the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

willful-childWillful Child, by Steven Erickson

published in 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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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.

kifandzapp

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.

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faller-novelFaller, by Will McIntosh

published October 2016

where I got it:  Accessed ARC via Netgalley

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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?

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Where do “it’s Monday what are you reading?” memes and Scifi Month intersect?  Right here, with this fun little questionnaire!

 

  1. What scifi book(s)  are you reading?
  2. What about this book is most enjoyable?
  3. what Scifi book(s) did you most recently finish reading?
  4. have you ever read anything by these authors before? Would you read more from them?

 

I’ll go first.

the-narrator-cisco

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.

fix-steinmetz

 

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darwiniaDarwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

published 1998

where I got it: purchased used

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In spring of 1912, something so incredible happened, many people believed it to be a  divine miracle. That march, a circle of land enclosing Western Europe, much of the Mediterranean, and some of North Africa disappeared, and was instantaneously replaced with . . .  something new. The land was still there, but all the people, cities, buildings, animals, technology, everything was gone, replaced by strange new plants and animals. It was as if evolution had gone down a slightly different path countless eons ago. Rivers were in slightly different places, mountain ranges not exactly as they had been.  What was once Europe has now become Darwinia.

 

This world would never have a World War, the Titanic would never leave port, The Russian Revolution and Spanish Flu would never happen. Edgar Rice Burroughs publishes a novel called “Lost Kingdom of Darwinia”.  Alternate history indeed.  Scientists, biologists, naturalists and frontiersmen across the planet become nearly obsessed with the new world.  New species to categorize, a whole new frontier to explore and dominate.

 

Guilford Law was twelve years old when the “miracle” occurred. Now in his twenties, he and his family travel to what was once London where he has been hired on as a photographer for a scientific expedition. London is now a frontier town, population a few hundred.  The expedition starts out well enough, with the scientists arguing about the plants and animals they find that have obviously been around longer than the land has been like this. They find trees with decades worth of rings,  animals and insects that have evolved through countless generations, giant midden heaps around insect hives, the evolved skulls of predators.  If this new world has only existed for eight years, where did all the plants and creatures do their evolving?  As this line of inquiry gets more and more fascinating, the expedition hits some bad luck, and Law barely makes it back to London alive.  (I’d thought the expedition was going to be the main plot of the book, I couldn’t have been more wrong!) And don’t even get me started on the strange dreams the expedition members have, and what else they find in the jungle.

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tade-thompsonTade Thompson’s work has appeared in Apex Magazine, Interzone, Escape Pod, African Monsters, and in numerous anthologies. Most recently, his horror novella “The Murders of Molly Southbourne” was acquired by Tor.com. His work combines thrillers with horror, first contact with mythology, and a voice that is purely Tade. His newest  novel, Rosewater, out of Apex Publications, will be available in November.  Part alien invasion story, part psychological thriller, and all intelligence, this novel is sure to make an impression.

 

Tade’s debut novel, Making Wolf, won the Golden Tentacle Award at the Kitchies.  He’s taught science fiction writing classes, loves the Netflix show Stranger Things, and suffuses his longhand manuscripts with arrows, flowcharts and doodles. All this is to say he’s an author you need to keep your eye on.  Be sure to check out Tade’s website and his twitter feed @tadethompson.

 

Tade was kind enough to let me pick is brain about Rosewater, the joys of writing and brainstorming longhand, and his favorite writers.

rosewater
Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your new novel, Rosewater! What inspired this story, and how did the characters and plot come together?

Tade Thompson: Thank you! The ideas came first. I spent ages ruminating on a particular theme, almost as an exercise. Why would aliens come to Earth? I wrote a short story in the universe many years ago, and kept extrapolating. Then my main character, Kaaro, presented himself, and I started on the first draft. The plot grew around him and it changed quite a bit over subsequent drafts. At one point, for example, it was going to be a dark love story. Let’s just be grateful that didn’t happen. The most important aspect of Kaaro was his flawed character. His personality has been scored and mutilated by life. I fractured the story because that’s what I enjoy. Alejandro Inarritu, when talking about the film “21 Grams”, said that stories are rarely told in a linear fashion in real life. There are always digressions and culs-de-sac. I subscribe to that idea.

LRR: Aliens are so much fun to write, that authors have been writing alien invasion and first contact stories since the beginning of literature. I know there is something that makes Rosewater different, but my blog readers may not. So, what makes Rosewater different from other alien invasion and first contact novels?

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I’ve been dabbling in a few books lately, reading a few pages or a few chapters here and there, not really committing to any of them for the long haul. Book Attention Deficit Disorder? that’s badd.

 

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

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Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson was written in 1998, won the Prix Aurora, and was nominated for a Hugo. The premise is that in 1912, a large portion of Europe and Northern Africa disappeared overnight and was replaced with alien flora and fauna. A new age of discovery and exploration begins.  I’m maybe 40 pages in so far, and having a good time.  It’s the little details so far that are really pulling me in – momentary discussion of Europeans living in America and Canada who realize they may be the last people on Earth who speak their native language, characters mention reading Tarzan like stories in pulp magazines,  it’s just a ton of fun all around. I hope the rest of it is as good as the beginning!

 

Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler is about her experiences in Antarctica. I’m reading a non-fiction book, can you believe it?  In the early chapters that I’ve read so far, she’s mostly talking about early explorers who went to the poles, people who got stranded, areas of Antarctica that were named after who, etc. Many years ago, I read an article (or maybe short novel? or excerpt?) that described the two kinds of people who are interested in Antarctica: those who have never visited the continent, and those who are trying to get back. Basically, once you go, all you want to do is go back. It’s been interesting jumping from this book to Darwinia. They are both about exploration, survival, and the unknown.

 

Red Rising by Pierce Brown was written in 2014. It’s the first of a trilogy, and the final book in the series, Morning Star, came out earlier in 2016.  Imagine if Hunger Games took place in the world of Gattaca, throw in a lot of Machiavellian social expectations and a very angry teenager who has lost someone he loves, and you’ll have something approaching Red Rising. I really want to like this book, but it’s just way to YA for me. That isn’t a knock against YA, it’s just me saying there are things I enjoy reading and things I don’t enjoy reading. And I’ve read some great YA, this just isn’t one of those great YA books. I’ll probably DNF this one. If you’ve read this book, or this series, what did you think of it?

I owe ya’ll reviews for Kevin Hearne’s The Purloined Poodle (it was so adorkable! I loved it!) and Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Children (what a disappointment!).  While I was finishing those books up,  the mail man and the UPS guy have been pretty busy bringing me goodies nearly every day this week.  And of course I bought some stuff too.

Currently reading: Territory by Emma Bull

so, what looks good?

shawl-beaulieu

Everfair by Nisi Shawl has been getting a lot of buzz, and Of Sand and Malice Made is a beautiful small format hardcover (this photo doesn’t do either of these books justice, they both have gorgeous cover art!) of prequel stories that take place before his Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.

 

bujold-lansdale

These pretties from Subterranean Press are Penric the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Coco Butternut by Joe R. Lansdale.  I’ve got the first novella in the Bujold series, and yes, Coco is a Hap and Leonard story!

 

starlit-wood

I’m ridiculously excited about The Starlit Wood, and anthology of reimagined fairy tales. I seriously got shivers just looking at the table of contents. It’s like all my favorite authors and all their favorite friends got together to have a party full of awesome.  Retold fairy tales? YES PLEASE.  It’s gonna be tough to finish the Emma Bull with this sitting on the kitchen table . . .  and that’s saying something, since she’s a damn good writer.

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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.