From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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review

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Janni Lee Simner makes an impressive debut with her first novel for young adults, Bones of Faerie. With graceful prose, primal tragedy, and a rigorous avoidance of the teen angst that makes so many recent YA protagonists so insufferably self-absorbed, Simner brings her complex characters quietly, yet vividly, to life.

review

Double Review: Wings of Fire/Sympathy for the Devil

Night Shade has, over the last couple of years, published several striking mostly reprint anthologies, on various fairly broad themes. Here in the summer of 2010 we see two more, one a collection of stories about the devil, the other a collection of dragon stories. Both are obviously significant Fantasy tropes, with a plethora of excellent short stories to choose from. And the editors, in each book, select some exceptional stories, a nice mix of fairly familiar work and worthy lesser known pieces.

review

Wilde Stories 2010: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman

All the stories are superior choices. And, in and of itself, Richard Bowes’s is-it-fantasy-or-is-it-mainstream novelette, “I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said,” is worth the price of admission; and the same is true of Elizabeth Hand’s re-envisioned fairy tale, “The Far Shore.” Wilde Stories 2010 is a worthwhile volume for anyone who enjoys literary speculative fiction.

review

The Weird Inhabitants of Sesqua Valley by W.H. Pugmire

Recognizing that it’s the mythology of the Cthulhu Mythos that’s the shared starting point for most readers these days, Pugmire inverts the model and uses the cosmic as a gateway to his regionally defined, deeply personal stories. Everyone in his mythical Sesqua Valley knows about Nyarlathotep and the Book of Eibon; it’s part of the standard conversation.

review

Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

In her debut novel, Song of Scarabaeus, Sara Creasy provides a scary answer to a frightening question: What if Monsanto were in charge of all biology? Creasy’s extrapolation of advanced genetic engineering as just another form of information technology is interesting and logical. She also creates sympathetic, believable characters, a fast-paced plot, and a beautiful, terrifying world in the terraforming-gone-gonzo planet of Scarabaeus.

review

The Great Purple Hoo-Ha by Phillip H. Farber

This two-volume novel can be read two different ways. It can be read as a Robert Sheckley/Douglas Adams-style romp or it can be read as a Robert Anton Wilson-style novel of comic enlightenment. Farber is known for his nonfiction on occult and Neuro-linguistic Programming topics, if he keeps his hoo-ha up he might become well known for his comedic SF/F as well.

review

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: Book One of the Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Readers seeking grand sword-slinging adventures, blood-drenched epic battles, and a travelogue of exotic imaginary lands will be frustrated by N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. However, Readers seeking unpredictable, stimulating fiction should snap the novel up. It’s not just an uncommonly well-written fantasy that upends expectations and offers fascinating explorations of the nature of power (political, familial, cultural, national, racial, divine). The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is an award-worthy novel and Jemisin’s a new writer to take note of.

review

Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Fiction, edited by S.T. Joshi

S.T. Joshi notes in his anthology’s introduction that he solicited contributions based on H.P. Lovecraft’s statement: “All my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.’’ The result is 21 stories that mostly pass Lovecraft’s “test of the really weird”—which also serves as this tome’s epigraph: “…whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers; a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe’s utmost rim.”

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Selected Stories by Fritz Leiber, edited by Charles N. Brown and Jonathan Strahan

Fritz Leiber is indisputably one of the greatest SF/Fantasy/Horror writers of the twentieth century, a multiple award winner, and creator of one of the best known Fantasy duos of all time, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. But now, less than two decades after his death, most of his work is out of print, save for some Fafhrd/Gray Mouser collections. So this book serves as an outstanding introduction to Leiber’s work in the short form.

review

Steamed: A Steampunk Romance by Katie MacAlister

Katie MacAlister’s Steamed: A Steampunk Romance is one of the first offsprings of a crossbreeding of romance and steampunk. The New York Times bestselling author of humorous paranormal romance demonstrates clear familiarity with not just steampunk (which she knowingly teases), but with SF/F as she engages in believable, well-researched world-building. For all its speculative chops it’s a romance, but it’s also good steampunk…