the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for June 2011

It’s a classic!  You know you want to!  Or you are least curious to see what spawned a weird Lynch movie, two scifi channel miniseries, and at least one board game (and yes, I’ve seen and played them).

Check out the post that started it all over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Carl of Stainless Steel, Kailana of The Written World and myself will be each be hosting discussions for a different part of the novel.  I’ll be hosting the 2nd portion, which will be the 2nd week of July, and of course I’ll be posting links to their discussions as well.

so mark your calendar for this friday, July 1st, brush off your copy of Dune, be it  original cover art, your movie tie-in edition, your 40th anniversary special edition, be it well loved or barely cracked open. . . and remember to walk without rhythm!

walk without rhythm. . . .

full disclosure:  Dune is a long time favorite of mine. I read it for the first time when I was about 15, and it was a game changer for me. by the time I was 19, I’d read the entire series of six, and even sort of understood the last 2 books!   if it has something to do with this series, i’ve probably read it, seen it, listened to it, or played it. I iz a dune-head. Even more geekiness: when my other half and I got our first apartment and blended our book collections, we found we had 3-4 copies of each book in the series.

additional full disclosure: I’ve read the first Herbert/Anderson “prequel” – it struck me as an okay book, but not very Dune-ish. I do not consider the “prequels” to be Canon.

Interested in joining us?  leave a comment here, or comment over at Stainless Steel Droppings, so we can make sure you get the discussion questions over e-mail.   or just join in anyways.  🙂

Which I’m not.

Well, not yet, at any rate*.

If you’ve been following the big guys on Twitter, you’ve probably seen this link to NPR’s article about their work-in-progress “100 best SF/F titles ever written list”.  Nominations are closed, but that is just the first in this series of articles.  Recently,  Patrick Rothfuss hopped on the bandwagon as well of discussing SF/F books that a fan new to the genre should seek out. I highly suggest checking out the NPR article and Rothfuss’s blog, but beware, you’ll be kissing your afternoon goodbye, as there is pages upon glorious pages of comments to read.

Now it’s our turn.  What books would you recommend to someone who is just getting into scifi, fantasy, epic fantasy, sci-fantasy, etc? What do you consider “must reads” for any SF/F who wants to become more well read in the genre?

here is a small handful of my most recommended SF/F for new fans. These are at/near the top of my list for a very simple reason:  they made me want to read more SF/F.  Because of these books, I fell in love with the genre over and over and over again.

Last Call, by Tim Powers

The Scar, by China Mieville

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Sideshow, by Sheri S Tepper

Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Yes, I know, the comments this post may generate is going to make my “books I want to read” list explode, again.  The timing is not good for that. But I like torturing myself. Even better,  my favorite part of the blogosphere is the opportunity to share information just like this, and it’s always fun to have those “you love Tim Powers?  I love Tim Powers too!!!”  or the “You love Dune but don’t care for the prequels? omg, me too!” conversations.

*btw, I consider myself a decently well read SF/F fan. There are a handful of favorite authors whose discographies I’ve read extensively. There is a much, much larger list of authors I’ve never read, and in some cases, never heard of.

The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

published in 2006

where I got it: library

why I read it: have really, really enjoyed other novels by this author








A cross between a book of Grimm’s fairy tales and 1001 Arabian Nights, The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden, winner of the 2006 Tiptree Award, is unlike anything you have ever read.

At the very beginning, a unnamed girl who lives in a garden tells a boy she must tell her stories backwards, and that was always in the back of my mind as I read.  Not only did everything come together at the end, but so did the magical sentence “Stories are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end. . . “   Have truer words every been spoken? Does it matter where you crack open your book of fairy tales? the witch  always shows up eventually, right?

And this book does have a witch, and a wizard, and pirates and monsters and griffins and eggs and firebirds and a tree-woman and a ship-tree and Stars that are Gods. Nested tale by nested tale, the mythology of the world grows and breathes to the point where you don’t know where reality ends, nor does it matter. This is a book that should be hoarded, should be meted out slowly, like Chocolate during a time of rationing.  I read this as fast as I could (which wasn’t very), treating it like a plot based story. Too much chocolate on an empty stomach makes anyone feel yucky.  Learn from my mistake: don’t read this book fast. Savor it.

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Good news everybody!

scrolling through the blog for the last few weeks, I’m not seeing much of my favorite thing: book reviews.

do I love books less? no!

do I love scifi or fantasy less? hell to the no!!

has my personal schedule gotten a little out of control lately? ummmm, yeah.

here’s the personal post I promised myself I would never put out there, but if the face of this blog is going to change, I want you to know why. because I’m a damn egotist, that’s why. And because this is my little corner of the infinite interwebs, and I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

Say it like you’re professor Farnsworth and your pants are pulled up to your armpits and you’ve already forgotten which drawer you put the doomsday device in: Good News Everybody!

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The Seventh Shrine, Vol 1. Written by Robert Silverberg, artwork by Anders Finer

Published in 2005

where I got it: purchased new






If it’s got Robert Silverberg’s name on it, I’ll probably read it. A master of sci-fantasy, Silverberg has written dozens of novels and short stories. I adore his original Valentine stories, and even though The Mountains of Majirpoor didn’t do much for me,  I’ve always got my eye out for anything Silverberg.  Which is why my eyes lit up like supernovas when I saw his name on the front of a Valentine graphic novel. Quick like a fox, that book was going to be mine!

With painterly full color art complimenting Silverberg’s short story,  The Seventh Shrine is more an illustrated story. I have no idea if this is a “rare” book, but it sure feels like one.  Valentine Pontifex has escaped the dreariness of the Labyrinth to investigate a strange murder at an archaeological dig. The Pontifex is not supposed to leave the Labyrinth, but Valentine has always been one to bend royal rules to fit the life he wants to lead.

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The weather’s been nice, the sun’s been shining. Time for some adventures, don’t you think? Definitely time for an illustrated epic poem!




we bought a bunch of book like objects,

some comic books too

thought it was time we headed to the zoo.

lemurs, ostriches, zebras, monkeys and more,

among peacocks of blue and jade,

and wolves. and yes, many Westeros jokes were made.

I think the one on the left is Summer?

and then I went a picked a metric shitload of strawberries.

there will be much freezer jam made this weekend,  I swear it!

A little bit of Otaku spoof, some time travel, some mad scientists, maid cafes,  and cosplay, Steins;Gate has it all.  And then the writers take the expected anime tropes, and bash them to hell.    While college student Okarin plays at being a mad scientist being chased by rival organization SERN, his hacker buddy Daru makes sure the rent is paid and cute little Mayushii makes sure the boys remember to eat. Their lab space is a tiny studio apartment above an electronics shop, but really, what else does a mad scientist need besides a computer, a microwave and a few loyal lab assistants?

To be honest, I felt completely lost during the entire first episode.   Okarin goes to a university sponsored seminar on time travel, is approached by a beautiful woman only to later find her dead in the building’s basement. A few minutes later, she is alive and well, and as Okarin is returning to his lab he sees a satellite has crashed into a building, and his friend Daru tells him the time travel seminar has been cancelled.  Talk about getting thrown into the deep end.  But the voice acting was probably the best I’ve ever heard and the animation was top notch, so I decided to keep watching.

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The World House, by Guy Adams

Published in 2011

Where I got it: The library









On the one side, is the Box.  If you come into contact with the box in a specific situation, you wake up in the house.  

On the other side is the Renegade. The house is his prison, and he’s been planning his escape for a very, very long time.

Almost in the style of a  long prologue, we are quickly introduced to a diverse handful of characters who come into contact with the box, usually in violent circumstances.  Some of them are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, whereas others have been searching for the mysterious, mythical box for years.

As people wake up in different parts of the house, they learn very quickly to adapt or die. For this is a house that isn’t a house. It may have hallways and bedrooms and a library and a kitchen and a library, but the hallways go on forever, the countless bedrooms have never been slept in, the library contains the memories of the universe and the kitchen houses one of the cannibals.  And when the lights go down,  it’s time to find a safe place to hide.  Because this house is alive, and it is hungry.

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Of Tobacco Worms

Spending some time at a friends house the other day, she gave me the tour of the landscaping and gardens she and her husband have been working on for the last few years.  the vegetable garden (beautiful!), the hops plants (tall!) and the moonflower plot (infected!).  Apparently, their moonflowers have been infected with tobacco worms. Moonflowers are related to Nicotiana and Tomatoes, all of which are susceptible to Tomato worms and tobacco worms.  I learned more than I ever wanted to about tobacco worms and the beautiful moths they grow up to be.

Moonflowers. greenhouses. worms. giant beautiful moths.

All I could think of was China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station.  I’ll never be able to think of tomato worms the same way again.

damn you New Weird for infecting nearly day of my life!

. . . and  scifi fashion

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Raising the Stones, by Sheri S Tepper

published in 1990

Where I got it: have owned it for a while



A  sprawling story that covers multiple planets and their satellites, a varity of religions and cultures, and even non-human races, both native and non-native to the planets, Raising the Stones perfectly balances epicness with intimacy. While Raising the Stones is considered the middle book in Tepper’s Marjorie Westriding series (the first book is Grass, and the third is Sideshow), I consider all of them to be stand alones. Yes, they take place in the same universe, but the characters and situations are very different. Occasionally characters or places are referred to, but I feel you can read some of the trilogy, or all of it, in any order you want.

The planet Hobbs Land (so named because it is owned by Hobbs Transworld Systems) is a pastoral agricultural planet. The company allows the colonists to live as they will, so long as the agricultural quotas are met.  When humans first landed on Hobbs Land, the native race was dying. After sitting with a few translators, the oldest of the natives attempted to explain a few religious matters, and then died.  The colonists have developed a matrelinial semi-communist society and never have a problem meeting quotes on this near-Eden like planet.

Hobbs Landers may not subscribe to a specific religion per se, unlike  other ethnic groups that populate the rest of the star system, such as the Voorstoders, an over-the-top mysogynistic and violent culture; the Baidee who eschew coersion of any kind, the Gharm, a humanoid race that have been enslaved by the Voorstoders; and the bureaucratic and militaristic arms of the the local governments who are mainly interested in trade relations, quotas, and safety of the population.  To say the least, this is an ensemble peice, and there is a lot of keep track of. Only a few characters are fully developed, but this is where Tepper successfully pulls an interesting stunt: it’s not the massive cast of characters that is important, it is the clashing cultures and religions that are of the utmost importance.

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FTC Stuff

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.