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.

Fanboy Friday! Grandville, Bete Noire: Luscious Art Creates Good Escapist Fun

Grandville, Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Bete Noire, Bryan Talbot’s third steam-punk themed graphic novel, has the same lavish detail and striking use of color as the first two. English Badger D.I. Archie LeBrock is back, as rough-and-tumble as ever, and in this book we spend a bit more time with Quayle or “Q,” a brilliant inventor adept at stealth weapons, like a smoking pipe that is really a bomb. It’s a nice wink in the direction of Ian Fleming.

The plot is slimmer and more predictable than the first two, and a large part of the story is taken up with the exploration of LeBrock’s relationship with the beautiful prostitute Billie, who he met in Grandville, Mon Amor. We find out a bit more about Billie, especially, in one hilarious and naughty frame, what her particular work “specialty... Read More

Horrible (YA) Monday: Dead Set by Richard Kadrey

Dead Set by Richard Kadrey

Zoe’s parents were punks in San Francisco when they met and fell in love. Zoe’s father managed punk bands, while her mother was a graphic artist, designing album covers. When they realized they were going to have a child, they went into the straight life, although Zoe’s dad never left punk music behind. Now Zoe is sixteen, her father is dead, and her mother is battling a heartless insurance company that is refusing to pay. They have moved from their pleasant house in the San Francisco East Bay area to a small apartment in the city. Zoe’s dreams are filled with menacing black dogs and a strange woman.

Richard Kadrey is probably best known for his SANDMAN SLIM series. Dead Set is something different; a young adult horror novel. Kadrey masterfully blends the supernatural horror elements of the tale with the real-world devastation Zoe faces. Zoe cuts most of her classes at the new high scho... Read More

The Land Across: I get it! I get it! Um, maybe.

The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

If it’s a Gene Wolfe novel, it goes without saying that things will not be quite as they seem. The Land Across is no exception. In this post, which is not an actual review, I’m going to weigh in on what I think might be happening in the book. Warning; I’m going to discuss aspects of the plot in detail. If you are worried this will spoil the book for you, I recommend you read Bill and Kat’s review, instead.

In The Land Across, a young American man named Grafton journeys to a small Eastern European country not unlike Rumania or Bulgaria. It is called only “the land across the mountains.” The land is extremely difficult for outsiders to visit. Those who take the roads find themselves stymied by washouts or landslides, or turned away at the border even though their papers are all correct. People who ... Read More

Fire with Fire: The main character mars this fun Nebula-nominated adventure

Fire with Fire by Charles E. Gannon

I don’t read a lot of military science fiction, and Fire With Fire is definitely military SF. It’s also an intelligence thriller and a first-contact story, at least part of the time. Charles E. Gannon’s book was good fun, but could have been forty pages shorter (limiting the verbiage of the talking heads) without losing anything, and the main character was a problem.

Caine Riordan, the hero of Fire with Fire, is a little like Jack Ryan from the old Tom Clancy books. Riordan is not a military guy; he’s an analyst, and a writer, or both. He likes to roll up his sleeves and get hands-on, though, so he has a lot of varied experiences. He’s a polymath; educated in a number of areas. Riordan is uniquely without attachments; thirteen years earlier, Riordan uncovered a ... Read More

Fanboy Friday! Grandville, Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Mon Amour is the second in Bryan Talbot’s steampunk graphic novel series with highly evolved animals, in a world where Napoleon conquered all of Europe and Britain has only been an independent country for twenty-three years. British badger Detective-Inspector Archie LeBrock and his partner Ratzi, a rat, are back on a case that will take them back to Paris, also called Grandville. As Ratzi puts it, “We’re like a pair of bloomin’ boomerangs.”

In the opening, a prisoner is dragged out of a brutal maximum security cell for execution. The tables soon turn as the cowering prisoner draws a weapon and kills his way free. The prisoner, Mad Dog Mastock, was a savage insurgent in Britain’s... Read More

Edge: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

[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 would see his hand on the doorknob, the door beginning to swing shut. I have something to say! I’d tell him, and the door would stop part way.

“Start in the middle, then, he’d answer, a shadow with the hall light behind him, and tired in the evenings the way grownups are. The light would reflect in my bedroom window like a star you could wish on.

“Skip the beginning. Start in the middle.”

As frustrating as it is, I am going to try to discuss Karen Joy F... Read More

The Wild Girls: Wraps you in silken words and then breaks your heart

The Wild Girls by Ursula K Leguin

“When her mother went to embrace her, Tudju made the gesture that put her aside.”

Some topics carry inevitability in their DNA. When you read about Titanic, or the 1918 influenza pandemic, you know what’s going to happen. In Ursula LeGuin’s novelette The Wild Girls we have a good idea how it’s going to end. We don’t want to believe, but we know.

In the opening paragraphs, Bela ten Belen takes five companions and a male slave and leaves his City home to raid a nearby nomadic village. Bela is hunting for a “Dirt” girl to capture and raise to be his wife. He and his friends slaughter the unarmed adults in the village and take the children. Bela seizes a little girl, and soon discovers that her older sister, who was not captured, has followed them, not to attempt a rescue but simply to be with her sister.

... Read More

The Compleat Crow: Short stories of Lumley’s master occultist

The Compleat Crow by Brian Lumley

Subterranean Press has gathered a collection of Brian Lumley’s stories in The Compleat Crow. As you’d expect, nearly all these tales feature Lumley’s occult detective, Titus Crow.

Crow is the main character of a couple of novels by Lumley. He is a “white wizard,” a force for good who struggles mostly against those in league with the Cthulhu-cycle elder gods. Lumley’s style skates between Lovecraft-lite and an almost Holmesian tone. These eleven short stories were published mostly in the UK and range from 1969 to the early 1980s. Most involve Crow as the main character. Some are third-person; in some Crow is the first-person narrator, telling his own tale, and in a few he is the story-teller, relating events that have nothing to do with him. Notably, two tales use a third person narrator that is not Crow.

“Inception,” the first story in the book, follows a fugitive ... Read More

Contagion: A bang-up resolution to the TOXIC CITY Trilogy

Contagion by Tim Lebbon

Contagion provides a sad but satisfying resolution to Tim Lebbon’s TOXIC CITY series. Jack, the hero of the books, comes to grips with his new powers, while outside quarantined London, Jack’s mother and sister spread the truth of the mutation agent Evolve.

In the TOXIC CITY series, two years ago on a date now called Doomsday, a scientist named Angelina Walker released a virus-like compound in London. It changes people. Some people it gives extraordinary powers; other change into beasts or monsters. London was evacuated and quarantined, patrolled by a group called Choppers. Jack, his former girlfriend Lucy-Anne, and a group of friends entered the city to find his mother and sister who were being held captive. In the second book, Reaper (reviewed here) Jack confronted the altered man who was his father b... Read More

The Prince of Lies: Satisfying, but needed more skraylings

The Prince of Lies by Anne Lyle

Warning: This review may contain spoilers of the previous books.

The Prince of Lies, by Anne Lyle, finishes up the NIGHT'S MASQUE trilogy with plenty of magic, adventure and suspense. I wish it had more skraylings in it. I should be more specific. I wish it had more skraylings in their native form. Instead Mal Catlyn, his wife Coby and twin brother Sandy  must uncover and defeat the skraylings known as “guisers;” humans who are possessed by skrayling souls that entered their bodies instead of a skrayling infant’s, the normal process for their race. This particular group of guisers, who have been in Europe longer than most people realized, have plans to rule England.

Lyle tweaked the historical line of succession in the first book, The Alchemist of Souls, by creating a seventeenth century England where Queen... Read More

Fiddlehead: Suspenseful and satisfying

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

In the North America of 1879, the American Civil War is still going on. A deadly drug from the Pacific Northwest is killing people, then converting them into undead monsters. While technological advances burgeoned during the war, both sides are depleted of soldiers, revenue and hope. This conflict can’t continue, especially with the drug disease making its way to the highly populated north-and-southeast. President U.S. Grant, finishing up his second term and preparing a run for his third, has an opportunity to end it once and for all, by unleashing a devastating weapon that will shock the Confederacy into surrender before any more people die. At least, that’s how it’s been described to him. 

At the beginning of THE CLOCKWORK CENTURY series, Cherie Priest said that she would end the war by the end of the series. She didn’t say it would be pretty. In Fid... Read More

Edge: A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World

A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor

[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.]

When I distill down my responses to Rachel Cantor’s debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World, I find that what moved me the most profoundly was the main character, Leonard’s, relationship with his nephew, Felix. Leonard’s connection to his now-dead grandfather is important, and Sally the neo-Baconian librarian (not Read More

Conquest: It’s a good one

Conquest by John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard

At first, Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard reminded me of a blend of Gene Roddenberry’s Earth; the Final Conflict, and the history of the Roman Empire. The Roddenberry sense comes from the descriptions of the aliens who conquer Earth; tall, slender and graceful, some with shaven heads, and a melodic, trilling name, the Illyri. By the second chapter, though, I felt firmly grounded in Roman conquest, as Andrus, the Illyri governor of Earth, and his primary general discuss an attack at an Illyri fortress, presumably by the human Resistance. The “Roman outpost” feeling is helped along by the settings, first Edinburgh and later the Scottish Highlands.

The Illyri adults we follow in this YA adventure have a nagging sense of something rotten back at the heart of the Empire, through the ... Read More

Grandville: Astonishing artwork brings a steampunk world to life

Grandville by Bryan Talbot

Exquisite, fantastical artwork lifts Grandville out of the ordinary. Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel, set in an alternate fantasy world where homo sapiens sapiens is not the dominant species, and Napoleon won the Peninsular Wars, is a true luxury to read, due mostly to the stunning, vividly executed pictures.

But Napoleon? Napoleon, probably the third of that name, is a lion. Archie LeBrock, the Scotland Yard Detective-Inspector who is our hero, is a badger and his sergeant is a rat.

In Talbot’s lushly realized steampunk world, France dominates Europe. Britain was a French possession, but British rebels engaged in terrorism and managed to wrest the island’s freedom away from Napoleon. The people of France hate and distrust the Brits and fear another terrorist attack, especially in light of a deadly assault on the Robida Tower two years previously, where an... Read More

Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane: Like a box of chocolates

Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane edited by Jonathan Oliver

Magic is, almost by definition, esoteric and arcane; something known only to a few, kept secret from the masses, practiced only by initiates. Still, the grandiose title of this themed anthology of original stories may oversell it slightly, since many of the tales here are quite conventional. Jonathan Oliver gathered a shining collection of talent, though, and with fifteen stories spanning fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy and horror, most readers will find something to enjoy.

The book has a lovely cover by Nicolas Delort. It’s a simulated woodcut. A Victorian-era woman holds an infant with horns, while a hooded demonic figure stands guard, and the cover is replete with lilies, skulls and ravens. Editor Jonathan Oliver opens the... Read More

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