The Revolutions by Felix Gilman
At not quite the halfway point in Felix Gilman’s The Revolutions, the main character — Arthur Shaw — reacts to a particular text he is reading:
It was a hodge-podge of Masonry, Greek myth, Egyptian fantasy, debased Christianity, third-hand Hinduism, and modern and ancient astronomy, promiscuously and nonsensically mixed . . . The Book was riddled throughout with paradox and absurdity and contradiction . . . But after a week or two of study, Arthur began to enjoy it.
And it is at this point where a reader might stop and think, “Yes, yes I am,” even as he/she mentally expands that list of hodge-podge foundations: “And C.S. Lewis and Burroughs and Yeats and Poe and Stevenson and The Sun and maybe a bit of... Read More
Bill CapossereOn FanLit’s staff since June 2007
BILL CAPOSSERE teaches writing and literature part-time at several local colleges and, thanks to his incredibly supportive wife, uses the rest of his time to write (and read of course). He just completed a Masters in Fine Arts at the Mt. Rainier Workshop under the direction of Judith Kitchen and Stan Rubin. His essays and short stories have appeared in various magazines, journals, and anthologies, been recognized in Best American Essays (in the “notable essay” section), and have also been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes.
Bill has been reading fantasy and science fiction ever since he was old enough to steal his father’s books the second the poor man put them down. His tastes run toward the epic, though he often wonders why when he is in the middle of rereading six books so as to better follow the about-to-be-published-two-years-late seventh book in a series of ten (would a “previously-on-Lost” sort of prelude really kill these guys?). But then he runs into something like Erikson’s MALAZAN series, which he loved so much he ordered them from England, and is reminded of what he enjoys so much about the genre (and about free shipping from Amazon in America — England — ouch!).
Bill lives in Rochester, New York with his wife and son whom he’s recently enjoyed introducing to dragons.
The Revolutions by Felix Gilman
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Marie Rutkoski is a good writer. I’ve known that from when I read The Cabinet of Wonders, the first book of her KRONOS CHRONICLES, a Middle Grade trilogy. While the subsequent books weren’t quite as good, I still enthusiastically recommended the series. And I can tell Rutkoski is still a good writer after reading her newest YA entry, The Winner’s Curse, because even though I had some large issues with the novel, issues that normally would have made me not recommend it, somehow, Rutkoski still had me whipping through the book in a single sitting. And has me ending up happily recommending it. Despite my list of things I didn’t like. A curse indeed.
Kestrel is t... Read More
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
So while I keep saying that I appear not to be the person for whom graphic novels are created, as I have hardly ever found one I strongly respond to, I’m also stubborn (or dumb) enough to keep trying now and then. The most recent attempt was Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain. Alas, I’m still that guy.
Set on a steamer traveling up and down the Hudson during the late 1800s, Sailor Twain is the story of two men — Twain, the captain of the Lorelei; and Lafayette, the French-born owner of the steam line — and the intersection of their lives with a pair of women, one of whom is a wounded mermaid Twain pulls aboard one night and nurses back to health. It is also a story of obsession, love, sacrifice, duality, and the lure and danger of becoming entangled in the unseen/fantastical world.
The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
In my review of Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, I wrote that Brenan had me immediately with Lady Trent’s “wry, rebellious, sardonic voice,” but that the novel lost its edge about 100 pages in and never quite fully recovered, leaving me somewhat dissatisfied. I’m happy to say that the sequel, The Tropic of Serpents, kept that wonderfully beguiling voice, but managed to smooth out the problems with pacing, managing a follow-up that improves upon its predecessor.
As in book one, Lady Trent must overcome Victorian (literally, the novels are set in a Victorian world, with Scirling standing in for England) mores in order to embark on a journey of discovery into a foreign and most likely dangerous land. Society’s feathers are even more ruffled this time around... Read More
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
In 2008, Jo Walton began a regular column over at Tor.com on the books she was reading. Actually, mostly re-reading. She was invited to blog on the site because, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden told her, she was “always saying smart things about books nobody else had thought about for ages.” In What Makes This Book So Great, she’s collected about a fifth of those posts and presented them in brief essays, being careful to point out she is doing so as neither a reviewer (who mostly cover new works) nor a critic. Instead, she tells us, “I want to talk about books and turn people on to them . . . I’m am rereading them [the books] for the sheer joy of it. I want to share that . . . I am talking about books because I love books.”
It doesn’t take long for the reader to pick up on that; Walton’s sheer exube... Read More
Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
I’m starting to feel like a broken record (Google it kids) here the past month or so, having had the same general reaction to a long run of books now — “good premise, flawed execution.” The latest perpetrator is Lockstep, a new YA space opera by Karl Schroeder, who has come up with a wonderfully engaging premise and setting, but has failed to create that same sense of engagement with regard to the characters and plot.
Way back in time in the Lockstep universe, Earth was controlled by the super-rich. In order to escape that highly stratified world, Toby McGonigal’s family buys Sedna (a real recently discovered trans-Neptunian planetoid smaller than Pluto’s moon) and sets up an independent colony. While there, Toby, the eldest child, is sent to claim one of Sedna’s moon’s and accidentally goes into suspended animation, only to wake 14,000 years later. Soon after he... Read More
The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
The Mark of the Dragonfly, a Middle Grade novel by Jaleigh Johnson, starts off with a wonderfully evocative premise and setting: a world where at regular intervals over a particular region, “meteor storms” rain down artifacts from other worlds amidst a haze of poisonous green dust. After the impacts are over and the dust has settled, “scrappers” head out in a mad race to claim whatever odd (and usually broken) objects might be sold to traders. Entire towns have risen up at the edges of the storm region and it is one of these that we are introduced to our protagonist, Piper. A 13-year-old girl with a talent for fixing machines and the occasional artifact, Piper has been living on her own ever since her father died far off in a factory in Noveen, capital of the Dragonfly territories, a rival kingdom.
Trying to save a young friend desperate for a big strike, Piper ends up caught out in ... Read More
Plague Seed by Wade Alan Steele
I did not finish Plague Seed by Wade Alan Steele and so as is usual when that happens, this will be quite the short review, as I don’t like to belabor the point about why I found a book to be so bad that I put it down.
Plague Seed begins with a letter from the elven Seligre, “Savior of Oldenhome and the southern lands of Talandria,” to his newborn son, introducing his account of the Plague War. He’s written this account in response to the inaccurate, overblown “history” of the war by Rawlen Brokenhorn (a minotaur) so that his son will know what really happened, and that his father was not the “elven hero of epic strength and laudable intentions” portrayed in Brokenhorn’s multi-volume history. A short letter by Brokenhorn himself follows, in which he describes to the master librarian how he received Seligre’s story and why he thinks it should not grace the s... Read More
Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard
Troy: Last War of the Heroic Age by Si Sheppard, is the fifth or sixth book in the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series by Osprey Publishing. It does the usual good job, even if it is not quite as strong as several others.
The reason for its middle place in the rankings of these books though is really not so much Sheppard’s fault as it is a built-in conflict between Osprey’s goal of a concise retelling and exploration of these myths and the huge amount of material that makes up the story of the Trojan War. Just trying to shrink the Iliad down to 80 or so pages would be bad enough, but throwing in what happens before the Iliad picks up, what happens afterward, and all those side stories that Homer doesn’t bother with, and then, on top of all that, trying to offer up some historical and social contex... Read More
Robin Hood by Neil Smith
Robin Hood is one of the generally excellent series of MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Osprey Publishing, this one written by Neil Smith. It follows the same general format as the others, with a brief intro, retellings of the stories, examination of historical background to the stories and the setting, a brief look at the legend in modern multi-media retellings, all while interspersing throughout some sidebars to fill in some non-essential but often quite helpful and interesting information. Finally, the series almost always has some wonderful artwork associated with each book. Unfortunately, as I had an early e-book copy, I can’t say for sure how the art is in Robin Hood, but going simply based on prior works, I would imagine it is top notch (there are some very good line drawings in my copy, and references to some of the included artist... Read More
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
So yeah. That was strange. You should read it.
Here endeth the review.
Uh.... Seriously? Try again, please, Bill.
What? It’s Kat, our managing editor, sticking her bold red italic text into my review! Oh, alright. Start over:
Loren Eiseley, Charlotte Perking Gilman, Sigmund Freud, and Franz Kafka have a literary baby. And it’s adoooorable!
A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist walk into a bio zone. And the creepy bartender says . . .
Bill. This is getting annoying. Am I going to have to get out the electric cattle prod? It seems like sometimes that’s the only way to keep you in line.
Wait, don’t you want to at leas... Read More
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
I was alone in the spare bedroom. Upstairs, where the light is good. Though not too good. No TV, no music, no family. It had me right where it wanted me. So yeah, I bit. Most guys woulda. Most girls too, no matter what you think.
Shovel Ready the flashy label said, and if you looked closer you could see a name: Adam Sternbergh. ‘Cept, this Sternbergh guy isn’t the story. First name you get never is. Didn’t take me many jobs to learn that.
No, this tale belonged to a guy named Spademan. Tough guy, if not as tough as he makes out. Contract killer — men, women — he don’t care. Just no kids he says. Draws the line at 17 and younger. Guy’s got a conscience like an R-rated horror movie.
He lives in Jersey, works in NYC. Yeah, even after the dirty bomb and then all the car bombs. Half the city left; he’s one a the ones who stayed. Don’t ask me... Read More
A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
Ever since I was a kid stealing my dad’s sci-fi books the moment he laid them down for a minute (silly, silly man), I’ve loved First Contact stories and still fondly remember reading Murray Leinster’s classic, entitled, shockingly, “First Contact.” So when I was offered a chance to read A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias, which is at its heart a first contact story, I jumped. And I’m glad I did, as it turned out to be a mostly well-executed story with a fully realized alien race and a compelling story line.
A Darkling Sea is set on Ilmatar, a large moon that (perhaps like our own Europa) has a liquid ocean deep beneath its fully frozen landscape. The ocean is home to an intelligent species called Ilmatarans, who are sort of like large lobsters (multi-legged, hard shells, pincer claws). They live in small, highly structured communities clustered around deep sea v... Read More
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Words of Radiance is book two in Brandon Sanderson’s huge STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE series, projected to be ten books. In fact, at 1100 pages, Words of Radiance is almost large enough to be its own series (at least once upon a time — I’m thinking say of Zelazny’s AMBER series, or Donaldson’s original COVENANTtrilogy). With another eight thousand pages to go, who knows whether the trip will be worth it, but at this point the car is humming along, the scenery is nice, and the kids are getting along in the back seat.
Part of the reason the series is off to a smooth start is Sanderson’s consistent facility with regard to pace and plot. I have always found his books to regularly feel shorter than ... Read More
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
[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.]
I had high hopes for Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea. A literary author turning his hand to a post-apocalyptic tale that would focus less it seems on zombies and cannibals etc., but take the opportunity to make some searing points about class and globalization and other current issues. But as has been the case with a distressingly large number of my reads lately, while I ended up appreciating the starting premise and also what Lee was trying to do, he lost me in the execution.
On Such a Full Sea is set in the not-too-far future U.S., ... Read More