the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for November 2015

Starting tomorrow, I have four days off in a row.  Without even having to take a single vacation day. Corporate America, sometimes I love you.  There will be much turkey eaten, much pie consumed, much booze and chocolate inhaled. Also? Books.


Here are some reviews I’ll be working on:

books 11-22-15_2

fuzzy photo is fuzzy: they are A Fantasy Medley 3, edited by Yanni Kuznia, The End of the Story, the Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, and Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction, edited by Jeff Vandermeer.


Once I’m done with that, my reward is to read these goodies!

books 11-22-15

I lied a little. I’ve already started reading RJB’s City of Blades, and will probably have finished it by Thanksgiving Day. Because RJB writes only awesomesauce.  The others are Downfall of the Gods by K.J. Parker, I Am Crying All Inside, short fiction by Clifford Simak (hello Vintage month!), and Fable: Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines. I’m hoping for some chicken kicking and gargoyle shooting in the Hines, btw.


If you are lucky enough to have time off this weekend, how will you be spending it?

author_kss_fullKarina Sumner-Smith is a fantasy author and freelance writer. She is the author of the Towers Trilogy from Talos Press: Radiant (2014), Defiant (2015) and Towers Fall (2015), which just hit bookstore shelves last week.

Prior to focusing on novel-length work, Karina published a range of fantasy, science fiction and horror short stories, including the Nebula Award nominated story “An End to All Things,” and the ultra short story “When the Zombies Win,” which appeared in Ellen Datlow’s The  Best Horror of the Year, Vol 3.

Though she still thinks of Toronto as her home, Karina now lives in a small, lakefront community in rural Ontario, Canada, where she may be found lost in a book, dancing in the kitchen, or planning her next great adventure.

Karina was kind enough to chat with me a bit about the Towers trilogy, how plotting can sometimes be a plot-killer, her Sci-Fi filled youth, and her dance troupe.

Towers-Fall- Karina sumner Smith


Little Red Reviewer: The big idea in your Towers Trilogy is that magic is currency (you even wrote a Big Idea post at Scalzi’s Whatever!). How did you get the idea to develop a story around naturally occurring magic that is used as a currency of sorts? Once you got the idea, how did you develop the plot of the books around it?

Karina Sumner-Smith: It seems like the idea should come first, shouldn’t it? The idea that magic is currency—that magic is the driving life force of this entire society—is central to the novels, and shapes the two main characters’ lives in very different ways. Yet the idea actually stemmed from an entirely different source.

The Towers Trilogy began as a short story, “An End to All Things,” which garnered me a Nebula nomination back in 2007. I had an idea to write about a girl who can see ghosts; I sat down at my computer, and this world just opened up before me. The first scene of the short story is very similar to the opening scene in Radiant, and that’s where everything came from: the world, my entry to the story, the magical concepts, all of it. It’s all there in seed form in that tense exchange between a homeless girl, Xhea, negotiating with a distraught man who had a ghost tethered to the center of his chest.

The importance of magic-as-currency came to the fore, though, with a deeper understanding of that ghost, Shai, and why great powers were willing to go to such lengths to retrieve her, dead or alive. The idea, at its base level, is really looking at the idea of value in society, and how we decide the worth of a person. All of which makes it sound very constructed, as if this book was an intentional rant on the role of privilege in society. While that’s definitely a thematic core, the books themselves are about people: a homeless girl with no magic, living in the abandoned tunnels beneath the city; the ghost of a girl who generates magical fortunes unthinkingly; and what happens when they save each other. Xhea and Shai. Those two are where the plot came from, and (for me, at least) the source for all the book’s thematic resonances.

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the graveyard gameThe Graveyard Game (Company, #4) by Kage Baker

published in 2001

Where I got it: purchased new










I really enjoy Kage Baker, but life is full of so many fun books it’s hard for me to monogamously read one series until I finish it.  I’d read Mendoza in Hollywood (Company, book 3) a while back, and was a little underwhelmed by it. It felt like a rehash of the first book, and I thought it was kinda slow. Anyways, thanks to this tweet from fellow blogger Lisa, I decided to dive back into The Company series and pick up the next book in the series, The Graveyard Game.

what is this book doing to me


I’m too lazy to type up a summary of the series so far, and what exactly The Company is. Go read my review of In the Garden of Iden for all that (and to get hooked on the series).


As this is book four in Baker’s Company series, spoilers are unavoidable. #SorryNotSorry.  It’s kinda funny how things are all coming together now, actually. The first book in the series, In The Garden of Iden, functions perfectly well as a standalone.  the next book, Sky Coyote is most definitely a sequel, but if you read them out of order the universe wouldn’t end.  Book three, Mendoza in Hollywood circles back to some stuff that happened in book one and feels a smidgen apart from the other books in the series. And now, in The Graveyard Game, everything comes crashing together as Baker rips everything wide open for the gist of the rest of the series.  I zipped through this book in just a few days (which if you’ve seen my work schedule, you know is a miracle), it kicked me in the feels and then tore those feels out and kicked them some more.


Some things that happen to you when you are an immortal cyborg:


  • your broken heart never heals because your memory is so good that you never forget anything
  • a “long standing grudge” has a whole new meaning
  • you can play a really, really really long game.

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the ark tomlinsonThe Ark, by Patrick Tomlinson

published November 2015

where I got it: Netgalley






The original fifty thousand residents of the generation ship, known as the Ark, were chosen for their intelligence and skills. These were the families we wanted to restart humanity with after we learned a black hole was headed straight for Earth. Eleven generations later, the total number of humans is still around fifty thousand, thanks to strict population controls. It’s a pretty boring journey for the most part, so everyone finds entertainment where they can. Watching Zero, a ballgame played in the low G of the center of the ship, is hugely popular. One of the game’s most famous players, Bryan Benson, grew up to become a detective. Fame has it’s bonuses – everyone is usually very happy to see Benson on their end of the ship, and he usually gets free drinks at the bar because his autographed photo is up on the wall.


Generally speaking, life on the Ark is pretty easy. Sure, there’s politics and gossip and sports and such, but in general very little changes. How much can life change, when you live in a tin can and families and child rearing are done only by approval? If you’ve seen the TV miniseries Ascension, the environs of The Ark feel similar.


Before I get into the plot of the novel, I want to tell you about the Ark ship, because it’s awesome. The propulsion system is basically Project Orion on crack. Nuclear bombs are detonated out the back end of the ship, and the force of the explosion pushes the ship forward. It sounds crazy, but it works. Tomlinson really did his research when it comes to both the design of the ship, astrophysics and how gravity changes in different areas of a rotating habitat. One of the opening scenes involves an EVA outside of the ship that could have easily been botched. But thanks to the author’s understanding of physics, the EVA scene firmly solidifies the legitimacy of the worldbuilding. I really loved the ship, how it works, and the other tech that the author dovetailed into our future society.

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Vintage SF badge


it’s astounding
the science fiction,vintage scifi photo
that we, love to read.
so grab a book
something that’s much older


hopefully there’s no mold.
I’ve got all these books from way back
authors who started a trend.
they might be old fashioned,Andy Vintage letter pg 4

things were different, back then.

Let’s read Vintage again!
Let’s read Vintage again!

it’s fun with the classics,
do they age like that fine wine?

with your hands on a book
from before nineteen seventy nine.

it’s the space opera oldies
that makes you love these kinds of booksBest of Hal Clement
Let’s read Vintage again!
Let’s read Vintage again!

it’s so dreamy
sci-fantasy read me!
Verne, Clarke and Norton
and Asimov.
in another dimension
with interstellar intention!
well caffienated, I’ll read all.

With a bit of a mind flip
You’re into a time slip
Old books won’t ever be the same.
Maybe on a space station
or a fantasy incantation

Let’s read Vintage again!
Let’s read Vintage again!


no ear-worm yet? Let me help you with that.

no ear-worm yet? Let me help you with that.



And no, this  blog post isn’t a drunken prank.  Every January for the last few years I’ve read older science fiction and fantasy.  Older books, older TV shows, older movies.  It’s neat to see how things were back then, and how they are now, you know? click here for more info.

img-jane-yolen-author-photo_175350610876I’m sure you grew up reading Jane Yolen. I know I did. Maybe your mother read you her children’s rhyming books when you were a child. Maybe you read those books to your children. Even if you don’t know her name, you know her work. From young children rhyming books such as An Invitation to the Butterfly Ball to books for young readers, to books for older readers. When I was a preteen, I read a book whose scenes still haunt me, more than twenty years later. That book? By Jane Yolen.

A novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author, Jane Yolen has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

Many of her titles have recently become available as e-books through Open Road media. Mrs. Yolen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her books, how publishing has changed, and if she’s got a particular pet. Read on for the answers!

Little Red Reviewer: Although many readers (including you and I) are still quite fond of physical books, e-books are making quite the inroads. I find e-books convenient for books that have been out of print for a long time and are have now become available as e-books. What do you think might be the next leap in “book technology”?


Jane Yolen: Possibly a return to physical books (which I prefer) with parts that move, imbedded movie bits, music chips. Or possibly surround-books with movie screens in the middle of which the reader sits to be immersed in the sound and movement of the book. I don’t expect to see these myself at my age.



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I’ve been binge watching Parks and Recreation lately. I’m not usually one for the standard sitcom, but I really like Amy Poehler. And apparently I really like the guy who plays Ron Swanson. And I think I’m developing a crush on Aubrey Plaza. Parks and Rec is the perfect show for when my brain is fried after a crazy day at work. It’s funny, I like the characters, it’s got a long running story arc, characters change and grow. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is so cheerful and positive, that if I knew her in real life I’d probably want to punch her. But on TV, I want to root for her. I want things to go well for her. Also, “Knope” is the best sitcom name, ever.


If you don’t know this show, it’s a mockumentary of a Parks and Rec department in a small Indiana town. Small town politics, office comedy, romantic comedy, weird bosses, awkward relationships, crazy ex-wives, semi-homeless guys, and lots of genius writing.  there are very few bad episodes of this show.


I’ve been watching a few episodes here and there for maybe 6 months, and I’m currently most of the way into  season three.  A while back, while channel surfing at a hotel, I got a season 6 episode, and found out that Leslie and Ben become a couple. So ever since Ben of the awesome  hair showed up somewhere near the end of season two, I’ve been waiting for those two to start dating. But, of course they can’t, because Ben’s boss Chris (Rob Lowe, in what is literally, my favorite part he’s played, ever) forbids people who work for each other to date. And technically, Leslie works for Ben, since he oversees the budget of her dept.  But, oh my god, the sexual tension between those two.  It’s as unbearable as it is adorkable. They obviously like each other, but neither of them want to break any rules, and they both don’t seem to realize that the other one likes them too (wow,that was a grammar fail!). Knowing that they get together later makes all this waiting for them to hook up even harder to bear! I read somewhere that ladies like plot-heavy and fore-play heavy porn, and dudes prefer porn that gets right to the sex.  Whatever network originally ran this show, did they realize the sexual tension between Ben and Leslie was basically  porn for women?  Because it is.

That is some David Tennant 10th Doctor epic hair.

That is some epic David Tennant 10th Doctor hair.

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wildeepsThe Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson

published Sept 1st, 2015

where I got it: purchased new





Demane is a demi-god stuck on earth, and the safest place for him to be is a guard that travels with a caravan. He can disappear if he needs to, he can hide is godly powers as medical field training, and the two teenage boys who follow him around assume his bottomless bag is some kind of magic trick that he will of course explain one day.  Or not.  He can only hide who he is for so long.


From the blurb on the back, I expected the story to take place more in the Wildeeps, that dangerous swamp that caravans must cross on their way to profit.  Not a spoiler, the majority of the book takes place the night before the caravan and assorted guards leave for their trip. The owners of the caravan stock up on what will be needed for the trip, while Demane, the Captain, and all the other road brothers spend the night as they wish, some find solace in drink, others get their frustrations out in the fighting ring, others head for the brothels.  It’s an evening of characterization, i guess you could say.


I imagine The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps will be getting a lot of attention because of the language used. Much of that attention will be polarizing,  because you are either going to find the dialog and prose innovative and unique, or you are going to bounce off of it, hard.  I  bounced, and it wasn’t fun. Many of the characters speak in patois and or very contemporary style slang, which feels strange in a fantasy story.Demane struggles with the local language, often reverting to his native tongue when he doesn’t know the local words for things (it’s kind of funny in his case, because he’s using very technical, almost futuristic terms, which none of his caravan brothers would understand anyways). Because he struggles with the language, the owner of the caravan assumes Demane is stupid, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  it’s pretty obvious the caravan owner looks down on Demane.


But back to the author’s language choices for dialog, let me give you some examples of the dialog in The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps:

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As many of you know, I’m an interviewer over at Apex Magazine. I get to read some stories way, way ahead of time, and then interview the author. As one of the magazine editors put it to me when I first came on board “ask questions that are compelling. Make readers want to read the story”.  Thanks to that piece of advice, I think my interviews across the board have gotten better.  Working with Apex is an amazing experience.


Along with the interviews I conduct, much of Apex Magazine’s fiction is available for free, online. But each issue also includes special content, such as a  bonus story or article, or an excerpt from a novel that’s available to subscribers only.


Know someone who keeps saying “I should really read more short fiction, I just don’t know where to start”? Are you planning to get an e-reader for a friend or family member for the holidays? Apex Magazine makes a great gift! In fact, Apex is currently running a subscription drive, which means you can get a year’s subscription for only $17.95.  It’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s cheaper than dinner and a movie,  and will go further than a  B&N gift card. Also? Read Apex Mag and you’ll have the opportunity to say  “oh yeah, I read all those award winning stores and editors before they were famous”. Because all that fiction? All that artwork? That costs money.  And like any business, the more funding Apex Magazine has, the more fiction, poetry, non-fiction and artwork they can purchase.


Wanna give Apex a whirl? In celebration of their subscription drive and in celebration of the start of the giving season, I am giving away two gift subscriptions to Apex Magazine. All you need is an e-mail address, and to be a resident of planet Earth.  Leave a comment down below, and leave me some way to reach you if you win (e-mail or twitter). I’ll be choosing two winners on Nov 10th.


Still not sure?  Here’s a taste of what Apex brought the world in the last year or so:

ApexMag11_large NOv 2014

I love this cover art.  I can trace the lines with my finger and discover all sorts of directions and shapes.  Among other gems, this issue included an excerpt of Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming,  Elizabeth Bear’s “Tiger! Tiger!”, short fiction from Chikodili Emelumadu, Ginger Weil, and Rich Larson, and award winning fiction from Apex Mag‘s  Steal the Spotlight contest.


ApexMag01_large Jan

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cover art by Matt Stawicki

As part of Julie Czerneda‘s blog tour for her new Clan Chronicles novel, The Gulf of Time and Stars, I’m thrilled to be hosting Julie for an AMA (Ask Me Anything).   Click here for blogtour updates on facebook, or follow #timeandstarstour.

Best known for her biology based science fiction, Julie Czerneda has been editing and writing speculative fiction since the late 1990s.  Her first novel, A Thousand Words For Stranger, would eventually lead to novels that tackle the biological needs and requirements of alien species and humans alike, garnering Czerneda numerous Prix Aurora Awards (most recently for her first fantasy novel A Turn of Light).  She’s also involved with science education, anthology editing, and giving her fans more of what they want: namely more of Sira de Sarc!

Today we’re celebrating her newest novel This Gulf of Time and Stars (available Nov 3), which is also the start of a new Clan Chronicles trilogy, The Reunification series. You can read my spoilery review here, and there’s more info near the bottom of this post.   Julie is joining us all day today, Sunday Nov 1st, to answer your questions!  And since this is an Ask Me Anything, you really can ask her anything. Ask a question about her books or characters, or about her writing methods, or her pets, or what she likes to eat, or editing or anthologies, or Canada, or biology, or teaching, or her panel schedule at World Fantasy Con, or well, you get the idea!

photo credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

photo credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

Some starter questions that came in before this post went live:


Which do you prefer? coffee or tea?

Are the Dhryn based on any animals from Earth?

You write a lot of trilogies. Do you outline the entire series before finishing the first book?

Any cures for writer’s block?


If you’re just joining us, and want to get in on the fun, here’s what the Clan Chronicles is all about:


The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.

Give away details: DAW  has kindly provided a hardback and Audible has provided an audiobook of This Gulf of Time and Stars to two lucky winners.  If you live in Canada or the US, you are eligible to win the hardback, and the audiobook is an international giveaway. (listen to a sample of the audio here) To enter the giveaways, participate in the AMA by asking a question, or just comment below that you’re interested in being entered into the giveaway. Although the AMA is only happening today, Nov 1st, you can enter for the giveaways until Saturday Nov 7th. I’ll choose a winner shortly after the 7th, so be sure to give me a way to reach you (e-mail, twitter, etc).

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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.