Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
While I don’t particularly believe in age restrictions (although I will admit to being completely shocked that I could rent the NC-17 film Shame from the public library without someone checking my ID; I suppose acne scars technically prove that I’m past adolescence), there are some texts that come to us at exactly the right time. For instance, my first viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring at age ten revealed to me my fannish destiny. But there are also texts that we encounter later that we could have used earlier. As Renay and I make our way through Xena: Warrior Princess, I can’t help but having the sneaking suspicion that I might have twigged onto both the “queer as a three dollar bill” and “tall dark femmes” things a lot earlier if I’d been watching that as it aired.
After the King edited by Martin H. Greenberg
No figure looms larger in fantasy than J. R. R. Tolkien. One hundred and twenty-one (or eleventy-eleven) years after his birth and fifty-nine years after the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings still functions as the baseline for the entire genre of high fantasy. (There’s a very valid argument to be made that we need to move forward from that baseline, but that’s another post for another time.) But a lot of Tolkien-inspired fantasy only mimics the most obvious trappings of the good Professor’s legendarium. That’s not necessarily a judgment on the quality of those works—Blizzard Entertainment used those trappings as a stepping stone to create their own interesting, engaging world for the Warcraft franchise, and Eragon… well, Eragon exists. It can go either way. Continue reading
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I despise the term “literary fiction”. Not only is it semantically redundant, but it’s also used to ghettoize genre fiction. Ever notice how some genre fiction is sometimes shelved with the nondescript fiction? That’s because it has been deemed to have all the hallmarks of an “important” book—it’s serious and soul-searching. It’s like an errant feudal lord reclaiming a disowned child after he discovers it can do something interesting.
Redshirts by John Scalzi
So Star Trek Into Darkness broke my heart and not in the fun way. (The fun way involves my usual Sunday night weepings, which I believe the rest of the world calls Once Upon a Time.) With my hold on Star Trek: The Motion Picture (yes, I know it’s painfully slow, but completionism compels me!) remaining in a, well, holding pattern, I knew I had to do something to drum up my waning enthusiasm for the franchise if Project “Watch All Of Star Trek” was ever going to get completed. Luckily, Redshirts was available right off the shelf at my local library when I finally stepped in.
The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
I really loved A Companion to Wolves, which sets out to deconstruct the trope of spirit animals and ends up exploring what it is to be female or female-coded in a patriarchy. Deep dark truths in speculative fiction: kind of my whole deal. It made my top ten list of last year, so when Memory told me there was a sequel, I was over the moon. Of course, my excitement was tempered (oh, come on, I get one pun, surely?) by the fact the only library copy I had access to was at my hometown library, so I couldn’t immediately capitalize on my delight. And hey, the last installment is expected this year, so perhaps the wait was more luck than delay…
Ha’penny by Jo Walton
Sometimes, life just comes at you, you know? I tend to do everything in my power to make my life uncomplicated—I’m using my words more, courtesy of Captain Awkward, I make time for sleep and exercise, and I try and do my work in a timely fashion. For the most part, it works, but sometimes life, the ornery thing it is, catches up with you, and I ended up spending a few days feeling utterly crushed by work. In such a fix, I needed a book and an author I could rely on for a quick but mindblowing read—who else could I turn to but Jo Walton?
Farthing by Jo Walton
I’ve really enjoyed the Jo Walton novels that I’ve read—Tooth and Claw and Among Others—but neither blew my world up. I’d heard really good things about her Small Change trilogy (so named because the novels in it are Farthing, Ha’Penny, and Half a Crown), but my past experience with her didn’t send me out to the library immediately to pick up Farthing. It sort of meandered across my currently hypothetical desk at the end of June, languishing until I needed something to break the good-but-average rut my reading was in. Said rut was absolutely shattered.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen’s Sister Light, Sister Dark was one of the very first books from my reading list I highlighted on The Literary Horizon here at the blog, and I think it says a lot about my bookish turnaround that it’s taken me three years to get to one of her novels. Along with being praised by readers whose taste I trust, Briar Rose has been haunting my footsteps at school; it was very nearly a selection for that children’s and young adult literature class I never shut up about. I’m not sure what motivated me to pick it up, after three years of not being motivated to, but I found myself starting it at lunch and ending it a few hours later.
A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
While I don’t care for N. K. Jemisen’s fiction, her musings on speculative fiction as a genre are usually worth a look. So when she mentioned A Companion to Wolves in passing in a post on the possible feminization of epic fantasy, I investigated further. While the “companion animal” idea smacks too much of supermarket paranormal romance to me, the fact that Monette and Bear were brutally deconstructing it grabbed me. I love deconstruction, especially in speculative fiction. I was expecting something along the lines of The Magicians (but with spirit wolves!)—what I got was something much more.
I love it when that happens!
The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge
This is going to be interesting. You see, I won a prize pack from Tor.com that included A Fire Upon the Deep (a copy of which I already had) and The Children of the Sky. Naturally, I read them in order, but The Children of the Sky was an ARC, and I always try and put up reviews for ARCs the day before they’re released. So, yes, I’ve read A Fire Upon the Deep, but that review will go up at the beginning of November. Naturally, as this is a review for the sequel, there will be spoilers for A Fire Upon the Deep below. Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the actual review.