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Showing posts from November, 2011

Embassytown by China Miéville

So China Miéville has written a science fiction novel, and it is... well, it is many things, but perhaps we'll start with "Old School."  Miéville is the author who took the top off fantasy ten years ago, and his next to last novel, The City & The City, was so sui generis that it won awards for both science fiction (the British Science Fiction Award, the Clarke) and fantasy (the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award for best fantasy novel), despite containing no non-realist elements whatsoever.  But Miéville's latest novel, Embassytown, though in many ways as dazzlingly original as anything he's written, is positively retro.  It's a planetary romance, a far future SF story about a time when humans have spread through the galaxy with the help of vaguely explained FTL technology, a story of contact with winged, eye-stalked aliens.  It is, in short, that increasingly rare, increasingly unfashionable artifact, a core SF story, and its tropes are pure Golden Age…

Strange Horizons Reviews, November 21-25

The week's first review is by Matt Hilliard, who looks at Rob Ziegler's debut novel Seed, a post environmental collapse novel.  Though he questions Ziegler's environmental model, Matt finds much to admire about Seed's depiction of a slowly collapsing world.  Lila Garrott is disappointed with Lisa Goldstein's The Uncertain Places, arguing that it does little that is new or original with its fairy tale components, and that its characters are unconvincing.  Nathaniel Katz is ambivalent about Robert McCammon's The Wolf's Hour, a reprinted novel from 1989, and The Hunter From the Woods, a collection of stories starring the same main character.  Though he admires the pizzazz of this character, a werewolf James Bond who kills Nazis, he finds the execution, and particularly the two books' frequent sex scenes, rather tedious.

Shoutout to Erin Hodges.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

After six years of writing about him, it feels as if I've developed a certain patter where Terry Pratchett, and particularly his Discworld novels, are concerned.  Though I've liked some of his novels better and others worse, my reaction to them in the years since I've been keeping this blog has been a near-uniform mix of fondness and exasperation, the former in recognition of the sheer breadth of accomplishment that is Discworld, and of the inventiveness that still goes into it, and the latter in sad cognizance that the series is growing increasingly stale, and that its inventiveness is, more and more often, watered down with recycled themes, gags, and character arcs.  This has been especially true of the books featuring Sam Vimes, arguably Pratchett's most enduring, most iconic character.  More than any of the other Discworld series, the Vimes novels stick closely to a formula, which sees the erstwhile policeman thrust into unfamiliar settings to investigate murders t…

Strange Horizons Reviews, November 14-18

This week's first review is by T.S. Miller, who takes a look at Future Media, a collection of stories and essays by Rick Wilber examining the ways that media has and is changing.  Tim finds much to enjoy but wonders if Wilber and his contributors might have more to say about the past than the future and the shape that future media might take.  Sarah Frost reviewsInfidel, the sequel to God's War by Kameron Hurley, and like Dan Hartland withWar, is impressed with what she finds.  Rhiannon Lassiter reviews two books by Philip Palmer, last year's Version 43 and this year's Hellship, and, though she expresses admiration for Palmer in general, is more enamored of the first than the second.

This month also sees the latest installment of John Clute's column Scores.  This time John's subjects are Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson, the sequel to Spin and Axis, and Daryl Gregory's latest novel, Raising Stony Mayhall.

Shoutout to Erin Hodges.

Strange Horizons Reviews, November 7-11

This week's reviews kick off with disappointment.  First, Phoebe North is unimpressed with Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse, lamenting its dull plot, poor prose, and flat characters.  Maureen Kincaid Speller is no more won over by Mira Grant's Deadline, the sequel to Feed, which she finds suffering from many of its predecessor's flaws, chiefly an unwillingness to examine the dishonesty and narcissism of its supposedly brave, truth-seeking blogger protagonists.  Shaun Duke's Friday review of Leon Jenner's Bricks, meanwhile, is more ambivalent.  A history of the Roman conquest of Britain told from the point of view of a seemingly immortal Druid, Shaun finds Bricks promising and difficult, but ultimately a bit of a letdown.  Nevertheless, he finds much to recommend about it.

Shoutout to Erin Hodges.

Strange Horizons Reviews, October 31-November 4

Strange Horizons's Halloween review is Farah Mendlesohn's long, detailed look at the essay collection 21st Century Gothic, edited by Danel Olson.  Farah finds the collection extremely variable, containing excellent pieces alongside terrible ones, but her review also acts as an introduction to several titles that one wouldn't necessarily associate with the Gothic descriptor, some of which sound very enticing.  My own review of Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus appeared on Wednesday.  Friday's review is by Erin Horáková, who takes a look at Tansy Rayner Roberts's collection of linked stories Love and Romanpunk and is quite disappointed by what she finds, wondering if Roberts has prioritized Girl Power over a more thoughtful type of feminism.

Shoutout to Erin Hodges.

Review: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Over at Strange Horizons, I look at two of this year's circus-set fantasies, Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.  These two books take very different approaches to very similar premises, and I found things to like and dislike about each of them--so much so that I think they might work better as a paired reading than on their own.

You can also read Niall Harrison's thoughts on The Night Circus at the Strange Horizons blog.