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The Wrong Dead Guy: The crispest comic dialogue I’ve read in a long, long time

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The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey

Even if Richard Kadrey’s The Wrong Dead Guy (2017) didn’t have an elephant, a library and a grumpy mummy, I would love it for the comedic dialogue. This book has some of the crispest comic dialogue (not just banter) I’ve read in a very long time, maybe ever.

The Wrong Dead Guy is the second book in Kadrey’s ANOTHER COOP HEIST series. Cooper, who goes by Coop, is a thief specializing in magical items. He is immune to magic, which also means that he cannot wield it. His girlfriend Giselle, who works for the Department of Peculiar Science (DOPS), does use magic though, and sometimes Coop works with a ghost named Phil, who rides in Coop’s head during the heist.

Right now,... Read More

Wasp: Phase 9 From Outer Space

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Wasp by Eric Frank Russell

There seems to exist some very real confusion as to just what English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell did during WW2. Some sources would have us believe that he worked for British Intelligence during the war years, while others claim that he was merely an RAF radio operator and mechanic. Whatever the real story may be, the writer put his war experiences to good use over a decade later, when he wrote what would be his sixth novel out of an eventual 10, Wasp. Initially released as an Avalon Books hardcover in November 1957, when Russell was already 52, Wasp has been called one of its author’s finest works. This reader was fortunate enough to acquire the 35-cent Permabook paperback edition from 1959 at NYC bookstore extraordinaire ... Read More

Battle Hill Bolero: A satisfying conclusion to an important series

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Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel José Older

Battle Hill Bolero (2017) is the concluding novel in Daniel José Older’s BONE STREET RUMBA trilogy of urban fantasy novels set amid the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, NY. While not as strong as the preceding novels, Half-Resurrection Blues (2015) and Midnight Taxi Tango (2016), Battle Hill Bolero does deliver on what Older does best: vibrant and diverse characters, a multi-cultural and multi-faceted city that fully comes to life, and a hefty dose of righteous indignation. Bear in mind that this... Read More

The Heart of What Was Lost: Tad Williams returns to Osten Ard

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Reposting to include Bill's new review.

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for Tad Williams’ MEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, but please note that it is not necessary to have read MST and, in fact, this novel can stand alone.

There was great rejoicing heard around the world when Tad Williams announced he was returning to Osten Ard. His original OSTEN ARD trilogy, MEMORY, SORROW & THORN, has been popular with epic fantasy fans since the late 1980s. I’m one of those totally devoted fans who read it way back then when I was a young adult. Since then, I’ve been recommendin... Read More

Winter of the Gods: Godhood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

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Winter of the Gods by Jordanna Max Brodsky

Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Winter of the Gods (2017) is the second installment in her OLYMPUS BOUND trilogy and a direct follow-up to 2016’s The Immortals, continuing to follow Selene DiSilva (formerly known as the Greek goddess Artemis, whose epithets include The Huntress and Mistress of Animals) and her mortal boyfriend, Theodore Schultz. Though Selene and Theo were able to determine the cause of the strange murders in The Immortals — and stopped the cult behind it all — a new threat has arisen, once which will be impossible to stop without divine assistance.

Winter of the Gods Read More

Dragonwatch: Revolt of the Fablehaven dragons

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Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull

Fans of Brandon Mull’s FABLEHAVEN middle grade fantasy series now have a chance to revisit that world with Dragonwatch (2017), the first book in his new FABLEHAVEN ADVENTURE series. In the world of FABLEHAVEN, mythical beings like fairies, centaurs, dragons and demons actually exist, living in hidden, protected sanctuaries where most humans are unaware of their existence. Even if you enter a preserve, unless you drink the milk of a magical milch cow, fairies look like dragonflies or butterflies, nipsies seem to be mice, satyrs appear as goats, and so on.

In the original FABLEHAVEN series, Kendra and her younger brother Seth helped protect their grandparents’ estate, Fablehav... Read More

All Flesh Is Grass: Flower power

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All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak

In the 1966 3-D movie The Bubble, later rereleased as Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth, an impenetrable and transparent dome of unknown origin encases a small American town, trapping its residents inside. Forty-three years later, in Stephen King’s doorstop best seller of 2009, Under the Dome, another American town, Chester’s Mill, is similarly and mysteriously ensnared. Beating both these projects to the punch, however, and a possible inspiration for both of them, was Clifford D. Simak’s 10th novel, All Flesh Is Grass. The book... Read More

Galactic North: Reynolds excels at shorter lengths

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Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds

Having read all the full-length novels in Alastair ReynoldsREVELATION SPACE series, I knew I’d eventually get to his shorter works set in the same dark and complex universe. The main novels are Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Chasm City, Absolution Gap, and The Prefect. Reynolds has produced a ... Read More

The Complete Cosmicomics: Cosmic tales of the universe’s origins

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The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

Along with his brilliant Invisible Cities (1972 in Italian, 1974 in English), one of Italo Calvino’s most enduring creations was his series of whimsical and erudite stories inspired by the origins of the universe and scientific principles, labeled Cosmicomics (1965 in Italian, 1968 in English). They are narrated by a mysterious being called Qfwfq, who tells of the Big Bang and the time before that when the universe was a single point without space or dimensions. Qfwfq has a refreshingly frank and humorous attitude towards such momentous moments as the birth of our universe, the origins of life, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the first animals t... Read More

Strange the Dreamer: Complex and compelling

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

On first look, it might seem that Laini Taylor was a little too ambitious with her latest offering, Strange the Dreamer (2017), kind of like an overenthusiastic cook that goes a bit overboard with their cake ingredients. The blurb doesn't help matters, citing a war between gods and men, a mysterious city, a mythical hero, a librarian, alchemy, nightmares and monsters as some of the components of the story — which will no doubt have raised an eyebrow or two. But just like its protagonist, Strange the Dreamer is far from what you first expect.

Our story opens with Lazlo Strange, a war orphan brought up by monks. He is, as the title suggests, a dreamer, and spends his days fighting mythical warriors in an orchard... Read More

The Fuse: The Russia Shift (Giveaway!)

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The Fuse (Vol. 1): The Russia Shift by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

(No spoilers, but this review is also a Giveaway. I met Justin Greenwood, who draws The Fuse and got a signed copy of this collection, which one random commenter with a USA mailing address will get.)

The Fuse: The Russia Shift is Volume One in the collection of this comics science fiction police procedural series, set on a space station orbiting earth. The Russia Shift introduces us to our two cops; Ralph Dietrich, just arrived from Earth, and his more experien... Read More

The Last Harvest: Darkness lurking within a cheery Midwestern town

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The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

YA horror novel The Last Harvest (2017) focuses on hidden secrets within a small town and the unreliability of one’s senses. Taking a page or two from Ira Levin’s classic novel Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and clearly inspired by instances of “Satanism-related moral panic,” Kim Liggett serves up a tale of teenagers inheriting a dark legacy — and whether that legacy is mental illness or something more sinister is at the core of her story.

One year ago, Clay Tate’s father died in the process of trying to destroy the entirety of the breeding stock at a local cattle ranch ... using a crucifix. Mr. Tate had been acting erratically for a whil... Read More

The King in Yellow: Weird stories that inspired H.P. Lovecraft

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Reposting to include Jason's new review.

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

... It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured by even the most advanced of literary anarchists... It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on the words in which the essence of purest poison lurked.

Robert W. Chambers was an American writer who was born in 1865. He studied art in Paris for a time, returning to the U.S. to be an artist and illustrator. He sold some drawings, then switched tracks and began writing. His first novel was called Read More

The Lathe of Heaven: Dreaming of Utopia

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin

When George Orr sleeps, he sometimes has “effective” dreams that alter reality. Believing that he has no right to effect such changes, George begins taking drugs to suppress the dreams. As the drugs lose their efficacy, George ups the dosage, exceeding legal limits. George is caught and ordered to choose between therapy and asylum. He chooses therapy and is sent to Dr. William Haber. When Haber realizes that George is not crazy and that these “effective” dreams indeed change reality, the psychiatrist decides to make the world a better place.

And why not? Overpopulated, polluted, radioactive, and starving – humanity’s near future is an age of terrible consequences. The world could use a dreamer, figures Haber, so he hypnotizes George to shape the future.

By t... Read More

They Walked Like Men: Simak bowls a strike

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They Walked Like Men by Clifford D. Simak

In the history of the science fiction novel, there have been any number of depictions of invaders from other worlds trying to conquer good ol’ Mother Earth, be it with brute force and death rays (as in H.G. Wells’ seminal novel of 1898, The War of the Worlds) or more insidiously (as in Jack Finney’s 1955 masterpiece of paranoia, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). But nowhere, I suspect, has the reader ever been presented with a takeover attempt akin to the one in Read More

The Halloween Tree: The best history lesson you’ll ever have

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Reposting to include Jason's new review.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around you couldn’t see the town. But on the other hand there wasn’t so much town you couldn’t see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness. 

So reads the charming first sentence of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. A perfectly gothic yarn that seeks, through the hop skip and jump adventure of a group of young boys and their sinister guide, to convey the true meaning of Halloween.

It is Halloween night and Tom Skelton and his group of boys are dressed up and ready for adventure. Leaving their poorly friend P... Read More

Crossroads of Canopy: This new fantasy series is one to watch

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Crossroads of Canopy
by Thoraiya Dyer

The thing I loved most about Crossroads of Canopy, by Thoraiya Dyer, was the elaborate and coherent world she’s created in this new fantasy, Book One in the TITAN’S FOREST trilogy. Published in 2017, Crossroads of Canopy introduces us to a society that lives in a forest, at all elevations, from the Floorians to the Canopians, who are called “Warmed Ones” because they are the only ones to feel the sun directly on their skin. With a complex theology filled with gods who incarnate as humans, a political structure that has secular rulers as well as gods, and a detailed hierarchy that is literal as well as a metaphor, Dyer brings us right into the forest and sets up a convincing adventure for our main character, Unar.

The book is not marketed as Young Adult, but t... Read More

The Tiger and the Wolf: Compelling fusion of shapeshifter lore in a Bronze Age world

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The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Tiger and the Wolf (2016), just issued in trade paperback format, immerses you a Bronze Age/early Iron Age world, where every human is a shapeshifter. People divide into clans according to the animal they change into, which happens instantly and, for the most part, at will. Their shapeshifting animal informs their clan’s physical appearance as well as the nature of their society. It's a brutal life, with the stronger tribes like Tigers and Wolves fighting for supremacy. Groups like these dominate the weaker clans like the Deer and Boars, using them as subject people, servants and thralls, and even human/animal sacrifices.

In this harsh world, Maniye, a girl of the Winter Runner Wolf tribe in the northern area known as the Crown of the World, grows up isolated and friendless. Though her father is chieftain of the... Read More

I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

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I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère

Anyone familiar with the SF novels of Philip K. Dick and the many films inspired by his works knows that he was one strange and visionary guy. Certainly the SF genre is filled with works of bizarre worlds, aliens, characters, and slippery reality. But it’s generally accepted by authors and readers alike that these fictional creations are just that — works of the imagination by writers who are generally considered sane and share the consensus view of reality. In the case of PKD, however, the line between reality and fiction, sanity and madness, redemption and damnation, revelation and delusion is very blurred indeed. In fact, the pers... Read More

Time Is the Simplest Thing: Fast-paced and imaginative, with an important message

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Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak

Written s(i)mack-dab in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement, Clifford D. Simak’s Time Is the Simplest Thing utilizes the tools of science fiction to make poignant comments on the issues of the day. The novel, the author’s sixth out of an eventual 29, was initially serialized in the May - July 1961 issues of Analog magazine with the equally appropriate title The Fisherman, and went on to be nominated for that year’s Hugo Award. (It lost, to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land Read More

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: In search of lost things, including a cat

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

At first glance, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is about Toru Okada, a legal assistant who has given up his job in the hope of finding a more fulfilling purpose. Though happily married, his cat, Noboru Wataya, has gone missing. If a missing cat sounds too straightforward for a novel often described as the masterpiece of a man who is often mentioned as a dark horse to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, well, there’s a lot to unpack in this summary. Also, Toru is about to learn that his brother-in-law defiles women and his own marriage with Kumiko is in serious trouble.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle can be interpreted along several lines, but perhaps our struggle to form meaningful rel... Read More

Behind Her Eyes: Twisty thriller with cross-genre appeal

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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Louise is an insecure single mom who, one night, meets and kisses a dashing stranger. She’s mortified the next morning to find that the stranger, David, is now her boss. Her married boss. Then she (literally) bumps into David’s wife, Adele, and the two of them hit it off.

Despite her best friend’s warnings that all of this is a bad idea, Louise falls in deeper: into a full-blown affair with David, and into a close friendship with Adele. In particular, Louise and Adele bond over their shared experience with night terrors.

This triangle is a freight train barreling toward trouble, and Louise soon learns that the stakes might be deadlier, as questions and mysteries lurk beneath the surface of Adele and David’s lives: Who, if anyone, killed Adele’s parents? Who, if an... Read More

Wonders of the Invisible World: Intoxicatingly beautiful fragments

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip

I love Patricia McKillip’s writing, and was excited to hear she had a short story collection coming out. I really enjoy reading short stories because I think it’s a good measure of what a writer can do – distill down the essential elements of story to a concentrated core of who they are as a writer.

Upon opening the collection I was slightly disappointed to realize that these were all stories that had been previously published, many of which I had read before. However, it was an interesting experience for me to rediscover some of these stories for a second time, and to compare the effect of the stories I had read before to the ones I was reading for the first time.

I thought the first story, “Wonders of the Invisible World,” was t... Read More

Miranda and Caliban: A beautiful melancholy tale

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Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and Caliban is a twist on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, ringing one major change on the play: what if Miranda and Caliban were in love?

Our tale begins years before the events of the play; we first meet Miranda as a child, assisting her father Prospero in the ceremonial magic that will bind the “wild boy,” Caliban, and the spirit Ariel to his will. From there, Jacqueline Carey alternates between Miranda’s point of view and Caliban’s, following them as they grow up together. At first, Miranda helps Caliban learn to speak and read; later, when she is stricken by an illness, Caliban helps her. And then when adolescence strikes, the two begin to have forbidden feelings for each other.

Looming o... Read More

Swamplandia!: Wonderfully surreal

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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

It's not often a book manages to maintain the balancing act between reality and fantasy, but Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! (2011) treads the line perfectly. The story opens with Hilola Bigtree, matriarch of the Bigtree family who own Swamplandia!, an alligator-wrestling theme park in the Ten Thousand Islands of the coast of Florida. She performs her nightly stunt of jumping into a lake full of alligators, but it is not this which kills her; she falls victim to the more mundane and arguably tragic battle with cancer. This leaves the Bigtree family — Hilola's three children and husband — to come to terms with their loss and the uncertain fate of Swamplandia!.

Narrating the family's story is our thirteen-year-old protagonist, Ava Bigtree, youngest of the Bigtree clan. At thirteen, Ava should have enough problems to... Read More