published: September 2016
where I got it: received review copy (Thanks Orbit!!)
The Last Days of Jack Sparks was the perfect brain candy book to be reading just before and just after the recent election. What I mean by “brain candy” is that this is the kind of book that gallops along at a breakneck pace and the reader is just along for the ride. You’re gonna have a lot of fun, you’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cringe, you might have a few deep thoughts right there at the end, but generally speaking this is not a think-y book. It’s a hand-to-mouth candy book. And it was exactly what I needed in those middle weeks of November when my facebook and twitter feeds were a shitshow.
Journalist and author Jack Sparks will do just about anything for attention. And the only thing bigger than his ego is his need to disprove the paranormal once and for all. After a FastFood Nation-esque experiential documentary book called “Jack Sparks on Drugs”, he spent a few weeks in rehab and then decided his next project would be Jack Sparks disproves the supernatural. Ghosts, poltergeists, exorcisms, hauntings, spirits, and more, Jack will prove they are all a sham. For the first half of this book, every time Jack talked (which was a LOT), I heard Anthony Bourdain’s voice.
Most of The Last Days of Jack Sparks are Jack’s drafts and notes for his novel. Recorded in his snarky and often disrespectful voice, Jack makes light of exorcisms, hauntings, mediums, and basically everything he encounters. The rest of this novel are e-mails between Jack’s estranged brother Alistair, Jack’s roommate Rebecca, and a few other people. Because, you see, the stories of what happened that fateful November don’t match up. Someone has their story either somewhat wrong, or very horribly wrong.
published in 2014
where I got it: purchased new
Are you a fan of the movie Galaxy Quest? Do you enjoy quoting Zapp Brannigan and quoting things he might say? Are you a Star Trek fan who makes fun of the show in good fun and out of love? If you answered Yes to any of those questions, Steven Erickson’s Willful Child is for you.
Like many original Star Trek episode scripts, Willfull Child is not as a whole what I would describe as a good book. The pacing is off, the characters are pretty flat, the dialog is stilted. And all of that is part of the joke. Erikson is playing around with Star Trek tropes, science fiction tropes, humor tropes, and human exploration tropes and having buckets of fun with along the way. Captain Hardrian Sawback is the bastard child of Zapp Brannigan and Eric Cartman, the Terran Space Fleet’s mission is to subjugate or maybe obliterate as many life forms as possible, and the further you get into this book, the more you’ll be laughing. The country music programming joke is still my favorite.
And Yes, this is the same Steven Erickson who is famous for his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. After writing that many heavy fantasy novels, I’d say he more than deserves a humorous palette cleanser of a novel.
published Sept 2016
where I got it: purchased new
Fix is the final entry in Ferrett Steinmetz’s ‘Mancy trilogy. If you’re just joining us, check out my reviews of the first two books, Flex and The Flux, and don’t read any further in this review because hey, spoilers for the first two books. Fix takes place a few years after The Flux – Aliyah is a teenager, Paul and Imani are back together, Valentine and Robert are trying to make things work, and the whole family is living in hiding. But what are you gonna do with a bored and lonely teenager? Take her to play some soccer, of course. Take the world’s youngest and most talented videogamemancer to play youth soccer?? This is not going to end well.
Not only does the soccer game go poorer than anyone expected, Aliyah’s magic is exposed and now she’s on the radar of the Unimancers, the government hive mind of their captured ‘mancers. Paul and Valentine are literally going to have to up their game to ensure Aliyah’s safety.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Ferrett Steinmetz at Conventions and attend his readings. My friends, if you ever find yourself in the same city as Ferrett, get yourself in the same room with him in the hopes you will hear him read his work. The man has an amazing voice. At first it seems he’s reading slowly. But no, those are deliberate, planned pauses. Those are moments in which the words he is saying (and not just the sound, but the words and the meaning and the weight) sink in. He’s doing you a favor – giving you time to absorb and digest what you are hearing. While I was reading Fix I heard Ferrett’s voice reading it to me. Slower than I usually read, a kindly and sympathetic voice encouraged me to slow down to experience the full effect of getting kicked in the feels in nearly every chapter. Thanks Ferrett, for making my cry for like an hour while finishing this book!
published October 2016
where I got it: Accessed ARC via Netgalley
If people had a chance to start fresh, to start again with no history, how could things in our world be different? With no memories, you have no guilt, no regrets, and no shame. You can truly start fresh. And that would be great, right?
Although Faller follows two very intense and ultra fast paced story lines, you’ll have no problem keeping track of what’s happening in each plotline. One plotline follows brilliant scientist Peter Sandoval and his colleagues as they develop technologies, and the other follows a populace that has been afflicted with biographical amnesia. People can remember how to use a can opener, how to use a gun, what a telephone is. But no one remembers what their name is, where they live, or who they are married to. And the telephones aren’t ringing anymore because there is no electricity. Some people open wallets to find photos of assumed loved ones, yet one man’s pockets are empty except for a photo of him and a beautiful woman, a plastic army guy with a parachute, and a drawing that makes no sense.
As in all his novels, McIntosh has seeded a garden of abundant visuals, and as the story progresses, it’s as if the flowers are bursting into bloom. The man who spent the morning fidgeting with a plastic army guy and a parachute ends up building a parachute and jumping off a building. But he doesn’t land on the road, in fact he doesn’t land at all. Known as Faller, he falls right off the edge of the world. While reading, I could see a visual novel unfolding in my mind, complete with shadowed faces and moments of clarity that last pages as people take the plunge towards the consequences of their decisions.
That man falls, and falls, and falls. Until he reaches the next world. When will he find what he’s looking for? How fall will he need to fall?
If you could ask your great grandparents what their life was like when they were growing up, you would, right?
If you could go back in time and see what your country and your family were like before social media took over the universe, you’d be interesting in seeing what the world was like, right?
This January, you can. This January, I invite you to travel through time with me. Travel into the past, look into the youthful eyes of your great grandparents. See what came before so we could have what we have now.
Ok, maybe not time travel exactly. . . but sort of.
Everything comes from somewhere. You came from your parents, duh. But who are the parents of your favorite science fiction books? I’ll tell you: the parents of your favorite science fiction books are the books that author read to be inspired and to dream. And those books have parents too. If you don’t like me using the word “book parents” here, how about “the author’s influences”? Something they were influenced and inspired by to create something new and modern.
By reading older fiction, you get to see how that fiction progressed to get to where it is today. You get to experience the family tree, as it were, of speculative fiction.
To learn more, click on “Vintage Sci-Fi Not-A-Challenge” tab up top. This is not a reading challenge. You do not have to do anything. You can read one book or ten. You can listen to a radio broadcast, you can watch and old movie or old TV shows. You can post a comment, a few sentences, a full on book review, a video blog post, you can just lurk if you want. There is one rule: what you read/listen to/view/ discuss should be older than me. If it was born before 1979 it’s fair game for Vintage Month.
I’ll be posting again about Vintage Month in December, but in the meantime, help get the word out, because like every party the more the merrier. I’m taking a break from social media for a little while, so have fun talking about Vintage Month on twitter by using #VintageSciFi and #VintageSciFiMonth, and following @VintageSciFi_ (don’t forget the Underscore at the end!), which is run by the amazing and enthusiastic Jacob at Red Star Reviews. If you’re on other social media feel free to chat about it there too.
an you believe 2017 will be the 6th year of Vintage Month??? I can’t!
It’s Red Alert for the Interstellar Patrol. Are you ready to take a trip back in time?
Where do “it’s Monday what are you reading?” memes and Scifi Month intersect? Right here, with this fun little questionnaire!
- What scifi book(s) are you reading?
- What about this book is most enjoyable?
- what Scifi book(s) did you most recently finish reading?
- have you ever read anything by these authors before? Would you read more from them?
I’ll go first.
I’m currently reading The Narrator by Michael Cisco. It’s very atmospheric and poetic, a joy to read. It feels a little like Sofia Samatar meets Gene Wolfe by way of China Mieville. So yes, enjoying it very much!! I recently finished Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz and Willful Child by Steven Erickson. The Steinmetz is the final book in his ‘mancy trilogy, and I will happily read anything this man writes. Fix is more urban fantasy you say? Maybe, but it sure does have science fiction elements to it as well! Willful Child was fun enough once I got into it, so I might read the sequel.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube. Her YA novels have won two Gelett Burgess Awards, and she’s twice been nominated for the Andre Norton award. She’s the author of Wild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming, the AlphaOops series, the ongoing Arilland Fairy Tale series, and her short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Shimmer Magazine, Shroud Magazine, and various anthologies.
Alethea’s newest novel is Haven, Kansas. She was kind enough to let me in on all the behind the scenes secrets of how this accidentally humorous and on-purpose scary horror novel came about, her Traveling Sideshow, how she scored such beautiful cover art for this newest novel, and more. Learn more about Alethea at her website AletheaKontis.com, her Patreon site, or follow her on twitter @AletheaKontis.
And Alethea? If you’d like to place your next novel in Hell, here you go. While she’s brainstorming on that plot, let’s the rest of us enjoy this fantastic interview!
Little Red Reviewer: Haven, Kansas is first and foremost a horror story, but it’s also very humorous! Did you set out from the start to include funny lines, or did they just grow with the story as you were writing? What’s the trick to successfully mixing humor and horror?
Alethea Kontis: I’ve been writing regularly—and submitting for publication—since I was eight years old. Due to a genius-level aptitude for math and science (because: irony), I did not take a formal class on fiction writing until I was 27 (Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp). One of the things I learned in that class was, “Humor sells. But it is almost impossible to write, and write well, so just don’t do it.” So I didn’t do it. I didn’t even try. I wrote dialogue I felt was real, and true to my characters, and I moved on.
And then I started hearing back from readers. I mean, beyond the AlphaOops books, because they were supposed to be funny….but like, I remember one of the first reviewers for Dearest said how it was the most romantic and funniest novel I had ever written, and I was shocked. Really? Romantic, yes, but I didn’t write it to be funny! I just created a world that included seven brothers who talked smack to each other, like every bunch of guys I’ve ever hung out with. I felt much the same way when I started getting feedback about the humor in Haven, Kansas. Humor and horror? Who does that? But I’m one of those crazy people who will cry all the way up to a funeral and then almost burst out laughing in the middle of the ceremony. Humor and hurt and fear and love…they’re all feelings—true feelings—that we all feel, whether we have control over them or not.