Author Archive

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic, character-driven story of alien contact.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Years after Earth is visited by an alien presence, individuals known as Stalkers move in and out of the Zones to illegally collect artifacts left behind. Red Schuhart is one of these Stalkers, and encounters many strange things over his years of collecting.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fantastic and plausible conceptualization of the nature of alien contact, with vividly drawn characters.
CONS: Pacing wasn’t to my liking.
BOTTOM LINE: A brilliant, thought-provoking novel.

I’ll confess that I’d never heard of Roadside Picnic before it was re-released recently by the Chicago Review Press earlier this year. This new edition is the preferred text, following a dramatic history with Soviet censors when it was first published in the 1970s. This edition has a particularly good introduction by Ursula K. LeGuin. Read the rest of this entry

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

This week in the SF History series on the Kirkus Reviews blog, I look at the history behind H.G.’s fantastic novel, The War of the Worlds, and the political tone in England that helped to inspire it.

Click on over and read H.G. Wells and the War of the Worlds over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

Jules Verne Totally Wrote Fan Fiction

This week in the SF History series on the Kirkus Reviews blog, I look at the connection between American author Edgar Allan Poe and French author Jules Verne, and a common story that they both worked on, decades apart, which helped to set the tone for the science fiction genre moving forward.

This was an interesting point in science fiction history, because it’s an early point where there was a direct influence from one author to another, not just in one work, but stylistically as well.

Click on over and read The Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

REVIEW: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

REVIEW SUMMARY: A deliberate, engrossing read.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the year 2312, humanity has risen to the furthest extents of the solar system in a new, space-faring society, and a series of events force humanity to confront its past, and its future.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: 2312 is a brilliant, epic science fiction novel that spans the width of the solar system in an exceptional future.
CONS: Plot is slightly underwhelming amidst the scale of the story.

Kim Stanley Robinson has long been known for his Mars Trilogy, depicting the massive changes that humanity wages on the red planet, and with 2312 he turns his attention to the Solar System at large. At points brilliant, at others strange, Robinson’s latest novel is a fascinating epic that spans years and billions of miles as two main characters, Swan and Wartham, travel back and forth as they investigate the destruction of a habitation on Mercury and the people behind it.
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Mary Shelley’s Trip to Geneva

Today marks the first of an ongoing series on the Kirkus Reviews blog that will focus on the history and roots of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror literature!

To kick off the new column, I’m starting off with Mary Shelley and her novel Frankenstein, which seems like a fitting place to begin talking about genre history.

Click on over and read A Meeting in Geneva: The Birth of Frankensteins over at the Kirkus Reviews blog!

Weekend Playlist: New Geek Music

There’s been a bit of a flood of some new geek music on the internets lately, and a roundup is in order!
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SF/F Music in the Mainstream

Here’sa group of songs that are particularly well known from their films. You might hear them on the radio, and when you do, you’re pretty sure you know what movie they’re from, right off the bat. A lot of the top blockbusters are released with two soundtracks: the musical score, and then the soundtrack which typically has songs that are plugged for the ending credits.

Here’s a few science fiction-related and fantasy-related songs that fit this catgeory…

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Will McIntosh is the author of the critically acclaimed 2011 novel Soft Apocalypse, and the recently released Hitchers, both from Night Shade Books. Hitchers imagines an Atlanta, Georgia shortly after a crippling terrorist attack, when the dead come back to inhabit the living. (You can read our review here.) Will recently had a change to talk with us about his latest novel:


SF Signal: Hi Will, thanks again for talking with us. When we last spoke, we talked about your first book, Soft Apocalypse. How has the response been for that?

Will McIntosh: It’s been very encouraging. The first printing sold out, it was on Locus magazine’s recommended reading list, there is both a French and German edition coming out, and most importantly, I’ve heard from a lot of readers who enjoyed it.
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Weekend Playlist: Music to Read To

Last week, I was laid up in bed with a nasty cold, unable to do much but prop myself up with a good book. If I’m going to be missing work, I might as well be somewhat productive and take my mind off of the coughing.

When I read, I tend to get distracted. I think it’s the silence around me that makes me more aware of what’s going on; cars and trucks going up and down the road, the neighbors upstairs, or something crashing in the kitchen. To combat this, I’ve got a handy playlist of songs that I put on that helps keep me in the mood. It’s not so much that it’ll be distracting to me, but not quiet enough that I’m either falling asleep or not hearing it.

There’s not a whole lot to say individually, except that I like them quite a bit. Here we go:
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Weekend Playlist: SF/F Songs About Love

We recently celebrated Valentine’s Day and while it’s a little behind the curve, it did get me thinking about what songs grab you by the heart:

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REVIEW: Hitchers by Will McIntosh

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic and inventive novel.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following a terrorist attack that kills hundreds of thousands people in Atlanta Georgia, people around the city start to experience possessions of dead people. Popular cartoonist Finn Darby is possessed by his abusive, alcoholic grandfather, who’s been dead two years. As Finn tries to figure out what’s going on, he meets an aging rock star and a waitress (who’s possessed by Darby’s deceased wife). The dead have an agenda, and as the possessions get longer and longer, Finn and his new found friends need to figure out why they’ve been possessed before it’s too late.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An exceptional novel with interesting characters thrust into a supernatural event while retaining the intimate connections between all of the characters.
CONS: Some elements of the book are slightly under supported, and some details anchor the story in 2011.
BOTTOM LINE: A fantastic novel, up there with some of the best books that I’ve read in recent years.
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Weekend Playlist: Steampunk!

…And we’re back! I had a couple of columns for Janauary that I’d been working on, and which were subsequently lost to computer problems. To kick off February, friend of SF Signal (and SciFi Songster) John Anealio just released his latest song, “Steampunk Girl”, which struck me as a great topic for this week: Steampunk.

The Geek Mom Blog, hosted over on Wired’s website, has an interesting piece about Steampunk music. What caught my eye however, was this statement: “When a band selects “steampunk” on that drop-down box, what does that say? And what can a listener expect to hear? Anything really. Rap, rock, folk, trance- I’ve sampled quite a few tracks in this new genre.” In my own explorations with Geek Music, that’s very true: there’s a lot of variety out there.
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INTERVIEW: Myke Cole on ‘Military Fantasy’

Myke Cole is a military reservist and writer. Control Point, just out from Ace (Penguin-Putnam), is the first novel in his military fantasy Shadow Ops series.


SF SIGNAL: Hi Myke, thanks for taking a couple of moments to speak with us! The first question that I’ve got is: why military fantasy, over something like Military Science Fiction or superpowers?

Myke Cole: Two reasons, really. The first is that my experience is in the military and that I have been a die-hard traditional fantasy fan (though I also love SF) since my earliest days. It’s a neat combination of the two old axioms “write what you know” and “write what you’d want to read.”

The second reason is that military SF has been, frankly, done to death, as have traditional superhero stories (though more in comics than novels). To the best of my knowledge (and I certainly could be wrong), a modern (and truly modern, by which I mean counterinsurgent focused) military tale blended with high fantasy monsters and magic hasn’t been done as a mass-market novel. I wanted to see if I could push the envelope a little bit.
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REVIEW: Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card

REVIEW SUMMARY: A disappointing entry in Card’s Shadow series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: At the end of Shadow of the Giant, Bean and his three children go into deep space to give them time to find a way to reverse the genes that have given them a shortened life. The trio of children and their father come across a derelict Formic ark over a habitable world, which holds answers for many lingering questions.

PROS: An engaging and readable entry that sheds some light on the Ender’s series.
CONS: Truncated, annoying, short and mostly an info dump in place of storytelling and with half-formed archetypes instead of characters.
BOTTOM LINE: Ender’s Game is one of the stories that got me through high school, and Ender’s Shadow was close behind it. Shadow, which followed Ender’s Game at the same time, has blossomed into a series in its own right, and is now headed towards a meeting point with the sequels to Ender’s Game, following the stories of what happened following the human victory over the Formics. Where Ender’s Game holds its own decades after it was written, the latest book in the Enderverse is a poor entry in the series, one that doesn’t hold a candle to the original book, nor its predecessors.
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REVIEW: Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

REVIEW SUMMARY: A promising start with a new take on fantasy and military fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Around the world, people begin to develop magical powers. Oscar Britton is an army officer in Vermont, and following a mission, finds that he’s developed a forbidden talent for opening portals. Immediately, he’s turned from a member of the military to fugitive.

PROS: A fun, fast-paced military novel that draws upon Cole’s experience as a military contractor.
CONS: Slow, hard start makes this one a difficult one to initially get into.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining debut novel from a promising author.

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Weekend Playlist: The Best Geek Albums of 2011

2011 has been one fantastic and interesting year for geek music: we’ve seen some great releases over the past couple of months, referencing everything from physics to superheroes to novels to the general geeky livelihood that we all enjoy. Picking out the top notable albums of the year was pretty easy, but picking the best from that list was a bit harder. Here’s what rocked our speakers this year:

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Weekend Playlist: Geek Christmas!

Happy holidays! There’s geek music from just about everyone out there, and I know that I’m completely sick of it already. (Some radio stations had begun November 1st. Ugh.) Christmas is the dominant holiday, and unfortunately, I don’t know of any geek music songs that really relate to other holidays, but if you know of any, let us know! So, to change things up, here’s what I’ll be listening to for the holidays:

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Weekend Playlist: Songs of The Mind (Inception/Dollhouse)

Welcome back to the Weekend Playlist!

Last week, we looked at music inspired by William Gibson, and it seems only logical to jump to a couple of other modern cyberpunk-ish shows and movies. Coming most readily to mind is Joss Whedon’s fantastic show Dollhouse, and Christopher Nolan’s film, Inception. Both look at the brain and its potential for stories.

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REVIEW: Seed by Robert Zeigler

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The United States has succumbed to climate change, and the country has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The government is a tool used to distribute aid, while Satori, a corporation and living entity, has plans of her own to survive and thrive in the new environment. When a designer escapes Satori, an agent is brought in to retrieve the post-human to help break the entity’s hold on the country.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Compelling; dark view of the future with some fantastic imagery and concepts.

CONS: Story is splintered and frustrating throughout.

BOTTOM LINE: A disappointing debut novel.

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Weekend Playlist: Songs Inspired by William Gibson

Welcome back to the Weekend Playlist!

This week, we’re going to take a look at something fairly specific: songs inspired by William Gibson’s various works. While compiling my master list, I was surprised at the number of artists who have been specifically inspired by him. In retrospect, it’s an easy thing to see: Gibson’s vision is far reaching, and his formative stories that deal with cyberpunk have many implications in a number of fields.

BONUS: Not all these songs are available in Spotify, but the ones that are can be listed to via this songlist: Songs Inspired by William Gibson

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