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Mar. 16th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 025: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I find Nnedi Okorafor an interesting author. She writes these amazing, creative children's/YA stories like Zarah the Windseeker and Akata Witch, and also writes amazing adult books that are in no way for children. (Seriously, while I loved Who Fears Death, it got dark enough at times that I doubt I'd be able to reread it.)

Anyway, so I finally got a copy of Akata Witch, which has been described as the Nigerian Harry Potter.  )

Feb. 21st, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 024: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

So, I think I reviewed the previous book, Shades of Milk and Honey and I picked up this one and (IIRC) liked it much better. Basically, Kowal's world is set in the Regency period (when George III (the King George of the American Revolution) was considered too mentally ill to run a country, so his son (also named George) was Prince Regent) -- but illusion magic (glamour) is a thing. Kowal talks a lot about the perils of writing 'history with magic' for this series: that the more magic you introduce into our world, the more questions arise about why history remains roughly the same. Kowal limits glamour both through physical rules (it's effects of light and sound, and has to be anchored by the ground, and the glamourist usually has to be right there to manipulate it; they can leave a work and even run it on a loop, but complex patterns are usually done by tricks, and it takes a lot of energy and concentration), but also by social rules: glamour is considered a 'feminine' art: while there are male glamourists who make a living by taking commissions from the rich, a well-taught woman is expected to manage her home's glamours as part of the decor. Even uses in war (which are mentioned in this novel) are more akin to an engineering corps than 'sorcerers throwing fireballs'.

I don't think I can talk much about this book without spoiling the last )

Feb. 12th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 023: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

So, I picked this one up from [personal profile] anke who was getting rid of some books. The Eyre Affair takes place in an alternate late 20th century England where, among other things, people are obsessed with classics of literature and art. Most people have an opinion on things like who authored Shakespeare's plays, and it's enough that people can break into fist fights or political movements. The main character's hometown has a long-running community production of Richard III structured more like the showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show than any play I've seen. It's actually a bit like... well, a lot of Japanese action series where everyone knows a certain card game, or incorporates martial arts into their normal job, or has a job involving cute and trainable pet monsters.

There's also things like low-grade magic )

Jan. 9th, 2013

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 019: The Fall of Kings, by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

The nice thing about Christmas is new books and time to read them. The Fall of Kings is a book set in Ellen Kishner's Riverside series. Thankfully it was set decades after Swordspoint, the first book, because I only vaguely remembered the events of that one. (I remembered I liked it, and I found out that my used copy doesn't have the short stories that the reprint has... perhaps I should fix this.)

I remember hearing about <em>Swordspoint</em> on a podcast (the SF Squeecast, I think), that noted that for a book published in 1987, it did two interesting things. )

Oct. 26th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 018: San Diego 2014 by Mira Grant

So, this is a novella set in Mira Grant (Aka [profile] seananmcguire's) Newsflesh universe. Like her other novella, San Diego 2014 is set during the Rising, a period in summer 2014 where a group of idiots decide that they totally need to break into a quarantined research lab and spread an experimental virus everywhere before the scientists finish testing it... and this, naturally leads to zombie pandemic. (The Newsflesh trilogy proper is set some 25 years later, because life moves on, except now there are zombies.) San Diego 2014 isn't about the worldwide panic, though. It's about a small group of people, friends and strangers, when they first encounter the Rising... at the San Diego Comic-Con. So, yes, you can summarize the novella as 'zombies at Comic-Con'.

But there's more to it than that. )

Sep. 15th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 017: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Another series book; Gunmetal Magic is a sort-of spin-off from Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series, basically giving the POV reins to Kate's best friend, Andrea Nash. (So, instead of all the books/short stories being Magic Verbs, we get a book called Adjective Magic.)

Protip: This is really annoying when authors do this. Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) nearly caused me to buy one book twice because I forgot the order was Red-Green-Blue. Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra makes me have to check because all of them are Cast in Noun, and remembering whether Cast in Shadow or Cast in Secret is a pain. As is remembering that there's both Magic Burns, Magic Bites and Magic Bleeds. And probably more. I don't remember if I had this problem with Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, but I think at least there it helped it was some kind of rank order.

Look, I get that you want your book titles to match, but not so much that I can't remember which ones I've read.

Anyway, about this book... )

Sep. 6th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 016: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

So, one of the problems with being a Hugo voter this year was that I started listening to SF podcasts, which piles on my to-read list. Wait, why is this a problem? Because there are so many books! I miss my school days when I could read ALL THE BOOKS because high school was easy and I had no internet and limited mobility to visit friends. Well, not really, but being able to come home with big boxes of books from the library (no, not kidding) and finish them in a month was nice.

Oh, well, at least reading 2312 will get me ahead on Hugo reading for next year, because if this isn't on the ballot, I will eat my (article of clothing).

Read more... )

Aug. 23rd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 015: Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce

I'll blog more later, but have a book for now.

I read most of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet as a teenager, before the modern YA trend got started. And, well, she writes a good blog and is sort of local to me, and I have several friends who are fans of her. And, honestly, once I got past my teenaged years, I got a lot less insecure about reading 'kids books'.

So, I picked up her other world of books, the Magic Circle ones, which follow four orphaned youngsters from different backgrounds who end up having a semi-rare sort of magic for a certain craft or set of things. )

Jul. 3rd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 014: Obsidian and Blood by Aliette de Bodard

I think I've mentioned these books before, but since they're being released as an omnibus, why not. That and I just finished the third book, Master of the House of Darts.

de Bodard basically is writing pre-Columbian fantasy: a murder mystery in what we call the Aztec Empire and what the residents knew as the Triple Alliance. It's also fantasy in that the theology practiced by the city-states in that area is 100% true: the gods need sacrifices to do things like keep the sun in the sky and the corn growing, and star demons can walk the streets and kill people when the Revered Speaker position sits empty.

If you think about it, most fantasy authors shy away from stuff like this because it gets into the morality of human sacrifice.  )

Jul. 1st, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 013: A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold

So, somehow the whole 'lover who knows what you want better than you do' trope has come up, thanks to Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray, especially with the side of '... so he doesn't need to ask permission'. In response, I started rereading A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Spoilers for A Civil Campaign and Komarr )

Jun. 19th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 012: Redshirts by John Scalzi

A lot of books take on meta-narrative. Mercedes Lackey has a whole universe where magic is driven by stories, and a lot of Discworld Physics (such as it is) runs on narrative. And, heck, Redshirts itself has a list of stories in the back of the book that run on 'what if fiction were, in some sense' real'?

I don't think it's a spoiler to say Redshirts is one of these books; if you have a serious loathing for meta-fiction, it's probably best to give it a pass. (On the other hand, it's a good adventure story.)

'Redshirts' is the inverse problem of 'Galaxy Quest' )

Jun. 14th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 011: The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ives Gilman

The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ives Gilman
This was enjoyable, but didn't leave as strong of an impact on me as the other novelas.

Thorn is fourteen in real time, but around 140-150 years by chronology. )

Jun. 10th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 010: Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

So, Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht was a difficult novel for me for about the same reason Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okaofor was; I don't mind reading things that are set in a darker era (real or fictitious), but afterward, I want the literary equivalent of something sweet and fluffy. A bit like drinking black tea with pastries.

Anyway, Of Blood and Honey is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.  )

Jun. 5th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 009: The Man Who Ended History, by Ken Liu

I actually finished all the novelettes for the Hugos last night, meaning I've read for four awards. I might do the novelettes and short stories in one post, rather than do these.

Hey, it's a story involving time travel (sort of) and WWII and not Nazis!

'The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary' is told as if we're watching a documentary from the near future, the ever classic 20XX. )

Jun. 2nd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 008: Silently and Very Fast by Cat Valente

First off, Cat Valente has incredibly rich prose, full of imagery. Silently and Very Fast is basically a story told in stories to describe the relationship between machine intelligences and human intelligences.

(The first part is here)

Elefsis is a machine intelligence that used to be a house, modeled by his creator as a lares familiar, a 'god of the household' like the Romans worshiped.  )

Jun. 1st, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 007: Countdown by Mira Grant

I'm into the Hugo novellas! Hooray! Yes, I'm cheating and skipping A Dance with Dragons. If I finish everything else in two months, maybe I'll go back and read it.

Anyway, Countdown is a prequel to Mira Grant's (aka Seanan McGuire's) Newsflesh trilogy telling the story of how we accidentally made the dead rise. It was originally published as a series of short pieces on her LJ running up to Deadline's release in May 2011, and you can still read it like that. Orbit did release an ebook version of it, and a paper copy is coming out from Subterranean Press (as When Will You Rise).

One of the things I appreciate about Grant's zombie books is that while scientists can be the bad guys, science isn't. )

May. 31st, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 006: Leviathan Wakes, by James SA Corey

So, I mentioned this previously, but I was able to enjoy Leviathan Wakes, despite me critiquing the orbital mechanics and realizing that recent science* would throw a monkey wrench into the plot. But I'm used to that; sometimes things shape out that way.

So, Leviathan Wakes hits a sweet spot in SF for me by being about the time when humankind has the Solar System as its playground but hasn't moved to the stars.  )

* Recent science that a member of my research group is doing!

May. 27th, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 005: Blackout by Mira Grant

I took a break from Hugo Reading 2012 to read the final book in the Newsflesh trilogy, Blackout by Mira Grant. There are spoilers in this post for the previous two books; so caveat lector.

(Oh, content warning. The Newsflesh trilogy features a relationship between an adopted brother and sister. Nothing more intimate than kissing is ever shown on the page; but it's all but directly stated that it is a sexual relationship.)

So, <em>Blackout</em> picks up from the bombshells that <em>Deadline</em> dropped. )

May. 22nd, 2012

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 004: Embassytown by China Mieville

Look, two book posts in a day!

Embassytown was amazing. I have a feeling I need to make up a list of China Mieville's stuff and just go read all this things, because I also really dug The City and the City (expect to see a post about it).

Embassytown is sort of classic 'idea' SF. )

100 SF/Fantasy Stories 003: Among Others by Jo Walton

So, I downloaded my Hugo Voter's packet, so expect to see a lot of posts regarding the contents. For those of you don't know, the Hugos are Science Fiction and Fantasy's Big Award Ceremony. The nominees are chosen by popular vote of the attendees and supporting members of WorldCon, and then the nominees are voted on by that same body. So it's a good indication of what a subset of the fandom is doing.

I already reviewed one nominee for best novel, Mira Grant's Deadline. So Among Others by Jo Walton is the second. Since I'm nearly finished with the third, I better post this entry.

Unlike Deadline, which is a thriller, Among Others is a quiet coming of age story.  )

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