Carl V. Anderson (Carl V.) operates Stainless Steel Droppings, a blog dedicated to books, film, games and trail running. Be sure to check out his 2013 Science Fiction Experience reading challenge. Carl can also be found on a semi-regular basis posting reviews and interviews for SF Signal.
Dragonflight. The iconic Michael Whelan image of a woman triumphantly astride a magnificent winged beast in flight has been imprinted upon my imagination for decades. Anne McCaffrey‘s two award-winning novellas–“Weyr Search” and “Dragonrider”–were combined into one cohesive novel four months prior to my birth. Around the time I became cognizant of “science fiction” as a genre I can recall seeing this cover image amongst my uncle’s collection of SF paperbacks. I borrowed heavily from those shelves in my formative years but never picked up Anne McCaffrey’s much-lauded novel.
I think it was because of the dragons.
*Cue cries of incredulity*
The two Stars, Trek and Wars, informed most of what I read in those early years and this did not look like “science fiction”. Where were the space ships? Where were the stars? It was many years later that I developed a nearly equal passion for fantasy and by that time the thought of reading this had passed me by.
Thom Denholm (Thomcat) works in the software industry and as a baseball umpire. In his spare time, he has kept up a steady stream of reading, fiction and non-fiction, since he was old enough to enter a library “summer reading” contest. He first read “A Wrinkle in Time” before it was extended into a series, only coming back to read the subsequent books recently. He joined WWEnd last year, too late to really dive into the GMRC but signed up for the WoGF challenge immediately, and he’s looking forward to a functioning “random author picker”. : )
The structure of Russian folk tales is the first thing we encounter. Familiar characters are here (Baba Yaga, Father Frost, and of course Koschei the Immortal) and familiar themes (birds, objects that summon others, and repetition in threes). The protagonist Marya Morevna has her own Russian folk tale lineage, as the queen or warrior princess of her own province of historical Russia.
Through the marrying of Marya’s sisters, we first encounter history – the first sister married to a member of the Tsar’s guard, the second to a member of the White Guard, and the third to an officer in the Red Army. Later chapters go further into the early history of Soviet Russia, and that adds to both the history and the folk tale.
Satire of Soviet Russia factors in also, with “Chairman” Yaga, a scarf of the Red Pioneers, and a whole section set in the dream village of Yaichka, where Josef and Leon make trouble for Vladimir Ilyich by ruining the roses. When Vladimir discusses this with neighbor Nikolai Aleksandrovich, he “laughed and sent old Vova on his way, his sympathies being rather with the roses.”
Guest Blogger, Allie McCarn (Allie), reviews science fiction and fantasy books on her blog Tethyan Books. She has contributed many great book reviews to WWEnd including several Grand Master reviews featured in our blog. Allie has just kicked off a new blog series for WWEnd called New Voices where she’ll be reviewing the debut novels of relatively new authors in the field.
“Pet is the youngest daughter in an unusual family. Her parents—known to her as Stan and Linwood—take a non-traditional approach to child rearing, but their sophisticated home is turned upside down by Pet’s oldest sister, Deane. Deane, the ‘bad child’, became interested in voodoo and unsavory company, leading to her eventual arrest. When Stan and Linwood go on the run with their other two daughters, Pet begins to realize that she also has some natural talent for the occult.
Pet will have three chances to confront the supernatural, to either use its power or allow it to use her. First, when she is a confused child, trying to protect the people she loves. Second, when she is an irresponsible teen, desperate to find some kind of truth. Third, when she is an adult bodybuilder, dedicated to becoming a powerful woman. Pet must find the strength to understand both Deane and herself.” ~Allie
Lee S. (shewolfreads) started her love affair with books when her mother gave her a copy of Little Women. She swiftly moved on to romance (Sweet Valley High), mystery (Nancy Drew), and thrillers (Choose Your Own Adventure). It wasn’t until she was 13 and got her hands on Interview with a Vampire that her passion for all things Gothic and dark started. While she’s always ready for a good werewolf or vampire story, she’s now branching out to fantasy and science fiction. You can join in on her reading adventures through her blog, She-Wolf Reads.
Full disclosure: I don’t read a lot of traditional fantasy. Sure, I’ve read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the George RR Martin series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but that’s about it. Everything else I read is more along the lines of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, with a sprinkling of sci-fi and horror thrown in for good measure. Philippa Ballantine has been on my radar for a while now with her steampunk series the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and Book of the Order. Both have been on my TBR list but it wasn’t until the release of Hunter and Fox that I decided to take the plunge into some of her more traditional fantasy work. I had a bit of an unexpected reaction this book. I enjoyed it but not for the reasons I expected.
I’m a world-building whore and admit that I can get carried away by a wonderfully created world at the expense of character and story. Reading something that’s more traditional fantasy, my expectations were that I would be very focused on the world and its rules above all else. With Hunter and Fox, that just wasn’t the case. The characters are really what kept me in this game and what will bring me back to it. I’ll get to the world in a second but first let’s talk about the tortured Talyn the Dark and the besotted Finnbar the Fox.
Scott Lazerus is a Professor of Economics at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado, and has been a science fiction fan since the 1970s. The Forays into Fantasy series is an exploration of the various threads of fantastic literature that have led to the wide variety of fantasy found today, from the perspective of an SF fan newly exploring the fantasy landscape. FiF will examine some of the most interesting landmark books of the past, along with a few of today’s most acclaimed fantasies, building up an understanding of the connections between fantasy’s origins, its touchstones, and its many strands of influence.
With its ability to portray worlds and societies unconstrained by the realities of our experience, speculative fiction has always been a venue for criticizing or championing political systems, real and imagined. At the turn of the twentieth century, at the same time that commercial fantasy was moving in the direction of Burroughsian adventure, sword and sorcery and the weird tale, fantasy was also still being written by authors outside the pulp ghetto that was just beginning to establish itself. During this same period, the triumph of large-scale industrial capitalism in the United States was resulting in a political counter-reaction in the form of populist and socialist movements looking to alter or replace this system, as well as social reform movements working to ameliorate the growing problem of urban poverty that accompanied the creation of previously unheard-of concentrations of wealth by the “robber barons” of the Gilded Age. Socialists such as Jack London, with his anti-capitalist dystopia The Iron Heel (1908), and Edward Bellamy, with his best-selling socialist utopia Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1889), used fantastic fiction to criticize American economic conditions, and attempted to inspire alternative social movements. Such books were widely read by an audience that would have been mostly uninterested in the pulp fantasy starting to appear around the same time, and are representative of the end of an era in which fantastika was one of many fictional modes used by authors as diverse and widely respected as Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James.
Shannon Fay (Sai) is an assistant bookstore manager and freelance writer. Since she doesn’t get enough of books at work she’s become a book club addict, joining practically every one that comes her way. Her dream is to get all the book clubs she’s involved with reading the same book so as to save herself some time and stress. Visit her website at www.ayearonsaturn.com.
I would not classify Mr. Fox as fantasy. In fact, I would say it’s unclassifiable. I suppose that if you wanted to grab it, pin it down and examine it under glass and label it you could call it ‘slip-stream fiction,’ but why would you want to do that? Butterflies are so much prettier in the air then they are framed on a wall.
The book centers on a love triangle between Mr. Fox, his wife Daphne, and the mysterious Mary Foxe, Fox’s muse who may or may not just be a fiction of his imagination. As the book goes along, Mary seems to become more and more real, but really it’s just a trick that the author it playing on the reader. Mary is as ‘real’ as St. John Fox and Daphne Fox- no matter what might be going on in the narrative they are all characters in the same book and therefore all on the same standing.
Even though I said I didn’t have any desire to put a label on Mr. Fox I can’t help but get my two-cents in: The book is an interesting piece of meta-fiction. The book moves in and out of various narratives, sliding from the main story into Fox’s short stories and back, all while re-casting the various characters in different roles. It can be a hard book to hold on to, and it is not recommended reading when you have the flu or just before you go to sleep, lest you get confused between what you read and what you dreamed. The book (I hesitate to say ‘the plot’ as that doesn’t seem applicable here) doesn’t move forward but instead shuffles back and to the side, twisting and turning like a foxtrot. The various threads make you question what is real, but the point isn’t figuring out what ‘really’ happened so much as realizing that all the narratives are all equal. They are all stories, all lies, and all true.
Mr. Fox has a lot to say about the relationship between men and women and the violence they visit on each other, both in the real world and in fiction. I thought the examples Oyeyemi wove into her work were interesting but I also didn’t feel like she reached a satisfying conclusion. Early on Mary seems determined to dissuade Fox from writing his vaguely misogynistic potboilers, but at the end of the book he’s still cheerily working away on his ‘serial killer accountant’ novel. But he does seem to be treating the women in his life better, which perhaps was Mary’s true goal all along.
Mr. Fox is an enjoyable mind trip. Its fluid structure takes a bit of patience and can cause a bit of frustration, but it’s the good kind of frustration.
Guest Blogger and WWEnd Member, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd and we’ve invited him to contribute to our blog. This is the latest in Dee’s series of Philip K. Dick reviews that he started on his blog www.potatoweather.blogspot.com. We’ll keep posting them until he runs out of reviews or gets tired of Philip K. Dick books.
This is the first Philip K. Dick novel I have read in seven months, and I have to say — it felt like coming home.
The Dickian weirdness begins on page one. A policeman patrolling a rundown cemetery hears a familiar sound. A recently revived corpse calls out from her grave, “My name is Mrs. Tilly M. Benton, and I want to get out. Can anyone hear me?”
Dick published Counter-Clock World in 1967 and set it in the near future of 1998. But in this world, the Hobart Phase has been operating since 1986. Time is going in reverse. The dead are returning to life, and the lucky ones are rescued in time by vitarium operators, those who dig up the “old born,” get them healthy, and then sell them off to the highest bidder. This is usually a family member willing to care for an aged relative who will now, like everyone else on earth, start the process of becoming younger. (Unclaimed old borns become wards of the state.)
Right. The Hobart Phase. That thing where time starts running in reverse. Dick, as is usually the case, cannot be bothered by all the details of such a preposterous notion, at least not to the extent that it might slow down the story. He gives us the bits he finds funniest, most notably the fact that eating has become disgorging, an act done in private. Meanwhile everyone expects at least a daily dose of sogum. They look forward to it like it was cocktail hour and sometimes make a date to meet at sogum palaces. “Sogum,” although it sounds like a combination energy drink and drug, is clearly something to do with excrement, and for once we can be glad Dick spares us the details.
But all the implications of a world truly running in reverse are not Dick’s concern, and don’t let it be yours either or you will never make it through the novel. His plot surrounds the resurrection of a religious leader who the novel’s main character, Sebastian Hermes, proprietor of Cup of Hermes Vitarium, realizes will be a hot property on the resale market. What he doesn’t expect is the world of dangerous intrigues having the Anarch Peak on hand will expose him to. Rome wants him; the current leader of the Udites, Peak’s religion, wants him; and, the librarians and erads, whose job is to keep eliminating knowledge and art that could not yet have existed, they want him bad. They suspect, with good reason as it turns out, that Peak will have insights to the afterlife that other of the old born have not been able to articulate.
Dick puts his rather flat characters through a plot that spans only a couple of days but is filled with lies, bomb threats, assaults, a little adultery, and some soul searching. This is Dick’s most overtly religious novel, although it is hard to know exactly what he is thinking about when it comes to the religious implications of the plot. But he shares that sense of muddle-headedness with his lead character.
Religion, Sebastian thought wearily. More ins and outs, more angles, than ordinary commerce. The casuistry had already gone beyond him. He gave up.
Sue Bricknell (SueCCCP) is an ex-pat Brit living in Maine. She has no real memory of learning to read and has always had a great love of fantasy. She blames this on her early introduction to the Tales of Beatrix Potter, which she had memorized by the age of four. From an early obsession with Fantasy she has expanded her interests into the Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror and Crime genres. Joining a local book group made her realize that she really likes talking about books, so she began her blog, Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers. She has recently had the good fortune to be hired as an assistant librarian, so now she can think about books even more!
This is one of the few books that I have read that really made me feel the massive differences between American and British history and societal norms. Yes, I grew up knowing about racism in the UK, and I was certainly aware that some people had a real issue with the influx of non-white people in the 1950s. However, the issue of slavery was not as prominent because the vast majority of the African slaves in the British Empire were not actually located in the UK, but in the colonies in the West Indies, for example. When these peoples became free they remained where they were and so did not have to integrate with their previous owners back in Britain. Also, slavery within the UK was made illegal much earlier than in the US and was extended to the whole of the Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. All of this makes the British experience very different from that of the US, especially in the Confederate states where much of the action in this novel is based. Similarly, the UK did not suffer from the same racial tensions, segregation and discrimination that led to the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century in the US.
Glenn Hough (gallyangel) is a nonpracticing futurist, an anime and manga otaku, and is almost obsessive about finishing several of the lists tracked on WWEnd. In this series on SF Manga Glenn will provide an overview of the medium and the place of science fiction within it.
When I was charting out the mangas I’d be blogging about, my best of the best list, and why those mangas should matter to us, the SF reading public, Masumune Shirow found his way onto the list three times. Conversely, nobody else even got a second series. That’s the level of difference we’re talking about with Shirow.
I find it highly ironic that the ideas for Ghost in the Shell (GITS) came out of Appleseed. And in my opinion, knocked Appleseed out of a top three slot for SF Manga. Not out of the top five, but out of the top three.
This is what the publisher says about the first volume of Appleseed.
World War III is over, and nomad soldier Duenan Knute and her cyborg partner Briareos struggle to survive in the abandoned cities and demilitarized zones of the post-war wasteland, the “Badside.” Matters appear on the upswing, however, when they are found and brought to Olympus, an urban utopia and centerpiece for the reconstruction of civilization. Duenan and Bri join the Olympus police, a force that seems hardly necessary in such a paradise. But, like in most pretty pictures, perfection is an illusion, and Olympus’s peaceful facade hides a dark secret, a violent struggle between human and cyborg that could once again plunge the world into war… and genocide.
I’ve been drawn to science fiction and fantasy since I learned to read. As I imagine is the case with most speculative fiction fans, at the core of my continuing fascination is the insatiable desire to read stories that are, in some way, unlike what I have read before. Sometimes I find very familiar stories told in new ways, such as Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw. Sometimes I find stories that are entirely unfamiliar to me, such as in Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless. Sometimes I’m amazed by the creative mind of the author, as in Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, or by the extrapolation of current trends to bizarre future societies, as in Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief. Speculative fiction is such a wide field and the stories to be told are limited only by the imagination and skill of their creators.
Of course, the only way to continue to enjoy these new kinds of stories is to constantly stretch one’s horizons as a reader. WWEnd’s convenient awards rankings, theme book lists, and now yearly challenges have helped me to continue to expand my experience of genre fiction. As a continuation of this, I am going to make a special effort to read and review the debut novels of relatively new authors in the field. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer will guide my selections, but I will necessarily branch out to other new authors that catch my interest. Through this series, I hope to discover many new and upcoming authors, and to possibly bring them to the attention of others.