Bill Capossere

On 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.

Book Chat: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Hi all. We thought we’d try something a little different around here. When Jana said she was planning on reading The Martian Chronicles, I mentioned I’d been thinking lately about rereading some Ray Bradbury and wondered about maybe having a little conversation about the shared experience. Nothing formal, no particular goals or constraints, not a shared review as we’ve done in the past — just a pair of readers bouncing some reactions off each other. So here it is. Let us know what you think about this idea/format going forward (sometimes it might be two readers, sometimes it might be a half-dozen of us chatting) — is this something you’d like to see more of? 

Bill Capossere: I can’t recall which Bradbury title it was I... Read More

Dove Arising: Did Not Finish

Dove Arising by Karen Bao

Dove Arising is a new YA science fiction novel from Karen Bao, and one which I persevered through despite a host of issues, until I reached the last fifth or so when things really began to go off the rails. I pushed on, admittedly skimming a bit, thinking “I’m this far in, I can finish,” but the cumulative effect was just too much and I ended up giving up about forty pages from the end.

The setting is one of a series of bases on the moon, in a future where Earth is under the domination of two floating city-states and their respective alliances, and in a cold-war (that occasionally heats up) relationship with the moon bases. Phaet is a 15-year-old girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is taken away for quarantine and then later arrested for “disruptive print,” as the bases system is a bit dictatorial (ruled by a committee, constant surveillance, proh... Read More

The Glass Arrow: Shallow world-building, sloppy characterization

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

I was about as close to a Did Not Finish with Kristen Simmons’ The Glass Arrow as I can get without putting a book down, so you can tell already where this review is going to end up.  As usual in these situations, preferring not to belabor the point with regard to what I consider a bad book, I’ll keep this review relatively brief.

Simmons sets her story in a world where women are treated as breeding cattle, basically. They’re bought and sold at auction, painted and sculpted and costumed. Their numbers are carefully managed by census and “reduction when needed,” and those who live in the wild are hunted by Trackers and brought back to the city because these “wild” women have more boy-producing wombs.  The... Read More

A Darker Shade of Magic: A well-written, well-executed story in an intriguing setting

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I was a big fan of V.E. Schwab’s 2013 novel Vicious, noting in my review how she had overcome the possible burden of overfamiliar concepts (it’s a folks-with-powers-who-have-some-gray-to-them kind of novel) with supremely polished execution. Well, she’s pretty much done the same with her newest novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, which takes many of the usual fantasy tropes and, again, just handles them all so smoothly that you simply don’t care much that you’ve seen them all before.

The basic concept is a nicely focused tweak of the multi-verse model, with a series of parallel Londons: Red London, a vibrant, colorful city where magic and life are in balance; White London, a crue... Read More

Pacific Fire: Getting the team together for another magical heist

Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Note: Some spoilers for the previous book, California Bones, will follow.

Pacific Fire
is Greg van Eekhout’s sequel to California Bones, and like its predecessor, it falls solidly into the heist/caper subgenre of fantasy. I gave California Bones a 3.5, calling it a fun read, and fans of the first will find the second at least equally enjoyable (I actually liked Pacific Fire a little bit more), while those who have been wary of starting a new trilogy should rest assured they won’t regret this one. In case you’ve forgotten, Eekhout’s magic system of osteomancy is based upon the ingestion of the bones of mystical creatures (or the digestion of those who have eaten the bones), which instills the consumer with magical power.

A decade h... Read More

California Bones: A fun fantasy caper with inventive magic

California Bones by Greg van Eekhout

The fantasy heist or caper novel, a la Oceans Eleven, has become a bit of a thing lately, and Greg van Eekhout’s California Bones is a thoroughly enjoyable entry in the sub-genre, with the requisite impregnable vault, witty banter, hard-nosed villains, and the like, in addition to a relatively unique magic system. It’s a good introduction to this multi-book series and having just finished book two, you can rest assured there isn’t any drop-off going forward (if anything, I actually liked Pacific Fire a little better).

The setting of California Bones is Los Angeles, but an L.A. in an alternate world, one where Southern and Northern California are their own kingdoms, separate from the United States; where L.A.’s notorious freeways are replaced by a canal system, and where some people ar... Read More

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

In his newest work, The Sculptor, Scott McCloud explores a bevy of philosophical and pragmatic questions with regard to art, a partial listing of which might include:

What is it for?
Who is it for?
What makes a “successful” artist? Is it critical acclaim by a few? The popular opinion of the many? How big of an audience defines success? Can it be an audience of one? What if that one is the artist, the self alone?
What sort of sacrifices can/should one make for his/her art?
What sot of compromises?
What is the reward of art? What is the cost?
When does creation stray into destruction?

Weighty, meaty questions indeed. And important ones. Not just to the titular sculptor or his comic writing creator but to artists of all sorts as well as to the culture at large (I like to think so at least). But ... Read More

EDGE: The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

[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.]

The World Before Us
, by Aislinn Hunter, has at its core two roughly similar mysteries. One occurred almost 20 years ago when the main character, Jane Standen, was only fifteen and acting as a nanny for William Eliot and his five-year old daughter Lily. While in Jane’s care, Lily suddenly disappeared at the gardens of the Farrington country estate. A little more than a hundred years earlier, another girl, a young woman known only as N— went missing in roughly the same area, her disappearance noted in the records of the near... Read More

Ares: Bringer of War: A great new take on an old tale

Ares: Bringer of War by George O'Connor

Ares: Bringer of War is George O'Connor's sixth title in his OLYMPIANS series of graphic retellings of Greek myths for younger readers. Short take? I'm wondering why the Hades I don't own the first five, an oversight I will quickly rectify. Long take below . . .

I absolutely loved this book. Beginning with its opening segment on the distinction to be made between the two gods of War in the Greek pantheon: Athena and Ares. O'Connor begins with Athena, whom he calls the "the goddess of martial skill. Of formations, of strategy. Of training realized and wisdom applied." And the art presents just such a calculating image of war, with its highly symmetrical depiction of Greek soldiers, their feet, spears, bodies, and shields precisely aligned, all against a cool blue background. But war isn't always so neatly organized; it is often "chaotic, unpr... Read More

The Flight of the Silvers: Did Not Finish

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

Daniel Price’s The Flight of the Silvers is a 600-page story about a half-dozen people who are pulled from the end of the world into an alternate Earth, where they become the subjects of scientific scrutiny, partially for their origin stories and partially because each evinces a “weirdness” — some sort of power involving the manipulation of time. When their laboratory residence is attacked by a group who fear these “breachers” will cause the end of their own world, the “Silvers” take off on a cross-country trek seeking answers in a possible sanctuary, a refuge they heard of via the future self of one of them.

The premise is an interesting one and certainly beginning with the literal end of a world is a pretty wild opening. But then, to be honest, once the pace goes downhill a bit (it is understandably hard to maintain apocalyptic l... Read More

Inked: An OK beginning went downhill fast

Inked by Eric Smith

Inked, by Eric Smith, was a solid if uninspiring YA book for much of the first half, albeit with some grating issues, but a downturn in the latter part of the book greatly lowered its entertainment value, leading to a "not recommended" judgment. As usual in these cases, this will be a relatively short review, as I prefer not to pile on an author whom I’m sure put a lot of hard work and love into their work.

The story centers on 18-year-old Caenum and his best friend Dreya, who is slightly older. Their ages are important because in this world, people are “inked” at age eighteen — given magical tattoos that determine their role in society for the rest of their lives, whether it be farmer (one such has an apple tree tattoo on their back), a florist (ivies vining up one’s arm), goldsmith, or assassin. When Caenum’s turn arises though, the arrival of an apprentice scribe named Kenzi thro... Read More

The Providence of Fire: A sequel that improves in all ways on the first

The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

I have to admit, I groaned a little bit upon opening the envelope with my ARC of Brian Staveley's The Providence of Fire. "Six hundred pages? Really, man?" might have slipped out as well. I liked the first in the series (The Emperor's Blades) though I thought it had some flaws, giving it a solid three-star rating. But I had some serious doubts about a six-hundred page follow-up. Well, apologies to Mr. Staveley. The Providence of Fire earned every one of its six hundred pages and then some, showing itself in all ways an improvement on book one. After The Emperor's Blades, I was interested in what followed but after The Providence of Fire I'm excited and impatiently awaiting book three.... Read More

The Immortals of Meluha: The best part is the unusual setting

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

The Immortals of Meluha, by Amish Tripathi, is the first of a trilogy set in ancient (about 1900 B.C.) India detailing the conflict between the Meluha empire (the Suryavanshi) and their sworn enemies , the Chandravanshis, who seem to have allied themselves with the horrid demon-like Nagas. What gives the hugely outnumbered Meluha hope is their vastly superior technology (including a special cocktail that greatly extends life) and the arrival of the prophesied “Neelkanth,” in the form of a young man named Shiva.

That last name should indicate to you that we’re working in the milieu of myth here, and demons and gods make some brief appearances throughout. The focus is on Shiva becoming acclimated to the idea that he is “the one” once he’s found and brought back (the Meluhas have been searching for the prophesied one systematically, knowing he would come from an o... Read More

Blood Will Follow: A small step backwards

Blood Will Follow by Snorri Kristjansson

In my review of Snorri Kristjansson’s first Viking book, Swords of Good Men, I pointed to how the action was generally a positive but issues of pace, POV, and characterization made the book fall somewhat short (I gave it three stars). Now his follow-up, Blood Will Follow is out, and while it improves in some areas, some flaws still carry over while the action has become, I thought, less compelling. I’m still giving this one three stars, but it’s a bit more shaky. Warning: spoilers for book one to follow.

Swords of Good Men introduced a Scandinavian setting set during a time of upheaval. Young King Olav is sweeping through spreading Christianity via the sword and trying to wipe out the old gods, who understandably don’t take kindly to the attempt and find themselves some proxy humans. The town of Stenvik be... Read More

The Accidental Alchemist: Not recommended

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian is the first in a new mystery series; unfortunately, it didn’t leave me much interested in reading the next two. Pandian has some decent ideas to work with, but issues with plausibility, pacing, choice of detail, and style had me thinking about giving up from about the halfway point on. To be honest, had it not been a review book, I almost certainly would have, making this one a “not recommended” from me.

Zoe Faust, a centuries-old alchemist who specializes in plants, has just relocated from France to Portland, seeking, she says, a more normal life. Normal, however, is not in the cards, something she quickly realizes when out of her just-uncrated belongings hops a living gargoyle, one who tells her he is slowly dying and she — thanks to her alchemical knowledge — is his only hope. The gargoyle (Dor... Read More

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