0
7/10
Review: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Reviews / June 8, 2017

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s new novella is an odd beast. Take our universe and turn it a few degrees to strange and this is the world of Agents of Dreamland. It begins with a meeting between two people who are apparently government agents, takes a journey into the mindset of cult members and reaches out into space as a NASA probe falls silent beyond the orbit of Pluto. Kiernan is best known for her lyrical dark fantasy and extraordinarily weird short stories. This novella is somewhere in-between. We begin with the Signalman, a special agent getting off a train in the blistering heat of a 2015 Arizona. He is to meet Immacolata who has information for him. Something strange happened and they need to work out what. She writes as if this is hard-boiled noir. Meanwhile, a typically charismatic-type has founded the Children of the Next Level. This is where we meet Chloe. She is an lost, standing on the roof and reaching for the stars. This particular cult offers transcendence into a better future. This short story alternates in styles between the points of views of the Signalman, Immacolata and Chloe. These are highly descriptive and enigmatic chapters. There are…

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8/10
Review: The End of the Day by Claire North
Reviews / May 31, 2017

Claire North writes high concept fantastical thrillers and her latest The End of the Day is no different. This is a story about death. And Death. And the Harbinger of Death. For it is he, the latter, we follow on this adventure. Charlie is the latest Harbinger and this is his understanding of life and death and the world. In North’s universe, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are very real, as are their Harbingers. People know and accept this. When Charlie introduces himself to the characters he meets, they ask him what the job’s like, in a very matter of fact way in some cases. People know but not all understand. We pick the story up not long after Charlie has been trained by the previous Harbinger. The whole operation is run out of an office in Milton Keynes – a functional town perfect for this kind of administration. Charlie, as he tells people throughout the novel, is sent before Death, sometimes as a warning, sometimes a courtesy. He visits an old woman who is the last to speak her language. He has a gift for her. He is then sent to find a professor on the Greenland ice…

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9/10
Review: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Reviews / May 9, 2017

The Valiant is a book that I thought sounded intriguing but I let it slip off my radar due to other review commitments. But then after I saw a couple of glowing reviews for it, I realized I had to find time to read it. Turns out I absolutely LOVED this book, yes, it is worth of the all-caps. Fallon is the daughter of a Celtic King, and has been training her entire life to be a fighter worthy of joining the war band. We quickly learn that part of what motivated Fallon is that she idolized her sister, who was lost in war, and is determined to become the fierce warrior her sister was. In her tribe, men and women fight side by side. She is head strong and independent, so wants to prove herself as a warrior before thinking of such things as getting married. So pretty much, she is exactly the type of female protagonist that I absolutely love reading about. The day before her seventeenth birthday starts as amazing. She is with Mal, her best friend since childhood, but she is starting to see how their close friendship could evolve into something more. And there is the…

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10/10
Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Reviews / April 12, 2017

Honestly, I don’t understand why there aren’t more science fiction writers like John Scalzi. I don’t need all science fiction to be written Scalzi style, but I do need more than we’ve got. Opening a review this way should give you a sense that I very much enjoyed The Collapsing Empire. It is, in many ways, a traditional space opera, full of imaginative technology, vivid world-building, and enormous stakes. On the other hand, it’s just plain fun to read. And it’s this latter reason that I habitually read anything by Scalzi the minute it’s published. Virtually every other notable science fiction author you can think of has him beat hands-down in the big idea department. Scalzi has imaginative concepts, sure, but there’s also always something entirely familiar and comfortable about his fictional worlds. They are populated by recognizable character types – none of them being altered or warped by alienness or futurity into something truly other. His books also feature sci fi technology that, underneath the hood, feel familiar and contemporary. If you want never-before-conceived-of science fictional musings that brilliantly speculate on how technology or climate or evolution might change humanity, look elsewhere. If you want to have a good…

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8/10
Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Reviews / March 8, 2017

Perhaps the most striking thing about Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – amazing cover and jacket aside – is that it reads like a Neil Gaiman novel. Indeed, it could possibly fit in as an extended prologue to American Gods. So how is it that an author of comic books, children’s books and the occasional adult novel turn existing myths – from a culture not his own – into something personal and inclusive to all? Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s interpretation of classic Norse myths, inspired by his personal interest. This stems from Gaiman’s love of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Thor which Gaiman read as a child. So -what we have here is a relatively short retelling – and not a re-imagining – in a series of 16 tales from the dawn of creation to Ragnarok – the Norse end-of-times. You can read each tale in isolation, or taken as a complete piece there is a rough structure, as we’re introduced to all the favourites (Odin, Thor, Loki, Frigg, Baldur, Heimdall, giants, dwarfs and all the rest) and how they came to be the characters that some might know and love. Is it a novel? I don’t think so. A…

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7/10
Review: Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny
Reviews / February 8, 2017

Everything Belongs to the Future is the debut fiction novella by renowned author and journalist, Laurie Penny. As well as her non-fiction books exploring gender, sexism and capitalism, she writes The Guardian, The Independent, Salon, The New Inquiry and many more. Penny crams a decent amount of plot into not so many pages. We’re almost 100 years hence and the rich can almost literally buy time. Or rather an extension of life from the moment they take the medicine; a kind of ‘Fountain of Youth’ wrapped up in a blue pill. We’re in a divided England. The gaps between the haves and have-nots is wider than ever. Specifically, we’re in Oxford. A group of activists are living in a co-op house and are plotting against those who’ve been ‘fixed’. You see, the scientist inventor of this remarkable technology has fallen in with our perfectly representative house-mates. Nina and Alex, Margo and Fidget are the kind of activists that you’d imagine Penny might know in real life. Scruffy, punky, gender fluid and sexually diverse. Which is a good thing in theory but a little obvious from Penny. I’d have liked a little more stereo-type mould-braking. Inventor Daisy, who is all but…

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8/10
Review: The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
Reviews / December 5, 2016

“The purest surrealist act is walking into a crowd with a loaded gun and firing into it randomly.” – Andrė Breton The Arc de Triomphe secretes urine and the Eiffel tower floats on no grounded support. The mechanical elephant Celebes, once only a famed surrealist art piece, travels in occupied Paris and not alone. Manifestations of surrealist artwork, both famed and unknown, fight the Nazi occupation along with what is left of the resistance. “Liberation was fucked up,’ according to protagonist Thibaut. And that is before the reluctant forces of hell are thrown in. China Miėvelle is always ambitions; as one of the leading names in New Weird his works always live up the genres’ name. His writing will make a reader work and having Wikipedia, the dictionary, and possible a Harvard English professor around wouldn’t hurt when reading. Yet despite the absurdity of the premise, the Easter eggs of surrealist works most have never seen nor heard of, and an author secure in the knowledge that he is the smartest person in the room his works are surprisingly accessible. Last Days of New Paris is no different. A reader doesn’t need to know anything about surrealism to see this…

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8/10
Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Reviews / November 15, 2016

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi may be short, but the concept behind it opens the door for a much larger story. Imagine a world where death is not necessarily final, all depending on how you die. If you die due to illness, natural cause or an accident, then death is the end. However, if you happen to die by the hand of another, if you were murdered, then you will wake up, alive and well, in your bed. At least 99% of the time. So, consider the implications this can present, the different ways that people will be motivated to game the system of death. People participating in high risk activities, suffering from life threatening conditions, they can see this new option to hopefully reduce their risk of death. Scalzi’s world explores the good and the bad with allowing people to tamper with the natural order of things, as this concept pretty much it grants people a way to cheat death. Enter the facilitators for cheating death: dispatchers. Their job is pretty much to murder dispatch people just before they would otherwise die in some way that would not ordinarily grant them a second chance at life. Since this is a novella, I am…

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7/10
Review: Feedback by Mira Grant
Reviews / November 10, 2016

I picked up Feedback completely fresh to the Newsflesh series. So fresh, I didn’t even realize it was a series and started reading completely innocent of Mira Grant’s universe of bloggers fighting for life, liberty and the American way against a backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. The minimal zombie action in the beginning was a bit surprising, but I did not lose interest before the biting and moaning got underway, and now I understand why the book was structured that way. Grant was reorienting audiences of other books in her series to the perspectives of her new central characters. Zombie action blogger Aislinn “Ash” North is the central character providing POV for the band of bloggers we follow throughout. Ash is Irish, loud and lovely. In this frightened America people are still reeling from a zombie rising that decimated society some 25 plus years before, Ash makes her living by filming and writing about her own zombie-baiting adventures in the great outdoors. Her partners include Ben North, her news blogging husband, Audrey Wen, fiction writer and Ash’s lover, and Mat Newson, a genderfluid person who does makeup tutorials and handles IT. While all the central characters are fully developed with…

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8/10
Review: A Song for No Man’s Land by Andy Remic
Reviews / March 2, 2016

A Song for No Man’s Land is a brutal and bloody triumph for Andy Remic. The portrayal of Robert Jones (British soldier in World War I) a gripping snapshot of the true horrors of war after all illusions of glory and honor are stripped away, leaving behind only the ghastly reality. And, somehow, while capturing the spirit of Tommies in the trenches, Mr. Remic was also able to imbue this tale with fantastical elements; mysterious beings appearing to our protagonist during the most horrible moments; their connection to him explained in numerous flashbacks. All of these diverse elements meshing together perfectly to tell a most compelling and riveting story. From page one, Robert Jones is the focus of the narrative; his past life as a womanizer, alcoholic, and dedicated debaucher slipping away as he prepares to ship out to the front lines of the Great War in France. Naturally, though, he is out drowning his fears one last time in his favorite vices. At least, he attempts to before some of his “mistakes” find him, leading to a confrontation he survives only due to the unexpected intervention of one Charlie Bainbridge. This huge, mountain of a man becoming Robert’s steadfast…