Blood and Iron by John Sprunk
My favorite part of Blood and Iron is when Mulcibar tells shipwreck-survivor-turned-slave-turned-super-wizard-turned-Queen’s-Protector Horace, in all sincerity, that Queen Byleth is a strict mistress, but not cruel. Sorry, dude, you’re just wrong. Turning the brother who betrayed you over to your crazy mad scientist to be tortured as part of his experiment might qualify as “strict.” Sashaying down to the torture chamber/secret lab in your tissue-thin designer gown and gloating over said brother during torture is cruel. That’s okay, though, because tall, voluptuous, raven-haired, contralto-voiced Queen Byleth is not one of the main characters of Jon Sprunk’s new book Blood and Iron. She’s a high-fashion plot device, like Kim Kardashian doing a guest stint on Spartacus.
Blood... Read More
Marion DeedsOn 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.
Blood and Iron by John Sprunk
World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters
We all have that friend, family member or co-worker who thinks speculative fiction is stupid. To be fair, they have a lot of ammunition for this short-sighted view; the Star Wars prequels, vampire-boyfriend sagas and numerous homogenized series with trashy covers. Ben H. Winters, however, is the secret defensive weapon in our arsenal, and the LAST POLICEMAN series is the smart, thinking-person’s SF you can offer as a rebuttal.
World of Trouble is the final book in the trilogy. In The Last Policeman, we met Hank Palace, the titular character. The world is going to be struck by a large asteroid, and all the projections show the results will be the end of life on earth. Bruce Willis is not going to blow it up with a nuclear warhead; there is no technological or scientific way to deflect it. Scientists ... Read More
Fables (Vol. 2): Animal Farm by Bill Willingham (author) and Mark Buckingham (artist)
Willingham further develops his world.
Animal Farm is the second volume in Fables, a comic book series that presents characters from various “make-believe” lands living the immigrant life in the USA. In Volume One, we met Snow White, the capable vice-mayor of Fabletown, and her rebellious sister Rose Red. In Animal Farm, Willingham pulls back the curtain to show us a few of the problems lurking just out of sight.
Humanoid fables can l... Read More
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
I didn’t love Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy Mistborn, but I liked it a lot. I enjoyed the brisk action sequences, especially the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style combat scenes, where Sanderson’s magically-enhanced characters, the Allomancers, leap and soar about in defiance of gravity.
In Sanderson’s fantasy universe, some gifted people can access magical powers by ingesting a tiny bit of certain metals. They then rapidly metabolize or “burn” the metal and it provides them with powers. Most of the Allomancers are from the line of the nobility, but there wouldn’t be a story if they all were, and Mistborn follows primarily the growth of Vin, an orphaned street urchin attached to a gang of thieves. Vin doesn’t know she is an Allomancer.
The plot of the story is an attempt to stage a rebelli... Read More
Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Emily Lloyd-Jone’s debut novel, Illusive, is a briskly-paced futuristic adventure for middle school readers. Jones created an interesting adventure, but stayed safely within the conventions and tropes of YA, drawing heavily from familiar works, resulting in a book that is fun, but predictable and in places a bit derivative.
Ciere (pronounced See-ARE) is a seventeen-year-old thief, part of a high-end theft ring. Ciere and her compatriots have special, almost magical abilities, awakened as a result of a vaccine they were given to combat a pandemic that broke out in 2017. In a small number of the population, the vaccine created super-abilities: eidetic memory, extreme strength, an “ability” to escape, the ability to create illusions (Ciere’s gift), telepathy, and rarest of all, mind control. People with these gifts are called “immunes” and are hunted by the governmen... Read More
Fables (Vol. 1): Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (author) and Lan Medina (artist)
Snow White is having a rough week. It is only a few days away from Rememberance Day, Fabletown’s big celebration and fund-raiser. As the deputy mayor, she is in charge of the event. The Beast, of Beauty and the Beast, is reverting to his non-human form, and she must decide if he will be exiled from New York City and sent upstate to the “farm,” where the non-human immigrants from her home reality live. Her ex, the smarmy, philandering Prince Charming, is back in town. Now, Fabletown’s sheriff, Bigby Wolf, brings her bad news about her sister. Rose Red’s apartment is dripping with blood – Red’s blood – and she is missing.
Leg... Read More
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Imagine that, like the hapless characters in movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn, you and a group of friends were captured by cannibals. You were kept alive while choice cuts of you were “harvested”, and you alone survived. Imagine that you were the victim of a sadistic abductor who flayed the flesh of your arms and legs and carved images onto your bones. Imagine that you alone survived the rising of the Elder Gods in your home town. What would you do? Who would you talk to? Would you even be sane? That’s the premise of We Are All Completely Fine, a novella by Daryl Gregory, published by Tachyon Press.
Dr. Jan Sayer has drawn together a talk-therapy group made up of sole survivors of supernatural attacks. On the surface it seems as if the doctor has just hit on... Read More
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
To be honest, I wasn’t sure Laini Taylor would be able to pull it off. Her DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series had such scope and such a fundamental conflict between her two main characters that I wasn’t convinced she could pull it all together by Book Three, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Fortunately, my doubts were unfounded. Taylor weaves together the strands, both dark and shining, of her fantasy narrative into a vivid and complete story.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters opens with a completely new character; Eliza Jones, a graduate student who is tormented by terrible dreams. These dreams are worse than nightmares. In them, Eliza knows that the Beasts are coming, terrible, destructive creatures, and that she is in some way responsible for bringing them. Eliza gets some help from her supportive roommate,... Read More
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 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 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 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
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 (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 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 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