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Worlds Without End Blog

Review: Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip Posted at 4:02 PM by Allie McCarn

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Every time I have read one of Patricia A. McKillip‘s novels, I have been struck by her poetic language and the vibrancy of her fantastical worlds. Therefore, I was delighted to have a chance to read and review an advance review copy of her latest collection of short fiction, Dreams of Distant Shores (to be published June 14, 2016). The book collects seven works of short fiction, one essay by McKillip, and a warm and insightful afterword by Peter S. Beagle.  McKillip’s essay is about her style of writing high fantasy, which involves simultaneously following and breaking the rules of the genre.  I enjoyed the glimpse into her writing process, and I think the balance between tradition and originality that she describes is one of the things that has kept drawing me back to her fiction.

The short fiction in Dreams of Distant Shores, though, is far from traditional high fantasy. There are no queens, courts and heroes, and the stories take place in worlds not unlike our own.  I thought the title itself was a remarkably accurate description of the contents within, since each tale felt like a dream permeated by a different style of magic.  The vein of strangeness that runs through every work ties the collection of stories together.

The book opens with the confusing and surreal “Weird”.  A man and a woman are locked in a bathroom with a gourmet food basket, while someone or something attempts to break in.  The two of them seem oddly calm, and the woman recounts the weirdest things that have happened in her life.  It’s a strange slice of a story, and reading it feels like falling into a fragment of someone else’s nightmare.  The story “Edith and Henry Go Motoring” (original to the collection) also feels like a peek into someone else’s dream, though a more peaceful one.  Edith and Henry go on an aimless journey in the English countryside, crossing a bridge with an unusual toll to an unexpected destination. I felt that these two stories were the most subtle and elusive of the collection, and I ended up reading them multiple times to try to gain a better understanding.

“Alien” (original to this collection) is another calm tale, and one that feels more grounded in a mundane reality. It features an elderly woman who claims to be visited by aliens, though her family fears she’s losing her mind.  It’s a lovely and quiet story about growing old, familial relationships, loneliness, and wonder.  Also, I think it must be the most positive alien abduction experience I have ever read.

Moving to the lighter side of the collection, “Mer” (original to the collection) and “Which Witch” are humorous stories with very different takes on the subject of witchcraft. “Mer” follows an immortal, form-changing witch who just wants to settle down into something comfortable and rest.  In the process, she spends some time as a goddess and a wooden mermaid, and gets involved in an unusual local religion.  The story is much less about the witch herself, who just wants a long nap, than it is about the ordinary people with whom she winds up getting entangled.  The vagueness of the magic system works well within the story, since a lot of the humor comes from the characters’ exasperation with the confusing events happening around them.

Patricia A. McKillip

Patricia A. McKillip

Rather than the ancient, formless, sleepy witch in “Mer”, “Which Witch” follows a fashionable young woman in a witchy rock band. She’s proud to have recently acquired a crow familiar, but the two of them are having issues with communication.  Unfortunately, what the crow is failing to communicate at the beginning of the story is, “You are in terrible danger!” The magic in this story is tied up in music, something that I think is pretty hard to pull off in a written story.  I thought the music as magic sections were pretty fun in this case, though I’m not convinced the musicians would have put on a decent performance!

Moving into the longer fiction, “Gorgon in the Cupboard” was my favorite of the collection. The story involves a community of Victorian painters and models, and the kinds of relationships that exist between them. A middling painter searching for inspiration finds his muse in Medusa, whose spirit manifests in his unfinished painting of Persephone.  Medusa directs him to search for a model, and he looks for someone who will stop him in his tracks and elevate his work.  However, that model is more than a symbol or a mythological figure, but a human woman with her own griefs, thoughts, and dreams.  What follows is an emotional story about how people are shaped by their experiences, and the value of seeing others as they truly are.

The final novella in the collection, “Something Rich and Strange” is a lyrical and imaginative story that carries an overt environmental message. A couple that lives by the coast have a stable life together, until supernatural forces slowly begin to tear it apart.  The man is drawn inexorably to the water by a siren’s call, while the woman begins to see strange things in the familiar coastline. It is not long before the situation begins to get really out of hand. The story is beautifully written, and it had some pretty funny moments without losing its fundamental sincerity and gravity.  I’m usually not a fan of including blatant messages in fiction, but the ocean really is in a sad state (though there are some signs of hope).  Altogether, it is a haunting story of a relationship stretched to the breaking point, as well as a call to take responsibility for environmental damage.

In closing, this was an excellent collection of short fiction by Patricia A. McKillip.  Each of the stories takes place in a different world, with a different tone and approach to the supernatural.  With such a range, from the surreality of “Weird” to the Victorian painters of “Gorgon in the Cupboard”, I expect it will please fantasy fans with a variety of tastes.  As for me, I have enjoyed visiting each of McKillip’s Dreams of Distant Shores.

RYO Review: The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin Posted at 1:39 PM by Allie McCarn

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The Broken KingdomsRYO_headerThe Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Published: Orbit, 2010
Series: Book 2 of The Inheritance Trilogy
This is the second book of a trilogy, so the book description and review contains some spoilers of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

The Book:

“After the events of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, much has changed in the world. The city of Sky is now called Shadow, since it lies in the shade of the World Tree, and godlings—children of the Three Gods—live among the humans. Many people are attracted to the magic of Shadow, and Oree Shoth is no exception.

Oree is a blind painter that is able to see only magic, so living near the godlings in Shadow gives her the opportunity to sometimes see. She spends her days selling trinkets to pilgrims, navigating her relationship with the godling Madding, and handling the silent, homeless man that she has taken in out of kindness. She names the man “Shiny”, due to the way he glows in her magic sight at dawn.

When someone begins killing the godlings of Shadow, Oree’s life will never be the same. She and her quiet guest are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy that involves the Arameri, the gods, and those for whom the murder of godlings is only the beginning.” ~Allie

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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.

Hell is Adaptations: Never Let Me Go Posted at 9:36 AM by Allie McCarn

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Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Published: Faber and Faber (2005), Awards Nominated: Arthur C. Clarke Award

Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek (2010)

This review is going to be a little different from my usual pattern, since I’m simultaneously reviewing the novel Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, and the movie adaptation Never Let Me Go, by director Mark Romanek.  The focus will be on comparisons between the two representations of the story, so I will have to discuss the content of the story in some detail.  This means, there will be some spoilers of Never Let Me Go, both book and movie version, in this review.

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Works Eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: For Free! Posted at 8:02 AM by Allie McCarn

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2014CampbellianAnthology_CoverIf you’re interested in nominating authors for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2014 Campbellian Anthology will be an excellent resource! Stupefying Stories has put together a free anthology that contains works by most of the authors eligible for this year’s prize.

The anthology contains works by 111 authors, for a total of more than 860,000 words of fiction. It appears that short fiction is contained in entirety, while excerpts are included of novels. The anthology is available for free until the end of April (or 30 days after the announcement of the Hugo/Campbell ballot), so it’s a good idea to get it as soon as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

WoGF Review: He, She and It by Marge Piercy Posted at 1:28 PM by Allie McCarn

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WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAllie 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.


He, She and ItHe, She and It by Marge Piercy
Published: Random House Publishing Group (1993)
Awards Won: 1993 Arthur C. Clarke Award

The Book:

“In the 21st century, the Earth is very nearly ruined. People live within domes or wraps, and most wear protective clothing to brave the toxic wasteland that the world has become. Most power resides with massive corporations, “multis,” who expect the indentured employees within their domes to shape their bodies, minds, and cultures to the company ideal. A small fraction of the Earth’s population are able to live in independent “free towns”, through selling their skills and products to multis, instead of themselves. The unlucky rest of humanity lives in the violent, poisonous “Glop”.

Shira Shipman has never embodied the physical or cultural ideal of her multi, and when custody of her young son is given to her ex-husband, she decides her future lies elsewhere. She returns to her childhood home of Tikva, a Jewish free town, where she has a new job aiding in the development of an illegal cyborg protector, Yod. As Yod struggles to understand his role in the world, he finds insight in a story of Prague’s Jewish ghetto in 1600, about a famous kabbalist who once created a golem protector.” ~Allie

Marge Piercy’s He, She and It is my final novel for WWEnd’s Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. Marge Piercy is a poet and a novelist, and her works range from science fiction to other genres. I have read that her novels tend to focus on women’s lives, and He, She and It (also published as Body of Glass) is no exception.

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WoGF Review: Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip Posted at 4:30 PM by Allie McCarn

allie

WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAllie 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.

Editor’s Note: This review counts for November.


Ombria in ShadowOmbria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
Published: Ace Books, 2002
Awards Won: World Fantasy Award, Mythopoeic Award

The Book:

“Ombria is a place of both shadows and light, life and death, past and present. Some doorways may lead you to a familiar tavern, while others may leave you among ghosts or taking tea with a dangerous sorceress.

When the Prince of Ombria dies, the small world of his court becomes a very dangerous place. His cruel great-aunt Domina Pearl quickly moves to control the heir, an innocent little boy named Kyel. She also throws the late Prince’s mistress, naïve Lydea, out into the streets to die.

However, not everything is under Domina Pearl’s control. Lydea survives the night, and remains determined to help the little boy who has become the new Prince. The royal bastard Ducon, usually lost in his drawings, must now find a way to preserve Kyel’s life as well as his own. Also, treading fearlessly through their danger is Mag, a ‘waxling’ servant of the powerful sorceress who lives underground. If Kyel—and Ombria—have any hope, it is in their hands.” ~Allie

This is my 11th novel for WWEnd’s Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. Patricia A. McKillip is a name I’ve heard often, but somehow never got around to reading. This was a pretty short novel, and I finished reading it in two days, while on a train.

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WoGF Review: The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan Posted at 8:00 PM by Allie McCarn

allie

WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAllie 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.

Editor’s Note: This review counts for October.


The Drowning GirlThe Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Published: Roc, 2012
Awards Won: Stoker Award, Co-Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award.
Awards Nominated: Nebula Award, Shirley Jackson Award, Locus F Award, Mythopoeic Award, World Fantasy Award

The Book:

“India Morgan Phelps (Imp) is a mentally ill woman who is also haunted, for a certain definition of the word ‘haunted’. Her ghost story involves mermaids and wolves and two women rescued from the side of the road.  One is Abalyn, a transgender woman who becomes an integral part of Imp’s life.  Another is Eva Canning, a mysterious woman who brings chaos with her.

In her journal, Imp tells the story of the time(s) she met Eva Canning, and tries to separate truth and fact, in order to come to terms with the events of one summer and/or fall—both the events that happened, and those that did not.  The facts may never be clear, but perhaps the truth can be found.”  ~Allie

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New Voices: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone Posted at 12:07 PM by Allie McCarn

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Three Parts DeadThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Published: Tor, 2012
Series: Book 1 of The Craft Sequence

Max Gladstone (his website is here) published his first novel, Three Parts Dead, in October of last year, and his second novel Two Serpents Rise has just come out on October 29th!   Two Serpents Rise appears to be set in the same universe as Three Parts Dead, but this review will only cover Three Parts Dead, as I haven’t had a chance to read it just yet. Three Parts Dead is impossible to sum up in a few quick sentences, both because there is so much going on in the novel and because there are so many fascinating characters!  The story was always brimming with energy, fresh ideas and cleverness.

In the world of Three Parts Dead, humans have learned to use godlike powers, resulting in a war against the Gods that almost destroyed everything.  Since then, Craftsmen and Craftswomen, who are trained in the Hidden Schools, draw power from earth and starlight to effect amazing feats of magic.  I was surprised by the mechanical and matter-of-fact tone of both Craft and deific power—they are described mostly in terms of law and economics.  For instance, a God’s power is managed and increased sort of like a finance portfolio, with investments and returns.  Of course, if a God were to go ‘bankrupt’, it would have some more direct personal effects, like death.

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WoGF Review: The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski Posted at 1:07 PM by Allie McCarn

allie

WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeAllie 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.

Editor’s Note: This review counts for September.


The Highest FrontierThe Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
Published: Tor 2011
Awards Won: John W. Campbell Memorial Award

The Book :

“Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politically influential family (a distant relation descended from the famous Kennedy clan), whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.

Frontera is an exciting school built with media money, and a bit from tribal casinos too, dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. The Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she’s in school she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by.” ~WWEnd.com

This is my 8th novel for the Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge, which means that I’ve never read anything by Joan Slonczewski before.

WoGF Review: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht Posted at 10:24 PM by Allie McCarn

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WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeGuest 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.

Editor’s Note:  This review counts for August.


Of Blood and HoneyOf Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
Published: Night Shade Books 2011
Series: Book 1 of the Fey and the Fallen

The Book:

“Liam is a child born out of wedlock, whose mother never spoke of his biological father’s identity. Even aside from the mysteries of his parentage, he has plenty to deal with as a boy growing up in Northern Ireland during the period of The Troubles. As he grows into a man, he senses something strange deep inside himself—something dark and dangerous.

What he doesn’t know is that his father is one of the fey, and that his people are locked in a long war that is raging in Ireland alongside the religious and political strife. The enemies of the fey are also the enemies of a secret branch of the Catholic Church, but that does not necessarily make them allies. Liam’s life and loved ones are endangered by both the natural and the supernatural turmoil that fills his world.” ~Allie

Of Blood and Honey, which is up for the Campbell Best New Writer award this year, is my 6th review of the WoGF challenge at World’s Without End (I missed a month. I’ll catch up!). It’s Stina Leicht’s debut novel, an urban fantasy that takes on the difficult setting of 1970s Northern Ireland.

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