the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for December 2018

As always, my “best of the year” is the best stuff I consumed this year.  It may not have been created this year, but I read it or watched it this year.

My favorite novels that I read in 2018

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Scar (reread) by China Mieville

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Nova by Samuel Delany

 

 

My favorite short stories, novellas, and novelettes that I read in 2018. Huh. I read a lot of short stuff in 2018!  and a lot of really good short stuff!

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest

Time Was by Ian McDonald

“Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw, Uncanny Magazine

“On the Day You Spend Forever with Your Dog”, by Adam Shannon, Apex Magazine

 

 

My favorite science fiction movies of 2018

Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman

Bird Box (on Netflix), starring Sandra Bullock

(honorable mention to Arrival and Interstellar, because I watched them both about 20 times while we had Amazon Prime in 2018)

 

As 2018 wraps up,  2019 is already looking to be amazing.  Because, this.

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I recently had the opportunity to interview author Howard Andrew Jones, whose forthcoming fantasy book, For The Killing of Kings, will be available in February from St. Martin’s press.  The first in an epic, adventure-filled trilogy, For The Killing of Kings involves a fragile peace, forgeries, conspiracies, and a near unstoppable invading force.  Brace yourself for a fantastic and action packed February!

Howard Andrew Jones has written a series of Arabian historical fantasies, and a number of Pathfinder novels. He was the managing editor for Black Gate Magazine, has posted a ton of blog posts about the art and struggle of creating fiction and editing, and among other editing projects is currently the Executive Editor of Perilous Worlds. Howard was kind enough to chat with me about the new fantasy series, editing, his family farm, gaming, and more. To learn more about Howard and his work, head over to his website, HowardAndrewJones.com.

 

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your forthcoming novel For the Killing of Kings! What can you tell us about this book’s journey from idea to finished novel?

 

Howard Andrew Jones: Thanks! This one has been with me for a looong time in some form or other. The primary characters starred in an unpublished novel twenty years ago, and while I set that book aside, the characters stayed with me. I’ve been working on the first two books off and on for the last four years, in between other projects. My previous novels have been inter-related, but weren’t as closely connected, and it took me a little time to figure out how to assemble a trilogy. It also required a couple of drafts to get to a longer length a lot of modern readers seem to prefer and keep the swift pacing I like.

 

LRR: Who was your favorite character to write?

 

HAJ: Honestly, I loved writing all of these characters. The swordswoman and enchantress Elenai, the novel’s principal protagonist, is an awful lot of fun because of her drive and curiosity, and I get a particular charge out of the brilliant, precise, and slightly peculiar Varama. She adds more than her body weight to any scene where she appears. Two of my initial inspirations were Corwin and Benedict of Amber because I always wanted to see more of both on the page. After more than two decades in my head, the two characters who started out as homages to them are their own people, but I had a blast writing the charming, deadly warrior and the tactical genius.

LRR: This is the beginning of a trilogy. Do you have the entire thing planned out, or will you just write and see where the story goes?

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Bird Box (movie)

Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Available on Netflix, Dec 21 2018

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Ya’ll know I don’t read or watch much horror. I’m not usually interested in being scared. Or maybe it’s that the things that fill me with indiscriminate terror are not the normal “scary” things?

 

Anyway, a number of years ago, Josh Mallerman’s debut horror thriller Bird Box made quite a splash. The jist of the story was If You See Them, You Will Die.   Not like “see it” like in The Ring movies, but if you looked at whatever this terrifying creature was, the sight of it would make you kill yourself. Was it the horror of what you’d seen? Did the creature brainwash you?  Who knows, and no one was going to find out. Bird Box is the scariest book I have ever read. You can read my review here.

 

Last year, I’d heard they were making a movie of Bird Box.  The first time i saw a preview for A Quiet Place, I hoped it was a preview for the movie Bird Box.  Obviously it wasn’t, not enough blindfolds.

 

A few weeks ago, I learned Bird Box would be on Netflix, and today, I got to watch it.

 

It’s been four years since I read the book, and to this day I remember being absolutely terrified by that book.   Surprising nobody, I watched the movie in broad daylight, with all the lights on.

 

First thoughts:

Sandra Bullock? I love her, but isn’t Malorie supposed to be a 20-something?

 

Wow 40-something Malorie, you are really, really unlikeable. What the fuck is your problem?  Do you have to be a bitch all the damn time?

 

John Malkovich, yeah! Haven’t seen him in ages, I love him!

 

Rest of the movie thoughts:

Just like in the book,  the movie gets going fast, and you’ll barely have time to breathe in the first half.  Malorie, newly single, isn’t excited about being pregnant. Her sister Jessica takes her to her doctor appointments, and Malorie is basically in denial that in a few months she will be bringing a new life into the world.

 

On the day Malorie begins to just maybe be ok with being pregnant, the world ends. Cars are on fire, people are running, there are explosions. Jessica walks in front a speeding bus.  A woman saves Malorie’s life by inviting her into a suburban house. Seconds later that same woman calmly gets into a burning car, and sits there, burning to death, while her husband watches from the house.   Go ahead and read that last sentence again, would you? I want this to sink in.

 

This is how the world ends. Invisible creatures that convince us to kill ourselves. The only way to survive, is to stop yourself from seeing them.  But if you do survive, then what? Do you just starve to death? How long will you wait before you just say Screw It, and go out and stare death in the face?

 

The choice to cast nearly everyone as middle aged adults made more sense when Olympia showed up. Young, spoiled, careless, Olympia looks like a walking advertisement for Pampered Chef or Tupperware parties. She knows she’s completely out of her league as soon as she meets the other people in the house.  Everyone else in the house has life experience, they know the same golden oldie songs, they’ve lost people. They view Olympia as a liability. You can see in Olympia’s face, as she looks around the room, that she knows she’s a liability.

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I was hoping to write full length reviews of these books, but well, life (and Netflix) happens, so I didn’t.  Here are some ultra quick reviews of some recent reads!

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I am finally on the Schwab bandwagon, and I can see why she has the following she has.  Vicious was hella fun! I described it to a friend as “gleefully violent”. Think Flatliners meets X-Men, But twice as snarky and three times as smart.  Tight writing, fast paced, not a wasted sentence. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book! I will def be reading the sequel, Vengeful.

 

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter –  I really loved the first book, Noumenon, and my Dad did too. So we read the 2nd book together.  I had a hard time getting into this book, very little of the characters I’d enjoyed so much from the first book. Had I not been reading it along with my Dad I would have DNF’d it. Too much felt like a plot device – too much of “ok, so this plot thing needs to happen for the story to go in this particular direction because that direction makes sense”, and then exactly that happened. The big reveal at the end wasn’t a surprise at all. I wish C had been a bigger part of this book.  Lots of great science and an intriguing first contact plot line, but execution was flawed.

 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal –  very fast paced, Kowal has a ton of story to cram into a not very long novel.  I loved the alternate history extinction level event – a meteor lands off the Atlantic coast, taking Washington DC with it. Within a few decades we may not be able to survive on Earth, so it’s to the stars we go! Elma is a “computer”, that is, she is a math savant who can do complicated calculations in her head faster than a 1950s computer can. She’s also a pilot. Who says women can’t be astronauts? Umm…   all the male astronauts, and the government,  that’s who. So Elma and all her female pilot friends will just have to prove them wrong. This book teetered right on the line of Punching You In The Face Every Other Page with all the isms. You might not even notice that aspect, you might love it, you might hate it.  This is a prequel to Kowal’s novellette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which you can still read over at Tor.com.

 

Bride’s Story vol 10 by Kaoru Mori – Finally the story is  back to Amir and Karlak! Karlak has decided to spend a few seasons with Amir’s family, so that he can learn how to hunt with a bow and understand more about her family’s nomadic culture.  Amir’s brothers and cousins quickly adopt Karlak, and even though he has a lot to learn, they treat him with respect. Karlak is even gifted with a hunting eagle. I think Karlak went into this expecting Amir’s brother and cousins to treat him like a child, like a “city boy”, like a joke.  And they treat him with hospitality and respect.  The artwork in the scenes with the eagles were incredible! I love this series for the artwork alone!  The last third of the volume goes back to Smith. He gets the surprise of his life, and he’s going to decide what to do with her. And she no longer has a home to return to. Volumes 7 – 9 were all over the place and didn’t have much focus, so I’m happy that this volume has more focus and features more of my favorite characters.

Watching!

 

I’ve gotten hooked on The Final Table on Netflix  – Think Iron Chef mixed with the drama of Chopped, but the dial cranked up to twelve. It’s over produced and more than a little ridiculous. Lol, maybe it’s Total. Drama. Cooking show! My favorite part has become the “final plate” portion. The judges for the final plate portion of each episode give supportive and positive feedback.  There is a contestant I wish had more screen time, he is slender, wears round glasses, and wears his brown hair in a ponytail. I want to know how long his hair is. He looks like an anime guy!

 

And speaking of anime,  I’ve also gotten hooked on Castlevania, also on Netflix.   An American version of the Japanese anime, this is paced and designed more to western tastes and expectations. I nearly cried in the first episode. The characters are snarky, sweary, fighty, and the dialog is fantastic.  I’m only 4 or 5 episodes in, and we just met Alucard, who is most certainly not the sleeping savior soldier. (I knew he had to show up eventually). Oh boy, my female gaze is strong with this one! How are those pants staying on?  I know (i hope at least) he’s not there just for fan service, but DAMN.  Anyway,  great characters who are snarky, sweary, smart, and sexy? And an excellent Dracula story? Um, yes please!

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. How about you? what have you read, watched, and enjoyed?

What happens every December?

Christmas? the Solstice?  not enough sunlight?

close!

 

Every December I get read for Vintage Science Fiction month in January!

I’ve been hosting this little party since 2012, by reading and celebrating science fiction and fantasy that is older than I am – that is, created in 1979 or earlier.  Over the years, the party has grown!  it’s grown so big I can’t host it alone anymore.  Red Star Reviews is my fantastic co-host, and we’ll be posting, tweeting, retweeting, insta-ing, tubing, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

Follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/VintageSciFi_ , find us on bookstagram, mention us on YouTube, retweet and share what your friends are doing.  January is a wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of month.

Here’s some artwork you can use:

I’m expecting January to be a bit busy, what with this and that.   But I still plan on enjoying some vintage reads, and helping our new VintageSciFi-ers find some old treats that they’ve probably never heard of.

 

With apologies to whatever has happened to the cover of this Kate Wilhelm book, here is my Vintage SciFi Month TBR:

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm was published in 1976. I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for at least 5 years, and  when I found this be-stickered copy at a used bookstore I snapped it up! now I just need some goo-gone and some patience to unveil the original cover art.

 

The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers was published in 1979 and was the author’s first major novel. I have no idea what this book is about (time travel? beer? saving the world?) , but Tim Powers is a little like being Batman: Always read whatever you want, unless you can read a Tim Powers book, then always read Tim Powers.  Powers is one of those authors that when I see a book of his that I don’t already own, I automatically buy it.

 

I was in a twitter conversation the other day about Where to Start With Asimov. I’ve always loved his I Robot stories, but I’ve read them to death. But it’s probably been ten years since I’ve read the Robot novels. Here’s to hoping these books aren’t too horribly dated!  The Caves of Steel was published in 1954.

 

So what’s on your #VintageSciFi list?

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

published October 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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You probably recognize Joe R. Lansdale’s name from his famous Hap and Leonard series, and fans of absurd comedy-horror will recognize his name from the novella turned movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

 

His recent short story collection Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories offers an odd yet satisfying mix of stories. There’s a little bit of everything in here – post apocalyptic, Depression era drama, the Old West,  wrestling, you name it. For the most part, these stories involve characters who have good intentions, people who are trying to do the right thing surrounded by societies that a broken down, corrupt, and in one case even a Lovecraftian hellscape.  The environments these characters are thrown into – no good can come out of these places. But these are all Lansdale characters, which means they will tell all the things that are working against them to fuck right off.

 

Each story is followed by Lansdale’s notes – was the story written for a particular editor or anthology? What was he thinking about when he wrote the stories? I wish these notes had preceded the stories instead of followed them, I found my interest grew when I started reading his notes first. (Update from the publisher:  The final version of the book has his notes before each story. I was reading an ARC.)

 

Before you hop into Driving to Geronimo’s Grave,  be aware that these are not science fiction of fantasy stories – This is character driven American Literature – only some of which has SF-nal or supernatural elements.  And if you are offended by swear words, don’t even pick this book up.

 

Here are my thoughts on the stories I enjoyed most.

 

My stand out favorite story was the Lovecraftian “In the Mad Mountains”  (2015). Survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on an icy plain. They can freeze to death, or try to survive.  Amelia and Gavin explore the area, find supplies, and try to guess where they are. It’s obvious there is some kind of creature who has picked off other people who may have found themselves here, and the mishmash of shipwrecks doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s terrifying, yet Amelia stays cool and has a scientific curiosity about where they may be. When the two of them find an airplane that appears to be in perfect working order, is it a trap, or an escape? If you’ve ever read any of Lovecraft’s original Cthulhu mythos short stories, you know a goodly chunk of it borders on unreadably bad.  But I love the idea of deep ones, of gods who wants and desires humans can never understand, I enjoy the mythos. “In The Mad Mountains” was an excellent combination of the mythos and inescapable terror I enjoy, combined with well paced action and smart characters.

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The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (The Masquerade #2)

published October 2018

where I got it:  purchased new

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I do love a character focused narrative, so The Traitor Baru Cormorant was right up my alley. That novel was narrowly focused on Baru – if she didn’t know about a city or a culture or specific laws, then the reader didn’t either. Luckily, that narrative was focused on things Baru knew – her childhood home, accounting, how to manipulate currency, and the local politics of Aurdwynn. At this point in Baru’s life, we didn’t need to know anything she didn’t know.

 

The sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, starts just as the first book in the series is ending. Baru’s mission to bring down Aurdwynn was more successful than anyone could have imagined.  Maybe too successful, in fact. She was supposed to keep her lover alive. Baru was supposed to allow the Empire to keep Tain Hu has a hostage against Baru’s “good behavior”. Baru may be a product of the Farrier process, but she’s also already seen how hostages are used to encourage “good behavior”.   The Empire will never have Tain Hu.

 

Baru is now the only hostage-less cryptarch.  The other cryptarchs don’t know what to make of this – does this make her more powerful than they? More unpredictable and therefore less powerful?  They have nothing they can hold of Baru, and everyone knows it. You’ll notice I’m not mentioning the other Cryptarchs by name, because spoilers.

 

In my mind, this series has become an asymmetrical crystal chandelier of sorts.  Each aspect (Baru’s lack of hostage, nature vs nurture, the culture of the Mbo, trim, the cancrioth, how you can never go home, etc) is another facet cut into the crystal that changes how the light from the center of the chandelier falls on the room.  And depending on where you are standing, maybe you’ll see direct light, or indirect light, or only a pattern of shifting shadows. The Empire of Masks means something very different, depending on where you are standing. It follows that if you don’t like the view from where you are, that a change in perspective is all you need to see in full spectrum.

 

Those who stand in Falcrest believe they are the center of the world, the center of civilization. Those who stand in Lonjaro Mbo and Segu Mbo probably feel bad for the Falcresti, with their lack of trim, isolating culture, and limited currency.  It’s also interesting to me, how few Cryptarchs are Falcresti by birth, people now forced to serve an Empire that they have zero cultural connection to.

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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.
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