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The City of Ember: Powered by a rich setting

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Long ago, the Builders created Ember, an underground city. The Builders only intended for the people of Ember to stay underground for two hundred years, but, due to a slight wrinkle in the Builders’ plans, the people of Ember have stayed underground far longer than two hundred years. Now, supplies are running out. In fact, there soon won’t even be light bulbs left, and the people will be left in darkness.

Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember is a children's post-apocalyptic novel that follows the adventures of Lina and Doon. Lina and Doon, at twelve years old, have finished their schooling. Lina, who loves running, manages to become a Messenger, while Doon, who wants to find a way to fix Ember’s flagging generator, draws work in the Pipeworks. Lina is an outgoing and cheerful girl, while Doon is more introspective and given to temperamental outbursts. However, they are... Read More

Moving Pictures: One of the most pleasant stops on the Discworld tour

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Citizen Kane is considered by many connoisseurs to be the greatest film of all time. Channeling the idea of empire through the life of a mysterious magnate, it is a drama telling the bittersweet story of the glory days of wealth, the inevitable fall, and how its biggest dreams are left unfulfilled. Half a century later, with numerous new forms of media having been adopted into mainstream culture, comes Terry Pratchett. Practically creating a new form of media of his own, he decided to overlay Hollywood onto the template of Citizen Kane. The weight of elephants behind it, 1990’s Moving Pictures is the same bittersweet result.

Capturing the magic and innocence of the burgeoning film industry in Ankh-Morpork, at the outset of Moving Pictures the Guild of Alchemists discover the secret to capturing pictures on film. Studio... Read More

Wisp of a Thing: A lovely haunting fairy tale

Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe

Wisp of a Thing is Alex Bledsoe’s second stand-alone novel about the Tufa, an ancient race of magically gifted swarthy rural folk who live in the Smoky Mountains of Cloud County, Tennessee and may have descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann. You don’t need to read the first book, The Hum and the Shiver, though it’s worth your while and you’ll get a little more out of Wisp of a Thing if you recognize a couple of characters who make cameo appearances in this second book.

This story focuses on Rob Quillen, a musician who became popular after the country watched him experience a personal tragedy on a national TV reality show. Rob has come to Cloud County because a mysterious man told him that’s where he can find a song of healing. He knows it’s a long-shot, but Rob has nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.
... Read More

Monstrous Affections: Chock full of horror and hormones

Monstrous Affections by Kelly Link & Gavin Grant 

Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales, a new anthology by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, was an interesting and surprising read. Interesting because, duh, anything the duo behind Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet puts together has to be great. And surprising because nothing on the cover prepared me for its YA-focus.

And let’s talk about the cover for a second, because it is incredible. Red thistles explode out of line-drawn stems. Blood drips from the maw of a fully-colored toothy black beast as it crouches over a prone, line-drawn man... his prey, we assume. Out of the beast’s back arise feathered wings, again line-drawn. I love the contras... Read More

The Godless: Starts a promising new fantasy epic

The Godless by Ben Peek

The Godless is not Ben Peek’s first published work but, as his fantasy debut, it is a new step in the Australian author’s career. The Godless is set in a fantasy world where a calamitous war between the gods has left them for dead, or dying. In the aftermath of that world-changing event, the gods’ bodies have begun leaking remnants of their powers into the world, creating new Immortals — humans with powers, feared by many.

It is on the literal back of one of these gods that the city of Mireaa, a huge trade city, was built. Much like a cairn, Mireea finds itself in the midst of a siege by a warring neighboring nation which the city may not be able to stop. It is in this setup that The Godless introduces us to its three main characters. Ayae, a cartographer’s apprentice, discovers early on in the book that she cannot be hu... Read More

The Book of Strange New Things: A marvelous exploration of human faith and faithfulness

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

Since Bill and I both read Michael Faber’s newest novel, The Book of Strange New Things, at the same time, we’ve decided to share this review.

The Book of Strange New Things is a marvelous exploration of human faith and faithfulness in the most trying of circumstances. It follows Peter, a British evangelical minister, as he undertakes a missionary venture on Oasis, a recently colonized planet. Behind him he leaves his wife and partner in faith, Beatrice, to continue their ministry on Earth. However, life on Earth gets increasingly difficult and dangerous after Peter leaves, and his relationship with Bea — continued solely via e-mail — begins to fracture as their experiences of God diverge.

One of the major strengths of The Book of Strange New Things is its portrayal of the relationsh... Read More

Lock In: Insightful social commentary

Lock In by John Scalzi

So because I picked up my copy of John Scalzi’s Lock In late, doing so based on Terry’s Sunday Status comment, I wasn’t able to take part in the review party Kat, Terry, and Marion threw (at least, my ego and I are going with that story instead of the “they didn’t invite me” one). Which might have turned out to be a good thing, as I might have been the annoying guy harshing everyone’s buzz. Not that I didn’t enjoy most of Lock In, but I seem to have enjoyed it somewhat less than the 4.5/5 ratings given it by those three.

I thought the premise was fantastic — several decades ago, a flu-like pandemic (Haden’s Syndrome) took several million people and “locked” them into their bodies... Read More

Blackdog: Stand-alone epic fantasy

Blackdog by K.V. Johansen

While religion is often found in epic fantasy, rarely is it the main focus of a novel, as it is in Blackdog. It’s even more rare to find an epic fantasy that is a stand-alone rather than part of a long series or trilogy. While the fact that Blackdog is a stand-alone might turn some epic fantasy fans off, it is rather refreshing to read a fantasy on an epic scale that is contained within one book and has a definite beginning, middle and ending.

K.V. Johansen’s world building reminds me a bit of Steven Erikson’s MALAZAN series. The world is large, intricate and sprawls into lands that are just hinted at. It has a rich history which will keep the reader interested and yearning to learn more. Furthermore, the gods are steeped in that rich history and add an int... Read More

Ancillary Sword: Leckie hits a solid home run with Book Two

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

(This review contains spoilers of Book One, Ancillary Justice.)

In Ancillary Justice, Leckie’s award-sweeping 2013 novel, we met Breq. Breq was a soldier, but before she was a soldier, she had been a ship, the Justice of Toren. Specifically, Breq was an ancillary, a human body whose personality has been erased, so that she could be a node of awareness for the ship’s AI. Justice of Toren comprised the ship itself and 2,000 human ancillaries in a distributed network. When Justice of Toren was destroyed in an act of treachery, only one ancillary, who was offline, survived: Breq. Ancillary Sword, which continues Breq’s adventures, hits a solid home run.

Breq’s search for vengeance in Ancillary Justice led her to the ruler of the vast, millennia-old Radch... Read More

Imperfect Sword: A wonderful action-packed installment

Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell

After the last book in Jack Campbell’s THE LOST STARS series, I was really almost dreading Imperfect Sword. I felt like Campbell had lost touch with the meaning of Military Science Fiction and was wandering in the land of Science Fiction Romance. Well, fortunately I have been rebuked; with Imperfect Sword, Campbell delivers a wonderful action-packed installment and restores my belief in him as an author who knows when to blow something up with a plasma cannon or take someone down with a sharp knife in the dark. 

General Drakon and President Iceni have been up to their necks in intrigue since they broke with the Syndicate Worlds. Through a very, very fortunate series of interactions with Admiral Jack Geary, the hero of the LOST FLEET series, they have avoided being destroyed by the Enig... Read More

Inversions: A CULTURE novel that isn’t a CULTURE novel

Inversions by Iain M. Banks

Like ExcessionUse of Weapons, and The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks' 1998 Inversions continues to prove that the reader should expect the unexpected because, with Inversions, Banks explicitly aimed to write “a CULTURE novel that wasn’t a CULTURE novel.” It is likely to be categorized as fantasy by someone who knows nothing of the Culture — there is a medieval feel to the royalty, court intrigue, sword fights, beautiful damsels, boys growing up to become men, and a few “supernatural” events that bend the story beyond realism. However, astute readers will recognize something deeper happening beneath the deceptively simple façade and realize that Inversions is something more. That something more is not only the Cu... Read More

The Shotgun Arcana: Gory but Fun

The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher

To get a sense of R.S. Belcher's world of The Shotgun Arcana, his follow-up to The Six-Gun Tarot, one need only eavesdrop on the conversation of the seen-it-all residents of Golgotha, Nevada as they watch a wagon wheel away with some mysterious contents:
"Hey, Mutt, what is it this time . . . Another one of them boogeymen? Those black-eyed children? Like the ones that up and took the Summerton family and only left their shadows behind? . . . "

The crowd began to mutter among themselves.

"Them bat-people again, I bet ya . . . "

"Hope the buildings ain't coming alive like last June again . . . "

"Long as it ain't those worm things. I still can't swallow pert near nothing without wanting to upchuck."
That's life in a nutshell (a very tip-of-the-iceberg nut... Read More

The Van Rijn Method: Golden Age SF with a more literary style

The Van Rijn Method by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson was a prolific author in fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. A couple of years ago I read one of his last novels, Mother of Kings, a historical work based on the life of the tenth century Norse queen Gunnhild. The prose requires a bit of patience on the reader’s part but both the subject and style of that book appealed to me. In science fiction Anderson is probably best known for his work in the long running Technic civilization setting. Between 1951 and 1985 Anderson wrote countless novels and stories in this universe. Baen has collected these in seven omnibus editions with The Van Rijn Method being the first.

Although the Technic civilization stories share the same setting, there is no overarching story; all the works in this volume can be read independently. The editor, Hank Davies, has chosen to order the stori... Read More

Infinite Crisis and the “Old” 52 (Part 3): Day of Vengeance by Bill Willingham

Infinite Crisis and the "Old" 52 (Part 3): Day of Vengeance by Bill Willingham

In this third review, I will cover the rest of the issues included in the Day of Vengeance trade paperback. This story is written by Bill Willingham, well-known for Fables, his excellent Vertigo series at DC. These issues are also available on Comixology as Day of Vengeance Issues #1-6. However, as confusing as this sounds, do not read the Day of Vengeance: Infinite Crisis Special, which is includ... Read More

Black Halo: Sam Sykes is a versatile author

Black Halo by Sam Sykes

In his first book, Tome of the Undergates, Sam Sykes proved he was a versatile author. He wrote some intense, realistic battles and mixed them with some of the most peaceful, beautiful passages I’ve seen in such a violent book. Interspersed with all of this was some fantastic humor that I’ve come to associate with Sykes.

In Black Halo, he takes everything he proved himself capable of in Tome of the Undergates and perfects it. The humor is more biting and the plot is paced perfectly. The reader will notice a lot of growth in the author between the first and second books of this series, and that’s really saying something, considering how impressive a debut Tome of the Undergates was.

Perhaps most impressively is how Sykes has so carefully decided to expand his world. Tome of... Read More

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