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Foxglove Summer: You can take the constable outta London, but…

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Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

One of the definitive aspects of Ben Aaronovitch's PETER GRANT series is the fact that it's set in the big smoke (aka London, for all you non-Londoners). So it may come as a surprise to discover that Foxglove Summer (2014), the fifth instalment of the series, is actually set in the countryside. But don't be fooled into thinking this is story about sleepy village life and the occasional nosy neighbour. Far from it. Peter Grant is back along with a myriad of supernatural problems, and he's just as incompetent as he's always been...

Two eleven-year-old girls have gone missing in the rural town of Leominster, Herefordshire. Constable Peter Grant is sent on a routine assignment to check up on an old wizard living in the ar... Read More

Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

Having just finished the 10-volume epic SANDMAN saga, it’s hard to imagine anything that can top this achievement. In aggregate, it is certainly the most ambitious comic of its time, and having depicted the character arc of Dream, also known as Morpheus and the Sandman, there is isn’t much to add to that. At the same time, since the Endless have lived for the lifetime of the current universe (and perhaps previous iterations), there are an infinite number of side-stories that Gaiman could conceive. So it was inevitable that he would choose to pen some stories that featured each of the Endless — this project itself could be endless, if there’s enough demand from Sandman fans.

Endless Nights has a story about each of the Endless, each penned by different artists whom Gaiman chose to best represent the ... Read More

Burning Bright: High seas adventure and romance, flame-broiled to taste

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Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

Twenty-one year old Elinor Pembroke, dreaming of fire burning all around her, awakes to find her room actually ablaze with an intense fire ― a fire she caused in her sleep. Elinor is able to quench the fire with simply a thought. The ability to not only mentally generate but also to extinguish fire makes her an Extraordinary Scorcher, the first British person with this high level of power over fire in over a hundred years. In this alternative Regency world, a few people have magical talents ― telepathy, flying, teleporting, visions, and more ― and those who have especially strong abilities are called Extraordinaries.

Elinor's dictatorial father is delighted that his nondescript middle daughter is suddenly an extremely valuable commodity in the marriage market: many men are interested in marrying a woman with a strong talent in order to produce gift... Read More

That Which Should Not Be: Heavy mythological Lovecraftian horror

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That Which Should Not Be by Brett Talley

That Which Should Not Be is a dark and moody book, fit for a cold autumn or winter evening in front of a crackling, smoky fire. The writing style reeks of HP Lovecraft, but also of Bram Stoker. This is not surprising, of course, as the novel is an ode to Lovecraft’s pantheon and theme of elder gods. This is Brett Talley’s first novel, but he nails the voice and tone of late 19th/early 20th century fiction.
One can never truly know when he steps outside his door whether today will be a day that passes without consequence, or if it will be one that changes everything.
A student from Lovecraft’s famed Miskatonic University is hunting for a lost book of ancient renown. It’s not the well-known Necronomicon, but rather a companion... Read More

The Devil’s Evidence: I’m still fascinated by this series

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The Devil’s Evidence by Simon Kurt Unsworth

The Devil’s Evidence (2016) is Simon Kurt Unsworth’s follow up to last year’s horror novel, The Devil’s Detective. In this book, Thomas Fool, the Devil’s Information Man, is sent to Heaven to try to solve a mystery, and soon he is trying to stop a war.

Since the purpose of Hell is to promote human suffering, it isn’t surprising that Fool suffered terrible losses in the first book, and it seems as if there wouldn’t be much left for him to lose in this book. That’s not the case. Unsworth manages to find a way to cause Fool just as much, if not more, pain and anguish in The Devil’s Evidence Read More

Sandman (Vol. 10): The Wake by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 10): The Wake by Neil Gaiman

Spoilers are included from the previous nine volumes.

The Wake — the final volume collecting the last six issues of THE SANDMAN series — is a difficult book to review because it is both the perfect ending to the series and an anti-climatic closing narrative that I find disappointing. How are these both possible? The first three issues in this volume are a three-part ending to Dream’s story. At the end of that third issue, I am satisfied emotionally and intellectually. The problem for me is that Gaiman wrote three more issues, one of which is mediocre and one of which is disappointing. So, ... Read More

Invaders: A high percentage of excellent stories

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Invaders: 22 Tales from the Outer Limits of Literature ed. by Jacob Weisman

As with most collections, whether they be of stories, poems, or essays, I found Invaders: 22 Tales from the Outer Limits of Literature, edited by Jacob Weisman, to be a mixed bag overall, with some weak stories, some solidly good ones, some very good ones, and several absolutely great ones, more in fact than I typically find in an anthology, making this an easy collection to recommend.

The authors collected here are non-genre writers known mostly for “literary fiction,” such as George Saunders, Max Apple, Molly Gloss, Jim Shepard, Katherine Dunn, and Junot Diaz. In his introduction, Weisman says the idea for this anthology came out of the responses he saw to an earlier one (from 2009) entitled Read More

The Bull and the Spear: Begins a second, compelling CORUM trilogy

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The Bull and the Spear by Michael Moorcock

This review contains spoilers for the first three books in the Corum series.

Michael Moorcock’s CORUM series is comprised of two trilogies. In the first trilogy, Corum defeated the three Chaos rulers of the fifteen planes, giving Law back much of its lost power and thereby restoring the Balance. Starting eighty years later, the second trilogy starts with The Bull and the Spear (1973). As the book starts, we find that Corum has lived in peace with his great love, Rhalina; however, since he is one of the Vadhagh race, Corum lives much longer than humans do. As a result, he must watch Rhalina grow old and die along with all the people of her generation, all Corum’s friends and extended comm... Read More

Underground Airlines: A chilling alternate history thriller

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Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

“Time makes things worse; bad is faster than good; wickedness is a weed and does not wither on its own — it grows and spreads.”

Imagine that Abe Lincoln was assassinated before the Civil War started and that the North and South, instead of fighting, compromised, drawing up an agreement that allowed slavery to exist in perpetuity in four Southern states. Fast forward to the modern day and imagine that you were a black man in one of those states, that you had escaped your slavery in a cattle slaughterhouse, and had been living a free life in a Northern state for two years. Imagine that the U.S. Marshals Service finally caught you and gave you the choice of going back to the slaughterhouse or working for the Marshals, hunting down escaped slaves like yourself and turning them over to the government.

That is the disturbing ... Read More

Wayward (Volume 1): String Theory by Jim Zub

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Wayward (Volume 1): String Theory by Jim Zub (writer) and Steve Cummings (art)

Wayward: String Theory is the first collection of yet another great new Image title. Jim Zub tells the coming-of-age story of a teenaged girl, Rori Lane, travelling to Japan for the first time to stay with her Japanese mother, now divorced from Rori’s Irish father. The story behind the divorce is not explained in this volume, but evidently Rori’s had a rough time: Her psychological struggles manifest in physical self-harm; however, so far, this problem is touched on only lightly. In fact, other than a few brief encounters w... Read More

Green Mars: Revenge of the lab rats

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Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

It took me about 200 pages to get into Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars (1994), the first sequel to Red Mars, and even after I connected with it I found myself working through slow patches. Although the inside cover of the edition I read describes KSR’s novels as “thrilling,” I would describe this novel as dense, philosophical, purposeful, detailed… Well, a lot of words come to mind before I’d mention a fast pace.

When Green Mars begins, the surviving members of the First Hundred live in hiding on Mars. Earth, meanwhile, suffers from overpopulation, inequality, political instability, and many ecological pr... Read More

Sweep in Peace: A not-so-peaceful alien peace summit

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Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Dina DeMille runs a bed-and-breakfast inn that secretly caters to visitors from other parts of the galaxy. The magical, semi-sentient inn can create opulent new rooms and redecorate them at Dina’s wish, with a blithe disregard for the normal laws of physics (what I wouldn’t give to have a house like that!). But Dina is short on both guests and cash, so she’s open to the idea when George, an arbitrator of disputes between different alien races, asks her to host an arbitration aimed at ending a bitter twenty-year-long war between three species, fighting over control of the vast mineral wealth of a desolate planet.

The problem is that the three factions that have to agree to the peace accord are the militant Holy Cosmic Anocracy (i.e., space vampires), the equally aggressive Otrokars (aka the Hope-Crushing Horde), and the Merchants of Baha-char, who look... Read More

Children of Icarus: Interesting twists on familiar myths

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith

With her latest novel, Children of Icarus, Caighlan Smith takes what could have been a rehash of too-familiar YA tropes — a futuristic/dystopian setting, a promised paradise hiding a terrible secret, a band of scrappy teenagers rebelling against a faceless government — and enlivens them with innovative twists and updates on familiar Greek myths like Icarus, Daedalus’ labyrinth, and all manner of monsters.

Children of Icarus’s nameless narrator lives in the walled city of Daedalum; everything she could need, from markets to education to a temple ded... Read More

Abarat: A wild ride, a long way to go

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Abarat by Clive Barker

Clive Barker began writing THE BOOKS OF ABARAT series after painting a number of images inspired by dreams. The first book, Abarat, certainly possesses a dreamy, wonderland quality. I felt curiously aware throughout that I had entered a rather indulgent flight of Barker's imagination. I didn't buy the illustrated version of Abarat, (because, I admit, I didn't know anything about it) but if I could go back I probably would. It's a funny one because I usually like to make up my own mind about how an imaginary place looks. I get worried by detailed front covers as I suspect they are trying to plant images in my mind (and woe-behold any book with a television actress on the front). But when an author starts with a painting, hi... Read More

The Last Wish: Engaging dark fantasy stories

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The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (1993 in Polish, 2007 in English) is the first book in the WITCHER series by best-selling Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. You might recognize the name from the popular video games based on the books. The series features a hero named Geralt of Rivia who, when he was an orphaned child, was transformed into something more than human through a process involving magic and drugs. Now he has white hair and some subtle superhuman powers — for example, he can see in the dark and he is stronger and faster than other men. He roams the world looking for odd thankless jobs that only a Witcher can do.

This first WITCHER book is a series of relat... Read More

Urban Allies: Will please many fans of urban and paranormal fantasy

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Urban Allies edited by Joseph Nassise

I’m always impressed when authors work together, and in Urban Allies, editor Joseph Nassise has managed to pair up twenty authors who not only collaborate, but merge their own characters into ten brand-new and original adventures. Each story shares a similar theme: popular characters from existing series or novels meet up and must join forces in order to defeat a common threat. Since these are urban fantasy authors, every story has a supernatural or paranormal aspect, though the situations and resolutions are completely unique to each tale, ranging the gamut from a haunted house, ghosts, magic of all stripes, plenty of demons, and much more.

As a genre, urban fantasy tends to feature protagonists who embody a certain type of wish-... Read More

Some Remarks: The glory of infodumps separated from narrative

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Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson

Some Remarks compiles eighteen short texts by Neal Stephenson. Aside from a couple short stories, this is a book of essays, interviews, and speeches. These short texts should please most Stephenson fans because they combine humor, insight, and exposition — in other words, these are infodumps gloriously freed from narrative.

Hesitant readers would do well to test this book by reading its opening essay, “Arsebestos.” Stephenson points out that although sitting all day is unhealthy, much of corporate America requires its office drones to sit in cubicles. People would be better off doing their work while ambling along on a treadmill, as Stephenson does, but managers are too cowardly to risk changing the status quo. After all, what if w... Read More

Winter of Fire: A surprisingly affecting little story

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Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Sherryl Jordan is a New Zealand-based author of young adult and children’s fantasy fiction. In Winter of Fire (1993) she tells the story of Elsha, a sixteen year old girl born into the enslaved underclass called the Quelled. As the sun has disappeared from the world, a memory only alive in mythology, the Quelled are forced to mine for the firestones that are the people's only source of warmth. But Elsha has a rebellious spirit and is often in trouble with the brutal overseers at the mine. They are from the upper class, the people known as the Chosen.

Elsha's life is changed forever when she is chosen to be the handmaid of the legendry Firelord. The Firelord is the most important man in the world as he possesses the power to divine for firestones, the life fuel of every person alive. The Firelord's choice is re... Read More

The Seed of Earth: A generally pleasing work from one of sci-fi’s best

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The Seed of Earth by Robert Silverberg

Men of a certain age may recall a particular trepidation that was attendant with the coming of their 18th birthday; i.e., the fear of being drafted into the armed forces. From 1940 until January ’73, males here in the U.S. could be drafted, even during peacetime, to fill vacancies in the Army and other services, and well do I remember the sigh of relief that many breathed when the draft disappeared, in favor of an all-volunteer system. But, as Robert Silverberg’s 1962 novel The Seed of Earth had already demonstrated, conscription could entail far more intimidating prospects than a mere two-year Army hitch.

For the future Grand Master and multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner, The Seed of Earth came at... Read More

Life Debt: Fast-paced, cinematic entertainment

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Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

Before I begin my review of Chuck Wendig’s Life Debt, book two of the STAR WARS: AFTERMATH trilogy, I want to talk about myself for a minute. I like STAR WARS. I loved the original three movies. I didn’t like The Phantom Menace, surfed away from Attack of the Clones about two-thirds of the way through, and never saw Revenge of the Sith. Remember that I’m the person who couldn’t figure out why commenters on various sites kept talking about the European Union as part of the Star Wars cycle because I didn’t know that “EU” meant “Extended Universe.” I’m not a capital-F Fan.

What I am is an enthusiastic reader. I enjoy... Read More

Saga Vol 6, Issues 31-36 by Brian K Vaughan

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Saga, Vol 6, Issues 31-36 by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)

Saga Vol 6 is the first one I had to wait for, as I read the first 5 volumes back-to-back. This is such a popular, excellently-written, and amazingly-illustrated series that the main question fans will have is, “Is it still as greater as ever?” Well, I’d say it isn’t quite as brilliant as the first 4 volumes, but Vaughan and Staples have established a very high level of storytelling and can probably maintain it for quite some time. So rest assured, fans will not be overly disappointed. This series remains centered on the characters, though this time the surprises an... Read More

A Toxic Trousseau: Every summer I look forward to visiting Lily in San Francisco

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A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell

Every summer I look forward to spending a few days in San Francisco with Lily Ivory, her employees at her vintage clothing shop, her gluttonous familiar Oscar, her sexy boyfriend Sailor, and various other inhabitants of the Haight district where Lily works and lives. These are charming folks who, since they’re set in a paranormal cozy mystery series, tend to bumble into a crime scene every few weeks.

This time, Lily goes to visit a woman who owns a competing vintage clothing shop and who has filed suit against Lily for something Oscar did. Readers won’t be surprised that the woman dies soon after this confrontation and that Lily is, once again, being questioned by the San Francisco police. Being a bit nosey, and having a flexible working schedule, Lily (again) sets out to uncover the culprit and, in the process, explores more of San Francisco (sh... Read More

Helliconia Summer: The big ideas punch deep

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Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss

The shape of Brian Aldiss’s SF Masterwork HELLICONIA could be said to be parabolic. If Helliconia Spring is the slow, curving entry point, then Helliconia Summer, the middle volume, is the zenith story-wise. Or at least that’s the feel two-thirds of the way through the series. As Aldiss is trying to paint a historical and evolutionary picture of humanity’s existence on a distant planet, Helliconia Summer’s narrative does not pick up where the first volume left off, and instead focuses on a point in the society’s development loosely equivalent to the Baroque Era many centuries in the future from Helliconia Spring. Were the lives of the kings and queens the onl... Read More

Arabella of Mars: A fantastic voyage

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Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

What if Isaac Newton, instead of watching an apple fall from a tree and being inspired to develop a new theory of gravity, had observed a bubble rising from his bathtub and begun to meditate on space travel? Well, in the world of Arabella of Mars, a delightful and unique blend of a Regency-era nautical adventure and the pioneering science fiction of Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs, it resulted in Captain Kidd commanding the first voyage to Mars in the late 1600s. A little over a hundred years later, in the year 1812, there are plantations on Mars that grow valuable khoresh wood, watched over by their British masters, with the assistance of Martian servants, who have a vaguely... Read More

The Shadowed Sun: Mature, intelligent, challenging, unafraid

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The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

The Shadowed Sun (2012) is the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s DREAMBLOOD two-book series, inspired the ancient kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia. However, rather than simply changing some names and using thinly-disguised history as her template, she introduces an entirely new religious and social system, one centered around worship of Hananja, the dream goddess represented by the moon. The story this time is set a decade after the events of the previous book, and features some of the same characters like Nijiri, now a full-fledged Gatherer, and Sunandi, member of the Kisuati Protectorate now ruling Gujaareh. However, Jemisin introduces three new main characters: Hanani, a young Sharer priestess, the first female granted this position; Prince Wa... Read More