Strange Magic by Gord Rollo
Reading Strange Magic made me think deeply about a number of issues I doubt Gord Rollo intended me to be thinking about. I wasn’t pondering whether good and evil are entirely human or whether there is a supernatural agency at work in some forms of evil (and good); I wasn’t thinking about addiction, its causes and cures; I wasn’t thinking about the redemptive power of love. Instead, I was thinking about whether a book can be considered good when it has a decent story but is poorly written, with numerous grammatical and spelling errors. I was thinking about the value of revision. And I was thinking about how necessary a good editor can be.
Strange Magic has a decent storyline that unfolds with fine suspense over the course of the novel. I liked its grounding in stage magic and the mechanics of escape artistry. I found the drunken c... Read More
Terry WeynaOn FanLit’s staff since December 2010
TERRY WEYNA is spending the second half of her life as a reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, after having spent the first half practicing law in a variety of states and settings. (She is still a lawyer, telecommuting to an Orange County, California, law firm, where she mostly does legal research and writing. This work financially supports her addiction to books.) Since Terry was six years old, she has nearly always had a book in her hand. She favors fantasy, and especially New Weird, slipstream and highly literary works, but also reads science fiction, horror, mystery, science, biography and history. She greatly prefers the look, feel and smell of physical books to ebooks.
Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor and writer Fred White, the imperious Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a personal library that exceeds 12,000 volumes. Her favorite writers include Tim Powers, Tanith Lee, Daniel Abraham, Steph Swainston, China Mieville and Catherynne Valente. Terry keeps a blog at Reading the Leaves.
Strange Magic by Gord Rollo
I’m Not Sam by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee
Patrick is passionately in love with his wife, Sam, and she with him. Their life together sounds as close to ideal as it’s possible to get. He’s a cartoonist who works from their home, while she works as forensic pathologist. He cooks. She’s gorgeous. It’s a match made in heaven. On a typical evening, Sam returns from work a bit too fragrant from working on the corpse of a turkey farmer who had a heart attack just before spreading turkey droppings in his field. So she hops into the shower (having already taken one at work, but one isn’t enough for this sort of smell), and Patrick offers to wash her hair. And then he offers to wash everything else. That goes much as one would expect; the sex isn’t just good, it’s great.
But this Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella is about to turn very dark. For when Sam awakens the next morning, she isn’t Sam. She insists she’s Lily, ... Read More
“Barry’s Tale” by Lawrence M. Schoen
“Barry’s Tale,” a novella which has been nominated for this year's Nebula Award, appears in Buffalito Buffet, one of a number of collections written by Lawrence M. Schoen regarding The Amazing Conroy and his buffalito, Reggie. And that calls for an explanation, doesn’t it? “The Amazing Conroy” is man who formerly made his living as a stage hypnotist, but who, at the time of this story, has a nascent business marketing buffalitos, alien creatures that look like miniature buffaloes but are as cuddly as puppies and will eat literally anything. (Ball bearings are a particularly favorite treat.)
As this novella opens, Conroy has traveled to Colson’s World, a watery planet with a single, relatively small landmass. It was discovered by Amadeus Colson, a famously rich man and recluse. Colson has lived on the planet for more than 60 years, along with a few hundred... Read More
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
In recent years, I’ve hesitated to pick up a hard science fiction novel. The quantum physics one must be familiar with to enjoy the novel is so far beyond me that I feel I need a physics course or two as a prerequisite. It’s hard to appreciate a novel when you haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on.
Trust Nancy Kress to write a hard science fiction novella that is so clear, so precise and so well-written that the reader is never left behind. It is no surprise that After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall has been nominated for a Nebula Award this year. It has finely drawn characters (especially Pete, from the future, and Julie, from the present), and is based (at least in the sections set "during the fall") on solid scientific principals with a touch of imagination — just enough to power the plot.
The novella open... Read More
Limbus, Inc. edited by Anne C. Petty
Limbus, Inc., is a set of five novellas by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Jonathan Maberry, Joseph Nasisse, Anne C. Petty and Brett J. Talley all set in the same universe, involving the same mysterious employment agency. The stories vary in quality, and have a frame that is used inconsistently It’s a cool concept, but it loses something in the translation from idea to page.
The prologue describes how Ichabod Templeton takes a leather-bound book to a used bookstore owned by Matthew Sellers. Matthew is facing the prospect of closing the bookstore and getting a “real” job when Templeton comes in and asks him to publish the book. Templeton explains that “they” are after him, but that their secrets must be exposed, and only his book can do it. The four stories that make up Limbus, Inc., ... Read More
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
Linh was a magistrate on the 23rd Planet when war came. She escaped to Prosper Station on a ship full of refugees, waiting until all of the others’ papers were checked before introducing herself to the authorities. “Magistrate” is a position of considerable power in Linh’s universe, and when her identity is verified by reference to the station computers, she is taken to Quyen, the woman who runs the station. The two women take an instant dislike to one another, thus setting the stage for everything that follows.
Linh and Quyen are of Vietnamese heritage, in a world in which the Dai Viet — the Vietnamese dynasties, beginning with the rule of Lý Thánh Tông in 1054 — stayed in power until the space age, and then spread out among the stars. Their technology allows them to keep their ancestors with them in a very real way. Linh, for instance, has memory implants of six of h... Read More
Blue November Storms by Brian James Freeman
The “Lightning Five,” so called because of their prowess on the football field, has reunited twenty years after a tragedy sent one of them away — so far away that the other four all thought he was dead. Adam simply calls Steve one day out of the blue and says that he’d like to go hunting with the old crew, practically giving Steve a heart attack. The gang agrees to get together, especially because there’s supposed to be an amazing meteor shower that night. They’ll climb onto the roof of the cabin they built together and watch the show.
And so they do. Adam has promised to tell why he left, but as the night settles in he still isn’t talking. Still, the friendship between him and the four others resumes as if twenty years had not intervened. They play cards, drink beer, and talk about everything but why Adam left. Finally, around 2:00 a.m., they climb out onto the roof and wait for the m... Read More
The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others by Richard Bowes
The Queen, the Cambion and Seven Others is a thoroughly delightful short collection of fairy tales and fantasies, published by the small press, Aqueduct Press.
Richard Bowes opens with “Seven Smiles and Seven Frowns,” in which a woman remembers listening to the stories told by the Witch of the Forest of Avalon when she was a girl. One particular story, ending in a typical “he carried the princess off and they lived happily ever after” fashion, displeases her twelve-year-old self. The witch tells her she’ll like the next night’s story better, and indeed, the alternate version of the tale from the night before, with a much different ending for prince and princess, suits her down to her toes. That is how she becomes the apprentice of the witch, and begins to formulate not only her own tales, but new versions of the old tales, including the one that made her... Read More
London Falling by Paul Cornell
Just when you thought there was nothing new to be done with urban fantasy, Paul Cornell comes along with London Falling and mashes up the police procedural (i.e., a mystery solved by the police, using the tools at their disposal and confined in their scope by the law) with demons and British history. Until you read it, it’s hard to imagine a police officer giving the “right to silence” speech (the British version of the American Miranda warnings) to a creature who is doing her best dispose of him through magical means. But once Cornell gets to that point in his narrative, he has set everything up so well that it seems as natural as can be.
The novel starts as a straightforward police procedural. Costain is an officer who is working undercover for Rob Toshack, the current king of the London criminal classes, the first ever to have united all the bad guys in one organization. Toshack has... Read More
I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
I Don’t Want to Kill You is the final book in Dan Wells’s JOHN CLEAVER trilogy. It’s a powerful conclusion, sad, brutal, humorous and loving all at the same time. Wells has done a fine job of writing three books that can stand each stand on their own, but which together make a powerful coming-of-age story.
John Cleaver is 16 or 17, and in some ways a typical teenager; he eats huge bowls of cereal, goes to high school, argues with his mother. But John is a sociopath, and he wants very much to be a serial killer. It’s an urge he fights as hard as he can, and so far, at least, he’s not killed anyone human. But he has killed a few demons. At the end of the second book in the trilogy, Mr. Monster (reviewed Read More
Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy
Imagine being able to manipulate numbers to do magic, just as so many fictional wizards manipulate words, as spells, to accomplish their ends. Imagine seeing everything as a number, with formulae streaming into the air from every physical thing, allowing you to bend and change them — using your abilities to smear a license plate into a new number, say, or blurring the serial numbers on dollar bills. It gives new meaning to the word “numerate.”
Derryl Murphy’s protagonist in Napier’s Bones is a numerate. As the novel opens, Dom is seeking an artifact of mathematical power when the numbers throw him far away, onto a bus in a city distant from his search. More than that, he has somehow picked up an adjunct; that is, residing in his body with him is the mind and soul of Billy, another numerate whose physical body died an unknown time ago. Billy remembers little of his past, but he k... Read More
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
The Uninvited opens with a scene of intense horror, as a young child slaughters her grandmother with a nail-gun to the neck. “No reason, no warning.” Everyone’s immediate reaction is that there has been a terrible accident, especially as the girl is found staring at the wall, as if in shock; but then she comes to herself, grabs the nail gun, and puts it to her father’s face and fires again. “One murder, one blinding. Two minutes. No accident.” The girl had just turned seven.
The narrator of the tale that begins with this incident is Hesketh, a man who lives in a stone cottage on the island of Arran in Scotland, an isolated place that suits a man who prefers solitude and has a job that doesn’t require him to appear at the Head Office with any great frequency. Hesketh is separated from Kaitlin, which necessarily separates him from her son, Freddy, who is the same age as the girl who shot h... Read More
I Travel By Night by Robert McCammon
Trevor Lawson is a vampire, made by a scavenger on a Civil War battlefield. Now, more than 20 years since he was turned, he continues to fight his nature as hard as he can. It is becoming progressively more difficult for him to look at a crucifix or suffer even the indirect rays of the sun. But he nonetheless battles other vampires, even as the silver of his bullets burns his fingers as he loads his gun.
Those other vampires — the Dark Society — want him dead. And he wants to get close to them, not solely to destroy them, but also because he believes that the female who turned him holds the cure for his vampirism. He gets his opportunity when David Kingsley comes to him with news of a kidnapped daughter and a plea that Lawson personally retrieve her, as the ransom note demands. And so Lawson heads for the swamps of Louisiana with the demanded ransom of 666 gold pieces, to a town called Noct... Read More
The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin
It is difficult to write a mash-up between dark fantasy and a police procedural. There must always be a temptation to bring in a deus-ex-machina to solve difficult plot points, as well as to keep the mystery fair, so that a reader can make a good, educated guess as to how the mystery will be resolved. Irwin accomplishes the blending of the genres to excellent effect in The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin Read More
Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery
What will happen to America as the effects of global warming continue to wreak havoc? Brian Francis Slattery imagines a much different country in Lost Everything, which has been nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award for 2012 for the best paperback original novel. Slattery imagines that the country we know as the United States is gone, replaced by smaller, regional countries that are engaged in civil war. The Susquehanna River Valley is in the middle of such a war, about which we are told little save that it is ravaging the land and the people. Sunny Jim has lost his wife Aline to the war — not as a victim, but as a saboteur who died by her own bomb. Down the Susquehanna paddle Sunny Jim and the Reverend Bauxite, for Sunny Jim refuses to fight. They are trying to reach Sunny Jim’s sister and his son. They must do so quickly, before the Big One hits — a storm so severe that it leaves not... Read More