the Little Red Reviewer

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).

china mountain zhangChina Mountain Zhang, by Maureen F. McHugh

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used



How to describe the plot of this book? Impossible. There are no grand quests, or enemies to defeat, or betrayals or heroes or world changing events or any of that. What China Mountain Zhang does offer is intimacy and intense subtlety in an SFnal world.  On the one hand, this is a quiet story of a man in hiding, who only lets the world see of him what they wish to see. If the safest thing for the public to see is a marriageable Asian with a decent job, that is what he will present to them. On the other hand, underneath the facade, underneath the social demands Rafael is crushed under, he is eternally screaming.  This is a story about how the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.


Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr Award and the Locus Award for best first novel, and nominated for the Hugo and Locus award, China Mountain Zhang isn’t your typical SF novel.  Reading like literature, enjoyment of this novel is like discovering a new variety of wine you never knew existed and whose flavor you can’t describe, but you know you’ll be taking an entire case home with you.


China Mountain Zhang takes place about a hundred years from now, after America’s socialist civil war, after China came to our rescue and became the promised land, after Martian colonies were established. In America, to be Chinese means to get preferential treatment –  better jobs, better apartments,  easy acceptance to the top universities in China.  To this end, Rafael goes by the Chinese name Zhong Shan, and doesn’t tell any of his co-workers what he does after work. He can pass for Chinese, and that’s all that matters. No one needs to know that his mother is Hispanic.

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What are you doing Sunday November 1st?   You’re hanging out right here for the AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Julie Czerneda, that’s what!  She’ll be answering questions live in the comments, and i’ll be approving comments as fast as I can.  We’ll be celebrating her forthcoming novel, This Gulf of Time and Stars which hits bookstore shelves on Nov 3rd,  and picking her brain on all sorts of other fun things.

(Links! My review of This Gulf of Time and Stars,  Amazon pre-order link, Julie Czerneda’s website, facebook fan page, Julie Czerneda’s twitter)

I don’t know about you, but I want to know how she came up with the idea for the Dhryn, how she gets schoolkids excited about science and biology, how writing fantasy is different than writing SF, how she keeps such a huge cast of characters straight, what’s her favorite food, and about a million more questions.

Wanna submit a question early? E-mail them to me at redhead5318 at that gmail period com place.  I’ll get them pre-loaded for the big event.

What’s this you say about a give away?  why yes, yes there will be  give aways as part of the AMA! Ask a question on Nov 1st or comment that you’re interested in being entered, and you’ll be eligible to win an audiobook (international) or a Hardback (US or Canada) of This Gulf of Time and Stars. Stay tuned for more details!


The AMA is part of the Blog Tour for This Gulf of Time and Stars.

station 11Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

published 2014

where I got it: published new





Station Eleven thinks it’s about a woman named Kirsten who survives the apocalypse. But it’s really about those months and years that lead up to the awful events at the end of the world, those specific moments and events that will give Kirsten something to live for and keep looking for later, when she has nothing.  I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Station Eleven. I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.


Mandel made a wise choice in telling this story in non-chronological order. If she’d told us the story in the exact order things happen, we’d know the ending right from the start. Things might be a surprise for Kirsten,  but they wouldn’t be a surprise for the reader. By giving us bits and pieces that happened now and then, the twists and turns are as equally a surprise for the reader as they are for the characters. Mandel teases all the connections out at just the right pace, with the starkness and sparseness of a placid planet that no longer has electricity or gasoline.


The center of the time line is a theater in snowy Toronto, a few weeks before a flu epidemic sends planet earth back to the dark ages. Kirsten is an eight year old child actress, doing Shakespeare alongside the famous Arthur Leander.  As an adult, Kirsten will remember very little of her childhood, but she’ll always remember the night Arthur had a heart attack and died on stage. This is the beginning of the end, in more ways than one. It was especially interesting, that a character who dies in the opening chapter  becomes a major character later on. It’s a trick you can pull when telling a story out of order!


Twenty years after the world ends, Kirsten travels with a caravan called the Traveling Symphony. She still performs Shakespeare.


Twenty years before the world ended, Arthur was enjoying the beginnings of fame. He was still in love with his first wife.

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51FDYgEMAsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie Czerneda (Reunification #1)

publishes Nov 3rd, 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks DAW!)





If you’ve been following Julie Czerneda’s writing career, the phrase “a new Clan Chronicles novel!” is music to your ears. I discovered Czerneda through her Species Imperative trilogy, and quickly fell in love with her invitingly conversational  writing style, her characterization, and the way she writes alien species. Seriously, this woman is the ultimate master of writing convincing alien species. Formally trained as a biologist, Czerneda’s plots touch on evolution,  biology, ecology, and how it’s all related.  She’ll introduce you to an alien civilization and then prove their population isn’t living on their planet of origin, she’ll give a species a strong evolutionary process and then prove that it doesn’t quite work as planned. It’s true, physics and math will get us to the stars, but it’s biology that will give us the answers to whatever and whoever we find living out there.

I think the biggest question surrounding This Gulf of Time and Stars is can readers new to this series jump in here? The answer is it depends on the reader. If you don’t mind feeling a little in the deep end (some of my favorite authors have thrown me into the deep end, to fantastic results – looking at you China Mieville and Iain M. Banks!), or you’re willing to take 5 minutes to do a little research by reading Czerneda’s informative and entertaining Big Idea post over at Scalzi’s Whatever, you’ll do fine. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers to have everything explained right off the bat, you may prefer to start earlier in the series. Generally speaking, Czerneda is the kind of author who simply doesn’t explain things right away – part of her character’s journeys involves discovering for themselves what’s going on, and how, and why. and when I say “discovering for themselves”, I don’t mean coming of age (although some of her novels would qualify as coming of age), I mean discovering genetic secrets and information that  could tear apart an entire society and species. We’re talking big picture here.

This review does have SPOILERS for the first books in the series, and some SPOILERS for This Gulf of Time and Stars.

Here’s the very quick and dirty background of the series, the characters, and the world, in which I have grossly simplified everything in the name of brevity:

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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.