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Mary of Marion Isle: Another wonderful Haggard adventure

Mary of Marion Isle by H. Rider Haggard

The great H. Rider Haggard wrote a total of 58 novels before his death in May 1925, and of that number, four were released posthumously. Mary of Marion Isle was his penultimate creation, one which he wrote in 1924, although, as revealed in D.S. Higgins' biography of Haggard, the idea for the story first came to him in 1916, while sailing to Australia and watching the albatrosses circling his ship. The novel was ultimately released in April 1929, and, as stated by Higgins, was limited to a run of only 3,500 copies by the publisher Hutchinson & Co. Somehow, many years ago, I got my hands on one, and in fair shape, too. I'm glad I did, because it turns out to be another wonderful Haggard adventure, although many reviewers (Higgins included) tend to denigrate these later Haggard titles as being mere rehashes of older works. Well, I suppose that some of the themes and set pieces in... Read More

The Gypsy: A Brust & Lindholm collaboration

The Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm

Experienced police man Mike Stepovich anf his green partner Durand apprehend a gypsy suspected of murdering a shopkeeper. Stepovich immediately notices something strange about the gypsy and does something he's never done in his long career. He fails to turn in the knife the gypsy is carrying. Somehow he knows the gypsy is not the murderer and the knife is special. Later that night, the gypsy disappears without a trace from the police cell they are holding him in. Murder investigations are not the territory of an ordinary patrol cop but this case does not let him go, especially when the body of an old gypsy woman turns up. Again, the suspect Stepovich and his partner arrested seems to be involved and Stepovich is determined to find him. His search will lead him into a supernatural power struggle the existence of which he never suspected.

The Gypsy (1992) is an u... Read More

Under a Graveyard Sky: Here comes the Zombie Apocalypse

Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo

I have friends who are “preppers”:  people who stockpile supplies and make solid plans for what to do in the event of a natural disaster or complete collapse of society. Under a Graveyard Sky tells the story of the kind of scenario my friends have planned for, and of how the world as we know it could unravel if the Zombie Apocalypse occurred.

Steve Smith and his family are normal people who have taken serious precautions in case the world comes to an end. Some of their preparations make lots of sense, like being able to secure their home against bad weather and other disturbances. So when Steve’s brother, who shares the family outlook on disaster preparedness, alerts them to a potentially world-ending crisis, the family is prepared.

The story of a virus or other plague sweeping across the world and turning people into mindless, savage, flesh-eating... Read More

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: A book that lingers

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

There are a variety of ways in which a book lingers with the reader after they’ve finished. Emotional impact, imagery, character empathy, the message, and other elements have the opportunity to impress us to the point we may be unable to forget a book despite plot details fading with time. Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? caused this kind of reaction in me. None of the aforementioned elements, however, are the reason his 37th novel hangs in my mind. It is simply the questions he asks and the myriad implications that follow.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the story of Rick Deckard, an android bounty hunter who experiences a crisis of faith as the emotional proximity to those he is supposed to be “retiring” becomes clouded. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, man has begun inhabiting ... Read More

Omens: Original new supernatural mystery series

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I cheat on the fantasy genre. That femme fatale Mystery is often the one who lures me away. This year I’ve been feeling particularly… polygenreous… and Kelley Armstrong’s Omens was just what hit the spot when I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.

The CAINSVILLE series is a departure from Armstrong’s previous work in the WOMEN OF THE OTHERWORLD books. It’s heavier on the mystery, lighter on the fantasy, and the heroine, Olivia Taylor-Jones, is more of a “normal human” than Elena and her fellow otherworldly women.

Olivia is a Chicago department-store heiress whose life seems set in its privileged but dull course, until the day she learns she was adopted. And that her birth parents are convicted serial killers. She finds out the same day the paparazzi do, and in short order, b... Read More

A Taste of Blood Wine: Read it because it’s Freda Warrington

A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington

I’m pretty done with vampire novels. D-O-N-E. Done. It’s over. I never really liked them, but the whole genre is overblown and I’m finished with it. So why, might you be asking, did I read A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington? Because it’s Freda Freaking Warrington! I love her writing, and I couldn’t wait to experience it again, vampires or not.

A Taste of Blood Winewas first published in 1992, and is just now being re-released to the masses because we’ve finally discovered the absolute beauty of Warrington’s writing. The interesting bit of this is, Warrington wrote about vampires before they were cool. Anne Rice really broke open the vampire egg, but Warrington tapped into a vein that really hadn’t been tapped into much before then. Before her, vampires weren’t these sexy hunks that make you fall in love and swoon ... Read More

The Lady Astronaut of Mars: Hugo winning novelette

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which won this year’s Hugo Award for best novelette, moved me. It was well-structured, all the ends tucked in and callbacks in the right places. It used symbolism and literary reference and pointed to issues of the human condition at large, like career versus family. All of this would usually add up to five stars from me, particularly since the author has as beautiful a voice on the page as she does when she speaks. It's the kind of strongly written, human story that wins Hugos, and it reminded me Mike Resnick's "The Homecoming," also Hugo-nominated (though that one didn't win).

But it's one of those stories that bombards the characters with pain and just doesn't let up on them. Now, that's a legitimate way to write a powerful story, and this is a power... Read More

Evolution’s Shore: Fascinating SF with African setting

Evolution’s Shore by Ian McDonald

In several equatorial regions of the earth, an alien plant has been growing. The “Chaga,” as it is called, came from outer space and destroys anything manmade that comes near it. Scientists are worried about what it might do to humans. They have not been able to kill it and it is advancing slowly but steadily each day, changing the landscape and covering villages and cities as it progresses. Not only are people’s lives being disrupted as they have to flee their homes and become refugees, but they’re also worried about what the Chaga is doing here in the first place. Is it benign? Is there an intelligence behind it? Is it a precursor to an alien invasion? Nobody knows.

The mystery of the Chaga and its effect on humanity have inspired Gaby McAslin, a feisty red-headed green-eyed Irish woman, to become a journalist so she can go to Nairobi and try to figure out what the Chaga is doing as it... Read More

Monster Hunter Nemesis: AGENT FRANKS!

Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia

There is no way that any review I write about Monster Hunter Nemesis is going to have any sort of effect on anybody’s decision to read it. If you’re a fan of the extremely popular MONSTER HUNTER series, then you’re going to read Monster Hunter Nemesis, the fifth book. If you’re not, you won’t. And if you’re not in one of those two camps, you have no reason to be reading this review. But still I have to write it, because that’s my job.

So, for those of you who ARE fans, what you can expect here is exactly what Correia has given us so far: great characters, a fascinating story, witty dialogue, and brutal violence. This particular installment features my favorite character: AGENT FRANKS! He’s a huge indestructible man(?) who works for the U.S. Monster Control Bureau, a government agency that fights monsters and... Read More

I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey

I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin (author) and Benjamin Dewey (art)

I've just found a great book for cat lovers: I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin tells the story of Burma, a cat who seems to be on his ninth life and is finally ready to have his memoirs presented to the world. In order to do so, he contacts Allison Breaking to act as a ghost writer for his biography. Allison is an American in London staying with her female friend Reggie, who is very wary of Allison's new job working for Burma. And who wouldn't be? Allison is contacted by a strange "man" who says he wants to pay her a very hefty salary to work for him. Burma doesn't tell Allison he is a cat, but he does warn her that she may be alarmed by his appearance. Reggie tries ... Read More

Magic for Beginners: Impressive and strange

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Kelly Link's short story collection, Magic for Beginners, is a great piece of work. In a bit of a departure from her earlier collection Stranger Things Happen, the stories in it don't follow normative narrative structures; they draw from sources as various as fairy tales, kitchen sink realism, heist stories, TV fandom, and Link's own surrealist vision.  These nine stories don't share overt connections, but they do provide a window into modern American life, complete with bland marriages, mortgages, and random zombie sightings. I listened to Random House Audio's version of this book which is almost 11 hours long and is read by various actors such as Cassandra Campbell, Lorna Raver, Marc Bramhall, and others.

The first story, "The Faery Handbag," was my favorite. It was the most straightforward, which probably indicates that I'm a lazy reader and ... Read More

Cyador’s Heirs: I read it twice

Cyador’s Heirs by L.E. Modesitt Jr 

Cyador’s Heirs, the seventeenth book in the SAGA OF RECLUCE, takes place after the fall of the great nation of Cyador. It tells the story of Lerial, the younger son of the current Duke of Cigoerne, the heir to the Malachite Throne of fallen Cyador. L.E. Modesitt Jr. follows Lerial as he comes of age and is shaped by people and events around him.

Lerial is an intelligent, angry, slightly jealous younger son of the nobility. He is talented, insightful, and sick of his older brother getting preferential treatment and acting superior to him. Lerial is not a bad guy; he’s just struggling to figure out who he is. His father, Kiedron, is a diligent ruler who has been well trained by his mother, the former Empress of Cyador, on what it takes to grow and develop a country in real prosperity. Those lessons are not always easy for Lerial to... Read More

Horrible Monday: Necronomicon by H.P. Lovecraft

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead.
—Arthur Machen (quoted as an introduction to “The Horror at Red Hook”)

Everyone must read a little Lovecraft and Blackstone Audio’s recently published edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft is, in my opinion, the perfect way to do that. Like re-animated corpses, Lovecraft’s most popular stories from the 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines are brought back to life by some of the best readers in the business: Paul Michael Garcia, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Adam W... Read More

A Scanner Darkly: A scathing anti-drug novel from PKD

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Whether unjustly or not, no other science fiction author has been as closely linked to the 1960s drug culture — at least in the public eye — as Philip K. Dick … and understandably so. From the San Francisco bar in The World Jones Made (1956) that dispensed pot and heroin, to the Bureau of Psychedelic Research in The Ganymede Takeover (1966); from the amphetamine and LSD use in Ubik (1969) to the afterlife description in A Maze of Death (1970) that Dick mentions was based on one of his own LSD trips; from the time travel narcotic JJ-180 in Now Wait For Last Year (1966) to the drugbars in Our Friends From Frolix-8 (1970); from the... Read More

Marina: A gorgeous story for teens and adults

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

"Marina once told me that we only remember what never really happened. It would take me a lifetime to understand what those words meant. But I suppose I'd better start at the beginning, which in this case is the end."

Oscar Drai is an apathetic student at a boarding school in Barcelona in 1980. While he isn’t too excited about his studies, he is enamored with the old quarter of Barcelona where his school resides, and he escapes to explore the city every chance that he gets. When we first meet Oscar, he has just been picked up by the police because he’s been missing from school for a week. They find him confused and walking dazedly around the city. He is quickly processed at the police station and sent back to school. Then he tells us the story of the strange and tragic events that have just happened to him.

It all started when Oscar heard beautiful music coming from what he ... Read More

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