SFF Reviews

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Moriarty: A big disappointment for a Holmes fan

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

I really love Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read all of the original stories, several literary adaptations, and regularly watch not only the BBC but also the American television show, both of which are great (gonna talk smack about Elementary? Come at me, bro!). Last year I had the privilege of teaching an entire class on Holmes and Holmes adaptations. Sherlock himself is such a fascinating character that he is the “most portrayed” character in TV or film.

So it disappointed me that I didn’t like Anthony Horowitz’s book, Moriarty, more (or much at all), especially given the fact that only Horowitz’s books bear the stamp of approval from the Conan Doyle estate.

Moriarty tells the story of Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton detective from New York who arrives on the scene in Switzerland just after the famous detective and his neme... Read More

Dzur: In which Vlad Taltos eats a lot

Dzur by Steven Brust

In Dzur, the tenth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, Vlad is finally back in the city of Adrilankha. I suspect that most fans will be thrilled to return to that decadent cosmopolitan city; it’s just so much more interesting than watching Vlad roam around the countryside. Fittingly, each of the chapters in Dzur is named for one of the items Vlad is served at his favorite restaurant during a gourmet meal that runs parallel to the main plot of Dzur. (Vlad, an assassin by trade, is quite the foodie and, while he dines, he often points out the analogies between preparing a gourmet dinner and preparing to make a hit.)

So, he’s back in Adrilankha eating with a new Dzurlord in his favorite restaurant and telling us what happened just after the events of the last book, Issola (which yo... Read More

Busted Flush: Not very satisfying

Busted Flush edited by George R.R. Martin

Busted Flush is the nineteenth entry in the Wild Cards series of mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin. The previous book, Inside Straight is something of a new beginning for the series, a new trilogy with new characters and a couple of new writers. It's a good point to get started. Unfortunately Busted Flush falls a bit short of the standard set in the first book of the Committee trilogy.

The story picks up some time after the events in Inside Straight. The UN secretary-general has snapped up the new American heroes after their dramatic performance in Egypt and formed the Committee — a group of Aces dealing with everything from genocide to natural disasters.There is plenty of work; our heroes are spread thin. In fact, the cracks in their organisation are clearly beginning to show. There ... Read More

Sinbad the Sailor: Another fine installment in the MYTHS AND LEGENDS series

Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters

I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.

The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; the... Read More

An Autumn War: Even more exciting than the first two novels

An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

This third novel in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET is even more exciting than the first two novels. In the first book, A Shadow in Summer, we saw the Galts (the enemies of the city-states of the Khaiem) destroy the industry of the Khaiem’s most glorious city, Saraykeht. In the second book, A Betrayal in Winter, the Galts attempted to get control of the city of Machi by killing off the Khai’s sons and installing their own man as Khai. However, the failed poet Otah, the youngest son of the Khai, managed (with the help of his old friend Maati) to uncover the plot and become Khai in Machi.

Fourteen years later, the Galts have not given up. That’s because they still suffer from the way they were treated by the Khaiem generations ago when the Khaiem’s andats destroyed Galt and turned part of their land into a vast wastelan... Read More

Hyperion: A real treat for the imagination

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

There is space opera, and then there is Space Opera. Dan Simmon’s 1989 Hyperion is S.P.A.C.E. O.P.E.R.A. From grand schemes to the most minute of details, vivid character portrayal to imaginative and original future technology, gorgeous scenery to a multi-dimensional, motivated plot, everything works. Weaving his tale, Simmons proves a master storyteller, each of the seven tableaus presented begging to be devoured. As a result, it is virtually impossible to read Hyperion and not want to follow up with the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. Thus, potential buyers be warned: this is only the first half of a highly engaging story.

Hyperion’s success begins with world building. Simmons put hours and hours of thought and planning into the background details of his universe and how these elements work together. ... Read More

The Foundry’s Edge: A nice set up with potential

The Foundry’s Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz

The Foundry’s Edge, by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, is a solid MG/YA entry that, I’d say, had more potential than was met. In failing to fully take advantage of its possibilities, it never falls so far as to be a “bad” read, but it also rarely inspires or enthralls, though it picks up in the latter quarter of the novel, both in terms of action and emotion.

The story is set at first in the city of Meridian, a technologically advanced (well past any other regions) city thanks to being the home of the Foundry, a corporation that has been spitting out all sort of marvelous inventions/gadgets. Meridian is threatened, though, by surrounding regions, who are both jealous and leery of Meridian’s technical and scientific prowess. Years ago war raged between the two groups, and since that time, the Foundry has been keeping Meridian’s enemies at bay by giving them more and... Read More

A Betrayal in Winter: Utterly tragic

A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham

“Constant struggle is the price of power.”

A Betrayal in Winter, the second book in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET begins about 15 years after the events of A Shadow in Summer (which you probably should read before beginning A Betrayal Winter or before reading this review).

Maati, the poet of Saraykeht, was disgraced by the disappearance of the andat Seedless and the subsequent downfall of the cotton trade in Saraykeht. He and Liat had a baby boy, but Liat left Maati years ago because he seemed to be going nowhere and didn’t seem wholly committed to his family. Maati hasn’t seen them in years, and he has also not seen his former friend Otah since that fateful night when Seedless disappeared. Maati’s life is dull and somewhat meaningless.

Things... Read More

The War in the Air: Should be mandatory reading for all thinking adults

The War in the Air by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds
wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees ai... Read More

Horrible Monday: Dark Screams, Volume One, by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.

Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill.  Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated ... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman

The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman

The Necromancer's House, by Christopher Buehlman, is a scary, funny, fast-paced urban fantasy novel with a rich voice and likeable characters. With its multiple viewpoints and several satisfying reveals along the way, it is one of the most well-crafted and exciting books I have read in a while.

Buehlman tells the story of Andrew Blankenship, a charming, brilliant modern wizard who drives an antique Mustang, wears his long black hair in a samurai bun, and goes to AA meetings regularly. He lives in the woods of upstate New York, in a house stocked and protected with ancient magic, much of it stolen from Baba Yaga in Soviet Russia. He's in love with his lesbian apprentice, sleeps with a rusalka (a mermaid in Slavic myth), and is served and protected by the reanimated heart of his dead dog in the body of a wicker man. To put it simply, his life is not without ... Read More

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught is another wonderful offering from Nobrow Press. It is a quiet work filled with noises, a Mona Lisa on a postage stamp, an epic in sonnet form, and a study in time captured in minutes and seconds. All these contradictions should make it clear how difficult it is to write about a book that’s only about twenty-five pages long, covers a brief period of time at the end of a day, and has no dialogue between characters.

Physically, the book is about the size of a typical paperback, and many of these fairly small pages have such tiny panels that a single page can have as many as twenty-six panels, though the number of pane... Read More

Stardust: Full of magic and whimsy

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Despite only being a modest 50 000 words, Stardust sure packs one hell of a punch. Originally published as a comic, Stardust tells the story of the village of Wall. In Wall there is a wall, and behind this wall is Faerie. Every nine years a Faerie market is held, and it is the only time that gap in the wall is left unguarded for villagers of Wall and Faerie alike to come and go as they please. Full of magic and whimsy, Stardust will transport readers into a magical wonderland spawned from the genius of Neil Gaiman.

Dunstan Thorn is a resident of Wall when the Faerie market is about to take place. An influx of visitors, weird and wonderful, have borne down on the village of Wall in anticipation, for the boundary between the worlds is about to be opened, an event that occurs only once every nine years. He offers a v... Read More

Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli

Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli

Bianca Bagnarelli is an Italian artist who was born in Milan. Recipient of multiple awards, she founded a small independent label that publishes short comic stories by Italian and foreign artists. I’m pleased that I’ve discovered her work through Nobrow Press. Unfortunately, many of these works — such as Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli — are easily overlooked because they are short, quiet graphic novels that touch on the small, but significant, moments of life. In fact, Fish is only about thirty pages long, so it would be better described as a graphic short story than as a graphic novel.

Fish tells the s... Read More

The Peripheral: Here’s how a writer builds worlds

The Peripheral by William Gibson

The other night I went into the new Target store in town. I rarely go to Target. It was surreal. Target had everything — bedding, furniture, electronics, auto parts, food. For a giddy moment I felt like I had transported into a bizarre near-future universe where one multinational corporation controlled all the goods to all the people. (I mean, you could live in a Target, for, like, a week, if you had to.) It was scary.

This is why I love William Gibson. I have that vague impulse, then go get my gift cards and move on; he creates the Hefty Mart. Hefty Mart provides nearly everything in the near-future world inhabited by Flynne Fisher in Gibson’s most recent book, The Peripheral. Pharma Jon is the pharmaceutical company with the monopoly on the meds Flynne’s mother needs, and Forever Fab will meet all your 3D printing needs. And those aren’t even main players in the ... Read More

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