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
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.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
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
Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood
In their introduction to Futurdaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, editors Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood offer up their motivation for the collection:
We hope to inject the short-fiction market . . . with an extra serving of undisguised wonder at the possibilities the future may hold [and] give the next generation of speculative readers and writers a taste . . . of the infinite possibilities inherent in both the science fiction genre and the short story form [and to] represent a wider range of viewpoints than is typically seen in American popular culture.
That’s a lot to aim at and more power to them for putting this collection of twenty-one stories and a dozen poems together with that goal in mind. I’d like to say they fully succeed, but as with most anthologies (... Read More
The Waking Engine by David Edison
The Waking Engine, by David Edison, continues my unfortunately long-running streak of books that fell short of their potential. As with many of them this past month or so, The Waking Engine has a great premise — people (defined very broadly) do not die just once; instead they do so multiple times, each time waking in a new body to a new life on another world, but with all their memories intact. Eventually, however, you’ll end up in one of a few places where True Death occurs. And one such place, the City Unspoken, is the setting for Edison’s novel, which opens (after a short prologue) with the main character, Cooper, awakening in the City after only his first death, a highly unusual occurrence.
Cooper arrives in the midst of a multi-pronged crisis. The dead have stopped Dying, the Prince and his the ruling aristocracy have sealed themselves inside the massive p... Read More
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
Have you ever noticed how sometimes your reading seems to fall into a recognizable pattern? Sometimes it’s an obvious similarity of plot, sometimes it’s one of character (I still fondly recall my Pre-20th Century Whore run of The Dress Lodger, The Crimson Petal and The White, Slammerkin Read More
The Martian by Andy Weir
Mars has long had a somewhat cursed reputation in space exploration. Launch failures, midair explosions, crash landings. Probes that missed the planet completely. Probes we’ve never heard from again and still don’t know what happened. By the time of Andy Weir’s The Martian, though, things have been on a better trajectory for some time and humanity has successfully landed several expeditions on Mars. Mark Watney is the engineer/botanist on the third such expedition, Ares 3, which is just coming up on the end of their first week of a month-long stay. Unfortunately, this is where Mars’ checkered past comes roaring back in the form of a sudden huge sandstorm that forces an abort of the mission and a quick exit from the planet. Or, a quick exit for all of the crew but Watney, who through a freak occurrence is presumed dead and thus abandoned, leading to the novel’s classic opening line: “I’m pretty much... Read More
Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler
Ramona Wheeler came up with a great setting premise for her novel Three Princes: an alternate Earth where neither the Egyptian nor the Incan Empires ever failed. Now, from their center in Memphis, Egypt rules an enormous swath of land across Africa, Europe, and Asia, though not all are happy with said rule, especially a resistance group led by Otto von Bismarck. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Incans rule most of that area, which they crisscross in their Quetzal airships, the secret of which they closely guard. When rumors arise of an Incan attempt to land a rocket on the moon, two royal agents of the Egyptian Empire, Lord Scott Oken and Professor/Captain Prince Mikel Mabruke are sent across the wide ocean to investigate.
Like I said, it’s a great setting premise, one refreshingly distant from the usual European-based background. Unfortunately, though Wheeler flashes some moments, the... Read More
Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Dreams of the Golden Age is the follow up to Carrie Vaughn’s After the Golden Age, to which I gave only a middling review thanks to issues of plotting and characterization. While the sequel suffers from some of the same problems, they crop up less frequently and are less problematic. The main character, meanwhile, is a more active and engaging voice and so I found Dreams of the Golden Age to be more successful and thus far more enjoyable.
The sequel picks up a good number of years after its predecessor. At the end of After the Golden Age, Celia had married Dr. Mentis and taken over as head of West Corps. She is now the mother of two teen daughters, one of whom — Anna — will split POVs with Celia for the novel. Unlike her mother, Anna has inherited the family superpower genes, but much to her dismay she has what she considers a near-u... Read More
After The Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
After the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn, is a likable enough novel that takes the world of comic book superheroes and filters it through a more realistic prism, focusing more on a family and character, with the usual superhero action scenes playing more in the background. Unfortunately, what could have been a truly fun read is marred by issues of weak plotting and characterization, making After the Golden Age a somewhat pallid and on balance a slightly disappointing novel. One’s disappointment, however, can be tempered a bit by the knowledge that her follow-up, Dreams of the Golden Age, is more successful even if it suffers (less frequently and less intensely) from a few of the same issues.
Celia West would seem to have won the life lottery, having been born into the richest and most powerful family in Commerce City. Even better, her parents, Warren a... Read More
The Arm of the Stone by Victoria Strauss
Long ago, after a battle for dominance between the power of mind (what we’d call magic) and the power of the hand (technology and tools), those with mindpower left for another world using the Stone, a magical talisman of great power. But after generations of peace, Percival stole the stone, killed the family that had wielded its power, and set up a new system of rule, with power strictly held by the Guardians, who enforced the rules against handpower of any sort.
The Arm of the Stone, by Victoria Strauss, opens with young Bron listening, as he has every night, to this tale, which has special meaning to his family, as they are the sole surviving descendants of that family Percival tried to extinguish. They tell the tale to remind each generation of the prophecy that one day “The One” will come, greater than any in mindpower, and reclaim the sword and overthrow the Guardians. It takes... Read More
King Arthur by Daniel Mersey
King Arthur is another in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series, this one written by Daniel Mersey and illustrated by Alan Lathwell. Compared to the subjects of the prior two I’ve reviewed (Jason and the Argonauts, Thor), King Arthur is a much more complex and difficult figure to try and explain in concise fashion, seeing as how his stories span multiple centuries, cultures, styles, and how each leap from one to the other brings with it an accordant change in content and even characters. That being the case, I have to say Mersey does an admirable job in streamlining Arthur’s legend, walking us through it via both time and region/culture, as well as explaining some of the preva... Read More
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Vicious, by V.E. Schwab, is another offering in the ever-more popular folks-with-powers genre, and fits as well in the equally popular sub-genre where those folks-with-powers don’t’ fall neatly into the quaint “superhero” mode but have a bit more edge, a bit more (OK, a lot more in this case) grey to them.
Chronologically, the story begins when Victor and Eli, a pair of brilliant college roommates/best friends, devise a theoretical method for creating an “EO”, or an Extra-Ordinary (person with powers) and decide to put theory into action. Their experiment (two separate ones actually) succeeds, but at a horrible cost which includes but is not limited to the severing of their friendship. The two go their own ways, one path — Victor’s — leading to a decade spent in prison and another, well, I won’t spoil that one, but both paths lead to the two in violent, obsessive conflict that will ripple outward on... Read More
Thor: Viking God of Thunder by Graeme Davis
With all the attention being paid to Thor lately, thanks to the Marvel same-named films and his appearances in the Avengers movies, Osprey Publishing made a wise decision to make the god the subject of one of their texts in their MYTHS AND LEGENDS series, this one written by Graeme Davis. I had been a little disappointed in my first MYTHS AND LEGENDS text, dealing with Jason and the Argonauts (giving it a three-star rating), but I found Thor: Viking God of Thunder to be an overall improvement on that first experience.
The text, like all the Osprey books in the series, is slim, coming in at 80 pages, and begins with a brief introduction placing Thor in literary/historical/pop culture context. A short “cast list” comes next, offering up a 1-3 line description of several of the ... Read More
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen is an embracingly fresh and layered novel that has its faults, but remains entertaining and thought provoking throughout. Not to mention timely, as it deals with the idea of revolution and change in the Middle East, a book that is about the Arab Spring despite being written before the Arab Spring actually took place.
Alif the Unseen is set in a nameless “City” in an authoritarian Arab country ruled by an Emir whose security apparatus has long kept the population in check. Included in that apparatus is “one of the most sophisticated digital policing systems in the world,” though one that up to now our main hacker protagonist Alif has managed to elude as he lends his considerable computer skills to “anyone who could pay for his protection... Islamists, anarchists, secularists — whoever asks.” Alif’s ideology is fre... Read More
The Last Policeman and Countdown City by Ben H. Winters
Because I read Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman and Countdown City over the course of a day and a half, I’m going to review them together rather than singly. Though really, the fact that I read them both in that time period is probably all you need to know about what I thought of them.
The two novels are set in Concord, New Hampshire, and center on newly-made detective Hank Palace as he tries to solve a possible murder/insurance fraud in the first novel and a missing persons case in the second. Oh yeah, and there’s also the little matter of the imminent collapse of human society thanks to the extinction-level asteroid coming Earth’s way in six months in The Last Policeman and in only 77 days in Countdown City.
Typically, these sorts of stories give us a somewhat world-weary detective facing mul... Read More