whimsy

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Despite only being a modest 50 000 words, Stardust sure packs one hell of a punch. Originally published as a comic, Stardust tells the story of the village of Wall. In Wall there is a wall, and behind this wall is Faerie. Every nine years a Faerie market is held, and it is the only time that gap in the wall is left unguarded for villagers of Wall and Faerie alike to come and go as they please. Full of magic and whimsy, Stardust will transport readers into a magical wonderland spawned from the genius of Neil Gaiman.

Dunstan Thorn is a resident of Wall when the Faerie market is about to take place. An influx of visitors, weird and wonderful, have borne down on the village of Wall in anticipation, for the boundary between the worlds is about to be opened, an event that occurs only once every nine years. He offers a v... Read More

Midnight Riot: Took me entirely by surprise

Midnight Riot (aka Rivers of London in the UK) by Ben Aaronovitch

Editor’s Note: Rachael is in the UK where this book is titled Rivers of London, but for consistency on the site, we’re showing the US cover.

Every now and then a book will come along that will take you entirely by surprise. It may change your perception of what it is possible for a book to do: stories you didn’t know could be told, lengths you didn’t realise the imagination could stretch to. Rivers of London did just that. Before I really knew what I was getting myself into, I was immersed in the seedy supernatural underworld of London crime.

The story is told by young police officer Peter Grant, who is about to be transferred to the Case Progression Unit, a branch of the London Met that specialises solely in ... Read More

What is a Superhero?: A nice introduction to superheroes

What is a Superhero? by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan (editors)

What is a Superhero?, a collection of 25 essays edited by Robin S. Rosenberg and Peter Coogan, doesn’t aim to present “the” answer to this oft-asked question. Instead, it throws open to the door to an array of answers (some of which are directly contradictory) from people across a wide spectrum of fields: philosophers, psychologists, comic book creators, cultural critics, etc. If, as is almost always the case in any collection, the individual essays vary in quality of insight, depth, and style, taken as a whole, What is a Superhero? makes for an always enjoyable and sometimes insightful or thought-provoking read.

The book is divided into four broad sections: a definition of the superhero centering particularly on the three-legged stool of “mission, powers, and identity,” an examination of the role of “context, culture, and c... Read More

Ender’s Game Alive: A new way to experience Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card

This review assumes you have read Ender's Game, or are familiar with it, so it may contain some spoilers for Ender’s Game.

Before becoming one of the of most accomplished science fiction authors of his generation, Orson Scott Card worked as a writer of full-length plays for BYU, where he studied. He also wrote audioplays on LDS Church history. It follows from his experience then, that when Orson Scott Card set his sights on adapting his hit novel Ender's Game into Ender's Game Alive, a full-cast audioplay, the result could be nothing less than that classic novel deserves.

If you've read the novel you know how it goes. Ender is the third child in a time where a couple is only allowed to have two children. Supposed to have the same geniality his brother and sister h... Read More

The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales: Excellent compendium of a legendary career

The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales by Robert E. Howard

A very long time ago, when I was still in high school, Texas-born Robert E. Howard was one of my favorite authors, and this reader could not get enough of him, whether it was via such legendary characters as Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Solomon Kane or Bran Mak Morn.

Flash forward more years than I’d care to admit, and one day I realized that I hadn’t read a book of Howard’s in all that intervening time. Sure, I’d run across the occasional story of his now and then; when your tastes run to vintage pulp fiction, as do mine, and you read a lot of old anthologies and Best of Weird Tales collections, the man is practically unavoidable. But an entire book devoted to Howard … it had been eons, for me.

Thus, the collection entitled The Haunter of the Ri... Read More

The Affirmation: Literary science fiction does not get much better

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest

I’ve heard Christopher Priest’s 1981 novel The Affirmation described as regressive, an ouroboros eating its own tail, a Moeibus strip. While there is undoubtedly an M.C. Escher quality to the book — a blurring of reality — the beginning and end are simply too different to form a contiguous whole reverting back on itself. They’re opposite ends of a spectrum in fact, and the appeal of the novel is immersing one’s self in the subjective reality Priest slowly unwraps and getting lost in the world of memories as a result.

The true nature of The Affirmation requires thought; the easy part is relaxing throughout the journey. Priest patiently and precisely lays down the text — words like railroad ties on a Sunday train ride to the country — the story moving effortlessly along. The sublime prose lulls the reader into the deceivingly mu... Read More

The Tricksters: A supernatural puzzle-box inside a New Zealand family drama

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy was one of New Zealand's most seminal writers, and one of only a few authors to twice-win the Carnegie Medal — first for The Haunting and then for The Changeover. As good as these books are, my personal favourite is The Tricksters, written for a slightly older audience and filled with her trademark New Zealand scenery, supernatural occurrences, family dramas and the awakening of a young person to adulthood. Older readers shouldn't be put off by the claims that this is a "young adult" novel, as any intelligent reader over the age of thirteen will enjoy what is perhaps Mahy's best work.

The Hamilton family gather at their beach house at Carnival's Hide to celebrate Christ... Read More

Excession: Does anyone do far future better than Banks?

Excession by Iain M. Banks

Let’s skip the highty-flighty, atmospheric float of intros and get right to the point. Iain M. Banks’ 1996 Excession is gosh-wow, sense-wunda science fiction that pushes the limits of the genre as far into the imagination — and future — as any book has. The AI ship-minds, post-human world-is-your-oyster humanity, and incredible roster of engine speeds, galaxies, drones, weaponry, biological possibilities, planets, orbitals, etc., etc. of previous books have been topped. Banks took a look at the savory milieu of the Culture, cocked his head and asked: “How can I up the ante?” The titular ‘excession’ is the answer.

Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant Rendezvous with Rama sees humanity attempting to quantify and understand a BDO (big dumb object) that comes sailing th... Read More

SubCulture Omnibus by Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan

SubCulture Omnibus by Kevin Freeman (writer) and Stan Yan (artist)

I love to read, but for the life of me, I can’t stay up reading all night. Or at least, that’s usually the case. However, last night I had one of those rare occasions because I made the mistake of starting to read the SubCulture Omnibus by Kevin Freeman and Stan Yan. The subculture in this book is geek- or fanboy-culture. The geek/fanboy group in this comic consists of mostly young adults who have met through, and hang out at, the local comic shop: Kingdom Comix.

Freeman’s SubCulture is a black-and-white, episodic story that I just could not stop reading, even when I got past the four... Read More

Locke and Key: Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key (Vol 3): Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill (writer) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist)

Toil and trouble; the cauldron begins to bubble.

(May contain spoilers of earlier volumes.)

In Crown of Shadows, the third volume in Locke and Key, written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, the simmering sense of doom we encountered in Volume Two comes to a boil. More keys are found. More truths are revealed to the reader, and where truths are not uncovered, clues are dropped. Choices the characters made earlier in the narrative begin to have consequences.

Because he has the Anywhere Key, Luke Caravaggio, the thing that was rel... Read More

The Portent: Duende by Peter Bergting

The Portent: Duende by Peter Bergting

It seems as if every month when I go into the comic shop, I discover a new science fiction, fantasy, or horror title. These genres are getting better and better treatment in comic books. They are done so well and there are so many of them that you could happily spend your time reading only SFF and horror comics and have no time left over for novels in those genres. Just last night I read an excellent fantasy title: The Portent: Duende by Peter Bergting.

It has some of the best art I’ve ever seen. In fact, the art is so good, the one person I mentioned it to today looked it up online and purchased it immediately after... Read More

The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Suggests rather than reveals

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

After I read Patrick Rothfuss's novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I spent some time leisurely cleaning my house, enjoying putting things "just so." Reading it put me in a meditative mood, the mood to organize my life and, in doing so, organize my mind.

This KINGKILLER CHRONICLES story follows Auri, the blonde urchin who befriends Kvothe in The Name of the Wind. Readers get to experience a week of Auri's life in the Underthing, the maze of tunnels and ruins that run under the University. During this time, she forages for food, uncovers hidden objects, and prepares for the arrival, in seven days' time, of a guest — unnamed, but suggested to be Kvothe.

In addition to reading the manuscript, I listened to Rothfuss’s narration. It was lovely to hear this in his own voice; I have spent so... Read More

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow (author) and Jen Wang (artist)

Though Cory Doctorow's In Real Life is a fictional story about a teenager introduced to the world of online multiplayer role-playing games, it's also about ethical issues involving the internet and labor. These ethical issues are not the usual ones we expect when discussing ethics and the internet: In Real Life mentions the obvious concerns we all have about online predators, but it focuses on the way the internet has the potential to be a force for good in terms of activism, as Doctorow explains in his insightful introductory essay.

Doctorow talks about how the internet allow... Read More

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