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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Strange Tales of Secret Lives: Flash fiction from VanderMeer

Strange Tales of Secret Lives by Jeff VanderMeer

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Strange Tales of Secret Lives and this book certainly did surprise. Jeff VanderMeer explains the origins of Secret Lives in the introduction: this is a collection of various short stories of (hopefully) fictional what-ifs of real people: a researcher is really a king, a pharmacist plans to live the double-life of a detective, etc.

I’m not a fan of flash fiction and most of the stories here definitely fall under that category yet VanderMeer manages to write it with such imagination and gusto that it becomes palatable,


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The Kingdom Beyond the Waves: Trust issues?

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt

Imagine a post-apocalyptic Dickensian world where the main character is a female Indiana Jones. This is the setting we find ourselves in when reading The Kingdom Beyond the Waves. Amelia Harsh is our protagonist; a swinging (as in ropes and vines) heroine who has been ostracized from all colleges but one, where she has been taken under the wing of an elderly professor who puts up with her larger-than-life adventures in the field and her frowned-upon theories of their ancient predecessors.


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Chalice: Beauty and the Beast for young adults

Chalice by Robin McKinley

A beautiful fairytale for the YA reader, Chalice is a very loose reinterpretation of a Beauty and the Beast story. Mirasol is a beekeeper who is forced to become the Chalice for her demesne after the previous Chalice and Master are killed in an accident. Her role is to bind her abused land back together and to the new Master, a Priest of Fire, a being who isn’t quite human and can burn both the land and human flesh with the barest touch.


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Thornspell: The “true” Sleeping Beauty

Thornspell by Helen Lowe

As much as I love reading fairytales, there’s always the sense that I’m only getting half of the story. There’s never any character development, explanations on where those magical artifacts come from, or why the bad guys act so villainous beyond the fairly rudimentary: “they’re evil.” In fairytales, things just happen, with little or no back-story.

Which is why I’ve always appreciated authors who consider the missing pieces to any fairytale and fill them accordingly with their own ideas. Donna Jo Napoli has built her career on this technique,


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The Situation: Surreal and fantastic

The Situation by Jeff Vandermeer

I’m a big fan of both Jeff VanderMeer and PS Publishing, so imagine my surprise when I found a copy of The Situation in my hard drive, a giveaway from Wired that I had downloaded but forgotten, mainly because it wasn’t in my immediate must-be-read-for-review-or-else-we’ll-send-ninjas queue. The first scene immediately hooked me, evoking a New Weird atmosphere as corporate drones created insects that crawled into your ears and conjured nightmares, all the while being quite readable instead of the overwhelming details that characterize China Mieville‘s NEW CROBUZON novels.


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The Drowned Life: Each and every story is rich

The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford‘s The Drowned Life is as engrossing as his previous short story collections, immediately ensnaring the reader with his detailed prose and characterization. One noticeable trend is that while Ford dabbles in clear-cut fantasy with stories such as “The Manticore Spell” or “The Dismantled Invention of Fate,” much of his work deals more with the mundane sprinkled with just the right amounts of magic and the surreal. The titular piece for example, “The Drowned Life,” seems like the narrative of the common Joe,


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The Alchemy of Stone: Discover the magic of Ekaterina Sedia

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

CLASSIFICATION: With its intriguing blend of steampunk, gothic romance, political intrigue, and fairy tale spirit — not to mention metaphors on such real world issues as terrorism and racial discrimination — The Alchemy of Stone is like a bizarre, but captivating cross between Frankenstein, Pan’s Labyrinth, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy, Tool’s animated stop-motion music videos, and the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle).


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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