Leemet is a young man of the forest people. When he was a child, too young to remember the experience, his parents had made the move to the village. His father learned to work the fields and even developed a taste for bread, but Leemet’s mother became bored and could not adjust to village life. This made her easy pickings for a bear, those irresistible lotharios notorious for stealing away human wives. Leemet’s father caught his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto, and the startled animal bit his head off. Leemet’s mother, subsequently abandoned by the bear, returned to the forest with her infant son.
For Leemet this has been a good thing. His life in the forest is fun and adventurous. His uncle is one of the last fluent speakers of Snakish, the language that allows humans to communicate with snakes, those wisest of forest inhabitants, and exercise control over other animals. Without Snakish, it is difficult to maintain an adequate herd of wolves, and wolves are needed for both transportation and their milk. Leemet masters the ancient language, and he spends his days with human friends his own age, his older male relatives, and the invaluable snakes who offer both advice and the warmth of their burrows in the winter. He is also friendly with the primates, an older hominid species who has not left the trees and spend most of the time breeding wood lice the size of sheep.
Andrus Kivirahk is the most popular contemporary author in Estonia, known as a satirical journalist and a bestselling novelist. This novel, which appears to take place in a fantastic version of his homeland during the early middle ages, is his first to be translated into English. It is a thoroughly engaging tale of old ways giving way to modernity, filled with episodes of comic invention, family drama, young love, and the sadness of old traditions giving way to a modernity that offers much but exacts a stiff toll.
Leemet is the perfect hero for such a tale, a tenth-century, Estonian Huckleberry Finn. Despite his snakish wisdom, he can be very naïve. He perceives the armored knights that come from across the sea on their armored horses as single, metallic creatures. He is surprised to discover how relatively easy they are to kill. The obese, berobed monks who accompany them he assumes are their ever-pregnant wives.
Leemet may be naïve, but he is not stupid like those who have abandoned the forest for the village. Village dwellers, vehement about their newly acquired civilized skills and Christianity, believe all sorts of superstitious nonsense about the forest and its supposedly demonic denizens. And they rejoice in their subservience to their German-speaking masters. The village leader was taken as a young man across the sea for training in civilization and the new religion. When he speaks with pride of his time spent as the bedmate to an archbishop, Leemet cannot help but feel that there is something off about this arrangement.
But Kivirahk’s novel will be the story of sad, funny, and inevitable change. As I read it, I wondered what added resonance it had for its Estonian audience, who have taken it so to heart that a popular board games has been created around it. For English readers it is a thoroughly enjoyable historical fantasy and an introduction to a major European writer.
(I received an advanced ebook of this title from Net Galley.)
I had this as an advanced reader’s copy through Net Galley, and I went into it knowing nothing of the author or the plot. I don’t know, however, that much prior information would have helped me with the first couple of chapters. Meloy dumps us into a netherworld where the planet Mars takes the place of the moon, and characters I sensed were the good guys kept to their side of the street while a pub across the way served as a passageway for very bad things to enter their world. The next chapter involved a farm house bothered by a zombiefied relative who ate hot stew with his bare hands, had to be led away on the tines of a pitchfork, and set on fire in a field.
It took me several pages into the next sequence to realize that Meloy was settling down to his plot. A housing estate somewhere in the UK, with its boarded up shops, council flats, graffiti-covered walls, and threats of violence suggested a dystopian, post-apocalyptic setting, but no, this is just a miserable place to live. Meloy can really pack in the information. With the background of a mass shooting at a day care center, he introduces us to a feckless estate patrolman, an alcoholic hanging onto some sense of dignity, and a social worker whose cases have begun to either kill themselves or others. And there are monsters, hideous creatures that can possess the weak and pursue those who might be a threat to them.
Meloy has worked as a psychiatric nurse, and this section grounded in the world of the housing estate, with his hero Phil Travena dealing with suicidal and homicidal clients, a weaselly new boss brought in to “tighten the ship,” drunks and a growing sense that these monsters may not be hallucinations sets the action in both a very real and very creepy world. Once we are part of the pitched battle between good and evil, things take on the more predictable cast that such battles usually entail. But Meloy continues to create inventive situations, engaging characters, and grand set pieces. His monsters are spectacular creations that wear their debt to Lovecraft lightly. The talking animals are a problem, but that could be my inherent resistance to talking animals.
Much of the plot involves the impending birth of Chloe, a child whose existence is crucial to victory over the dark forces. In one of Meloy’s most successful narrative devices, we get to know Chloe as an adult character, stranded in a dangerous world as she waits to be born. There are also a man and his son who start as characters in a children’s book who become major players in the battle.
At times I felt that Meloy’s story needed a larger canvas than he provides, but when I weighed that against his ability to wrap things up as quickly as he did, I decided he made the right choice. He ties things up well. That illogical zombie scene from the first pages even makes sense by the time the story is over. And although he doesn’t end with cliffhangers, Meloy could easily return to this world for further novels.
So a few weeks ago we added 5 great new book lists to WWEnd and we’re finally getting around to telling you about them. The Defining SF Books of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are lists by James Wallace Harris a friend of WWEnd and the creator of The Classics of Science Fiction list which is one of our most popular lists. No stranger to lists is he.
We found these lists some time ago on Jim’s Auxiliary Memory blog and we’ve been working with him the last few months to get all the books added to our site and build out the lists. (A special thanks to our Uber Users for the data entry!) Jim wrote up some great short intros to each of the lists and we’ve included links over to his blog so you can read the original articles where he explains his reasons and methodology for picking these books.
Each of these lists is representative of the best remembered books from the decade and each is divided into 2 sections. The first section is a selection of 12 books that might/could/should be remembered and read into the 22nd century. These are taken from the list proper and are the books that have influenced the genre for years. These are books with real staying power. You’ll recognize most of them as widely acknowledged genre classics and many of them come from the SF Masterworks series.
The second part of each list are books grouped by year published. These vary in length from year to year. Some years, like 1968, are particularly strong and have as many as 26 books while others, like 1978, fall a little short and have as few as 3 books total. As usual, if you’re a WWEnd member you can see at a glance just how many from each decade you’ve read and of course a lot of these are new to the site so you may find some books that you’ll need to tag as read or add to your reading list.
If you’re looking to read a sampling from each decade you can simply focus on the top 12 books from each list. Those 60 books alone are a good cross section of what the genre had to offer for those fifty years. If you want to read deeper into a specific decade these lists are a great place to find recommendations. In fact, one WWEnder has just started a Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge based on the 50s list. Check out The Definitive 1950s SF Reading Challenge if you’re ready to dive into the first list. And, by the way, there are currently 31 other challenges to chose from too so you’re sure to find something to strike your fancy for 2015.
A huge thank you to Jim Harris for creating the lists and for his help in implementing them on WWEnd. We think you’re really going to like these new lists. Read on!
Due to popular demand, we have added a number of new books that have been adapted to film to our Genre Lit-Flicks list! See the full list below, complete with Instant Video links:
|Babylon Babies, by Maurice G. Dantec
|Battlefield Earth, by L. Ron Hubbard (hey, you asked for it)
|Different Seasons, by Stephen King|
|The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes
|Legion, by William Peter Blatty
|Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle
|Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris|
|The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin
|A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson|
|We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, by Philip K. Dick|
Do you know of more adapted books you want added to our list? Tell us in the comments!
Anyone paying close attention to our novel pages today may have noticed a curious thing. Many of our novels now have a section for “Film & Television Adaptations.” This was added to tie into our brand new shiny book list, Genre Lit-Flicks. This begins our project to build what we hope will be the definitive list of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novels adapted for feature films and television. Here are some fun facts to whet your appetite:
Did you know…
…the children’s classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has been adapted a total of three times: once animated, once as live-action for the BBC, and most recently as a special effects extravaganza by Disney?
…legendary actor Marlon Brando’s most infamous role was in the critically panned The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)?
…the ur-Horror novel Dracula has been adapted to film so many times we didn’t even try to list them all?
These and many other fun facts await your perusal at the Genre Lit-Flicks list.
But wait… there’s more!
That’s right! In addition to providing our loyal WWEnd members with the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of genre novel adaptations, we are launching a new blog series entitled Hell is Adaptations (series is not yet rated), which will document our ongoing trudge through the mire of Hollywood’s idea of what makes for good genre storytelling.
See any glaring omissions in our list? Think we should add a book to our database that was made into your favorite movie? Let us know in the comments below! Just be aware that we are not planning to add adaptations to the list until they have a theatrical or (shudder) direct-to-DVD release. We do know that World War Z is on its way, thanks…
One of the things we really wanted to do for Month of Horrors was expand our selection of Horror novels on the site. Last year we added the Bram Stoker Award and the Horror Writers Association Reading List, and at the top of this month we added the Shirley Jackson Award. All great additions, of course, but we found ourselves wanting more. Our Horror selection is still dwarfed by Science Fiction and Fantasy, so we thought it would be great to add a new Horror-based reading list. Unfortunately, none of us running the show at WWEnd are experts in Horror, so any list we could have created would be a wild guess at best, or a hilarious mess at worst.
So we decided to consult the experts at Nightmare Magazine, instead.
What we got back was a list of Nightmare Magazine’s Top 100 Horror Books, spanning everything from late gothic to splatterpunk, from killer clowns to devil babies, from vampire romance to vampire apocalypse. It’s like a synecdoche of the entire genre through it’s entire history, and we like to think it has a little something for everyone. Our thanks to Nightmare publishers John Joseph Adams and R. J. Sevin especially for creating this great list!
(Please note that many of the anthologies are included in the list in their entirety, not just as their first volumes. We will be adding the rest of the volumes to the WWEnd database over the next few days.)
Peruse the new list to see if there’s anything you want to add to your reading list. Remember, your Horror reviews posted on WWEnd throughout October will be considered for publication in the blog for the Month of Horrors.
Normally, when we announce new updates to the site, it’s something (we think is) exciting and new, like a new interactive book-tracked list, a cool reading contest, a nifty way to rank authors, or (my favorite) BookTrackr.
This time, however, we have announcement that is both exciting and mundane. Yes. That’s right. Worlds Without End has finally ditched its 1990s-style blogging/commenting engine (you know, the one that made you type twisted captcha words and blew up if you used the wrong keys from, you know, your keyboard) in favor of WordPress. Yes. We know. WordPress has been around probably longer than WWEnd has.
So…no. This news isn’t exactly cutting edge. It does, however, mean that our blog will act like every other blog you know, which means we can clip some of those dissertation length posts, and the interface won’t have those eccentricities that get in your way. So, huzzah!
BTW, relatively invisible changes (like this WordPress transition) are much much harder to do than the whiz-bang interactive stuff that people like so much. I know it seems like BookTrackr would be harder to make (from scratch) than integrating a plug in blog, but Chris (our hard working tech guru, a.k.a. Whargoul) begs to differ. So, thanks to Chris, Jonathan and Dave for ensuring that I never have to edit apostrophes out of my comments (or guess at captcha words) again!
Do bear with us as any new site feature, such as this, will require a learning curve on our part. We will be tweaking it over the coming weeks.
UPDATE: If you’re having any difficulties with your RSS feed reader, here is the link to the new feed: http://blog.worldswithoutend.com/feed/
As part of our relentless efforts to add every celebrated genre novel to our site, we have finally begun adding novels explicitly in the Horror genre to WWEnd. While many books in our database have arguably been more Horror than Science Fiction or Fantasy, our excuse was that they could still be labelled as Dark Fantasy or that they had some elements of Science Fiction. October, appropriately enough, is going to see an expansion of WWEnd into the Horror genre, and while we haven’t quite yet added enough books to fill the historical records of any Horror awards, we decided to go ahead and gather together a genre reading list, and the Horror Writers Association’s Horror Reading List fit the bill perfectly. Here’s how they describe the list:
The Horror Writers Association (HWA) was formed, in part, to foster a greater appreciation of dark fiction among members of the general public. Whether you are new to Horror, or simply want to become familiar with some of the classics and ‘bests’ of dark fiction, the following books are a wonderful place to begin.
Also be on the lookout for an upcoming series of blog posts starting this week from Rico and I about some of our favorite scary books.
We have published the controversial NPR Top 100 list of SF/F books in the WWEnd database.
From NPR: "More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR’s pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan’s thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts’ take, and have the chance to share your own."
Where a series is involved, we show the first book in the series. You can refer to the original list to see which were nominated as series rather than single volumes. Some series are as yet incomplete in our database, but they will all be added soon.
Late last year I set out to do someting about the shortage of Military SF on WWEnd. I looked around the internets for an award or a "best of" list but could not find anything of significance. At the time I was reading the Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnic so I wrote to him for help. He very kindly gave us permission to post his essay, Military Science Fiction: A Brief History, which contains a large number of books that I added to our database. It was a great start but I was still looking for more so Mr. Resnick suggested I ask David Drake, the Dean of Military SF, for advice. Mr. Drake sent me the Baen Reader’s List of Recommended Military SF. Huzzah! I finally had what I was looking for.
The Baen list is the result of a poll conducted by Toni Weisskopf, Editor of Baen Books, the leading publisher of Military SF in the industry. Participants of Baen’s Bar, THE forum for fans of Military SF, came up with the list after much discussion and Miss Weisskopf hammered the list into a top 100 with one additional book added at the request of David Drake. Told you he was the Dean. With the list comes an excellent introduction that goes into more detail on the selection process.
Take a look and let us know what you think. Are you a MilSF fan? There’s enough military action in this list to satisfy the hard-core fans and will provide some much needed guidance for us novices wanting to explore the sub-genre further. Many thanks to Mike Resnick and David Drake for their help and to Toni Weisskopf for putting it all together.