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John Golden: Freelance Debugger: A blast to read

John Golden: Freelance Debugger by Django Wexler

Django Wexler, the man with such a fun name, hasn’t just limited himself to epic fantasy. In February Wexler released a novella called John Golden: Freelance Debugger. In proper Wexler form he took a genre that is almost too saturated (urban fantasy) and slammed his way into it with something new, eye catching, and unique.

John Golden tells the story of a man (Surprise! His name is ‘John’) who fixes computers by debugging them. While that might seem fine and dandy, the truth is that the entire premise of how this protagonist debugs computers (and just what the “bugs” are) is just about as interesting as anything else in the novel. Wexler packs quite a story into his few short pages (62 pages, actually).

Don’t let the technospeak and the footnotes put you off. While typically people like their text to flow certain ways, and footnot... Read More

The War in the Air: Should be mandatory reading for all thinking adults

The War in the Air by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds
wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees ai... Read More

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught is another wonderful offering from Nobrow Press. It is a quiet work filled with noises, a Mona Lisa on a postage stamp, an epic in sonnet form, and a study in time captured in minutes and seconds. All these contradictions should make it clear how difficult it is to write about a book that’s only about twenty-five pages long, covers a brief period of time at the end of a day, and has no dialogue between characters.

Physically, the book is about the size of a typical paperback, and many of these fairly small pages have such tiny panels that a single page can have as many as twenty-six panels, though the number of pane... Read More

Station Eleven: A literary post-apocalyptic novel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is a book you need to read. In a market cluttered with variations of the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic life, this one is the deepest and the quietest; the most poetic and the most literary in the best sense of that word. Yes, it’s a quiet, poetic literary “After the End of Everything” novel.

Station Eleven stretches out, backward and forwards in the story’s timeline, like an intricate spider web, and the enter of this delicate but strong narrative is Arthur Leander, actor and former superstar. Arthur had a huge movie career when he was younger. Now fifty-one, he feels his fame waning. At a performance of an unusually-staged King Lear, Arthur suffers a heart attack and dies. This happens in the first five pages of the book.

By dying, Arthur escapes that terror and pa... Read More

Spera by Josh Tierney

Spera (Vol 1) by Josh Tierney and various artists

Spera by Josh Tierney is a YA fantasy work that I raved about in a Sunday Status Update about a month ago. The story is of two young girls, fleeing princesses, on the run from murderous relatives and accompanied by an Aslan-like creature made of fire. One of the princesses, Lono, is a hesitant-young lady in a dress; the other, her protector, is a bold tomboy named Pira who wields a magic sword. The graphic novel is comprised of episodic tales overall, but as the table of contents indicates, it’s organized as a four-chapter novel plus an additional section of five short stories. I enjoyed this episodic approach, which seemed an appropriate way to ... Read More

Shutter by Joe Keatinge & Leila Del Duca

Shutter by Joe Keatinge (writer) and Leila Del Duca (artist)

Shutter is another fairly recent Image title that is a five-star read, and it’s further evidence that science fiction fans should keep their eyes on this publisher. Shutter opens up with a father-daughter outing . . . on the moon! After that quiet, peaceful moment, the story picks up pace in the first issue, and starting in the second, the action almost never lets up. It’s about family, growing up, and getting to know more about our parents than we ever wanted to know, attempting to reconcile our gilt-edged memories with our realizations that those memories may be less golden than we thought. The heroine of this story is kept so busy, however, that she has little time to deal fully with the emotional impact of her new-found kn... Read More

Elephantmen: Wounded Animals by Richard Starkings & Moritat

Elephantmen (Vol 01): Wounded Animals by Richard Starkings (writer) and Moritat (artist) and other artists

Hip Flask, one of the main characters of Elephantmen, has been around for over a decade now, and the first images I saw did not immediately appeal to me. However, after reading the first issue, I realized this reaction is essential to the entire point of the series, because we are led to see how these Elephantmen, who have been terribly mistreated, continue to be discriminated against by humans. So, if you also are put off by the appearance of a humanoid hippopotamus dressed in a trench coat, then you still are likely to enjoy this series: You are being invited into this fictional world by being asked to respond as any human would. The goal of the author and artist is to make you care about these creatures after your initial difficulty in empathizing. However, as you begin to empathize within the very first issue, ... Read More

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: THE FAUST ACT by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE (Vol. 1): THE FAUST ACT by Kieron Gillen (writer) and Jamie McKelvie (artist)

IMAGE is THE publisher to watch these days, and THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is further proof that, outside of your canonical superhero stories, IMAGE is where you’ll most likely pick up stories written for the mature adult, both male and female. IMAGE has taken the promise of VERTIGO and made it a reality, and all the best writers and artists, even the ones still working for MARVEL and DC, take time off to put out their dream projects with the hands-off editors at IMAGE. Consider this list: SAGA, VELVET, THE FADE OUT, DREAM MERCHANT, COPPERHEAD, SEX CRIMINALS, PRETTY DEADLY, DEADLY CL... Read More

The Lies of Locke Lamora: Couldn’t put it down

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora introduces the reader to a world of politics, intrigue, history, and thieves. Locke is the leader of a particular gang (The Gentlemen Bastards) who don’t play by the rules — not even the ones set out by the king of the underground. Before this can even begin to get them into trouble however, there are other things in the works for them. It is a story of deceit, betrayal, blood, life, and inevitable revenge that keeps you turning pages until the bitter end.

I couldn’t put The Lies of Locke Lamora down. It’s a common saying, but I found this book so enthralling for so many reasons that it became my constant companion until I had read it through (twice).

The characters are well thought out and developed people. Every single character, whether they are around for two paragraphs or twenty chapters,... Read More

Tooth & Claw by Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey

Tooth & Claw by Kurt Busiek (writer) and Benjamin Dewey (artist)

I rarely write a review of a first issue, because there are other sites that keep up with weekly releases; instead, I prefer to tell you about the best trade collections available for purchase in paper or digital format. But every now and then, I make an exception. Kurt Busiek’s Tooth & Claw, which just came out, is worth telling you about. First, it’s got over forty pages of story in the first issue (for only $2.99!), and second, it’s an incredible story that you do not want to miss. I think this story, though nothing like Saga, is going to compete with Saga in the larger SFF category. However, while Saga Read More

The Haunting: The beginning of Mahy’s illustrious career

The Haunting by Margaret Mahy

I first read The Haunting when I was about ten or eleven years old, and now — almost twenty years later — I was stunned by how much I remembered it. Usually good books leave an imprint of enjoyment on your memory, but such is the potency of Margaret Mahy's writing that I recalled almost every beat of her story. At the same time, there were parts of The Haunting that I could appreciate much more as an adult than as a child.

Barney Palmer is a sensitive but ordinary little boy, who is on his way from school one day when "the world tilted and ran downhill in all directions, and he knew he was about to be haunted again." Sure enough, the blurry vision of a ghost appears before him, a curly-haired boy wearing an old-fashioned velvet suit and lace collar, who cries: "Barnaby's dead! Barnaby's dead! And I'm going to be very lonely." Read More

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection: Indispensable

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

Jay Lake died in June of 2014. It was a tragic loss but not a surprise, since Lake had made his experiences with cancer public. Last Plane to Heaven, edited by Lake himself, is a reminder of just how much the speculative fiction world lost.

I have always loved Lake’s prose, but I had trouble with his novels. This collection of thirty-two stories shows him, mostly, at his best and strongest. As with his novels, even when a story is, by my lights, less than successful, it is still a fascinating read. Lake put a brief introduction to each story. In several cases these often humorous introductions are as interesting as the story. Fair warning, though; several of these introductions discuss the effect of his cancer and the treatments on his writing; be prepared.

Because there are thirty-two stories, I am not going to comment on all of them... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Read More

The Last Banquet: A feast of emotions

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (pseudonym of Jon Courtenay Grimwood)

Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumont is first and foremost a chef. Even the title chef is a gross understatement. Jean-Marie is a connoisseur on an adventure to taste as many different things as he can in his lifetime. As The Last Banquet opens up, we find Jean-Marie as an orphan sitting by a dung heap munching on beetles. With each beetle consumed, he notes that they often taste like what they’d consumed prior to being eaten. There’s a very wry, subtle humor throughout the story, and it shines in the beginning where Jean-Marie eats a beetle before a nearby man can ask him to share, as if everyone eats beetles.

Jean-Marie will eat anything he can get his hands on — frog, loris, snake, dog, cat, lion, you name it, he’s eaten it, raw or cooked. Intermittently throughout the book, Grimwood has placed entries of Jean-Marie’s cookbook, including ingredient... Read More

Fool’s Fate: Meets very high expectations

Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

I shouldn’t even have to write this review. Fool’s Fate is the last book in Robin Hobb’s TAWNY MAN trilogy, following Fool’s Errand and Golden Fool. If you haven’t read those (and preferably also the earlier FARSEER trilogy), you have no business reading this review. If you have read those books, there is about a 0.00416% chance that you’re not going to pick up Fool’s Fate, so it doesn’t matter what I say here.

But, since you are here, for whatever reason, I’ll make it short and just let you know that Fool’s Fate met, and maybe even exceeded, my very high expectations... which I knew it would because I read it ten years ago and have thought about it longingly in all the years since. This time I listened t... Read More

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