Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Author: Jesse Hudson


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Black Amazon of Mars: Exceeds its inspiration

Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett

While credit is certainly due to the originator of an idea, iterations which better the original are likewise deserving of recognition, and in some cases, perhaps more. Edgar Rice Burroughs gets a lot of attention for pioneering the Martian hero story, as does Robert E. Howard for Conan, the barbarian with honor in a strange land of beasts and magic. But they may not be the writers who best presented the ideas. Leigh Brackett’s hyper-masculine hero Eric John Stark — similar in name to John Carter — features in some of her SEA KINGS OF MARS stories.


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The Best of Arthur C. Clarke: 1937-1971: A dated collection

The Best of Arthur C. Clarke: 1937-1971 by Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke’s first short story appeared 15 years before his first novel, and much of his oeuvre is to be found in short fiction. In fact, despite the success of his novels — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama, and The City and the Stars among them — Clarke produced as much short fiction in the middle and end of his career as the beginning.


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The Skinner: Survival of the fittest

The Skinner by Neal Asher

Neal Asher’s 2002 The Skinner follows closely on the heels of Gridlinked’s success and is the first in a sub-series of the POLITY called SPATTERJAY. The novel is part horror, part fantasy, part science fiction, and its main character may be the water world Spatterjay itself, filled with vividly imaginative, exotic (and hungry) forms of indigenous life. The Skinner, Asher’s second published novel, improves upon the first and gives lovers of action/adventure sci-fi hope that a new voice is emerging.


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The Atrocity Exhibition: Fascinating, disturbing, and informative

The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard

Pablo Picasso had his “blue period,” Max Ernst his “American years,” and Georgia O’Keeffe her later “door-in-adobe” phase. For J.G. Ballard, the early part of his career could be called his “psychological catastrophe years.” Using environmental disaster as a doorway to viewing minds under duress, novels like The Drowned World, The Drought, and The Crystal World unpacked the underlying subject matter.


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The Drought: A solid novel, but not among his greats

The Drought by J.G. Ballard

Fully believing that “the catastrophe story, whoever may tell it, represents a constructive and positive act by the imagination rather than a negative one, and an attempt to confront a patently meaningless universe by challenging it at its own game,J.G. Ballard set about writing his third of four disaster novels. The first featuring a world inundated with water, for the third he went the opposite direction: drought. The Burned World (1964) its apposite title, human reaction to extreme environmental conditions is once again the subject under examination.


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Old Venus: An over-long, narrowly-themed anthology

Old Venus by Gardner Dozois & George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s themed anthologies are some of the most popular on the market these days. Soliciting the genre’s best-known mainstream writers, selecting highly familiar themes, and letting the length run to 500+ pages, RoguesWarriorsDangerous WomenSongs of the Dying EarthOld Mars,


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Transfigurations: A classic

Transfigurations by Michael Bishop

Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris is one of science fiction’s landmark works. A philosophical and psychological study of a man confronting the inherently unknowable, the imagery, events, and overall experience of the novel lodge in the mind, begging questions for which one uncomfortably has no immediate answer. So strange and haunting, a person can only think of the main character’s experiences as the most figurative representation of ‘alien’ possible.

Bringing the idea closer to home corporeally but no less existentially is Michael Bishop’s “Death and Designation among the Asadi” (1973).


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Little Brother: Techno-anarchy for juveniles

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I’m willing to bear with a writer whose style is less than polished if they have — or seem to have — good ideas. I’m willing to set aside wooden characterization if it serves a larger purpose. I’ll accept a little glossing over if the intentions are good. I’m even willing to ignore large holes in ideology if the story is good. Unfortunately for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (2008), the combination of these flaws is too heavy. With all of these issues glaringly apparent,


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A Meeting with Medusa: A vivid Silver Age imagining of Jupiter

A Meeting with Medusa by Arthur C. Clarke

If speculative fiction has any stranglehold on literature, it’s the lack of limitations to the question: what if? Fantasy is a complete expression of this facet, while science fiction tugs lightly on the reins lest the imagination escape reality entirely. In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1971 novella A Meeting with Medusa, Jupiter is that reality. Clarke penned the novella for anyone who ever wondered what being in the gas giant’s atmosphere might be like.


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The Power that Preserves: Covenant comes to a higher plateau of understanding

The Power that Preserves by Stephen Donaldson

If there is any consistent theme in the reviews and discussion of Stephen Donaldson’s THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER series, it is their divisiveness. Some readers are turned off by Covenant’s personality, while others are intrigued by his atypical qualities as an epic fantasy (anti-)hero. Some see the series as a Tolkien rip-off, while others believe the series is a fresh view on epic fantasy. And still others are turned on or off by Donaldson’s worldbuilding.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

We have reviewed 8298 fantasy, science fiction, and horror books, audiobooks, magazines, comics, and films.

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