Station Eleven = The Stand + The Road – (Supernatural Occurrences + Cannibalism)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by Kelly Swails

Station Eleven-smallIt’s great when a book can be summed up by an equation as well as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

Like King’s The Stand, the world is wiped out by a flu virus that kills ninety-nine percent of the population; like McCarthy’s The Road, survivors travel by horse or foot and encounter grim realities of a decimated world. What St. John Mandel brings to the table, however, is an unusual structure and omniscient POV that shouldn’t work but somehow does.

Arthur Leander is a famous actor that dies in Toronto during a performance of King Lear. All of the characters the reader follows are in some way related to Arthur. Miranda, his first wife; Elizabeth and Tyler, his second wife and son; Kirsten, a young girl and King Lear actress; Jeevan, a former paparazzo-turned-EMT; and Clark, Arthur’s best friend. Even Station Eleven — the graphic novel that Miranda creates — becomes a character of sorts. On the night Arthur dies, an extremely infectious and thorough strain of the swine flu — called the Georgia Flu since it originated in the country of Georgia — descends on Toronto. This flu has a short incubation period (four to five hours) and quick course from onset of illness to death (less than two days). It turns out that Arthur is the lucky one, because most of the world’s population is dead inside a month.

The novel jumps between all these characters but spends the majority of its time on Kirsten, the child actor who joins a Traveling Symphony. The Symphony is a theater troupe and orchestra that travels from town to town to perform Shakespeare plays and classical music concerts. The tagline for the Symphony is “because survival is insufficient,” which they borrowed from an episode of Star Trek.

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New Treasures: Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Long Black Curl Alex Bledsoe-smallThe first volume in Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, The Hum and the Shiver, was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. The second, Wisp of a Thing, was called “A chilling mix of fantasy, realism, and a touch of horror” by Booklist. The long-anticipated third volume in the series finally arrives this week.

In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.

Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.

The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?

Alex Bledsoe is also the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood), and Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel, written with Tara Cardinal (read a sample chapter here.)

Long Black Curl will be published by Tor Books on May 26, 2015. It is 382 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover photo is by Elisabeth Ansley.

Vintage Treasures: The Fox Woman by A. Merritt

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Fox Woman-small The Fox Woman Avon-small

A. Merritt is something of a cautionary tale for authors today.

He was the bestselling American fantasy writer for a generation. His career spanned three decades, from 1917 to the mid-1940s, and his novels — including The Moon Pool (1919), The Ship of Ishtar (1924), The Face in the Abyss (1931), and Creep, Shadow! (1934) — remained in print for more than seven decades after his death. Yet he is virtually forgotten today.

This isn’t a case of an uncaring public ignoring a forgotten genius. Merritt certainly still has his fans, but his day is past. Personally, I find his novels largely unreadable. His short stories, however, are another matter.

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Seeking Revenge Against the Shades of the Dead: S.E. Lindberg’s Lords of Dyscrasia

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

LORDS OF DYSCRASIA-smallLords of Dyscrasia
By S.E. Lindberg
Ignis Publishing (258 pages, $15.96 in trade paperback, $2.99 digital, July 7, 2011)
Cover and interior illustrations by the author

S.E. Lindberg is an original voice in fantasy. His prose is lush and colorful, and his style leans toward that of classic literature, without being stilted, self-conscious or pretentious. He has a gift for putting words “down on paper” and constructing sentences that flow with a poetic nuance.

Lords of Dyscrasia (an abnormal or disordered state of the body or of a bodily part) is touted as “Graphic Sword and Sorcery,” but to me it has more in common with the dark fantasy of Clark Ashton Smith and the gothic tones of Mervyn Peake’s first two Gormenghast books. There is some nice Lovecraftian shading to this novel, as well, with a touch of Edgar Allen Poe to lend it a feverishness of tone, and even a psychedelic flavor in style.

While Lindberg channels his influences with a deft hand, he has mapped out a beautifully grotesque world that is truly his own unique creation. This book was described to me as being part of the Grimdark subgenre of dark fantasy, and it is indeed a grim, dark tale.

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Escalation to Fight: Understanding Magic in Trial of Intentions

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 | Posted by Peter Orullian

Trial-of-Intentions-small2War. What is it good for?

For some reason, when I sat down to write this two-part article on war in fantasy fiction, Edwin Starr’s version of the song “War, what is it good for?” popped into my head. There’s probably a reason for that. We’ll see if it bears out as I go.

In the broadest possible terms, there are two ways a people or nation will attempt to deal with war: escalate and fight (with the hope of victory), or do all they can to avert war (without sacrificing their freedom). I admit of the oversimplification here, but it’s a short two-part article series, after all.

For part one, lets hit the first topic: escalation to fight. And I’ll use some examples from my current series to try and illustrate the point.

War is a mainstay in fantasy fiction, and in epic fantasy, particularly. The stakes are high — freedom, the right to rule, stuff like that. To win or defend such things usually requires armies, dangerous political intrigue, and war.

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Future Treasures: Oathkeeper by J.F. Lewis

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Oathkeeper-smallOathkeeper, the second novel in J.F. Lewis’s Grudgebearer Trilogy, will be published in early June by Pyr. It’s an intriguing series that features carnivorous elves, sentient armor, plant people, a newly ascended god, and much more. As Dave Gross puts it, “J.F. Lewis dials high fantasy up to 11.”

Rae’en has taken the place of her father, Kholster, as First of the practically immortal Aern, a race created by the Eldrennai as warrior-slaves to defend them from the reptilian Zaur. Freed from all Oaths by Kholster’s death, Rae’en decides to wage war on the Eldrennai.

Prince Rivvek must claim the Eldrennai throne by completing the Test of Four so he can save as much of his kingdom as possible. Meanwhile, his brother, Prince Dolvek, hatches a plot to enlist the aid of the plant-like Vael to defeat the Zaur horde, who mean to take advantage of the strife between the Aern and Eldrennai.

The inevitable war between the Eldrennai and the Zaur begins, with the Aern an unpredictable force that could save the Eldrennai – or doom them. Torn by rage and grief, Rae’en must decide who is worthy to keep her people’s Oaths.

J.F. Lewis is also the author of the Void City series of urban fantasy novels from Pocket Books, composed of Staked, Revamped, Crossed, and Burned, about a vampire who runs a strip club.

Oathkeeper will be published by Pyr Books on June 9, 2015. It is 381 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Todd Lockwood. Learn more at J.F. Lewis’ website.

Explore the Best of Early SF With Science Fiction From the Great Years

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Armageddon 2419 AD-small The Mightiest Machine-small The Moon Is Hell-small Alien Planet-small

In the early 1950s, after the end of World War II and the beginning of the Space Race, science fiction experienced an almost unprecedented boom. Some 31 new SF magazines began publishing in that decade alone. Hungry to meet the demands of a new audience, publishers mined the pulps of the 1930s and 1940s for titles they could inexpensively reprint in paperback. Countless SF and fantasy writers enjoyed their very first mass market editions as a result — including Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, John W. Campbell, Lester del Rey, Jack Vance, Theodore Sturgeon, A.E. van Vogt, and many others. Avon, Ace, Berkely and others built their fledgling enterprises into mighty publishing houses repackaging classic SF and fantasy for a new generation.

By the early 1960s, the boom in SF was essentially over. Nearly 80% of the magazines on the market folded. Publishers drastically cut back on SF titles, and the entire industry re-trenched. By the early 1970s, a new generation of young SF readers was starting to show up in bookstores, clutching their dollar bills and looking for great adventure tales, and Frederick Pohl convinced his publishers at Ace that the time was ripe to repackage the great SF of the early 20th Century one more time.

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The Omnibus Volumes of P.N. Elrod: The Vampire Files

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Vampire Files Volume One The Vampire Files Volume Two-small The Vampire Files Volume Three

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t initially interested in P.N. Elrod’s The Vampire Files. A few things happened to change that.

First, I started to hear about Jack Fleming, the investigative journalist in Prohibition-era Chicago who becomes a vampire and private investigator, and whose first case was to solve his own murder. Folks used adjectives like “surprising” and “old fashioned fun” to describe his adventures. That sounded pretty good. By then, the series had gotten pretty far along, and I wondered idly if I should pick one up. But it seemed a little late to jump on board, and I was never really sure what volume to start with. Plus some of the earlier books became harder to find, and it all seemed like just a bit too much effort.

Then Ace Books released the first omnibus volume in 2003, containing the first three Vampire Files novels. And, well, you know what a sucker I am for omnibus collections. All those hard-to-find paperbacks, in one handsome and economical package? It’s too much to resist.

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New Treasures: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Girl With All the Gifts-smallI like knowing the premise of a book before I start reading it. I think that’s fairly normal. But what happens when knowing the premise is a spoiler, and the publisher won’t tell you?

That seems to be the case with the trade paperback reprint of M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, which I found on the New Releases table at Barnes and Noble last Saturday. The front and back cover reveal almost nothing about the book, beyond calling it “The Most Original Thriller You Will Read This Year,” and this cryptic text on the back:

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.

Instead of a plot synopsis, the book is plastered with blurbs… lots and lots of them. Joss Whedon says “So surprising, so warm and yet so chilling… as fresh as it is terrifying.” Vogue calls it “Haunting, heart-breaking,” Marie Claire says it’s “Tense and fast-paced with a heartwarming tenderness,” and Reader’s Guide gushes with “Propulsive, imaginative.”

Wait a minute. Vogue? Marie Claire? Last time I picked up something Marie Claire called “heartwarming,” I ended up reading Eat, Pray, Love. I don’t want that to happen again.

A little investigation (I have sources) reveals that The Girl With All the Gifts is, in fact, a genre novel. It’s (mild spoiler!) some kind of future dystopia. Revealing more than that would be telling, but suffice to say that I’m very intrigued indeed.

This is M.R. Carey’s first novel. The Girl With All the Gifts was published by Orbit Books on April 28. It is 435 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback.

Charles de Lint and The Little Country

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

The Little CountryIn talking about portal fantasies last time, I was moved to reread one of the more unusual examples of the sub-genre, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country (1991).

The book is in a very real sense two books, but it isn’t a simple play-within-a-play, story-within-a-story thing: Each book is being read by the protagonist of the other. The now-overused self-referential concept known as “meta” wasn’t so common when The Little Country was written, but it might have been invented to describe the novel. The book is extremely self-aware, something which even the protagonists are forced to recognize.

The two stories do run parallel to one another, but this isn’t a case of success in one world reflecting or depending on success in the other world, as we see in King and Straub’s The Talisman, for example. The characters don’t overlap, the settings aren’t the same, though you might say that the outcomes are. There is a physical object common to both worlds, a standing stone with an opening through which objects and people can pass. Both worlds have the tradition that passing through the stone nine times at moonrise effects some magical change – entrance into the land of the faerie, a cure for sickness or barrenness, etc.

In the thread which most resembles our world, Janey Little, a twenty-something traditional musician, finds a book in her grandfather’s attic – a one-of-a-kind hitherto unknown work left in her grandfather’s keeping by the author, an old and eccentric friend. The book is called “The Little Country.”

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