A Meditation on Futuristic Medicine: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

Friday, April 19th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Stronger Faster and More Beautiful CoverEvan will die if his organs aren’t replaced. A perfect organ donor has been lined up – his twin sister. But she’s still alive.

Milla should be dead. Only by becoming a cyborg was she able to survive the car crash. She tries to keep her new nature secret at school. But when the boy she likes actually listens to her, she can’t help but divulge the whole story. Now everyone knows she’s not quite human.

When the riot broke out, Elsie thought she was about to die with her family. Waking up, she learns that only she and her father survived. Her father, a charismatic minister, has always agitated against medical technology, calling it blasphemy. But now he’s changed his mind. And while she was unconscious, he’s had her changed, too.

Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful advances in a series of episodes, each with a different narrator with a compelling original voice who confronts vastly different circumstances. Yet the book isn’t a collection of short stories. An extended meditation on the future of medicine, it explores the ethical and social ramifications of saving human life through recourse to machines, genome editing and cybernetics. The classic tension of science versus religion runs throughout the book. The human race itself is the protagonist, and there’s a clear narrative arc. Each excerpt takes us further into the future, and as the years pile up, humanity becomes increasingly unrecognizable to itself… Not to mention disloyal.

This book reminds us of science fiction’s highest calling – to provide readers with a way to think through the consequences and implications of nascent technology in order to move into the future more mindfully. Despite its heady content, however, Dayton knows how to bait a hook and keep readers turning pages. Over and over again, she presents characters that readers can’t help but connect with and feel for, no matter how strange their situation and bizarre the setting.

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In 500 Words or Less: The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Friday, April 19th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

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The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad Trilogy #2)
By S.A. Chakraborty
HarperCollins (640 pages, $26.99 hardcover, January 2019)

No joke, I just wrote what would have been the opening two paragraphs for this post, and followed it immediately by typing the words, Wow, that sounds like a boring, stereotypical book review and I’m a hack. That’s a sign my brain is running low on capacity for anything other than novella and podcast revisions. Or, more likely, it’s run out of patience for reading anything that doesn’t immediately catch and hold my attention.

Luckily, the book I’m trying to extoll in this review is an easy sell. You might remember my review of S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel The City of Brass, which I’ll admit I wasn’t totally enamored with because of the way the plot seemed to drag. Chakraborty’s follow-up novel The Kingdom of Copper, though, is exactly what you want from an author’s second book: even more of the elements you love, and an improvement in everything else.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1954: A Retro-Review

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

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The July, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction (cover art by Mel Hunter) opens with a note from H. L. Gold, the editor. Several authors had shared with Gold how it felt to sell a story to Galaxy. But Gold, an author himself, writes, “Do you think anybody has to tell me how that feels?” He was looking for jobs by day and writing by night in the early 1930s when jobs were scarce, and his “manuscripts seemed to be opened by a machine that slipped them unread, along with a rejection slip, into the return envelope.”

As an author myself, I couldn’t help but laugh; how often it feels that way when submitting stories and getting a form reply (by email in more recent years). One day, after being laid off from a position as a busboy, he checked the mail and found that he had sold his first story. He writes, “Don’t kid yourself that writing is a substitute for work. It requires as hard an apprenticeship as any other profession.” And as a final encouragement, he adds, “Magazines don’t have automatic remailing or story-writing machines. I just thought you might be wondering.”

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Dragons and Gardeners in a Pan-Galactic Imperium: Abyss Surrounding by Eva L. Elasigue

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 | Posted by Damien Moore

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There are many stories in Abyss Surrounding, the sequel to Fire on All Sides (which I reviewed in 2016), and the second book in Eva L. Elasigue’s Bones Of Starlight series. Entirely as complex, multilayered, and compelling as the first, Abyss Surrounding offers daring new concepts along with enticing new situations holding familiar characters in their clutches.

We have the Princess Soleil, now a rebel living apart from the status her Imperium affords her, and instead mingling with intrepid voyagers of an unknown universe. We have Derringer, a spy in search of the Princess whom you will fondly recall from the first book as a splash of nostalgic hijinks. And we have our villain, Sturlusson, whose journey in the second installment needs to be experienced without the benefit of a critic’s retrospection. Read the book; you’ll get what I mean.

I was entranced by the inclusion of Dragons, mythical beings who play a vital role in the workings of Elasigue’s universe. Her deft use of distinctive neutral pronouns for each Dragon endeared me to their importance in her world; this is also a testament to her fluidity in addressing gender neutrality, worthy of a review all on its own.

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Tomorrow Isn’t Always Another Day: Remembering Howard Fast’s The Edge of Tomorrow

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 | Posted by Barbara Barrett

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The Edge of Tomorrow (Bantam, 1966) Cover artist uncredited

Books, like music, can evoke images of another time and place. When I picked up The Edge of Tomorrow recently, it triggered memories of Manhattan, Kansas, just before my husband left for Vietnam. It was mid-June 1966 when I drove from California to Fort Riley.

Manhattan was a whole new world. I remember heat and humidity so heavy it was like walking around on the bottom of a warm fish bowl. But there were awesome times too — a Harry Belafonte concert, thunder so loud I thought it would flatten me, and staring out a window all night during a tornado watch.

Yet, my most vivid memories are about food and friends. It was still early days for the anti-war protests and we were not aware of them. Uppermost in our minds was knowing our husbands or fathers or sons or brothers would be going to Vietnam. With so much uncertainty in our lives, we made the best of the moments we had and meals were about the only time life seemed normal.

The troops at Fort Riley trained twelve to fourteen hours a day. That left evenings and some weekends for relaxation. When Bob was home, his Army friends often stopped by for a beer and a chat. Many times, they stayed for a home-cooked dinner. During the five months in Kansas, I prepared a lot of food. Mostly from family recipes. So did other wives. We tasted dishes we had only heard about and exchanged recipes. One of my favorite memories centers around a feast those of us from California put together. We craved Mexican food but tortillas, pinto beans and hot sauce weren’t available in the local stores then. That problem was solved when we wrote and asked our families to send supplies. They were generous beyond belief. All our friends were invited. For a few hours, while we were eating tacos, enchiladas, refried beans, rice, burritos, guacamole and hot sauce, we were home.

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The Strange Tale of the Fighting Model T Fords

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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While writing my next novel in the Western Desert of Egypt (something I’ve discussed in several previous posts), I came across an interesting local landmark. Behind my campsite in Bahariya Oasis stands a grim heap of black volcanic stone called “English Mountain”. When I asked around about this unusual name, the local Bedouin told me that it was once home to an English soldier who kept watch for attacking tribes back in the days when Egypt was still a colony. I was told the ruins of his house could still be seen.

So of course I went up to see them!

But not before taking Ahmed Fakhry’s excellent book Bahariya and Farafra out of my backpack to see what he had to say about this. Yes, I travel through the Sahara with a bag full of books.

Written in 1974 but mostly based on expeditions the archaeologist took in the 1930s, Fakhry’s book is full of useful information and folklore. In it he says that English Mountain is actually named after a New Zealander named Claud Williams, who commanded No. 5 Light Car Patrol during World War One. Williams, Fakhry says, kept a lonely vigil atop that mountain for hostile Senussi tribesmen.

And therein lies a tale.

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The Many Shades of Horror: Best New Horror #29 edited by Stephen Jones

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

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For twenty-nine years editor Stephen Jones has been selecting the best horror stories of the year. Usually the anthology appears around October; the latest volume, Best New Horror #29, is actually a bit late, being published in February 2019 but showcasing the best of 2017.

As customary the book also includes a comprehensive overview of the books and movies that appeared during the year, and the changes in the horror publishing world (including pertinent obituaries).

The current volume assembles twenty-one stories penned by some of the most acclaimed horror writers in the genre, addressing a variety of themes. One always wonders if the tales are really the best, and comparisons are often made with the choices of other anthologists compiling the year’s best horror stories.

I have long concluded that those are useless questions. With a few exceptions of outstanding quality, on which anyone can agree, at the end of the day  personal taste is what really counts. Therefore, following that same way of thinking, I’ll mention here the stories that I found the best in this particular anthology.

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Is Truth Knowable? Matthew Surridge on Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Sunday, March 31st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Golden State Ben Winters-smallOver at Splice Today, Matthew Surridge reviews a book a novel I overlooked back in January, but I wish I hadn’t: Golden State by Ben Winters. Matthew says it’s “in the vein of Philip K. Dick mixing detective stories and science-fiction dystopias. It’s a story about truth, the pursuit of truth, and whether truth is knowable.” Here’s the part of his review that grabbed me.

I take it on faith that California exists. Various sources I trust tell me it’s a real place, despite its presence in movies, and I believe most of those sources even though I’ve never been to the so-called Golden State. Much of life is like that: one patches together an idea of the world based on a sense of what information can be trusted and what can’t.

Ben H. Winters’ novel Golden State imagines a world in which that’s no longer the case, or at least imagines a strange version of California where the residents believe in the knowability of what is Objectively So. Cameras record everything that happens, everywhere. Citizens keep a record of their daily lives in Day Books, meticulously filing every note and receipt. Some keep a record of their dreams and other nocturnal activities in a Night Book. Fiction as we know it is unheard of. Lying is utterly forbidden by law on pain of exile to the desert beyond the State’s borders. And a force of secret police, Speculators, keep residents in line with a psychic ability to detect falsehood in their vicinity. Or, at least, what they believe is a psychic ability…

Golden State evokes the great science-fictional dystopias of the 20th century… [it] is a meditation on truth wrapped up in a science-fictional detective story.

Ben Winters is also the author of The Last Policeman trilogy, which we covered back in 2013.

Read Matthew’s complete review of Golden State at Splice Today.

Golden State was published by Mulholland Books on January 22, 2019. It is 336 pages, priced at $28 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy and science fiction here.


Eighties Fantasy Classics: Six of Swords and Exiles of the Rynth by Carole Nelson Douglas

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 | Posted by Tony Den

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Corgi editions of Six of Swords (1985) and Exiles of the Rynth (1986); art by Steve Crisp

I started reading fantasy as a teenager during the second half of the 1980s. A friend recommended Anne McCafferey’s Pern books, readily available at the public library. Another friend whom I had recently started playing D&D with was very much taken with David Eddings’ Belgeriad and advised me to give them a bash. I have since grown out of Eddings, but at the time I thought The Belgariad was the best thing since sliced bread.

I began to mince about the fantasy and science fiction shelves in local bookshops. The main chain store bookseller of the day predominantly stocked British publishers; mainly Corgi, Grafton and Orbit. Corgi was the most accessible, being moderately cheaper than Grafton. They also had a habit of including advertisements in back pages. One came up consistently; Six of Swords by Carole Nelson Douglas. It looked interesting , and I picked it up in a clearance sale and read it sometime in the mid 1990s. I eventually discovered the sequel, Exiles of the Rynth, and a follow on series, the Sword and Circlet trilogy. I thought I would concentrate on the first two here, and post about the others in due course.

I will not go too much into the development of 1980s fantasy. Matthew David Surridge explored how the decade in many ways was a proving ground for the Big Fat Fantasy that followed in his review of Lyndon Hardy’s Master of the Five Magics series, and touched on the topic several times in his book Once Only Imagined: Collected Reviews, Vol II. What I can say is that my fantasy baptism mostly occurred in the 80s, notwithstanding my dabbling with Jane Gaskell. As such I was unencumbered with other expectations. I only got around to Robert E Howard and JRR Tolkien right at the end of the decade.

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Top Gun for YA Sci Fi Buffs: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Monday, March 18th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

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If even one of the aliens’ bombers gets through and releases its payload, Spensa Nightshade and her family will die, along with the remnants of humanity. It’s up to her father and his fellow fighter pilots to take to the skies and drive the invaders away.

Spensa doesn’t just admire her father – she’s determined to follow in his footsteps and become a pilot herself. In her militant society, which is named Defiant after the flagship that crashed on this planet, there’s no higher calling.

Spensa lives in a cave deep underground, since the planet’s surface is dangerous. Space debris frequently falls from the sky in flaming chunks, destroying everything in its path before hitting the ground. It comes from the ruins of a prior civilization that rings the planet – massive hunks of metal and electronics that used to be shipyards and ancient fortifications.

Despite the danger, Spensa has always wanted to see the sky. When her father agrees to take her up to ground level, she leaps at the chance.

It’s a hard climb through the caves until they reach a crack from which the sky shines. Gazing up in awe, Spensa sees the layers of space junk shifting overhead like enormous ice floes.

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