Author Archive

Review: 11/22/63

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Review: 11/22/63

The date doesn’t cause the instant recall for me that it does for my parents’ generation, but the Kennedy assassination (and an idea of how to stop it) has obviously been on Stephen King’s mind for a long while. King started researching this book back in the 1970’s, but had to put the project on hold when he realized he wouldn’t have time to do the research it would need and hold down a full-time job. After a forty-year writing career he has the time and the skill for it now, and it shows. He’s also come up with the oddest time-travel method I’ve seen; an accidental portal, hidden in the back of a diner, leading to 1958. If that sounds a little simplistic, think of everything you could do with a door to 1958. Now think about the fact that each and every time you step through that portal it’s 1958.  The same day in 1958. I spent the rest of the book waiting to see just how that was going to mess with the characters. No spoilers, but the answer is: badly.

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Review: The Waking Engine

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Review: The Waking Engine

Imagine that there are thousands of worlds in many different realities, and every time a person dies they wake up as themselves to live a new life, but on a different world. This is repeated over and over until the person eventually wakes in the City Unspoken, the only place where True Death can be found. Most people show up at the City Unspoken after living many lives; Cooper wakes up there after just one, and he’s not even sure he died first.

The Waking Engine has elements of science fiction, fantasy, religion, classic faerie tales, a little bit of history, and quite a lot of horror. Unfortunately it looks like David Edison has taken these elements, thrown them all into a sack, and then violently shaken the sack. To say the results are confusing is putting it mildly.

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Review: The Night Circus

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Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus is the debut book by Erin Morgenstern; at this point it’s also the only book by Erin Morgenstern. She has some poetry and several smaller essays on her website, but for now this is her only novel. And while I’d like to see another book by this author, at this point I can’t imagine her writing anything I’d love more.

I’ve mentioned this book in the Valentine’s Day post (Our Favorite Literary Couples), and a quick summary makes the story sound a little predictable: two powerful magicians are locked in a battle of skill. Since for some reason it’s out of the question for them to compete directly against each other, they each select a child to train – one boy and one girl –  who will eventually face each other on a to-be-determined battlefield. You just know that the two apprentice magicians are destined to become star-crossed lovers, tragically in love with the one person they have to spend their whole lives trying to defeat in combat. The cliche didn’t bother me even a little bit in this case, because the battlefield for this combat is a circus. Celia and Marco, the two main characters, learn while the circus is still being designed that their duel will involve trying to out-do each other with one impossible magic act after another.  The way the book is written makes Le Cirque des Rêves and all its labyrinth of magical tents a main character all on its own.

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Review: Sand – Omnibus edition

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Review: Sand – Omnibus edition

What had once been rafters holding up a roof were now floor joists in Palmer’s house. Someone else’s house stood below theirs, long abandoned and unclaimed. Soon, his own home would be someone’s basement and this a sand-filled cellar. And so it went, sand piling up to the heavens and homes sinking toward hell.

My Kindle copy of Sand by Hugh Howey had a series of footnotes linked to a glossary in the end of the book. I didn’t need to go back to the definitions more than once; the meanings were fairly self-evident, and it’s a short list: thirteen different words for “sand”. The book takes place in a city in a world-sized desert, surrounded by sand, on top of sand, and slowly being buried. The wind blows constantly from east to west, bringing more sand every day to the point where every part of the city-dweller’s lives is saturated with some kind of it or another: sand in clothing, sand that sifts through windows, sand that collects in the corners of the eyes, sand poured out of a boot. Wells have to be cleared of sand in an endless bucket-line, new homes continuously being built as the old ones are buried. And when sand inevitably gets in your mouth, instead of wasting precious water to spit it out, you swallow it. Constantly. Bleak stuff, but the author makes the details of the story endlessly fascinating.

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Review: Movie Novelizations

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Review: Movie Novelizations

We’ve all run into it at one time or another. As a literary genre it’s pretty much inescapable. There are a few gems here and there, but the quality is generally middling-to-poor: words churned out by writers who might not excel at anything else. Sometimes we find one that appeals to us, or that we’ve secretly been looking for. Maybe we’ve even written one ourselves.

I’m talking, of course, about movie and TV novelizations. (Okay, hands up anyone who thought this could also apply to fan fiction. Cool, thanks, I’m sure I’ll see all of you sometime over on Tumblr.)

Published quickly, and forgotten soon, you’re more likely to find “the novelization of the award-winning movie” than you are to find “the award-winning novelization”. And yet they’re everywhere, and I’m sure authors fight over the chance to write the studio-approved version.

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

A dual post from Kathryn and Elizabeth

When talking about great couples from sci-fi and fantasy books, there are a lot of obvious ones:  Harry and Ginny, Westley and Buttercup, Drogo and Daenerys, Katniss and Peeta (or Gale), and Bella and Edward (or Jacob), to name a few.

We decided instead of listing all the famous ones, we’d talk about some of the other sci-fi and fantasy couples from our favorite books.

(Except that Kathryn just HAD to go and include Ron and Hermione. ~ Elizabeth)

(I regret nothing! ~ Kathryn)

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Review: Six-Gun Snow White

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Review: Six-Gun Snow White

Love is the color of blood. Love is what grown folk do to each other because the law frowns on killing…

I read the description for Six Gun Snow White on Goodreads: “…Valente transports the title’s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West…” and thought, oh well, I’m not much of a fan of Westerns, maybe I’ll just pass on this one. And then I laughed and laughed, and bought the novella anyway. I haven’t read even one story from Catherynne Valente that I haven’t liked; I think she could write the labels on sugar packets and I’d still want to read them. And if this had been just a simple translation of the Snow White fairy tale into the Old West (substitute six-shooters for swords, outlaws for dwarves, and make everyone wear period clothing), it still would have been a fun read. But this is Valente, so the end result is much, much more complicated.

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Review: Sandkings – A collection of short stories by George R.R. Martin

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Review: Sandkings – A collection of short stories by George R.R. Martin

If you follow many of the posts on Pixelated Geek (and, you know, own a computer and have access to the internet) you’re probably already aware that the new season of Game of Thrones starts on April 6. Obviously that means the Tumblr posts, plot speculations, and the rivalry between fans of the TV series and fans of the books (not getting into that, thanks) will all be reaching a fever pitch over the next couple of months. With that in mind, it might be helpful to take a breather, step back for a bit, and remember that while George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus first started in 1996, the man has been writing professionally since 1971. There are a lot of his works out there. Some of them, like this short-story collection, have been out of print for a while, but they’re definitely worth hunting for.

If you love Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series, if you can’t wait for the next one to be released or the next season of the TV show to start, and you want to spend all your time re-reading the series and reading anything that reminds you of it, then Sandkings…is probably not for you. This book is nothing like that.

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Review: Shadows From Norwood

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Review: Shadows From Norwood

Crazy people aren’t crazy all the time, you just have to know how to handle them. I’ve spent worse evenings. I don’t think I’ve spent weirder ones.

I was a little confused at first when I found Shadows From Norwood in the science fiction section, since it’s very obviously horror. And like a lot of my favorite horror stories, the stories here are inspired by HP Lovecraft; the author is a dedicated fan. But as a fan, David Hambling wanted to bring attention to the fact that Lovecraft wasn’t just a horror writer, he also followed the latest discoveries in science (a lot of them controversial at the time), and used them in his writing. Mr. Hambling wanted to create something that was closer to a true Lovecraftian work, instead of just a monster story with Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones acting the part as monsters. And I think he’s succeeded.

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