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Film Review: The Deadly Mantis

The Deadly Mantis: DEW or die

By the time the sci-fi shocker The Deadly Mantis premiered in May 1957, American audiences had already been regaled by a steady stream of giant-monster movies on the big screen, starting with 1953's classic The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. In 1954, Them!, with its monstrously large ants, kicked off a subgenre of sorts, the giant-insect movie, and Tarantula would follow in 1955. After The Deadly Mantis, The Beginning of the End (giant grasshoppers), Monster From Green Hell (giant wasps), Earth vs. the Spider and Attack of the Giant Leeches soon appeared to stun and amaze moviegoers. Unlike most of those other films, however, TDM featured a giant monster that was not the result of radioactive bombardment or an H-bomb blast, but that was just naturally humongous: a prehistoric entity released via natural phenomenon.

I... Read More

Ellison Wonderland: Annoyingly pompous, but still entertaining

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison®

Harlan Ellison® comes across as pompous, overbearing, aggressive, and obnoxious, but I wouldn’t miss any of his stories. He’s one of the best story tellers in speculative fiction and I have no problem separating the man’s fiction from his personality (though that abrasiveness often comes across in his fiction, too). And, as much as I don’t like his personality, I have to admit that he’s interesting. Partly that’s because he does interesting things such as getting expelled from THE Ohio State University after assaulting a professor who criticized his writing, but mostly it’s because he’s been involved in the SFF scene since a couple of decades before I was even born, so he’s got a lot of stories to tell about the industry and about some of my favorite writers.

That’s what he does for a lar... Read More

The Thief Lord: My kids love this fantasy set in Venice

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

One thing I love about summer vacation is that my 12 year old daughter Tali and I have time to read together. Our first book for the summer was Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord which, as Tali was thrilled to learn, takes place in Venice, a city she visited a couple of summers ago with my parents.

The story is about Boniface (Bo) and his big brother Prosper(o). Their parents are dead and their aunt wants to adopt only Bo because he’s cute and sweet. She plans to send Prospero to boarding school. So the boys run away to Venice, a city their mother loved. There they fall in with a small group of orphans who live in an abandoned theater and claim that a boy named The Thief Lord is their leader. He brings them the loot he steals and they sell it to Barbarosa, a corrupt red-haired shopkeeper. When Barbarosa offers the kids a lucrative job, they decide to take it. But they nee... Read More

Stardust: Book vs. movie: Both charming, but film shines with supporting cast

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Here at Fantasy Literature we have a lot of Neil Gaiman fans, and no shortage of reviews of his books and graphic novels. In fact, there are four reviews of Stardust, so I won’t rehash the plot details. Rather, I’d like to compare the book with the movie, and canvas our readers’ opinions.

Stardust (Novel): Stardust began as a graphic novel illustrated by Charles Vess in 1997. It was then published as a standard book without illustrations in 1999. The novel is a charming fairytale about a young man who ventures into the land of Faerie beyond the Wall to fetch a shooting star to impress a girl. He has many adventures on the way, as it turns out the shootin... Read More

Nemesis Games: Reviewed by its characters

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

Naomi swirled the milky liquid in her glass, watching it slosh against the sides, a miniature sea, complete with little icebergs. “We need to talk,” she said.

Holden winced a bit inside, but forced his words to come out lighter than they felt in his head. “You mean man-woman talk, Captain-XO talk, or . . .”

“More of the ‘or’ type.”

“So, what’s on your mind?”  He leaned back against the bulkhead. Space-grade permasteel she thought, but between man and metal, she knew which she’d count on more.

“We need to review this book.”

“We’ve reviewed books before. And survived.”  He winced again, outwardly this time. “Mostly.”

“Yeah, but there are some killer revelations and plot twists in this one.”

“And?” he asked.

He’d tensed up slightly. Not much, but s... Read More

Film Review: Jurassic World

Jurassic World: Immensely satisfying, with a surprising message

If you are a big fan of the first Jurassic Park film, you’ve probably been waiting on pins and needles for the latest installment in the franchise, Jurassic World. After seeing the trailer, I felt very anxious: would this live up to my lofty dreams, or would it be another Jurassic Park III? I can now say with pleasure that I laughed, and gasped, and oohed and aahed throughout the movie. The chase and fight scenes are intense, the deaths are alternately hilarious or horrific, the scenery is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is sweeping.

Jurassic World is all about the park. You can tell this from the first moment you hear the recognizable (and beautiful) central musical theme. In the original movie, this music accompanied a personal moment of astonishment and wonder; we see Dr. Grant’s and Dr. Sattler’s faces change the first time they see the bront... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne

When you need your next Atticus and Oberon fix from Kevin Hearne, I recommend The Demon Barker of Wheat Street. This short IRON DRUID CHRONICLES story first appeared in Carniepunk, an anthology devoted to urban fantasy stories about carnivals. It can be purchased separately in a 35-page ebook format for ... Read More

The Winner’s Crime: A richly layered middle book in a strong trilogy

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Crime is the second book by Marie Rutkoski in her young adult WINNERS TRILOGY, and like the first, though I had some issues with some aspects, Rutkoski’s writing fully won me over even before we got to yet another great ending. It’s pretty much impossible to not have some spoilers for book one, The Winner’s Curse, in this review, so fair warning. Any spoilers for The Winner’s Crime will be minor. Spoilers for book one start in the next paragraph.

At the end of The Winner’s Curse (told you spoilers were starting), Kestrel had managed to avert major bloodshed and battle by negotiating with the Emperor to have Herran declared an independent part of the Empire... Read More

Queen Sheba’s Ring: Middling Haggard but still hugely entertaining

Queen Sheba’s Ring by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: The Kindle version of Queen Sheba's Ring is free!

I am not an author myself, and probably never will be (big sigh), so I can only imagine what a thrill it must be for a writer to see his or her hard work finally appear in print before the public. But can anyone imagine what it must feel like to have three novels released simultaneously?!?! Well, such was the lot for the great H. Rider Haggard, who, facing diminishing fortunes and increased familial responsibilities, was working at a frantic pace toward the end of the first decade of th... Read More

Book Chat: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

For today’s Book Chat, we’re examining Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. Interestingly, it’s the only one of his novels that Bradbury considered to be “science fiction,” telling the story of Guy Montag, a fireman who starts fires rather than putting them out. In Montag’s world, books and intellectual curiosity are forbidden, with interesting and terrifying consequences.

Let’s begin!

Bill: Another day, another Bradbury classic. I’ve been a fan of Fahrenheit 451 since I read it the first time way back in late middle or early high school and have remained so through all those re-reads back when I used to teach it in high school as well (most stud... Read More

White Cat: An interesting magic system I can’t wait to see more of

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat,
by Holly Black, is the story of Cassell, a boy with a peculiar name and an even stranger family. Everyone in Cassell’s family is a curse worker. That is, they can perform magic on another person via skin-to-skin contact. Cursework comes in a variety of forms such as: Cassell’s mother is an emotion worker who can make people feel anything she wants them to, his grandfather is a death worker who can kill with a touch, some can manipulate luck, and others can change another person’s memory. Cursework, given its nature, is strictly prohibited — so curse workers most often work for the organized criminal underground. Cassell is the exception in his family as he is the only one who isn’t a curse worker, but a normal kid.

Cassell’s family is a complicated and dynamic entity t... Read More

Secret of the Earth Star: A wonderful package from Starmont House

Secret of the Earth Star by Henry Kuttner

Starmont House had a wonderful thing going for itself in the early 1990s. The Seattle-based publisher, with its line of Facsimile Fiction, was taking the old pulp magazines of the '30s and '40s, making photocopies of selected stories, and packaging them in a line of reasonably priced paperback and hardcover editions; a genuine blessing for all fans of these old, rapidly moldering monthlies. Secret of the Earth Star, number 6 in the Facsimile Fiction line, in a series that stretched to at least 14, collects eight (NOT seven, as the book's cover proclaims) wonderful stories from Henry Kuttner, one of the sturdiest pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. Alone and in collaboration with the equally talented C.L. Moore (his wif... Read More

The Player of Games: A game so complex it mirrors the society around it

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games (1988) is the second published book in the well-known Culture series featuring the post-scarcity utopian machine-human galactic empire known as the Culture. Once again Iain M. Banks adroitly chooses to focus on the interactions of the Culture with a non-Culture society, this time the more primitive empire of Azad. The Azadian society is centered around an incredibly complex game called Azad, and every six years it holds a tournament that begins with 12,000 players, with the winner becoming the Emperor. The idea is that anyone brilliant enough to master the game and defeat all rivals is worthy to run the Empire as well.

Jernau Gurgeh is one of the Culture’s greatest games players, and this is saying something in a sprawling galactic empire whe... Read More

The Midwich Cuckoos: The dangers of telepathic children

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Midwich was just another quiet English town until the Dayout — when an invisible dome surrounds Midwich for one day. Afterward, all of the women discover that they are pregnant. Since not all of them are married (or sexually active), it soon becomes clear that these women are being used to bring strange creatures to life on Earth.

When the children are born, it’s obvious that their genes do not come from this world. The children have golden eyes, silver hair, and pale skin. If that’s not proof enough, the children can telepathically communicate with each other (though only with members of the same sex). They can further telepathically create impulses in the minds of the townspeople. The children grow up alarmingly fast and their telepathic powers allow them to learn very quickly. It seems that one of their first lessons is self-preservation, and they use their powers to attack anyone they ... Read More

Film Review: Monster on the Campus

Monster on the Campus: Another winner from Jack Arnold

In the five-year period 1953 - '57, director Jack Arnold brought forth five sci-fi/horror classics that are still beloved by psychotronic-film fans today: It Came From Outer Space ('53), Creature From the Black Lagoon ('54), Revenge of the Creature ('55), Tarantula (also '55) and one of the all-time champs, The Incredible Shrinking Man ('57). Following up Arnold's string of crowd-pleasing entertainments came the lesser-known Monster on the Campus in 1958, a picture that, as it turns out, is just as much fun as the others.

In the film, we meet a likable and soft-spoken professor at fictitious Dunsfield University, in California; a biologist named Donald Blake (a name that perhaps influenced Stan Lee four years later when selecting a moniker for Thor's alter ego!). When we first encounter Blake, he is very e... Read More

Edge of the Universe: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.

"Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy."

Like all of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, Cat’s Cradle (1963) is very easy to read but fiendishly difficult to review. It’s basically about two main themes: 1) Some scientists are completely unconcerned with what their research and inventions are used for, as long as they given the opportunity to pursue their own research. 2) Religion is a bunch of lies, but at the same time it can make you happier an... Read More

Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle: The best GIRL GENIUS novel so far

Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle by Phil & Kaja Foglio

“Agatha stood in his path, her deathray purring ominously.”

I have been reluctantly won over by Phil & Kaja Foglio’s novelizations of their Hugo Award winning (2009, 2010, 2011) GIRL GENIUS comic which I’ve been reading for years. As I’ve explained in my reviews of the previous novels, I thought GIRL GENIUS was perfect as it was and, since the art is such a huge factor in its greatness, I didn’t see a need for a non-graphic form. But Brilliance Audio, the publisher of the audiobook version of the novels, sent me review copies, so I gave them a try and I have to admit that at this point I am completely hooked. So much so that I’m upset that I can find no m... Read More

The Lost Hero: A fresh new adventure from the world of Percy Jackson

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

It seemed only a matter of time before Rick Riordan returned to the world he created in the PERCY JACKSON series, one in which the Greek gods dwell in contemporary America, and their demigod offspring are sent to Camp Half Blood to train as heroes and fulfil their destinies. It was a winning concept that allowed for updated versions of Greek myths to be integrated into the present day, as well as one that introduced a range of young heroes struggling with their own powers and propensity to land in trouble.

Combining many of the familiar components of Greek mythology — monsters, prophecies, mysterious parents, quests — the Percy Jackson books proved popular enough for a sequel series, in which a brand new trio of heroes reach Camp Half Blood and accept the mission set before them.
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The Iron Ship: A slow but richly immersive read

The Iron Ship by K.M. McKinley

K.M. McKinley
’s The Iron Ship is a sprawling, slow build of a story that mostly follows the POV exploits of five siblings whose stories generally wend their own way, though each intersects with the others in varying ways and to varying degrees. With its large cast, leisurely characterization, separate plots, unhurried approach to worldbuilding, and focus on an accretion of detail (admittedly, sometimes to a somewhat befuddling amount), I can’t say McKinley’s debut is particularly energetic or compelling. But it does suck you in even as it acts as mostly prelude to what is to come.

The setting is “Earth” (not our Earth, McKinley is at pains to tell us in her afterword), a world with two moons and a sister planet known as the Twin that may possibly be edging ever nearer as part of a millennia-long cycle. More precisely, the novel sets itself in The H... Read More

The Princess Bride: Weighing the book against the movie

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I assume everybody knows and loves The Princess Bride film by Rob Reiner, one of my favorite fantasy films back in 1987, when I was in 7th grade. I fondly recall Fred Savage sick in bed with crusty old Peter Falk as his grandfather reading the story to him, as well as the hilarious group of inept kidnappers Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin, who I was shocked to realize plays the heavily-bearded CIA operative Saul in the TV series Homeland). The villains are equally great, as we learn to despise the pompous Prince Humperdink and cold but cowardly Count Rugen. And who could forget the brilliant cameo by Jason Crystal as Miracle Max? Finally, the love story of Westley and Buttercup was something that I loved but was afraid to admit to anyone at school. The humor and wholesome fun of the film is perfectly achieved by Rob Reiner, who is already... Read More

Babel-17: A dazzling new-wave SF space opera from the 1960s

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Samuel "Chip" Delany wrote Babel-17 at the tender age of 23. It is an amazing new-wave SF space opera about a starship captain, linguist, poet, and telepath named Rydra Wong who is desperately trying to solve the mystery of how the mysterious code Babel-17 is being used by the Invaders against the alliance. It explores the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of language and how it shapes personality, thought and actions, and spins off dozens of other fascinating ideas and images in just under 200 pages.

How to properly describe the plot of Babel-17? There are space pilots (including threesomes), mercenaries, space battles, bar scenes, psychiatrists, zero-g wrestling matches, personalities stored electronically, ghosts that can only be spoken to via telepathy, an assassina... Read More

Long Black Curl: Music is magic

Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Long Black Curl is the third novel in Alex Bledsoe’s TUFA series. You don’t need to read the previous books, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing; Long Black Curl can stand alone because its three main characters are new to the series. However, most of the other characters are from the previous books, so you’ll be missing some background on them if you haven’t read them. For maximum enjoyment, read them first.

Bledsoe’s TUFA books are about a tribe of swarthy backwoods folks who live in the Smokey Mountains. If you were passing through that region and met any of the Tufa, you’d think they were inbred ignorant rednecks with little education and fewer moral... Read More

Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles: More Atticus and Oberon, please!

Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

Well, I just can’t get enough of the Druid Atticus O’Sullivan and Oberon, his Irish Wolfhound. So, when I saw that two of Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES short stories were recently produced in audio format and narrated by the amazing Luke Daniels, I had to have them. These stories have also been released in ebook format.

“Kaibab Unbound” is Kevin Hearne’s first short story. It takes place just a couple of weeks before the events of the first IRON DRUID CHRONICLES novel, Hounded. Atticus and Oberon are driving from Phoenix, where they live, to the Grand Canyon for a little nature retreat. When they stop in at their favorite coffee shop, Atticus notices a pretty young witch with a bad aura. As they’re driving on the interstate... Read More

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury: Four great stories make it easy to recommend

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle

Thanks to our recent book chats here, I’ve reread a bit of Ray Bradbury lately, so I was well primed to pick up the 2012 tribute anthology edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, entitled Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, which collects 26 contemporary authors who were asked to write a story inspired or informed by Bradbury. The task was sufficiently non-restrictive that the stories run a gamut of style and type: horror, fantasy, dystopia, science fiction, as well as several with no fantastical element whatsoever, which may surprise those who know Bradbury only through classic novels like Fahrenheit 451 or Something Wicked This Way Comes, or collections ... Read More

Reaper Man: The demise of Death

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Reading Reaper Man in light of Terry Pratchett’s recent passing was particularly poignant. It is a book all about death, both figuratively and literally speaking. DISCWORLD fans will be familiar with the character of Death, who this book is largely about. Then, of course, there are the blustering wizards of the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, but that is not to say that readers new to the Discworld can’t pick this up as a stand-alone novel. So, what happens when Death is sacked? Utter chaos, apparently…

The mystical forces of the universe (who very specifically have no personalities or individual qualities to them) are not happy. Death has become too much of a character (a he, not an it) and it is simply not proper for the impersonal force... Read More