Showing posts from June, 2011

Game of Thrones, Season 1

I read George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones , the first volume in his Song of Ice and Fire sequence, in 2005, and came away feeling that it was rather poor stuff.  The post in which I listed the reasons for my disappointment received a fair share of peeved comments, but the one that's stuck in my mind these six years came from a commenter who wondered how I could say that A Game of Thrones didn't diverge from the conventions of epic fantasy nearly as much as I'd been led to believe.  Wasn't the fact that Martin had killed his main character, Ned Stark, in the first book a huge deviation from those conventions?  I remember feeling baffled at this question.  Far from surprising me, Ned's death had seemed to me both predictable and, by the time it finally happened, long overdue.  It had been signposted early in the novel; the book's YA tone and its emphasis on Ned's young children all but guaranteed that he would be done away with; and it took forever

Strange Horizons Reviews, June 20-24

It's alternative steampunk week at the Strange Horizons reviews department.  Brendan Byrne kicks things off with his review of Angry Robot's reprint of Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter, one of the first steampunk novels, which Brendan views as a glimpse of what steampunk might have been without its propensity to view the past through rose-tinted glasses.  Chris Kammerud looks at another reprint, Fantagraphics's translation of Jacques Tardi's early graphic novel The Arctic Marauder , a work of "icepunk."  Finally, Adam Roberts reviews Jean-Christophe Valtat's Aurorarama .  Valtat is an author of literary fiction who responded to Charlie Stross's broadside against steampunk soon after it was posted, and Adam finds his approach to the subgenre more palatable than most. UPDATE: I forgot to mention that John Clute's column Scores also appears this week.  This time, John's topics are the Jonathan Strahan-edited anthology Engineering Infinity


In the last decade the Israeli film industry has experienced a dramatic renaissance.  More films are being made; more tickets are being sold; and, internationally, Israeli films have been acclaimed at prestigious festivals and in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars.  I have to confess that I've let most of this new wave pass me by, mainly because so few of these films piqued my interest with their premise or subject matter.  Israeli filmmaking often seems to be cleanly divided between family dramas and examinations of the Arab-Israeli conflict in its many forms, to the extent that the recent film Rabies billed itself--quite correctly, from what I've gathered--as the first Israeli horror film.  What excited me about Footnote , Joseph Cedar's follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Beaufort , when I first heard about it, was that it seemed like such a departure from this narrow range of subjects, and the film itself has more than lived up to that expectation.  Foo

Strange Horizons Reviews, June 13-17

As well as my own review of Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks, this week's Strange Horizons sees Niall Harrison discussing The Colony by Jillian Weise, one of the novels selected for this year's Tiptree honor list.  Though Niall is impressed by Weise's treatment of the subject of sexuality, he's dubious about her approach to science.  Rounding out the week is Alexandra Pierce, making her Strange Horizons debut by reviewing a debut, Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves , which Alexandra finds lackluster.

Review: Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

My review of Iain M. Banks's latest Culture novel, Surface Detail , appears today at Strange Horizons .  My reaction to this book is almost the exact opposite of my reaction to X-Men: First Class --if the film frustrated me by suggesting that the desire for vengeance is never justified, the book is so busy decrying what it views as greater evils that it stakes out a positive attitude towards killing for revenge that I ultimately found quite disturbing. If you're interested in my other reviews of Banks novels, they can be found here .

Strange Horizons Reviews, June 6-10

Andy Sawyer kicks off this week's reviews with a joint look at the revised edition of The Search for Philip K. Dick , a biography of the author by his first wife Anne, and The King of the Elves , the first volume of Subterranean's new edition of Dick's collected stories.  Though he's impressed, with some reservations, by the biography, Andy is disappointed with the new edition of the stories, which offers little additional to justify its price.  Martin Lewis is more pleased with Frances Hardinge's Twilight Robbery , the sequel to Fly by Night , though he finds flaws in the novel that are, perhaps, inevitable given its YA focus.  Chris Kammerud rounds out the week with a review of Karen Russell's Swamplandia! , a literary fabulist novel that Chris is very impressed by.

X-Men: First Class

The first installment of the modern film incarnation of the X-Men franchise came out in 2000, and is generally held to have been the harbinger of the following decade's deluge of superhero and comic book films.  I remember going to see the film several weeks after its US release had been greeted by effusive reviews, which praised it for taking the comic book adaptation an enormous step forward, and wondering what all the fuss was about.  Even knowing next to nothing about the comics, it was clear to me that here was a complex setting that had been shoehorned into the standard Hollywood template of a single hero backed by a team.  The creakiness of that process's result was only exacerbated by a dull story, thin characterization, and lackluster action sequences.  I liked X-Men 2 a little better, but the third film was terrible, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine was even worse.  The franchise, which never seemed to have much life in it to start with, was clearly on its last legs, so

Strange Horizons Reviews, May 30-June 3

In honor of Carol Emshwiller's recent 90th birthday, this week's Strange Horizons issue is dedicated to Emshwiller's work.  The reviews department kicks off the focus week with L. Timmel Duchamp's review of the recent Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, Volume 1 , in which she charts the development of Emshwiller's voice and prevailing themes through her short fiction.  Paul Kincaid reviews Emshwiller's first novel, Carmen Dog , a work of feminist SF, and Maureen Kincaid Speller reviews the novels Ledoyt and Leaping Man Hill , Emshwiller's forays into the Western genre.

The 2011 Hugo Awards: The Novella Shortlist

And now we come to the last of our shortlist reviews.  After the disappointing and even infuriating short story and novelette ballots, it would be nice to report that the Hugo-nominated novellas are an exciting and worthwhile bunch of stories.  Instead, the shortlist (minus Alastair Reynolds's "Troika" which is not online) is solid, by no means a slog to get through and at some points quite good, but hardly enough to save this year's short fiction nominations from the condemnation that should be heaped upon them. On the other hand, there's only one stinker on this ballot. Geoffrey A. Landis's "The Sultan of the Clouds,"  (PDF) a pulpy wannabe adventure whose narrator, David Tinkerman, travels with his employer, the brilliant terraforming scientist Leah Hamakawa, to Venus at the invitation of the title character, the heir to a vast fortune.  "Sultan" is one of those stories that puts most of its eggs in the worldbuilding basket, so it s