Endurance by Jay Lake
Endurance, Jay Lake’s follow-up to Green, is in some ways an improvement and in some ways marred by similar issues. Overall, though, I found it a more consistently enjoyable read, if still not a great one.
Endurance picks up not long after Green, with the titular character lying low in the High Hills outside Copper Downs, growing more and more dismayed by how her ongoing pregnancy is affecting her physical abilities. Lying low, though, is not an option for Green, and soon she is drawn back into a host of problems (and I mean a host) bedeviling Copper Downs: gods being killed, political infighting, increased crime and chaos since Green killed the centuries-old Duke (who is still hanging around in ghost form), a troublesome rise in Pardine (the feline race of Dancing Mistress) anger towards being displaced by humans and robbed of a great magic. Then there are the is... 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.
Endurance by Jay Lake
Green by Jay Lake
Green, by Jay Lake, follows the sometimes horrific, sometimes savage, sometimes victorious story of its titular first-person narrator. As a toddler, Green (that only becomes her name well into the novel) is sold off by her single-parent father and taken by ship from her vaguely Southeast-Asian country to the city of Copper Downs, a cold northern kingdom full of pale-skinned people. Over a little more than a dozen years, she discovers the purpose behind her training, returns home, trains to be an assassin, and faces multiple gods.
Lake divides his novel into three major sections. First is Green’s time in Copper Downs, ruled for the past four centuries by a seemingly immortal Duke under whose rule some are beginning to chafe. There she is kept isolated in a walled compound and trained by various Mistresses (including a non-human known as Dancing Mistress) in a plentitude of arts and knowledge, not learn... Read More
Tunnel Out of Death by Jamil Nasir
As a consumer of media, I’m usually OK with works that aren’t particularly focused on plot. Some of my favorite books and films are uber-quiet stories where “nothing happens.” Heck, I’m really looking forward to the new Terence Malick film, even though it appears to have the same narrative quality of a screensaver program. Character-driven works, works where the images sweep you away, works where the ideas make up for lack of story — I’ve enjoyed all of them. Unfortunately though, Jamil Nasir’s newest, Tunnel Out of Death, managed to test even my patience for non-story-driven fiction. I think partially because it tries so hard to have a story, at least at the start. If it hadn’t, if it had dispensed with all that, I might have been more open. As it is, though, this was a tough go for me from beginning to end, though it has its moments.
Heath Ransom is an endovoyant priv... Read More
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Ubik, by Philip K. Dick, is, well, a Philip K. Dick novel. By that, I mean it has just what one would expect from PKD. Characters, and readers, lost as to what is real and what is not? Check. Sense of world and time out of joint? Check. Characters who feel something is after them, some malevolent force? Check. Drugs. Psi-powers. Attacks on consumerism. An ending that leaves you even more confused. Check. Check. Check. And oh yes, check.
Summarizing a Dick novel can be an exercise in futility. Without experiencing it in its entirety, it can sound wholly absurd (not that Dick shies away from the absurd, mind you). But here goes anyway. Glen Runciter runs the best anti-psi business going in 1992, with an especially worried focus on his arch-nemesis Hollis, who seems to run the best psi (telepath, pre-cog) organization going. At the start of the novel, many of Hollis’s top telepaths have disappeared, leaving Runci... Read More
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
I’m beginning to wonder if Brandon Sanderson is cloning himself. Really, it’s just making the rest of us look bad, all the work he’s managing to put out there. I find myself hoping he’s a really bad father or something, until I realize that’s sort of taking it out on his children. So maybe I’ll go with his lawn is a scraggly weed-filled mess and he dresses poorly. Anyway, another month, another Sanderson book . . .
If one did a mash up of Harold and the Purple Crayon, A Wizard of Earthsea, and Read More
Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
I’m going to start this review of Loki’s Wolves, the first book in a new series entitled THE BLACKWELL PAGES, by K.L. (Kelley) Armstrong and M.A. (Melissa) Marr, by saying that there is a good chance it really is a pretty decent Middle Grade book that a number of readers that age will enjoy. Not being that age, it is kind of hard for me to tell. That hasn’t stopped me from reviewing Middle Grade books before, but the truth is, if the book had strong characterization, a vivid sense of place, an internally consistent and well-paced plot involving a nice mix of action and quiet, rich language, I didn’t have to worry about its targeted age group; it was just “good” and I assumed those younger readers would fall in line. Based on m... Read More
Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
Way back in a review of the second book (Dragon Haven) in Robin Hobb’s RAIN WILDS series, I wrote “I’ve begun to wonder over the course of Hobb’s recent books if she is exploring just how much plot she needs in her novels to actually have a ‘story.’ It’s almost as if she’s feeling her way to as quiet and minimalist a style (in terms of action, not language) as possible.” Now, two books later, with Blood of Dragons, the tetralogy has come to a close and I’d say the question still pertains. While normally a fan of Hobb’s character-driven and slower-paced style, I have to confess that this series was a little uneven for me, and its finale a bit too slow with characters who didn’t quite hold my interest enough.
Blood of Dragons picks up where its predecessor ends, with the Eld... Read More
Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells
Emilie & the Hollow World, by Martha Wells, has an immediately endearing title (I’m a big fan of hollow world stories), which it doesn’t quite live up to. It’s a solid enough story, though, if not particularly distinctive.
The novel opens with sixteen-year-old Emilie running away from her uncle’s home and trying to slip aboard the local ferry. Things go awry and instead she’s forced to swim to another nearby ship to hide from the dock guards. Turns out it just isn’t Emilie’s night, however, for soon the ship she’s crawled up on is under attack and she quickly finds herself dodging bullets, meeting a not-at-all human-person, and then traveling the “aether current” into the world at the center of our own. Soon, she learns she’s now an involuntary part of a rescue party/scientific expedition whose members include Lord Engal, Vale Marlende (her father is... Read More
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A Genie. A golem. Nineteenth-century New York City. Boy, did I want to love this book. Drawn by its come-hither characters, its promise of poetry, and by its dark side in the form of a truly nasty character, I really, really wanted to love it. And truth is, I liked The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. But in the well-trod words of middle school, I didn’t “like like” it. Oh, it was fun, it made me smile sometimes and think sometimes and feel a bit sad at other times. I enjoyed hanging out with it for the length of its near-500 pages. But, despite that fire-genie at its heart, there just wasn’t that spark. I just wanted to be friends.
We meet our two fantastical characters early on via two different storylines. The Golem, Chava, travels to 1899 New York on a steamer and finds herself ashore in a Bowery neighborhood of Jewish immigrants. The Jinni, meanwhil... Read More
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
Since this is a fantasy review site, let’s get this out nice and early. Outside of its setting — a fictionalized and truncated version of China’ s 11th century Northern Song Dynasty — there is next to no fantasy in River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest work. A few ghosts, an occasional fox-woman, and that’s it. So fantasy readers will have to take those few bones tossed their way and then settle for graceful, lyrical prose, beautifully drawn characters, moments that stab the heart, a masterful sense of structure and pace, and an overall elegance and skill that denotes a novelist in complete control of his creation. Oh, the things we put up with.
The storyline is roughly that of the aforementioned period in China’s history. The Kitai Empire, reacting to long-ago rebellions by army commanders against the royal court, has allowed its armies to grow weak and its commanders in... Read More
Quintessence by David Walton
Quintessence is a historical fantasy by David Walton, set in an alternate 1500s, a time of religious and political turmoil, exploration, and advances in natural philosophy, as old authorities were beginning to be challenged. In the last days of Edward VI’s reign, a ship returns from the edge of the world (literally — this world is flat) with news of a fantastic island, Horizon, filled with strange creatures and even better, home to what appears to be the Elixir of Life. Unfortunately, the entire crew is dead within hours of their return and their tales are thought to be ravings by all but Christopher Sinclair, an alchemist whose life’s quest is the discovery of quintessence — the element he believes will allow humanity to defeat death.
Soon, Sinclair has manipulated Stephen Parris, the king’s physician, and his daughter Catherine into joining him on an expedition to Horizon, where a ... Read More
Earthseed by Pamela Sargent
Earthseed, by Pamela Sargent, is the first in a science fiction YA trilogy that follows the inhabitants of a seed ship from Earth sent out long ago to colonize other planets. We pick up the story as Ship (the AI mind which is the vessel personified) is nearing its destination and thus as its young inhabitants must begin their preparations for life outside of Ship’s watchful, protective eyes.
Up to this point, Ship has been the kids’ parent and teacher, birthing them from artificial wombs and then raising them — there are no adults aboard. Now on the cusp of adulthood, the adolescents will soon move into “The Hollow” — a huge open-space area (Ship is a large asteroid) where they will build their own shelters, grow their own food, etc. in order to learn the skills necessary for when they are landed on their new planet. They soon discover, though, that learning how to farm or build homes pale... Read More
Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill is not what I would label a particularly well-written novel. In fact, in many ways, I’d call it a poorly written one. But despite the several issues I had with major aspects of the work, I have to admit that by the end I was mostly enjoying myself and curious as to where the story was going to go.
The novel opens up with a fairy-tale like romance, one that was a bit too sugary for my liking, so much so that I nearly didn’t make it past the first dozen or so pages. But the sweetness turns quickly bitter and the dream turns nightmare, which pretty much sets the stage for how much of this book is going to go. The repercussions of that opening will eventually fall most heavily on the lives of two boys: Ewan and Colby. Ewan is spirited away to Faerie to be raised for much of his early childhood while Colby lives in an all-too real world with ... Read More
A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
I’m not going to start at the beginning with A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan; I’m going to start before the beginning — at the cover. Why? Because it’s gorgeous: a beautifully drawn, silver and blue and grey hued dragon walking on all fours, its left front and right hind leg in the process of moving forward; its powerful legs, erect head, out-thrust chest, and soaring wings proclaiming its power; while the back half has been illustratively flayed to reveal its carefully numbered and delineated muscles, bones, and layers of underskin that create that power. It looks ripped right out of Gray’s Anatomy (the text, not the show). The interior illustrations, also by Todd Lockwood, are equally beautiful, losing little in their shift to simple black and white lines. I wish more fantasy novels had such artistic enhancements and h... Read More
The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
OK, here’s the thing about The Daylight War, Peter Brett’s third book of the DEMON CYCLE, following The Warded Man and The Desert Spear. I really, really want to say, Don’t Read This Book. Honestly. No sarcasm. No humor. That’s my first instinct. Because it’s bad? No. Because it disappoints in comparison to the first two, each of which I’ve given 4.5 stars to? No. No, the reason my first instinct is to say don’t read it is simple — because you’re going to want to read Book Four immediately. And at this point, there is no Book Four. The bastard. Now, if you happen to be reading this review a year or so after The Daylight War came out, and there is an existent Book Four, then ignore what I just said. But until that point, don’t read this book. At least, don’t read this book if you don’t want to read a really good book that continues... Read More