REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining anthology of Urban Fantasy stories that sometimes suffers from treading over the same ground repeatedly.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: : Featuring a tight-knit set of authors, an anthology of Urban Fantasy that attempts to set
an agenda and a framework for what the subgenre should be.
PROS: Excellent set of authors, some real standout stories.
CONS: Some unfortunate repetition in UF elements between stories weaken some of the works.
BOTTOM LINE: A sound anthology of fantasy bringing a set of bite sized works to the Urban Fantasy subgenre.
Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, in addition to entertaining the reader has a stated mission of being a statement of what Urban Fantasy can and should be. In the nearly two dozen stories on tap, here, the reader encounters the dead, angels, devils and much more.
The prolific L.E. Modesitt is the NY Times bestselling author of numerous SF and Fantasy books and series. Perhaps best known for his Recluce novels, Modesitt’s novels range from epic fantasy to far future science fiction adventure. He was kind enough to answer some questions about him and his work, especially his latest novel, The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment.
Paul Weimer: Who is L.E. Modesitt?
L.E. Modesitt: The “technical” answer is that I’m a white male who is past middle age who always wanted to write but had to handle various obligations in life by undertaking a wide range of occupations, as well as an array of competitive sports. The occupations have been, in chronological order, delivery-boy, lifeguard, disc jockey, U.S. Naval aviator, industrial economist, unsuccessful real estate salesman, political campaign researcher, legislative director for a U.S. Congressman, staff director for his successor, Director of Congressional Affairs for the U.S. EPA, senior manager for a Washington D.C. consulting firm, adjunct professor of English, and finally, a full-time writer. Married three times, not totally successfully the first two, but very successfully the third time to a lyric soprano and university opera director. As a writer, I began as a poet, and for almost fifteen years only managed to get published in small literary magazines, before, in my late twenties, beginning to write SF stories, which were published sporadically in the 1970s, until Ben Bova persuaded me [more like figuratively wrenched both arms] to write a novel. That was more successful, but I still had to keep the day jobs for ten years after my first novel was published.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A very strong anthology with a excellent mission, and some really striking stories with top-notch authors.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology of genre stories with the purpose and mission of highlighting women as fully rounded characters and protagonists with agency.
PROS: Strong stories that both entertain and illuminate the book’s theme and mission.
CONS: Some stories not as good as others in the book.
BOTTOM LINE: An excellent marriage of theme and mission with a well-cultivated collection of authors and stories.
Science Fiction has gotten a not-undeserved reputation for giving both women writers and women characters short shrift. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Gully Foyle, Beowulf Schafer, and many more go to the stars and beyond. Sadly, the Wilma Deerings and Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Drapers are far rarer, and it’s even rarer is when the female characters are the protagonists, plot-drivers and central characters. If men are going into space and to the stars or dealing with science fictional elements right here on earth, why can’t members of the other gender do so as well? And while we’re at it, what about relationships beyond the straight and narrow, so to speak. Human history and the modern day is full of relationships of all kinds. Why shouldn’t our science fiction future have the same? The Other Half of the Sky, edited by Athena Andreadis, sets out to try and rectify these imbalances.
REVIEW SUMMARY: An intriguing novella that strongly explores the themes of art, form and identity.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A relatively famous artist named duLane, seeking a new challenge, journeys to the wildest world in the Upshot, only to find his very identity and art challenged and confronted.
PROS: Strong pair of main characters; clever worldbuilding; interesting prose style; very strongly evoked themes.
CONS: The denouement of the story doesn’t quite pay off the promise of the opening; infodumping sometimes stops the action in its tracks.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting novella that explores some thorny issues in an entertaining way.
Imagine a series of worlds interconnected by a network that mandates that to travel from world to world, you must give up your original body, your original flesh, and take on new flesh, a new random looking body at the destination. In such a world, where identity is of the mind and not the body, how would society change? How would relations change? And what taboos would still remain?
Now, imagine a world in this society that is the sink of experimentation, wildness, changeability and decadence. Where the nature of humanity and the flesh are put on display in an endless carnival and parade of augmented and changed bodies. Hawk-men and mimickers of Prometheus. Centaurs and Angels. Where people, rich and poor, strive to continually refine and reinvent themselves in an endless loop of body modification, using a repurposed form of the Upshot system as a way to decant into newer and better forms.
That is Rotten Row, the eponymous world in Chaz Brenchley’s novella.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A fine urban fantasy, first in a duology, that uses a classic story from Scottish Myth as a template and foundation.
PROS: Strongly drawn, atypical protagonist; interesting and engaging web of secondary characters; good worldbuilding.
CONS: Protagonist’s relationship with her lost love could have been drawn more strongly; no grounding of place for protagonist.
BOTTOM LINE: A very good urban fantasy very representative of the author’s skills and work.
Steven Brust is the author of Dragon, Issola, the New York Times bestsellers Dzur and Tiassa, and many other fantasy novels. He lives in Minneapolis. Skyler White is the author of And Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin. She lives in Texas.
Together, they are the co-authors of The Incrementalists. Both were kind enough to answer questions about their collaboration.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
We asked this week’s panelists about what they are reading.
Q: Mount To-be-read! Every genre reader that collects and reads genre books has a Mount To-be-read. What Fantasy, SF and Horror books on the top of yours that is just begging for you to read?
Here’s what is on the bedside tables of our respondents:
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
, is the New York Times
best-selling author of more than 65 novels – primarily science fiction and fantasy, a number of short stories, and numerous technical and economic articles. His novels have sold millions of copies in the U.S. and world-wide, and have been translated into German, Polish, Dutch, Czech, Russian, Bulgarian, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Swedish. His first story was published in Analog in 1973, and his next book is The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds And Accompaniment
, to be released in mid-September, with a starred review from Kirkus.
My Mount To-be-read is actually very short, and that’s because I usually don’t buy books unless I know I’m going to have the time to read them – with one exception. I’m still making my way through Reine De Memoire 1. La Maison D’Oubli, by Elisabeth Vonarburg. It’s an excellent book, so far, but the difficulty is that I’m reading it in French, and I don’t read French nearly as fast as I read English. Because it’s been years since I read much in French, each time I pick it up it takes a few minutes and pages before I get into any sort of flow… and because she writes in a certain depth… well, I do need the dictionary, I confess. The other books currently on my very short mountain, perhaps better named Hill To-be-read, are Kay Kenyon’s A Thousand Perfect Things, Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, and at the bottom… Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul, which I’ve had for almost a year and somehow never picked up.
Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.
This time out, we’re going to do something a little bit different and look at two recent series of ostensibly series. From a 30,000 foot perspective both Jim C. Hines’ Magic Ex Libris (so far comprised of Libriomancer and Codex Born) and Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy series (so fra comprised of Geekomancy and Celebromancy) have strong similarity. Both series tap into a fair amount of wish fulfillment and have geeky protagonists whose geekery turns out to be useful for magic. But as you dig into the series, there are two distinct personalities. They take place in two distinctly different roleplaying game universes, and this can be used as a way to critique and example the series and their elements.
Fair warning: This is a somewhat spoilery discussion of both authors’ series.
REVIEW SUMMARY: An intriguing debut that brings characters and relationships all too absent in fiction front and center.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Ship Surgeon Alana wants to escape the rock she is on, but the consequences of her stowing away on the Tangled Axon will influence the destiny of her sister, her world, and far beyond.
PROS: Character types, orientations, and relationships rarely seen in genre fiction, believably and engagingly presented; a beautiful cover that proudly proclaims its marker on the field.
CONS: Some aspects of the background, technology, and worldbuilding are either too sketchily described or do not hold up under scrutiny.
BOTTOM LINE: A strongly distinctive and memorable debut novel.
Alana Quick is a ship’s surgeon. That is to say, she is a starship mechanic. The problem is, with anyone and everyone switching over from standard starships to the amazing ships that come from the dimension-traveling Transluminal Solutions, business is not good. In point of fact, she’s not that far from a hardscrabble existence and she still has dreams of being a ship’s surgeon on board a ship, traveling the stars. So when the Tangled Axon comes into her shipyard, the temptation to stowaway is irresistible. Trouble is, the crew is looking for her sister, as are others, who are willing to kill or cause massive destruction in their wake to get her. Oh and did I mention Alana is not your typical Caucasian protagonist, with a kinsey score well above 0, and is dealing with a disability, a debilitating illness slowly eating her alive?
Book View Café has signed a deal with Audible.
Press release follows:
REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong second entry into the Split Worlds universe, wonderfully conveyed in audiobook form.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Catherine Rhoeas-Popaver’s desire for emancipation, her new husband ambition, and scheming by all sides complicate their arrival among the London social set.
PROS: Excellent character development and growth; intriguing worldbuilding increases the richness of an already rich world; wonderful narration by the author.
CONS: The novel patently cannot be read without reading the first; a concordance would be very welcome.
BOTTOM LINE: A superb second entry into the Split Worlds universe that expands the playground and changes the focus interestingly.
Any Other Name is the second Split Worlds novel from Emma Newman. The Split Worlds series — starting with Between Two Thorns and concluding with All is Fair — occupies a distinctive niche in Urban Fantasy. In a world of Harry Dresdens, Sookie Stackhouses, Toby Dayes, and many others, the characters and world of Any Other Name is definitely different. There are no women with tramp stamps here, no fireballs in back alleyways, no werewolves camping in Rock Creek Park.
Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.
This time out, we stay near to Dungeons and Dragons as we did last time with Monsters and Magic, taking a look at one of the two big Dungeons and Dragons influenced games coming out this summer¹.
Let me introduce you to a world surrounding a placid inland sea, an Empire run by a powerful Emperor. Powerful forces work within and without the empire. A powerful Lich amasses forces on an island in the Midland sea. A High Priestess seeks to unite all of the worshippers of the Gods of Good together. A Giant Gold Dragon keeps the endless maw of the dark Abyss from spilling its contents onto the world by bodily blocking the entrance. An Elvish Queen rules the elves and listens to their concerns-all the elves, both light and dark. A Dwarf King counts his gold, and old grudges, too, in his Mountain Hall. And there are others, too.
All are seemingly cognizant that the world is on the cusp of change. Big change that the player characters themselves can have a hand in shaping. Massive change to the world is not an unprecedented thing to the Dragon Empire and the lands around it. It has happened 12 times before, you see.
Let me introduce you to the 13th Age.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
While it is important to recognize women writers in genre, it is ultimately the characters in the stories and novels that we read that draw our imaginations. With that in mind, in what has been often seemingly a dominated field, strong female protagonists sometimes get short shrift. So let’s hear it for female heroes!
We asked this week’s panelists…
Q: Who are your favorite female protagonists? What makes for a strong female protagonist, anyway?
Here’s what they said…
lives in Colorado where she weaves all manner of things, including stories, chainmaille jewelry, and a life with her partners and dog. Her stories feature queer women of color, folks with disabilities, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles, because she grew tired of not seeing enough of herself and the people she loves reflected in genre fiction. Her debut science-fantasy queer romance novel, Ascension
, is now available in digital formats from Prime/Masque; the trade paperback will release in December 2013. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter at @jkoyanagi
I look for agency in any protagonist—for example, bucking macro- or micro-level subjugation either through subversion or direct rebellion. Many of the female characters I’ve loved over the years developed into strong protagonists by rejecting the dominant culture and finding alternate paths to personal fulfillment. Others have taken more direct routes toward claiming their agency, or have worked on behalf of large marginalized groups.
Onyesonwu is the eponymous protagonist of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death–a woman born into a violent world, conceived of war rape. It’s no wonder, then, that her personality is less likeable and more powerful; that power is fueled by both anger and magic. Her decisions reflect her position as a biracial women in the midst of a genocidal war, and the effects of her violent conception ripple out through the entire novel. It’s through Onyesonwu’s strength that the book explores oppression and the inherent power of story.
REVIEW SUMMARY: An engaging young adult novel that continues Bond’s facility for writing strong YA stories and characters
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Five years after The Gods Returned, Kyra Locke discovers herself and her father at the center of a divine conspiracy involving a powerful stolen relic capable of altering the delicate balance of power between mortal and divine.
PROS: Engaging, appealing female protagonist; good use of underrepresented deities as allies and opponents; sympathetic and well rounded antagonists.
CONS: Some worldbuilding elements appear to be inconsistent or not carefully thought through; characters other than Kyra fall flat.
BOTTOM LINE: Another fine YA from Bond and a solid entry into the Mythpunk subgenre.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology that celebrates the work of Gene Wolfe that, despite the quality of the stories, suffers from serious topic focal problems.
PROS: Two new pieces of fiction from Gene Wolfe; a high powered lineup of authors.
CONS: Too many of the stories seem to be outside the remit of the anthology.
BOTTOM LINE: An anthology that doesn’t quite reach its goal of celebrating the work of Gene Wolfe.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A strong anthology that transcends the seeming limitations of the theme to bring a set of high quality genre stories.
PROS: An excellent set of original stories, some clearly in award-nomination class; beautiful cover art.
CONS: Readers not interested in the theme or subject matter will find little purchase here.
BOTTOM LINE: The stories in Glitter and Mayhem? Absolutely fabulous.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Lawrence wraps up the story of Jorg and the Broken Empire with pathos, care, deft, and surprising brevity
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The backstory of Jorg’s history, and the history of his broken world, are revealed as his quest to become Emperor is opposed by forces Jorg is barely cognizant of.
PROS: Clever and well execution use of multiple time periods and narrative to draw readers to the conclusion; excellent worldbuilding and character study.
CONS: A newly introduced POV does not rise much above a plot exposition device; strains to wrap up series in only three volumes.
BOTTOM LINE: A well executed end to the Broken Empire Trilogy that ends the series before Jorg wears out his welcome.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Astronaut Chaz Eades’ fraught awakening onto a mission to Tau Ceti unfolds a web of mystery, deceit, and emotional tension.
PROS: Intriguing set of interlocked mysteries; strong character grounding and focus; emotionally resonant.
CONS: The story is missing a beat on the protagonist’s emotional and social path.
BOTTOM LINE: An evocative, emotional, character-focused novella with enough crunch to satisfy space travel SF grognards too.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The power of the tyrant Geder Palliako only grows, as the few individuals actively working against him, openly and otherwise, find challenges and problems of their own.
PROS: More solid revelation of the world and its nature; a sharp wham in the denouement; interesting use of deconstruction and skewed view of classic tropes.
CONS: Parts of the plot feel a little too forced and derivative, or repetitive.
BOTTOM LINE: Three novels into the Dagger and the Coin series, the energy and craft remains strong.
Chadwick Ginther is a Canadian author based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His short stories have found a home in On Spec, Tesseracts and the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press; his reviews and interviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Winnipeg Review and Prairie Books NOW. A bookseller for over ten years, when
he’s not writing his own stories, he’s selling everyone else’s. His first novel, Thunder Road, is now out from Ravenstone books. He was kind enough to answer some questions about himself and his work.
Paul Weimer: Who is Chadwick Ginther?
Chadwick Ginther: The short answer is that I am a reader and a writer. I learned to read at very young age from comic books, hard wiring my brain for the mythological and fantastic and I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked a variety of jobs in my time, but most of my adult life has been spent as a bookseller. (As addictions go, books are about as good as it gets.) I’ve written stories almost as long as I’ve been reading them, but it was working in a bookstore and seeing authors launching their books almost every day that really kicked me in the butt and made me decide to take the craft seriously and start submitting my work.
My debut novel, Thunder Road, released in September 2012 and the next book in the series, Tombstone Blues, is due this fall.