The Girl with All the Gifts
by M. R. Carey
Of all the things to be startlingly, physically terrified of, zombies is probably one of the stupidest. (Alligators, my mother’s worst fear, at least exist in large enough quantities not that far from where she lives.) But something the opposite of magical happens at the intersection of an overactive imagination and anxiety, and you end up spending high school sleeping facing the door just in case. (This was after sleeping with my face to the window in middle school, when alien abduction was much more of a concern.) But it’s eased in adulthood. I remain petrified of the things, but in an exhausted kind of way. The last great nightmare I had about zombies involved gauging whether or not I could make it to my car from the grocery store in the zombie apocalypse. “Oh, great,” I though to myself, as a errant zombie shambled through the lot.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Ever since Netflix pulled the majority of Saturday Night Live’s back catalog (soul-crushing ennui!), I’ve put a little more oomph into my other big media project: watching the entirety of Star Trek and slowly growing more and more disenchanted with J. J. Abrams’ rebooted films. I’m in season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation right now, which I am loving. It balances very interesting, philosophical questions that can only be asked in such an imaginative setting with a hearty dollop of nuttiness. The episode that’s waiting for me on Netflix right now, “The Most Toys,” finds Data captured by a collector who sees him only as an object, not a sentient being with agency and choices. Of course, the episode also points out that this is complicated by the fact that Data is a military man, and even has the collector ask if Starfleet is all that it seems.
Parasite by Mira Grant
It is no secret that zombies terrify me and I’m the kind of weenie who can barely stomach horror films. (It’s something about the tone, not the gore.) I mean, I’m really glad I watched Cabin in the Woods, because it’s a very useful text for me critically, but I also stayed up until 2 AM in the morning, serene in the knowledge that Pumpkinhead would inevitably jump out of the shadows and set my bed on fire. But, despite (or perhaps because of) my aversion, I find myself, once a year, embarking on an oblique horror binge by reading the Wikipedia entries for horror films and spooking myself silly. This year’s entry was the X-Files episode “Home.” After reading this review of it on Tor.com, I found myself reading every summary of it I could find and even chanced a glimpse at some screencaps until I was starting getting reluctant to turn off the lights.
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Steampunk got old fast, didn’t it? (Bad dum dum.) While it’s been around, in some fashion, since the Victorian era, the retrofuturistic genre exploded and imploded in the late aughts so fast that you can now purchase t-shirts mocking steampunk as “when Goths discovered brown”, there’s a Kate Beaton comic featuring Isambard Kingdom Brunel rolling his eyes at a time-traveler showing off his boots covered in gears and watches, and there’s even a song about how the aesthetic is being co-opted on a shallow level. Steampunk remains a thriving genre, especially when the imperialism, racism, and sexism of Victoriana is questioned, but there’s no doubt that steampunk’s moment in the mainstream sun is on the wain.
Black Ships by Jo Graham
After I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia last October, Fyrefly at Fyrefly’s Book Blog recommended I check out Black Ships, another book that retells The Aeneid from a minor female character’s perspective, to combat my complaints about Lavinia’s structure and pacing. While I’ve always been a fan of ancient Greece (although a greater fan of ancient Egypt), ancient Rome always struck me as a poor sequel as a kid, so I’ve not actually read The Aeneid, but I should really get around to it if I’m going to keep reading books like this. (Although I’ve never read The Wizard of Oz and that hasn’t stopped me one whit…)
Theft of Swords Michael J. Sullivan
I’m typing up this review on Iona, my trusty iPhone, as there is currently an Internet blackout at my parents’ house. (Equally unrelated to the bulk of this review—when did I cross over from calling it “my house” to “my parents’ house”? Is it pretentious?) Thus, images will be added when possible. (ETA: Done!) I am absolutely pathetic without the Internet. If the zombies manage to take it out during the zombie apocalypse, I will be the first to dip myself in barbecue sauce and throw myself to the ravenous hordes. In any case, today’s book caught my eye on NetGalley because it looked like fun. The fact that a handful of reviews (this is an Orbit reissue of a mostly self-published series) described it as “bromantic” certainly didn’t hurt.
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
This is all my fault, really. I mean, look at at that gorgeous cover. The gold and red over a monochromatic frame and stormy sky, the long hair, the fantastical dress, and, of course, those tattoos. It’s the work of Spanish artist Nekro, and he just knocked it—as well as the other covers in the series—out of the park. But nothing about the summary, which involves courtesans who serve vampires (AWESOME!) and one of those plots that could destroy the entire world, said anything about being supernatural fiction (often wrongly called “urban fantasy”—that would be The Lies of Locke Lamora) set fifty or so years in the future. I was expecting a straight fantasy novel, or, at the very least, a novel set in medieval Europe. But, I thought, perhaps I’m just biased against mainstream supernatural fiction. I should give it a shot. This is exactly why I end up reading mediocre books; I’m swayed by a cover and then I don’t want to admit my weakness. We should really come up with a name for it, since I have a raging case of it.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a title that just sort of made its way onto my reading list in 2010—the ridiculously gorgeous cover turned my head, and I always like to investigate heroines of color in fantasy. But I was content to let it sit on the reading list until I heard of The Broken Kingdoms, the sequel released eight months after the first. (Orbit, bless ‘em, has a refreshing approach towards releasing series.) Intrigued, I put it on hold at my library at home so it could be one of the first books I picked up during the holidays.
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
I usually don’t buy newly published titles, even if I really want to read them; I’m always worried that I won’t like it enough to keep it. (This worry can be directly traced to Gregory Maguire’s A Lion Among Men.) But a Barnes & Noble in my area closed recently, and as I scooped up some lovely half-price Austens, I saw The Gaslight Dogs and made a decision–the eight dollars I’m saving by boycotting The Last Airbender ought to be used to support multicultural fantasy. It was a good decision.
The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller
I’ve been seeing Karen Miller’s novels around since high school. The American covers for her work are all gorgeous and in harmony with each other, and the back covers always sounded interesting–Empress, the Miller novel I really want to read, concerns a slave who manages to claw her way to the top of her desert empire. That sounds awesome. So I when I saw The Innocent Mage forlornly on its side in my local thrift store, I thought I might as well get acquainted with Karen Miller and her work.