Time and Again: A leisurely tribute to 1882 New York

Time and Again by Jack Finney

Jack Finney’s Time and Again (1970) has been a long-time favorite among time-travel tales, and has remained in print since its first publication. It was also selected by David Pringle for his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. Since I’ve been on a time-travel trip lately, this was a must-listen. It’s narrated well by Paul Hecht, and is a long, leisurely, and loving tribute to the long-gone New York of the 1880s. Sure, there are some token mentions of poverty among the lower classes, diseases like polio, pocked faces, coal-fired factories spewing smoke, and Horatio Alger street kids scrabbling to survive. But the vast majority of the story is unabashed nostalgia for a more humane time, before modern life had crushed the spirit of man. It also features more rapturous details of classic NY architecture and city life t... Read More

The Eternal Champion: Examines the multiplicity of an individual

The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock

Though I have read a handful of Elric stories and several comics — new and old — based on the character, The Eternal Champion is the first complete novel of Michael Moorcock’s that I have read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Erekosë, another character in Moorcock’s larger ETERNAL CHAMPION series, is a fascinating character who, as a warrior with ethical concerns about war, allows Moorcock to reflect upon weighty matters via his fictional narrative. But most importantly, it’s a wonderfully fun book to read. Great ideas are not of much use if nobody even wants to read the novel.

The plot is simple: A man in the present is called via magic to return as the Eternal Champion and defender of humanity in a King’s war against “The Eldren Threat,” an ... Read More

Lone Wolf and Cub

Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume One by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima

Dark Horse has just started reissuing one of the best manga collections of all-time: Lone Wolf and Cub. If you are interested in Japanese art and culture, this volume is one you want to order immediately! Even if you aren’t interest in the historical role of the Samurai warrior in Japan, you’ll want this book for the beautiful black and white artwork.

In the U.S., we’ve been inundated with manga aimed primarily at teenagers, so we’ve gotten a warped view of what is actually available in Japan. Lone Wolf and Cub is a wonderful reminder that in Japan, manga is written for all audiences. Lone Wolf and Cub, however, is not just an example of what manga for adults looks like, but also representative of what the greatest manga can do w... Read More

Ringworld: Big ideas in a grand setting

Ringworld by Larry Niven

In 2850 AD, Louis Wu is at his 200th birthday party and thinking about how bored he is. The world has become homogeneous — everyone on Earth uses the same language, everything is available everywhere, and all the cities have lost their unique flavor. Life is dull. That’s why Louis Wu is a perfect candidate for the alien Nessus (a Pierson’s Puppeteer) who wants to take a manned spaceship to explore a strange phenomenon in space.

Nessus also recruits a Kzin named Speaker-to-Animals who is a feline alien from a warlike culture, and the beautiful 20-year-old human woman named Teela Brown that Louis Wu has been sleeping with. She’s so silly that at first it’s not clear what she offers the mission other than good looks, “conical breasts,” a giggle soundtrack, and sexual gratification for Louis Wu (this is something I hate about science fiction written by men in the 1960s), but later we discover that Nessus kno... Read More

Nine Princes in Amber: Still fresh and original today

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

“I’d get what I needed and take what I wanted and I’d remember those who helped me and step on the rest. For this, I knew, was the law by which our family lived, and I was a true son of my father.”

When Corwin wakes up in a private hospital after driving his car over a cliff, he has no idea who he is. When he realizes that he has healed too fast and that he’s being drugged so he’ll stay unconscious, he decides that he better find out what’s going on.

The truth is strange: Corwin is one of the nine princes of Amber, the one true world, but for centuries he’s been exiled in the Shadowland we call Earth. The accident has actually dislodged the spell that his brother Eric was using to keep him out of Amber because Corwin is the biggest threat to Eric’s sovereignty there.

Nine Princes in Amber is the first (rather s... Read More

Deryni Rising: Classic high epic fantasy

Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz

Katherine Kurtz is truly a mistress of fantasy — she's been writing high epic fantasy for 40 years and should be considered one of the post-Tolkien "parents" of our genre.

The setting of the Deryni saga is an alternate medieval Europe (clearly analogous to our medieval England and Wales) and the Deryni are a magical race who look just like, and can interbreed with, humans. They have been persecuted for years by the Church (clearly meant to be our medieval Catholic church) and most people with Deryni blood choose to hide and/or deny their lineage and magical powers.

The plot is simple: in the prologue, King Brion (King of Gwynned) is killed by the evil Deryni sorceress Charissa who wants his throne. Charissa plans to challenge Brion's 14-year old son (and heir) Kelson to a magical duel during Kelson's coronation. If sh... Read More