the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

Zachary Jernigan imaveZachary Jernigan’s debut novel No Return received plenty of outstanding press.  Reviewers compared it to the epic scale of Frank Herbert’s Dune and the surreal strangeness of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, describing it as daring, hypnotic, and raising the bar.  The sequel to No Return,  Shower of Stones, hits bookstore shelves on July 7th.  Zachary was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his work.

 

Little Red Reviewer: No Return has been described as genre-defying, hypnotic, and a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. What inspired you to write No Return? Was it a challenge to blend genres and to have wizards and astronauts in the same world?

Zachary Jernigan: First off, thank you so much for having me! It means the world to be interviewed by invested fans and critics of the genre.

In answer to your question, my inspiration has always been other people’s writing. Authors like Samuel Delany, Roger Zelanzy, and Cordwainer Smith, specifically, are points of reference. With No Return, I wanted to re-create for a reader the same sense of wonder and possibility that I experience reading work that deals in big, world-shattering themes without restricting itself to just science fiction or fantasy. I love cool-looking characters doing impossible things in crazy places, but I also like those narratives to be written well. Hopefully, I’m paying proper homage to my literary idols and not embarrassing myself.

And yes, it was definitely a challenge. I mean, writing is always a challenge for me, but world-building is particularly taxing — perhaps especially so when mixing genres so obviously. Keeping all that crazy stuff consistent, in my own head but also within the story, was kinda hellish. Fun, but still hellish.

Some writers love all that creation and it doesn’t stress them out. I love it, too, but accounting for everything stresses me out.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

voyage basilisk coverVoyage of the Basilisk, by Marie Brennan

published March 2015

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in Marie Brennan’s “Lady Trent” series. If you’re just joining us, I suggest skimming or skipping this review, as there are unavoidable spoilers. But do take a look at my reviews for the earlier books in the series!

For the last six years, Isabella Camherst has been second guessing some of her decisions in Eriga, allowing her townhouse to become a gathering place for the intelligentsia and curious, and raising her son Jake.  She pours over research and samples, trying to understand how to categorize the known species of dragons. There is quite a bit of talk of what makes something a dragon, or simply a reptile (if Pluto is a planet, why is this larger thing not a planet?). Is it the extraordinary breath? having wings? having a bird-like bone structure?  Are sea serpents not quite dragons since they don’t have wings, or even legs?  She’ll simply have to study them more!

Her plans come to fruition, and along with Jake and his governess, and fellow researcher Tom Wilker, she finds herself on the Royal Ship Basilisk, which is captained by Dione Aekinitos, known as the mad Captain.  Tiny quarters will be their home for at least the next year, but who cares? Isabella and Tom will have the chance to study sea serpents, fire lizards, and other species the most Anthiopians have only ever heard about second or third hand. Part of her funding has come from a local society, so part of her letters home include dispatches, essays, and researches to be published publicly.

Of course, things do not go as planned. She does see sea serpents. and fire lizards.  And meets a handsome and engaging archeologist. And has a secret marriage.  And there are politics and pirates and volcanoes. And references to Linear A, the Rosetta Stone, and how to translate untranslatable languages. And like in the first two books, there is much in the way of Isabelle the elder taking pains to “set the story straight”, and to make sure the reader knows that when she was traveling she had no way of knowing what people were saying or doing back home.

Read the rest of this entry »

american craftsmen coverAmerican Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Tom!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Is it possible to really enjoy a book, but to at the same time be incredibly frustrated with it? It’s completely possible, and doesn’t stop you from enjoying the hell out of something. And it’s the experience I had with Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen.

 

The book starts with a bang, and gets off to a fantastic start. US Army Captain Dale Morton has his mission switched at the last minute, and something goes terribly wrong, pushing him to contemplate leaving the military. But, he’s a Morton. He *can’t* leave the military. This is where I fell in love with the premise of the novel. Morton is a Craftsman. Passed down through the generations, his family has held magical powers since the creation of the United States. Through agreements with the government, the Craft families have always protected the land and the country.  Along with the other Craftsman families, Morton is part of a secret unit in the US Military.  Unlike other Craft families, Dale can never escape his own family’s past.

 

Dale was a great point of view character, he’s brave but vulnerable, someone willing take risks and bend the rules when circumstances allow.  And oh, didn’t I mention? He has daily chats with his late grandfather’s ghost, and the house they live in has a personality all it’s own. I loved house!

 

House protects the Mortons, and keeps the older ghosts trapped in the basement. A few generations ago, a branch of the family, known as the Left Hand branch, went bad. They allowed their magic to be corrupted by greed. Dale knows their power surges through him. He just has to keep it at bay and not fall into the trap of their promises.

 

You’re gonna love House. You’re also gonna love the Sanctuary and The Gideons.

 

Ok, that’s most of what I liked. Let me tell you what frustrated me.

Read the rest of this entry »

flights of fictionFlights of Fiction, edited by Gery Deer and Barbara Huiner Deer

published in 2013

where I got it: received a copy from Gery Deer (thanks Gery!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I’m one of those terrible people who ignores the table of contents in an anthology. I read the stories in whatever order I please. Yes, I know this negates all the hard work the editor has put into choosing a proper order for the stories, and yet. And yet I should I have read Flights of Fiction in order, or at least read the opening story first, and the closing story last. The opening story, “The Dead of Winter” is one helluva opener – dark, subtle and twisty, and the closing story, “Kayfabe”, balances a secret of magic with the inevitability of a life at its end. This anthology was put together by WOWA, the Western Ohio Writers Association. A humorous description of how the book came to exist is on the back cover:

 

“in 2008, a group of authors in Dayton, Ohio, got together for the sole purprose of ripping each other to shreds, leaving behind the mangled hopes of promising scribes who lay finally broken and decaying on the floor. After that, robbed of all dignity, they went out for coffee and decided to write a book.”

 

All of the stories take place in Ohio, but you don’t need to be from Ohio (or even be able to find it on a map) to enjoy this collection. Here are some thoughts on my favorite stories:

“The Dead of Winter” by Michael Martin – A near-perfect opener to set the tone of some of the darker tales, with an effective whisper of a first line:

 

“What I’m going to tell you only makes sense if you believe that I love my wife”.

 

A post-apocalyptic middle America isn’t a new playground by any means, but pay close attention to the man’s relationship and interaction with his wife. How he makes sure she’s protected, how he takes care of her as if she can’t take care of herself, her silence. Your observant mind is telling you one thing, but the man in the story, he’s telling you something very different. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for “it” to happen, what I didn’t realize until the closing sentence was that it had already happened, and he truly does love his wife. I fricken’ loved this story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Confusion ProgramA few weekends ago I was at Confusion, a fan run scifi convention in Detroit Michigan. This is my fourth year attending Confusion, and every year there are more “hey, great to see you!”’s, more hugs, more great conversations, more random meetings with people I was hoping to run into (but didn’t know what they looked like until now), and more happy surprises.  Long story short is that Confusion is a fan-freaking-tastic convention, and if you live within driving distance of Detroit, you should consider going.

 

this year’s Confusion was a whole new con for me, for two reasons:

 

I was on panels

and

People knew who I was

 

We arrived after dinner on Friday, just in time for Opening Ceremonies.  That event leads into the Dessert Reception, where you can get pastries and cookies and such and mingle with the special guests. I was hoping to introduce myself to Karen Lord, because I’d recently interviewed her at SFSignal. I caught up with her as she was finishing a conversation with someone else, and introduced myself. And she knew who I was! We had a very nice chat and I may have nearly passed out.

Karen Lord reading from The Best of All Possible Worlds

Karen Lord reading from The Best of All Possible Worlds

Read the rest of this entry »

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

Read the rest of this entry »

dragonsbane coverDragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly

published 1985

where I got it: paperbackswap

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Raised on the glorious and romantic epics of old, Gareth knows all the songs and heroic tales. He can tell you verse by verse exactly how the hero slayed the monster with one swing of his gleaming sword. And it must be true, because that is how the story goes. On the words of ballads, Gareth travels north to find John Aversin, the Dragonsbane.  The most honorable man in the kingdom, John slayed a dragon and asked no reward in return. Out of love for King and kingdom, he put his life at risk and returned victorious.

 

All the stories Gareth learned were wrong.

 

To Gareth’s court trained eyes, all he sees in John Aversin is a northern barbarian who is more interested in animal husbandry than slaying dragons. Sickened by the thought that John’s mistress Jenny Waynest is a magewitch, Gareth can barely look her in the eye. John lives his life by living his life – a passionate but untrained naturalist, he fills his libraries with what books can be found, learns from the local farmers, and is more sad that the dragon he slayed decomposed before he could study it than proud that he killed it.  John sees the journey south as a bargaining opportunity. If he saves the capitol from a dragon, the King will have no choice but to send troops and support north to help rebuild the crumbling northern territories, right?

 

As Gareth, John and Jenny journey south, it becomes pretty obvious Gareth isn’t telling them the whole truth. Some of it you’ll guess, and some comes out pretty soon, but there are nasty surprises awaiting them once they reach the King’s court.

 

But that isn’t what this book is about.

 

Let me tell you all about Jenny Waynest.  Because without her, Dragonsbane would be exactly the bland tropey adventure story that the cover art leads you to think it is.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,417 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Categories

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.