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Ghosts of Manhattan: A Tale of the Ghost by George Mann

Ghosts of Manhattan is the answer to a terrific high-concept question: What if the Great Gatsby was Batman in a steampunk Cthulhuvian universe? It may not win many converts to the steampunk, superhero, or cosmic horror subgenres; but it will please many devotees of those forms.

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Changeless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger made quite a splash with her extraordinarily enjoyable debut novel, Soulless, a steampunk-spiced urban fantasy novel of manners. She and her charming protagonist, Alexia Maccon nee Tarabotti, return with Changeless, a steampunk novel of manners spiced with urban fantasy. With a few more novels this delightful, Ms. Carriger will be challenging Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris for the top of the New York Times bestseller lists.

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Not Less Than Gods by Kage Baker

The SF/F field mourned the untimely death of Kage Baker on January 31. Baker, in a writing career of not much more than a decade, established a reputation as one of the most purely entertaining of writers, yet a writer with serious purpose underlying the fun. She wrote novels and stories in several series, both science fiction and fantasy. Her best-known project was collectively called “the Company.” Not Less Than Gods is another Company novel (though at least one more is coming). It is related to her recent stories about the Gentleman’s Speculative Society. The Victorian setting combined with the advanced technology the GSS secretly develops gives the book something of a steampunk feel. It stands alone fairly well, but undoubtedly readers familiar with the Company in general and the later career of Bell-Fairfax in particular will get more out of it.

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The New Dead: Christopher Golden, Editor

The New Dead, edited by Christopher Golden, is an example of the “big tent” theory of zombie fiction. Instead of restricting the content to the classic Romero-esque shamblers, Golden threw the gates wide open and the result is a wildly diverse, inventive batch of stories that will please both hardcore zombie fanatics and more casual dabblers in the subgenre…a look at zombies that reaffirms the elements that allow them to maintain their grip on our imagination while showing how broad the possibilities for them are.

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Book Review: Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology, edited by Nick Gevers

It’s tough to compile a definitive anthology, especially when the volume contains only original fiction and lacks most of the genre’s iconic writers, but editor Nick Gevers tackles the challenge in Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology. Overall, it is neither as definitive nor as strong as might be hoped, nor does it achieve “definitive” status. The anthology should, however, please many steampunk devotees, and win it some new fans.

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Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

Husband and wife Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley have each had remarkable writing careers as individuals. This is the second book (after Water, Putnam 2002) they have written together, collaborating on the book but not the individual stories. The two longer stories in Fire are by McKinley, the three shorter ones by Dickinson. All are Young Adult fantasies, about “fire spirits” of various types, such as a salamander, a phoenix, and a dragon. Fire is a wonderful blending of talents of two writers who have already given us some of the best YA fantasy of the past few decades.

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Interfictions 2: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing edited by Delia Sherman & Christopher Barzak, Introduction by Henry Jenkins

Overall, these twenty-one stories offer high quality prose and a fair amount of unpredictability. But the anthology is uneven in a way that will allow readers to differ—perhaps radically—in their reactions. Still, you too may find the best stories to be Carlos Hernandez’s delightful “The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria”, which walks the tightrope between mainstream and magic realism without a slip, and Theodora Goss’s gemmed beauty “Child-Empress of Mars”. Goss’s tale takes its inspiration—in the finest post-modern fashion—from a Wikipedia entry on John Carter of Mars instead of the series itself, yet still manages to turn the interplanetary romance inside out in a way that would make Jack Vance proud.

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Brendán by Morgan Llywellyn

Better known as St. Brendan the Navigator, this strong man in an often harsh land became famous in the Middle Ages for his ocean voyage to discover the Isle of the Blessed, a Paradise supposedly located beyond the Western Sea. Adroitly blending imagination, the medieval “Life of St. Brendan”, and author Morgan Llywellyn’s vast knowledge of Irish legend and history, Brendán is a fascinating introduction to this towering man of faith and the world that shaped him and which he, in turned, shaped.

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Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy: 2008 Download, edited by Rich Horton

Editor Horton packages fourteen stories originally published online during 2008 into an anthology that confirms the obvious: good short sf/f can be found on the Web. It is, perhaps, more bounteous than in the days when OMNI magazine went online in late 1996 (“Get a Grip” by Paul Park, published by OMNI in March 1997, became the first fiction originally published on the Internet to be nominated for a World Fantasy Award), but the amount of less-than-good fiction is even more abundant. Unplugged serves two purposes: to point out examples of outstanding fiction and to direct the reader to the online sources that publish it.
It also provides proof of the variety of speculative fiction available. Most importantly Unplugged does what any good “best of” anthology does:
showcase highly readable, enjoyable fiction.

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Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is a thoroughly delightful Young Adult novel, the first in a series based on an alternate history World War I. In this history Charles Darwin discovered the genetic basis for evolution, and how to manipulate it. As a result the United Kingdom and its allies have a society based on biotechnology, an example of which is the airship Leviathan, a huge beast (or colony of organisms) based on whale DNA and much more. By contrast the Germans, Austrians, and their allies, called Clankers, use steampunk-flavored machinery: airplanes and zeppelins, but also great walking land war machines.