Marion Deeds

On FanLit’s staff since March 2011

MARION DEEDS iis retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within.

Her favorite fantasy authors include John Crowley, Catherynne Valente, China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Kate Griffin and Ursula LeGuin. High fantasy, sword and sorcery, new weird, urban; it doesn’t matter, she likes it all. Reading Andre Norton as a child inspired her to write herself.She prefers books with complex, accessible characters, beautiful language, and something new to the genre — but she’s also willing to kick back with a good urban fantasy now and then. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

The Spectral Link: Subterranean Press provides two spectral short stories.

The Spectral Link by Thomas Ligotti

Subterranean Press has issued two original stories by Thomas Ligotti in a special edition volume titled The Spectral Link. Ligotti is best known for a brooding, gothic style of psychological horror that avoids slashing, gore and disgusting body fluids for a deep, dark, almost spiritual sense of wrongness. He delivers that creepy sense of wrongness in both these tales.

Ligotti’s prose is masterful, as is his control of tone. Tone is not as easy to manage as people might think; very often an historical story or an epic fantasy founders for me when the author slips into modern-day diction, or a gloomy, gothic tale suddenly sprouts a sentence that reads like it came right off of Facebook. Ligotti does not make these errors. Each word, sentence and paragraph is crafted to draw you in, leading you along a downward spiral of otherness and disconnection. Read More

The Silk Map: Vivid world-building and pretty decent poetry

The Silk Map by Chris Willrich

The Silk Map is Chris Willrich’s second adventure in the GAUNT AND BONE series. The poet and the thief, along with their bandit friend Snow Pine, are searching for their lost children, and this book takes them on a quest along an ancient trade route where they confront wonders, demons and their own fears.

Willrich has created a world based on ancient China, and the Spice Braid route that Gaunt and Bone follow is patterned on the Silk Road. Along this road, poet Persimmon Gaunt and her thief husband Imago Bone encounter enemy soldiers, greedy gate-keepers, undead Charwalkers, dragon horses, a mad monk and an incarnation of the Monkey God.

All the things that I loved about the first book The Scroll of Years show up again in The Silk Map. I love the world Willrich has invented. The dialogue an... Read More

Babel-17: It’s all that, and a bag of marbles

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 won the 1966 Nebula award for best novel, tying with Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon. Samuel Delany’s space opera novel is dated in many ways, but still holds up.

In the future, humans have colonized many star systems. Currently, the Alliance is engaged in a war with the Invaders, who, despite the name, are also human. The Alliance has intercepted many dispatches in a code they can’t break. They’ve labeled it Babel-17. Desperate, they turn to the inter-galactically renowned poet Rydra Wong to help them decipher it.

Wong is in her late twenties, a linguistic, semantic and telepathic genius, a starship captain, and so compelling that the general who meets with her falls in love with her almost instantly. There is more than a bit of fantasy wish-fulfillment in this character. (Don’t believe me? Say this out loud: “... Read More

In Thunder Forged: Here’s my After-action Report

In Thunder Forged by Ari Marmell

To:  Military Subcommittee, Colonial Council, Kingdom of Fantasy Literature

Month of Summer Solstice, in the Year of the Brazilian World Cup

Re: Codename In Thunder Forged, After Action Report

Honorable Council:

Herewith my report on the targeted objective, codename In Thunder Forged. In reviewing reports for this mission I noted that your intelligence analysts theorized that In Thunder Forged may have been based on a video game, specifically, the game WARMACHINE. Our Preliminary Engagement Troops (PETs) immediately encountered espionage, loud and colorful explosions, unlimited magic that worked for no known reason, Pacific-Rim-like warbots and a stream of expository dialogue, confirming the analysts’ theory. However, the PETs had no trouble crossing the perimeter and moving among the locals, who were quite ... Read More

Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda

Coffin Hill (Vol 1); Forest of the Night, by Caitlin Kittredge, Art by Inaki Miranda

The northeast United States gets quite a bit of attention in the horror genre (and fantasy). Stephen King has clearly made the state of Maine Weird Central, USA, but Irish writer John Connolly has added his bit of strange darkness to the Maine woods as well. Paul Park starts his Romania Quartet in Massachusetts, and now Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda add to the creepy-otherness quotient with the trade collection comic Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night.

Vertigo is DC Comics’s line of works for adult readers. The themes in Coffin Hill are adult themes and there is plenty of sex, nudity and rough language. All of that is in servic... Read More

The Great Glass Sea: A fine literary novel with a solid SF premise

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

It’s difficult to write a comprehensive yet succinct critique of a work by someone who understands storytelling from the bones outward, who writes unsentimentally about a place he loves and uses exquisite language while doing it. That’s my particular challenge with Josh Weil’s literary novel The Great Glass Sea.

I’m reviewing The Great Glass Sea for our Edge of the Universe column because the springboard for the story is an audacious SF what-if: What if orbiting space mirrors could provide 24 hours of light to an agricultural area on earth? What if endless acres of farmland could be sheltered from the elements of winter under huge greenhouses, a sea of glass, and crops could be grown year round? This is the starting point of Weil’s thoughtful, elegiac novel about Russia, his lyrical character study of two broth... Read More

Alif the Unseen: A mesmerizing mashup

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

G Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen might be a thrilling techno-fantasy, or a fantastical techno-thriller, or even a fantasy-political-techno-thriller. I don’t know quite how she pulled off the genre blending, but she did.

In an un-named Middle Eastern City, a young hacker whose handle is Alif comes to the personal attention of the State’s head of security. Alif pings “the Hand’s” radar for two reasons; he is in love with that man’s fiancé, and he has created a program that identifies any computer user simply by keystrokes, a boon to any security force trying to shut down internet use. Alif and his duplex neighbor, the devout Dina, are forced to go into hiding, and this brings them into contact with the mysterious man known as Vikram the Vampire. Vikram, it turns out, is not a vampire. He is a jinn.

From there the story weaves breathlessly through techno-thr... Read More

Edge: September Girls: This book does not stay safely in the shallows; it takes risks.

September Girls by Bennett Madison

[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.]


September Girls, by Bennett Madison was nominated for a 2014 Andre Norton Award for best YA fiction (it didn’t win; Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine did). I see why September Girls was nominated. It’s beautifully written, a sad and sweet story about love, dysfunctional families, and growing up. Oh, and mermaids.

According to Goodreads, the book is also controversial, with some readers embracing it as a surgically precise criti... Read More

Beggars in Spain: Liked the ideas, didn’t love the characterizations

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress won a Nebula and a Hugo in 1991 for her novella “Beggars in Spain,” about genetically altered humans who don’t need to sleep. In 1993 she expanded the novella into a novel and ultimately into a series.

The first quarter of Beggars in Spain is basically the original novella, in which the reader meets Leisha Camden, the genetically altered child of multi-billionaire Roger Camden. Lithe, golden-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful, Leisha is also extraordinarily intelligent and sleepless. How do people feel about Leisha and the others like her, dubbed The Sleepless? The question is more pointed in Leisha’s case — and more personal — because she has a fraternal twin, Alice, who is a Sleeper.

This book is an “idea” book, less about the character and more about how humans, on the individual level, in the aggregate and in the political aggregate, react to cha... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

All of Harper Curtis’s girls shine. They have a special something; a little more curiosity, a deeper sense of wonder. They grow up to be women who will change things, maybe by being the first black woman to design airplanes, or a tough-minded architect with great ideas for high-density dwellings, maybe by being artists, writers or performers. They will change the world — or they would have, except that Harper kills them. Harper is a serial killer with a virtually perfect escape hatch that means he will never be caught. He has a house that is a time portal, allowing him to murder someone in 1982, for example, and return to his original timeline of the 1930s.

The Shining Girls is a perfect horror story. It’s also, technically at least, a thriller and the time-travel element qualifies it as science fiction. Lauren Beukes weaves the disparate elements together into an intricate plot ... Read More

Valour and Vanity: Pirates, Puppets and Lord Byron!

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour and Vanity is the fourth book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s series THE GLAMOURISTS. This time our husband-and-wife team of heroes, David Vincent and Lady Jane Vincent, are stranded, penniless, in Murano, victims of a predatory swindler who hopes to sell their secret glamour process to the highest bidder. To stop this from happening, Vincent and Jane must out-swindle the swindler. Yes, that’s right; set during the British Regency, this book is a caper book.

So, hmmm… Do I write a conventional review, or just give you a list of some of the things you will encounter in the book? Well, here’s the list, in no particular order.

Pirates
Puppets
Puppeteers
Glamourized lions from ancient Rome
Venice
Murano glass-blowing studios
Lord Byron
Lord Byron naked in a canal
Costumes
Disguises Read More

Afterparty: Discussed by Marion and Kat

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory’s pharma-tech novel Afterparty is good entertainment with many wonderful moments. At times it is wildly inventive — filled with images like an apartment full of tiny genetically-engineered bison roaming the “range” of wall to wall grass, or an angel named Dr. Gloria who wears a business suit, white coat, glasses, carries a clipboard and has wings.

Kat and I read this book about the same time. We both gave it four stars but we may have liked different things, so we’re going to discuss the book together. Kat’s comments are in red.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the story.

In the near future, a neuroscientist with a deity in her head checks herself out of an institution and goes searching for the people who are distributing the street drug called Numinous (or sometimes, Logos). Lyda Rose is intimately familiar with the drug because she helped i... Read More

The Red: First Light: A Parade of Ideas

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

James Shelley, the main character of Linda Nagata’s Nebula-nominated novel The Red; First Light, is the high-drama leader of a Linked Combat Squad or LCS. It is Shelley’s opinion, shared at length with his squad, that “there has to be a war somewhere,” and that these wars are consciously orchestrated by the cabal of defense contractors who grow mega-rich off military contracts.

Shelley and his squad are linked to each other via communication implants; linked to remote handlers who have access to satellite data; and linked to the visual data from surveillance drones. Shelley was a spoiled rich boy who got into trouble and took the army route rather than go to prison. He has the loyalty of his squad beca... Read More

The Gunslinger: A look back at King’s experimental dystopian Western

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

A few weeks ago I picked up a used copy of The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I wanted to use the two opening paragraphs for a writers group I’m facilitating. After the group, I decided I’d just browse the opening chapter, because, you know, it’s classic King… and then I lost the whole day re-reading it. 

The Gunslinger is the first book in The Dark Tower series. King published the title novella that forms the kernel of the book in 1978, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He completed four more novellas, and in 1982 they were published as one novel for the first time.

The Gunslinger has one of those memorable opening lines:
The man in... Read More

RUNAWAYS, vol 3: The Good Die Young

RUNAWAYS: The Good Die Young by Brian K. Vaughan

Note: This review may contain spoilers of the previous volumes.

The Good Die Young, the third collection of Brian K. Vaughan’s Marvel’s RUNAWAYS, brings the original story arc to a successful, if sad, close. Our six young people, who have had to adjust to discovering they are the children of super-villains, come of age and make their own decisions, graduating to full hero status.

The book starts with Alex, the leader of the Runaways, announcing that he has fully translated the book they stole from their parents after they discovered the truth. From there, the reader gets a flashback to the parents: aliens, sorcerers,... Read More

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