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
The Haunting by Margaret Mahy
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 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. Valente, John Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Read More
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 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
Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb’s TAWNY MAN trilogy, and the FARSEER trilogy that precedes them, are some of the finest epic fantasies ever written. FitzChivarly Farseer is probably my favorite character in all of fantasy literature and he’s at his best in the TAWNY MAN books. Golden Fool, the middle book in the trilogy, is nearly a perfect novel, and so is its successor, Fool’s Fate. I re-read Golden Fool last week because it’s just been released in audio format by Brilliance Audio (superbly narrated by James Langton) and I wanted to re-visit the series before reading Hobb’s newest book, Fool’s Assassin. Though I’ve read over a thousand fantasy novels since I first read Golden Fool, the book was just as superior as I remembered.
[Ple... Read More
The DC Infinite Crisis and the “Old” 52 (Part 2): “Lightning Strikes Twice” by Judd Winick
In Part One, I gave an introduction to this series and discussed Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 (it's available on Comixology or in the trade paperback The OMAC Project). This second review is about the first three issues included in the trade paperback Day of Vengeance. These issues, by Judd Winick, tell the three-part Read More
The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
When I first saw the 1968 horror film "The Devil Rides Out" several years back at one of NYC's numerous revival theatres, I thought it was one of the best Hammer films that I'd ever seen, and made a mental note to check out Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel one day. That resolve was further strengthened when I read a very laudatory article by Stephen Volk on the book in Kim Newman and Stephen Jones' excellent overview volume Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Now that I have finally read what is generally deemed Wheatley's most successful and popular novel, I can see the Hammer film for what it is: a watered-down adaptation that can't hold a Black Mass candle to its superb original. The great R... Read More
Forever Evil by Geoff Johns
Two years into the New 52 and DC has managed to divide fans down the middle: Just as many seem to hate the New 52 as love the new possibilities it offers as a "soft reboot" (Jim Lee) to the DC universe. However, the excited buzz in the comic book stores as they launched into their first event, Trinity War, died out as the second half seemed to fizzle after the great promise of the first few issues. However, Trinity War paved the way for Forever Evil, perhaps the first true event of DC's New 52 if we consider Tri... Read More
The DC Infinite Crisis and the “Old” 52 (Part 1): The Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1
Previously, I've written about one of my favorite single DC events: Identity Crisis. It's an excellent story contained in a single volume. In other words, it's what I would call a graphic novel because it is unified in narrative and theme and is contained in a single volume, even though it was published initially as monthly comics. At the end of my Identity Crisis review, I mentioned the books to purchase to follow up from that event, mainly those I plan to cover in more detail in this series of reviews.
Compared with Identity Crisis, Read More
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
“Quiet” and “lovely” are not usually words one reaches for when describing a post-apocalyptic novel. Not with the reverted-back-to-savagery cannibals; the road-raging-mohawk-sporting highway warriors; the gleeful told-you-so rat-a-tat of survivalist gunfire, or the annoying mumblespeak “braiiinnnnss” from the shambling zombies. But quiet and lovely are exactly the words I’d use to describe Station Eleven, the post-apocalyptic novel from Emily St. John Mandel that is happily missing all the above and shows the modern world ending with neither a bang nor a whimper, but with a gentle murmur.
Mandel’s chosen method of ending the world is the Georgia Flu, an incredibly virulent bug that wipes out 95+ percent of its victims within a span of 48 hours. In true form for the eventual tone and shape of the novel, though, Mandel opens not with a ma... Read More
Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire's Egg and Spoon is being marketed as a YA novel, and I hope that designation doesn't drive any readers away. This book blends the humor and hunger of real life with the wonder and otherworldliness of fables, resulting in a story that broke my heart so subtly, it was like a crack developing in an egg.
Egg and Spoon follows two young protagonists in Tsarist Russia. Elena Rudina, a peasant girl from the village of Miersk, meets a young noblewoman, Ekaterina (or Cat, for short), whose train has stopped in Miersk for repairs. The two girls become unlikely friends until one day, in a bizarre series of events, Elena and Cat accidentally switch places. Elena is whisked away on the train, dressed in fine clothing, fed more food than she's seen in her impoverished life, and taught manners and etiquette in anticipation of an expected meetin... Read More
Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
There is a special joy when a dedicated reader finds a book, written by a gifted writer at the peak of her powers, who journeys into slightly different territory and completely masters it. That joy is what I felt as I finished Maplecroft by Cherie Priest.
Priest has written a lot and she has never tied herself to a single sub-genre. She’s crafted dark fantasy, steampunk, steampunk zombie books and vampire fiction. Now she has essayed Lovecraftian Gothic with Maplecroft, a book about the old gods, eerie, frightening things that emerge from the sea, and a famous American figure — Lizzie Borden.
Maplecroft (the actual name of the house Lizabeth Borden and her sister moved into when Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother) takes the form, mostly, of a “found manusc... Read More
Lock In by John Scalzi
In Lock In, Haden’s syndrome has created millions of people who are conscious and alert, but have no voluntary control of their bodies; they are, effectively, “locked in” to themselves. Government funded technology has developed ways to assist these, who are called “Hadens,” to function; both in a non-physical information-world called the Agora, and by using sophisticated Personal Transports or android bodies called “threeps.” (You might be able to figure out where that name comes from if you remember a certain gold-colored android from a popular trilogy of movies a few decades ago.) Chris Shane is a Haden, one of the two most famous Hadens in America, and a freshly-minted FBI agent. On the second day on the job, Chris and acerbic partner Leslie Vann take jurisdiction of a baffling case that involves a dead mystery man and an Integrator, a human who can let Hadens “ride” in his b... Read More
Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox
This was my first time reading an Elizabeth Knox novel, but I know for certain that it won't be my last. Quite famous in her (and my) country of New Zealand, Knox is best known for her adult novel The Vintner's Luck and her YA duology Dreamhunter and Dreamquake. Mortal Fire is set in the same world as the Dreamhunter books, one that's so similar to our own that only a few name changes and the presence of hidden magic differentiates it.
The story is set in 1950s Southland, a large island republic in the South Pacific, and our protagonist is Canny Mochrie, a sixteen year old math genius, forced to accompany her stepbrother Sholto and his girlfriend Susan on a research project to the town of Massenfer. Sholto has been instructed by his father (a writer and professor) to collect testimo... Read More