From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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review

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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The Wolfman: Another Shaggy Dog Story

Werewolves always seem to get the shaft in popular culture. They constantly take a back seat to all those brooding, sexy, immortal bloodsuckers. Anne Rice never interviewed a werewolf, after all.

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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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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.

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Legion: Get Thee Behind Me

A grinding gunfest, ridiculous and dull by turns, Legion is the sort of movie that makes you wonder how no one involved raised a hand at some point and said, “So…is this really what we’re going to go with?”

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The Book of Eli: The Sacred Apocalypse

Hollywood’s long-standing love affair with the apocalypse is once again in full bloom. Truly, who can deny the joys of struggling to survive in barbaric, radiation-blasted wastelands, where bloodthirsty savages lurk in the rubble, and the lucky ones die quickly?

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Dollhouse: After the Fall

Well, all wildly uneven things must come to an end, and Dollhouse‘s last couple months have been as twisty and unpredictable as its most recent episodes.

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The Mermaid’s Madness by Jim C. Hines

The first of this series, The Stepsister Scheme, an unexpectedly effective mixture of light and dark. These alternate takes on fairy tales mix the clever and the horrific. The tone of the narration is mostly bouncy, with some jokes, but there is a sense that these characters are real—their lives have depth and sometimes tragedy. The Mermaid’s Madnessis a strong mix of magic and adventure, with a number of well-portrayed and involving women characters at its heart.

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Daybreakers: Not a Light Snack for Twilight Fans

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a scientist working for Bromley Marks in an attempt to discover a blood substitute. Unfortunately, when dire shortages lead Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) to push the project ahead, Dalton’s substitute causes his undead test subject to explode.