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Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone: A fascinating pilgrimage

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian McDonald

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone is a fascinating short novel by Ian McDonald. At the beginning of the story we meet Ethan Ring, who’s feeling conspicuously tall and red-headed as he chants in a Buddhist temple. Ethan and his friend, a famous Japanese manga artist, are on a bicycle pilgrimage in Japan. Neither of them knows what kind of demons the other is struggling with, and neither does the reader at first, but as they journey on, their stories come out and even though each man’s tale is different, they realize that both of them are searching for redemption and peace.

Many stories deal with a hero’s search for redemption, but Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone is unique. The setting is a neo-feudal Japan where tech corporations are the fiefdoms and gangs of armed vigilantes threaten citizens’ peace and security. This is jarringly j... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough

The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough

Note: This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy. The review of the first of the books in the trilogy, A Matter of Blood, is here; the review of the second, The Shadow of the Soul, is here.

The first two books of Sarah Pinborough’s ... Read More

The Oversight: One of the best audiobooks I’ve read this year

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher, previously best known for his Middle Grade STONEHEART trilogy, makes his adult debut with The Oversight, the first book in his OVERSIGHT trilogy. I listened to Hachette Audio’s version read by the illustrious Simon Prebble, an Audie-winning narrator who always brings out the best in the books he reads.

The story is set in a supernatural Victorian London where five gifted people who call themselves The Oversight attempt to protect the world from the paranormal baddies that live in another dimension and are trying to break through. The Oversight used to be a much larger group, but sometime in the past they were decimated by an event that is related to us bit by bit throughout the story. As long as there are at least five people (a “hand”) left, the border between worlds will stand, but the group is now so... Read More

The Crimson Campaign: A wonderful sequel

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

War is hell. That is true on many different levels, and each individual copes with it differently. Brian McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign is a journey into hell from four perspectives — each character’s hell no less terrible than the others’.

Tamas is the acknowledged tyrant, military leader,and  instigator of the overthrow on the Kingdom of Andro when his group of crack powder-mages killed the King and his royal cabal of Privileged (extremely powerful users of magic). Tamas has been through hell, fighting war after war until finally the murder/execution of his wife leaves him with just one goal left: revenge. Fighting the armies of Kez is something he knows well, but losing battles to them is not. When a bold, risky maneuver fails and leaves him trapped with an elite but relatively small group of soldiers behind enemy lines, Tamas has to find a way to save them. Watching... Read More

Barbarian Lord by Matt Smith

Barbarian Lord by Matt Smith

Barbarian Lord is an excellent story for both kids and adults, particularly fans of Icelandic Sagas and Nordic Mythology, which Matt Smith has clearly studied and for which he has an obvious passion. This book would be perfect for introducing kids to this mythological world; however, it's not merely a retelling of classic Nordic tales, though some of them are certainly incorporated. Rather, Barbarian Lord is a unique combination of all these and more, even a bit of Tolkien and He-Man, Smith acknowledges in the back of the book.

The story of Barbarian Lord starts with a listing of his family lineage, including some animals, which lends mystery to Barbarian Lord's strength and leadership. T... Read More

The Great Glass Sea: A fine literary novel with a solid SF premise

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

It’s difficult to write a comprehensive yet succinct critique of a work by someone who understands storytelling from the bones outward, who writes unsentimentally about a place he loves and uses exquisite language while doing it. That’s my particular challenge with Josh Weil’s literary novel The Great Glass Sea.

I’m reviewing The Great Glass Sea for our Edge of the Universe column because the springboard for the story is an audacious SF what-if: What if orbiting space mirrors could provide 24 hours of light to an agricultural area on earth? What if endless acres of farmland could be sheltered from the elements of winter under huge greenhouses, a sea of glass, and crops could be grown year round? This is the starting point of Weil’s thoughtful, elegiac novel about Russia, his lyrical character study of two broth... Read More

Skin Game: Exciting and Well-Crafted

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Reading a DRESDEN FILES book at this point is literary equivalent of sky-diving. I think I’ve compared the experience to a roller coaster before, but I was in error. Roller coasters, in the main, start off with a slow clickety-clack up a steep slope, and you sort of bob up and down and round and round after that before finally drifting to a long, hissing halt. Skin Game, however, dispenses with the trappings and simply shoves your exuberantly screaming self out an airplane door and directly into glorious freefall.

When last we saw Harry Dresden – wizard and Winter Knight – he had learnt that he had somehow been conned into becoming Warden for a maximum security magical prison called Demonreach, an island in the midd... Read More

Destination X by John Martz

Destination X by John Martz

I've recently become a fan of Nobrow Press: They put out unique, and often small, runs of graphic novels that stand out as special works of art because of the high level of paper, binding, and printing techniques. Each graphic novel is sized differently to suit best the artwork inside, and in the case of Destination X, the book is a small, square volume. Each book stands out and looks and even feels unlike any comic book or graphic novel I've ever seen.  Destination X by John Martz is a little less colorful than some other Nobrow selections, but the choice of color scheme is appropriate for the shor... Read More

Drawn to Marvel: Excelsior!

Drawn to Marvel edited by Bryan D. Dietrich & Marta Ferguson

Comic book superheroes have become the dominant money-making vehicle in Hollywood the past decade or so, and we’re become accustomed to seeing them in spectacular, big-screen set pieces that boggle our eyes. But sometimes it’s nice to shift perspective a bit, not just to give our senses a break from the noise and sound and spectacle, but also to allow for a more intimate relationship, a more thoughtful one, one that evokes other emotions beyond “wow.” And that’s just what is offered by the anthology Drawn to Marvel, a collection of several hundred poems by over a hundred poets, edited by Bryan D. Dietrich and Marta Ferguson. Amongst the big-name contributors are: Albert Goldbarth, Sherman Alexie, John Ashberry, Lucille Clifton, Hilda Raz, and William Trowbridge, but if some of the other names are not as easily recognized (if one can even say that about poets... Read More

ZITA THE SPACEGIRL by Ben Hatke

ZITA THE SPACEGIRL by Ben Hatke

If I were forced to choose one word to sum up Ben Hatke’s ZITA THE SPACEGIRL trilogy, it would be “delightful.” I could toss a lot more words into the mix — imaginative, whimsical, heartwarming, and so on, but really, all one need know is the entire series is a delight. And now I just wondered if our comic/graphic expert Brad had reviewed it and of course he has, and it turns out at the end he says Zita is “a delight.” So there you go.

The trilogy is made up of Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. The books are aimed at YA, and it’s hard to imagine any child not enjoying every aspect of it — character, plot, visuals. While it lacks the rich depth or wholly original characters to make it a full crossover book, it’s equally h... Read More

Monster (Vol. 1): The Perfect Edition by Naoki Urasawa

Monster (Vol. 1): The Perfect Edition by Naoki Urasawa

Warning: This review is spoiler heavy, but I wanted to write a review of volume one that could let you know if you might want to read the entire series. You can read safely up to the first place I've marked for spoilers. There's another place I warn of even more spoilers, so you have two places you might want to stop reading.

Monster by Naoki Urasawa is an award-winning manga that was written from 1994-2001, and once completed, it was eighteen volumes long. It is now being re-released in the United States, and I'm very pleased: I have read some of Urasawa's other work, and it's not average manga. He is known for both 20th Century Boys, of which I have read a little, and Read More

The Secret Sharer and Other Stories: Silverberg achieves greatness

The Secret Sharer and Other Stories by Robert Silverberg

The Secret Sharer and Other Stories by Robert Silverberg is available on Audible and offers a top-notch performance by Robertson Dean. The title is a little misleading, I think. There are only three selections included, and only one is a short story. The other two seem to be novellas. However, based on the way Silverberg’s works have been repackaged and republished over the years, even those distinctions are difficult to make: For example, We Are for the Dark is included in both his collected short stories volume seven, We Are for the Dark: 1987-1990, and in the collection Sailing to Byzantium: Six Novellas. In listening to all three selections, I noticed that The Secret Sharer and We Are for the Dark are both much longer than "Good News from the Vatican." The short story is a good one, but I absolutely loved the two... Read More

The Daylight War: Compulsively Readable

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

I’d hazard a guess that a sizable majority of readers become readers in the first place because at one point in time a book swept them away. An aesthetic appreciation for imagery or turn of phrase is all well and good, but most if not all of us hunger for a novel that seizes us by the throat and drags us into another world. Whatever else it may be, The Daylight War is such a novel, compulsively readable. I found myself putting off real life to finish it, and it was a good feeling. A lot of it is down to Peter V. Brett’s deft styling and plotting, keeping his reader hooked without sacrificing artistic integrity. He does it so well that he even manages to keep his reader enthralled despite the fact that — in comparison to his two previous novels — very little actually happens in The Daylight War.

In the aforementioned first two books, Brettintroduced readers to... Read More

The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg Volume One: To Be Continued 1953-1958

The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg Volume One: To Be Continued 1953-1958 by Robert Silverberg

Though To Be Continued: 1953-1958 is the first official volume of the definitive collection of Robert Silverberg's short stories, it should be read after In the Beginning: Tales from the Pulp Era (1955-1959), a collection of short stories that overlaps with To Be Continued only in terms of chronology: There are absolutely no stories duplicated in the two volumes, and in To Be Continued, Silverberg makes frequent reference to In the Beginning which, like To Be Continued, has the same autobiographical introductions to every story.

Having now read these first two volumes, I am fairly certain Silverberg would want readers to finish In the Be... Read More

Blue Mars: A superb conclusion

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s MARS trilogy is one of the grandest thought experiments in literature, let alone science fiction. While Red Mars sets into motion mankind’s inhabitation of the red planet, and Green Mars delves into terraforming and social and political aspects of the inhabitation, it remains for Blue Mars to make the final statement regarding man’s potential on Mars. Blue Mars continues evolving the series’ main ideas, bringing our own society into sharper focus by comparison. Fully contextualizing life on Earth, Blue Mars expands to solar system size, and is thus a grand finale in more than just story.

Wasting no time, Blue Mars picks up events precisely where Gr... Read More

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