Books

Review: The Fifth Season

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Review: The Fifth Season

On the ironically-named world of Stillness, where earthquakes and volcanoes are treated like particularly bad weather, something happens to break the planet open much, much worse than it’s ever been broken before.

A mother leaves her village, her own world having ended just slightly before the rest of the world did.

A little girl discovers a new talent and is exiled from her family for it. She’s soon taken away to begin training in her new life as an orogene.

And in the glittering city of Yumenes, a talented young woman is rising through the ranks of orogenes, clawing her way towards, if not freedom, then at least a little privacy and the right to say “no” every once in a while. She’s sent on an assignment with one of the most powerful orogenes in existence, and gradually finds out how much that power is worth.

N.K. Jemisin’s 2015 novel The Fifth Season is the first book in what I hope is a very long series. It’s science fiction (with some horror) in a fantasy setting. It’s an epic adventure with a tiny bit of romance, lots of tragedy, and the story starts with the end of the world. This is the kind of book you fall into and then stumble out of days later, wondering what the hell just happened and when can you have some more.

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2017 Hugo Awards – The Finalists

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2017 Hugo Awards – The Finalists

The finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards have been announced, and it’s quite a list. Between best short fiction, best novel, best series, best editor, best fanzine, and everything else, there are 108 entrants battling it out. And I’ve read…six of them. Granted, those six were all pretty amazing, but I feel like I’m missing out.

This year I’d like to try something similar to Pixelated Geek’s coverage of the 2017 Oscars. Between now and when the winners are announced at the 75th Worldcon in Helsinki, we’ll be posting the occasional review of any of the finalists’ works that we can get our hands on. For each item on the list we’ll also post links to Pixelated Geek reviews (if they have one) and places where each of these are available for you to read (either free or for purchase) so we can battle it out in the comments about which one deserves to win their category.

Click the jump for a full list of the finalists.

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Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

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Review: The Clockwork Dynasty

For the first time I see what must be my own hand. An economy of brass struts wrapped in supple leather. And now I truly begin to understand that I am also a thing in this world. Not like the doll who is writing a few feet away with all the mindfulness of water choosing a path downhill. Something more.

Daniel H. Wilson, author of the popular Robopocalypse series, has a book coming out this August about a completely different type of robot: a sentient race of clockwork beings who have kept their existence a secret from humanity for centuries. Until now.

In 1709 Russia, a creature of clockwork and leather opens its eyes to see the delicate porcelain face of a doll that’s been cleverly made to write. In present day Oregon, June Stefanov examines a centuries-old writing doll, trying to record everything she can before it’s inevitably lost to whoever it is that’s been destroying clockwork rarities. June carries a strange relic passed on by her grandfather, and before the end of the day she’ll be running for her life from a monster who’s trying to steal the relic and then silence June before she can pass along the word she learned from the doll: avtomat.

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Review: Sleeping Giants

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Review: Sleeping Giants

There I was, this tiny little thing at the bottom of a hole, lying on my back in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Rose was only eleven years old when the ground opened underneath her. The rescuers who arrived on the scene found, not a sinkhole, but a fifty-foot square shaft, covered in glowing carvings, surrounding an impossible artifact at least a thousand years older than human civilization.

Seventeen years later, physicist Dr. Rose Franklin finds herself in charge of the team assigned to find out how the gigantic robotic hand works, what it was doing beneath a forest just outside Deadwood South Dakota, and whether there are more pieces buried in other parts of the world.

The hand isn’t just impossibly old; it’s made of elements that couldn’t have been found on Earth, and the technology is far beyond anything humans could have made. Worse, it might be a lot more than humans can control.

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Review: Summer in Orcus

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Review: Summer in Orcus

1. Don’t worry about things that you cannot fix.

2. Antelope women are not to be trusted.

3. You cannot change essential nature with magic.

– Instructions in a stained-glass window, written on a book carried by a saint wearing purple sneakers

Eleven-year-old Summer dreams of adventure…but if she’s honest about it her idea of “adventure” involves a little freedom from her over-protective mother. It would be nice to do things like go to camp, or ride a Ferris Wheel, or maybe just take a bath without someone checking every five minutes to make sure she isn’t drowning. She certainly never planned to step through a magic portal and wind up all on her own in a strange new world with a weasel on her shoulder, but then who does?

Starting life as an online serial, T. Kingfisher’s latest book Summer in Orcus dives headfirst into a land of bird aristocrats, manticore cheese, snail marketplaces, and a masked warlord serving the mysterious Queen-In-Chains. It all starts when Summer has a chance meeting with Baba Yaga, who sends her on a journey to find her Heart’s Desire.

It might have been helpful if Baba Yaga had told her what that is.

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Review: Will Save The Galaxy For Food

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Review: Will Save The Galaxy For Food

Yahtzee Croshaw, creator of the astoundingly entertaining Zero Punctuation weekly video game review, has released his latest novel! Exactly as irreverent and off-the-hook as Yahtzee’s reviews, Will Save The Galaxy For Food is the epic science-fiction adventure of a hapless former hero trying to make a living just after the Golden Age of space travel has ended.

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Review: Alien Stars

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Review: Alien Stars

Former boxer and aspiring investigator Harry Stubbs is back in a new adventure, this time in his own novel!

David Hambling’s latest book features a hunt for a mysterious artifact, one that seems to be leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. The artifact is sought after by people from both the lowest and highest rungs of society, involving wealthy cult members chasing after its supernatural power, and thugs hoping to sell it to the highest bidder. Harry will have to figure out who his friends are in a hurry, because there’s someone else involved in the search, someone who’ll happily kill to protect their secrets.

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Review: Norse Mythology – by Neil Gaiman

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Review: Norse Mythology – by Neil Gaiman

Elizabeth and I are going to try something different with this review. Obviously the two of us are huge Neil Gaiman fans, and we both read his Norse Mythology pretty much on the same day that it came out. (It’s a very fast read.) Since we couldn’t decide who should write up a review, we decided to have a discussion about the book (and the myths, and various things that the book reminded us of) via instant messenger, and then post highlights of the conversation here. Click the jump for the full transcript.
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Review: The Etched City

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Review: The Etched City

My random pick for a book review this week is the lovely Steampunk story from 2004. And by lovely, I mean strange. Really strange. And by story, I mean a collection of things that happen in a roughly linear timeframe to characters who don’t really have a concrete motivation and you’re not entirely sure what happens to them by the end.

Come to think of it, this isn’t really a Steampunk book either. Gaslamp fantasy, maybe, but set on a different world where all the plants and animals are the same, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not this really meshes with history and the author didn’t have to make up any new life forms.

The Etched City is K.J. Bishop’s first (and so far only) novel. The press release compared it to the works of China Mieville; I can’t really say I agree, but it certainly is the kind of fascinating writing that I can just fall into for days at a time, even if I’m not always one hundred percent sure I know what’s going on.

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Review: There’s a Mystery There – The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak

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Review: There’s a Mystery There – The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak

“Fantasy,” Maurice often declared, “is the best means children have for taming wild things.”

Where the Wild Things Are is the first exposure many people have to fantasy. The author and artist Maurice Sendak created this beloved children’s book, along with writing and illustrating twenty-one other works, creating the illustrations for almost a hundred more, and even providing the set design for several ballets and operas. Sendak is universally regarded as a genius…and yet his work can be so strange that it’s hard to describe exactly why people love it as much as they do.

Rolling Stone editor Jonathan Cott has compiled several years of his interviews with Sendak into the upcoming book, There’s a Mystery There – The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak, going into loving detail about Sendak’s childhood, his passions, and his influences. Cott also spends several chapters of interviewing prominent fans and friends of Sendak to take a deeper look into what the artist was trying to say, and what might have shaped a child of a Polish immigrant into one of the most famous artists of the century.

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