Archive by Author

Book Review: Doctor Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

22 Sep

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a real-life organization that lends a bit of background color to Doctor Potter’s Medicine Show, might have found this novel an effective bit of ammo in their arsenal against the evils of Demon Rum, Wicked Whiskey, Sinful Ginful, etc. They would probably have found it an appalling actual read, but it might have served better than their marching around with signs and their uplifting sermons and their heartfelt testimonials ever did. The descriptions of the unpleasantness of actually being drunk, of addiction, of the consequences of a drinking binge (both social and biological), and of just how nasty a bottle of rotgut can taste and smell, will surely make many a reader look askance at the next cocktail proffered him or her.*

I doubt, though, that Eric Scott Fischl wrote with this aim in mind as he brought these desperate characters together in this diabolical plot. After all, alcohol is not anyone’s biggest problem in his version of Oregon and Idaho in the late 1870s. Continue reading

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Book Review: A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

8 Sep

In all honesty, this should really be called a booklet review, or, to be fancier, a chapbook review, because this is a slight little thing that a person could easily read all the way through while waiting in line at the DMV, still having time to start on another short story collection or anthology before her number was called. Which is to say that A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs could actually fit into a passport, as its amusingly apt cover might suggest. Continue reading

Book Review: Strange California (anthology)

4 Aug

California is a big state, and occupies an even bigger place in our imaginations, so it’s only to be expected that a collection of stories exploring what makes it so special — so strange — makes for a big book. Which is to say, a promise of value, of bang for one’s buck, is made right up front. Continue reading

Book Review: An Alchemy of Masks and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

7 Jul

In this first novel in his Risen Kingdoms series, Curtis Craddock is coming at us like the love child of Alexandre Dumas and Frank Herbert, possibly as fostered in his youth by Scott Lynch. It’s a helluva combination, and I don’t make a comparison like this lightly. If you’re a fan of any of those authors, or of intricately plotted fantasy that’s full of surprises, well, grab onto a restraining rope and climb aboard my airship. Continue reading

Book Review: Wilders, by Brenda Cooper

19 May

Author Brenda Cooper describes herself as a futurist and as being passionate about the environment, and you’d better believe she’s dead serious about it. Which is to say that, unlike most of the books I’ve gotten to review for Skiffy and Fanty this month, Wilders is many things, but fun isn’t one of them. Like so much ecological science fiction (or ecopunk, if that’s a thing? I’m pretty sure it’s a thing), Wilders is written in deadly earnest. Look elsewhere for lighthearted escapism.

Refreshingly, though, unlike a lot of books I’ve stumbled across in this genre, Wilders manages not to get too preachy. Herein, Cooper works under the assumption that her readers are proficient singers in the choir, and proceeds to focus on telling us a story rather than trying to persuade us that wilderness matters, that the environment matters, that extinction hurts us, etc., etc. Continue reading

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