the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘urban fantasy

No review this week, but lots of books to talk and think about.

 

I just finished reading Nexhuman by Francesco Verso, wow, what a book!  A gripping (and maybe creepy?) plotline, a future built around so many “what if” questions, discussion of the unintended consequences of uploading our minds into robot bodies,  this book is like a keystone for so much other science fiction that I’ve read. Lots of hard science questions and possible answers presented in a social scifi / coming of age / doomed romance (maybe they are doomed?) novel that doesn’t shy away from visceral violence. Still thinking about it and putting my thoughts together, and I will probably have to read portions of the book again before writing a review.   Anyway, if you’re looking for something different and smart, something that puts the pieces together, keep your eye out for Nexhuman, out in August from Apex Books. Full review coming soon, when I’m able to talk about this book in coherent sentences.

Needing something a little easier on the gut, I picked up Shadows Over London, by Christian Klaver.  He’s famous for his Supernatural Sherlock Holmes novellas, and I’ve had this Victorian urban fantasy on my shelf for a while.  Christian is a super nice guy, and it’s been too long since I read something of his. 70 or so pages in, and I’m up to my eyeballs in the Seelie Court, the Unseelie Court, a stained glass prison, four siblings who give me some super happy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe vibes, and way too many cats.  Kinda worried now that this isn’t a happy little Victorian urban fantasy with faeries, kinda thinking there is plenty of violence and death in these pages?  And sorta wanna reread Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks all of a sudden.

On the short fiction front,  I found my way to Cat Pictures Please, (Clarkesworld) by Naomi Kritzer, and Fandom for Robots, (Uncanny) by Vina Jie-Min Prasad.  Stories told by sentient AIs? I can’t get enough of it!  A robot figuring out how to act like a human, how to understand all the weird shit humans do. . . it helps me feel normal that sometimes even I don’t understand the weird shit humans do.   You should go read those short stories I linked to. Each one is a five minute read, but they are so good you will wish they were longer. It’s ok, you can read them again.

 

I promised you pigs and jellyfish princesses, didn’t I.  Pigs first! If you are as obsessed with Fullmetal Alchemist as I am (omg, did you see? They are releasing hardcover editions!  Goodbye $300!), then you know the creator behind that series, Hiromu Arakawa, has another manga series called Silver Spoon.  Silver Spoon is just a high school slice of life story – no magic, no fantasy, nothing supernatural. All these students are at an agricultural high school, many of them are expected to take over their family’s farms and agro-businesses. The main character is a city boy, and he chose this school to get as far away from his overbearing parents as possible. He doesn’t know the first thing about chickens or horses or pigs, and he finds himself fascinated by understanding more about where our food comes from.   

 

So much food and animal science, I love it!!! This is a great manga if you don’t think you like manga. It has ZERO annoying tropes, great characters, excellent art, and food science! Like why you need to age pork for a few days.

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Good Guys, by Steven Brust

published March 6th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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What can you do with magic?  Pretty much anything you can do without it, except magic makes things much easier, and much faster.  Students at the Foundation learn chemistry, molecular biology, and physics. They need to know how everything in the natural world works, so they can learn how to properly manipulate it for the results they want.  The applied science of magic is a lot of knowledge, even more practice, and boat ton of will power.

 

Steven Brust’s newest stand alone novel, Good Guys, is Dresden Files meets Columbo, meets a study in the glory that is non-verbal communication.  Donovan Longfellow heads up the American field team for the Spanish Foundation, a secret society staffed by magicians, sorcerers, recruiters, researchers, and assorted administrative staff. As the story opens, Donovan is breaking in his new field specialist, Marci. Fresh out of training, and still thinking she can have a healthy relationship while working for The Foundation, Marci is bright eyed and bushy-tailed, reminding me a little of Gwen from Torchwood. The team is rounded out by Susan the acrobatic ninja, and yep, the three of them are the entire American field team for the Spanish Foundation – saving the world by day, and often working  2nd jobs on the side to make ends meet.  They might be saving the world, and the Foundation offers pretty good health insurance, but the hourly wage sucks.

 

The novel opens with a murder committed by magical means.  Donovan’s team is put on the case, and as the murders stack up, the killings become more and more gruesome. None of the people who are murdered were particularly nice people. Someone is trying to send a message, but what are they trying to say, and why?   The Foundation tends to frown on people using magic for selfish or violent reasons, so why should they care that a bunch of assholes are getting knocked off? Other than the fact that he’s getting paid for it, why should Donovan care?

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In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!

 

What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.

 

Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.

 

In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?

 

The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?

 

One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!

 

Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.

 

 

well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?

 

 

 

Borderline, by Mishell Baker

Published in 2016

Where I got it: It was a freebie at an event I attended (free book? SCORE!)

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You know the TV show Torchwood? Imagine if it was urban fantasy:  swap the aliens for fey creatures, swap the alien technology for magic, swap Cardiff for Hollywood, and double up on the snark and you’re on your way to having something a little like Mishel Baker’s Borderline.  I’ve got a weakness for snarky novels written in first person, so I was hooked on Borderline about 20 pages in.

 

Millie hasn’t got much going on these days.  Her stay at a psychiatric center is paid up for another six months, and she’s gotten pretty used to her prosthetic legs.  When a strange beautiful woman waltzes in and offers her a job, Millie says yes out of a combination of boredom and curiosity.

 

Upon arrival at what is known as Residence Four, Millie learns the first rule is “don’t ask”.  Everyone here has some kind of medical, physical, metaphysical, or mental health condition, and it is and disrespectful and rude to assume, presume, or make light of someone’s predicament.  You wait until someone feels comfortable enough with you to tell you about their personal life. And if they never feel comfortable enough? Well, that’s your problem, not theirs. Oh, and all these people work for a group that helps control the traffic between our world and the Fey world by ensuring Fey glamours are functioning, and that only authorized Fey are here on Earth and that there is no violence between the two groups. Part of the pact is that if we harm any Fey, they will slaughter us. Hmm… so I guess a little more like Men in Black than Torchwood? Also, how come no one will tell Millie who Elliott is?

 

Millie brought a lot more than her physical baggage to Residence Four.  She has Borderline Personality Disorder, she’s still working through the events that led to her failed attempt at suicide, she’s still getting used to her scarred and battered body that doesn’t look like how she feels, and now that she’s free of both film school and a psychiatric center she’s also interested in some end result based flirting.  None of which jives with the ad hoc family at Residence Four, so things are pretty awkward for her right from the get go. Through her first person perspective, we get a lot of “because of my Borderline Personality Disorder, I often . . . “, giving me just enough information to be really dangerous. I do some of those things, sometimes. Does that mean I have BPD?

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Imprinted (available January 2018) is the forthcoming novelette in Jim C. Hines’s Libriomancer series, and The Squirrel on the Train (November 2017, Subterannean Press) is Kevin Hearne’s latest Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries novella.  Two super fun and funny little stories!

 

Jim C. Hines concluded his Magic Ex Libris series with the fourth book in the series, Revisionary.  The magic of this series sounds rather basic at first – the world’s collective love for books, stories, and the items found therein allows Libriomancers to pull physical items out of books. Urban fantasy awesomeness and characters who will absolutely shred your heart ensue.  Because character relationships, people’s abilities, and the danger ramp up pretty quickly, this is a series that needs to be read in order.  But. . .  with an itty bitty spoiler (that really doesn’t spoil anything) you can read Imprinted even if you are not caught up on Magic Ex Libris.  That’s me, by the way. I’m the person who isn’t caught up on Magic Ex Libris.

 

Revisionary was supposed to have been the end of the series, right? Well, it wasn’t for Jeneta. She still has a story to tell!

 

Seventeen year old Librariomancer Jeneta Aboderin has a unique libriomantic ability, it’s an ability Isaac might never even thought of had he not met Jeneta. But her power brings risk with it. What if she isn’t strong enough to control her ability? What if she is able to control it, and ends up disrupting the foundations of libriomancy?

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xxxholic omnibus 1xxxHolic, omnibus #1

published in 2007 (I think?)

where I got it:  have owned it forever.

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I’ve been reading Manga on and off for probably ten years. I don’t mention manga much, because there are very few series I’ve liked enough to invest in.  One of the early reviews on this blog was for the first volume (or first few? I can’t tell) of xxxHolic, by CLAMP. The Manga section of Barnes and Noble is full of 3 volume omnibuses these days, but back in the old days, a three volume omnibus was an oddity. No one planned to make more than one of these monsters, so sometimes there wasn’t even a  number on the spine.  And speaking of “way back when”, xxxHolic has been floating around in one form or another since 2004 or there abouts.

 

I wrote a halfway decent review of this back in 2010, it’s nice to see I did a decent job of writing a plot based review!   It’s interesting to see what I got out of xxxHolic then, and what’s I’m getting out of it now. The surface stuff is always the easy stuff – Yuko’s hidden “shop”, the crossover plotlines and funny little jokes from other CLAMP works, the “monster of the week” episodic feel of these first three volumes, the gorgeous artwork.   If you’re used to American style graphic novels, Japanese manga, CLAMP works especially, may be a shock to you – everything is in black and white, there is far less dialog per page, motion is depicted very differently, and the human body is drawn differently than you might be used to.

are you the spacetime witch

Back in the day, I stalled out six or seven volumes into xxxHolic, I felt the story wasn’t really going anywhere.  At the time, seven volumes was a pretty big investment to make in a series if I wasn’t going to continue.  Yuko might be the space time witch who offers to help Watanuki get rid of his spirits problem, but I needed more than just urban fantasy slice of life.  I didn’t continue reading it, but my husband did, eventually trading in our single volumes for these hefty 3-volume omnibuses. And he let me know the story gets deeper, deadlier, and darker. So now I want to give it another try, because I like all of those things!  Watanuki might be getting dragged on Yuko’s errands, but it’s important later for him to have safely been exposed to all this urban fantasy type stuff. Even at the ghost story telling ceremony with Domeki, Watanuki might might not feel safe, but if Yuko is in the room she’ll never let anything permanent happen to him. Or at least I don’t think she’d let anything happen to him . . .

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The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

published in print in 2017, audible version in 2016

where I got it: received advanced reading copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean!)

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.Wow was this a fun little novella!

 

The story is nearly all dialog, and while I was reading I kept thinking to myself “All this banter and chatter, this would make a fantastic audio book!”.  I hopped online, wondering if there were any reviews up yet of this novella to learn that I live under a rock.

 

Last year, Scalzi wrote The Dispatcher as an audio only novella, to be exclusively offered on Audible.com for a certain length of time. And Zachary Quinto narrates it!  As a huge thank you to his fans and everyone who loves audible, the download was free for a short window.  So, I am apparently the last person to know that Scalzi wrote a very fun little  novella called The Dispatcher.  I’m ok with this.

 

I recently reviewed Mira Grant’s Last Girls, and my experience with Scalzi has been similar to my experience reading Grant/McGuire: I’m mostly meh on their novel length works, but I usually enjoy their short fiction.

 

The Dispatcher is just over 120 pages, but feels much shorter since it is nearly all dialog. The gist of the story is that people aren’t really dying anymore.  Sure, you can die from old age, or from driving drunk and wrapping your car around a tree, but if someone else intentionally kills you, you’ll wake up a few hours later at home, as good as new.

 

No one quite understands how or why this is happening, but 999 times out a thousand, it works. What about people who are on the edge of death? They’ve been brought to  the emergency room after a terrible car accident, or they had a surgery that had horrible complications?  This is where professional dispatchers come in. If you’re about to die, a dispatcher shoots you in the head, intentionally causing your death.  About five minutes later, you wake up good as new, at home. About five minutes after that, the dispatcher cashes their check from your health insurance company.  It sounds ridiculous, but it works, and it makes for an increasingly fun little story.

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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.
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