Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
In my review of the third EXPANSE novel from James S.A. Corey (actually a collaborative effort from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), I said this:
How did Corey do, based on strengths I highlighted in reviews of the first two books?
fluid prose: check
likable characters: check
mostly strong characterization: check
humor that runs throughout: check
nice balance of shoot-em-up action, political fighting, and personal conflicts: check, check, and check
quick pace that had me knock of a 500+ page book in a single setting: check
a feel (in a good way) of old-time sci-fi along the likes of Heinlein or Asimov: check
a ratcheting up of tension and stakes: check and check
a sense of risk thanks to not all the characters making it to the end? check
... 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.
Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson
I have to admit that sometimes I hate reviewing first-time novels. Not those first-time novels where you can't believe this was a first foray into novel writing and not the product of an experienced author using a pen name. And not those first-time novels where you can't believe no one — an editor, a reading group, a spouse — suggested that perhaps the book wasn't quite ready for prime time (or late, late night even). And certainly not those first novels that are so painfully, obviously trying to cash in on an ongoing publishing trend. No, I hate reviewing those first-time novels where the author is utterly sincere and earnest, has a good idea, has created some interesting characters, and shows some real promise for the future, but just isn't quite there yet. When every criticism feels like an undeserved punch in the gut to some nice-seeming stranger you just passed on the street. So apologies ahead of t... Read More
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
In Pierce Brown’s debut novel, Red Rising, humanity lives in a strictly hierarchical society, with the various castes marked by colors: Golds at the top, Reds at the bottom, Pinks for pleasure, Yellows for bureaucrats, etc. Darrow, a young Red, who mines beneath the surface of Mars for Helium-3, has always accepted the hierarchy as it has been drummed into him, until events cause him to see things differently. Eventually, he is set on a path whereby he will seek to undermine the Golds’ power and spark a revolution of Reds. If, that is, he can stay true to himself and his mission even as he infiltrates the Gold society. Because of the many twists in the novel, that pretty much all I’m going to say about plot.
Usually I like to start with the positives of a novel. But despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Red Rising will end up in... Read More
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
I didn’t immediately fall for Lev Grossman’s MAGICIANS trilogy. The first book, The Magicians, I thought had a lot of potential, was smartly written and was doing interesting things with the fantasy genre, but its problems in pacing and balance were a distraction, and, I confess, my frequent dislike for the main character Quentin Coldwater, also kept me from fully embracing the novel. Those problems disappeared in the follow-up, The Magician King, which I listed in my top ten fantasies of that year. Now Grossman is out with the final volume — The Magician’s Land. I don’t know if it is as strong as The Magician King, but if not, the difference is slight. Even better, The Magician’s Land not only satisfactorily concludes the story, but in... Read More
The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham
I have to hand it to Daniel Abraham; the guy takes some risks. In his first series, the absolutely masterful LONG PRICE QUARTET (read it if you haven’t), he had metaphor as the central conceit — a bit subtle and certainly less flashy than what most probably expect in a fantasy series. In his current series, THE DAGGER AND THE COIN, he makes banking one of the core action threads. Yes, I said banking. And yes, I said action. In fact, in the latest book, The Widow’s House, banking is perhaps THE pivot point of the story. I don’t how he does it, but not many authors, perhaps none, can, as he has done, have one banker explain to another banker what is basically the creation of a paper monetary system and have the reader thrill at the possibility of what that means to the plot. Yes, I said thrill.
Of course, Abraham doesn’t rely ... Read More
The Buried Life by Carrie Patel
Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life is one of those amiable novels that you keep reading because, well, you picked it up, and if this bit here feels a bit clunky, and that bit there even more so, and sure, that’s a little implausible, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice if the prose were livelier, the world richer, but it’s, you know, nice enough, and maybe it’ll get better than nice — sharper, or edgier, or “grabbier” — but no, it stays nice all the way through. And there of course isn’t anything wrong with nice. Nice is good. Nice is nice. But it’s hard to get excited about nice.
The setting is post-unknown-cataclysm, a long time post, when most folks reside in large underground cities. The surface world is still there, and looking pretty good actually (this is no Wool Read More
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb's FARSEER series well earned its current classic status, and any serious reader of fantasy had to be thrilled to hear that Fitz, one of the genre's most beloved characters, would be returning in a new series. I certainly was. But I was also curious, and, I confess, a bit nervous, about how her evolution in storytelling, especially as displayed in her SOLDIER'S SON and RAIN WILDS series, might play out in a long-delayed return to an old favorite. After all, in those works, I had to admit that said evolution — which I described as Hobb seemingly "exploring just how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a ‘story,' as if she’s feeling her way to as quiet and minimalist a style (in terms of action, not language) as possible" — had left me thinking she had carried the experiment (if such it was) a bit too far for my liking. So what would ... Read More
A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson
Just last week while on vacation out west, my son and I were discussing what were the greater obstacles to our enjoyment of books and what elements allowed for those obstacles to be overcome. One of my observations was that while a strong plot will rarely overcome poor characters for me, if you give me good characters, I can overlook more than a few plot flaws. Who knew how prophetic that conversation would be? For upon my return home, I found waiting for me a copy of D.B. Jackson’s A Plunder of Souls, the third in his historical fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. At the series’ center lies beleaguered thieftaker/conjurer Ethan Kaille, and it was Kaille’s still-engaging voice that managed to ease me past, if not blind me to, the several plot issues in the novel.
The year is 1769 and tensions are high: British soldiers have been stationed in the city an... Read More
THE ETERNAL SKY by Elizabeth Bear
Sometimes the whole feels less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, you just wonder if you should have read a book (or three) at a different time. Sometimes you step back from your thoughts about a book (or three) and think, “Ingrate. What more did you need?” You feel, I don’t know, “churlish.” Like when that other person who is so smart and deep and beautiful and cute (which is different from beautiful) and witty and likes all the same music and read those same books and all in all just so great, really great, and all your friends are like, “You know, she (he’s) really into you” and you’re like, “Yeah, I don’t know.” And they’re like, “What, you think you’re gonna do better?” And you’re like, “No. But still, I just don’t know. I’m just not...” But they don’t even want to hear it. They just go, “Idiot,” and walk off. And all you can do is shrug and nod in probable agreement.... Read More
The Moon King by Neil Williamson
I ended up with mixed feelings about Neil Williamson's debut novel, The Moon King, loving the setting and the premise, quite enjoying the beginning, and mostly responding to the often lyrical prose, but finding as my reading went on that my appreciation was beginning to dwindle. In the end, I'd say it's an impressive first novel in many ways, very impressive actually, but one that shows some first novel cracks that widen as the novel progresses.
The setting is the island city of Glassholm, founded 500 years ago by "The Lunane," he who saved their civilization half a millennium ago by capturing the moon and tethering its orbit to the city. Since then, the population's moods and behaviors wax and wane with the moon: the people are depressed and listless during The Dark, and hedonistically carefree during The Full. But it isn't just the people who respond to the moon's phases — food ... Read More
The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson
The Wurms of Blearmouth is the fifth novella by Steven Erikson centered on his gloriously disruptive pair of "evil sorcerers" Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their by-now-relatively-stoic servant Emancipator Reese. As with the prior four, this is a far lighter tale than his lengthy, dense, and often deeply serious MALAZAN series. The BAUCHELAIN AND BROACH tales are more comic, far shorter, with far fewer moments of Erikson's trademark "philosphophizing" (though fewer does not mean no such moments). I found The Wurms of Blearmouth a mixed success, with some laugh-out-loud moments, lots of chuckles, some welcome sharper bits, and a few less funny/comfortable moments.
At the start, we are introduced to the sorcerer-ruler of a small town on a wrecker's coast — Lord Fangatooth Claw (the first chuckle) atop his tower keep declaiming for the scribe ... Read More
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
A circus. A climactic battle atop a seven-mile long train. Automatons. Folklore-ic menace such as a hag who will drown you in her bog if you look into her eyes. Sasquatches. A train heist. An escape artist. A mesmerist. A plan to gain immortality. Rags to riches. Boy meets girl. Dreams to fight for. A villain willing to kill to get what he wants.
You have to hand it to Kenneth Oppel. In his newest Middle Grade (MG) novel, The Boundless, he throws around three or four novel's worth of plot elements. But thanks to his consummate skill as a plotter, the novel never feels cluttered. And thanks to his skill as a writer, the reader is rewarded with more than simple (or not so simple) plot; we also get some winning characters to root for, some troubling complexities of ... Read More
Drawn to Marvel edited by Bryan D. Dietrich & Marta Ferguson
Comic book superheroes have become the dominant money-making vehicle in Hollywood the past decade or so, and we’re become accustomed to seeing them in spectacular, big-screen set pieces that boggle our eyes. But sometimes it’s nice to shift perspective a bit, not just to give our senses a break from the noise and sound and spectacle, but also to allow for a more intimate relationship, a more thoughtful one, one that evokes other emotions beyond “wow.” And that’s just what is offered by the anthology Drawn to Marvel, a collection of several hundred poems by over a hundred poets, edited by Bryan D. Dietrich and Marta Ferguson. Amongst the big-name contributors are: Albert Goldbarth, Sherman Alexie, John Ashberry, Lucille Clifton, Hilda Raz, and William Trowbridge, but if some of the other names are not as easily recognized (if one can even say that about poets... Read More
ZITA THE SPACEGIRL by Ben Hatke
If I were forced to choose one word to sum up Ben Hatke’s ZITA THE SPACEGIRL trilogy, it would be “delightful.” I could toss a lot more words into the mix — imaginative, whimsical, heartwarming, and so on, but really, all one need know is the entire series is a delight. And now I just wondered if our comic/graphic expert Brad had reviewed it and of course he has, and it turns out at the end he says Zita is “a delight.” So there you go.
The trilogy is made up of Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. The books are aimed at YA, and it’s hard to imagine any child not enjoying every aspect of it — character, plot, visuals. While it lacks the rich depth or wholly original characters to make it a full crossover book, it’s equally h... Read More
The Forever Watch by David Ramirez
You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from a debut novel. Sometimes they come out of nowhere to blow you away — “Really? You did that on your first try?” (OK, we all know it wasn’t really a “first try” — drafts and all — but still). Sometimes you’re left wondering if perhaps the author should have tried for “debut short story” or “debut blogging” or even “debut fly swatting.” And then there’s the more common middle ground, where you can see some strong concepts, a good character or two, maybe a singularly excellent skill (vivid imagery, strong pacing), but the entire effort falls a little short, leaving you unsatisfied with this attempt, but also interested in seeing what this author does next. And that’s squarely where The Forever Watch, a debut novel from David Ramirez, lies.
The setting is a familiar sci-fi one — a generation ship midway bet... Read More