Dogs of War

In this ninth title of Jonathan Maberry’s series, Joe Ledger and his cohorts in the Department of Military Science (DSM) are once again called upon to battle a villain threatening the world with technology not too far from reality – in this case the latest creations in robotics. But DOGS OF WAR suffers from a meandering plot structure and a sluggish pace – characteristics never experienced in any of the previous Ledger novels.

No sooner does Joe Ledger return from a mission in Prague than he receives a call from his brother Sean, a homicide detective in Baltimore. A local teenage prostitute is found dead and the autopsy reveals very strange results – strange enough for Sean reach out to his brother, who Sean knows works for a clandestine government organization that deals with these kinds of things.

Read more »

The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

unrealrealPreviously published as two separate volumes, this hefty omnibus edition of THE UNREAL AND THE REAL brings together Ursula Le Guin’s personal selection of her many mainstream and science-fiction short stories. Her creative and narrative brilliance shines equally bright in both story types. And, as is her intention, Le Guin illustrates the very thin line between “real” and “unreal.”

A perfect example of this is “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” a story that appears in the “Where On Earth” section of presumably realistic stories. A young girl survives a plane crash in the desert, where the various animals living nearby immediately take her in. The girl effortlessly speaks with the animals and eventually learns the true nature of the world. Is the story a fantasy? Magic realism? The answer doesn’t matter, thanks to the spell Le Guin weaves.

Read more »

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016

bestsff2016THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY 2016 is the second annual collection of its kind, distinguished not only by its series editor, but also by a different guest editor (following the tradition set by several previous collections in other genres).

The guest editor for this latest collection is Karen Joy Fowler, an author popular both within science fiction/fantasy as well as mainstream works, such as THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB and WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES. As might be expected, the resulting stories she selects for inclusion are as varied and exciting as their authors.

Read more »

New Pompeii

newpompeii“JURASSIC PARK Meets GLADIATOR”

That’s the high-concept pitch on the back cover of Daniel Godfrey’s NEW POMPEII. There’s also a comparison to Michael Crichton, another author known for his high-concept plots. Crichton was also known for his paper-thin characters, but the plots of his novels and the neat ways he would tie all the loose ends together by the end of the book made up for it.

Unfortunately, Daniel Godfrey is no Michael Crichton.

Read more »

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection

yearsbestSF33The 33rd and latest collection of THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION (representing 2015) confirms that the short story format is very much alive and well in science fiction, and that Gardner Dozois is as skilled an editor as he’s ever been. A total of 36 stories, by both veteran and up-and-coming authors, are featured here with “more than 300,000 words of Fantastic Fiction” as the cover boasts. All packed into 720 pages, making another generous, if somewhat cumbersome, collection.
 
Among the many notable stories is “The Falls,” one of two stories in the collection by Ian McDonald. Life on a recently settled moon of Saturn is relayed by the personal memories of a psychologist to artificial intelligence, who also recalls the events of her daughter’s expedition to another lunar surface. The subtle, almost laconic narration makes the often-frightful recollections resonate long after the story’s conclusion.

Read more »

The Dark Side

darksideAuthor Anthony O’Neill wanted his first novel, THE DARK SIDE, to be science fiction. The effort he took to include plausible science is evident. The fiction side however, while often inventive, includes far too much heavy-handed humor and overly broad characters. The result is an uneven and sadly unsatisfying debut.

The story takes place in a future where the moon has been colonized, mostly for commercial purposes. One lunar colony, however, is named Purgatory and is the home of banished murderers, drug dealers, sex fiends, and other assorted criminals. But rather than incarcerate them, Purgatory’s founder, billionaire businessman Fletcher Brass, encourages the residents to continue their crimes in whatever manner is likely to turn a profit.

Read more »

11/22/63

112263I haven’t been a fan of Stephen King’s novels for a long, long time.
 
Don’t get me wrong: His early books – SALEM’S LOT, THE DEAD ZONE, THE STAND, THE SHINING – are masterpieces. I would rank SALEM’S LOT as one of the top 5 vampire novels of all time. CUJO was a misstep (really, a whole novel about a rabid dog?), but Pet Sematary was good. Flawed, but good.
 
The early 1980s is when King’s work started to decline. Books with a thin premise more suited to a short story (CUJO, CHRISTINE, GERALD’S GAME) became full length novels. And the books that had an epic concept to carry a novel (e.g. IT) went on far too long. King’s novels became bloated and self-indulgent (TOMMYKNOCKERS, INSOMMNIA). What happened was, King became so successful that no editor would dare tell him to cut his work down.

Read more »

Broken Hero

brokenheroBROKEN HERO is the fourth book in Jonathan Wood’s series about Arthur Wallace and MI37 – Britain’s answer to Fox Mulder and THE X-FILES, except with more over-the-top action and dry Monty Python-esque humor.

I admit to not reading the first three books in the series, but Wood brings the reader up to speed pretty quickly. The plot involves an army of steampunk Nazi robots that are divided between trying to save themselves from annihilation, or destroying the world with a doomsday bomb that will rip apart reality.

Read more »

Slavemakers

slavemakersSLAVEMAKERS is Joseph Wallace’s sequel to his INVASIVE SPECIES, in which the apocalypse comes not in the form of a nuclear war, or an invading alien species, or a zombie virus outbreak…

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is an invading species, and the invaders are able to turn humans into zombies (of a sort). The apocalypse, in this case, is a soft one, and it involves a species of wasp that work together to attack humans, implant them with larvae that take over the person’s mind, and essentially turn them into drones for their “hive mind.” In essence, the humans become mindless slaves for the wasps. Those that fight back or attempt to escape or murdered in horrific ways.

Read more »

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015

bestSF2015Before you dismiss THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY as “yet another annual anthology” of the genre’s best short fiction, take a closer look. This is actually the debut SF/F anthology published by the folks who for years have presented the annual BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES and several other annual fiction and nonfiction anthologies. That makes it something rather distinctive and well worth your while (and possibly something of a collector’s item).

In his foreword, series editor (and longtime genre anthologist) John Joseph Adams presents a historical overview of the various forms and influences science fiction and fantasy have exerted over the past centuries, as well as the process for selecting the stories presented here (all published during 2014). Author Joe Hill, the first in what promises to be a series of noteworthy guest editors, explains why he loves these kinds of stories.

Read more »

Next Page »