Courtney Milan : Proof by Seduction

I was a little slow to warm to Proof by Seduction, mostly because of a familiar complaint with historical fiction: the characters seemed more like 21st-century people than 19th-century people. They pay lip service to the strictures of class and breeding, but they’re fundamentally not as beholden to them as Georgette Heyer’s characters, let aloneContinue reading “Courtney Milan : Proof by Seduction”

Stephen Gallagher: Plots and Misadventures

The twelve stories comprising Plots and Misadventures span nearly twenty years of Gallagher’s career and encompass horror, dark fantasy, noirish suspense, and dark science fiction. The newer material generally stuck me as among the strongest, a circumstance I’m always happy to report. The collection opens audaciously: the story “Little Dead Girl Singing,” which certainly soundsContinue reading “Stephen Gallagher: Plots and Misadventures”

Eduardo Porter : The Price of Everything

There are a lot of intriguing concepts in The Price of Everything, but I was bothered throughout by logic that seemed sloppy. But on the other hand, I mistrust my judgement a little bit because I had a vehement, irrational, negative emotional reaction to some of the book’s content. Porter’s key concept is that youContinue reading “Eduardo Porter : The Price of Everything”

Mary Roach: Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void

I enjoyed Packing for Mars a lot, and it made me guffaw and snort repeatedly — but it’s the first of Roach’s books that make me feel like her approach is in danger of becoming a schtick. Packing for Mars devotes a chapter apiece to several aspects of the ticklish business of getting human beingsContinue reading “Mary Roach: Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void”

Joyce Linehan & Joe Pernice: Pernice to Me

I’m probably over-thinking my reaction to this book. Joe Pernice, if you don’t know the name, has one of the most honeyed voices in all of indie rock and a heaping helping of songwriting skill, displayed for the past several years/records in his band Pernice Brothers. Joyce Linehan is Pernice’s partner in Ashmont Records. ThisContinue reading “Joyce Linehan & Joe Pernice: Pernice to Me”

Holly Black: The Poison Eaters & Other Stories

The Poison Eaters & Other Stories was my introduction to Holly Black’s writing, and leaves me definitely looking forward to more. It’s just what you might express from a Small Beer Press’s more-or-less young adult imprint; it features vampires and other eminently marketable creatures of the night, but Black’s careful, evocative prose is more literaryContinue reading “Holly Black: The Poison Eaters & Other Stories”

L. Jagi Lamplighter: Prospero Lost

Prospero Lost is one of the most original contemporary fantasies I’ve read in years from outside the slipstream camp. Its central conceit is that Shakespeare’s The Tempest was loosely based on fact. Prospero, Miranda (and later additions to the clan) are near-immortal beings secretly responsible for imposing order on elemental magical forces, thus making modernContinue reading “L. Jagi Lamplighter: Prospero Lost”

Paolo Bacigalupi: Pump Six and Other Stories

At its best, Pump Six reminds me of George Saunders and Lucius Shepard: Saunders for the wry yet disturbing cautionary near-future dystopias, Shepard for the core of outrage that runs deep through these stories — except where the anger of Shepard’s breakthrough fiction was directed at U.S. imperialism, Bacigalupi seems driven by environmental issues. “TheContinue reading “Paolo Bacigalupi: Pump Six and Other Stories”

Carrie Bebris: Pride and Prescience

Pride and Prescience has an audacious conceit: not only is it a sequel to Austen’s immortal Pride and Prejudice, it re-imagines Lord and Mrs. Darcy (née Bennet) as amateur sleuths. An interesting kernel underlies this (and perhaps lessens its outrageousness) — both Austen’s novels and traditional English “village” mysteries deliberately limit the scope of theirContinue reading “Carrie Bebris: Pride and Prescience”

Louise Wener: The Perfect Play

The Perfect Play is a novel about a young woman coming to terms with her abandonment issues via a quest for her vanished professional gambler dad. Audrey Unger is a mathematical genius, but her penchant for periodic drastic upheavals of her life has left her a chronic underachiever. As the clock seems to be runningContinue reading “Louise Wener: The Perfect Play”