Guest Blogger and WWEnd member, Rob Weber (valashain), reviews science fiction and fantasy books on his blog Val’s Random Comments which we featured in a previous post: Five SF/F Book Blogs Worth Reading. Be sure to visit his site and let him know you found him here.
Karen Lord‘s debut novel Redemption in Indigo was one of the books that received a lot of attention in 2011 and 2012. It’s one of those books I mean to pick up but so far I haven’t read it yet. From what I understand of the reviews, it’s a book well worth reading. While looking for suitable books for the Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge I came across Lord’s second novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, in a bookstore in Amsterdam. If her first novel is anywhere near as good as the second, I can see what the fuss was about. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a very good science fiction novel. Comparisons with the work of Ursula K. Le Guin are made on the inside flap of the cover. For once, I don’t disagree with what it says there. Something the flap text doesn’t mention is that there clearly is a bit of Bradbury in the novel too.
What do you do when your planet and the center of your culture has been wiped out in a single strike? That is the question facing the Sadiri who had the good fortune to be away from home at the time of the strike must answer. Besides drastically reduced numbers, they also face a severe gender imbalance. The question of whether the Sadiri have a future as a separate people or should blend in with the other peoples of the galaxy is very much on their mind. Scientist Grace Delurua is assigned to a project to see if salvaging Sadiri culture by introducing new blood from the planet Cygnus Beta is feasible. It will be a life changing experience for Delurua and the Sadiri.
Stephen Poltz (spoltz)‘s love of anything SF and Fantasy was inspired by his childhood heroes Carl Sagan and JRR Tolkien. Oh yeah, and by watching cheesy ‘50s sci-fi movies on a black and white TV. He got a book-reading-reboot when he met his partner, Jacob, a voracious reader from a family of hard-core, genre fiction enthusiasts. After seeing a display of Hugo Award winning books at his local bookstore, Steve became obsessed with reading all the winners. Now, when not QAing software, learning Polish, or finding new books to read on WWEnd, he writes reviews on his blog It Started With The Hugos…
Despite being an agnostic, I love SF and Fantasy that questions, critiques, or parodies religion. Some of my favorite novels are A Canticle for Leibowitz, A Case of Conscience, and Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal. So when I looked for more books to read for the WoGF challenge, I searched in the WWEnd database using the tag “theological.” Once again, I found a gem.
The Sparrow transposes the experience of the New World Jesuit missions to the genre of SF. Fr. Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest, leads the first mission to a planet which seems to harbor intelligent life. Something goes terribly wrong and leaves the priest the only survivor, demoralized and in a crisis of faith.
The premise of The Sparrow may seem absurd by today’s standards. We don’t expect the Catholic Church to be the first to send a mission to an extraterrestrial world. Placed in a historical context, it is not absurd at all. This happened throughout the European exploration of the Americas, as well as the non-Christianized regions of the other continents. This book takes that premise and places it in a contemporary context with our modern sense of cultural sensitivity. The result provides the reader with a group of very likable, honorable, and by most definitions, good people put into a morally ambiguous and deadly situation.
We’re announcing a few days late but the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge October review poll is now closed and we have our three winners!
October WoGF Review Poll Winners:
Congrats to Alix (this is her second win in 2 months), Stephen and Allie and thanks to everyone who participated in the poll. Our winners will find an Amazon gift card, $25, $15 and $10 respectively, waiting for them in their email inbox.
There are still 2 more months of prizes to be awarded so if you didn’t win this time it’s not too late.
Steff S. (MMOGC), is an avid reader with an eclectic taste in books. While just about anything can catch her eye, she has a particular soft spot for fantasy and science fiction, and especially loves space operas and stories with interesting magic systems. Besides reading, she enjoys adventuring in the virtual words of MMORPGs, and first started blogging about games before branching out to contribute her book reviews at The BiblioSanctum with her friends.
Let me just start this review by saying how glad I am to have finally picked up this book! Now that I’ve finished reading it, I can’t help but wonder just what on earth had kept me waiting so long. It also just occurred to me that 2013 has been a great year for me when it comes to Young Adult paranormal fantasy novels featuring angels.
The interesting thing I found about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that it really reads like a book with two distinct parts. The first part introduces us to our main protagonist and narrator Karou, a blue-haired young woman studying at an art school in Prague. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings of chimeric monsters and other fantastical beings, which all her friends think are the products of an excessively-active imagination. None of them know the truth, that the strange creatures are in fact all very real, and Karou is a very special girl. In her secret life she runs mysterious errands for her foster family, led by the demonic looking Brimstone, the chimaera whose shop opens a portal between two worlds.
Nathan Barnhart (Skynjay) is one of three reviewers for Fantasy Review Barn. Though he read Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books as a kid, he didn’t really get into the genre until a few years ago, at which point he started reading any speculative fiction he could get his hands on. If not reading or playing with his kid, you can find him at the rec getting beat in basketball.
A book picked up purely on the hype, I would have skipped it otherwise. The cover blurb sounds ridiculous, the main character used to be a ship? What could that even mean? But in came the early reviews. They talked about many different things but seemed pretty unanimous in one aspect; the book was praised everywhere I looked.
But hype is a funny thing, and while it has often been enough to get me interested it just as often disappoints. Was this going to be one of those books in which everyone fell in love with the uniqueness and ignored obvious flaws? Perhaps some fell in love with the gender bending society and overlooked a lack of plot? In short, is the book going to be more idea than execution? Let me put minds to rest, oh hell no.
Excuse the language here, but Ancillary Justice is one glorious mind fuck. Every preconceived notion a reader has going in has to be reset. Get used to she as the default pronoun, understand how little it matters in Radch space. Then try to re-figure it all out when in a society that does; suddenly the right gender pronoun matters to avoid insults and we have no more knowledge on how to recognize the clues than Breq.
“This film takes a look at something all of us can relate to – starting a family. But, what happens when there are too many families, with too many children, and not enough space? What do we do then? Kurt Vonnegut had a theory of what might happen. He called it the Federal Bureau of Termination. Let us show you his theory.”
Adding considerable weight to this campaign is Oscar nominated actor Paul Giamatti who wants to play the role of Dr. Hitz in the film. He is a 2BR02B fan, and having him on board is a huge coup for the production team. I could watch Paul Giamati watch paint dry and this story is painted by Kurt Fucking Vonnegut!
2BR02B, that is the question. You could be the answer.
Scott Lazerus came to Worlds Without End looking for a good list of books. He found David Pringle’s Best 100 Science Fiction Novels to his liking and is currently working his way through the list. He has posted many fine reviews for WWEnd including several for last year’s GMRC. Be sure to check out Scott’s excellent blog series Forays into Fantasy too!
Centuries from now, having survived worldwide nuclear devastation in underground shelters, people began returning to the surface as the Earth again became habitable. As the men and infertile women went out to explore, those women who remained behind in the shelters took on the responsibility of repopulation, making use only of men determined to be genetically undamaged. Believing that the destruction of the world was the result of male aggression, these women eventually moved inland and built new cities, protected from the outside by walls and force fields, and developed a matriarchal lesbian culture that maintained science and technology. Men were forced to remain outside in a primitive state, living in small bands and prevented from moving beyond Stone Age technology, having forgotten the truth of their own past, brought to the cities only to fulfill their role in in vitro fertilization. The women built a set of Shrines throughout the areas around the cities, where men could go to worship the “Lady”—their Goddess. In these shrines, men put on circlets that linked them telepathically to women in the city, who sometimes fed their minds erotic fantasies, and occasionally called them to the city for a “Blessing”—more virtual sex for the purpose of sperm “donation”.
Rae McCausland (ParallelWorlds) was raised on speculative fiction and dedicated most of her teenage years to the dream of writing fantasy novels. During her college years, her interests shifted toward science fiction thanks to Star Trek and Isaac Asimov’s robot stories. She writes reviews for Parallel Worlds Magazine as a way of building connections between the perspectives of fellow sci-fi nerds and people of marginalized gender and sexual identities.
Intended Audience: Adult
Sexual content: Significant
Ace/Genderqueer characters: Yes (construct)
Rating: PG-13 for disturbing concepts and some sexual themes
Writing style: 4/5
Likable characters: 4/5
Jodahs is ooloi—not male or female. Ooloi are common among the Oankali—the race of aliens which have interbred with humans and saved them from their post-apocalyptic world—but there has never been a human-born ooloi before. Jodahs’ power to assemble and disassemble the genetic structure of things could be the greatest danger Earth has ever known; or it could be the hopeful beginning of a new age and a new species.
Before I get too much further, let me give a disclaimer. Yes, I realized when I picked up Imago that it is the third book in a series, and technically I should have read the first and second book before reading Imago. However, it is a testament to Butler‘s skill that I was able to jump right in to this foreign future Earth and understand what was going on without much trouble. Butler’s dialogue, descriptions, and pacing are all well-balanced…concise, with nothing important left out. The only thing I felt myself lacking was a solid description of what the Oankali look like in terms of similarity or difference to humans. I know that they have tentacles: sensory arms with which they feel and see and smell. They have some kind of head distinguishable from their body, seem to be grey or brown in color and probably stand upright, but I’m not sure beyond that what they really look like. It doesn’t matter that much. Far more fascinating is the way Butler writes them as possessing feelings humans can relate to and yet being quite different in their approach to life. The Oankali are deeply emotional and yet rational—lovers of all life and experience and yet they seem to feel terrifyingly entitled to modify and absorb all forms of life into themselves. I kept expecting this to result in a critique of colonialism, but the Oankali are held up as beautiful and wise beings throughout the story, while humans are a dying species with a genetic flaw which ensures their eventual self-destruction unless the Oankali help them.
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 Fantasy Manga Glenn will provide an overview of the medium and the place of fantasy within it.
When I started the SF Manga 101 blog, I said that the top three spots in SF where agreed upon; it was only a matter of differing opinion as to the pecking order. The situation in Fantasy is not as clear.
The first question is how do you define Fantasy? What’s in? What’s out? Since most of these mangas can be defined in various ways, what’s the deciding factors as to how to classify them? And does it really matter that much? Good is good, right?
For the purpose of this new blog on Fantasy, I have to decide and I’m going with K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid). The manga in this Fantasy blog will be as close as possible to the motifs of High Fantasy. I’ll consider three factors: the technological level is not on par with our own. I’m thinking of the infamous medieval lite motif or even 18th to 19th century levels – that’s all fine. Swords have to be involved somewhere and/or magic. (Elves and/or Dwarfs score bonus points!) Some combination of those elements is the key. (Travel to alternative dimensions is also allowed.) So all the top contenders which would be contemporary fantasy or magical realism get shuffled over to the supernatural category. That’s just the way the line is drawn.
Now that the housekeeping is done, it’s time to start.