the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2016

I used to call these posts Vintage Science Fiction ’round the Blogosphere, but Vintage SciFi is now on Instagram and Youtube! Wow!  Let’s see what all these fantastic folks have been up to:

Red Star Reviews  gives a great summary of the four authors he focused on for Vintage Month, Frank Herbert, Gordon R Dickson, Joe Haldeman, and Henry Kuttner. I don’t completely understand how Instagram works, but Red Star Reviews has been instrumental in getting a lot of images posted to Instagram. Click here for a fantastic gallery.

on Youtube, Winx and Ink reviews The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Booktuber The Space Possum shares her Vintage Book haul

Galactic Journey discusses everything that was new and innovative in 1961 – short fiction from Galaxy and Analog Science Fact and Fiction magazines, films of airships and apes,  and more!

Bev over at My Reader’s Block reviewed The Platypus of Doom by Arthor Byron Cover (that guy’s name rings a bell!) and Imagination Unlimited which collects stories by Bradbury, Sturgeon, May, deCamp, and others

Starbornis a fantastic Andre Norton tribute site

Worlds in Ink went for the Smorgasbord of goodness with the Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25, featuring all the greats from the early 60s

Two Dudes in an Attic offers an in depth discussion of what We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ is, and isn’t.

As always, Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations offers up book reviews, cover art galleries, and discussion of titles such as Irrational Numbers by George Alec Effinger, and the Universe 1 anthology edited by Terry Carr

For those of you who want one stop shopping, Victorian Soul Book Critiques offers reviews of Dawn and Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler

Lynn’s Book Blog has been showcasing some fantastic (and weird!) cover art from She by H. Rider Haggard, Logan’s Run, The Stepford Wives,  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and a review of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Go let her know which cover arts are your favorite!

Hibernator’s Library discusses The Time Machine by H.G Wells and The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein  and is interested in your thoughts

Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten it wasn’t at all impressed with The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert (while I, on the other hand, found this book fun and weird. But I’m a Herbert fangirl.)

The Howling Frog reviews The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin


as for myself, I recently read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It was very enjoyable, but i still haven’t gotten around to reviewing it.  If you liked Gaiman’s Stardust, then you’ll like The Last Unicorn. Beagle plays around with language and fairy tale tropes, and “how the story is supposed to go, because that’s how all these types of stories go”.


What of the above books look interesting to you?




city of blades RJBCity of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett

Published January 2016

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher (thanks Broadway Books!)







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Two asides, by method of introduction:


Robert Jackson Bennett knows how to make a damn good sandwich.


I find mythology tragic, yet addictive. It’s like a scab I can’t stop picking at, a trainwreck I can’t look away from. The more we tell these beloved and culturally powerful stories, the more we trap their inhabitants. One of my favorite examples of this is Loki (Fenrir is another).  He is trapped in his destiny, he can’t make other choices or do other things, even if he wanted to. And every time his story is told, the shackles get tighter. As storytellers, we need him to be a particular archetype, we need him to act a certain way, to be a certain lever of the world as we know it. Because otherwise, the myth wouldn’t have the desired effect.

Mythologies are cultural artifacts of incalculable value, and as we gain strength and inspiration from their telling  we enslave the characters within the myth, because we know how the story has to end.


Confused yet? Excellent. Let’s talk about City of Blades.

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City of Blades is both a very easy book to talk about, and yet a very difficult one.  It easily falls into my favorite category of books, those “that aren’t what they say they are about”, which makes it very easy to talk about without spoiling important plot bits. However, it is hard to talk about, because there are intimacies and honesties in this book that as a reader, I feel I have been trusted with. I do not want to betray that trust by mis-speaking about someone’s experiences.   I just realized I am treating Bennett’s characters as if they are real people. I talk about not wanting to betray someone’s trust, yet that someone is a fictional character, whose life and secrets are available to anyone who wishes to turn the pages of her life. You know what? I like thinking about Turyin Mulaghesh as a real person.  It’s a comfort, to give that kind of weight to her life, and to the lives of the other characters in the book.


Both this new novel, and it’s predecessor City of Stairs, reminded me a little of Cordwainer Smith – as in both Smith and Bennett flat out refuse to follow any of the expected and so-called “rules” of the genre in which they are writing. Both authors write as if there simply are no rules or conventions, as if no one ever took them aside and said “you know you’re not supposed to present this type of story this way, right?”. With City of Blades, Bennett takes it one step further and joins Seth Dickinson in dragging an eraser through the genre, erasing the so called rules and conventions.

Read the rest of this entry »

end of the storyThe End of the Story, the Collected Fantasies Vol 1, by Clark Ashton Smith. Edited by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger

This collection published Sept 2015

Where I got it:  rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Nightshade!)









Last summer, I received an advanced reading copy of the new The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, vol 1, from Nightshade Books.  It’s funny, because these are short stories from the 1930s, yet this is a new printing, with a new introduction, new cover art, etc. It’s lucky this book arrived, as I’ve always heard the name Clark Ashton Smith, but never came across any of his work.


Skimming through the introduction and the table of contents, I quickly learned two things – Clark Ashton Smith is known for cosmic horror and weird fiction, writing in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft; and that most of these stories were blessedly short. Don’t get me wrong, I like a meaty short story, but sometimes a super quick 5 page story, one that’s practically flash fiction, is exactly what fits the bill.  These were short stories I could read half a dozen of before bed, or read one while cooking dinner in between steps of stirring occasionally, and seasoning to taste.


It’s funny reading stories that were written so long ago, and most of these were written between 1925 and 1935.  Just think, in ten years, these stories will be a hundred years old. So, are they dated? Oh completely. But what’s most fascinating to me, is things that readers would have been horrified at (vampires, waking nightmares, succubi, etc) in the late 1920s, most readers today are completely used to.   Do you remember the skinny “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark” books that were popular with the 3rd to 6th grade crowd in the 80s?  Ghost stories,  stories about people’s heads falling off, all rated G, but totally creepy to any nine year old?  This is not an insult, but many of the Clark Ashton Smith stories felt quite a bit like those.  His literary style is a nicer kind of horror in a way – nothing gruesome, nothing squicky.  Many of his “big reveals” are fairly cheesy by today’s standards, such as the man’s visions were all a dream, or the old person relating the scary story disappeared into thin air, and such.  I’d happily give this collection to any ten year old, and not only would it scare the pants off them (in a fun way, I swear!), but they’d learn all sorts of fun new words, like asphodels, psammite, innominable, obloquy, invultuations, and dilatoriness.


So, the stories are dated, the big reveals aren’t at all shocking, but the prose is illuminating, and poetic. Here’s a sample, from the beginning of “The Planet of the Dead”:

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Taking a cue from Lynn’s Book Blog,  I’d like to highlight a few Vintage titles I’ve previously enjoyed by showing off their cover art.  What makes these books so special to me, is that without Vintage month, I wouldn’t have ever discovered them.

As you scroll through this cover art gallery, ask yourself: if you saw these books with this cover art at the bookstore, how likely would you be to pick up the book?


Just recently, I fell head over heels for Clifford Simak’s Way Station, written in 1963.  Such a feel-good story!

The original 1963 Doubleday cover art

The original 1963 Doubleday cover art

1969 Cover Art by Jack Faragasso

1969 Cover Art by Jack Faragasso

2014 Cover art from the Chinese translation

2014 Cover art from the Chinese translation

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I’ve noticed something these last 2 weeks. maybe you’ve noticed the same?


I’ve noticed I didn’t get blog anywhere near as many VintageSciFi posts or book reviews as I’d hoped to.  I planned ahead, read some Vintage books in November and December (Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy and a collection of Clark Ashton Smith stories), kept saying “I’ll write the review next weekend”. And then I never did.  Things came up, I was working, I was tired, whatever, life happens.  I said I’d write them over Christmas. I didn’t. I said I’d write them the first weekend of Janaury. I didn’t.   And now I’m too far away from the reading experience to write the reviews.   And with work going the way it is, and weekend travel coming up, how in the world will i find time to read them again, or *gulp* read something different?


I got really down about it. I was mad at myself at how much I’d been slacking off.  If I’d wanted to write the reviews, I would have found the time, right? Vintage Month is this little party that I started, and now I don’t even bother to show up with blog posts? are you kidding?


I had myself a little pity party on Twitter:

pity party 1-15-16

Among the responses, were these:

pity party responses 1-15-16
I read those, and practically cried.

About 24 hours later, it hit me.  I realized why I’d had such an emotional response to those tweets.


#VintageSciFi month isn’t my party anymore.  Sure, it’s nice if I show up, but it’s big enough that I don’t need to be the host, greeting people at the door, making sure everyone is having a good time, making sure there’s good music playing. I don’t need to be the most vintage-y blogger who ever vintage blogged.  I may have started this little party, but it’s not mine anymore.  It’s yours.  It belongs to everyone who picks up a Vintage SciFi Book, it belongs the bloggers, the tweeters, the instagrammers, the booktubers.


You’ve made it self sustaining!


Will I be able to get some Vintage posts up in the next couple of weeks?

I sure hope so.  But if I don’t, or if I get posts up that aren’t reviews, I’m suddenly OK with that.   And if I get some posts up that *aren’t* Vintage?  I’m Ok with that.  As it happens, I’ve got this early review of Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades that really need to go live . . otherwise it would’t be an early review, now would it?


Read on my #VintageSciFi friends, read on!

It’s been a Vintage Science Fiction party all over the interwebs!  Here’s all the reviews I could find, If I missed yours, please add it to the comments or the Vintage SciFi Not a Challenge Tab up top!

Galactic Journey continues his journey through the 1960s with discussion of the January 1961 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, The February 1961 issue of Galaxy magazine, and a discussion of a few episodes of The Twilight Zone. Really good stuff here.

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations has an indepth review of the Carr edited 1971 Universe 1 anthology,  short reviews of works by Harrison, Bishop and Budrys, cover art galleries, and recent acquisitions. Seriously, just bookmark this guy.

Envoy to New Worlds by Keith Laumer at AQ’s Reviews

Martha E reviews short fiction from Budrys, Pohl and Godwin

Fate SF got his review of Simak’s Way Station up before I could post mine

My Reader’s Block reviewed The Purple Cloud  by M.P. Shiel

Lynn’s Book Blog has been posting tons of Vintage cover art for your viewing and discussion pleasure

Greg’s Book Haven offers up his thoughts on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs

Head over to SFSignal to watch the first episode of Ultraman

File 770 has everything you need to know about works eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugos, including free e-books.  Looking to read some Vintage Scifi electronically? This will keep you busy for a while!




Everyone is talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so I guess I will too. When the next Star Wars movie comes out, I can come back and read this post to see what I thought of the first one. Funny how blog posts can act almost as  . . .  diary entries.


Warning: This post includes epic amounts of rambling and digressions.  A few movie spoilers as well, but mostly rambling.


No way around it, your experience with the new Star Wars is directly connected to your past with Star Wars. Kids who have never seen a Star Wars movie will experience this new one completely differently than people who grew up watching episodes IV, V and VI as kids.


My past with Star Wars:

I grew up watching Star Wars. In the mid 80’s I was old enough to put a movie in the VHS player and hit play, but I wasn’t old enough to have the comprehension to understand a long story. We had episodes IV and VI on VHS, and I liked watching them. I didn’t understand the storyline at all, but I liked how I felt when I watched them, the music really stuck with me. I wondered why Luke went from wearing white and tan to wearing black. Han Solo was my first crush.  I wanted my wedding dress to look like Princess Leia’s long white dress during the medals ceremony at the end. I wouldn’t realize it for 15 years, but I was taking my first steps towards a love affair with the Campbellian Hero’s Journey.   Much later, when I finally saw episode V, things really started making sense.


Star Wars, like The Princess Bride, offers fans a sort of cultural secret handshake. If I say “are there rocks ahead?” and you respond with “if there are, we’ll all be dead”, I immediately know we are of the same tribe. Star Wars references (and Spaceballs references) serve the same purpose.

Any body got a peanut?

Any body got a peanut?

You know that thing about smell?  that you won’t remember names or faces or locations from your early childhood, but you’ll remember the smell of your Mom’s shampoo, or the grass outside, or what your dog smelled like? John William’s original Star Wars score is like a childhood smell to me. It takes me back, it takes me somewhere. I don’t even need any visuals, that music takes me on a transportive journey.   That scene in Interstellar where he’s falling through the blackhole and ends up in his daughter’s closet, and it takes him a few seconds to figure out what’s going on and it’s super trippy? That’s how I feel when I listen to John William’s original score.   Williams is a genius of Wagnerian proportions, he took a hero’s journey and translated it into the language of music.

interstellar falling

i feel like knocking some books off shelves.

Read the rest of this entry »


We interrupt this weekends’ regularly scheduled Vintage Science Fiction posts so I can talk about ConFusion  (and tomorrow, not-my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens). For over 40 years, ConFusion has been home to Metro Detroit’s geek culture and mid-west authors. What was once your standard small scale regional scifi-fantasy convention has turned into a 1000+ plus fans with over 100 industry professionals including authors, editors, agents, artists, and more.


Really, ConFusion is freaking awesome.  You should go.  Because driving to Detroit in January is totally a thing now.  Like fezzes, but, like, cool.


fezzes are cool

Also?  i have a panel schedule!  And there will be silly cosplay!

Here’s my panel schedule:

Friday 5:00:00 PM Reacting to Fiction in Public
Book discussion today, predominantly online, has created a new phenomenon of public reaction. Whether it’s love of a work or the opposite, this public reaction has become a performance all its own. Does this new paradigm create a culture where perspectives that deviate from those with the most social capital are no longer valid?
Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Susan Dennard, Andrea Johnson, Amal El-Mohtar, Greg van Eekhout

Saturday 2:00:00 PM The Art of the Review
What makes the difference between a workmanlike review that tells us what we need to know, and a review which becomes a text worth studying in its own right? Under what circumstances does a review transcend its immediate subject, and become part of the wider conversation about genre? Who are reviews for: readers, authors, industry, other reviewers? How do authors go about getting more of them?
Andrea Johnson, Justin Landon, Amal El-Mohtar, Jenny Thurman, Sarah Gibbons

Saturday 4:00:00 PM SFF MadLibs
Audience members contribute nouns, verbs, and adjectives to fill in the lines in SFF MadLibs written by our panelists. Hilarity ensues.
Angie Rush, Andrea Johnson, Jackie Morgan, Mark Oshiro, Alex Kourvo

Sunday 1:00:00 PM A Blogger’s Conundrum
Ten years ago, blog became a predominant form of online communication, with energetic comment sections and regular, if sometimes half cocked, updates. Today, many blogs have shuttered and conversations have shifted to social media, while blog writing has become increasingly professionalized. Discuss how the science fiction and fantasy book blog remains relevant and what it might look like in the future.
Andrea Johnson, Jackie Morgan, Dave Robison, Natalie Luhrs, Alex Kourvo

I suspect that most of my Friday panel I’ll be mumbling something along the lines of OMGImatthesametableasPatrickNielsenHaydenOMG.

High Five to whoever put my schedule together, I get finished with paneling just in time for BarCon.

way station2Way Station, by Clifford D. Simak (Hugo Best Novel, 1964)

published in 1963

where I got it: gift from a friend




My friend Andy has been talking about Way Station for a while, but he’s always so vague. He would just tell me how good it is, and that it’s one of his favorite Simak books, and that I should read it. But he never actually told me what this book was about. Had he told me the premise of the book, I’d have read it the moment he gave me a copy.


It’s funny, this book is *exactly* what the title says it is about. In rural Wisconsin, Enoch Wallace runs a special kind of way station. It’s a place for the weary to rest for a bit, to have a bed for the night, and perhaps a cup of coffee in the morning before departing. The station takes up Enoch’s entire home, and he’s been running it now for, oh, about a hundred years. And when I say “weary to rest for a bit”, I mean it’s a stopping place for aliens who are jumping across the light years on their way to the frontier or back to their families. Some of them stick around for just as long as it takes to ready the machinery to send them back on their way, others have become friends with Enoch over the years, and purposely schedule their trips so they can spend as much time with their strange Terran friend as possible. He even shares his coffee with anyone who is willing to try it.


Way Station is a positively delightful novel. It’s easy to get into, fun to read, and joyously optimistic about life in the universes. If you’ve read The Dark Forest, this book takes practically the opposite approach towards intelligent life in the universe.

Read the rest of this entry »

Herbert Ransom Jesus IncidentThe Jesus Incident, by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom

published in 1979

where I got it: purchased used




I didn’t realize The Jesus Incident is the 2nd in a series of four. I thought it was the 1st in a series of three, that had a prequel, Destination:Void, that could be read separate. So, I’ve read them out of order, and seem to have done OK. And now that I’ve read The Jesus Incident, I’m excited to read Destination:Void, if only to yell at the characters “no! don’t do that! don’t you see how this could end?”


When you think of artificial intelligence, what do you think of?  Do you think androids dreaming of sheep, Madeline Ashby’s vN series, Data from Star Trek, Mindships from Banks’ Culture books, and the like?


When Earthlings escaped an Earth’s whose sun was about to go nova, their goal was to create a living ship, an artificial intelligence that would take them through the galaxy, and take care of them.  They succeeded, and countless generations later, their ship became Ship, their god, complete with prayers, proper education, sacred areas, sacred rites, and honored people who Ship speaks directly to.


Ship takes care of the people, feeds them, clothes them, ensure the life support system and hydroponics gardens continue to function. And in return it demands to be worShipped.

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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.