Justine Larbalestier: Magic’s Child

My expectations for Magic’s Child were very high, and they weren’t quite met. The first novel in the series, Magic or Madness, introduced a remarkably fresh conception of magic in the modern-day world, (as well as exploring the author’s own experiences with transcontinental transitions in a fantastic context). The sequel Magic Lessons deepened and extendedContinue reading “Justine Larbalestier: Magic’s Child”

Robert Sheckley: Uncanny Tales

Uncanny Tales comprises 16 short stories of uneven quality from the final two decades of Sheckley’s career. “Magic, Maples and Maryanne,” is a fine cautionary fable of magic and morality with an almost Jonathan Carroll-like vibe. “The New Horla” (the title is a reference to a classic Guy de Maupassant short) is grimly gripping inContinue reading “Robert Sheckley: Uncanny Tales”

Charles Stross: The Jennifer Morgue

I think The Jennifer Morgue is the most successful of Charles Stross’s novels that I’ve read so far. It’s a mutant melange of genres including xenophobic Lovecraftian horror/fantasy; Dilbert-esque, geek-celebrating cubicle rat satire; modern techno espionage thriller; and old-school shaken-not-stirred James Bondage — all served up with a hefty post-modern literary twist and dark comicContinue reading “Charles Stross: The Jennifer Morgue”

Garth Nix: Shade’s Children

Back in 1999, members of a mailing list I was on traded book recommendations. Several of the novels I read as a result (among them Hulme’s The Bone People, Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, Dunn’s Geek Love, Ryman’s Was, Carroll’s Outside the Dog Museum, Powers’ The Goldbug Variations, and Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the EndContinue reading “Garth Nix: Shade’s Children”

Emma Bull: War for the Oaks

Publishing cycles are strange things. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy burbled merrily along as a cult favorite for years, gradually picked up steam, and eventually became an unprecedented publishing phenomenon, and — as writers and publishers alike realized there was more money to be raked from the Tolkien-reading hordes — the template for aContinue reading “Emma Bull: War for the Oaks”

Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

There is so much that’s good, even excellent, about this novel that I feel a little churlish for stating that the primary impression it left me with was one of disappointment, but that is the case, and the disappointment doesn’t arise solely as a consequence of the many accolades and awards heaped on it (althoughContinue reading “Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”

William Browning Spencer: The Ocean and All Its Devices

William Browning Spencer’s fiction often features ancient alien creatures inimical (or at best, indifferent) to humanity, and as a result I don’t think I’ve ever seen a review of his work that didn’t mention a certain author whose name isn’t quite Howard Phillips Adoreart. Like many facile comparisons, it strikes me as unfair. For oneContinue reading “William Browning Spencer: The Ocean and All Its Devices”

Mario Acevedo: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats

Several months ago, my eye was caught by an ad for the sequel to this vampire P.I. novel, X-rated Bloodsuckers. I thought it looked like trashy fun and I liked the implicit conceit of juxtaposing literal consumption of humans with the legendarily exploitive adult entertainment industry. When I looked up Acevedo’s name in the libraryContinue reading “Mario Acevedo: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats”

Robert Aickman: Cold Hand in Mine

Let’s try to squeeze in one more spooky book while it’s seasonal… My friend Tim of the Doubtful Palace has several times compared Aickman to Kelly Link. My first brush with Aickman was disappointing, I think because my expectations were mis-calibrated. I found few specific points of similarity between the two writers: Aickman is implicitlyContinue reading “Robert Aickman: Cold Hand in Mine”