Author Archive

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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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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