Posts Tagged: Review

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Publisher: Saga Press - Pages: 640 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

[Editor’s Note: What follows is a critical essay in the traditional sense: an in-depth and spoiler-filled analysis of Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings—focused particularly on the women in the novel. It’s thoughtful, beautiful, and important—but if you’re sensitive to spoilers, you might enjoy reading it more after you’ve completed Liu’s epic novel. If you’re looking for an (almost) spoiler-free review to help you determine whether to buy it, let me suggest Justin Landon’s review on Tor.com.]

Many months ago Joe Monti, editor of Saga Press, Simon & Schuster’s SFF imprint, sent me a copy out of the blue of Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings for a possible quote. More precisely, and using the proper polite etiquette, he contacted my editor at Orbit who forwarded his email to me.

I knew Ken’s name, of course. He’s a multiple award winner (Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy) for his short fiction. He has also done an important service to the sff field by translating short fiction and novels from Chinese into English, works that readers in the English-speaking market would not otherwise be able to enjoy. The Grace of Kings is Liu’s debut novel. Read More »

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 352 - Buy: Book/eBook
Buy Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear: Book/eBook

Karen Memery is a seamstress – which is to say, salon girl – at the Hotel Mon Cherie in Rapid City. Though romantically inclined towards womenfolk, Karen is a practical soul in a comfortable, well-paying position that lets her save for the future, and her employer, the formidable and aptly-named Madame Damnable, makes sure her girls are protected. But not all who share their profession are so lucky: Chinese and Indian girls in particular are vulnerable to slavery and exploitation, as are those who work the streets. So when Merry Lee, the famous saviour of trafficked girls, shows up badly injured with Priya, her latest rescue, Karen and her sisters are quick to defend them against their pursuers – a man named Peter Bantle and his toughs. But Bantle won’t give Priya up so easily, and soon, his escalating retaliations against Karen, Madame Damnable and the other girls land them with much bigger problems. Who is killing Rapid City’s streetwalkers? How is Bantle running for mayor? And what can Karen do to stop it? Read More »

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Publisher: Knopf - Pages: 352 - Buy: Book/eBook
Buy Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

We live in a world of fast-moving moral panics. A world where information moves literally at the speed of light, crossing oceans and wrapping the world in mere moments. Technology connects us all, but it is also a tool, willing or unwilling, that embeds in us a fear of the world we live in. Turmoil in a country thousands of miles away plasters our social networks, convincing us that our own corner of the world is meant for similar fates, though even ten years ago we would not have heard rumblings of the news for hours, fifty years ago it might have taken days, and before that weeks, years. Information and panic sweeps through us as quickly as keystrokes are entered into a social network.

What if an deadly illness moved that so fast? What if it was as bad as we all feared? What if it was worse?. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven ponders that question. An illness sweeps through a society wracked by their own fears and doubts. The world that awaits the few survivors, a world without advanced technology, societal borders, and laws, is recognized not for what it promises but for what was lost. “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth,” opines Dr. Eleven, a comic book character who dwells on the titular space station, early in novel. Regret lies heavy at the heart of Mandel’s post-apocalyptic tale. But, beside it — a beacon of hope — is nostalgia. Read More »

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Publisher: Angry Robot Books - Pages: 544 - Buy: Book/eBook
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On the surface, The Mirror Empire, the first volume in Hurley’s The World Breaker Saga, is an epic fantasy about two warring empires. Not a wholly original concept, but Hurley’s take on the familiar story is a relentless avalanche of a novel that crams so many original ideas — clever magic, the intertwining politics of the warring empires, cultures with non-binary genders — that the familiarity of the overall plot is a beacon for readers to orient themselves while navigating Hurley’s twisted imagination. Her willingness to overtly and wholly subvert conventional genre tropes, specifically the Hero’s Journey1, is a testament to both Hurley’s understanding of the genre and her willingness to tear the house down around her just so she can build it up again. The Mirror Empire works both as a traditional secondary world fantasy, and as a complete dissection of the genre — few authors have the chops to pull off such a bold narrative. Read More »

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Biting Style:
The Bone Clocks
and Anti-fantasy
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This is not a review of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.

I don’t even mean that in the self-consciously Magrittesque kind of way.  If this were a review I’d tell you to read the book, or not, which I don’t plan to do.  I mean, okay, for those of you who haven’t made up your minds on David Mitchell’s latest opus: while I had an excellent time on every individual page, the book landed strange for me, and this essay is me trying to figure out why.  Asking “Should I read this book” is like asking “Should I take up power lifting?” or “Should I learn Chinese?”  Answer: depending on your goals, your experience, your medical history, your ambitions, how much free time you have—Maybe?

I do, though, think this book succeeds at something really really cool and interesting, even if it fails as a unit.  And the shape of this cool interesting thing challenges the goals and underlying structures of modern science fiction and fantasy—especially fantasy.

Because Mitchell’s written a fantasy novel.  That point seems impossible to argue.  His world contains immortals who teleport, throw fireballs around, and kill people with a thought.  To call it anything else would be silly.  And yet… Read More »