Sunday Status Update: October 11, 2015

This week, Red Sonja comments on her freshly redesigned costume.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Red Sonja: Well, that’s done it. I have officially laughed along with the last “chain-mail brassiere” joke I am willing to bear. I’ve decided to upgrade. Conan’s doing pants now too (even a shirt once in a while, when he can bear to cover over his beloved pecs), so it’s not like the fad’s still going strong or anything. Yes. I’m doing this. I’m getting older and wiser and more prag… pragtical? Whatever. I am going to go straight to the armorer and buy as much extra chainmail as I can afford!

Later: So, yeah, good news and bad news. The bad news is that the prices of chain mail have gotten ridiculous in the last few years. So my chain-mail bra is now sort of a chain-mail… jerkin. Couldn’t really afford sleeves or fittings, so it just sort of dangles there. Good news, though, is that I found this fantastic cloak in the shop and the smith let me have it for free! Okay, so it’s a little ragged, and someone’s kid has been at  the hood, and… and… look, just pretend you’re happy for me, all right?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: Between still recovering from the chest infection, doing some play rewrites, getting out book submissions, and finally getting to that stack of essays, this was a pretty slim weak for reading: Faithful and Virtuous Night, a poetry collection by Louise Gluck; and For the City of the Dead, a nonfiction book by M.T. Anderson exploring Dmitri’s Shostakovich composition of his Seventh Symphony during the siege of Leningrad.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: This week I read The House, by Christina Lauren, which is YA horror about… a spooky house! (The good news is that there’s more going on than just “spooky house,” and I liked it a lot.) I also read Discord’s Apple, by Carrie Vaughn, and two Lois Lane: Fallout prequel stories by Gwenda Bond: “A Real Work of Art” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Destruction.” Reviews forthcoming, naturally. On deck: The Monstrous, edited by Ellen Datlow. And if I have time, Our Lady of the Ice, by Cassandra Rose Clarke. My reading rate seems to have outpaced my review pace again, so I’m trying to get it back in line before the to-be-reviewed stack is too ridiculous. Apologies!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jason: My first “new release” review was posted for William Sloane’s mystery/horror Rim of the Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror. My review of the Jules Verne classic Journey to the Center of the Earth went up on FanLit as well. I’m reading an interesting alternate history/fantasy novel by fiction newcomer Michael Livingston. Set during the Roman civil war that followed Julius Caesar’s assassination, Livingston blends a deft writing style with his background as historian to create the realistic historical fantasy Shards of Heaven. Imagine Cleopatra + Marc Antony + Augustus + Godlike Weapons. Oh yes. The book will be available November 10.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I have been crazy busy with work lately and haven’t had much time for writing reviews, so I spent the week re-visiting an old favorite long fantasy epic: Robin Hobb’s LIVESHIP TRADERS. I finished the first book, Ship of Magic and am almost finished with the second, Mad Ship. I love these stories and the related FARSEER series.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Katie: I’m feeling a bit behind with brand new reviews this week. The more I delve back into FanLit’s past the more I uncover so many wonderful reviews and books that I simply have  to read. I’ve started Catherynne Valente’s The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making, because how could I not read a book with that premise. I also re-read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust because I was in a very particular mood and nothing else would do. (Incidentally I also spent an unreasonable amount of time looking at pictures of Gaiman on the internet.) But I do have a review brewing because I am reading Patrick Suskind’s Perfume. It has one of the most intentionally dislikeable main characters I have ever had the pleasure to encounter and so I’m excited to review it.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I had two deadlines converge, and company visiting, so I didn’t get a lot read. I browsed some short fiction and found an unusual story in Clarkesworld # 108. It’s by Benjanun Sriduangkaew and it’s called “The Occidental Bride.” I can safely say I’ve never read an arranged marriage story like it. I’m about halfway through Nella Larsen’s novel Quicksand. Is this taught in colleges? If it is, is it taught in the American Novel courses? It should be. Then Thursday night Fed Ex dropped an ARC of Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades on my doorstep and blew up all my weekend plans.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Rachael: I’ve been reading lots of contemporary mysteries this week whilst looking forlornly at the bookshelf of work I need to read and review for FanLit, and then reading some more mysteries. They’ve been great fun though. I also started Wool, by Hugh Howey which is so far proving to be a great read. Even though Howey has recycled a pretty common concept, the characters are super compelling and I’m finding myself zipping through this mammoth of a novel.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Moi? I am currently greatly enjoying Mary Elizabeth Counselman’s collection of Southern Gothic horrors entitled Half in Shadow, from Arkham Press. By a strange coincidence, this Halloween season, I am also currently getting into my DVD box of the 1960 Boris Karloff-hosted Thriller TV show. An upcoming episode is entitled “Parasite Mansion,” which is based on one of the Counselman stories from the book I am now reading! I look forward to comparing one to the other very shortly…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: This week I continued to immerse myself in the atmospheric and hypnotic world of J.G. Ballard. Having finished 4 of his novels (The Drowned World, The Crystal World, Concrete Island, High-Rise), I’ve moved on to his short story collections The Terminal Beach(1964) and Vermilion Sands (1971). They are both excellent, with the latter being set in a quirky desert community of artists, former movie stars, and eccentrics. It is really unique and surprisingly humorous (I didn’t know Ballard had a sense of humor). I also started readingGene Wolfe‘s The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction, and I’ve run into the same problems asThe Fifth Head of Cerberus. Wolfe’s love of ambiguity, hidden story currents, and unreliable narrators is really making it impossible to enjoy any of the stories I’ve read so far. I’m really torn about whether I should keep going (and experience that moment of clarity), or set it aside and read books that I can appreciate and enjoy. Any advice?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tadiana: I feel like I’ve been delving into Norse culture this past week, reading both Rick Riordan‘s The Sword of Summer and Joe Abercrombie‘s Half a War. Talk about two completely different takes on a topic! Half a War is grim and violent and reminiscent of BeowulfThe Sword of Summer acknowledges the violent streak in Viking culture but packages it in nonstop jokes and humor. I also read Scott Wilbanks’ debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, a time travel fantasy with a misfit group of characters who can be delightfully quirky. Finally, I finished East of Eden, which was cause for much rejoicing!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: Nothing seems to be catching my imagination just lately; do I have reader’s block? Fortunately, this week saw the arrival on my Kindle of The Last Witness  by K.J. Parker, which I devoured in a single sitting. Ah, that feels good! (Review soon.)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week I took on some new responsibilities at work, so I didn’t get much reading done. I did begin Saladin Ahmed‘s Throne of the Crescent Moon, but I’m finding it slow going. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the novel’s fault or mine. Just one of those weeks, maybe.

Brad: This week, I’ve started novels (instead of finishing the books I was reading): Gene Wolfe’s There Are Doors and Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible have already hooked me. Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, however, got put on hold while I started these other novels, but I continued to read Ted Chiang’s collection of stories (and recommended it to as many people as I could). In comics, I read the first story arc of the Earth 2 series, and returned to Mizuki’s manga History of Japan (the Showa period). Due to my budget, I try to go to the comic shop only once a month now, but when I do, I make an evening of it and hang out and talk with friends who work there, other patrons I’ve come to know, and new people that wander in. This past Sunday, I was lucky enough to meet some new people, including one young woman from Turkey who was looking for the second volume of The Sandman (she had purchased the first volume back home). I showed her where The Sandman comics were, and I showed her some of the other series that emerged from Gaiman’s masterpiece, particularly Mike Carey’s Lucifer, which I think is almost as, maybe just as, good as The Sandman. Lucifer, like The Sandman, ran for 75 issues (and I hope to review it soon). Anyway, talking with somebody so enthusiastic about The Sandman made me want to get back to it myself and start reviewing the volumes I have left to write about here at our site. So, I reread Volume 4, Season of Mist, and I have completed a rough draft. Keep an eye out for both my Earth 2 review and The Sandman: Season of Mist review next Saturday.

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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. Stuart, about Gene Wolfe; if you haven’t bought into the idea that 90% of what’s really going on in the story is not directly on the page, then I don’t think the experience is going to get better for you. I love a lot of Wolfe’s work, and I find I nearly always have to read it twice. I’m willing to do that, but not everyone is.

    He may not be a writer you’re ever going to enjoy. I have several friends who think Wolfe’s a genius and can’t make it through one of his books, so you’re not alone.

  2. I think we ought to have a new rule: If you read a book that has already been reviewed, you have to donate an extra two hours of behind-the-scenes work to the site. Please see me for your assignment. :)
    (joking, sort of.)

  3. I’ve read few stories by Wolfe I like, and a few that seemed self-indulgent, as if he didn’t really care if he had readers. I wish he’d warn me in advance which ones those are going to be. The novel I’m reading now is more action-oriented. I like it better. However, when he pulls off his stylistic goals without losing his audience, he’s at his best. Otherwise, he’s boring or just writing a typical pulp story. He’s sort of the exact opposite of PKD, who is all ideas and bad style. Wolfe sometimes seems to be all style with no interesting ideas.

    That’s a simplification based on having read very little of his. I wonder if it’s accurate at all.

    Marion, thanks for your suggestion on how to read Wolfe. That’s very helpful.

    But I might still feel like I’m reading the longest short stories ever written, no matter how short they actually are.

    • Brad, this is a brilliant suggestion. We should petition Wolfe’s publisher(s) to insist that Wolfe put a warning sticker when appropriate; “I don’t care if I have any readers for this.”

      I think Wolfe might do it.

  4. Kat, I offer you my well-thought out rebuttal to your suggestion:


  5. Jason,

    Based on your review, I pre-purchased Rim of the Morning. Thanks for the recommendation in your great review. The e-book showed up on my Kindle a few days ago, and I look forward to reading it.


    • Brad – thank you!

      In his introduction, King wrote: “These two novels are best read after dark, I think, possibly on an autumn night with a strong wind blowing the leaves around outside.” Good, creepy stuff.


  6. This is my fourth comment.

  7. Speaking of Gene Wolfe, his new novel, A Borrowed Man, arrived in the mail this week. It’s a sort of mystery involving clones imbued with the personalities of others who are owned by libraries and can be checked out — they aren’t legally human. Sounds typically Wolfean weird, and I’m looking forward to diving in.

    • Terry, that sounds great! Let us know how it is in your Status Update, even if you don’t have time to review it for us officially right now, okay? Please?

  8. Thanks everyone for your advice on the Mysterious Mr. Wolfe.

    @Marion: I can easily see that Wolfe’s stories need at least two reads to get a grasp of, but it’s not even fun the first time. I actually did appreciate his writing in The Fifth Head of Cerberus, but I got to his short story The Death of Dr. Island (different from The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories), and found each sentence more confounding than the previous one, till I was getting pretty frustrated during my lunch break overlooking Japan’s imperial palace grounds, which is normally a glorious place to enjoy a bento and a good book. As you said, I don’t think I can get much more out of Wolfe at this point. Maybe I should revisit him in a couple years when I am older and (perhaps) wiser.

    @Brad: That’s great that you’ve started There Are Doors. I’ve had that on the shelf for two decades and never quite got round to reading it, though a professor friend here in Tokyo is a huge Gene Wolfe fan (along with Roberto Bolero) and finds it to be profoundly moving. Would love to hear your take on it. And yes, I think Wolfe should provide disclaimers for his stories as suggested.

    @Terry: The Borrowed Man does sound intriguing and very Wolfian! I actually did enjoy two of his earlier fantasy/mystery books back in the 1980s/90s, Free Live Free and Castleview. I can’t say I understood what was going on, but the reading experience was pleasing, and that’s what has been missing from his short stories so far.

  9. BTW, I’m sure this goes for everyone here, but I do read everyone’s updates and am continually amazed at the wide range of books we are all reading, and wish I could comment on each one, but I’m worried our Web host will throttle back our bandwidth if I keep adding more comments ;-)

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