The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
In The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett sends Rincewind and the Unseen University wizards to Xxxx (Fourecks), which, the narrator explains, is not Australia.
In Interesting Times, Unseen University wizards inadvertently sent Rincewind to the Counterweight Continent (China), and now they inadvertently travel into the past of Fourecks — the Last Continent being created on the Discworld — while trying to figure out the Librarian’s name. Ponder Stibbins is the first to realize that the wizards have traveled into the past, and he warns the wizards that they must be careful to not change the future. Certainly, they must not kill one of their ancestors. But why would they want to do that? interrupts Ridcully. The Archchancellor argues that they’re already in the past, changing things, so the changes have already happened. And so a continent is created. The wizards meet t... Read More
Ryan SkardalOn FanLit’s staff since September 2010
RYAN SKARDAL teaches English literature. He currently lives in New Jersey with many piles of books, several poorly behaved cats, and his wonderful wife.
The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
Members of the Correspondence Society have discovered an extra-terrestrial entity, which they refer to as the “Hypercolony,” in the atmosphere. The Hypercolony secretly monitors and subtly alters terrestrial transmissions in order to maintain peace on Earth. A few skirmishes aside, they have been successful, and humanity is once again celebrating the anniversary of the 1914 Armistice Day.
Earth may be a paradise, but it would be a mistake to consider the Hypercolony a benevolent entity. Its algorithms guide it to intervene in a way that will maximize its own chances for survival, a drive that makes it seem symbiotic. However, when the Hypercolony discovered the Correspondence Society in 2007, it sent agents — sims — to eliminate the threat. The “sims” — short for “simulacra” — look like humans, though an autopsy will reveal that they lack autonomy and also that they have a vegetati... Read More
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Tiffany is not convinced when her peer Annagramma explains that magic is a power that signals one’s status. In Annagramma’s view, the witches study arcane and obscure subjects in order to set themselves apart from society, and all of the other young witches seem convinced by her reasoning. Tiffany may not admit it, but she is insecure about her status among the young witches. Secretly, she wishes to reveal her power to them. The hiver understands Tiffany, and when it takes over her mind, Tiffany makes her wishes come true.
In A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany travels to join her new mentor, Miss Level. Like all old witches, Miss Level is a unique sort. She has two bodies, and a spirit named Oswald cleans up around her cottage. Miss Level may be strange, but she has a kind heart, and she takes care of her villagers. Tiffany’s lessons are going well, though she does not like to wear black, she h... Read More
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart is a young adult novel, it has a post-apocalyptic setting, and it’s about superheroes (super villains, actually). It’s like Sanderson collected the last five years of blockbuster movies and novels and condensed them into one work that could be adapted into a newer, even bigger blockbuster movie. I also think there’s video game potential.
Steelheart is not adapted from a specific comic series, though Sanderson does appear to have been inspired by some of the genre’s most popular titles. Here, a bizarro man of steel named Steelheart takes over Chicago, renames it “Newcago,” and begins a cruel reign of dominance. Steelheart is an Epic — he has superpowers like super strength and the ability to generat... Read More
Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson
Turk Findley has been returned to Equatoria ten thousand years after the Hypotheticals took him and Isaac. Things have changed. The Ring of Worlds that was connected by the Arches remains, but the societies that once traveled between these interplanetary portals have died away and been replaced. The Earth, sadly, is a wasteland. Its oceans are too acidic and its air is too poisonous to support life. Unfortunately, when the Hypotheticals connected Earth to other worlds, humanity began importing oil from Equatoria, which boosted the economy but destroyed our planet.
Now, however, Turk is recruited by Treya, a member of the Vox. The Vox is a limbic democracy (as opposed to a cortical democracy) where everyone has a chip in their neck that connects them to the Network... Read More
The Long Walk by Stephen King
Ray Garraty, Maine’s own, lives in a near-future dystopian America where boys enter an annual game, the Long Walk, in which the winner is given anything he wants. The winning boy must walk at four miles per hour longer than any other boy in the competition. Boys whose pace drops below four miles per hour are given a warning, which they can lose after an hour of at-pace walking. Boys that collect three warnings, however, receive their “ticket,” a bullet.
The Long Walk was originally published under Stephen King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman, in 1979. Bachman’s true identity was exposed in 1985, and King has since rereleased the novel with an introductory essay “The Importance of Being Bachman.” King explains that Bachman was a voice that he hoped could articulate the “place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and th... Read More
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
The older witches warn Tiffany Aching not to join in the dark Morris dance, but the soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old, who is usually so sensible, suddenly finds that she cannot resist her feet’s urging. Swept away in the heat of the moment, the young witch joins the magical dance before anyone can stop her.
She afterwards learns that she has danced with the Wintersmith. Winter himself becomes fascinated with Tiffany, whom he mistakes for the summer goddess. When the snow begins to fall, Tiffany discovers that every snowflake looks like her and that the Wintersmith is trying to become a man so that they can be together in a permanent winter. She soon learns that her feet have become fertile, and they now cause plants to grow wherever she walks.
Put less metaphorically, Tiffany has begun to notice boys, she has begun to act rashly, and she is learning to accept responsibility. Since she is a witch in ... Read More
Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
The City Watch is growing, and its new members bring new skills and talents to help stop crime in Ankh-Morpork. Angua, a werewolf, can trace criminals by their smell, while Detritus, a troll, interrogates suspects by “screaming angrily at people until they give in.” Cheery Longbottom is Vimes’ newest recruit, an alchemist, and perhaps the only dwarf in Ankh-Morpork who does not enjoy rowdiness. The criminals had better be careful.
In fact, the Watch has become so effective that the rich and powerful are hiring assassins to kill Commander Samuel Vimes. Fortunately, now that Vimes is married to the wealthiest woman in the city, he can afford the best crossbows and bear traps.
Sadly, even the most effective City Watch armed with the most powerful crossbows and bear traps would struggle to stop all crime in a city like Ankh-Morpork. A golem has begun to kill people, someone has attempted to poi... Read More
Warp by Lev Grossman
Hollis Kessler has just finished college, and now he’s coasting. He has neither purpose nor direction and can only tie everything he sees into a pop culture web of references. When he sees a woman, for example, he and his friends will immediately tell her what famous woman she resembles. The first woman they see looks like Denise Crosby, who played Lieutenant Tasha Yar in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Hollis and his friends otherwise spend most of their time together gossiping about what jobs and internships their peers have gotten while waiting for something more interesting than their web of pop culture references. Unfortunately, Hollis is becoming increasingly distracted by his memories when he spends time with his friends. Though Star Trek might be his favorite touchstone, even “The House o... Read More
Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
Odd though it may be, most people agree that Ankh-Morpork is a city that works. Its citizens pay dues to the Thieves Guild so that they will not be robbed, and because the city’s leader, Havelock Vetinari, was a member of the Assassin’s Guild, there is little chance that he will be overthrown through assassination. (The assassins would of course kill Vetinari, but the price they have listed for his head is prohibitive). The guilds all agree that they would be worse off without Vetinari, which is odd considering that he seeks to modernize almost every aspect of the city.
He even believes that the City Watch should represent every species in Ankh-Morkpork. Angua, a werewolf, seems like she might fit in: she’s so beautiful that Carrot thinks criminals will line up to be arrested by her. However, now Sergeant Colon and Nobby Nobbs are training trolls and dwarfs. Unfortunately, dwarfs and trolls hate each other... Read More
Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
Earth has now been surrounded by the mysterious spin barrier that slows time relative to the rest of the universe for decades. Extra-terrestrial forces have also built the Arch that connects Earth to a series of unknown and increasingly environmentally hostile worlds. Humanity is now colonizing the first new world, but they still wonder about what beings — the Hypotheticals — could have created the spin barriers around these planets, not to mention the arches that connect them.
There are intergalactic forces at work in Axis, Robert Charles Wilson’s sequel to Spin, but the story is grounded in Lise Adams’ quest to discover what happened to her father. He went missing without any trace when she was young. She attracts Turk Findley, a frontier pilot, to her cause and together they journey into the desert in search of Dr. Avram Dvali, who may be able to tell her what happene... Read More
The Vorrh by Brian Catling
In his debut novel, The Vorrh, Brian Catling offers readers a fantasy in the tradition of Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST novels rather than Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The characters do surprising and often incredible things, they explore an African wilderness rarely seen in fantasy, and they sometimes manage to inspire the reader to imagine what it would be like to live in such a fantastic setting.
There is a surreal quality to The Vorrh that rarely shows up in the fantasy we talk about when we talk about fantasy. The Vorrh is inspired by neither Camelot nor Beowulf; instead, Catling has chosen to set his story in central Africa during an Imperial Age. The Vorrh, a mas... Read More
Zodiac: The Eco Thriller by Neal Stephenson
Sangamon Taylor is a professional asshole, he is known as the granola James Bond, and he knows how to use your child’s aquarium to filter PCBs from his body. Zodiac: The Eco Thriller is Neal Stephenson’s second novel as well as a clear blueprint for its successor, the cyberpunk classic, Snow Crash.
Sangamon Taylor works for GEE, an activist group that tries to act as a check against the toxic waste Boston industrialists dump into Boston Harbor. GEE, whose members are often English majors and leftover hippies from the sixties that care about the environment, man, stages media events and organizes non-violent civil disobedience. They are well meaning, but they really rely on Sangamon, their trained chemist and impromptu engineer, to collect and analyze samples of toxic wast... Read More
A Man and His God by Janet Morris
In A Man and His God, by Janet E. Morris, Tempus brings his Sacred Band of Stepsons to Sanctuary, a city in the midst of preparations for war. Tempus is a tough man to kill, one who has watched severed limbs return as his god, Vaschanka, heals him. Though their relationship is not always so smooth that he can afford to take Vashanka’s intervention for granted, Tempus is one soldier that Prince Kadakithis cannot afford to offend as they prepare to improve Sanctuary’s defenses.
For some fantasy readers, the presence of a sacred band alone will be reason enough to seek out A Man and His God, a novella that was first written in 1981 and that is now being rereleased. The Sacred Band of Stepsons is an elite band that has appeared in THIEVES’ WORLD, a shared universe that has attracted writers like ... Read More
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons is the third CULTURE novel. For those not in the know, the Culture is an intergalactic paradise run by its extremely sophisticated machines. Its people are augmented so that they are able to control and enhance every function their body serves. Life in the Culture is pretty great, and so stories are rarely set there.
Fortunately for Banks, things occasionally get a little hairy on the distant edges of the Culture when it is forced to interact with other societies. When those moments of contact go poorly, the Culture relies upon Special Circumstances to figure things out.
Enter the drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw, the Special Circumstances agent Diziet Sma, and Cheradinine Zakalwe, our hero and their agent on the ground. Before Special Circumstances recruited him, Zakalwe was a soldier on a distant world. Usually when someone writes “enter the ... Read More