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 )

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. )

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' )