the Little Red Reviewer

The While I’ve been devouring Kage Baker books to keep ahead of spoilers in this read-along, some new goodies showed up at the house. And my friend Andy took me to the ginormous Lowry’s Books.  And I bought some other stuff.

 

What of these look good to you?

What of these have you read? Which of these should I read first?

 

Goodies from the used bookstore:

russ herbert

The Proteus Operation, by James P Hogan, published 1985.

We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ, published 1977

Destination Void, by Frank Herbert, published in 1966. Oops, turns out I already have a copy of this one, but apparently there is the original version of the novel, and an updated version… so if I’m lucky, now I have one of each.

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Hernandez Quantum SanteriaThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, by Carlos Hernandez

Published Feb 2016

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

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Along with C.S.E Cooney, Carlos Hernandez wrote one of my favorite short stories in Clockwork Phoenix Vol 5. And Cooney wrote some of my favorite short fiction from 2015, I’ve now read her Bone Swans collection cover to cover three times. So I should have known going into Hernandez’s collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria that these short stories were going to be amazing.

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You know how you can know ahead of time that you’re going to love a certain movie, or a certain book? And then you go to the movie theater, or you finish the book, and it was even better than you thought it was going to be? That pretty much sums up my experience with Hernandez’s Quantum Santeria collection. I’ve read it cover to cover twice already (and gotten so much more out of the stories on the second read through!), and I see this is going to be one of those books that lives on my bedside table, so when I need something comforting to calm my mind down at bedtime the perfect thing is sitting there waiting for me.

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With gorgeous writing, accessible storylines, emotional depths alongside sometimes laugh out loud dialog, Hernandez’s prose is marble that’s been carved expertly down until the ideal sculpture is revealed. If you’re a short story author, and you worry that your short story has too much fat and not enough meat, read this collection and pick these stories apart. They’ve got everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Without rushing or infodumping, Hernandez deftly includes swaths of character development, any necessary  worldbuilding, and chapters of plot in the course of 15 pages, with ideas and concepts that are easy to grab onto and so verdantly and gloriously alive.

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VandermeerMany of you know Jeff Vandermeer for his acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy.  The novels Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance took the science fiction community by storm. These books were weird, they followed no known set of rules, and they were marketed as mainstream novels. And the response couldn’t have been better.  Some of you know the name Vandermeer from the countless anthologies Jeff and his wife Ann have edited, including the massive Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, The New Weird, The Time Travelers Almanac, Odd?, and the forthcoming  The Big Book of Science Fiction, which lands with a thump (seriously, this thing is 1200 pages!) this summer at a bookstore near you.   If you’ve been around a little longer, you know Jeff Vandermeer for his surreal and Ambergris fiction – the novels Shriek: An Afterword and Finch, and the short fiction collection City of Saints and Madmen.  I’m a pretty big Vandermeer fan, he’s been one of my favorite authors for what, nearly ten years now?  I’ve sought out his short fiction, his novels, his curated anthologies, even the funny stuff.

 

A talented and imaginative writer and editor,  Jeff is passionate about ensuring the next generation of writers and artists have the opportunity to learn about world building, writing, and character creation, and how to make all of that work together. To make this happen, Jeff is the co-director of Shared Worlds, a two week summer writing camp for teens, held at Wofford College.  Fictional worlds are created and populated, and then with coaching from authors such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tobias Buckell, Lev Grossman, Daniel Abraham,  Nathan Ballingrud, Terra Elan McVoy, and Leah Thomas,  the students bring these worlds alive through short stories, artwork, even video games. If you know an imaginative youngster, this is the camp for them.  Thanks to a grant from Amazon, critically claimed author Julia Elliott has been named the 2016 Amazon Writer-In-Residence for Shared Worlds. Her work has appeared in Tin House, The New York Times, Electric Literature, Best American Fantasy, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. Her debut novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch, arrived in October 2015.

 

Shared Worlds, now in it’s 9th year, has been giving young writers and artists the opportunity to grow their creativity for about as long as I’ve been recommending City of Saints and Madmen to everyone I know.  Jeff was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the how’s, what’s, and why’s of Shared Worlds, and then he let me dive into fangirl territory. I promise, I only pestered him with a fraction of the questions that I’ve had for him since I first cracked open City of Saints and had my mind blown.

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Have you seen? Stefan Raets is hosting a read along over at Tor.com of Kage Baker’s Company novels.  The first book in the series gave me #allthefeels, and I’ve been slowly collecting everything by Kage Baker since.  When Stefan mentioned this read along on twitter, I asked if there would be spoilers. And well, since the later books in the series touch on one huge overarching plot, yes, there would eventually be spoilers.

I’ve read up to book 5 in the series.  And I’ve been avoiding reading further. Because once I run out of Kage Baker books, there will never be any more.  it’s a sad prospect.

it’s sort of like. . .

How I’ve avoided finishing the 7th season of Parks and Rec because I don’t want the story to be over.

How I’ve rationed how fast I read Iain M. Banks Culture novels, because once I run out, there won’t ever be any more.

How I don’t even want to know how many episodes there are of Jane the Virgin, because I don’t want to know how close I am to the end.

How I still haven’t read the third book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy because I don’t want to have closure in whatever the fuck is going on in those books.

I guess I just don’t like endings.  Closure is a type of separation, and I don’t want to be separated from these experiences.

But screw that, because life is too short.  I started the 6th Company novel the other night, and don’t mind if I do binge read through the rest of the series.

And when I run out of Kage Baker and Iain M. Banks books? I’ll just read ’em again, and find everything I missed the first time around. There’s nothing stopping me from reading the entire Southern Reach trilogy again whenever I want, so what’s stopping me from reading the final book? And Parks and Rec is so good I’ll just watch the first few seasons again.

Because the end isn’t the end.  When it comes to reading, and especially reading a completed series, the end is just the beginning of a new way to enjoy a much larger story.  Each novel is a tree, the end of the series is the forest.  and why to cling to just one tree when there is this gigantic forest to explore?

Sounds like I got some Parks and Rec to binge watch.

GeoffreyGirardPic1aGeoffrey Girard  published Tales of The Jersey Devil in 2005, and he’s never looked back.  After two more folklore based short story collections, he wrote Cain’s Blood and its companion novel  Project Cain, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. His over 60 sort stories have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future, Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest, the Stoker nominated Dark Faith anthology, Dark Futures, Murky Depths, Mountain Dead, and many others.

His new short fiction collection, first communions, hits bookstore shelves later this week, and if you like spine tingling thrillers, this is a collection for you!  Sixteen stories to shock, entertain, and horrify you, from the curse of ancient evils to futuristic retirement homes where the dead still rule, haunted graveyards, planets of torture where all are equal, hockey-playing demon hunters, and dark sorcerers battling in Algeria.

You can learn more about Geoffrey and his work at his website, GeoffreyGirard.com.

Geoffrey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology, his forthcoming novel Truthers, and his writing career. Let’s get to the interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your upcoming collection, first communions! Which stories in this collection mean the most to you?
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Geoffrey Girard: Thanks very much. And thanks for inviting me to chat. And, yikes, if I have to pick one: “Dark Harvest” will have to get that nod. It’s about a Ringwraith (basically) who crash lands in some Podunk village and the trouble that ensues. It’s the one I wrote first, the one that got me started back into creative writing after a fifteen-year break, the first story I ever got paid for, the one that led to my most-formative week as a writer (while out in Hollywood as part of Writers of the Future) and the one directly related to a childhood spent in Middle Earth, Pern, and Shannara.

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it’s been how long since I did a blind date with a book give away??   that’s way too long.  let’s do it again!

 

here’s how it works:

  • All these books are new. Some of them I’ve read, some are ARCs that got mailed to me that I’m passing on. Some won’t be available in bookstores for months yet.
  • Due to the cost of shipping, this give away is for US only. (if you survived doing your taxes, you deserve a little give away, right?)
  • let me know in the comments which book(s) you’re interested in, and yes, you can request more than one. To be eligible, you *must* specify your choices (None of this lazy “they all look good!” stuff), by referring to the wrapping paper color, or one of it’s descriptors, or something useful. If we don’t already know each other, please leave me a way to reach you – twitter, e-mail, etc.
  • this give away will close in two weeks, on Sunday April 17.

Winners will be announced in late April. Chances are, by the time these books get mailed out, I will have forgotten which title was under what wrapping paper.

alright, enough with the rules, let’s see those books!

flowers

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Flowers wrapping paper

Magical Realism!

Vivid Characters!

Artwork that comes alive!

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blue.

 

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Blue Wrapping Paper

Steampunk-ish

Possible Alien Technology

Pirates!

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birds on branches

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Birds Wrapping Paper

Adventure!

Old Timey Hollywood

Circus Shows!

Detective’s Dilemma

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black and white.

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Black & White wrapping paper

This is exactly what it sounds like: a surprise bundle of SciFi/Fantasy/Horror novellas.   Super awesome grab bag!

the flux steinmetzThe Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

published in 2015

where I got it: purchased new

 

A few days after writing an emotionally fraught and migraine fueled review, I finished Ferrett Steinmetz’s The Flux, which although isn’t a heavy book, deals with a boatload of heavy shit.  I found myself laughing and smiling at all the videogame and pop culture references as huge lumps developed in my throat from #allthefeels. I kept running across things that transcended the page right to “this is super important to me on a very personal level” territory, and that list of things kept getting heavier and longer.  And all of that was all happening at the same time!  The closer I got to the end of the book, the slower I read. Because I didn’t want it to end. If you aren’t reading Ferrett Steinmetz, you really need to start.

 

You know how the middle book in a trilogy too often suffers from “middle book syndrome”, where that book is just a way to get to the 3rd book? The Flux is a middle book that reads like a first book. What I mean by that is the characters grow even more in this book than they did in the first, the stakes get higher, and the reader gets even more invested in what’s going on. Also? Steinmetz wisely includes just enough background so you can successfully enter the series here, and be hungry to go back and read Flex.

 

I really want to tell you all the everything in this book, but sorry peeps, I just don’t have the spoons to write the full on review that even comes close to doing this book justice.  Thus, the list.  The list of things in The Flux that were super important to me, the things that took this book from fun urban fantasy to self help book:

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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.