• Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Our Lady of Darkness

    by Part of my quest to read all of the World Fantasy Award novel winners. This book won in 1978. Meh. I spent a lot of this book waiting for something to happen. I spent even more of it waiting for that to be something with a speculative bent. All I had up until the last dozen or so pages was the main characters seeing something that might have been a figure at the limits of his visual acuity through a set of binoculars. I want to say there’s a Lovecraft influence here (a lot of other people have), and there are certainly plenty of references, but while Lovecraft tended towards…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Storm Dancer

    by I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Steampunk isn’t my thing, whether or not it’s got a flavor I don’t usually get in my fantasy. Steampunk with a Fantasy bent doesn’t help much because it’s still Steampunk. But I’m trying to push boundaries in the fiction I read, to break out of molds, to see through different lenses than I’m used to seeing through. And I got a copy of this for Christmas in 2015 that’s been sitting on the shelf staring at me for quite a while now. While reading, I found the book has other strikes against it. It’s kind of info-dumpy…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: The Dwarves

    by There are a lot of standard tropes and clichés here, Tolkien-esque fantasy seen through a continental lens and translated back into English for North American consumption. In fact, the farther I got into the book, the more it read like the novelization of someone’s RPG campaign where the events just get more and more implausible. The main character can be talked into just about anything so long as he thinks it’s for the greater good. The rest of the characters have varying, and variable, degrees of depth, but are mostly caricatures. There’s the beserker warrior dwarf. His brother, the calm warrior dwarf. The noble but misguided king dwarf. The…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Gateway

    by Part of my quest to read all of the Hugo and Nebula novel winners. This book won both in 1978. Most of the time, I hate it when part of a story is told in a later timeframe, especially when that later timeframe makes it clear the main character survived to live a long and full life. It robs any dangers or difficulties of immediacy or tension. It steals most of the drama from the story, making it a mere description of imaginary past events. It makes me wonder why I should care. Frederik Pohl, however, was good at it. Conceptually, the story has a pretty neat hook. There’s…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

    by Part of my quest to read all of the Hugo Award novel winners. This book won in 1977. Dystopias are making a comeback in the last few. So are end of the world stories. Neither is a new story, and if some of the modern ones give an interesting twist here and there, most of them are more or less walking over the same ground, sometimes with new technology or slightly more inclusive casts. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is an end of the world as we know, staring across the edge of human extinction, dystopic, far side of the apocalypse story. Actually, it’s three of them. And…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 6

    by I’m not sure about “best”. Other than containing a mediocre Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story, it seems like there are a lot of fairly standard, stereotypical stories in this collection. Not one of them, sadly, jumped up and grabbed me. None of them were horrible, but none of them were really good, either, and I can’t pick a story out of the batch that stands above the others. And there’s not a lot of variety in the fantasy represented here, with the bulk of it, even admitted by the editor, falling into the Sword and Sorcery camp. That’s clearly what Mr. Carter preferred at the time, which is…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Quantum Night

    by As I read this, it’s near future SF. Very near. Like three years from now near. The story takes place in 2020 and in Saskatchewan, which is kind of neat. There are a lot of Canadian references dropped that are more than just prairies-related, as well, so that adds to the fun for me. And this book was fun. I’ve read many (most) of Mr. Sawyer’s books and I’ve enjoyed all but one so far, and this one falls firmly into the enjoyed category, with a couple of small caveats. The basic principle underlying the book is the tying of quantum mechanics to consciousness. There’s a lot of research…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Doctor Rat

    by Part of my quest to read all of the World Fantasy Award novel winners. This book won in 1977. “I’m on page 47 of 215 of Doctor Rat: I’m honestly not sure how much more of this book I can take. The purpose is clear, but the presentation is disturbing, as it’s obviously meant to be. Not what I’m looking for in my entertainment.” When I finished typing that update, I realized that I was putting myself through this book for no good reason. I’m already against animal testing and for animal rights. It’s possible that this book might have something to teach me, but whatever that lesson might be…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: Bid Time Return

    by Part of my quest to read all of the World Fantasy Award novel winners. This book won in 1976. The last book I read by Mr. Matheson was I Am Legend, way back in 2015. Loved it. Quick, precise prose. Just enough description to let your imagination work on what you would see. A clean, character-driven story that I recommend to just about anyone. Bid Time Return is something very different. It’s an almost stream of consciousness (presented as transcriptions from an old Dictaphone) trip through the last few months of a scriptwriter dying of inoperable, incurable cancer. He randomly stops at an aging luxury hotel, falls in love with…

  • Reading,  Review

    Book Review: The Hard SF Renaissance

    by Long, very long. And not always in a good way. But mostly. There are 41 stories in this volume, 12 of them novelette length, and 7 of them novellas. At 960 pages, there’s a lot of SF here, and most of it enjoyable. Most of it also published in the 1990s, but since this collection was published in 2002, that shouldn’t be surprising. If Mr. Hartwell were still with us, I wonder what kind of volume of Hard SF he might have put together using the first decade or so of the 21st century. As it is, he gathered a group of good stories. Yes, there were a few…