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Grimm’s Fairy Tales: An all-star cast narrates a new audio version

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, popularly knows as The Brothers Grimm, were German academics who, in the early 19th century, studied, compiled and published hundreds of folklore tales that have become an integral part of Western culture. They published their first edition of tales, titled Children's and Household Tales, or just Grimm's Fairy Tales, in 1812 and many editions have been published since.

Listening Library has just released a new audio version of 21 of the Grimm Brothers’ original fairy tales (not to be confused with the cleaned-up versions they later published as more suitable for civilized children). It’s narrated by a full-cast that includes some of the best and most popular readers in the business.

Here are the stories and narrators:

“Rapunzel” read by Katherine Kellgren
“Cinderel... Read More

Lois Lane: Double Down: A worthy successor to Fallout

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Building on the successes of 2015’s Lois Lane: Fallout, Gwenda Bond takes everything that fans loved about that book and throws even more entertainment into its sequel, Lois Lane: Double Down. Excellent friendships? Check. An online romance between two people who respect one another and view each other as friends above all else? Check. Hard-nosed investigation of nefarious dealings, sprinkled with a dash of shadowy criminals? Check. Mysterious and possibly crackpot sightings of a flying man? Check. You don’t need to have read Fallout to enjoy Double Down — Bond does a great job of making sure there are allusions to the first book while letting the second stand on its own feet — but reading the books in sequen... Read More

Thriller: One of the scariest TV shows of all time

Thriller

Viewers who tuned into the new Thriller program on NBC, on the night of September 13, 1960, a Tuesday, could have had little idea that the mildly suspenseful program that they saw that evening — one that concerned a male ad exec being stalked by a female admirer — would soon morph into the show that author Stephen King would later call "the best horror series ever put on TV." The first eight episodes of Thriller came off as hour-long homages to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which it immediately followed in the 9:00 slot; solid enough episodes of murder, intrigue and suspense, to be sure, with a touch of film noir at their heart. In the face of scathing reviews and poor viewership, however, the program brought in a new production team and drastically rebooted its image, gearing itself now more toward supernatural horror and crime melodramas; indeed, epis... Read More

Blindsight: Mind-blowing hard SF about first contact, consciousness

Blindsight by Peter Watts

This is ‘hard science fiction’ in the truest sense of the term — hard science concepts, hard-to-understand writing at times, and hard-edged philosophy of mind and consciousness. Peter Watts aggressively tackles weighty subjects like artificial intelligence, evolutionary biology, genetic modification, sentience vs intelligence, first contact with aliens utterly different from humanity, and a dystopian future where humans are almost superfluous and would rather retreat into VR. Blindsight (2006) is also a tightly-told story of an exploration vessel manned by five heavily-modified post-humans commanded by a super-intelligent vampire, and a very tense and claustrophobic narrative that demands a lot from readers. If that sounds like your kind of book, you’ll find this is one of the best hard science fiction books in the last 10 years.

I try to avoid using the... Read More

It: Stephen King’s best

It by Stephen King

Stephen King's It is a wonderfully sweeping tale of what it means to be a child and what it means to leave your childhood behind, inevitably and mostly forgotten, when transforming into an adult. This very evocative tale of childhood orbits and surrounds a tale of exquisite horror, and is my favorite of the 25 or so King books I’ve read.

It story takes place in King’s old fictional haunt of Derry, Maine, and focuses on two time periods — 1957 and 1984 — where a group of friends, as children and then as adults, form a magnificent bond to battle foes both natural and supernatural. One member of this group frames the story well:

My whole pleasant life has been nothing but the eye of some storm I don't understand.

An eye ... Read More

The Everything Box: Truly, deeply, madly hilarious

The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

With The Everything Box, Richard Kadrey has made himself at home in the territory occupied by Christopher Moore. And by “made himself at home” I mean he’s kicked in Moore’s door, settled down on the couch, drunk all the booze, eaten all the chips and reprogrammed Moore’s DVR. Now Kadrey is looking across the hall where the Pratchett and Gaiman novel Good Omens lives, and saying, “Yoo-hoo, anybody home?”

Comic novels are hard, and for some reason science fiction or fantasy comic novels are even harder. There’... Read More

Sleeping Giants: Sci-fi thriller debut is one of the best of the year

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants honorably borrows from notable films — Pacific Rim, The Iron Giant, and the Indiana Jones series — in this creative take on first contact in a contemporary world of shadowy government operatives, high tech archaeology, and mystery-shrouded alien technology.

Rose Franklin was the little girl who fell into the mysterious metal hand. Years later, with a physics Ph.D. in hand, Dr. Franklin is appointed to lead the investigation into the metal object.

The story itself is compelling: very few details emerge about the hand other than its bizarre physical makeup; when lightly irradiated, the metal glows; it’s clearly nothing that humans could make. But what is it? Is the hand just a hand ... or is there more?

Enter the mysterious ‘manipulator’. A not-quite-government/not-... Read More

The Exorcist: Deep, dark, literate horror

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Sometimes I wish there weren't so many amazing books to read. Because every once in a while I come across a book so intricate, so subtle, and so intense, that without a second, slower, read, I know there is zero chance that I capture a true understanding the book in its entirety.

William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist is that kind of a book. It's creepy, crude and scary. On more than one evening while reading in bed, I found myself half jumping across the room only to find the cat poking his head through the door to see if it was breakfast time. One morning on my bus ride into work, I almost elbowed a poor woman in the head, so throughout engrossed I was in Blatty's deeply affecting novel.
What looked like morning was the beginning of endless night.
The Exorcist, which Blatty converted into the screenplay of the wel... Read More

Can’t Get No by Rick Veitch

Can’t Get No by Rick Veitch

Rick Veitch is one of the best comic book artists and writers most people have never heard of. I’ve already reviewed one of my favorite books of his, Shiny Beasts, a collection of short stories. He also worked with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, and he’s sort of what Alan Moore would be if he were primarily an artist, I believe. Consider this little plug for Rick Veitch’s Can’t Get No: “. . . supremely, magnificently strange, and like nothing else I’ve read.” And that’s from Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman and ma... Read More

The Secret of Platform 13: Delightful, fantastical fun

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson is a well-loved children’s author, and it is books like The Secret of Platform 13 that make me glad that I have no qualms about reading beyond the confines of suggested age groups. In fact, I find the experience particularly indulgent.

As a quick prologue, I note that some people have made much of the similarity between Ibbotson’s Platform 13 at Kings Cross Station and the one used by J.K. Rowling, Platform 9 3/4. I don’t have much to say on the subject, only that the books are very different in most other ways and honestly, it’s not worth getting excited about.

With that said, I can get on to the important things.

Once every nine years a secret door c... Read More

Red Mars: This is where we start again

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

When the First Hundred arrive on Mars, they find a beautiful red planet that’s all but untouched by humanity. What should they paint on this amazing canvas?

The question turns out to be very political, and the discussion of politics in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars perhaps begins with ecology. The relationship between people and their environment is introduced when the Martian settlers consider whether they should change the red planet to suit human needs. Ann Clayborne maintains that they should change Mars as little as possible. After all, science is about observation. Sax Russell, on the other hand, argues that “science is creation” and that they should begin terraforming Mars as rapidly as possible because it “adds life, the most beautiful system of all.” Sax’s argume... Read More

Adulthood Rites: A human-Oankali child is torn between two species

Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler

Adulthood Rites (1988) is the second book in Octavia Butler’s XENOGENESIS trilogy. It continues the story of Lilith in Dawn (1987), a human woman revived by the alien Oankali centuries after humanity has mostly destroyed itself with nuclear weapons. The Oankali offered humanity a second chance, but at a price — to merge its genes with the Oankali, who are ‘gene traders’ driven to continuously seek new species in the galaxy to combine their DNA with, transforming both sides in the process.

10 years after the events of Dawn, Lilith has given birth to a son named Akin, the first male ‘construct’ to be born to a human woman. There are number of distinct groups in this newly reborn Earth – Oankali who d... Read More

SAGA Volume Four, Issues 19-24

SAGA Volume Four, Issues 19-24 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

Saga is one of those series that is so wildly popular, like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or The Sopranos, that you start to worry how the writers can maintain its high quality. Can they keep up the momentum, originality, artistic integrity, and entertainment that make the series so special? Or will they hit a wall and produce a total stinker of an ending, like Lost, or just fade into mediocrity like Glee. I’m so invested in the characters and world-building that it would be a tragedy if things headed south. So I’m glad to report that Read More

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories: Presents all the flavors of life

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Ken Liu is a writer of many talents, all of which are on full display in his first short story collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. Each of the fifteen pieces presented here is well-executed; many don’t have happy endings (as much as I would like them to), though Liu makes the best choices possible for the tales he’s telling, and I will admit that the end results frequently left me crying or stunned. He brings characters to life and makes you care about their situations, whether his fiction is based in historical fact or speculation upon a potential future. Despite the fact that these are all short works, dialogue is well-written, plots arc nicely, and character motivations ring true. Liu displays a remarkable range — from encyclopedia entries, tech noir, modern spec... Read More

Version Control: Will probably be my favorite book of 2016

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

“Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger... And it is more interesting.” ~Stuart Firestein

Dexter Palmer’s Version Control is my kind of science fiction. I loved every moment of this book. The story is set in the near future and focuses on Rebecca Wright and her small circle of family and friends. Rebecca, who drinks wine at breakfast and works from home as a customer service agent for an online matchmaking company called Lovability, is married to Philip, an ambitious physicist. Early on we realize that the couple has recently suffered a tragedy that affects their relationship. Rebecca’s best friend Kate is a slightly unstable woman who has an on-again off-again relationship with Carson, a postdoc in Philip’s lab. Alicia, another postdoc, seems abrasive a... Read More

The Winged Histories: This book is great, but don’t take my word for it

The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar

I was going to review Sofia Samatar’s book The Winged Histories, her companion novel to 2014’s A Stranger in Olondria, by simply saying, “This book is great, but don’t take my word for it; go read it.” Then I realized that not everyone will feel the way I feel about The Winged Histories. Instead of saying, “This book isn’t for everyone,” I’m going to aim this review at the people I do think it’s for.

Who are you? Well, here’s who you probably are:

If you liked A Stranger in Olondria for its vivid descriptions, its sense of a unique world, and its appealing characters, you will like The Winged Histories. You do not have t... Read More

SAGA Volume Three, Issues 13-18

SAGA Volume 3, Issues 13-18 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

This highly original space opera romance is incredibly popular, and for good reason. Anyone who has read Saga Vols 1 & 2 will undoubtedly be fans of star-crossed lovers Alana & Marko, who come from opposing sides of a galactic war, Marko’s sharp-tongued mother Klara, freelancer assassin The Will and his lie-detecting cat, and Marko’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn. Not to mention the difficult-to-hate Prince Robot IV and all the other bizarre creations of Vaughan and Staples. The authors have continued to breath life into their fresh, genre-bending blend of space opera, romance, family drama, and chase amid a galactic war tale with an amazingly effortless sense of humor. What I like most about this series is their willingness to go off on weird story tangents without losing the momentum of the larger story.

Witho... Read More

Three Parts Dead: A wonderfully inventive story

Reposting to include Marion's new review:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead is a wonderfully inventive story. Max Gladstone blends a plethora of ideas, ranging from vampires to magic to steampunk technology and adds interesting characters and a plot that is predictable but still enjoyable. The result is memorable.

Tara is a recently expelled student in the art of the Craft. A Craftsman or Craftswoman is the equivalent of a magician or sorcerer, someone who has learned how to use the energies of the world to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Tara’s fall from the Hidden Schools — think of a floating university for sorcerers — was both literal and logical: she had to fight her way out of the school before being physically dropped from its heights. Tara’s story is central to the book as she goes from expelled student to local healer... Read More

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

I’m so late to the party that the weekend is over and everyone is back to work on Monday. I like to write SF reviews to introduce new books to people who might not have read them yet, but Saga is already so popular and well known that the only advantage to discovering this series so late is that I can read the first 5 volumes straight through without having to wait!

The story moves so propulsively you have to force yourself to slow down. The characters are so likeable that even the contract killers and military robot royalty are sympathetic. And the dialogue written by Brian K. Vaughan is so infectiously fun, snarky and charming that I kept laughing out loud. It’s a space opera, yes, and a story of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a protracted interstellar war. And they have a brand-new baby. Their arguments, fears about par... Read More

Something Red: Reminds us that the magic of storytelling is in the language

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas

Something Red is a beautifully written, patiently drawn, mood-filled literary thriller. It’s not outright scary, but one could classify it as horror. It’s not a straight-out mystery, though poet-turned-novelist Douglas Nicholas drafts an expectant, slow-boil whodunit.

Something Red centers on a small band of travelers winding their way through northern England at the earliest onsets of winter. The story is told through the eyes of Hob, a young orphan in the care of Molly, a world-wise woman who's equally as skilled with a bow as she is with the medicinal powders and elixirs she keeps in her wagon. Molly’s granddaughter Nemain and the silent, brooding and terrifically strong Jack, flesh out Molly’s troupe.

Nicholas uses his remarkable linguistic skill to build his plot and shape his characters, slowly like t... Read More

The Weavers of Saramyr: Creepy, rich, layered, and ultimately satisfying

The Weavers of Saramyr by Chris Wooding

Chris Wooding has once again branched out and attacked another flavour of fantasy. This time the story brings the reader a sophisticated beginning to what promises to be a mysterious, cutthroat, and complex trilogy: THE BRAIDED PATH. Both the physical and social settings are richly described and beautifully rendered throughout. The Weavers of Saramyr introduces us to a nation torn apart by sickness, an empress who is all out of options, survival against the odds, and unlikely freedom fighters. The Weavers of Saramyr is no less than gripping from the first page through to the last.

There is a sickness in the lands of Saramyr. It manifests in deformed animal and plant life across the nation. Farmers call the soil evil, wildlife is slo... Read More

Bone Crossed: Mercy doesn’t cry mercy

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

In Bone Crossed, the fourth installment in the Mercedes Thompson series, Mercy is learning to cope with her new role as the mate of the local werewolf pack while still suffering the effects of a horrific assault that occurred at the climax of Iron Kissed. Complications from inter-species conflicts remain a central theme, and her relationship challenges don’t simply fade away, but Mercy Thompson does not cry mercy.

Patricia Briggs keeps the story moving, introducing new plot elements which require Mercy to constantly re-evaluate and adjust. Another author might wave a magic wand and make things all better for Mercy, but Briggs doesn’t, and my respect for her writing deepens as a result. Too many authors leave thei... Read More

Gotham, Season 1: The backstories of Gotham’s heroes and villains

Gotham, Season 1

This is such a great idea for a TV series. We all know the basic story of the Batman thanks to the venerable comics franchise, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, and the recent Christopher Nolan DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY of films. It seems like origin stories are very trendy these days, and it’s an obvious direction to go to expand the reach of any popular franchise. But who would have thought to explore the origins of all the notorious villains of Gotham City while centering the story on rookie detective James Gordon and his cynical older partner Harvey Bullock, the recently-orphaned young Bruce Wayne and his protector/butler Alfred Pennyworth, street urchin and survivor Selina Kyle, and a whole host of criminals like Mafia bosses Carmine Falcone, Salvatore Maroni, and Fish Mooney. Y... Read More

Downfall of the Gods: As good a novella as his award-winning ones

Downfall of the Gods by K.J. Parker

Who do you fear when you're an immortal god?

Your father seems worthy of your fear. He is older, more powerful, perhaps wiser. His wrath can make your life a living hell, and you don't want to be the one god in your family that strays far from the godly path you're born to follow. Your life is eternal, and that is both blessing and curse. Fortunately, there are a handful of talented human beings in every generation, and a truly wonderful musician has arisen. Lysippus is his name, and you know for a fact that there will never be anyone else capable of dreaming up music like the ones he creates. It's a shame that he chose to sleep with the wife of his best friend; his friend didn't take kindly to that and murdered him. Can you in your godly wisdom forgive the murderer of your most cherished mortal? Not likely, but when your father pressures you into doing so, what is a goddess to do?

... Read More

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Batman: Year One (1988) completely reinvented the caped crusader as a dark and conflicted figure. This time, it was Alan Moore’s turn to reinvent Batman’s greatest rival, that homicidal madman The Joker. Batman: The Killing Joke (1988) tells its compelling story in just 51 pages, but the writing and artwork are so phenomenal that it has retained a legendary status. Even now, you can find a deluxe hardcover edition being sold in bookstores, and how many single issues get that treatment?

Even those casually familiar with the Batman story know his flamboyant rival The Joker, with his powder-white face, shock of... Read More