Sunday Status Update: August 30, 2015

This week, Legolas gives us an insider’s view of Helm’s Deep.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Legolas: Journal Entry 3450023: Still in Helm’s Deep. Morale is low, so Aragorn’s been strutting around all day doing that thing he does where he suddenly comes over all kingly and every human in the vicinity trips over him- or herself to kowtow to him. Personally, I don’t understand the reactions at all. He just sort of squints into the middle distance, sticks his chin in the air, and puffs his chest out. It’s not really that impressive. But these yokels seem to love it, so whatever. Meanwhile, word has arrived that the army heading this way is even bigger than we expected, and Mithrandir has managed to cunningly slip out of harm’s way by muttering vague and wizardly-sounding things about three days and dawn. The one spot of good news is that Gimli’s similarly lily-livered efforts to  sneak off the battlements and “marvel at the glittering caves” have been firmly put down.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: This week I finished a book — Hilary Badger’s State of Grace, which I’ll have a review for shortly —and made progress with Bradley P. Beaulieu‘s latest, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. (You may remember these books from my previous Status Update!) I also started The Sleeping King, a new fantasy novel from Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin, and Diary of a Haunting, a found-materials horror novel from M. Verano in the vein of The Blair Witch Project and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Because sleep is for the weak, apparently!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews João: I did something this week I hate doing, which is letting go of a book while in the middle of it. That book was Ricardo Pinto’s The Chosen, a very unknown first book of a trilogy which I saw recommended recently and thought I would enjoy. I was 180 pages in and it still had not piqued my interest at all, and even though the writing was beautiful, it was too focused on things which were inconsequential and downright boring. I moved onto Seth Dickinson’s debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant which Kevin is reviewing once it comes out. While I am perhaps not as enthusiastic about it as Kevin is (ah, spoiler!), I think it’s a strong debut with an incredible ending which leaves things set up for which promises to be a very interesting sequel. Now I’m reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan and I am already liking it more than River of Stars, which was the last of his I read. I get the feeling, from what I have read so far that I will like it just as much or even more than Tigana, which is one of those books I love unconditionally. Let’s see.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I got a lot read this past week, but that’s because most of it was short and entertaining. The only real full-length (by modern standards) novel I read was Mercedes Lackey‘s disappointing From a High Tower, which may be the last of her ELEMENTAL MASTERS books I read. Next was a re-read of To Live Forever, a short-ish novel by Jack Vance. I love this novel and was thrilled to see it finally out in audio format. Next was Jack Vance’s The Servants of the Wankh, his second PLANET OF ADVENTURE novel. These are not Vance’s best works, but still entertaining. Then I read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which was amazingly wonderful. I listened to this on audio, but will be purchasing a hardback copy so I can linger over it a little longer than audio allows. Next was Messenger’s Legacy, Peter V. Brett‘s recent DEMON CYCLE novella. Then I jumped into Brian McClellan‘s POWDER MAGE series by reading all of the prequel novellas and short stories. I won’t list them all here, but I’ll review them soon.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I’m on a brief horror kick. I finished up Monstrous, the Tachyon Press Anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, which features monsters. As with any anthology, I found some gems, and a few duds, but Datlow edited it, so there aren’t too many of those. I’m about halfway into M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts. Wow. In the opening fifteen or twenty pages, Carey broke my heart and got me thinking, at the same time.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Moi? I’m afraid that my sci-fi reading had to take a backseat this week in favor of some sci-fi viewing. One of my favorite theaters here in the NYC area, Anthology Film Archives, has been doing a tribute to American International Pictures, and this week I got to see such sci-fi and horror classics as The Time Travelers, The Tomb of Ligeia (with costar Elizabeth Shepherd doing a Q&A afterward!), X – The Man With the X-Ray Eyes and Panic in Year Zero. And coming up this weekend: The She-Creature and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein! Still, I DID manage to finish one book this past week, R.A. Lafferty’s bizarre-in-the-extreme Fourth Mansions, which I hope to get a review out for very soon…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsStuart: This week I finished the full-cast audiobook of Dune (1965), which was great. I wrote up a lengthy review of the book, the 1984 Lynch film, and its sequels, spin-offs, influence, etc. I then listened to Philip K Dick‘s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965), which is a real mind trip even for him, and finished off with Keith RobertsPavane (1968), an alternate history novel about England I’ve wanted to read for ages. Next up is Arthur C. Clarke‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), as I work my work through audiobooks of some of the genre’s classics.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tadiana: I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with some traveling, but it also gave me a little extra time to read. My favorite SFF novel read in the last two week is  E.K. Johnston’s  A Thousand Nights, a fantasy take on the Scheherazade legend with magic, demons, and two half-sisters who love and protect each other. This young adult fantasy, to be published October 6, is set in a fascinating ancient Arabian culture. Another upcoming publication that I enjoyed was Erin Bow ‘s The Scorpion Rules, to be published September 22. This young adult dystopian novel, where children of world leaders are held hostage by an artificial intelligence to prevent further wars, seemed predicable at first but had a surprising second half, with some unexpected twists.  An older novel that I read is Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones, an intriguing version of the Tam Lin legend set in modern-day England. And finally, I’m halfway through Sarah Beth Durst ‘s middle grade fantasy novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, to be published in November. It’s an absolutely delightful story of Sophie, a twelve year old girl with a dangerous but fantastically loyal and funny pet monster, whose parents own a secretive shop that collects and sells dreams. When Sophie’s parents go missing, it’s up to Monster, Sophie and her friend Ethan to try to find them. I’ve also managed to find time for a few non-SFF reads: Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley, a sweet 1917 tale of booksellers and mature love, Georgette Heyer’s mystery The Reluctant Widow, and M.M. Kaye’s 1953 light romantic suspense novel, Death in Kashmir, which was a great bit of escapism, complete with intrepid heroine and steely-eyed hero caught in a dangerous game of political intrigue and murder.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: I was traveling on business this week, and actually working on the plane(s), so my reading time was limited.  Still, I finished The Queen of the Tearling and moved on to The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Now it’s back to Ilona Andrews!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week I finally finished Robin Hobb‘s Fool’s Quest. I enjoyed it immensely, though I may have to let it germinate a few days before I reach my final opinions. I also began reading Charles Yu‘s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe on a friend’s recommendation. So far, it’s… well, not my usual thing, but engaging enough.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: Well, work has reared its ugly head, and so the reading has slipped. This week I read the first three volumes Last Man, a graphic story by Balak, Sanlauille, and Uiues; Science of the Magical: From the Holy Grail to Love Potions to Superpowers by Matt Kaplan; and Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson for the reread over at Tor. And a bunch of articles on composition/rhetoric theory. Sigh

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Jana: I read Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry over 20 years ago and really liked that, and have been saving Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, and A Song for Arbonne for the right time. I don’t read fantasy much but that is because there are so many SF books I NEED to read first, not because I don’t like the genre. The same goes for Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin and Abercrombie’s First Law trilogies, which seem to be extremely well-liked.

    Kat: You are a true fan of Jack Vance! I’d like to read his PLANET OF ADVENTURE series, but I can’t stop laughing at the title “The Servants of the Wankh”, it must be particularly hilarious in England. Also really keen on reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which was the only non-English SF novel nominated for the Nebula (in 1976) before Three-Body Problem. Is that book really only 2hrs 47min unabridged on Audible?!

    Sandy: I’m keen to read your review of Lafferty’s Fourth Mansions, and hope you can also tackle Past Master, The Devil is Dead, and Nine Hundred Grandmothers someday. They’re all in my mom’s place in Hawaii, buried deep in some boxes, so not very accessible.

    • Stuart, Yes, the Calvino book is less than 3 hours on audio, but I wouldn’t recommend the audio version even though the narrator does a great job with it. It is written in very short chapters that are so metaphorical that I needed to stop and contemplate each one, re-reading it once or twice as I thought about it. I found this difficult to do in audio format and wished I had a print version instead. I listened to the entire audiobook, but I will be reading it again as soon as I get my hardback copy.

      Since you’re snickering at the Jack Vance title, here’s an article from The Guardian for you:

  2. Kat, you’re right that Invisible Cities really isn’t suited for audiobooks. I’ll get a hardcopy someday. As for Jack Vance, what a great honor to have the Wankh Award named after his book!

  3. sandy ferber /

    Stuart, I just finished writing my “Fourth Mansions” review, but am afraid that it just doesn’t do the book justice. This novel is SO way out there and indescribable that I despair of ever being able to convey the book’s feel with my meager resources. Anyway, I hope to get the darn thing typed up later today. The book DOES come very highly recommended, though; surely worth the trip to Hawaii. But then again, what ISN’T worth the trip to Hawaii?!?!

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