Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 1995.01


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Practical Magic: The superior book behind the cult film

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Like most people, I became aware of Alice Hoffman‘s 1995 novel Practical Magic through the nineties film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. It’s not a great movie, but it has a charm of its own, and it led me to the original story upon which it’s based. It’s striking to see the differences and similarities between the two.

The film leans more heavily on its magical elements, even becoming something of a supernatural thriller at some points,


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The Star Fraction: A unique work of political science fiction

The Star Fraction by Ken Macleod

The back cover copy claims Ken Macleod’s debut The Star Fraction (1995) is like “modern-day George Orwell”, and there is some truth in it. But rather than an examination of totalitarianism, the novel is a thought experiment on technology in an environment as rife with subtly variegated politics as the scene Orwell covered in WWII Spain in Homage to Catalonia. Given the dry wit and experimental mode, however, I would say that Macleod is more Heinleinian. Regardless of classic parallels,


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Primary Inversion: I should have loved this

Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

Dr. Catherine Asaro’s award-winning SKOLIAN EMPIRE series has long been on my TBR list because of its unusual blend of space opera, romance, quantum physics, relativity, genetic engineering, biomechanics, and computer science — all written by a Harvard-educated female physicist. That sounds like something I’d devour.

The saga is about the Skolian Empire and their long-time enemies, the Eubian (Trader) Empire. They are distant spacefaring civilizations that must have been seeded by humans from Earth many millennia ago, though we don’t yet know how that happened.


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Wicked: A challenging revisionist take on the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

After finally seeing the Broadway musical I felt it was well past time to track down Gregory Maguire‘s Wicked (the inspiration for the musical, which by this stage has probably eclipsed the book in popularity) and read for myself the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Anyone who comes to the book out of a love for the musical is probably in for a nasty shock. Though the musical had its share of darkness and a bittersweet ending,


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Evolution’s Shore: Fascinating SF with African setting

Evolution’s Shore by Ian McDonald

In several equatorial regions of the earth, an alien plant has been growing. The “Chaga,” as it is called, came from outer space and destroys anything manmade that comes near it. Scientists are worried about what it might do to humans. They have not been able to kill it and it is advancing slowly but steadily each day, changing the landscape and covering villages and cities as it progresses. Not only are people’s lives being disrupted as they have to flee their homes and become refugees, but they’re also worried about what the Chaga is doing here in the first place.


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Witchblade: Witch Hunt

Witchblade: Witch Hunt (issues 80-85) by Ron Marz (writer) and Mike Choi (artist)

This admission is really hard for me to make publicly, so I’m gonna just trust that you won’t laugh, that you’ll be nice to me (at least to my face), and that you’ll reserve judgment for a few minutes while you read this review. Okay. Here it is. You ready? I love WITCHBLADE. There. I’ve said it, and I’m very uncomfortable. I feel like I just shouted, “I watch porn”


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Hawkwood and the Kings: Best battle scenes in fantasy literature

Hawkwood and the Kings by Paul Kearney

Hawkwood and the Kings is an omnibus of Hawkwood’s Voyage and The Heretic Kings, first released in the mid-nineties to critical acclaim but limited commercial success. Paul Kearney is, to the detriment of readers of fine fantasy, one of those authors who ran into publisher difficulties. Had the publisher actively marketed the original releases of The Monarchies of God, the books would have sold well and would unquestionably be considered classics alongside other great adult fantasies like George R.R.


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Assassin’s Apprentice: An old favorite

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I read The Farseer Saga years ago and have since considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. It’s one (along with The Lord of the Rings and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn) that I often suggest to new fantasy readers. But after more than a decade of reading deeper and further into fantasy literature, I’ve often wondered how well this saga would now appeal to my more mature (I hope) palate. When Tantor Audio recently released The Farseer Saga on audio,


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Merlin’s Harp: For fans of lush prose and coffee

Merlin’s Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

Reading Merlin’s Harp, I realized something about novels that portray the interaction between the human world and Faerie. They usually don’t tell the stories of fae folk in their own homeland. There are exceptions, of course, but authors tend to focus on faeries stuck in the human world, or humans encountering Faerie. I think I may know why that is. When writing about faeries living in Faerie, it’s all too easy to have nothing happen.

Anne Eliot Crompton uses beautiful,


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The Wayfarer Redemption: Distinctly average

The Wayfarer Redemption (BattleAxe in the UK) by Sara Douglass

Note: Amanda, who reviews this novel, lives in the UK where this book is titled BattleAxe. In the US, the title is The Wayfarer Redemption.

A thousand years ago the people of Achar drove the Forbidden from their land in the War of the Axe. They pulled down huge swathes of woodland in their fear and now live by the Way of the Plough under the benign guidance of their deity Artor.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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