Andrea Phillips: The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart (so far)

I wouldn’t normally write about a novel that’s half-complete, but I just tore through the available chapters of this serial novel-in-progress like a bag of movie popcorn, and this seems like a great jumping-on-point. I think the overall title does a fantastic job of setting expectations: Smokeheart sails in waters that remind me of ErrolContinue reading “Andrea Phillips: The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart (so far)”

Mur Lafferty: The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York City is an urban fantasy that starts out with an intriguing exploration into how the human world might interact with a Buffy-esque any-myth-system-is-fair-game secret supernatural world. I was aware that the major plot arc doesn’t really get cranking for quite a few chapters, but I didn’t mind, because Lafferty’sContinue reading “Mur Lafferty: The Shambling Guide to New York City”

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”

Sarah Rees Breenan: The Demon’s Covenant

This didn’t have a surprise to compare with the plot twist in The Demon’s Lexicon, but I thought it was much stronger overall: more satisfying character development, better prose, a plot that’s less reliant on coincidence. Brennan is particularly adept at depicting the emotional messiness of adolescence and burgeoning sexual awareness.

Rachel Lynn Brody (ed.): Hot Mess – Speculative Fiction About Climate Change

The handful of stories in Brody’s collection clearly have an agenda of raising consciousness of and concern about the implications of climate change. Socially or politically motivated art is tricky: it can succeed in communicating its objectives without necessarily exhibiting the general hallmarks of literary merit. In literary terms, I found Hot Mess a mixedContinue reading “Rachel Lynn Brody (ed.): Hot Mess – Speculative Fiction About Climate Change”

S. S. Taylor: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon

I wanted to love this book, and perhaps I didn’t because my expectations were too high. It’s published by an arm of McSweeney’s, and it features steampunk trappings, secret societies, cloak and dagger intrigue, a wide subversive streak, strong female characters, and subtle, but deliberate, I think, allusions to Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Becky, andContinue reading “S. S. Taylor: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon”

Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly

I liked Disappearing Nightly, but I have a bit of trouble explaining why. It’s a light contemporary fantasy with a whodunnit flavor and a dash of romance. It partakes of several genres, and I didn’t think it succeeded particularly well at any one of them. A mystery novel, for instance, needs a bit more misdirectionContinue reading “Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly”

Chuck Wendig (ed.): Don’t Read This Book

I picked up Don’t Read This Book because it featured a few dark fantasists I like and several more I was curious about. Foremost among the latter was editor Chuck Wending, whose @ChuckWendig twitter account and http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/, which jointly offer irreverent entertainment and lean, mean writing advice, have zoomed him to the top of myContinue reading “Chuck Wendig (ed.): Don’t Read This Book”

Gina X Grant: The Reluctant Reaper

The Reluctant Reaper is an urban fantasy drawing on Dante’s Inferno with plot and setting elements not entirely dissimilar to similarly inspired works by the likes of Piers Anthony and Amber Benson. Grant’s style is is short on description and long on puns, as this early paragraph demonstrates: Leaping up, I threw myself against theContinue reading “Gina X Grant: The Reluctant Reaper”

Mick Farren: The Quest of the DNA Cowboys, Synaptic Manhunt

Farren’s “DNA Cowboys” trilogy had been on my to-read list for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go. It’s a simultaneous homage to and send up of Burroughs-style “planetary romance,” raunchier, more overtly parodic, and much less structured than Philip José Farmer’s “World of Tiers” novels, but not entirely dissimilar.Continue reading “Mick Farren: The Quest of the DNA Cowboys, Synaptic Manhunt”