the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

I’m over at SFSignal today, reviewing Steven Brust’s newest Vlad Taltos novel, Hawk.   This is the 14th book in the series, but a surprisingly good spot for new fans to jump right in.  Still on the fence? Click here for a review I wrote a while back for The Book of Jhereg, which is comprised of the first 3 short novels of the series.

hawk

 

Even though Vlad spends most of the book saying “hello” to people, the entire novel has an undeniable underlying fatalism, an inescapable feeling that he’s really returned to Adrilankha to say “goodbye”. Vlad isn’t stupid. He knows there’s a chance he’s not going to make it to the end of the book. A really good chance.

Fatalism aside, Hawk allows me to say something I haven’t been able to say about this series in ages: For readers brand new to the Vlad Taltos series, this is an excellent place to jump right in and get a feel for Brust’s wry writing style, the way he does world building and characterization, and everyone’s favorite sarcastic semi-retired assassin, Vlad Taltos.

 

Read the rest of the review HERE.

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I’ve been lucky enough to interview some pretty cool people over the years.  But Ellen Datlow takes “pretty cool” to a whole new level. An editor of short fiction for nearly thirty years, Ellen holds four Hugo awards, ten World Fantasy awards, five Locus awards, three Bram Stoker awards, and I’ll stop there even though I could happily continue to list her achievements for the next hours or so. She’s co-edited twenty one Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror volumes, edited six Best Horror of the Year volumes (through Nightshade Books), and most recently was the editor for Lovecraft’s Monsters and The Cutting Room for Tachyon.

To say she is a rock star of the industry is quite the understatement.

Last weekend at the World Fantasy Convention, Ellen Datlow was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award, along with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

I was first introduced to her work through one of many anthologies she co-edited with Terri Windling, Snow White, Blood Red, which has since become a beloved paperback on my bookshelf.  That collection would become the first in a series of six, and many of them recently become available as e-books through Open Road Media.  If you are interested in fairy tale retellings, dark fantasy, or the short fiction of acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates,  Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Charles deLint, Gene Wolfe, Storm Constantine and many others, this is an anthology series you should consider.

Datlow Windling fairy tale anthos

Ellen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on her lifetime in the field and the joys and challenges of putting anthologies together.  Let’s get to the interview!

ellen datlow

LRR: I remember reading Snow White, Blood Red in the late 90s, it was a collection my soon-to-be husband and I bonded over. That was your first Fairy Tale anthology with Terri Windling, and it would become a series of six anthologies. When you start a new anthology, how do you know it will be a “one of”, such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells or a series, like the Fairy Tale or Best Horror of the Year volumes?

ED: That’s really lovely to hear!

One rarely knows in advance if an anthology will sell well enough for the publisher to offer a contract for a second, although for a year’s best one always hopes it will become a series as that’s its purpose. Snow White, Blood Red was intended to be a one-shot but it did well enough that our editor commissioned another (or two that time). I don’t think we ever got more than a two-book contract at a time for what became a six book series. It just ended up that way. And by the time the sixth came out the publisher had changed hands (possibly twice) and I was burned out on retold fairy tales — for a time.

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This interview is part of SciFi November, hosted by Rinn Reads and Oh The Books!

A friend of mine had been recommending Julie Czerneda’s science fiction to me for a while, and last year I finally picked up the first book in her Species Imperative series, Survival.  In a word, that novel was phenomenal.  Strong characters, fascinating and freaky aliens, politics, intrigue, and even better, it was a scifi book based on biology (instead of physics, which seems to be a standard. Nothing against physics, but biology is damn cool!). The main character of Survival, Dr. Mackenzie Connor, leaps of the page and pulls you right back in with her.  She’s a biologist, what could she possibly have to do with saving trillions of lives so far away from planet Earth?  Here’s a link to my review of Survival, and a link to my review of the second book in the series, Migration. Stay tuned for a review later this month of the third book in the series, Regeneration!

CzernedaCPC-001167cAfter discovering Julie’s older science fiction titles, you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn she has a brand new fantasy series out, called the Night’s Edge series. The first book, A Turn of Light (click here to read an excerpt), came out last year and won the Prix Aurora Award for best English novel of the year.  The second book in the series, A Play of Shadow comes out today! (Scroll to the bottom of this article to enter in the give away for a free copy!) Learn more about Julie Czerneda by checking out her website, and by following her on twitter at @julieczerneda

Enough squeeing from me, let’s get to the interview!

 

 

LRR: The same weekend you won the Prix Aurora Award, you were a special guest at Can­Con in Ottawa. Wow, what a weekend! As an author, what’s the most fun part of attending conventions? What’s been your favorite convention that you attended? Any tips for folks who are new to the convention scene?

JC: It was a busy few days, that’s for sure, and happy!

The most fun? Meeting readers. To see eyes light up, to have someone mention a story or character they loved? It’s better than chocolate for the soul, believe me. I store those moments to think of when writing.

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the scroll of yearsThe Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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On the run for murder, the thief Imago Bone and his poet wife Persimmon Gaunt find themselves halfway across the planet. They keep their heads down in the country of Qiangguo, in hopes the Night Auditors won’t be able to follow their trail. They need some friends, and fast, as Gaunt will be giving birth to their son any day now.  If they’d just stop running long enough to see that maybe there’s something bigger happening around them….

 

The parts of The Scroll of Years had so much potential – a scroll you can fall into, the political complications of a royal heir who is a foreigner, creeptastically cool villains, a parallel world where time flows differently, interesting characters, fun world building.  With all those fantastic pieces to work with, it’s unfortunate that the plotting and characters never came together in a  coherent enough fashion for me to really get invested in the story.

 

Let’s talk about the good parts first.

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bridge of birdsBridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

published in 1984

where I got it: purchased new

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In a rural village in the shadow of the Tang dynasty, the parents are all weeping.

 

They weep because their children lie dying from a mysterious illness. A matriarch of the village gives her life savings to their strongest young man, Number Ten Ox, and tells him to go to the city and purchase the services of a wise Sage, for certainly a learned man can divine the reason for the children’s plague and help develop a cure.  Number Ten Ox is soon to discover that a peasants fortune doesn’t go very far in the city.   However, he returns with Master Li Kao, who is able to understand how the children became sick, and give instructions regarding the herbs needed to cure them.  Knowing what they need, the elderly Master Li climbs onto the back of Number Ten Ox, and across China they go.

 

 

 

They rather quickly find the first portion of the cure, and set out immediately for the rest. One clue leads to another, each adventure feeding into the next. Stealing money (to fund their quest, of course) from a corrupt business owner leads to tricking a dowager,  which eventually leads to the most expensive woman in the world, which leads to visions of pleading ghosts lead which lead to phantom paintings on mountain tops which lead to heartless men, which lead to following a dragon through hell and back. Which leads to Master Li asking the all important question of why do children play the games they play? And through it all, they keep running into people they’ve met before in a curious pattern.

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gleam tom fletcherGleam, by Tom Fletcher

UK Publish date: Sept 4 2014

US Publish date: March 5 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Jo Fletcher books!)

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In the center of a never ending plain of machinery, abandoned factories, destroyed buildings, swamps, snails, and desperation lies the Pyramid.  And within the Pyramid lies civilization.  Alan grew up in the Pyramid, but he wasn’t born there.  He still burns with the pain and hatred of watching Pyramidders kill his family and destroy the village in which they lived.  His life was spared that day, and he was taken to live in the Pyramid, to be educated and trained, and eventually take up a station, to get married, and to have a child of his own.  But Alan never forgot what happened to him.  Forced to watch his son be indoctrinated into the beliefs of the Pyramid, Alan begins to educate the boy on what life is really like outside, out in the discard.  But the Pyramid will not suffer opinions and beliefs other than their own, Alan’s family is terrorized and he is banished, to survive if he can, back in the discard.

 

At a breakneck pace, Tom Fletcher zips us through Alan’s failing marriage and the challenges of being married to a born Pyramidder, and how he’ll do anything to see his son once he’s been kicked out of the Pyramid. He bribes guards with drugs and information, and hopes one day to rescue his son and wife from the lies and brainwashing of the Pyramid. But rescue them to what?  He knows his wife wouldn’t want to life in the Discard, no matter how safe parts of it is, so what is he rescuing them from, and where would he take them if he was successful?

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ursula vernon diggerDigger, Vol 1, by Ursula Vernon

published:  this volume was published in 2012, but the webcomic has been going since 2005.

where I got it:  purchased new

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When I peruse the graphic novel section of my local comic shop, I’m not interested in 99% of what I see.  I walk by, and very little of it catches my eye. No offense superheroes and dark noir, but you’re just not my thing. Could be that local comic book owner guy is really into superhero stuff, and not so much into other stuff. Different strokes for different folks.

 

Lucky for me, I ran into a copy of Ursula Vernon’s Digger Vol 1 at a Half Price Books store.   Having no idea what the story was about, and not quite sure what the critter on the front cover was (She’s a wombat, by the way), I bought the graphic novel because Ursula Vernon’s name was on it.

 

A few quick items of business before I getting into the nitty gritty:  It won the Hugo (and multiple other awards) for a reason, and I really gotta introduce local comic shop owner guy to this series.  Graphic novels that don’t look that interesting got you down? Digger is the cure.

 

it's Digger!

it’s Digger!

First off, Digger isn’t a what, Digger is a she. She’s a wombat, and she does what wombats naturally do: She digs and burrows and explores.  She’s also intensely pragmatic and practical.  When a pocket of bad air causes her to tunnel through someone’s floor and into a space that is decidedly not home, she decided to explore. Because how else is she going to find her way home? Perhaps whoever she meets can help her find her way home.  She quickly meets a Statue of Ganesh who can talk, a Hyena like creature whose name has been eaten, a shadowchild who doesn’t know what he/she is, a helpful librarian, the Ganesh statue’s overly enthusiastic guard, and a prophetic snail.  The story almost has an Alice in Wonderland feeling, except this Alice is a practical, no-nonsense engineer Wombat.

 

Actual Wombat

Actual Wombat

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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.