the Little Red Reviewer

Author Archive

I do not think it is possible to cram any more cool bookish stuff into one day.  This past Saturday, I started my day at BookBug bookstore, for my friend Andy’s Type-In. Andy collects manual typewriters, at last count he has over twenty.  A Type-In is where a bunch of type writer aficionados bring their babies somewhere and show ‘em off. And then there’s me, walking around typing up postcards and asking “how do I do an exclamation point? I made a mistake! how do I backspace?”   I was a <sarcasm>genius</sarcasm> I forgot my really cool postcards at home. Luckily, Andy brought some, and his had cool Type-In logos and bookstore images on them!  I better tell my parents to watch their mail box.

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A couple of hours later, I drove five minutes down the road to Kazoo Books for the Jim C. Hines and Tobias Buckell book signing!  I wish I’d gotten a photo of the table covered in Toby and Jim’s books, it was a beautiful display (and pretty empty a few hours later).

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Jim and Toby have known each other since the beginning of their careers, it was wonderful to just listen to them talk about the challenges and pressures they faced as their careers took off, different types of projects they’ve worked on and are working on, adventures in bookstore signings,  how “being an author as a single guy” is pretty different from “being an author as a Dad”, among other things. There was lots of laughing and fist bumping happening.   It was a wonderful afternoon. Toby signed my copy of Hurricane Fever, and since I already have signed copies of Jim’s  books, I had him sign a paperback of Libriomancer for me to use as as a give away! He even put a sooper seekrit message in it!

Woohoo, Give Away!

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Scale-Bright - Benjanun SriduangkaewScale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

published August 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

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Niall Alexander’s recently reviewed Scale-Bright on Tor, and  he suggested reading the accompanying and related short stories first. Benjanun Sriduangkaew recommends reading Scale-Bright first.  I followed both of their advices.  I read the short stories first, but I’ll review the novella first. Check back next week for a review of the short stories that are published along side and birthed Scale-Bright, because they are glorious all on their own, in a completely different way. Let me give you a little teaser right off the bat: if you like Catherynne Valente, you’re gonna love Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

 

Those familiar with Chinese mythology will recognize characters and words, will smile out of the corner of their mouths because they know what’s coming. Woefully ignorant (yet less so, now) of Chinese mythology, all these characters and words were new to me. Wikipedia answered my most basic questions about Houyi and Chang’e, but the words I didn’t know, words like banbuduo, mowhab and daihap, had to be figured out contextually. Those were the words that tasted the best.  For those readers who would prefer some background before diving in, Sriduangkaew wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal that is a cheat-sheet of sorts.

 

The stories she was raised with are real if not always told correctly, and the movies and plays only told the tiniest part, and Julienne, a mortal woman in Hong Kong, has been invited into mythology. Orphaned and then found by her aunt Chang’e and Chang’e’s wife Houyi, Julienne knows no one would believe her if she said her aunts were Immortals.  It’s a tenuous yet amusing dynamic between the three women – Julienne is a little embarrassed about what she sees as her personal failings, and her aunties are fiercely proud and protective of her.  They give her the tiniest of sacred protections, and she unknowlingly helps them navigate the concept of “family”.  There is more than the barest undercurrent that this is the first time in Julienne’s life that her sexuality has not been questioned or judged, that she’s being completely and unconditionally accepted for who she is.

 

Julienne knows she is on the edge of mythology, that her aunties are the women to whom these stories actually happened to, that to them they are not stories but history, that Houyi is still paying for the crime of shooting down the suns, that Chang’e is making up for all the time she lost when she was imprisoned on the Moon. But  I’ll talk much more about those two ladies later, as Scale-Bright is Julienne’s story.

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hurrican feverHurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell

published July 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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Imagine the action, intrigue and espionage of your favorite James Bond thriller, now throw in fatal hurricanes and a lot of emotional investment. If that sounds good (of course it does!), you’ll get a kick out of Tobias Buckell’s newest near future eco-thriller, Hurricane Fever. This is a sequel to Buckell’s Arctic Rising, but it can easily be read as a stand alone. In the near future, much of the Arctic ice has melted, the seas have risen, low islands have been completely submerged taking people’s homes with them, and hurricane season means a deadly storm every week. Oh, and did I mention Hurricane Fever takes place entirely in the Carribean, where these deadly hurricanes tend to land?

Roo Jones is retired from the Caribbean Intelligence Agency, or at least, he’s convinced himself he’s retired.  He’s living the easy life in the Virgin Islands, raising his nephew Delroy, working on his boat, trying to forget everything he’s been through.  When an acquaintance mails Roo a USB drive filled with what looks like useless statistics, Roo knows two things: he never really retired from the CIA, and his old friend Zee is dead.

Once the action starts in Hurricane Fever, it never lets up. Roo barely has time to access the data on the drive before a mysterious woman claiming to be Zee’s sister shows up, and Delroy is killed. And that scene with Delroy? When the “simplicity” of his death is “explained”? It’s amazing how a short paragraph, how a few words made of letters and ink on paper can shatter a reader like that. This was one of those paragraphs, and at that moment, I gave myself to Buckell for the long haul. Roo was angry enough, and I’d just joined up to help him exact revenge. Zee knew his life was in danger, Zee was an adult, he knew what he was getting into. But to kill a teenager, because you couldn’t be bothered to check if it was the right person? Oh yes, I was as angry as Roo, and ready to cheer him on every step of the way towards revenge.

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The weekend of Sept 26th-28th I’ll be in Columbus OH, attending Context27.  Context27 is a small-ish, very casual convention aimed towards speculative fiction writers and anyone involved or wanting to get involved in writing. Their programming offers workshops, panels, informal discussion, and of course, evening parties and schmoozing.  This year’s guests of honor are Jonathan Mayberry and Betsy Mitchell.  Other guests and panelists include Lucy Snyder, Laura Resnick, Gary Braunbeck, Matt Betts, Maurice Broaddus, Carrie Cuinn, Jason Sizemore, Steven Zimmer, Sarah Hans, Janet Harriett, Tim Waggoner, Michael West, Gery Deer, Geoffrey Girard, Jennifer Brozek, and more!

Oh, and I’m a panelist*   this year too!

Here’s my panel schedule:

Saturday 10am – Being a Woman in Publishing

Saturday 5pm – Hot New Writers

Sunday 1pm – Getting Your Book Reviewed/ Being a Good Reviewer

 

 

Columbus has a huge  craft beer scene, so when I’m not at the convention hotel, I’ll be chilling with Elizabeth Campbell at a bar somewhere. If memory serves, there is a place nearby called “Pies and Pints”, which is crafty beer and fantastic pizza.

 

also, did you know? Robert Jackson Bennett’s amazing City of Stairs is released today.  If you haven’t already decided to buy this book, go read my review.

 

* this is my first time being a panelist. I am excited/scared shitless. Constructive advice/criticism is welcome, but please be gentle. i talk a good talk, but i is a sensitive mouse.

city_of_stairs-cover1City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

published Sept 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

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Where to start with City of Stairs? To say this book has everything sounds so cliche, doesn’t it?  To say it is funny and subtle and daring and fascinating would also sound cliche. But I’m going to say all of those things anyways, because this is one of those comes-a-long-once-a-decade books that transcends. It’s like one of those Hubble images where scale is all but impossible, where you can zoom in or out, and continually find new structures that your mind tells you shouldn’t exist. That shiver you feel? It’s your worldview expanding.

 

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Hubble image of the Pillars of Creation, taken in 1995. click here for more info on this image.

City of Stairs is a sort of political book that’s got nothing to do with politics, it’s a fantasy where there are miracles but not exactly magic, it’s got romance that’s not traditionally romantic, not to mention culture and beliefs and history and archaeology being treated as if they are living things sitting right next to you waiting for the right moment to tell you their secrets. Like I said, it’s got everything.

 

I was recently listening to a podcast about Cordwainer Smith, and one of the Karens mentioned something about how Smith had come out of nowhere, that he wasn’t building on what other writers had done, and it was as if he was reinventing science fiction. Robert Jackson Bennett is a modern day Cordwainer Smith in a similar fashion. But, if forced to make a connection comparison (because we all like those!), to say “this book is like this other book”, the only one that comes to my mind is The Scar, by China Mieville, and only because of the depth of secrecy involved and the ultimate and intimately personal goals of some of the characters.

 

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City of Stairs starts with a courtroom ruling, followed by a train arriving in the middle of the night.

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bastion 6Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, issue 6

Published September 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the Editor (thanks!)

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This was a very satisfying, yet difficult issue to get through. Let me unpack that a little, because it sounds a little mean, and I meant it to be the opposite.  this isn’t a very long issue, so I’d planned to binge read the entire thing in one or two sittings. The  stories in issue 6 focus around death and memories, risk and responsibility, things we all have to deal with but are terrified to talk about.  After a couple of stories I needed to take a break and read or watch something happy.  But it was really hard to take a break, because the stories all start with a great hook! When fiction can affect you like that, this is a good thing.

 

The issue opens with an emotional bang, with John Herman’s “Pancakes”, in which Charlie is given one last chance to see his father. But is this simulacrum really his dad? It sure looks like his father, sounds like the old bastard too. If you had just a few minutes to talk to a parent who was barely there for you, someone you never got along with, what would you say? Is this the time to be thankful, to be gracious, to be honest, to say the things you never thought you’d have the chance to say?  Charlie says them, and leaves, and then his father finishes the conversation without him.

 

We then move into the very dark “The Long, Slow War”, by Stephanie Herman, a far future science fiction story that takes place at a human colony on a distant planet. I enjoyed how the world building was done in this one, with Herman throwing the reader into the deep end at first, not quite explaining the sky split in half, or these aliens that will kill us if we so much as look at them wrong. The aliens taunt us, and our only weapon is apathy, it’s a futuristic expression of “if you ignore the person teasing you, they’ll get bored and leave you alone”.  It’s time for the treaty to be renewed and signed by both parties, and on the human side of the Embassy is a wall of photos of Ambassadors who didn’t survive the signing meeting.  The story focuses around the current human ambassador and as the meeting gets closer, his anxiety rises like bile in the throat. There is a subtext here of the silent fury behind the pacifism the colonists swore they chose for themselves.

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drumroll please!

it’s time to announce the winners of my Blind Date with A  Book Give Away!!   This was a little more complicated than just putting everyone’s name into random.org, so I went all old school on ya’ll, and literally drew names out of hats plastic containers.

What I’m always afraid pulling names out of hats fishbowls will look like:

Effie-Reaping-Bowl-The-Hunger-Games

 

What it really looked like:

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And then I did it four more times.  It was surprisingly fun!   Click through for all the winningness.  :D

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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.