Tag Archives: Ian McDonald

BOOK REVIEW: Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

REVIEW SUMMARY:The third novel in the Everness series continues to expand both the universe and its protagonists and antagonists alike.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Everett, Sen and the rest of the crew of the airship make a jump to a BDO (Big Dumb Object) inhabited by descendants of dinosaurs.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A BDO of engineering larger than a Ringworld! Good character development of both the protagonists and antagonists.
CONS: Perhaps a bit too brief in length, especially given the size of the locales and the amount of material covered.
BOTTOM LINE: The third novel in MacDonald’s series starts taking off the gloves and kicking things into high gear.

I’ve a big fan of Ian McDonald’s Everness series, which began with Planesrunner and Be My Enemy. I’ve avidly followed story of a teenage genius who unlocks his father’s most prized secret — the secret not only to visit the ten worlds of the Plentitude, but the entire multiverse. The series follows Everett’s quest to find his missing father, lost somewhere in that multiverse, and the efforts of those who follow Everett in order to capture the Infundibulum for themselves. In the third novel in this series, Empress of the Sun, the story follows (in separate plotlines) Everett (still with the crew of The Everness, the airship he encountered in Planesrunner), Everett’s double from another world of the Plentitude who was recruited to find him, and Charlotte Villers (the main antagonist of the series).

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MIND MELD: What is the Next Big Thing in Speculative Fiction?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

As a critic, aspiring author, and a fan of fiction I always keep an eye out for what could be the next big thing. This could range anywhere from authors to series, from genres to themes. But who better to provide an opinion on the matter of The Next Big Thing than authors themselves?

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What do you think will be the next Big Thing in SF/F? What authors do you see leading the way? What genres or trends?

Here’s what they said…

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam writes speculative short stories. Her first professional publication, “The Wanderers” came out in this February’s Clarkesworld. Her second will be published in Strange Horizons this April. She reviews short fiction on her blog, Short Story Review.

I’ve always been bad at predicting the future, despite my claims as a kid that my dreams were prophetic; I tend to worry over the worst possible scenarios. But in terms of the future trends in speculative fiction, I’m optimistic. I’ve been noticing a strong focus on diversity in speculative short fiction. I mainly read short stories, so I will speak in terms of the next big thing in short story writers. As a bisexual woman, I was thrilled last month to read “Inventory” by Carmen Maria Machado in Strange Horizons, in which the main character’s relationships with women and men are depicted as equally important to her. I think in the future we will certainly see more of an emphasis on diversity in sexual orientations and gender identifications.

Some other writers I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future: I keep running into Damien Walters Grintalis’ work. Brooke Wonders’ “Everything Must Go” in Clarkesworld 74 blew me away, and I think Wonders will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. Helena Bell’s work has been popping up a lot lately; her Clarkesworld stories “Variations on Bluebeard and Dalton’s Law Along the Event Horizon” and “Robot” are worth checking out. I’ll be keeping an eye on Brooke Bolander as well. It’s great to see so many up-and-coming female short story writers in the speculative fiction field, and I think that this trend will continue as well.
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BOOK REVIEW: Be My Enemy by Ian McDonald

REVIEW SUMMARY: McDonald proves the concept of his world of the Infundibulum has legs, and provides some intriguing new ideas amid an entertaining adventure.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Fleeing Charlotte Villers and seeking a way to find and rescue his father, Everett and his friends aboard airship Everness discover why a particular world is off limits.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Lots of ideas thrown out and explored; good development of main characters.
CONS: The establishment of Everett’s double as nemesis feels extremely forced.
BOTTOM LINE: Malevolent Nanotech. More world hopping. A solidly entertaining second volume to the series.

In Planesrunner, the first novel in Ian McDonald’s YA series about Everett Singh, we were introduced to the world of the Infundibulum. Everett’s father, with help from Everett himself, unlocked inter-world travel, a breakthrough powerful and potent enough that people will go to great lengths to possess the technology. Everett’s journeys takes him to a parallel world of carbon fiber technology and enormous airships. At the end of the first book, Everett’s father has been cast to somewhere in the multiverse, and Everett is determined to find and save him, even as the forces arrayed against him are in hot pursuit.  Now, those forces, led by Charlotte Villiers, have a new plan for capturing Everett and his key to the mulltiverse. They intend to use the one person who can anticipate and counter Everett’s moves and actions: himself…

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Cover & Synopsis: “Be My Enemy” by Ian McDonald

John Picacio has posted his cover art for Ian McDonald’s upcoming novel Be My Enemy, Book Two of the Everness series, which began with Planesrunner. Take a gander at a much more detailed version of the cover at John Picacio’s website.

Meanwhile, here’s the synopsis for Be My Enemy:

Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All Worlds, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild Heisenberg jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful, and from the refuge of a desolate frozen Earth far beyond the Plenitude, where he and his friends have gone into hiding, he makes plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him. The action traverses three different parallel Earths: one is a frozen wasteland; one is just like ours, except that the alien Thryn Sentiency has occupied the Moon since 1964, sharing its technology with humankind; and one is the embargoed home of dead London, where the remnants of humanity battle a terrifying nanotechnology run wild. Across these parallel planes of existence, Everett faces terrible choices of morality and power. But he has the love and support of Sen, Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, and the rest of the crew of Everness as he learns that the deadliest enemy isn’t the Order or the world-devouring nanotech Nahn—it’s himself.

Book info as per Amazon US:

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (September 4, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1616146788
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616146788

REVIEW: Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

SYNOPSIS: Everett Singh hops alternate worlds in an effort to rescue his imprisoned father and stay one step ahead of those who want the invaluable prize his father has given him.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: Strong beats of plotting; appealing Heinleinian protagonist; wide variety of interesting characters; plenty of stuff for non-YA readers to enjoy.
CONS: Perhaps too tight a focus; world doesn’t feel like it extends far beyond protagonists.
VERDICT: Ian McDonald seamlessly switches gears to a rollicking YA adventure.

Ian McDonald is a name that many science fiction readers have heard of. Although he’s been writing for much longer than that, over the last decade, he has been building a resume of impressive novels and stories, most recently in his Hugo award-nominated The Dervish House. I personally loved his River of Gods. His work is a strong component of why I think we are in a Golden Rainbow Age of Science Fiction and Fantasy these past few years.
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MIND MELD: ‘The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received…’

In honor of the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp, we asked this week’s panelist for writing advice…

Q: What was the best writing advice you received as a teenager/young adult, and who gave it to you? For bonus points, If you knew then what you know now about the writing life, would you have continued to pursue it? How much of a disconnect is there between your vision of the writing life and the reality of it?

Here’s what they said…


Karen Joy Fowler
Karen Joy Fowler‘s The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was short-listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Fowler’s short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999. Fowler’s latest books include Wit’s End and the upcoming collection What I Didn’t See.

I wasn’t trying to be a writer as a young adult so no one was giving me advice about how to do it back then. What I was doing was a ton of reading, which turned out to be the best thing I could have been doing anyway. What was particularly good about my reading was that I hadn’t learned to make a distinction between one kind of book and another; I hadn’t ever told myself I liked one kind of book, but not another. So I read widely — books for children and for adults, poetry by Emily Dickinson and Garcia Lorca, The Lord of the Rings and Don Quixote and The Hunting of the Snark. I read hundreds of YA’s whose titles I’ve forgotten, but whose stories I still remember about high school proms and football teams and how to be popular. I read Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries, short story collections like Junior Miss and The Night the Bed Fell and collections of humor and horror. I read non-fiction like Men Against the Sea and Old Bones, the Wonder Horse, and historical biographies of all sorts. When I came to writing, many years later, I realized that I had unconsciously picked up techniques from all those sorts of books. And that I had no limiting vision of what I could or could do in any particular piece, although many tried to convince me otherwise. I had a good solid sense of there being no rules at all.

The best advice no one actually gave me was to read a lot of any and everything.

The thing I didn’t understand about the writing life was how public it can be. It looked very private when I imagined it — there you are, alone in your room, pulling images as fast as you can from that clown-car between your ears we call your brain. You need please no one, but yourself. I didn’t think at all about reviews and reader reactions and sales figures. I didn’t picture interviews and readings. The alone-in-your room part is still the part I like best.

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MIND MELD: What You Should Know About Speculative Fiction and Mainstream Acceptance (Part 1)

Recent events and discussions once again bring the topic of genre fiction’s mainstream respectability to the forefront. So we thought it’d be timely to ask this week’s panelists:

Q: In your opinion, does literary science fiction and fantasy have mainstream respect? Why, if at all, does it need mainstream approval? What would such approval mean for genre fiction?

Read on to see their level-setting responses…

Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe is a science fiction author noted for his complex and dense prose which is liberally influenced by his Catholic faith. He has won the Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award four times and has been nominated for the Hugo Award multiple times.

That’s a softball. No. Literary sf and fantasy are not respected by mainstream critics or the mainstream professoriate. Neither needs mainstream approval, which would diminish (and perhaps destroy) both. Just look at what they DO respect. Look at what poetry was as late as the early 20th Century, and what it is now.

Now and then I’m asked at cons why I don’t write fiction of the respected sort. You know, he is a professor and she is a professor and they are having adulterous affairs, and they are almost overcome with guilt and angst, and there is no God, and scientific progress doesn’t enter into it, and just about everybody in the world is upper middle class.

When that happens, I ask the questioner abut Martin du Gard. Have you read him? Have you heard of him? Invariably the answers are no and no. Then I explain that Martin du Gard won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year H. P. Lovecraft died.

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SF Tidbits for 8/31/09

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REVIEW: Desolation Road by Ian McDonald

REVIEW SUMMARY: I was expecting a traditional sf story, but got Peyton Place.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The story of a Martian town and its residents. But mostly its residents.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Imaginative; interesting characters that are diligently drawn.

CONS: The characterization-to-plot ratio was way too high; for a majority of the book, nothing ever seemed to happen.

BOTTOM LINE: Felt more like a literary exercise than the wondrous story I was hoping for.

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