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]: 2008


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Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate: Did Not Finish

Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate by Adrienne Kress

Timothy Freshwater, 11 years old, has been expelled from the last school in the city. He’s played too many pranks and his teachers say he’s “too smart for his own good.” Since he’s now out of school, Mr. Bore, the CEO of the company his dad works for, recruits Timothy as his intern so Timothy can teach Mr. Bore how to make people like him. In Mr. Bore’s office, Timothy also meets Mr. Shen, a small Chinese man who happens to be an enslaved dragon.


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Tower Hill: Feels like a formula

Tower Hill by Sarah Pinborough

Religion is ripe soil for horror writers. If you squint a bit when you read the Bible, it’s a vast catalog of horror itself: Adam and Eve’s eviction from paradise, the invention of death, Cain’s killing of Abel, the torture of Job — and we haven’t even gotten past Genesis! But the Bible is the source of salvation as well, as God provides his people with manna in the wilderness, preserves the human race despite a flood that covers all the earth, and rescues Moses from the bulrushes.


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Odd and the Frost Giants: Norse mythology on audio for kids

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd’s childhood has not been easy. His father has died, his leg is crippled, his new stepfather is unpleasant, and the winter just won’t end. So, Odd decides to go off to stay in his father’s old hut in the woods. Soon he’s befriended by a bear, a fox, and an eagle. But these aren’t your normal bear, fox, and eagle — these animals can talk, and they tell Odd that they are the gods Loki, Thor, and Odin. They’ve temporarily lost their powers and their home to the Frost Giants.


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The Dangerous Alphabet: A ghostly piratical poem

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has paired up with illustrator Gris Grimly to create The Dangerous Alphabet. This is not an alphabet book for young readers, unless you like staying up with them all night as they stare at shadows in the corner. Rather, Gaiman wrote a ghostly piratical poem in 26 lines, each starting with a letter of the alphabet, and then gave it to Gris Grimly to illustrate.

Grimly’s style is dark and grim — with a name like Gris Grimly,


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Nation: A young adult alternative history

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Mau returns home from a rite of passage concerning his transition from boyhood to manhood to discover that every member of his island village, the “Nation,” has been killed in a tidal wave. Who will teach him to be a man now that he has only himself to rely on?

Daphne, a distant heir to the British throne, is shipwrecked on a small island in the ocean. She has received the best education that a woman of her station can receive in Victorian England, so she is well versed in English customs,


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The Company: A dark story that lingers

The Company by K.J. Parker

The Company has been called “military fantasy,” but I question both terms of that characterization. First, while The Company is absolutely not set in this world, there is nothing magical or fantastical about it. But if we define fantasy to include “an historical novel not set on this world,” then we’ve got a fantasy here, and I guess we must be satisfied with that. I also don’t see this as a military novel. Certainly, all the characters served together in a very long war,


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The Shadow Year: Little slices of life

The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

The Shadow Year is a charming coming-of-age tale about the 6th grade year of an average American boy (we never learn his name) growing up in the 1960s. This year isn’t average, though, because there are some strange things going on in his small town. As he navigates his way around mundane matters such as an alcoholic manic depressive mother, a father who holds down three jobs, live-in grandparents, and unpleasant teachers, he’s also concerned with a prowler, a classmate who disappeared,


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Fathom: Not the best beach book

Fathom by Cherie Priest

Fathom is an entertaining horror novel once it gets going. Cherie Priest spends the first 100 pages of Fathom setting a scene, complete with pages upon pages of infodumps. One character will tell another character a story about a third character, for instance, or a character will have a prolonged recollection of a scene from his past. In addition, the time in which the novel is set does not become apparent until the last few chapters of the novel.


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Pump Six and Other Stories: A stunningly good collection

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

In Pump Six and Other Stories, which won the Locus Award for Best Collection, Paolo Bacigalupi treats us to these ten excellently written biopunk stories:

“Pocketful of Dharma” (1999) — a young street urchin finds a digital storage device which contains some startling data. This is Bacigalupi’s first short story — and it’s impressive. I love the premise of this story and its ambiguous ending. It would be fun to see Bacigalupi extend this one into a novel.


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Vault of Deeds: Fantasy satire

Vault of Deeds by James Barclay

Vault of Deeds proved to be a funny read as James Barclay plays on heroic fantasy conventions, not unlike Jim C. Hines or A. Lee Martinez. In this novella, it’s up to a scribe — in this case someone who records the deeds of heroes — to save the day.

Barclay’s writing is easy to get into but goes beyond simply being functional or serviceable. Dialogue and action are frequently utilized to draw the readers in, and comedy is provided by the verbose and exaggerated prose spoken by the protagonists.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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