Stand-Alone

These are stand alone novels (not part of a series).

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

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: 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

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

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

The Yellow God: An African adventure

The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a ha... Read More

Station Eleven: A literary post-apocalyptic novel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is a book you need to read. In a market cluttered with variations of the apocalypse and post-apocalyptic life, this one is the deepest and the quietest; the most poetic and the most literary in the best sense of that word. Yes, it’s a quiet, poetic literary “After the End of Everything” novel.

Station Eleven stretches out, backward and forwards in the story’s timeline, like an intricate spider web, and the enter of this delicate but strong narrative is Arthur Leander, actor and former superstar. Arthur had a huge movie career when he was younger. Now fifty-one, he feels his fame waning. At a performance of an unusually-staged King Lear, Arthur suffers a heart attack and dies. This happens in the first five pages of the book.

By dying, Arthur escapes that terror and pa... Read More

Veniss Underground: Jeff VanderMeer’s debut novel

Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer

Avoiding the trappings of fragile motifs, Jeff VanderMeer’s debut novella — err, novel — Veniss Underground shows every sign of a writer who is confident in his ability to put a fresh perspective on well-worn tropes. The framework of Veniss Underground is based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but the setting and imagery remain wholly original. Scenery twisted like cyberpunk on acid, its details macabre to the bone — a surreal dream — VanderMeer seems poised to make a place for himself in fantasy of the 21st century.

Veniss Underground is a window of time in the lives of three characters: the twins Nicholas and Nicola, and Nicola’s ex-boyfriend, Shadrach. A far-future, unnamed city — called Veniss by Nicholas — is the setting, and technology, including genetic and biological engineering, have perm... Read More

Arcanum: Interesting historical fantasy

Arcanum by Simon Morden

Alternative history stories usually either thrive or fail for me depending on plausibility. The writer can’t just tell me a good yarn, (s)he also needs to be able to fit this yarn into a world I recognize, and make me buy the history. That’s not an easy thing to do. When you take a well-known, often romanticized period of time, and infuse it with magic, that task is even harder.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem that Morden has. I often face the issue of the Middle Ages being a bit too romanticized. There is no mention in many books of people with no teeth, dead teeth, dying teeth (sorry for my tooth obsession), body odor (seriously, can you imagine how bad people must have smelled back then?), horrible illnesses, and limbs being cut off from infection. These are details that many authors leave out. The brutal truth is, this period of time is dirty, dusty, infected and disgusting. People lived short li... Read More

To Live Again: Silverberg in the full flush of his considerable power

To Live Again by Robert Silverberg

By the time Robert Silverberg released To Live Again in 1969, he had already come out with no less than three dozen science-fiction novels and several hundred short stories, all in a period of only 15 years! The amazingly prolific author had entered a more mature and literate phase in his writing career in 1967, starting with his remarkable novel Thorns, and by 1969 was on some kind of a genuine roll. Just one of six sci-fi novels that Silverberg came out with that year (including the Nebula-winning Nightwings and my personal favorite of this author so far, Downward to the Earth), To Live Again initially appeared as a Doubleday hardcover and, surprisingly, was NOT nominated for a Hugo or Nebula award. To t... Read More

The Stress of Her Regard: The minority report; I just didn’t like this book.

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

Tim Powers published The Stress of her Regard in 1989. It was nominated for a world Fantasy Award in 1990. It did not win, but it won a Mythopoeic Award that same year. For many people, this is their favorite Tim Powers novel, and they describe it with words like “seductive” and “immersive.”

I fully understand that I am in the minority here, but I didn’t like it.

There are several things to admire about this book. There are some things I liked. Then there are things I disliked, and finally, there is one thing I hated. I will try to cover my points in that order.

What I admired:  The creation of the mysterious, attractive and deadly creatures who have fed on us throughout history is brilliant. If Powers gives them too many names; the lamia, “Lilith’s children,” succubae, muse, nephalim, a... Read More

The Affirmation: Literary science fiction does not get much better

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest

I’ve heard Christopher Priest’s 1981 novel The Affirmation described as regressive, an ouroboros eating its own tail, a Moeibus strip. While there is undoubtedly an M.C. Escher quality to the book — a blurring of reality — the beginning and end are simply too different to form a contiguous whole reverting back on itself. They’re opposite ends of a spectrum in fact, and the appeal of the novel is immersing one’s self in the subjective reality Priest slowly unwraps and getting lost in the world of memories as a result.

The true nature of The Affirmation requires thought; the easy part is relaxing throughout the journey. Priest patiently and precisely lays down the text — words like railroad ties on a Sunday train ride to the country — the story moving effortlessly along. The sublime prose lulls the reader into the deceivingly mu... Read More

Seven Footprints to Satan: Marvelous entertainment

Seven Footprints to Satan by Abraham Merritt

Readers of Abraham Merritt's first four novels — The Moon Pool, The Metal Monster, The Face in the Abyss and The Ship of Ishtar — may feel a little surprised as they get into his fifth, Seven Footprints to Satan. Whereas those earlier fantasy masterpieces featured exotic locales such as the Pacific islands, the Himalayas and Peru; extravagant purple prose, dense with hyperadjectival descriptions; and living light creatures, metallic sentient cubes, a lost semi-reptilian race and battling gods, Seven Footprints to Satan Read More

The Tricksters: A supernatural puzzle-box inside a New Zealand family drama

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy was one of New Zealand's most seminal writers, and one of only a few authors to twice-win the Carnegie Medal — first for The Haunting and then for The Changeover. As good as these books are, my personal favourite is The Tricksters, written for a slightly older audience and filled with her trademark New Zealand scenery, supernatural occurrences, family dramas and the awakening of a young person to adulthood. Older readers shouldn't be put off by the claims that this is a "young adult" novel, as any intelligent reader over the age of thirteen will enjoy what is perhaps Mahy's best work.

The Hamilton family gather at their beach house at Carnival's Hide to celebrate Christ... Read More

The Peripheral: Satisfyingly complex, with a happy ending

The Peripheral by William Gibson

Reading William Gibson is like learning a new language. At first you struggle. It's a bit boring, although you can tell that's just because you don't understand, that there are exciting things happening under the surface. Then, one day, you've learned enough vocabulary and grammar that it starts to click and you can converse.

His latest novel, The Peripheral, which I listened to on audio, read by Lorelei King, follows two interlocking story-lines. One is from the perspective of Flynne, a young woman in a not-too-distant but horribly bleak American future. Her brother Burton, an ex-Marine, gets Flynne a job running security in what she believes is a virtual reality game. While on the job, she witnesses a horrifying murder. Flynne soon realizes that what she saw was not virtual, but actually happened. As the sole witness, she is drawn into the murder investigation. Puzzlingl... Read More

Child of a Hidden Sea: Satisfying

Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Child of a Hidden Sea is the kind of fantasy book that usually leaves me very aggravated, not because it’s bad, but because parallel world/portal fantasy (whatever you want to call it) usually doesn’t work for me. There are too many leaps of logic that I never really buy into. Things feel clunky, and a good plot seems to be messed up by the complexity that a secondary world alongside our world creates. Therefore I approached Child of a Hidden Sea with a huge amount of skepticism, but I decided to give it a chance anyway because the strong female protagonist really interested me. I’m glad I gave it that shot, because Dellamonica nicely sidesteps most of the speed bumps that so many other authors get slowed down by.

Firstly, Sophie, our protagonist, is far from perfect. She’s a fairly flawed person, in most senses of the word. She... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Melanie is ten years old, with skin as white as snow, just like in the fairy tale. But she doesn’t live in a tower; she lives in a cell, and is taken from there through the corridor to the classroom, and the shower room, where she is fed grubs once a week before a chemical spray falls from the ceiling. She knows that the place she lives in is called the block, and that the block is on the base, which is called Hotel Echo. They’re close to London and part of Region 6, which is mostly clear because the burn patrols kill the hungries. Her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau, who makes school days interesting and full of fun.

We quickly learn that the hungries are zombies — and at that point, I groaned; not another zombie novel! Haven’t we worn out this meme yet? But M.R. Carey has s... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley

The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley

Although English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a total of 55 novels before his death in 1977, his reputation today, I have a feeling, rests largely on the nine novels that he wrote dealing with the supernatural and the “black arts.” And if Wheatley’s name is not a familiar one to you, it is really no great wonder, as not too many of those 55 titles – mainly in the adventure/thriller genre – are in print today, and it would surprise me if you could walk into your local Barnes & Noble and purchase one. And yet, here’s a cautionary notice to all hugely popular modern-day authors, who may think their fame is of a permanent nature (are you listening, Stephen King?): For many decades, Wheatley was one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors (second only to Agatha Christie), who dependably sold 50 million books a year,... Read More

He Who Shapes: A short rich read from one of the strongest voices in SF

He Who Shapes by Roger Zelazny

In the mid to late ‘60s, the sci-fi world was Roger Zelazny’s oyster. Possessing an abundance of fresh ideas delivered with a deft hand, the author took the genre by storm — This Immortal, Lord of Light, and Creatures of Light and Darkness gained notable attention and won awards. Published amidst these unique novels was, however, a book of an entirely different range and frequency. More personal and cerebral than mythic or heroic, The Dream Master (1966) instead features Zelazny’s interests in the psyche, subconscious, and to a small degree, spiritualism. The novel is based on the novella He Who Shapes, which Zelazny would later state is his preferred version and is the subject of this review.

He Who Shapes is the story of Dr. Charles Rend... Read More

Willful Child: Erikson’s Star Trek parody

Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Let’s start with what needs to be said when reviewing a book like Steven Erikson’s Willful Child, a full-bore parody/homage to Star Trek: The Original Series. One, humor is wholly subjective. I, for instance, have never understood the allure of Adam Sandler. My wife, meanwhile, has never understood why I find Airplane funny (I could go on and on with that list, but one will suffice). So one person’s rib-splitting, laugh-out-loud bit will be another person’s “meh.”  Second, humor is tough. As the line goes, “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” So, that being said, what about the book?

As mentioned, Willful Child takes on the classic Trek series and makes no, ahem, “Bones” about it. After a quick little prologue, this is the opening of Chapter One:  “Space. It’s fucking big. These are the voyages of th... Read More

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42
Array ( [SERVER_SOFTWARE] => Apache [REQUEST_URI] => /series/stand-alone/ [DOCUMENT_ROOT] => /home1/fantatn0/public_html [GATEWAY_INTERFACE] => CGI/1.1 [HTTP_ACCEPT] => text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 [HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING] => x-gzip, gzip, deflate [HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE] => en-us,en-gb,en;q=0.7,*;q=0.3 [HTTP_HOST] => www.fantasyliterature.com [HTTP_USER_AGENT] => CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) [MAGICK_THREAD_LIMIT] => 1 [PATH] => /bin:/usr/bin [QUERY_STRING] => [REDIRECT_MAGICK_THREAD_LIMIT] => 1 [REDIRECT_STATUS] => 200 [REDIRECT_UNIQUE_ID] => VJX1D0KT9HoAADr-VPEAAAfI [REDIRECT_URL] => /series/stand-alone/ [REMOTE_ADDR] => 54.87.136.181 [REMOTE_PORT] => 44118 [REQUEST_METHOD] => GET [SCRIPT_FILENAME] => /home1/fantatn0/public_html/index.php [SCRIPT_NAME] => /index.php [SERVER_ADDR] => 66.147.244.122 [SERVER_ADMIN] => webmaster@fantasyliterature.com [SERVER_NAME] => www.fantasyliterature.com [SERVER_PORT] => 80 [SERVER_PROTOCOL] => HTTP/1.0 [SERVER_SIGNATURE] =>
Apache Server at www.fantasyliterature.com Port 80
[UNIQUE_ID] => VJX1D0KT9HoAADr-VPEAAAfI [PHPRC] => /home1/fantatn0/public_html/:/usr/php/54/etc/ [PHP_SELF] => /index.php [REQUEST_TIME_FLOAT] => 1419113743.3044 [REQUEST_TIME] => 1419113743 )