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Retro Childhood Review: The Book of Three

22 Jun Book of Three First Edition dustjacket with Ness artwork

“You fool!” he shouted. “You addlepated . . . What have you done? Now both of us are trapped! And you talk about sense! You haven’t . . .”

Eilonwy smiled at him and waited until he ran out of breath. “Now,” she said, “if you’ve quite finished, let me explain something very simple to you. If there’s a tunnel, it has to go someplace. And wherever it goes, there’s a very good chance it will be better than where we are now.”

In 1985, Disney released the film that would nearly signal its death knell, a movie which basically led to the creation of Don Bluth Productions (thank goodness), a movie which only made half as much as it cost and was altogether a disaster, but it was also a movie that sparked my imagination enough to find the source. That movie was The Black Cauldron. Tricked you. The Black Cauldron is book two of Lloyd Alexander’s epic children’s fantasy series, The Chronicles of Prydain. The Book of Three is the start of that journey.
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Book Review: A Man from Planet Earth by Giancarlo Genta

16 Jun

Starting in 2014 Springer began publishing books in their Science and Fiction series, a collection “born out of the recognition that scientific discovery and the creation of plausible fictional scenarios are often two sides of the same coin.” Envisioned as “hard” science fiction that is largely written by practicing scientists, the series includes novels, collections of short stories, critical analysis, and covering topics in a relatively non-technical matter, as they could be applied in genre speculation.

I’m not one to leap at the chance to read works that promote themselves as hard science fiction. In general I find they are too conservative in their political and social outlook and too focused on technology or engineering rather than science. The science that is present seems dominated by physics and astronomy, and any literary aspects become utterly expendable. Obviously this isn’t always true, and even if not often literary, a hard science fiction story like one in Analog can be entertaining while teaching the reader about something new.

As a scientist myself I was excited when I heard about this series from Springer, I think more scientists should develop skills at bridging the science and the fiction universes. I hoped (and still do) that their curated series would tilt towards the type of technically focused science fiction that I could still find entertaining. Continue reading

Book Review: Everfair by Nisi Shawl

26 May

Approximately nine years ago, while browsing a local library’s new release section, I came across Filter House. A short story collection by Nisi Shawl, its description and critical blurbs promised rich literary fantasy from a talented and distinctive voice that was new to me. Reading it, I realized that promise was no exaggeration. Filter House is significant in both its quality and its revelation of a culturally non-dominant perspective (particularly within the SFF community). Nominated for a World Fantasy Award and winning the James Tiptree Jr. Award, Shawl’s collection did not go unnoticed within the critical community.

Yet, I somehow felt unfulfilled after completing the collection. I had no regrets reading it; I appreciated it. But it still baffled me in its unfamiliarity and its thematic focus. Its Otherness required contemplation, attentive to the subtle graces of Shawl’s writing and listening to her viewpoint. For me, one read-through wasn’t sufficient to fully experience it. Continue reading

Book Review: The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

24 May

I came to Kameron Hurley’s work early, getting a copy of God’s War back at the beginning of her career, and following her work and worlds since. Sometimes I’ve had questions or issues with her work, but throughout, the “blood, bugs, and brutal women” that have been a hallmark of all of her worlds and characters have sustained my reading interest and been a welcome expenditure of my reading time. It was thus with great anticipation that I picked up The Stars Are Legion, the new Space Opera from Hurley.

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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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