Jonathan Strahan’s third “Infinities” anthology, Reach for Infinity, changes focus yet again for the series. While Engineering Infinity and Edge of Infinity explored solid Solar System-set science fiction, Reach for Infinity’s stories and mission concern the attempts of man to get into the solar system, pulling back even further from the more grandiose hard science fiction in the first Infinities volume, Engineering Infinity. However, even given the more narrowed and tight focus, the stories are no less full of wonder, characters, science and excellent writing. The previous volume, Edge of Infinity, felt in some ways like a manifesto from the editor, as if it had been curated and created to advance an argument. Reach for Infinity eschews that sort of editorial point of view and instead presents a set of excellent stories. [Read more…]
Doloriel, a.k.a. Bobby Dollar, has a tough job for an angel. He’s an advocate, which means when someone dies, he gets the call to argue that the soul should go to Heaven. Or, at worst, Purgatory. Every death has an on-the-spot trial, with a representative from Heaven and Hell arguing for the soul before an impartial judge.
It gets even tougher when the impossible happens — a soul disappears from the body of a recently deceased before that judgement can take place. Hell blames Heaven. Heaven thinks it’s Hell doing a false flag operation.The rules are going out the window, and Bobby is in the middle. Add in the fact that more souls are disappearing, everyone thinks Bobby has something unique, special and oh-so-coveted, and Bobby is in a run and gun for stakes that are getting larger moment by moment…
As I said, Bobby Dollar has a tough job, but he’s also not an ordinary angel by any means… [Read more…]
Jeff Vandermeer has always been a frustrating author to me. He is an incredible anthologist and an adroit genre critic. I want to love his books. I should love his books. The New Weird movement got me into writing in the first place. But, for some reason, I’ve had a hard time getting into them.
Not so with Annihilation, and that’s a relief.
Annihilation is the story of “Area X,” an irrational, transitional landscape in the south. With shifting, horrible borders that must be passed through under hypnosis, it’s at once part of and separated from the mundane world. Inside Area X, monsters come in familiar forms, and nothing is what it seems. Expeditions have been going into Area X for a long time, with few survivors. The mysterious organization dubbed the “Southern Reach” controls Area X. They also condition and “prepare” each expedition, but there is so much unknown about Area X.
In a border kingdom of the Syldoon Empire, a long-range military unit has gotten itself too tangled with local politics for its own good. Its commander, Captain Killcoin, having lost one of the few people who can keep him all together with his dangerous mind-warping weapon Bloodsounder, is in a heap of trouble with higher ups in the Empire. Trouble enough that one of the most dangerous people in the Empire has been fetched to bring him home — his sister. The completion of Killcoin’s task and the journey home to the capital is not going to be a straight road by any means.
And chronicling, witnessing, watching this all, an unlikely protagonist — a scribe, with little military skill, who is only slowly shedding his callowness. He’s hired by the Syldoon for purposes only now becoming clear. Purposes that could shake an Empire. Arkamondos is in way, way over his head. [Read more…]
While not quite Dozois-sized in the number of stories and pages it contains, The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction of the Year Volume 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan does have one major advantage over its counterpart. Strahan, unlike Gardner Dozois’s own yearly tomes, boldly mixes both science fiction and fantasy into one volume, rather than trying to figure out what belongs in Science Fiction and what is firmly in the domain of fantasy. Eight volumes in, Strahan’s editorial voice in selecting the best of the year from both SF and fantasy together is distinctive and strong.
The stories are: [Read more…]
It’s a pleasure to re-read (or re-listen) to an old favorite. In an age where readers (including myself) look for new books, new authors, new perspectives, and new good stuff, I appreciate having the chance to revisit something, even from 7 years ago, that, if anything, holds up better for me now than it did when I read it.
Camorr. A Venetian-style fantasy city, complete with canals, a strong mercantile sector that drives the rest of the city and the region around it. A city where the Duke rules, the Dons reign, the Bankers cash in and the ordinary person is caught between them and the nest of thieves who infest the city. By the command of Capa Barsavi, the lord of thieves, who has made a bargain with the duke’s spymaster, the thieves do not touch the Duke, or the Dons, but all others are fair game. And what game they are. [Read more…]
Rebekah Lull, a Chicago art student, has gotten an offer she can’t refuse. Not without traveling to North Carolina and seeing what its all about anyway. A foundling at birth, Rebekah discovers she’s been named the heir to the estate of Archibald Grace, her biological father. This estate comprises a rambling mansion in the hills of Appalachia and some money that could make life easy for a couple of years. The money’s the easy part. The cute local lawyer? Rebekah’s got him figured. The House, even if it seems to be full of secrets, locked doors and bona fide magical objects, is a little harder to manage, but Rebekah’s game. The relatives, the other would-be Heirs of Grace? Now they are going to be the tricky part. [Read more…]
Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland is a hero, but he certainly doesn’t feel like one. His gambit at Tau Retore to defeat an immense Spider ship was, charitably, a pyrrhic victory. Worse, he has a bum mechanical knee from the experience. Also, in keeping with tradition, instead of being immediately cashiered out of the Fleet, he has been given one final mission. There’s a space station around a mysterious star that radiates an almost evil, alien sort of light. It’s being decommissioned, and ‘Ida’ has been given the task, the privilege of overseeing that decommission. But why does no one on the station know that he is a hero? And why are people disappearing or just acting strangely? And most importantly, who and what is that signal Ida is getting in a forbidden radio band on his homemade radio set? [Read more…]
Tanyana is an architect, and a pretty good one, if you’d ask her. Actually, Pride is indeed her nearly mortal sin. While her control of pions, the magical particles at the base of all of the technomagic of the city of Movac-under-Kepper is indeed strong and clever, it is not perfect. An incident in the construction of a great and mighty statue leaves Tanyana cut off from being able to see and access pions. Worse, from her perspective, her abilities have been replaced with the underclass ability to see and manipulate debris, the waste product, the garbage created by pion technology. This debris can be actively dangerous to society, and those capable of manipulating it are tasked with cleaning it up and keeping it from harming the city. And so, the proud and mighty architect has become something she never expected and never wanted–a lowly garbage collector. [Read more…]
This semester, I’m teaching a course on American literature which seeks to challenge what that term actually means and how we can define “American Lit” as something which is multi-national, multi-cultural, and infinitely larger. After all, we live in the Americas; technically speaking, Canadians are Americans in this sense of the term. That’s why I’m here talking about Surfacing by Margaret Atwood and not As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
Though only loosely fantastic, Atwoods Surfacing is a complex, character-driven feminist tale about relationships, patriarchy, nationalism, and the human psyche. It follows an unnamed narrator who returns with her friends to her childhood home to search for her missing father, who she assumes has either died or run off into the woods. As she tries to piece together her father’s last days from the clues left in his cabin, she is confronted with her friends’ abusive marriage, her recent and distant past, and the crippling expectations of post-WW2 society (and the changes brought on by the Quiet Revolution in 1960s Quebec). Though not intended as horror, Surfacing explores its themes with a sense of impending terror, such that the final moments, which I won’t discuss in any detail here, are profoundly fantastic, with the character drama forming the root of an exploding, terror-driven tree. [Read more…]