Untangling Twisted Timelines: Now Then and Everywhen by Rysa Walker

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 | Posted by CAITLIN MCALLISTER

Now, Then, and Everywhen-small Now, Then, and Everywhen - back-small

Now Then and Everywhen
By Rysa Walker
47North (528 pages, $14.95 paperback/$4.99 digital, April 1, 2020)

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, so when the opportunity came up to read an advance copy of Now Then and Everywhen I jumped (sadly just to my couch, not to a different timeline). I haven’t read Rysa Walker’s earlier CHRONOS novels, so I had zero expectations or previous knowledge of the universe. Now Then and Everywhen will entice readers that have read Ms. Walker’s earlier work, as this novel explains CHRONOS origins, but you don’t need to be familiar with the previous books in the series as this one examines CHRONOS through a new historical lens.

We begin in the year 2136 with Madison Grace, a grad student in Maryland who discovers a small disk that lights up at her touch buried in her grandmother’s overgrown garden. Suddenly she finds herself off the coast of what turns out to be 1906 Florida. She makes the jump back to her own time and begins to research the strange ties that her family seems to have to the time travel organization called CHRONOS. More than a century later, in 2304, Tyson Reyes is researching the civil rights movement. He’s a historian working for CHRONOS and he’s undercover in 1965, working to understand the intricacies of a historical moment.

Tyson and Madi notice odd occurrences as they begin to cross each other’s timelines. Then, a massive time shift drastically changes both of their home timelines. Millions of lives have been erased and historical moments like the assassination of Dr. King have changed. The two time travelers believe it to be the fault of the other… until they meet and realize there are other, darker forces at play. The two team up to set things straight.

Read More »


Thrilling Magical Realism: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Saturday, February 15th, 2020 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Call Down the Hawk CoverMeet the brothers Lynch. While all three of them became orphans when their father died, not all of them are human. Arguably none of them are, since their father was a dreamer, someone who can dream things (and people) and bring them back into reality upon waking.

Declan, the eldest, seems the most humanish, since his mother appears to have been a real woman.

Ronan, the middle brother, seems less so, since his mother was a dream. Quite literally. One of the things Ronan’s father brought back from his slumber was an imaginary version of Declan’s mother. This dream woman gave birth to Ronan, who, like his father, is a dreamer.

The youngest brother, Matthew, is most certainly not human. As a child, Ronan dreamed him into existence.

Being not-quite-human is a problem for the Lynch brothers. According to the prophets, a dreamer will someday conjure up the apocalypse, and fire will consume the world. Governments worldwide have created teams of Moderators to stamp out this menace.

Carmen Farooq-Lane, a young woman of extraordinary elegance and poise, is one of these foot soldiers. But no matter how many dreamers she tracks down and kills – including her own brother – the oracles’ visions stay the same. Still, the world is going to burn.

If she finds Ronan, he’s toast.

Read More »


Street Battles and God-like Machines: The Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

Monday, January 27th, 2020 | Posted by Neil Baker

The Robots of Gotham paperback-small The Robots of Gotham paperback-back-small

Cover design by Mark R. Robinson

The Robots of Gotham has nothing to do with Batman (much to the chagrin of one, 1-star reviewer on Goodreads) and everything to do with A.I. dominance on a global scale, with this particular story set in an embattled Chicago. The year is 2083, and the world is dominated by Venezuelan ‘peace-keeping’ forces and vast, God-like super robots. Uprisings have been hastily and ruthlessly quashed, and humans now go about their lives in an uneasy alliance with the machines they inadvertently created.

The story is told from the point of view of Barry Simcoe, a 30-something I.T. specialist and CEO of a Canadian company, who is visiting Mud Town to secure some deals. From the outset of the novel, Barry is caught up in a violent street battle involving Venezuelan forces and giant, murderous mechs. He barely squeaks out alive, and holes up in a hotel, which becomes the focal point for the rest of the book. As the story unfolds, Barry discovers an insidious plot to do away with a vast swathe of humanity to pave the way for fascist robo-leaders, and he must ally himself with a collection of well-drawn characters in order to reveal the truth and, most importantly, survive.

The Robots of Gotham is a solid debut novel, coming in at 688 pages in the chunky hardback edition, and it takes commitment to heft it, even with the dust jacket off. I didn’t have to strain for long though, as reading it was a breeze. McAulty’s writing skips along lickety-split and was intriguing enough to keep me engrossed, even during the ‘technical’ bits which needed a second read, as the first time all I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Read More »


Things Are As They Are: George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Mark R. Kelly

EarthAbides1sted

Cover by H. Lawrence Hoffman

Earth Abides (Random House, 373 pages, $3 in hardcover, 1949)
by George R. Stewart
Cover by H. Lawrence Hoffman

Here is one of the best science fiction novels of all time. It’s about the entire world, and implicitly the entire human race, and it’s as timely as ever as, for one reason or another, humanity faces the realization that its indefinite survival on planet Earth is not guaranteed.

The novel is Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. It was published in 1949 and was Stewart’s only SF novel (though he wrote a couple earlier novels about natural catastrophes, including one about a storm that inspired the US National Weather Service to give storms names). It won the first International Fantasy Award in a year preceding the advent of the Hugos. (Stewart never wrote any other science fiction, and this novel wasn’t published as science fiction, but was later embraced by genre critics, much as the famous novels by Huxley and Orwell were.)

Above is the cover of the first edition. And here are the two editions I’ve read, a 1971 Fawcett Crest paperback with a Paul Lehr cover, and the 2006 Del Rey trade paperback edition.

Read More »


Orbiting Colonies, Giant Mechs, and Child Soldiers: War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

Monday, January 20th, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Brett

War Girls-smallWar Girls (Razorbill, 450 pages, $18.99, October 15, 2019)
By Tochi Onyebuchi
Cover by Nekro

The facts that war is brutal, savage, and harms the innocent together with the guilty are no new revelations. Nor is it news that children in the 20th and 21st centuries have been suborned into brutal combat across the globe. Finally, no one is ignorant that technology continues, as it always has, to make war exponentially deadlier in its efficiency. What Tochi Oneybuchi has done with his powerful new novel War Girls is to combine these knowns into a story of love and sisterhood that together cross political and social divides and battlefields alike, and where traumatized soldiers dream of a true peace in a thriving, reborn nation. War Girls is a novel of intense, determined hope in the face of overwhelming obstacles; in this current historical moment it’s exactly the book we need.

In 2172, the world is a damaged place. Climate change and war have destroyed much of the Earth, and millions have fled the planet to live in orbiting Colonies. Nigeria is a country rent by turmoil, where the breakaway southeastern province of Biafra has formed its own nation (as it did in real life between 1967-1970) and battles Nigeria to secure its independence. The war has left much of the area saturated in radioactivity that kills or mutates the local wildlife, and battles are fought using unmanned drones, human-piloted mechs, and augmented soldiers refitted with bionic limbs.

Onyii is such a soldier, a young woman and war hero who lives to protect both her new nation and her adopted orphaned sister Ify. When the two become separated through the usual vagaries of war, they find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Much of the novel shows the ways in which the two sisters see the war from different angles – Onyii as an embattled Biafran war hero who must realize the consequences of her past actions, and Ify having to face her own traumatic past while embedded deep within the Nigerian military establishment.

Read More »


A YA Novel that Violates Contemporary Writing Conventions: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

Friday, January 17th, 2020 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse CoverYoung Adult fiction is populated with fast-paced novels that sweep readers into adventure from the very first page, only letting up when the final page reads The End. Their prose shows in gorgeous detail, transporting readers into whole new universes, rather than merely telling what’s going on. Novels that feature heroines begin when they are old enough to be the targets of romance; starting when they are younger not only provokes no interest, but also threatens to confuse booksellers, who must decide where to shelve them. According to many writing experts, passive voice must be scoured from the pages. The first chapter should be comprised exclusively of action; exposition kept to a minimum, and sentences clipped short. The author must avoid entire discursive paragraphs like, say, this one.

Eason’s How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is marketed as a Young Adult Hardcover. But it violates these contemporary writing conventions.

We begin before Princess Rory Thorne is born. Indeed, while she is still in the womb. Our heroine, who will cause many kerfluffles throughout her childhood, creates her first by being born a girl, when everyone had planned for her to be a boy.

Shortly after Rory’s birth, thirteen fairies descend onto the palace for Rory’s Naming Ceremony, even though no one really believes in fairies anymore, and the only reason they were invited was as a nod to tradition, silly as it may be. But still, the thirteen fairies suddenly appear in the ballroom, coming from out of nowhere. The first eleven give Rory various gifts, some of which are obviously quite useless, like playing the harp.

The thirteenth fairy gives Rory the ability not just to tell when people are lying, but also to hear the truths they are covering up.

Read More »


The Top Five Books I Read in 2019

Sunday, January 5th, 2020 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Alice Payne Rides-small The-Kingdom-of-Copper-medium Titanshade-medium

Covers by Cliff Nielsen, Unusual Corporation, and Chris McGrath

Being semi-retired from my biweekly column doesn’t mean I’m off the hook from picking my Top Five reads from 2019! *The crowd goes wild*

Like with previous years — 2016-18; see below for links — I’m focusing specifically on fiction (sorry, non-fiction books) published sometime in 2019 (sorry, amazing older books I read – especially the Broken Earth trilogy). I’m also chickening out from ranking all five and only picking my top choice, with the rest in alphabetical order.

Drumroll, please…

Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield (Tor Books, 176 pages, $14.99 paperback/$3.99 digital, March 5, 2019)

Fine, I’m just one of the multitude going on and on about how amazing this time travel duology has been. Sue me. I was concerned at the end of Alice Payne Arrives that retconning some of the story and resetting its core characters (a la time travel) would turn me off, but Heartfield maintains the core of Alice, Jayne, Zuniga and the others while putting them in even more harrowing scenarios. There’s a ton of genuine peril and some neat twists on what sometimes feels like the bloated genre of time travel stories, tied together somehow with a tidy conclusion.

Read More »


A Lasting Exploration of What the Beatles Mean: Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Dave Alvarez

Cover by Dave Alvarez

Although the Beatles, as comprised of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, only existed as a band from August 1962 until April 1970, they left an indelible mark on the music and culture of the world that is constantly being discovered, explored, and reinvented. One of those reinventions occurred in 2019 with the release of the film Yesterday, in which singer Jack Malik discovers he is one of the few people in the world who remembers the Beatles and builds a career out of recreating their songs. Even before that film was released, however, editors Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn were at work creating the anthology Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles.

At lunch in the executive dining room of Black Gate Tower a couple of weeks ago, our esteemed editor and I were finishing our desserts (wild honey pie for me, Savoy truffle for him), when he asked my opinion of Yesterday. I described what I liked about it, what I felt could have made it better, and explained that I viewed a world without the Beatles or Coke as essentially dystopian. I told him why the alternative ending would have improved the film and, at the same time, opened up other questions that it hadn’t addressed.

Two days later I was summoned into the presence of the giant, floating holographic head that gives Black Gate writers their assignments, and presented with a copy of Across the Universe. Our conversation at lunch had been sounding me out for my knowledge of all things Beatle.

Jody Lynn Nye has cast the Fab Four as powerful elemental wizards and follows the adventures of George, the water mage, as he strikes out on his own and finds himself face-to-face with a powerful enemy. The story explores the difficulties of making it on your own when you’re used to working in a group, but also points out how experiences continue to inform a person’s actions. Nye also looks beyond Harrison’s career with the Beatles and even his solo career for her source material.

Read More »


Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part Ten

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

MOKF 44Master of Kung Fu #44 kicks off an eight-part story arc that builds upon the events of the series’ preceding six issues while also serving as the culmination of the ongoing storyline involving Shang-Chi’s father Fu Manchu and sister Fah lo Suee and their decades-long battle for control of the Si-Fan. Marvel approved a six-part story with some reluctance, but the team of writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy were making the series one of Marvel’s very best of the 1970s and had the clout to push boundaries further so long as sales and critical recognition continued. Of course, the first thing the two men did was plot a prelude and epilogue which extended the story from six chapters to eight. The results are both more and less than what one might reasonably expect, though they certainly succeed in terms of ambition and scope.

The principal difference in quality is Gulacy’s art. While never disappointing, he simply fails to match the standard of the previous five issues he illustrated. The challenge of maintaining such a high standard month after month was wearing and would result in Gulacy’s decision to leave the series that had brought him such acclaim. Likewise, Moench remained one of Marvel’s most overworked writers and despite the care he took in structuring the story, it was inevitable that moments appeared rushed and even underwritten. It was never a question of Moench’s skills, simply that he also could not maintain the same high level of quality writing when juggling so many titles each month.

Read More »


All the Leftovers: The Early Asimov by Isaac Asimov

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020 | Posted by Mark R. Kelly

The Early Asimov-small

The Early Asimov (Doubleday, 547 pages, $10 in hardcover, September 1972)
By Isaac Asimov
Cover by Barry Kiperman

This is a book I’d never read before, and debated recently about whether to ever read it. On the one hand, life is too short to read every book one might have accumulated, and this book consists, frankly, of all the stories from Asimov’s early career that had not already been included in 10 earlier collections — all the leftovers. (Those 10 include I, Robot as well as the three Foundation “novels,” since those were largely comprised of earlier magazine stories.)

Thus I had passed over it several times before. On the other hand, I kept noticing early stories by Asimov in various anthologies, and realized that I’d never read those stories, or only a couple of them via those anthologies. So why not catch up on the others and just read through this 1972 book? An attraction is the substantial, autobiographical notes Asimov provides, detailing how each story was written and submitted; the book is subtitled “Or, Eleven Years of Trying.”

Such notes proved so popular here that he provided similar notes in subsequent books (like the anthology Before the Golden Age) and then in two lengthy volumes of autobiography over the next eight years.

So before considering individual stories, here are the broad takeaways from reading this book.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2020 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.