Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Author: Jesse Hudson


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The Illearth War: Lord Foul strikes back

The Illearth War by Stephen Donaldson

Reading The Illearth War (1978), the second book in Stephen Donaldson’s THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, I can’t help but be reminded of The Empire Strikes Back. This is in comparison to the strong THE LORD OF THE RINGS feel exuded by Lord Foul’s Bane, the first book in the series. Both Illearth and Empire are the middle story in a trilogy (and like THOMAS COVENANT


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End of the World Blues: Grimwood is a superb stylist

End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Roger Zelazny, on top of writing a number of immensely popular books and stories, was one of the genre’s great stylists, with noir minimalism utilized in nearly all his works. He was likewise predictable for his main characters, often world-weary men with personal issues who find themselves facing situations they would rather avoid. I have come to think of Jon Courtenay Grimwood, who bases his fiction on these two same elements, as a successor to Zelazny, but significantly upgraded for the (post-) modern world.


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Lord Foul’s Bane: A character study of alienation and vindictiveness

Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

Stephen Donaldson’s opening volume in THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANTLord Foul’s Bane, is divisive for fans of fantasy. It strictly follows Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, which some readers may see as comfortably familiar, and others may see as unoriginal, especially when set alongside the plethora of epic fantasy available today. Parallels to THE LORD OF THE RINGS may also entice or put off readers. What’s not discordant, however, is the moral message burning at the heart of Covenant’s story.


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The Judging Eye: A slow start to a terrific series

The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker

R. Scott Bakker is one of my guilty pleasures. His THE PRINCE OF NOTHING trilogy is a tense, superbly paced yet detailed series that settles firmly on both sides of the traditional/contemporary epic fantasy fence — Dune meets THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Bakker imbues his world with a mood of brooding darkness that shows great focus. THE PRINCE OF NOTHING builds steadily to a rousing climax that many fantasy series seem to promise but so few deliver.


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Riders of the Purple Wage: One of the most unique SF texts

Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer

At the risk of being overly simplistic, Jacque Derrida’s concept of deconstruction/post-structuralism (whichever you want to call it) is at heart the perspective that any ideological paradigm can be picked apart, bone by bone, until the skeleton lies in shambles on the floor. The purpose is not nihilistic in nature; it is intended, rather, to cast a wrench of relativity into such lofty ideals as modernism, and the rigid mindset of structuralism that came in tow. In practice, I have yet to read a science fiction text that deconstructs the Silver Age better than Philip Jose Farmer’s 1967 Riders of the Purple Wage.


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The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus: An all-star lineup

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus edited by Brian W. Aldiss

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973) is a compilation of three short story anthologies: Penguin Science Fiction (1961), More Penguin Science Fiction (1963), and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964), all edited by Brian Aldiss. Presenting an all-star lineup of established Silver Age and burgeoning New Age writers, most all are well known names in the field, including Isaac Asimov


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Raft: A provocative amalgam of sub-genres

Raft by Stephen Baxter

What if we exponentially reduced the scale of the galaxy so that the sun was only 50 yards across, extinguished its raging burn so that only a solid metal lump remained, and set a chain of a few hundred dwellings to orbit around the cold sphere that remained? Imagining as such, you would have the opening of Stephen Baxter’s 1991 Raft. By its conclusion, however, Raft reveals itself as a highly original mix of science and fantasy that continues playing with the scale of the universe while telling an uplifting yet sobering tale of personal and societal evolution.


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The Long Tomorrow: Leigh Brackett’s magnum opus

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

If indeed social movements occur in cycles that over time have a net result of zero, what then is the value of scientific pursuit? If humanity will inevitably revert to primitivism, of what use is maneuvering toward that fuzzy idea of ‘civilization’? Is it just to give us something to do with our time on Earth? Is it an innate, unavoidable aspect of being human we should shun? Is it just false hope? Or, is there a light at the end of the tunnel? These questions and more Leigh Brackett examines in her oft-overlooked 1955 magnum opus The Long Tomorrow.


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The White Luck Warrior: Heightens the stakes

The White Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker

If you’re reading this review, then there’s no need to go into any rigamarole about THE PRINCE OF NOTHING or THE ASPECT-EMPEROR series by R. Scott Bakker. Point blank: The White Luck Warrior (2011) superbly escalates the story begun in The Judging Eye, and indirectly so the THE PRINCE OF NOTHING series, to leave the reader on the doorstep, panting for more.


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Dark Integers and Other Stories: Humanism and hard science

Dark Integers and Other Stories by Greg Egan

Though the count may not be high (five stories all told), Greg Egan’s Dark Integers and Other Stories packs a theoretical punch, quite literally. Novellas and novelettes only, the 2008 collection is filled with the author’s trademark hard science speculation. The selections were published between 1995 and 2007; one pair of stories is set within the same universe as his 2008 novel Incandescence, another pair within a near-future Earth setting,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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