Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird

The first time Miriam Black touches you, she can see how/when/where you’re going to die. (The death scenes delivered to the reader usually have an ironic or morbidly slapstick component, kinda like the pre-credit sequences of Six Feet Under; seems Miriam rarely touches people who slip away uneventfully.) When we meet Miriam she’s given upContinue reading “Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird”

Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Overall I really liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Precisely observed details of the sort of tech culture I’m well-qualified to comment on the realism of are juxtaposed with a surreal shadow conspiracy, a dash of derring-do, and a hefty, but not overbearing, dose of the metaphysical. The novel explicitly acknowledges the influence of the likesContinue reading “Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore”

Alexandra Potter: Me and Mr. Darcy

My parents, a scientist and a career academic, both have a fondness for Regency (i.e., historical and relatively chaste) romance novels that might seem at odds with their characters. If I remember right, on separate occasions, both described a fascination with the combinatorial aspect of the genre: all the allowed variations of the genre playingContinue reading “Alexandra Potter: Me and Mr. Darcy”

Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins: The Merciless Book of Metal Lists

The world of heavy metal music is broader than almost anyone who hasn’t spent time in it is likely to guess, so if you’re contemplating this book as a gift for a metalhead in your life and/or yourself it’s helpful to know the focus and bias. For Abrams and Jenkins the core of metal isContinue reading “Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins: The Merciless Book of Metal Lists”

Sean Adams: Masters of Design – Logos and Identity

In this lavish, generously illustrated book, Sean Adams offers several prominent branding and identity consultants an opportunity to discuss their work and their approach to identity design. A few consistent themes emerge, most about managing client relationships, with “listen to your client,” and “make sure you’ve identified and are reaching the real decision makers,” perhapsContinue reading “Sean Adams: Masters of Design – Logos and Identity”

Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines

Reeve’s young adult steampunk novel is set in a dystopian future where steam-powered cities literally roam the blasted earth on enormous tractor treads, devouring each other in the practice of “municipal Darwinism.” After you get past the willing suspension of disbelief required by the premise, Reeve’s world-building has a lot of lovely little details. There’sContinue reading “Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines”

Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime

It seems a little odd that I never read anything of Vinge’s before; several of his books have won or been shortlisted for major SF words, and the second half of this volume — written way back in ’86! — is apparently the first explicit reference to “technological singularity” in the modern sense — aContinue reading “Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime”

Mark Haskell Smith: Moist

Smith’s racy, fast-moving crime novel is a little difficult to pigeonhole. The characters take their internal lives and external situations too seriously for broad comedy — even a scene, for instance, in which a straight character accidentally pulls up a gay porn web site just as a police detective enters to question him is moreContinue reading “Mark Haskell Smith: Moist”

Lou Anders (ed.): Masked

Lou Anders’ anthology of original superhero-themed short fiction caught my eye not so much because I’m in love with the genre, but because I liked the idea of a contributor list including both writers from the comic book world (like Bill Willingham, Mike Baron, Peter David, Marjorie Liu, and Gail Simone) and prose sf authorsContinue reading “Lou Anders (ed.): Masked”

Chelsea Handler: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; My Horizontal Life

I enjoyed these books more when I stopped thinking of them as literal, factual memoirs, and more as fiction in the uncomfortable-funny vein of Michael Scott or David Brent. Handler’s character is less a poster-girl for bad decision-making (although there’s some of that for sure) than a celebration of unchecked id. I suspect for muchContinue reading “Chelsea Handler: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; My Horizontal Life”