Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Mars Trilogy

I saw the John Carter movie (1/3 awesome, 2/3 slow,sappy,dumb/hard-to-follow) and wanted to revisit the original novel, mostly to see if there was quite as much time spent on the Earth backstory (answer: not by a long shot). But after reading A Princess of Mars I realized the John Carter film incorporated several major plotContinue reading “Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Mars Trilogy”

Amber Benson: Death’s Daughter

On the positive side, Death’s Daughter has an intriguing milieu that’s quite different from any other paranormal/urban fantasy I’ve bumped into. It’s a little reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics and Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality novels, but not unduly so. Benson also offers a few moments of genuine wit and some perceptive descriptions. OnContinue reading “Amber Benson: Death’s Daughter”

Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black: The Field Guide

I’ve enjoyed Black’s fiction for adult and young adult readers, and The Field Guide, the first volume of “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” demonstrates a similar playful attitude toward well-established tropes. At the outset the Graces are moving into a spooky new house, but in contrast to more traditional fare, the Graces have recently become a single-parentContinue reading “Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black: The Field Guide”

Lou Beach: 420 Characters

I expected that limiting the length of a short story to 420 characters — as counted by Facebook’s software, spaces and punctuation included — would come off as a gimmick rather than an artistic constraint, but this collection of a hundred and fiftyish micro-stories is pretty amazing, in several dimensions. The first thing I noticedContinue reading “Lou Beach: 420 Characters”

Steve Brezenoff: Brooklyn, Burning

Brooklyn, Burning is set among a community of teens in the punk scene on the edge of homelessness. This is triple jeopardy territory to write about without coming off as condescending, dated, or moralizing, but Brezenoff uses some clever tricks to pull it off. His first person narrative voice is credible: sharp about some things,Continue reading “Steve Brezenoff: Brooklyn, Burning”

Frank Beddor: The Looking Glass Wars

Mitigating factors: I was really psyched by the elevator pitch for this book, which posits that the infamous break between Reverend Charles Dodgson and Alice Pleasance Liddell was because Liddell was angry at Dodgson for watering down her story for the “Wonderland” books. So perhaps my disenchantment with this book is a result of excessivelyContinue reading “Frank Beddor: The Looking Glass Wars”

Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Girl from Farris’s

I don’t usually write about short fiction, but Burrough’s The Girl from Farris’s is almost novel-length, and it packs in at least a novel’s worth of plot, with intrigues, betrayals, and skullduggery to spare. I read gobs of Burroughs in my adolescence — John Carter of Mars, Carson of Venus, et al — but thisContinue reading “Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Girl from Farris’s”

Libba Bray : Going Bovine

At the outset of Going Bovine, Cameron Smith, a quintessential teenage underachiever, finds out he’s under an unusual death sentence: he’s contracted Mad Cow disease. With some supernatural aid, he breaks himself out of the hospital and goes on a whacky road-trip to save both himself and the universe — or then again, maybe heContinue reading “Libba Bray : Going Bovine”

Steve Brezenoff : The Absolute Value of -1

High school: Noah loves Lily, Lily loves Simon, Simon loves pot; Noah deals pot. I was lucky enough to never be a vertex in a warped little quadrilateral precisely like this, but the geometry of misery feels plenty familiar and accurate anyway. Brezenoff lays it out in first-person narration from the three principles, with book-endingContinue reading “Steve Brezenoff : The Absolute Value of -1”

Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity

Beyond Infinity is a curious mix of old and new. In several specific chapters it struck me as not only reminiscent of several Arthur C. Clarke works, but also evocative of older and less cerebral earthlings-struggling-to-comprehend-and-survive-a-strange-environment tales (Farmer’s “World of Tiers” Burroughs homages, in particular). But it’s also firmly in the post-Singularity sub-genre of scienceContinue reading “Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity”