the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for December 2012

It’s almost January, and you know what that means!

well, besides THIS of course, January means it’s time for the 2013 Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings!  The SFE runs January and February, and Carl does a beautiful job with artwork and articles and link lists. If you’re not familiar with his blog, get your rear-end over there and check it out. His is THE PLACE when it comes to friendly and in depth discussions of speculative fiction.

there’s even banners and badges and goodies like that!

see?

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Also, on a very slightly related note, is a fascinating experiment happening over at Teresa Frohock‘s blog (Yes!  that Theresa Frohock, author of Miserere!).  A handful of authors have provided writing samples written under a pseudonym, and your job is to figure out if the sample was written by a man or a woman.  Truly, go check this out.

Meanwhile, I have already broken my Vintage Scifi intend-to-read list by reading and listening to stuff that’s not even on there.

bennett_company-man-hcThe Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett

published in 2011

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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In an alternate early 1900s, in an amazing metropolis in the Pacific Northwest, a new industrial revolution has begun. In Evesden, The McNaughton Corporation holds patents for the most amazing technologies, everything from airships to subterannean trolleyways, to telecommunications. The Corporation holds their secrets dear, and at times has held the world hostage, and that same world flocks to Evesden and the McNaughton Corporation with dreams of a better life and a career with the company that is reinventing the world.

Found in an Indian prison and given a life of luxury in Evesden is McNaughton’s most valuable employee, a Mr Cyril Hayes.  Hayes works from the shadows, making the corporations problems disappear. He spies, he blackmails, he knows better than to ask questions of his superiors, and they know better than to try to keep him out of the opium dens or to let on that they know he shares information with the cops.

Hayes’ newest assignment comes with an assistant, the young and sheltered Samantha Fairbanks. She’s his secretary, but she’s also supposed to keep him under control and out of trouble. Their mission is to interview employees suspected of Union organization. No arrests, no threats,  no mention of Unions, just talk about how everything has been going lately.  Hayes sits in on the interviews, but he isn’t really listening. At least, not with his ears. There’s a reason Hays lives alone in a giant warehouse, there’s a reason he’s anti-social, there’s a reason he escapes into hazes of opium and alcohol.  The longer Hayes spends with someone, the more the person’s thoughts invade his mind. It becomes easier and easier for Hayes to talk like that person, act and walk like that person, become that person’s new best friend, their confidant, their confessor.  Hayes can count on one hand the number of people who know about his ability.

the way people react to Hayes when they find out what he can do gave certain scenes almost and X-Men type feeling for me.  Hayes closest friend Inspector Garvey is completely accepting of the fact that Hayes can “read minds”, while Hayes’ supervisor refuses to be close quarters with him for more than a few minutes. Others respond with anger, disgust and fear. There’s a point where in the eyes of the company Hayes ceases to be an employee, and becomes a thing, a tool, a weapon, a closely guarded and dangerous secret. The saddest thing, is that he knows it.

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SAM_2392Conflict of Honors (Liaden Universe), by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

published in 1988

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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I happened to mention to a friend that I enjoyed space opera, and she thrust Conflict of Honors into my hands and said “if you like space opera, you’ll love this!”.   Knowing nothing other than that the first few books in the series can be read in any order and that this ongoing series has a massive following, I dove in.

Far in the future, humanity lives side by side with the Liaden, a humanoid race (are they related to humans? I’m not sure).  While the Liadens might look humanoid, their culture and cultural taboos are nothing like ours. Humans often work on Liaden trading ships, although they are often treated as second class citizens.

The Liaden have empathic abilities, and reminded me a little bit of a cross between the Minbari of Babylon5 and Deanna Troi from Star Trek.  They easily read the emotions of humans and their fellow Liadens, and emotional sensitivity isn’t a taboo in their culture. No Liaden would ever say something like “suck it up!” or “quit being so dramatic!”. Instead, should someone be feeling emotional strife, a Liaden healer is assigned to them to help them return to a more joyous state of being.

And Priscilla Delacroix Mendoza has certainly been through a lot. Declared dead by her family, she’s worked on various Liaden transport ships for most of her life.  When the story opens, Priscilla is a miserable cargo master on the Liaden trading ship Daxflan.   The crew of the ship aren’t treated very well, and when Priscilla is left behind on a planet, her relief with having escaped an increasingly horrific situation is equal to her concern about the damage done to her record.

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ARedSunAlsoRisesA Red Sun Also Rises, by Mark Hodder

published December 2012

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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Aiden Fleischer is a conflicted man, more so than most men.  A young and sheltered priest who struggles with his faith, Aiden escapes an extortion scheme by signing up with the Missionary Society. Travelling with him, is his friend and housekeeper Clarissa Stark, whose engineering genius is matched only by her crippling disfigurement. Before long, Aiden and Clarissa find themselves on a remote island near the Solomon Islands, and Aiden begins his task of bringing the Lord’s word to the natives. Who aren’t the slightest bit interested. Also, they are cannibals.

During a ritual gone wrong (or maybe right?) Aiden and Clarissa are sent through a portal to an alien world, where strange insect-like beings welcome them with open arms. Apparently the islanders have been coming here for years to work as servants for the aliens. After Clarissa accidentally falls into a sacred pool, the aliens, known as Yatsill, are able to read her thoughts and memories of London. Soon, the Yatsill are all speaking with almost Cockney accents, and attempting to wear the fashions of 1880’s London, which look ridiculous on their four-legged bodies.

The Yatsill are mimics, able to create and recreate their city, their homes, their language and their fashions to copy memories read from an Earthling’s mind. But they are still just imitating, going through the motions with no understand of what they are doing (Not unlike how Aiden goes through the motions of being a  man of faith, actually). A funny example is the British sounding names many of Yatsill adopt, such as Crockery Clattersmash, Prosper Possibly, and Mordant Reverie. Poor Aiden, he has to keep a straight face the whole time!

The details put into the Yatsill and their planet of Ptallaya are nothing short of astounding.  Hodder lets his imagination run wild, offering up lighter-than-air behemoths who crawl across the landscape by grabbing trees with their hands, huge fruits that hum, and sky scraping tentacled creatures.  Ptallaya itself, is in a unique spot in the universe, which causes all sorts of strange things to happen on its surface. For no other reason, read this for the aliens and their unique planet. Because the Yatsill are just the beginning of what Ptallaya has on offer.

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My buddy John and I recently recorded another radio segment for your listening pleasure!  This time we talk about science fiction short stories. How much scifi short story love can we cram into less than 5 minutes? Listen and find out!

WMUK Arts & More December 17th 2012

 

WMUK Color Logo

200px-HeirToTheEmpireHeir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn

published in 1991

where I got it: that bookshelf where my hubby’s favorite books are

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Taking place 5 years after Episode 6, Heir to the Empire follows Luke, Leia and Han while they try to pry themselves away from the developing government of the New Republic. Leia and Han have married, and Leia is expecting twins. As Luke works with Leia to train her Jedi powers, they learn the unborn twins are strong with the force as well. As much as the three of them would prefer to spend their time together, the demands of the New Republic often have them at opposite ends of the sector, with Leia handling diplomatic concerns, Han trying to get his old smuggling friends to do legit shipping for the New Republic and Luke investigating rumors of other Jedi.

Meanwhile, the dying Empire is pulling itself back together, mostly with the help of Grand Admiral Thrawn. He’s not a Sith, and he doesn’t really care about the Force. Grand Admiral Thrawn is cold, calculating, and intensely intimidating. He studies his enemies and his victims, waiting until he’s sure of their reaction before attacking. Thrawn puts two and two together to manipulate the ultimate stealth weapon against Luke Skywalker and the future of the New Republic. I’m not going to tell you what his weapon is, but it’s brilliant, and truly stealthy.

Another important plot line involves Mara Jade, a conflicted woman who was once close to the Emperor, and now works for a smuggler. She dabbles in the force and has a burning hatred for Luke Skywalker.  Thrawn may prefer to take Skywalker alive, but Jade would rather kill him. Why does she hate him so much? Luke has no recollection of ever meeting her ,what could have he possibly done to her?
While reading Heir to the Empire, I felt like I was reading the novelization of an unmade Star Wars movie. Characters say and do things that you’d expect from them. Han is snarky but sometimes nervous, Luke sees the good in everyone will little regard for his own personal safety, Leia is slow to trust but quick on her feet.  There are action sequences with the Millenium Falcon outrunning a Star Destroyer and Tie Fighters firing on X-Wings.  The action flies along at a fast clip and we never spend too much time, or too little, with any one character. There’s even the situational humor we’ve come to appreciate when no one but Han can understand Chewbacca or C3P-0 doesn’t understand some idiom. A few dialog lines are actually cribbed directly from the movies, and slyly referred to as inside jokes between the characters. The first in Timothy Zahn’s trilogy, Heir to the Empire is the book every Star Wars fan should read.

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It’s that wonderful time of the year again! When we bake cookies and get cards in the mail and forget that we need extra time to warm up our cars in these cold, cold mornings.

It’s also time to talk about the best books we’ve read this year. I confess, I cheated a little on my list, I didn’t limit myself to books that came out in 2012, I’ve even got a reread on the list. Mostly space opera, a little fantasy and time travel, even a YA book made the list! In no particular order, here are my top  books that I read this year, with review excerpts and links to the  review should you feel so inclined to learn more about the titles that rocked my world this past year.

Redhead’s Best of 2012

224_large Faith

Faith, by John Love (2012)  – I read this all the way back in February, I knew right then it would make my best of the year list.  An amazing debut from author John Love, Faith is a dark and tense stand alone science fiction novel. The pages drip with a danger and fear that doesn’t quickly dissipate after you’ve put the book down.  This isn’t a book for everyone (that’s a polite way of saying it has lots of violence, amorality and swear words), but for those of us that like this sort of thing, Faith is quite the hidden gem.

(full review here, and I got to interview the author here)

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente (2012) – has anyone been putting out short stories, novellas and full length novels as fast as Valente? she’s the hardest working writer I know, and this year she got to walk away with Hugo for Best FanCast to show for it.  it’s no secret that Valente is one of my favorite authors, and the Hugo nominated Silently and Very Fast is certainly her most science fictional piece.  With her signature flair for poetic metaphor and lyrical storytelling, this novella follows the life of Elefsis, a house AI who was told fairytales by the human children in the house. To Elefsis, life is a fairytale, and it should have a happy ending.

(full review here)

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (2012) – I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, but when I do it’s a treat for it to be a beautifully written as this series (the 2nd book And Blue Skies from Pain came out later in 2012).  Northern Ireland, the 1970s, Liam Kelly would prefer to live a normal life. He’s not interested in getting arrested or learning secrets about his heritage. But all of those things are very interested in him, and in destroying everything in his life that he cares about.  Leicht spoiled me for urban fantasy.  I am eagerly awaiting future novels in this series.

(full review here)

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Vintage SF badgeWell, January is nearly here (scary isn’t it?) and I’ve started going through my crumbly moldy old paperbacks, trying to narrow down my list of what to read for the upcoming Vintage Scifi Month.

So far, I’ve got:

The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1916)

Conan the Warrior , by Robert E Howard, (1935)

The Man Who Sold the Moon by Robert Heinlein (1950)

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1954)

The Planet Buyer by Cordwainer Smith (1964)

The Goblin Reservation by Clifford Simak (1968)

The Zero Stone by Andre Norton (1968)

That’s a good start, don’t you think? I’ll have one more opportunity to visit John King Books in Detroit before New Years, and my John King Wish list includes Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Bester’s The Stars My Destination, and as always more Heinlein, Norton, Smith and other random goodies which I’m sure will change up the list above. Realistically, I’ll only be able to get through eight to ten books in January.

My tastes tend to run Golden Age and New Wave, but that doesn’t mean you’re locked into that time frame or those kinds of speculative fiction books. The original pseudo-rules  hold true, and you can find excellent recommendations here, and a new growing list, here.  Feel free to post more recommendations or what you’re planning to read in the comments.

on twitter? use hashtag #VintageSciFi

are you excited? cuz I am!!

 

Hey peeps,  I’m outta town for a few days, sans laptop (eeek, the horror!!), so I’m writing this in advance so you won’t feel neglected.

I’m currently reading Clifford Simak’s The Goblin Reservation, although I’ll probably wait till January to post the review. Also in my suitcase is Mark Lawrence’s King of Thorns, which I”ll hopefully be quite a ways into by the time I get back to town Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, I found fun stuff for you!

If you ran your own dream bookstore, what titles would you make sure you always had copies of?

Looking for some international science fiction? How about the Afro SF anthology, or the Apex Book of World SF,  or The Book of Madness?

Open Culture is my new favorite place to download educational podcasts.  Or if you’d prefer TED talks instead, here ya go.

Columbus looks like a sweet city to live in. can you say CABS??

I so want to get this book, but it’s sort of a little kid book. Maybe when my niece is born?

Recent Patrick Rothfuss goodies: a guide to his books on Sword and Laser, and go check out this year’s  Worldbuilders program.

The Food Through the Pages blog.  food pr0n, recipes, fantasy books. it makes me want to lick my computer screen. Just click the link already!

I’m getting super excited for Immortal Confusion in January outside Detroit. trying to psych myself up to cosplay Holo the Wise Wolf. this would also include me making a costume, as all I’ve right now is the ears.

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Some current giveaways you might be interested in:

Win a signed copy of Redemption by Susannah Sandlin over at She Wolf Reads

The Quillery has an insane giveaway of a signed copy of Amanda Carlson’s Full Blooded, plus swag bag goodies!!  You sign up to win over at My Bookish Ways too!

win a gorgeous boxed set of the first three Culture novels from Iain Banks over at Bastard Books. Actually, don’t enter this one. Make believe this one doesn’t even exist, because I want to win this!!

Rainy Day Ramblings has a copy of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse up for grabs (I want this book just for the stunningly beautiful cover art!)

Existence USAExistence, by David Brin

published June 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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A favorite question of science fiction is one of first contact, and Existence is Brin’s answer. Even as a child, I knew of the concept of Fermi Paradox, even if I didn’t know the formal name for it.  The Fermi Paradox states that in an infinitely large universe, there has to be other planets with evolved life. So why haven’t we heard from any of our neighbors? Where is everyone?  Why is it so quiet out there?

It’s difficult to get into the nuts and bolts of Existence without giving away some of the plot, so be warned, this review contains a few spoilers.  Through the eyes of a half dozen characters of every walk of life, Brin offers the reader a much bigger picture than just first contact. This isn’t just a story about a space garbageman who grabs something shiny, or the story of a shoresteader who finds a buried treasure, or the journalist forced to relearn how to live her life.  This isn’t a story about individual humans, this is a story about humanity. And it’s an ambitious one, at that. (But wait, isn’t “ambitious”  exactly what we want from our science fiction authors, the perpetrators of our favorite “what if” question? Don’t we want the envelope to be pushed until it starts to tear at the edges, showing us something new and unexpected?)

One of the major plot lines follows Gerald Livingstone, who retrieves an artifact from high Earth orbit. The artifact is sensitive to sunlight and human touch, and soon proves to include nearly a hundred uploaded alien personalities in its crystalline structure. A message in a bottle of sorts, the aliens welcome humanity to the galactic culture, and offer untold technologies. As communication with the artifact moves forward, hundreds of other artifacts of similar design make their locations known, making the orbiting artifact simply the most recent to reach us.  What the aliens offer is incredible, is unheard of, is unexpected, is truly amazing. But do we want it? and can we trust them?

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.