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Wild Seed: Two African immortals battle for supremacy in early America

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Wild Seed (1980) was written last in Octavia Butler’s 5-book PATTERNIST series, but comes first in chronology. The next books, by internal chronology, are Mind of My Mind (1977), Clay’s Ark (1984), and Patternmaster (1976). Butler was later unsatisfied with Survivor (1978) and elected to not have it reprinted, so I will focus on the main four volumes. Wild Seed is an origin story set well before later books and can stand on its own. It’s one of those books whose basic plot could be described in just a few paragraphs, but the themes it explores are deep, challenging, and thought-provoking. I’ve read a lot of academic discussion of the book, but my appr... Read More

Gate of Ivrel: A seamless blend of science fiction and fantasy

Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh

Gate of Ivrel is one of C.J. Cherryh’s entries into the science fantasy genre in which we follow the adventures of Vanye, the bastard son of a minor lord in a seemingly medieval world who is cast out for standing up to his oppressive brothers and inadvertently killing one and maiming the other. As he makes his way across the harsh landscape of his world populated by clans who would like nothing more than to end the life of a miserable outlaw he stumbles across a ‘miracle’ in the person of Morgaine: a figure of power and fear out of legend seemingly magically returned and to whom he becomes joined by bonds of duty and obligation. What the reader knows already is that Morgaine is actually an agent from a high-tech society sent to seek out and destroy the many ‘gates’ that were created by the alien... Read More

Interview with the Vampire: Excellent vampire fiction

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

There are two major traditions when it comes to vampire fiction. In the first and older conception of them, they are out-and-out monsters, demons lusting after mortal blood from beyond the grave. Examples of this would include Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot or the original Dracula to some extent. The second tradition humanizes vampires, focusing on the men and women they once were rather than the supernatural beings they have become. Interview with the Vampire is of the latter camp, one I admit I have had little patience for in the past. Anne Rice won me over, however, with her fascinating study of the impact immortality and the supernatural might have on the mortal mind, as well as her startlingly poignant prose and elegant narrative styl... Read More

RIDDLE-MASTER: Belongs in a genre all its own

THE RIDDLE-MASTER TRILOGY by Patricia McKillip

Your Eyes are Full of the Sun…

My entirely subjective opinion of “epic fantasy” is that it is tedious, predictable and just plain boring most of the time. The same line-up of stock characters go on the same quest to save a land that is permanently stuck in the Middle-Ages. On the way they meet the same supporting characters (gruff dwarf, regal elf, mysterious wizard), collect the same treasures, get in the same tavern brawls, are betrayed by the same turncoats, and join in the same battles against the same old villains. They drink mugs of ale, eat nothing but stew, and ride horses that never seem to need food or rest. The story usually stretches on and on over several very long books, and sometimes the author actually dies before they get the chance to complete their saga.

I realize that this is a huge... Read More