Sunday Status Update: May 7, 2017

This week, Dracula changes with the times.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Dracula: This week, I once again encountered the infernal Van Helsing and his latest crew of mawkish do-gooders. This time, however, they did not find me unprepared! No indeed! For when I returned to my crypt near dawn and found them waiting, I did not despair. I had measures in place. The latest lantern-jawed English hero swaggered toward me with a cross as usual, and as usual I was forced to cower. But as I did, I reached into my coat. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I produced my pistol! They scattered like scared rabbits. Van Helsing himself put on a turn of speed frankly remarkable in a man his age. Most satisfying. Learn from my success, all ye creatures of the night! Vampiric powers are awesome and terrible, but they are at their best when supplemented by Messrs. Smith and Wesson.

Bill: This was an mixed week of reading, both in terms of genre and result. In fantasy, I spent a long day reading Robin Hobb’s masterful Assassin’s Fate, which brought a movingly perfect close to several series set in her Elderling world. Brian Staveley’s Skullsworn, meanwhile, was a tautly told story set in the same world as his UNHEWN THRONE trilogy. Less satisfying were a collection of essays, The Other Serious by Christy Wampole and a collection of poetry Second Things by Daniel Tobin, though both had their moments.   Falling somewhere in the middle was a clear and concise book about the discovery and subsequent gained knowledge of the neutrino titled, well, Neutrino, by Frank Close.

Brad: I just finished listening to The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, and I just finished all thirty issues of the excellent horror comic Nailbiter. I am also reading the comic book Deadly Class, which is still ongoing. It’s about a group of high school-age kids at a Hogwarts-type school designed to train assassins. (How can you read that last sentence and not want to read this book?). It takes place in the late 1980s, so it’s The Breakfast Club on speed and with more swords. And, if you are curious, it’s far better than The Breakfast Club.

Jana: This week has been a little light on reading for me and heavy on time outside chopping wood, planting grass, and doing other springtime things. For FanLit, I read Sarah Gailey’s debut novella, River of Teeth, a gonzo alternative history tale of man-eating hippos in the Mississippi Delta, and I started Rick Riordan‘s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer, which I’m enjoying quite a lot (to absolutely no one’s surprise). Reviews to follow. For myself, I started The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Theodore Goossen, and it’s nice to be able to read a story or two before bed every night. I’ll probably get more writing than reading done next week, since I have a few reviews to catch up on, but that’s for the best.

Marion: I didn’t get much reading done, but on Thursday I picked up a copy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things. Before I started this book, you would have had trouble convincing me that anyone could do anything original with vampires. Moreno-Garcia does. She also creates a Mexico City that William Gibson would love, and gives us a great story. And that wasn’t the review; a review will follow.

Sandy: Moi? Having recently finished two books by English sci-fi author John Wyndham, I have now embarked on a third, Chocky (1968), the last book that this popular writer saw published in his lifetime. I hope to be able to get a review of this one out for you all very soon…

Stuart: Last week I finished Scott Hawkin‘s The Library at Mount Char (2015), which was a bit hit among our FanLit reviewers. As expected, it was darkly fantastic and full of grizzly wit. The plot played out in my favorite fashion, with both reader and characters starting out in the dark and slowing tracking down clues through well-paced reveals until the bigger picture is revealed, and it’s quite a doozy. In terms of theme and broader storyline, there are many parallels with Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods (2001), but frankly I though this book was far superior. I’m now midway through an usual 4-book collection called Viriconium (2000) M. John Harrison, which consists of four very different books loosely set in a dying-earth phantasmagoric city of Viriconium. The original works were published as The Pastel City (1971), A Storm of Wings (1980), In Viriconium (1982), and Viriconium Nights (1985), a collection of short stories. The series is baroque, artistic, dream-like, grotesque, and filled with bizarre poetic imagery, and the only way to experience it is to read it for yourself.

Terry: I’ve been on a Victoria Schwab tear lately — I finished all of the SHADES OF LONDON series one right after the other, and enjoyed them immensely. I then read The Archived, one of Scwab’s earlier young adult books, which isn’t quite as good as her later adult series, but good enough that when I finished it, I immediately started on the second of the duology, The Unbound. Today, though, I’ll finish Delia Sherman‘s The Porcelain Dove, which is a lovely book set mostly in pre-Revolutionary France. It feels like a fairy tale, though the fantasy touch is light and the emphasis is on painting a detailed portrait of the time and place in which the narrator served as a personal maid to a duchess. The writing is exquisite. I’m also reading The Fireman by Joe Hill, who became one of my favorite authors with his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and is cementing that place in my heart with this novel, which takes after Ray Bradbury in a very strange and awesome way. I’ve also started Cherie Priest‘s Maplecroft, another well-written horror novel, and Angela Slatter‘s Sourdough and Other Stories, more excellent horror.

Tim: This week, I was a bit busy, but I still continued with Dan SimmonsHyperion (only 40 minutes left in the audiobook at time of writing!). I’ve enjoyed the experience immensely, but after I’m done I think I’ll be switching back to Victoria Schwab‘s SHADES OF LONDON series (Terry and I seem to be thinking along the same lines there). Ah, it’s nice to have a bunch of series you’re eager to read.

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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. Skye, your update was the same as mine! Eerie! ;-)

  2. Stuart, I really liked Virconium and I hope you review it.

  3. Hi Marion, I will write up a mini-review of Viriconium when I’m done, but Kat has already tackled each book separately and my views are largely in line with hers. The individual characters and plot details quickly fade from memory, but the baroque and decaying imagery of the city itself stay in the mind long after, and narrator Simon Vance does an excellent job. M. John Harrison’s more recent The Kefahuchi Tract series seems to be even more free-wheeling and polarizing, my favorite type from a reviewer perspective!

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