Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Locus Experiment concludes & Jeff Ford

The final decade covered by this great anthology has been reached. The final three stories in this volume were published and won their Locus Awards in the current decade, the 2000s

Border Guards by Greg Egan
I've only read one other piece of fiction by Egan, and as it turns out, I liked this one a lot more. This was an interesting look at science through the lens of what seemed to be sport. A good story here.

Hell is the Absence of God by Ted Chiang
Wow. This was an amazing, powerful story of faith and God. In this story, the appearance of Angels is almost commonplace, the world is much more attuned to the powers of Heaven and God. I was enthralled by this one and I've got to get myself a copy of Chiang's collection, Stories of Your Life and Others.

October in the Chair by Neil Gaiman
I had read this story a couple of years ago, probably in Hartwell's Years Best Fantasy 3. I liked it very much when I initially read it and I liked it a lot again. A great story about the personification of the months on the calendar and the power of Story.

On the whole, this was an excellent collection and a very good sampling of the genre over the past 30 years. Jonathan Strahan an experienced editor, and Charles N. Brown publisher of Locus, selected a pretty diverse sampling of stories for the volume. For the most part, even the stories that I didn't like as much as some others were at least interesting and worth considering, or perhaps revisiting in the future. The stories I thought the strongest were Martin's The Way of Cross and Dragon, Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God, Butler's Bloodchild, Murphy's Rachel in Love, and the best and most powerful overall, Jeffty is Five by Ellison. I thought the 1980s was the strongest decade/chapter in the book.

I also really liked the appendix listing ALL the past winners of the Locus Award, at least up until the publication of this book. I would strongly recommend this to people who enjoy short fiction or those who looking for a great introduction to the form.

Read Jeffrey Ford's blog, he is giving away a very touching personal story (or did with his September 27th posting). Also on Jeff's blog I found out about a new magazine, Fantasy, debuting in November from Prime Books. With stories from Mr. Ford, Jeff VanderMeer, Holly Phillips, and an interview with Jeff Ford, I've got to get a copy of this one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Veniss & Locus

I posted my review of Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer to SFFWorld. What a fucked up bunch of stories, but in the best possible way. I liked this one a lot, very unsettling, very dark, and very fantastic.

On to the Locus train.

Well, let see, the next bunch of stories are all from the 90s and they were the ones that, on a decade by decade basis, I enjoyed the least. There were good things about them, but on the whole, they were the ones I've enjoyed the least, thus far.

Bears Discover Fire by Terry Bisson
Actually, this one was a fun little snapshot exposing the fantastic against the mundane. A very matter-of-fact voice permeated the story. Good fun here in a very famous story. Easily the best of the 90s for me.

Buffalo by John Kessel
A semi-autobiographical tale chronicling the meeting of Kessel's father with H.G. Wells. Interesting but not much more than that, for me

Even the Queen by Connie Wills
This story of a futuristic society bringing the genders closer to a level playing field was pretty good. On one hand it reminded me of A Handmaid's Tale, even though the future was played out very differently. A nice snapshot of how family dynamics play out with tension, regardless of the future society.

Gone by John Crowley
I'm not a big fan of Crowley's writing, for some reason. This story was probably the one I liked the least in the collection, I had a tough time connecting with it.

Maneki Neko by Bruce Sterling
Again, I just couldn't get into this one, it seemed very disjointed to me.

Even with the minor road-bump I've hit with the 90s stories, this collection is still very good. While I didn't particularly enjoy all of the stories thus far, most have at least been interesting.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rolling on with Locus

The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daugther by Lucius Shephard
Shepard is one of the most respected short story writers in the genre, but this is my first encounter with his writing. This was the longest entry in the collection - a very interesting take on the ever-popular Fantasy Dragon. Here, the Dragon is over a mile long and is actually a large town. Sounds a bit odd, but then again, the story is a bit odd. Interesting, but not my favorite in the book.

Rachel in Love by Pat Murphy
I liked this story very much, a very touching story of one girl's adjustment to a world without her father. This story moved me the most out of the ones I've read so far, and it stands wonderfully on its own.

The Only Neat Thing to Do by James Tiptree, Jr.
Another moving story. Actually an excellent story of first contact and sacrifice. It took me a bit to warm up to it completely, but I was won over by the end of the story.

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis/Lillith's Brood trilogy is one of the strongest science fiction sagas of the future of humanity I've ever read. I read Dawn over 10 years ago, and the book still haunts me and enters my thoughts. The story here picks up some of the vibe of that saga but is its own story. This story unsettled me in some ways and really made me think.

Out of the four I touched upon in this post, Shepard's was probably the most difficult for me and Murphy's was probably the most touching and powerful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Locus Experiment continues

I picked up the most recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I couldn't resist with stories by two of my favorite writers, Gene Wolfe and Jeffrey Ford. Also in this issue is a story by Elizabeth Hand, a writer I've enjoyed in the past. This issue also contains a story by a writer I've been wanting to try again for a while - Matthew Hughes. I think I have an old issue of FSF with one of his stories in it that I liked. Jay over at FantasyBookSpot knows his stuff and has good things to say about Mr. Hughes's work, so I've been trying to (unsuccessfully) track down his two "Fool" novels in his Archonate setting.

Back to the Locus experiment - life has prevented my from posting these as I read them, so here are my thoughts on the next three stories in what is turning out to be a very thought-provoking and enjoyable collection.

Souls by Joanna Russ
I only know of Joanna Russ's reputation and of her landmark novel, The Female Man. The story here was pretty powerful in its own right and centers on a boy reflecting on the Viking invasion of his village, and the how motherly figure of the village uses the powers at her disposal to make the invasion as painless as possible. I liked the pacing, in that events started out relatively normal and built to a crescendo of fantastic.

The Way of Cross and Dragon by George R.R. Martin
I had just read this a couple of weeks ago in Dozois' wonderful collection Galileo's Children. Here are my thoughts from the review I wrote:

a far-future Catholic church is quite dominant, and has grown to include interstellar species. With a large galaxy colonized the influence of the bible is wide and varied. The protagonist is sent to squelch the roots of a heretic sect on one particular planet where Judas Iscariot is cast in an interesting light. This was a very strong tale that offered an interesting question of faith and the power of truth in the face of an uncompromising belief.
The Persistence of Vision by John Varley
I've only read one piece of fiction by John Varley, The Golden Globe which I enjoyed the very much with its overt ode Shakespeare in a future setting. My first experience in reading his short fiction was a bit more thought-provoking, though no less enjoyable. The story tells the tale of a man wandering a disease-ravaged America, trying to find a place where he belongs. This story very much plays upon the adage of "In the land of the blind, is the man with sight king?" Varley does a great job of twisting this theme to his own great ends and also does a magnificent job of making a group of relatively normal people seem otherwise very alien. Good Stuff here and the collection continues to roll on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Anansi & Jeffty (Locus #3)

I posted my review of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys to SFFWorld, go check it out. This was the book I was raving about a few posts ago, so I think you were correct, Joe.

Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison's reputation definitely precedes him as the intro to this story notes an online Locus poll was named him the greatest short story writer of all time. The intro also names Jeffty is Five is his best story. I am almost embarrassed to say I have very limited reading experience with Mr. Ellison. However, I was completely wrapped up in this one, an enthralling magical story. I figured out how it might end up, but this did not detract from the power of the story, if anything, the story was more powerful and dark with an inkling of where it may end up. The prose is wonderful, the story is a heart wrenching tale of the power and innocence of youthful endeavors, and although written nearly 30 years ago, is just as relevant and powerful today. Lately, I’ve been doing a decent portion of my reading at the gym while I’m either on the elliptical machine or the stationary bike. When I read this story yesterday, I wound up extending my normal bike ride because I simply had to finish the story. Suffice it to say, a strong collection has just improved.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Locus #2

The Day Before the Revolution by Urula K. Le Guin

According the brief intro, this story is an introduction to her reknowned novel, The Dispossessed. I know of the book, I've never read it. The story here, though is interesting, and if I could boil it down to a couple of thoughts I would say the protagonist is simply trying to figure things out. The whys of things and identity, as well. That even at an aged station in life, people still are unsure of their place in the greater world and can still see themselves in a light unlike the greater world sees them. It also touches upon the power of a lost love. A solid story, that leaves me more satisfied and looking forward to the next story, Ellison's Jeffty is Five. But that will be in the next post.

Locus Awards: 30 Years (an experiment)

The Locus Awards : Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Charles N. Brown and Jonathan Strahan

I will try to write mini-reviews for each of these short stories as I read them, and start this whole little experiment with this: I am growing more fond of stories in their short form and I acquired this particular book from my brother-in-law. He is an undergrad and had an SF Lit class last year and passed the book on to me. I'd wanted to get the book anyway, and I've now gotten around to reading it. Under the guiding editorial hands of Charles Brown (Locus Publisher) and Jonathan Strahan (Locus Reviews Editor) this book has gathered, ideally, the best representatives of the Locus Award winning short stories and novellettes over the past thirty years. A daunting task indeed for these two gentlemen, but

The Death of Doctor Island by Gene Wolfe

I consider myself a fan of Gene Wolfe's writing, I've loved* everything I've read by him up until this point, and I look forward to discovering some of his older classics. Unfortunately, this story didn't entirely work for me. Perhaps because I read it in multiple sittings, I don't know. The narrative seemed a bit more disjointed than other work I've read by him. Of course, the majority of Wolfe's work I've read is his novel-lenght work, including the whole Sun oeuvre, the two Latro stories, the WizardKnight & There are Doors.

It wasn't that The Death of Doctor Island was a bad story, obviously it really isn't since it won a Locus award, but I didn't connect with it the way I would have liked. I feel there were enough interesting things going on that I'd be willing to either try this particular story again in the future, or simply acquire the whole sequence of Doctor Island stories in The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories.

One story down and I'll call this an interesting, if unsatisfying entry.

* I didn't care for The Litany of the Long Sun when I initially read it, but upon seeing such wonderful things about Wolfe's Short Sun saga, I tried again and was greatly rewarded. I'm thinking (and really hoping) this is the case for this particular story, too.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hogwarts asunder!

I finished up Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. If nothing else, Dame Rowling kept me turning the pages, I must say. I also have to say this was probably the most predictable of the Potter books. I did everything I could (to successfully) avoid coming across any spoilers. I don't think it was the best of the series, but better than Order of the Phoenix and still good enough to keep me turning the pages rather quickly. The scenes with Harry and Dumbledore were both good and annoying. Good in that more was revealed about Voldemort's past, but bad in that Rowling repeated, through Dumbledore, what she just showed us as occurring, in the vein of "Well Harry of course you know what we just witnessed was how bad Voldemoret is and why he is that way," but a bit more lengthy.

I liked the way the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore grew in this book. Dumbledore's character came more fully into view through their relationship, and Harry grew too. On the whole, the book could have been trimmed in some spots, but I am really looking forward to how Rowling ties up the series, answers many of the questions left by the Half-Blood Prince, and reveals if any of the clues she has been leaving were red herrings.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Galileo's Children

As my sidebar indicates, I just posted my review of Galileo's Children edited by Gardner Dozois. I thought this was an amazing collection and I would really recommend going out and buying it at Clarkesworld. A very strong and even collection. I finished it last week.

I finished another book today, possibly the best book I've read this year, but I'll reveal more details when I post my review to SFFWorld, which will be when the book is published. If you checked out my blog the past few days, you will probably know of which book I speak.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

I only visited New Orleans once, and while events surrounding my visit weren't the best, I really enjoyed the city itself. I liked the general character of the city and of course, the great food. I am horrified by what has happened to the people down there. I am horrified and embarrassed that it took our President until Friday to get down there and for substantial relief efforts to begin. I can only go by what I see on TV here in New Jersey, so I don't know exactly what has and hasn't been happening. I think today was the first day where I saw a massive convoy of military trucks carrying supplies through the still drenched streets.

I lived through the terrorist bombings, I was in NYC when the towers were attacked, I could see the Towers on fire from my office and I watched one Tower collapse from New Jersey after being lucky enough to catch, what I was told at the time, was the last NJ TRANSIT train out of NYC to NJ. I was frightened, but I could at least go home. These people in New Orleans don't even have that. I see the scenes on the news and I hate to sound corny, but it looks like a scene out of Escape from New York, that old SF movie with Kurt Russell. That is the only thing I can think of to visually compare this to. My heart goes out to all those affected by this horrible natural disaster and I wish our country would move as fast to help one of its own great cities as it has to help cities in other nations.

On one hand, it boggles my mind that it will take up to a couple of months to restore power, on the other, when I saw how many National Guardsmen from Lousiana and Mississippi are deployed outside of the country, I am not too surprised.

I don't know exactly what to believe about what is going on in New Orleans, as it seems every news station has an agenda of their own. I only know that a catastrophe beyond human control has occurred and I find it tough to wrap my mind around the fact that things cannot be fixed as quickly as they should.

So, to prevent myself from further ramblings, I'll stop and say that a donation to the Red Cross may be the only thing we can do right now, on an individual level.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Robin Hobb interview

I've made some changes and updates to my sidebar. First, I posted my interview with Robin Hobb to SFFWorld.

Clarkesworld Books

Last night, I became an affiliate of Clarkesworld Books, so if you want to buy books that I mention, just click over to Clarkesworld Books through the banners on the side.

Clarkesworld Books