Author Archive

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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Review: The City and the Stars

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Review: The City and the Stars

Reading through Arthur C. Clarke’s Wikipedia page makes me think of those “The Most Interesting Man In The World” commercials. Clarke’s biography includes being lieutenant in the RAF during WWII, a scuba diver and discoverer of the sunken original Koneswaram temple off the coast of Sri Lanka, an inventor and futurist (he was one of the first people to propose the idea of geostationary communication satellites), a regular correspondent with C.S. Lewis, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1998, and of course he’s one of the most influential science fiction writers in the history of the genre. (Maybe even the most influential, if you put him in front of Heinlein and Asimov. Which I do.)

Clarke’s books predate quite a lot of our modern technology, and yet he had this almost scary ability to predict future developments, like online banking, handheld personal transceivers with GPS ability (cellphones, anyone?) and bioengineering. The societies that he invented for his 1948 story Against the Fall of Night (rewritten in 1956 as The City an the Stars) are fantastical and far beyond anything seen even today, and yet every bit of the technology has some kind of basis in something we already take for granted. And each society just barely misses the mark of being Perfect, since they were both designed by scared, fallible humans.

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Review: Fragile Things – Short Fictions and Wonders

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Review: Fragile Things – Short Fictions and Wonders

There are a lot of Neil Gaiman projects coming out this year that I’m REALLY looking forward to:  a graphic novel version of The Graveyard Book (with art by the incomparable P.Craig Russell), a very creepy-looking children’s book adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, an illustrated version of Gaiman’s novelette The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, issue #3 of Sandman: Overture, and quite a few annotative and commemorative versions of previous works. And all of this has been in development while his book The Ocean at the End of the Lane was winning the UK’s National Book Award, The Book of the Year by popular vote, and spending 20 weeks on the NPR Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List.

So I’m sure it’s greedy of me to point out that it’s been eight years since he last released a collection of his own short stories. I’d probably be a little more patient if Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders hadn’t been such a perfect collection.

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Review: Transformers – More Than Meets The Eye

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Review: Transformers – More Than Meets The Eye

Skids: We’re on some sort of Quest?

Swerve: Uh-huh. We’ve got to find the 12 fragments of the Primal Key, unlock the Infinity Gate, travel sideways in time, defeat the Agents of Chaos and restore order to the Multiverse.

Skids:…

Swerve: Nah, I’m just messing with you. We’re actually looking for the Knights of Cybertron, a mythical group of supremely powerful do-gooders who left our homeworld 10 million years ago to civilize the galaxy, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in the form of a star map hidden inside a dead Matrix.

Skids: Yeah…I kinda liked the first one better?

I’m dating myself here, but I’ve been a fan of Transformers since the first cartoon aired in 1984. I started reading the comic books a few years later, and have stuck with it off and on through the first 80 issues, the strange little Generation 2 title in the 90’s, the now-defunct (and never finished) Dreamwave series, and finally to IDW in 2005.  More Than Meets The Eye is one of the latest titles in the decades-long story

The 4 million year war is over, but Cybertron is in ruins. The citizens of the planet who originally fled the war are returning, and they’ve made it clear neither Decepticons nor Autobots are welcome anymore. There are now two choices; stay and try to rebuild the planet, or set off to find the fabled Knights of Cybertron. More Than Meets The Eye follows the group who made the second choice, and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Transformers story this much in years.

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Review: White as Snow

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Review: White as Snow

Tanith Lee is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I started with her – well I guess “sinful” is a pretty good description – vampire novel “Dark Dance”, and every now and then I just have to find another one of her books for more trashy fun. A couple, like Storm Lord and Days of Grass have been somewhat forgettable. Most are intricate, dark, entertaining stories. White as Snow is epic.

Part of a series created by Terri Windling, where different authors would write their own take on classic fairy tales, this book was inspired by versions of the Snow White story that are even older than the one written down by the Brothers Grimm. Most people know that the fairy tales we hear nowadays are sanitized versions of the Grimms Fairy Tales. What didn’t know before reading the introduction (don’t skip that, it’s definitely worth a read) is that the Grimms themselves cleaned up the versions they heard. In the original stories, the fathers were a lot less kind-hearted, evil didn’t always meet a bad end, and rather than a step-mother, it was usually the mother responsible for torturing her children.

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Review: The Wolf Gift: The Wolf Chronicles 1

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Review: The Wolf Gift: The Wolf Chronicles 1

In her career, Anne Rice has recreated the mythology of vampires, witches, ghosts, mummies, and whatever the main character was in Servant of the Bones. It was probably only a matter of time before she wrote a werewolf story.

Rice’s books are usually categorized as horror, and there are certainly a lot of horror elements in The Wolf Gift. But what stood out to me was the element of fantasy. I don’t mean fantasy as in dragons and unicorns and warrior elves, I mean fantasy as in daydream. The whole book felt like the result of many long sessions of staring out a window thinking, “Yeah, wouldn’t that be great…”

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Review: The Space Trilogy of C.S. Lewis

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Review: The Space Trilogy of C.S. Lewis

Humankind first ventured into space in 1961. More than twenty years earlier C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in a trilogy of stories linking space travel, alien minds, and a war within the solar system, to Lewis’s overarching view of a benevolent God. The results are strange, to say the least.

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Review: The End Is Nigh

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Review: The End Is Nigh

Post-apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that have already burned. Apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that are burning.

The End is Nigh is about the match.

I love short story collections – eat them up like candy, actually, so expect to see me review one every few weeks – but sometimes it’s hard to find one with really good stories. A lot of editors seem to have a talent for finding pretty mediocre work. John Joseph Adams consistently puts together the most amazing collection of talent, especially in his zombie-themed compilations, The Living Dead and The Living Dead 2. Keep in mind that I don’t even like the zombie genre; you can imagine how amazed I was to pick up one of those on a whim and enjoy every story inside. So when I found out that the editor who specializes in dark, off-beat science-fiction was releasing a trilogy of pre-Apocalypse stories, and the book was co-edited by Wool and Sand author Hugh Howey? Sold.

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