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

Best New Horror 29 slipcase-small

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

Skyward Brandon Sanderson-small Skyward Brandon Sanderson UK-small

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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A Desperate Battle Against an Alien Enemy: Threshold of Eternity by John Brunner and Damien Broderick

Thursday, March 14th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

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Phoenix Pick (236 pages, $14.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, November 2017)

A couple of years ago I read an early John Brunner novel called Threshold of Eternity, published as half an Ace Double. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about that:

Threshold of Eternity was first published in New Worlds, December 1957 through February 1958. The Ace Double version came out in 1959.

It opens in California in 1957 or so, as one-legged Red Hawkins encounters a French-speaking girl who couldn’t possibly be there — and, indeed, it turns out that Chantal Vareze was just in London. What’s stranger is the other person they soon encounter, a man named Burma who turns out to be from thousands of years in the future.

We jump, then, to the future, where one Magwareet is helping to coordinate humanity’s desperate war against mysterious aliens called The Enemy. One of the side effects of their battles, and also of a strange entity called The Being, is temporal surges, which can throw people into the far past. And Magwareet has just realized that his friend Burma has been flung into the past …

Cool stuff, eh? And things continue as Red and Chantal are carried into the far future, where the two eventually agree to help with the war against the Enemy, help which involves more trips to the past, a weird situation where multiple copies of the main characters coexist uneasily, and a wild and transcendent ending concerning the true nature of The Being, leading to an unexpected and not quite successful ending. Here’s how my review closed.

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For the Killing of Kings by Howard Andrew Jones

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_53921t7oYJGMSWhen comes my numbered day, I will meet it smiling. For I’ll have kept this oath.

I shall use my arms to shield the weak.

I shall use my lips to speak the truth, and my eyes to seek it.

I shall use my hand to mete justice to high and to low, and I will weigh all things with heart and mind.

Where I walk the laws will follow, for I am the sword of my people and the shepherd of their lands.

When I fall, I will rise through my brothers and my sisters, for I am eternal.

 

 

Pledge of the Altenerai

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyrkenall, veteran of the great war that almost destroyed the realm of Darassus, and Elenai, a young squire, both members of the Altenerai, an elite corps of warriors, find themselves on the run from their comrades in Howard Andrew Jones’ rapid-fire new book, For the Killing of Kings. At an almost brief 350 pages, it moves at an astounding pace, each chapter ratcheting up the suspense and the danger until everything seems ready to spin out of control. This is exciting storytelling from one of the best and most knowledgeable writers of heroic fantasy around. If you haven’t yet read Jones, this is an awesome place to start.

A little less than a decade before the book begins, the barbarian Naor almost conquered Darassus. In the end, the Naor were driven to near collapse by the Altenerai under the leadership of N’lahr. Following their massive battlefield defeat, the queen of Darassus, against the advice of the Altenerai, offered the barbarians peace. They accepted and withdrew to their ancestral lands. As the book begins, though, it seems the barbarians are on the move, threatening to bring fire and death once more to Darassus.

During the war a prophecy had been made that Mazakan, warlord of the Naor barbarians, would die at the hand of N’lahr by his sword, Irion. Though Mazakan surivived and N’lahr died, Irion hangs in the Altenerai’s hall and has remained a totem strong enough to deter the Naor from a full invasion. Until now.

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Higher, Further, Faster: Captain Marvel

Sunday, March 10th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson)

I just came back from watching Captain Marvel with my 14-year old son. He was super excited to see it. He hasn’t yet maxed out on superhero movies like his dad. That being said, I was also pretty hyped to see it, in part because Captain Marvel was one of the comics I first started collecting when I was eleven and twelve years old. Back then, I was reading the Mar-Vell version, but I also picked up some Claremont/Cockrum Ms. Marvel because of Captain Marvel and because Carol Danvers was a regular in the Uncanny X-Men at the time.

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In 500 Words or Less: Two New Anthologies! New Suns and Resist

Friday, March 8th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

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New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Edited by Nisi Shawl
Solaris (384 pages, $15.99 paperback, March 2019)

Resist: Tales from a Future Worth Fighting Against
Edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant and Hugh Howey
Independently published (386 pages, $14.99 paperback, $7.99 eBook, October 19, 2018)

I’ve never been a fan of predictions about the time we live in, especially if they’re grandiose, but damn if someone doesn’t claim decades from now that today was a new golden age of SFF, especially in short fiction. Sure, there’s still a lot of the same generic crap being published (for some reason), but simultaneously there’s so much compelling, engaging work coming out that I can’t keep up.

Take, for example, New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl. A few of the names I recognized in here, but so many of them I had never heard of before, which I imagine is part of the point. “Harvest” by Rebecca Roanhorse is dark and delicate as it explores a relationship between a chef and a supernatural being called the “deer woman.” Jaymee Goh’s “The Freedom of the Shifting Sea” provides soft undertones about industrial development and environmental destruction, while Tobias S. Buckell doesn’t mince any of that with his depiction of an Earth bulldozed by aliens looking for resorts and tourist traps in “The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex.” But the one that really blew me away was Minsoo Kang’s “The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations,” written as a treatise about a painting that tells the tale of a peace treaty concocted by two translators. I’m not sure that sounds captivating, but I promise you, it is.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1954: A Retro-Review

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

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Cover by Emsh

The June, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction opens with a new serialized novel (Gladiator at Law) in addition to other fiction. The cover art by Ed Emshwiller is for the novel.

Gladiator at Law by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth (Part 1) — Charles Mundin is a capable, dedicated lawyer who lacks a degree from the right school to rise in his career. An associate recommends Charles as a lawyer for Norma Lavin and her brother, Don. Their father was one of the owners of G-M-L Homes, the creators of the bubble houses used across the world. When their father died, the company had his stock impounded for years. After Don finally received the stock, he hid it, but the company hired people to arrest him and gave him 50 hours of conditioning — a technique typically used on criminals to reform them. Now, Don can’t speak as to the stock’s location.

Charles realizes that he was given the case because no one thought he could get anywhere with it. But as his investigation deepens, he realizes that he’s becoming a nuisance or possibly a minor threat to those who wish to retain control of G-M-L and all of the other businesses it controls.

Gladiator at Law has a good beginning that sets the stage for later installments. I’m looking forward to them. Pohl and Kornbluth worked together on multiple novels, including Gravy Planet (The Space Merchants), in Galaxy in 1953.

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