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.
“If history could be changed, how would we know?
Historian Pierce Ratcliff has plans to publish a new translation of historical documents detailing the life of a 15th century female mercenary commander, known as Ash. What starts out as a simple contemporary translation becomes increasingly strange, as unexplainable discrepancies from established history come to light within his supposedly genuine latin manuscripts. Is this a case of simple scholarly error, or is something far more extraordinary happening?
Within his translation, Ash is a woman of legend in continental Europe—a kind of mercenary Jeanne d’Arc, who is credited with hearing voices that help lead her to victory. She and her company, the Lion Azure, are inexorably drawn into the machinations of a (mysteriously undocumented) Visigothic civilization in northern Africa, which seems inexplicably driven to wipe the wealthy duchy of Burgundy completely off the face of the Earth.” ~Allie
Veronica H. (Parnassus Reads) is a long-suffering bibliomaniac, a has-been English teacher, and a frequently infrequent blogger at parnssusreads.com. Most of her working life has been spent in bookstores. As such, her to-read pile is taking over her desk, well, house really, but she’s always happy to get suggestions for good books and authors, especially in SF/F.
After signing up for the Worlds Without Ends Women of Genre Fiction year long reading challenge, I had to choose who I wanted to read and what I wanted to read by them. Conveniently, the website had a list of authors and their books. I tried to choose authors I hadn’t heard of or read before. Among these was Hiromi Goto. I chose her young adult novel Half World, which tells the story of Melanie Tamaki, her ill-fated mother, and Melanie’s quest to reunite the Three Realms.
Melanie hasn’t had an easy time of life. She is fat, does poorly in school, and has a drunk for a mother. For these reasons, she is frequently bullied by her peers. After running away from the torment one day, Melanie returns home to discover that her mother has seemingly abandoned her. The truth is far more sinister, and thus begins Melanie’s epic quest to Half World to save her mother from the deranged Mr. Glueskin.
Half World is much like limbo, where people constantly relive the trauma of their death. Because the inhabitants of half world have relived this trauma over and over for thousands of years, when the three Realms were initially separated, many of them have become mad, twisted creatures, frequently compared to Hieronymous Bosch’s famous creatures in the Hell panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights. As it soon becomes clear, Melanie must not only save her mother, but also reunite the three Realms and restore balance to the universe.
Some of you may know that I am a bit obsessed with drinking fine coffee in space. Unfortunately, there are many holes in my plan. For instance, what is the best way to collect the grinds? How do you keep beans fresh if resupply is relatively rare? Thanks to the fine folks at NASA, one piece of the puzzle has been answered. What happens when you spill some sweet sweet java, wipe it up with a wet cloth and then wring it out?
I am one step closer to planning out my bucket list…
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the 5 presidents have combined & morphed into the 30' tall Commander-in-Überchief. Most don't know they can do that.
— Worlds Without End (@WWEnd) April 25, 2013
Today’s as good a day as any to remind you that WWEnd has an executive Twitter feed. Follow us, if you please.
…of science fiction (You thought I was going to say creationist textbooks, didn’t you? Admit it…):
A bill calling for science fiction to be made compulsory reading in schools has been proposed by a politician in West Virginia in order to “stimulate interest in the fields of math and science”.
Ray Canterbury, a Republican delegate, is appealing to the West Virginia board of education to include science fiction novels on the middle school and high school curriculums. “The Legislature finds that promoting interest in and appreciation for the study of math and science among students is critical to preparing students to compete in the workforce and to assure the economic well being of the state and the nation,” he writes in the pending bill.
On a personal note, I can’t say that my own interest in the sciences had anything to do with science fiction. I much preferred reading popular science books to science fiction.
“To stimulate interest in math and science among students in the public schools of this state, the State Board of Education shall prescribe minimum standards by which samples of grade-appropriate science fiction literature are integrated into the curriculum of existing reading, literature or other required courses for middle school and high school students.”
How much science fiction even deals directly with math and the various sciences, except for using a popular (and often wrong) understanding of scientific discoveries as a structure for a plot? But maybe I should avoid starting a debate about hard-vs-soft scifi. Instead, I’ll incite one about scifi-vs-fantasy:
“I’m not interested in fantasy novels about dragons,” Canterbury told Blastr in a recent interview. “I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers.”
Nobody tell this guy about Dragonflight.
This seems like a very neat idea, but there are certainly some valid concerns about potential indoctrination, here. Science fiction authors almost always have a political or philosophical axe to grind, and public schools aren’t known for teaching students how to read a book–especially a compulsory book–with a critical eye. Who decides which scifi books children should be compelled to read? The news article quotes David Brin expressing his approval of the plan, but his disapproval of reading “either gloomy dystopias or else fantasy tales wallowing in dreamy yearnings for a beastly way of life called feudalism.”
What do you think? Is this a great way to force children to expand their mental horizons, or just another opportunity for indoctrination by lobbyists?
While NASA is still a major asset to America (and the world), its share of the national budget is continuing to shrink from 4.41% of total spending to an estimated .48% in 2012. For the first time since the Sputnik era, NASA’s budget doesn’t even garner ½% of the federal budget. While we all debate about whether to grow entitlements by 2% or 4%, American astronauts have to hitch a ride with the Russians just to get some weightless action. What good is winning the space race if we’re just going to throw it all away?
We know we don’t have to make the case to WWEnders for manned space programs. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for everyone else. That’s why the We Are the Explorers campaign is creating an exciting new ad campaign on behalf of NASA. The goal: to increase awareness of the funding problem and inspire nerds everywhere to agitate. They are crowdsourcing their funding and, as you can see, they have already surpassed their $33,000 goal, which gets them onto 50+ theatre screens. With about a week left, we’d like to see them make their secondary goal of $94,000, which would expand their exposure to 750 screens (a MUCH bigger impact). Why don’t you click over there and give what you can?
From the We Are the Explorers web site:
“When the Space Shuttle landed for the last time, many Americans thought NASA was closed for good. Nothing could be further from the truth. Right now, men and women from the space program are designing and building next generation space vehicles to go to new destinations in space, farther than we’ve ever gone before.
NASA recently made an inspiring new online video narrated by Mr. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime (see above), to show the progress being made on these new systems, but the agency is barred by law from buying advertising time for such a spot.
Today we’re running a crowdfunding campaign to edit this video into a 30 second spot, and place it in movie theater screens around the country, starting with the premiere of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness.’
By backing this 30 second trailer in the top movie theater markets around the United States, you can show our students and young people that we’re in an exciting new era of space exploration. Now is the time to reach them – to remind them that an inspiring space program awaits, one that is worthy of their ambition.”
UPDATE: “There is no doubt now: ads for our space program will be premiering with “Star Trek Into Darkness”
Guest blogger and WWEnd Uber User, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd including his blog series Philip K. Dickathon and The Horror! The Horror! He can also be found on his own blog www.potatoweather.blogspot.com.
Anytime I have considered entering C. J. Cherryh‘s Alliance-Union Universe, I think about Anthony Trollope. With either author I have always thought that if I read one of their books and liked it, I could spend the rest of my life reading the rest of them. That might be more true of Trollope than Cherryh, since although she has him beat 60 novels to 48, his are much more fantastically long. Then again she continues to write, so it could go either way. There is another odd similarity between the two, Cherryh uses series of novels to explore every possible aspect of her far future history, somewhat as Trollope presented a panoramic view of Victorian English society. But I am stretching things.
I decided to start Cherryh with this relatively early novel. I founds its 250 pages tough going. But I won’t pretend to extrapolate from this single read what spending time with Cherryh’s forty-year-long career might be like.
I see where other readers love her detailed description of the mri and the regul, the alien species inhabiting Kesrith. (For some reason these names are not capitalized, which seems like writing about the french or the somalians.) I quickly learned enough about each species to find them thoroughly unsympathetic. Which is fine, I don’t need to like the characters in a novel to enjoy the novel. But once two human characters appear is was a relief akin to running into an old friend in a foreign country. Finally here were motivations and actions I could understand and not want to strangle the characters for having.
The Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge March review poll is now closed and we have three new winners this month!
Our winners will find an Amazon gift card, $25, $15 and $10 respectively, waiting for them in their email inbox. We hope they’ll use them to buy books and regale us with more great reviews!
March WoGF Review Poll Winners:
Congrats to Steven, Daniel and Alexandra and thanks to everyone who participated in the poll. There are more prizes up for grabs each month so if you didn’t win this time you still have plenty more chances.
Jonathan Thornton (thrak) is a long-time science fiction and fantasy reader, but has only just started writing reviews on his blog Golden Apples of the West. Outside of reading, his interests are music and insects. His new year’s resolution is to review more of the books he has read on WWEnd and maybe finally get round to writing his own SF novel that he’s always talking about.
Palimpsest is one of those weird, monolithic tales about a different reality that impinges on our own, or, in this case, we impinge on it. The only other books remotely like it are John Crowley’s Little, Big, in which we learn, by insinuations, that the world of faerie is encroaching on our own, and Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, in which the protagonist journeys through a shifting, mythic city cut off from the rest of the world. Indeed, the quote above echoes the central mantra of Little, Big – “The further in you go, the bigger it gets”, while the lyrical and evocative closing lines of Palimpsest remind me of the iconic ending of Dhalgren; if the narrative of Palimpsest is not recursive, it does suggest that others will follow the protagonists’ journey. More than that, Catherynne Valente‘s prose achieves a level of hallucinatory vividness and poetic lyricism on a par with Delany and Crowley, although her narrative voice is most definitely her own. And like those two books, Palimpsest manages to weave together strands from mythology and folklore into something so convincing you have a hard time believing it’s not real.
WoGF Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Alexandra P. (everythinginstatic) was first introduced to sci-fi by her father, at the age of 14. Although it took 3 years and 2 attempts to finish Foundation, she hasn’t stopped reading sci-fi since, branching out into fantasy and speculative fiction as well. Her biggest passions are reading, tea and photography, and she hopes that 2013 will be the year she finally revisits Hari Seldon. You can read more of her reviews on her blog Wanderlust.
What happens when you take fairytales, add in a nod to Alice in Wonderland and more than enough of the myth of Persephone, all filtered through a bright writing writing style that tips its hat to the Victorians? You get Catherynne M. Valente‘s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, a beautifully woven tale full of mystery, intrigue, a seriously well developed cast (and a female lead!), and a world that I want to get lost in over and over again. There is a brightness to the story (despite its dark moments), and this is a book that appeals both to the incredibly misleading “young adult” label, as well as actual grown ups.
September is a girl of 12, who longs for adventure, so it comes as no surprise when the Green Wind takes her away to Fairyland. From there, it’s an Alice in Wonderland meets Persephone, in a Fairyland under the control of the cruel Marquess, a place that still longs for good Queen Mallow. It’s a charming, if dangerous place, filled with wyverns and Fae and Marid, and Valente makes sure that we don’t fall for its charms quite as easily as September.