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Showing posts from December, 2010

2010, A Year in Reading: Best and Worst Books of the Year

Calendars are arbitrary things, and the milestones they force on us occasionally get in the way of the ones we'd like to note.  This was the case with me as I prepared to sum up the year's reading.  In terms of my reading, the calendar switch finds me in the middle of too many things: for the last month I've been engaged in a reading project that will take me into the next month at least, which I'd rather not write about until its completion, and the biggest change to my reading habits in 2010 was the purchase of a Kindle, but as I've only had it for a few weeks I'd like to wait a while longer before discussing my reaction to it.  It would be a lot more convenient for me, in other words, if 2010 could keep from ending for another month.

Alas, that's not to be, so--with an apology if I seem not quite as into the whole list-making process as I've been in previous years--let's look at 2010's reading.  I read 63 books this year, a slight uptick from…

Strange Horizons Reviews, December 20-24

The last 2010 issue of Strange Horizons (the magazine will be on hiatus next week) features Tanya Brown's double review of K.J. Parker's novel The Folding Knife and novella Blue and Gold, two works that Brown describes as historical fiction set in a world not quite our own, and centering on a pseudo-Roman Empire.  Tony Keen reviews the anthology The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories, edited by Ian Watson and Ian Whates, which he finds comprehensive, as well as a good way of exploding the perception of alternate history as being obsessed with stories about Hitler and/or the Confederacy winning their respective wars.  Finally, Hannah Strom-Martin reviews Ken Scholes's Antiphon, the follow-up to Canticle and Lamentation (also reviewed by Hannah), and finds that though it has its strong points, on the whole the book is a disappointment.

Have a good holiday, those of you celebrating, and the rest of you, have a good weekend.

Tron: Legacy

Coming out of a screening of Tron: Legacy on Saturday evening, I realized that I'm desperate need of better bullshit detectors when it comes to science fiction film.  A decade of superhero films has trained me pretty well to tell the fun romps from the hot messes--it's pretty easy, for example, to see that The Green Hornet is going to suck, and that we're all going to wish it had been about Cato rather than Seth Rogen's character.  But it's only in the last two years that science fiction has returned to the movie screens in a big way, and I still haven't developed the proper buzz filters, or adopted a protective cynical attitude.  Of the truly impressive number of science fiction films released in 2009 and 2010, I've liked a grand total of one, Moon, and even that was with some reservations, and yet every trailer with a spaceship, or an alien, or anything vaguely cyberpunkish in it, manages to erase that knowledge from my memory and get me excited all over …

Strange Horizons Reviews, December 13-17

This week's Strange Horizons reviews kick off with Dan Hartland taking a look, and then another look, at the Jonathan Strahan-edited anthology The Best of Larry Niven, who surprises Dan by alternately validating his reputation as a purveyor of Analog-esque hard SF and complicating it.  Niall Alexander reviews YA author Michelle Paver's "arctic chiller" Dark Matter, which he lauds for its setting and for constructing an atmospheric yet ambivalent ghost story.  Finally, Richard Larson tackles not one but two zombie novels, this time on the literary end of the scale, with his review of Alden Bell's The Reapers are the Angels and Amelia Beamer's The Loving Dead, and in so doing makes only a tiny dent in the number of zombie-related books that have arrived on the magazine's doorstep since I've started as reviews editor.

Standing in Place: Thoughts on Dexter's Fifth Season

In my write-up of Dexter's third season, I concluded that the lesson the show kept driving at, the one it wanted its main character to learn, was that in order to be loved by the people whose love was worth having, he would have to hide his true nature.  Anyone who could look on Dexter as he selected, stalked, ritually murdered, and dismembered his victims without recoiling in horror wasn't worth Dexter's time or devotion.  In the show's superb fourth season Dexter tries to live by this lesson, only for the full tragedy of his existence to become apparent: he alienates his loved ones by hiding behind a mask of normalcy, and his attempts to learn how to make that mask more believable ultimately lead to the murder of his wife and the disintegration of the very family he's worked so hard to hold on to.  Perhaps in an attempt to counteract that tragedy, in the show's fifth season its writers try to imagine Dexter's perfect match: someone monstrous enough to acc…

Bah, Humbug: On Community's Christmas Episode

Jack: What Christmas card did we end up sending out?
Avery: [reads from card] Happy Holidays [turns page] is what terrorists say.  Merry Christmas, Avery and Jack.

30 Rock, "Christmas Attack Zone" I love Community.  Who doesn't love Community?  People who haven't watched it yet, that's who.  I love it because it manages to be funny and zany and clever and soulful, and manages to cram all those feelings into 22 perfectly-formed minutes almost every week.  "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," this year's Community Christmas episode, is no exception.  What you may have heard about it, even if you don't watch the show, is that it's a stop-motion animated, musical episode of what is usually a more-or-less realistic show set in a community college and among a cobbled-together family of students who attend it.  What you probably will not have heard is how the show handles this shift in medium.  For most series, a musical or animated episode hangs…

Strange Horizons Reviews, December 6-10

This week's Strange Horizons reviews are dedicated to women writing science fiction: Farah Mendlesohn reviews Tricia Sullivan's Lightborn, Duncan Lawie reviews Jaine Fenn's Guardians of Paradise, the third volume in her Hidden Empire series, and Matt Denault reviews Kaaron Warren's Walking the Tree.

This is in honor of Niall Harrison's project to spotlight women in SF.  Sparked by an interview with Tricia Sullivan in which she discussed her sense that there is a growing inequality between men and women in the SF field, Niall posted his own thoughts to Torque Control, which led to a long conversation, and later to a plan to spend the first week of December discussing science fiction by women.  You can find the posts from this spotlight week here: they include several reviews of recent books, links to other reviews and discussions of SF by women, and the results of a poll conducted by Niall to name the top ten science fiction books by women of the last decade.

I Come to Praise and Bury: On Rubicon and Terriers

It's been a dismalfall for new TV.  While a lot of returning shows have come back strong (The Good Wife, Community, to a lesser extent Dexter and How I Met Your Mother), most of the fall pilot slate was dire, and even promising and prestigious series like Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead have proven underwhelming.  Amidst this dross and disappointment, however, I still managed to find two new series to get excited and even fannish over.  Naturally, they've both been canceled.

Of those two cancellations, the one that rankles less is Rubicon's.  There are a lot of things this show did well, and in some cases these are things that no other show on TV is doing, but it wasn't good TV, and for a substantial portion of its run it was even quite bad.  A lot of this is down to bad luck--originally conceived as a modern callback to 70s conspiracy thrillers, in which Will Travers (James Badge Dale) an analyst for a government think-tank, investigates the seemingly accidental…

Strange Horizons Reviews, November 29-December 2

Matt Denault kicks off this week's Strange Horizons reviews with a very interesting discussion of Darin Bradley's Noise, which he concludes is less interested in the post-apocalpytic setting that's been trumpeted in the book's promotional material than it is in its narrator's crumbling mental stability, and then makes some observations about Bradley's construction of that narrator that reminded me of my own reactions to The Social Network.  Chris Kammerud talks about feeling and cookery in his review of Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  And Jonathan McCalmont explains, in no uncertain terms, why Robert Rankin's The Japanese Devil Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions is "an utterly lamentable piece of writing."