One of my favorite books is Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969). It’s a whirlwind of disparate elements, mixing super pulpy science fantasy concepts and serious literary techniques into a ridiculously fun — and confounding — product. It doesn’t work, really; it makes no sense and it has weak characterization, no beating emotional heart; but damn if it isn’t a colorful splash on the big screen in your mind.
I’ve always liked works that take big chances. Even if they’re disasters, at least they’re interesting disasters. It used to be that big publishers routinely published works that made mincemeat of your brain, that defied reason and forced you to say to yourself, “Does this make any sense? Hell, do I even care if it makes sense?”
This isn’t to say, of course, that such narratives don’t ever get published by big publishing companies anymore — 2010 and 2012 saw rather high-profile confounding works (a positive term, in this case) published by Hannu Rajaniemi, for instance — but it’s hard to see something as weird and undigestible as Phyllis Gotlieb’s Lyhhrt Trilogy (1998-2002) or David Herter’s Ceres Storm (2000) being received with any enthusiasm in New York right now.… Read the rest
Beautiful, isn’t it? It reminds me quite a bit of the cover for Adam Robert’s award winning Jack Glass. Gospel for Loki is a different artist though, coming from the minds of Andreas Preis with additional design by Craig Fraser. Did you notice the cool Rainbow Bridge in the back left corner? Very cool Norse themes to it. The blurb for the title sounds particularly bad ass too.
Loki, that’s me.
Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.
So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.
Now it’s my turn to take the stage.
With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other.
… Read the rest
Books like Zachary Jernigan’s No Return are the primary reason why the Night Shade Books collapse was a crying shame. It is bold, edgy, daring, and uneven in spots, making it both exactly the kind of book that demands to be published and one that is likely to be passed over by larger houses. In all, No Return is a quirky mash-up of speculative genres drawn into a thoroughly compelling package before petering out in the last twenty pages. While that might sound damning with faint praise, I insist that it’s a book that should be read.
The reality is Jernigan had no shortage of capable hands guiding him as he wrote No Return. Written mostly, if not in full, during his time in the Stonecoast MFA program, his advisers were Elizabeth Hand and David Anthony Durham. But, despite exceptional writing and a mind blowingly original concept, the novel ends abruptly with little resolution (if any) of the two disparate plot lines.… Read the rest
There’s been a lot of intense debate in recent weeks about the treatment of women in the SF/F community, as well as the depiction of women in SF/F works. For the former, I can only express my dismay over how many female authors and editors have been treated in public, in private and in writing. My limited experience of this community so far leads me to believe this is the actions of a few, amplified by platform and circumstance; I find the vast majority of folks in SF/F to be good people who treat each other fairly and well. This community will rise to the occasion, I have no doubt.
As to the depiction of women, that’s something I can talk about with a bit more experience, I think. My debut novel, The Daedalus Incident, has a number of female characters, including one of the two main protagonists and several supporting roles.… Read the rest
If you’ll recall, I wrote a post about the demise of Night Shade Books in which I admitted to being sent two manuscripts by the publisher to give my feedback on. Michael Martinez’s The Daedalus Incident was one of those titles. As a result, I’m not going to review it. Not really. Suffice to say I really enjoyed it despite an extremely unconventional narrative.
The nature of that narrative is two seemingly disparate story lines connected through space and time. One is in an alternate dimension set during the Napoleonic era, where, instead of plying the oceans, ships of the line sail between the planets powered by alchemy. If that sounds like a trip, it is. On the other side, Martinez tells the story of a research team on Mars in the 22nd century dealing with unexplained geological events. How these two stories collide is the telling of the tale and I won’t go into any greater detail except to say that there’s a very Lovecraftian solution to it all, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with Night Shade’s love of such things.… Read the rest
The Winds of Khalakovo, the first installment in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Lay of Anuskaya series, was raved about on this blog in 2011. I acquired the follow-up, The Straits of Galahesh, several months before it was released in 2012. Unfortunately, the first fifty pages felt impenetrable even after reading them a dozen different times. When Beaulieu announced the upcoming release of the final volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I committed myself to finishing the second novel in order to read the conclusion. Despite a long, arduous struggle through Straits of Galahesh that never really abated, I’m so pleased to call Flames of Shadam Khoreh a rousing success that exceeds all of the expectations placed on it by Beaulieu’s exceptional debut.
Beaulieu’s third book begins nearly two years after the events of Straits of Galahesh. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited.… Read the rest
Last August I got an email from Jason Williams, publisher and majority owner of Night Shade Books. He said he’d been paying attention to Staffer’s Book Review and he wanted to pick my brain about the direction Night Shade was heading. My thoughts ranged from:
- Wow — someone in publishing cares what I think (to. . .)
- Why the hell does anyone in publishing care what I think?
Little did I know that the mere existence of this email was a sign that Night Shade Books was seriously dysfunctional. Williams and I went on to have a lengthy email exchange and several phone calls over the following week. These talks resulted in me doing a very slight amount of consulting for him. I’m not going to reveal too many details from these exchanges, but a few might dribble out here and there as some of them aid in the telling of a good story.… Read the rest
I’ve read Erin Hoffman first two books, Sword of Fire and Sea and Lance of Earth and Sky. Truth be told, I didn’t find either particularly good, although the world she created is incredibly rich. In fact, they feel at times like exactly what they are. . . novels written by a video game designer. In my experience style trumps substance in the video game world, and that feels like a reasonable criticism of Hoffman’s books.
However, I don’t want to undersell the sheer creativity of the series which is really tremendous and for some readers will provide a really enjoyable reading experience. All of that aside, the covers to her novel by Dehong He have been consistently tremendous (art direction by Lou Anders). Here’s the cover for the final volume in the series, Shield of Sea and Space:
… Read the rest
Of the one-hundred books I read in 2012, nearly one quarter of them were first time authors. I read slightly more last year (28), which makes some sense considering that 2011 was a far better year for debuts than 2012. Regardless, I would happily stack up this year’s Juice Box short list against last year’s. Oddly, none of this year’s best debuts were written by women, a fact that surprised me after reading so many excellent debuts from women a year ago. I’ll chalk it up to noise, especially considering my 2013 reading thus far has included numerous excellent debuts from female authors.
Interestingly, despite some of the harsh criticisms I’ve levied toward Night Shade Books’ 2012 list, two of their debuts make the cut here, matching last year’s number. I lauded them a year ago for their outstanding new author program, and I hope it’s something they can continue to champion.… Read the rest
I write this post with trepidation It’s a gross departure from what Staffer’s Book Review has been about since day one. Nevertheless, the new job, the death of my father-in-law, Christmas, an increasingly needy three year old, and my general slacking of my duties as a blogger, has found me desperately far behind in my reviewing. In an effort to catch up, and get back on top of my pile, I present my “as-yet-unreviewed-reading-log-from-late-November-to-February”, or at least half of it:
Rapture by Kameron Hurley — Of all the books on this list, Rapture is the one I’m most comfortable reviewing in a few sentences. That’s mostly because I’ve done nothing but sing Kameron Hurley’s praises with the previous two volumes God’s War and Infidel. Rapture continues the pattern and provides a tremendous ending to the series. I can’t help mentioning that there are moments in all of Hurley’s books that will scour your soul with moments of utter bleakness.… Read the rest