From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Tag Archive for ‘book’ rss

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Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Yes, Boneshaker fans, the zombies are back in Dreadnought, the sequel to the award-winning first novel in Cherie Priest’s steampunk/Weird Western “Clockwork Century” series. In her new outing, Priest emphasizes the Wild West and Civil War aspects of her alternate history. She introduces an interesting new cast and a strong, likeable new protagonist, deferring the return of Boneshaker characters to the denouement. Priest also wisely saves the zombie-fighting for Dreadnought‘s climax.

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The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

The plot synopsis may sound rather strange, but rest assured: it doesn’t begin to capture the wild delights of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack. Debut novelist Mark Hodder outrageously reinvents both Victorian England and pulp fiction in the guise of a complicated time-travel novel. The narrative’s darkly fun tone becomes decidedly unfun when the increasingly deranged time traveler attempts serial rape. Which brings us to the female characters: unreconstructed victims and helpmeets who barely partake in the revisionist-pulp action.

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Moonshine by Alaya Johnson

Urban fantasy is busting out of its contemporary settings, and Alaya Johnson’s cleverly titled novel, Moonshine, is set in a time and place—Jazz Age Manhattan—that seems especially well suited to nocturnal paranormal adventures. Johnson makes the most of the re-imagined era with her thoughtfully developed alternate history, and adorns it with period details that reach considerably beyond the Charleston and the bob. She also doesn’t shy away from the era’s less-than-enlightened views on gender, race, class, and immigration.

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The Extra and Copping Squid by Michael Shea

Whether exploring the horrors of the Lovecraftian universe or of the future, Shea doesn’t fail to deliver a sense of wonder along with a delightful shudder that fans of horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction will be sure to appreciate

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Feed: Book One of the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

The “twin”-protagonists are entertaining company, their thoroughly extrapolated post-apocalyptic world is a terrific setting, the SF zombies are skillfully rationalized, the body count is high, and the plot delivers some unexpected twists. So, while Feed has arrived in time to ride the pop-culture zombie juggernaut, and offers plenty of undead mayhem for zombie fans, it will also please readers who don’t give a crap about zombies.

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The Bird of the River by Kage Baker

Kage Baker’s The Bird of the River is an elegant novel from the late Kage Baker that manages to simultaneously focus on the most intimate details of character while taking advantage of all the metaphysical freedom that the rules of fantasy allow. There’s swashbuckling, there’s monsters, there’s hints and allegations of a power beyond understanding, but at the heart of it all is heart, a very human growth and understanding that simultaneously makes the book accessible and marvelous.

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Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner

Choosing a setting rarely seen in English-language YA fiction, Simner brings the remote, quake-racked island vividly to life. She inhabits her Iceland with complex, sympathetic characters who pay steep costs for the actions of others and themselves. She skillfully blends ancient Icelandic legend (specifically, Njal’s Saga) and Scandinavian myth with the modern world. In sum, Thief Eyes is a timeless fantasy

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Ares Express by Ian McDonald

SF master Ian McDonald knows that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic realism. And, with humor, poetic grace, and an abundance of Big Ideas, he embodies that truth in Ares Express. Artificial intelligences manipulate mortals with the casual power of gods; prophecies come true; quantum realities erase railroad tracks with a slice of terrain from an alternate Mars—and that’s just for starters.

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Four New Australian Anthologies

Baggage, Belong, Legends of Australian Fantasy & Scary Kisses: four 2010 anthologies, three from small presses and one from a major publisher. Not all of the books are restricted to Australian authors by any means, but in the way of things the majority of stories here are from that continent. I’ll state upfront that not one of these books fully satisfies. Each is ambitious in its own way, and each has some nice work, but across the board I’d say there are two many minor stories, and indeed occasionally some very weak work. But for all that, there is, as I said, some nice work in each of these books: Let’s celebrate that.

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The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer

The back cover text for Jeff VanderMeer’s short fiction collection The Third Bear makes it very clear that this ain’t your daddy’s short story collection. The contents are explicitly called out as “surreal and absurdist”, and the stories live up to this billing. No good versus evil here, no heroes or villains or tidy endings pop up amongst the talking rockhopper penguins and symbiotic flying manta rays and alternate 9/11s. Even the title of the collection, drawn from the lead story, is a warning not to expect the obvious. The piece isn’t the meditation on Goldilocks that one might expect, instead being a brutal examination of the awful consequences of mob logic, fear, escalation, and vengeance. It also stands as a stark warning to the reader: Your expectations will not be catered to here, so leave them at the door.