Author Archive

Review: Artful

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Review: Artful

If you’ve had anything to do with science fiction over the last thirty years, chances are you’ve seen or read something by Peter David. The man has written for movie and TV, dozens of original novels, thousands of comic book issues, and generally has something new coming out about once a month. My introduction to all things Peter David was though his Star Trek: The Next Generation books; Strike Zone was one of the first books that ever made me laugh out loud, and it only got better with Q-in-Law. David captured the characters better than any other writer, and the dialogue was always filled with snappy, quotable snarkiness.

In Artful, Peter David steps away from the science fiction/comic book world, and comes up with a different take on Charles Dickens’s classic, Oliver Twist. Not quite in the same vein as rewrites like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this book follows the adventures of the secondary character Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger, last seen being hauled off to prison for theft. After escaping from jail before he could be shipped to the penal colony in Australia, Dodger sets up a comfortable (to him) life in the slums of London, charming and thieving his way though the world until he stumbles across a plot to kidnap the princess Alexandrina – future Queen of England – thereby subjugating the British Monarchy. By vampires. 

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Review: Mr. Mercedes

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Review: Mr. Mercedes

Every religion lies. Every moral precept is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That’s all history is, after all: scar tissue.

That quote should give you an idea of how dark this book gets. The book jacket tells how it starts: a random act of violence by a killer who is never caught. The massacre happens in the first chapter, and in true Stephen King fashion he foreshadows what’s going to happen, introduces you to the victims, makes them very sympathetic and likable, and then kills them.

The first murder then becomes the background noise for the rest of the book. Don’t expect a play-by-play of the event, with flashbacks from the survivors and all the blood and gore described in loving details. Mr. Mercedes is all about the chase, with the two main characters using the original murder in their own way to inject some kind of meaning in their lives.

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Review: Year’s Best SF – 18

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Review: Year’s Best SF – 18

Around this time of year all the book publishers start talking about what you should be reading over the next couple of months. “Great Beach Books”, “Perfect Summer Reading”. No one gets very specific about the criteria though. Should the books be light and easy to read? Linked to big news stories or the latest fads? Or maybe just the newest books that everyone else is reading? For me, summer reads should be easy to finish in bite-sized pieces, something you can pick up and read for about twenty pages at a time. A short-story collection then makes for the perfect summer reading. (Of course I think short-story collections are perfect for the other three seasons too, but let’s pretend we’re just talking about summer here.)

David G. Hartwell has published dozens of anthologies since the late 1970’s; his Worlds Best SF series has now been going on for eighteen years. In the current installment, he’s chucked the mass market paperback format and gone straight to the trade paperback for the collection of the best short science-fiction in 2012. It was a very good year for sci-fi, and Hartwell keeps up with his usual trend of putting together a collection that’s impossible to categorize, and which has pretty much something for everyone.

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Review: Evolution’s Darling

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Review: Evolution’s Darling

Scott Westerfeld is one of the kings of Young Adult books. He’s written four different series; “Midnighters”, “Peeps”, “Leviathan”, and the hugely popular 4-book saga “Uglies”. And I’ve read exactly…none of them. Yes, I know that’s a big oversight, especially since Westerfeld spent about four years at the top of my list of favorite authors. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published an excerpt from one of his novels in their April 2000 issue; that was all it took for me to go on a tear and read everything he’d published so far, and then his next two books as fast as he could publish them. In 2004 he started writing young adult novels, and I somehow never got around to reading them. His works up to that point had been so strange, so full-on hard-sci-fi, and most of all so adult (quite a lot of sex), that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the YA books as much.

Afterworlds, Westerfeld’s latest book, is set to be released in September 2014.  A story-within-a-story, the novel follows a a teen writer living in New York, writing a Young Adult novel featuring a teen adventurer trying to survive in the in-between refuge of the “Afterworld”. It looks like a good place to jump in and start reading Westerfeld’s books again, and what better way to pass the time until it comes out than to review the first one of his books I ever read, Evolution’s Darling.

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Review: Solaris

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Review: Solaris

Human beings set out to encounter other worlds, other civilizations, without having fully gotten to know their own hidden recesses, their blind alleys, well shafts, dark barricaded doors.

Stanislaw Lem is one of those authors who’s name has been floating around in my “must read” list for way too long. The only one of his works I’m even a little familiar with is Solaris, and that’s only because it’s been adapted into three different movies. I thought about watching one of the films (the 2002 version with George Clooney didn’t do very well, but the Russian 1972 film sounds interesting), but I eventually decided to go with the novel first, since apparently the author wasn’t happy with any of the adaptations.

After reading the novel I can understand why he was disappointed, and I can also see why he would never be happy with a film version. By his own account, the love story between Kris and what may or may not be the ghost of his wife isn’t really the main focus of the book, but focusing on that is the only way you can have an actual story for a movie. Lem spends most of the novel describing the planet of Solaris (sometimes with second- or third-hand descriptions), while at the same making it very clear that the planet is beyond human capacity to understand.

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Review: Timebound (The Chronos Files #1)

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Review: Timebound (The Chronos Files #1)

I’m a big Doctor Who fan, and that’s either caused by, or the cause of, how much I enjoy time travel stories. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, I love the games that writers can play with time travel, messing around with history, jumping forward and backward (sometimes by just a few minutes) trying to keep someone from taking just the wrong action at just the wrong time, and occasionally seeing the effect of a change before the time-traveler can even think of making the change in the first place.

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Review: Avengers – Endless Wartime

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Review: Avengers – Endless Wartime

When it comes to comics, especially Marvel comics, I’ve usually focused on the Transformers line, with occasional forays into X-Men in the 90’s. Most of my knowledge about anything related to the Avengers comes from the recent movies (*waves madly* Hi, Mr. Hiddleston! You’re awesome!), and when I wanted to try to jump into Avengers comics, something by Warren Ellis seemed like the best place to start. I’ve read Ellis’s Transmetropolitan several times through, I’ve heard lots of rave reviews of Iron Man: Extremis, the man is a god of comic book writing, so I thought the recent Avengers:Endless Wartime would be a great introduction.

The final verdict? It was okay. 

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Review: Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad

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Review: Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad

Attention-getting title, isn’t it?

Okay, so you’ve got two best friends, Hamza and Yehat, living in the center of a vibrant black community in Edmonton, Alberta. Yehat is a mad-genius inventor and confident horndog, Hamza is an intelligent would-be writer with an unexplained talent to find things, and who’s past has nailed him in place as a lowly dishwasher.

In the same city is a cult-like gang of violent social misfits, led by a brutal ex-football player in a scheme involving Norse mythology and a new drug that’s taking the place of crack cocaine: cream.

Into all of this strides Sheremnefer, a mysterious beauty with a hidden agenda, who sweeps Hamza off his feet with a smile and some well-timed Star Wars quotes, dragging him into a world of Egyptian mythology and lost magical artifacts.

Comic-book, TV, and movie references are brought up in every page, and many of the chapters start with a D&D character sheet with stats like “Armor Type: Tweed, ratty” and “Charisma: Steel or wooden, through windows, across rooms, into skulls, over spines and ribs”. There’s violence, sex, drug use, occasional misogyny, even some cannibalism, and the novel begins with the epilogue and ends with a prologue. It’s all a great big, splashy, over-the-top adventure story mess, and I think I’ve read the whole thing from cover-to-cover at least four times. I freakin’ love this book.

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Review: Emissaries From The Dead

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Review: Emissaries From The Dead

“Did you kill Warmuth or Santiago?”

“No,” he said. “I did not. But you have to keep something in mind.”

“What’s that?”

“That if I was the killer, I’d be saying the same thing.”

It’s a locked-room mystery on a grand scale: two deliberate murders on an enormous artificial habitat so dangerous that you can die just by tripping on the way to the bathroom. The deaths would have been easy to disguise as accidents, and yet in at least one case the methods used would only have been available to the primary suspect: the Artificial Intelligence who designed and built the habitat in the first place. The investigator is under strict orders to find somebody, anybody, to pin the murders on, because the one thing she absolutely can’t do is confront an AI powerful enough to kill every human in the habitat, maybe even in the rest of the universe, and officially charge it with murder.

Welcome to the cylinder world One One One. Don’t look down.

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Review: Dead Man’s Hand – An Anthology of the Weird West

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Review: Dead Man’s Hand – An Anthology of the Weird West

I still find it strange how a man can lose at a war and then enlist in another with his enemy. But there are no real sides in this life except the barrel of a gun and the butt of a gun, and I know where I prefer to stand.

I was a little hesitant when offered a chance to read Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West (set to be released on May 13; still time to pre-order!). Sure, John Joseph Adams can do no wrong as far as short-story anthologies can go; he has a knack for finding some of the best short-story writers out there, and I’ve found something to enjoy in every one of his collections. But Westerns? Those usually aren’t my thing. Fortunately Adams’s introduction to the book caught my interest right away, and all he had to do was use the phrase “..it’s true that steampunk and weird westerns are similar in a lot of ways.” Both can be Victorian era stories, but Weird Westerns, he explains, are exclusively set in the American West. So geography-wise they have a much narrower focus than Steampunk. In everything else, though, they cover a lot more ground.

The twenty-three stories in this collection include many steampunk favorites, like clockwork automatons, weaponized leather gauntlets, dirigibles, and steam-powered anything. But there are also zombies, aliens, monsters, historical figures, supernatural playing cards, pacts with the Devil, and magic-using Native Americans who are getting reeeeal tired of the government changing their mind about how much land they’re allowed to keep.

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