Sunday Status Update: October 18, 2015

This week, the long-awaited return of Sir Bors de Gannis! Well, that is, I’m sure someone was waiting for it. 

SirBorsBors: It finally happened. No, let me explain. It was a feastday today, and on such days ’tis the custom of our good king that when we have all sat to table, none of us shall partake of the feast until some adventure has befallen us. It has oft proved a goodly custom, but tonight no adventure befell us. We waited and we waited. Hours passed us by. The door never opened. No oddly-colored knight arrived to challenge us. No venerable prior appeared at the table to prophesy. I confess that I began to suffer greatly for hunger, and each time my stomach growled that insufferable zealot Perceval started telling me of the benefits of fasting upon the immortal soul. By the fourth hour, I had half a mind to send him to his beloved Almighty so they might discuss the matter more expeditiously. At last, Sir Kay begged leave to use the privy. Shortly after he returned, a mysterious damosel came amongst us. She had us pick cards out of a pack and eventually determined by some convoluted logic that Sir Sagwarides was the noblest knight of us all. It was obviously Lainie the serving girl in Kay’s spare cloak. No one said a word.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: This week I read Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes, which will be going on my early best of 2015 long list; The Other Serious, a collection of thought-provoking essays by Christy Wampole; and Book by John Agard, a disappointing kid’s book on the history of, well, the book. I’m currently partway through listening to Alan Lightman’s The Accidental Universe, an essay collection by one of my favorite authors, and making my way through Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour by Keiron Pim because they keep finding new dinosaurs, renaming the old ones, or learning that they had feathers, crests, and drove cool cars. This week I’ll also be reading Steven Erikson’s Crack’d Pot Trail for the reread over at Tor.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: This week I read Our Lady of the Ice, the upcoming SF-noir novel from Cassandra Rose Clarke. I won’t say that you have to like SF-noir (or even just noir) in order to enjoy this book, but it might help. I am a big fan of SF-noir when done well, and Clarke uses and twists familiar tropes in genuinely entertaining ways. I’ve also been re-reading through my omnibus of Douglas AdamsHITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY novels in the evenings: Thus far I’ve read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the Universe, and Everything. Next week I plan to start Daniel Kraus’ The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One. At nearly 700 pages, it’s a behemoth, so I doubt I’ll have time for much other new reading. I’ll probably just finish up the Adams books; not sure yet whether I’ll re-read Eion Colfer‘s contribution/completion to the series, And Another Thing….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jason: This week I finished the fun alternate-historical-fantasy, Shards of Heaven. The book comes out in November when we’ll also have an interview with author Michael Livingston. This should be an amazing conversation because Livingston is an accomplished historian, writer of non-fiction, AND passionate teacher and academic focusing on J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve just completed a Lovecraftian anthology called Tales of Cthulhu Invictus which will make for a fun Halloween read. I’m about to start another good October-themed new release, also from the Lovecraftian world, Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard. And finally, Jack McDevitt has a sequel scheduled for a December release that’s almost 20-years in the making. Thunderbird builds on his original Ancient Shores which was originally released in 2009. I’ll have reviews of both soon.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I finished my re-read of Robin Hobb’s LIVESHIP TRADERS. The last book, Ship of Destiny, has a few slow spots, but I didn’t mind too much because I love Hobb’s characters. I also finished Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE series which has recently been produced in audio format (finally!). The Pnume takes a while to get going and peters out at the end, but I’m glad to learn what became of Adam Reith, the Earthman stranded on the planet of adventure.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Katie: I finished Patrick Suskind’s Perfume this morning and am racking my brains as to how best to convey quite how uniquely dark and absorbing it was. I also really want a new perfume.  I interspersed my reading this week with Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty which I am listening to on audiobook. The story is a loose take on Beauty and the Beast and isn’t sitting particularly well with me as things stand. But that might be because I get impatient with audiobooks and keep wandering out the room or drifting off to sleep. Anyway, i’m off on a short story hunt now so that’s all for this week!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I finished the ARC of Robert Jackson Bennett’s incandescent new fantasy City of Blades. I don’t know quite how I’m going to review it; a page of Wow!Wow!Wow! doesn’t seem quite fair. Fortunately, I’ll have Kate to help me.  I am finishing Nella Larsen’s novel Quicksand, and I paused to re-read Kate Wilhelm’s Nebula winning book Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. I was surprised to see how many real-world problems Wilhelm anticipated in the book, and how many of the themes in her work show up in current  writers in the field. She is definitely an influence.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Moi? I have just finished Mary Elizabeth Counselman’s wonderful collection entitled Half in Shadow and hope to get a review for it written very shortly. Next up for me is another bit of horror fare from a writer not usually associated with that genre: Robert Silverberg! The Hugo and Nebula winner wrote any amount of sci-fi and fantasy, of course, and yet his 1972 novel The Book of Skulls has received pride of place in Jones & Newman’s Horror: Another 100 Best Books. IS it a horror novel? I suppose that I am about to find out…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: This was my third week submerged in the pellucid and uterine depths of J.G. Ballard. Should I be concerned? I finished his short story collections The Terminal Beach (1964), Vermilion Sands (1971), The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard (1979), and Memories of the Space Age (1988), all for 1 credit on Audible by purchasing The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard (2009), which contains 98 stories that fill 65hrs of audiobook. What an incredible bargain! Many of the stories are excellent, with The Terminal Beach and Vermilion Sands being the best collections. However, it’s time to move on to The Collected Works of Philip K Dick on audiobook, which unfortunately has only 11 stories, but they are very good so far. “Second Variety” is particularly chilling and must have inspired James Cameron’s Terminator films. After that, I will probably switch gears and go old school with Ray Bradbury‘s The Illustrated Man, which is really required reading for all classic SF fans.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I read Anthony Ryan‘s Tower Lord. Ryan switched subgenres for this one, which was a little surprising in the same series. I also listened to Patrick RothfussThe Slow Regard of Silent Things in audiobook format. Rothfuss read this one himself, which made me interested — a text always sounds subtly different to me when read by the author.

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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. I haven’t really been reading this week, since finishing City of Blades, which kind of ruined me for a day or two. Like Marion said, Wow!Wow!Wow! (with a side of Ow!Ow!Ow!) I listened to some cool stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies podcast though …

    • Joao Eira /

      So jealous you guys are reading that and I must wait for it to be released.

  2. I finished Enigma by Peter Millgan, read some more Grendel by Matt Wagner, and continued with a Gene Wolfe novel and Elric tales. I finished reading a republication of an early 80s Elric comic, which was great fun. I’ve even written a review already, though it’s a very rough draft at the moment. I read volume five of Sandman again, and it’s, as remembered, my least favorite volume of Sandman. I’ve finished that review and will be posting it next Saturday. I also read and wrote a review of Earth 2 volume 2, and that was a fun one, though not a brilliant comic to save for all-time. I’m also currently reading Torpedo, a comic written as if it’s an old newspaper comic strip from 1936; however, its content is rough and tough noir, like Sin City. The narrative does not critique the hired killer (Torpedo), and so Alex Toth, the well-respected artist, quit after the first two issues because he was offended by this dark moral vision. It’s not as dark as Sin City, I suppose, but it’s not apologetic for what it presents. I quite enjoy it, even though it’s disturbing. I’ve also finally found my 100 Bullets review that I wrote a few years ago of the entire 100 issues (13 trades). It’s one of the best noir comics ever. A fantastic, dark theory. I wanted to post my review yesterday, but didn’t get around to it. BUT, please note that Comixology has a fantastic sale on many of their titles, including 100 Bullets, Y; The last Man, and so on. 100 Bullets, because the panels are so small with lots of detail, is the PERFECT comic to read on Comixology. I highly recommend it, and at $4.99 a volume, pick up the volumes you can while you can.

    • Brad, which Elric comics would you recommend most for someone who hasn’t read the books? And that Torpedo series sounds pretty cool. So 100 Bullets is the entire 100 issues in 13 trades?

  3. Oh, I finally added to Marion’s cliched writing challenge. Did I go to far? I don’t know, but I’d like to see what the rest of you would do in adding to Marion’s story. It hasn’t gotten the activity it deserves . . . yet.

  4. Stuart, “Second Variety” was adapted into a surprisingly good movie, Screamers, in case you’re interested. I hadn’t considered an influence on the Terminator franchise, but you could very easily be right.

    • I’ve never understood why that story didn’t get more credit for Terminator–it always seemed a pretty clear line to me even when I first saw Terminator when it came out

      • It’s possible that, since PKD died a few years before Terminator was made, Dick’s estate just didn’t see a connection worth fighting over. Just consider how long it took for Harlan Ellison to get credit for his influence on the movie.

        • That first Terminator infiltrating the underground base, throwing off his cloak and blasting all the humans (with eyes glowing red) felt like a direct homage to this story. Granted, “Second Variety” is quite dated with the Cold War theme and the robots always spray “gears, springs, wires, and tubes” when they get blasted, but it remains a chilling PKD story that questions “What is human?” and “What happens when robots become sentient?”.

          Jana, I checked on Screamers at Rotten Tomatoes and it basically got panned. Do you think it’s worth watching for campy SF thrills like Starship Troopers, or does it retain the same feel as the story?

          • I genuinely enjoyed Screamers–for its slightly campy value, but also because it’s faithful to PKD’s intent–so I may not be the most reliable judge. But I hope you end up giving it a chance!

  5. Between a trip downstate for most of the work week, and my chorus’s big concert Saturday night, I’ve been rather preoccupied, and forgot to send in my weekly reading round-up. Sorry about that; I know you’re all breathlessly waiting for me to report on my week’s reading.

    I’m still working on a couple of books I started so long ago that I’ve had to begin them again: A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall, which is too good to be getting such shoddy treatment from me; and The Mirror Empire, which I want to like but. . . well, I do like it, but it’s easy to put down and hard to begin again.

    I finished Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow and Such which is ruthless; I like seeing such tough women in fiction. I’m really enjoying’s novella series, of which Slatter’s book is one; next up is Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

    While traveling, I returned to an old favorite, Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. The story is as wonderful as I remembered. I didn’t remember, though, how lush and elegant the prose is. Really lovely. I’m looking forward to reading the other two in Kushner’s trilogy: The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings, neither of which I’ve read before; I expect to gobble them up as soon as I’m done with the first. I also began reading The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack, which is an entertaining read that’s soon to be overdue at the library because I’m not returning it now that I’m relatively deep into it. So what’s a little fine? (This is why my library loves me — I keep it financially afloat with my fines.)

    Still piling up books to take on vacation in seven weeks and two days (not that I’m counting). If the people on this website don’t stop recommending good books to read, I’m going to have to ship books over separately, at great expense. Thank goodness for ebooks! (Not words I ever expected to utter, either aloud or in writing.)

    And Stuart: I have never before seen the use of “uterine” as you use it. You must be one a them smart boys with edukashun.

    • Terry, I think Ballard has plumbed my Triassic-age racial memories of scurrying between the legs of dinosaurs (stored deep in my spinal column), and lately I find myself staring at empty swimming pools, deserted hotels, and wondering if the stars are really just satellites with dead astronauts endlessly circling the Earth…Oh yes, and I forgot to use the word “penumbral”, which Ballard is equally fond of!

  6. Sandy, I was wondering if you were going to take on Book of Skulls. I’ll be interested in your take. It probably does qualify as horror for the time period.

  7. @Jason: Looking forward to the Shards of Heaven interview!

    @Katie: I definitely want to read Suskind’s Perfume and compare it with the film. It’s very creepy and somewhat repellent, like a decadent meal that’s gone slightly off, but alluring nothetheless.

    And here’s a tip if you get bored listening to audiobooks sitting at home. I find my absolute favorite way to enjoy them is during walks, whether in the park, walking the dog along the river, or just cruising down the streets of Tokyo. I ended up using those big DJ-type earphones to cancel noise, but I now rarely listen to audiobooks without being in motion somewhere!

  8. sandy ferber /

    @ Marion and Stuart: Stay tuned….

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