the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Elizabeth Bear’ Category

Scattered throughout the month, I’ll be posting reviews of selected stories of The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.  If something you read here or on any of the other blogs participating in the blog tour gets your attention, I encourage you seek the story out on the Apex website. And if you like what you see? Consider purchasing a subscription to the magazine, or one of their anthologies.  Consider leaving a comment on their website, or on twitter, or on the blog post. You’ve got an opinion and thoughts? I’d like to hear ‘em.

What I love about the fiction published by Apex is that it’s not straight up scifi, or straight up fantasy, or straight up anything, really. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s true fantastika. Stories that can’t possibly happen in real life, but as you are reading, you so very much *want* it to be happening.  The ultimate in suspension of disbelief. Many of your favorite authors have been published in Apex magazine, along with new authors who are soon to become favorites.  And that’s what Apex does – they take the cream of the crop of the strangest of the strange, scratching that itch you hadn’t known you had until it was relieved.

This is the stuff you can’t get anywhere else, it’s that flavor that’s part bloody sunset, part crystal constellation, part fever dream. It’s like walking into that weird little bar on the corner (you know, the one with no windows? that one.), and playing it cool. You ask the bartender what they recommend, and they bring you a pint of something dark.  You think you know what it is, but that first sip tells you this is something very different. It starts out gentle, even a little sweet, but then ends with an unexpected bite, so sharp you wonder if you’ve bit your lip because you swear you taste blood in your mouth. This is that unlabeled, brewed in the back, only available for people who ask for it by name type of drink.

The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak – The first thing you need to know about this story is that you’re not going to get through it without crying. Lewis is excited to finally be an older brother. After the complications of Lewis’s birth, no one expected his mother to be able to carry another child to term. But a miracle happened, and little Joe was born.  but Joe didn’t stay little for long. He cut his first tooth shortly after being born. Within the hour they were chasing him around the hospital.  He’d nearly grown out of his baby clothes by the time his father caught him for the taxi ride home. Within 12 hours he was fully grown, and leaving his 15 year old older brother behind when he went out drinking.  You can see where this is going, can’t you? Joe’s mother knew, the first time she saw him, that she was going to lose him.  There’s something especially tragic about stories where you know from the opening paragraph that it’s going to end badly.  Like I said, you’re not going to get through this one without crying.

The Leavings of the Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear – Dagmar runs to get away from her divorce. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  She runs to lose weight.  If she loses enough weight, she’ll be able to pry that wedding band off her finger, that gleaming golden reminder of everything that went horribly wrong in her life.  And interspersed with her running is a floating story line, a dialog between her and an ex. But the thing is, this extra story line? You don’t know when exactly it’s happening. Was it years ago? a few weeks ago? yesterday?   The weight of these few extra lines here and there are like the mark a wedding band leaves on your finger after years of wear: you don’t know anymore who you are without the mark.  Anyways,  on her morning run, Dagmar often sees the same murder of crows, it’s that group she’s been studying, anklebanding, and researching for the University. The crows know her, she knows the them, and she even makes the occasional Thought and Memory joke.  One day she meets someone who might be a God, it’s not a joke anymore. And he tells her why she’s still running.  We’re all running from something, and sometimes it’s only the fear of losing a mark that tells us who we thought we were supposed to be.  I’ve run hot and cold with Bear’s fiction in the past, and this one hit me hard.  In a good way.

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So last night, the husband says “you know what? we haven’t got enough books”.

I look around our small apartment. The bookshelves are bulging, the coffee table is covered in books, the floor under the coffee table has stacks of book, my bedside table is covered in books, husband’s desk is covered in books,  our apartment looks like a library threw up. It’s a miracle the kitchen table and chairs aren’t covered in books.

“you’re right sweetheart”, I responded, quite seriously. “I’ll have to fix that”

While I’m working on a review, here’s a few items that recently snuck into the apartment, while I wasn’t looking, of course. Most of this batch falls under the category of borrowed.

Have you read any of these? which do you recommend? which look interesting? what should I dive into first? what should I skip?

A Guile of Dragons – this is the new from from James Enge, creator of Morlock Ambrose. This appears to be first in a new series, although  connected to his previous Morlock books. I read The Wolf Age and Blood of Ambrose, and while I remember them being entertaining, I also remember Enge having some major pacing issues. Let’s hope he’s worked those out.

Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan – high priority to read, as it’s my local scifi bookclub’s choice for Sept. This seems to be a relativistic story of beating time by changing how fast it moves (in relation to you, of course). I have high hopes. Egan has about a dozen books out so far, anyone read any of them? This will be my first by him.

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Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Published in 2012

where I got it: Library











Would you just look at that cover art? I would have a poster of that artwork on my bedroom wall in a heartbeat.

Strong female characters who kick ass without having to give up an ounce of their femininity? check. Creepy bad guy? check. A protagonist you actually want to root for? check. Worldbuilding that goes the extra mile? check. Mythologies that come alive on the page? double check.  Everyone is going apeshit over this book, and for good reasons.  If anything I mentioned earlier in this paragraph got your attention, Range of Ghosts is probably a book for you.

Our story starts on a battlefield within the Khaganate lands, where Prince Temur has been left for dead. Under The Eternal Sky, a tiny moon shines for every heir. Once, there were over a hundred. But the great Khagan died, and his heirs fight for his throne, shattering alliances and slaughtering brothers, sons, friends. As Temur looks to the Eternal sky, fewer and fewer moons remain. His brother’s moon has gone dim, but his uncle’s still shines bright.

After leaving the carnage of the battlefield, Temur heads for the safety of the mountains, and meets up with the refugee clans of his people. Many of the families lost all their young men in the battles, so a young man of marriageable age is far more valuable to them than a prince. Happy to live out his life as a simple man, Temur wisely keeps his mouth shut regarding his lineage, and is soon unofficially betrothed to Edene, the great granddaughter of a clan matriarch.  When Edene is stolen away by the ghosts of the battlefield slain, Temur vows to rescue her.

As the Khaganate falls under the weight of too many heirs, far to the West someone is breeding filth. Through the dark arts of a glass book, the Al-Sepehr has learned the magics of binding the dead to his will. The more deaths in the Khaganate lands, the larger of an army of dead he will have under his power. All that is left is to sew more and more discontent and anger among the few remaining heirs to the Khaganate.  Why fight a war of territory with your barbaric neighbors when you can make them kill themselves for you?

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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.