Sunday Status Update: September 13, 2015

This week, Peter Pan encounters the 21st century. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Peter: I’m not happy. Not happy at all. I flew back to London and I went to find this generation’s Wendy (whose actual and proper name, it turns out, is Riley. I thought that was a surname, then someone told me it’s a boy’s name. Now it’s a girl’s name. It’s strange). At first she was going to come with me, but then she asked me if she could get cell phone reception. I didn’t know, so she asked me if I had ever seen a cell phone tower in Neverland. Apparently she couldn’t go if she couldn’t use her phone. I don’t even know what a cell phone tower is, and I don’t see what’s so wonderful about a phone. She showed me this game she had where you chopped up fruit with your finger. I told her in Neverland you could chop it up with a sword, and fight indians besides. She told me I ought to call them First Peoples. So I tried to tell her about how all her mothers and her grandmothers had come to help me with spring cleaning (and always would, so long as children are young and innocent), but  then her friend or something came out and told me I was a cis-gendered, patriarchy-propagating anachronism.

I don’t really know what any of that meant, but they told me I’d understand if I went to someplace called tumblr. Only I can’t find it on any maps, and it’s been a week, and I’m really confused.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Brad: I’ve been re-reading Finder, which I reviewed yesterday. It’s truly one of the best SFF books ever written, as far as I’m concerned. And even though it’s a comic, I place it in the highest category of SFF that includes both novels and comics. I’m also reading The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, The Getaway Man by Andrew Vachss (one of the most interesting authors of all time, I’m convinced), Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Rough Neck by Jim Thompson, This Side of Paradise by Fitzgerald, Why Choose the Liberal Arts? by Mark William Roche, The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, and What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins. I just started re-reading A Room with a View, which I usually teach once a year because it’s one of my all-time favorite novels (especially to teach). I finished The Pastures of Heaven by Steinbeck, and it’s now a favorite novel. I talked my wife into reading Tam Lin, which I was also reading, and we both fell in love with the novel and finished it in only a few days. Inspired by a sixteenth-century ballad (included in the Kindle version), Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean, is a campus novel that tips into fantasy. I highly recommend it. I also recommend waiting to read the ballad until after finishing the novel in order to avoid spoilers.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Jana: This week, I actually finished a book! (In defense of my unusually slow reading speed, nearly every book is at least 500 pages long. I don’t care how compelling your narrative may be, 500+ pages is a LOT to get through.) I finished The Sleeping King, by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin, and should be posting a review shortly. I’m still working through the others, and I’ve vowed not to start anything new until they’re finished. My hope is to finish Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, from Bradley P. Beaulieu, next. Wish me luck!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I’m still finishing up all those series I started, but I’m also working my way through the hundreds of unread audiobooks I own at Audible, staring with the shortest first (that way I feel like I accomplished more, but also because these short ones can be mentioned in our new Short Fiction Monday column). So, here’s what I got done this week: The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan, Glitch by Hugh Howey, Dragon Winter by Judith Tarr, Clockwork by Philip Pulllman, Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson, People of the Crater by Andre Norton, Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan, Undead and Unreturnable and Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson, John Golden: Freelance Debugger and John Golden & the Heroes of Mazaroth by Django Wexler. The best thing I read was the 21 stories by Isaac Asimov in the collection Robot Dreams. Lastly, I read the non-SFF book Raney by Clyde Edgerton after Brad recommended it to me. It’s about a couple who gets married in the 1970s in Georgia. He’s a liberal Episcopalian academic while she’s a conservative Free Will Baptist. The conflicts they have are amusing, but I just couldn’t understand why they got married in the first place. I’ll always remember Raney, but I don’t love it as much as Brad does. (Sorry, Brad!)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kate: This week on my commute I’ve been listening to–and lovingSalman Rushdie‘s new book, Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights. It is fantastic in the truest sense of the word, mingling events of our real-life world into that of a giant war that breaks out between the djinni of Fairyland. I’m also reading Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette‘s upcoming book, An Apprentice to Elves, the third in their ISKRYNE series. I picked this up for the title and did not realize this was part of a series, so getting into it has been a bit of a slog–a lot of names and world-building details that are taken for granted rather than introduced slowly–but I’m still enjoying it. It’s a story about wolves and men and elves in a vaguely Scandinavian world–what’s not to like?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I finished up the dieselpunk anthology, (long!) and the Ellen Datlow anthology Monstrous. A review will follow. I read Margaret Atwood’s story collection The Stone Mattress; Nine Wicked Tales as a palate cleanser. In her Afterword, Atwood talks about the use of word “tale” to differentiate from a “story” – because a story can be factual and everyone agrees a “tale” is fictional. Anyway, these are good to great, with one story that I didn’t love as a story but which captivated me with an updating of Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham. The three linked stories of Alphinland were interesting too, but the first one, with that title, was the best. Then I read Genevieve Valentine’s new book Persona in one sitting! I won’t say “gulped it down” but if it had been a milkshake I would have had brain freeze.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Rachael: This week I finished David Mitchell‘s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and begun a book of a very different tone, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. It’s about an invasion of giant praying mantises (manti? mantes?). It’s weird and awesome. Review in the pipeline.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Sandy: Moi? I have just finished reading what is believed to be the very first alternate-world sci-fi novel, Francis Stevens’ The Heads of Cerberus (1919), and hope to get a review for this one out sometime next week. Next up for me, I believe, will be a novel from another female writer of “dark fantasies” of the early 20th century, The Undying Monster: A Tale of the Fifth Dimension (1922), by Jessie Douglas Kerruish. I greatly enjoyed the 1942 film that was made from this source novel, so thus have high hopes for the book itself…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: This week I finished Ursula K. LeGuin‘s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), which I was glad to find is still as deep and powerful as I remembered from high school days (see review). I’ll be also be reading her other masterpiece, The Dispossessed (1974), fairly soon. In the meantime, I embarked on my Robert Silverberg journey (prompted by the glowing reviews of Sandy and Kat), finishing two on audiobook, Downward to the Earth (1969) and Nigthwings (1969). Downward to the Earth is an absolute masterpiece (see Sandy and Kat’s reviews), so nothing I can add there. As for Nightwings, it was exotic and well-written, but I found a surprising number of plot similarities with Roger Zelazny‘s This Immortal (1965), which I thought was a superior work. Both depict a far future Earth populated with the remnants of a once mighty human civilization, but now reduced to a backwater tourist destination for powerful but condescending aliens. Could this be pure coincidence? I’ve also read the first third of Gene Wolfe‘s The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972). It is mysterious and intriguing and requires your full attention.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tadiana: This last week I spent most of my time reading some non-SFF books, including Mary Stewart’s Airs Above the Ground, Dorothy Dunnett’s Pawn in Frankincense (the 4th book in her amazing LYMOND CHRONICLES historical fiction series, set in Europe in the 1500s), and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. That last one is going to take me a little while, but I’ve wanted to read it for a long time. My real-life book club has chosen it as this month’s read, finally giving me the impetus to take it on. I’ve also begun Gregory Funaro’s Alistair Grim’s Odditorium, a middle grade magical fantasy, which has been very likeable so far.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I reread Robert Jordan‘s The Eye of the World. Why? To be honest, I don’t know, but this weird compulsion to spontaneously reread old and not particularly cherished books is one of the reasons my library has become so unwieldy over the years. The experience was actually a bit different than I remember, probably because I view the text from a more critical place than I did when I was younger. It brought to mind some interesting thoughts on WHEEL OF TIME in specific and the collapse of the “LotR spinoff” fantasy in general. That isn’t to say the text was illuminating, exactly. More a lens than a light source.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: This week I read Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, a book that I thought handled the thematic elements better than the narrative ones and Ragnarok by Walter Simonson, a nicely intriguing post-end-of-the-Norse-world graphic that has me wanting to read more. Sticking with the Norse theme, I also enjoyed Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them by Nancy Marie Brown, which uses the discovery of the 12th Century Lewis Chessmen on the Outer Hebrides to offer a fascinating and wide-ranging tour of the Viking Age. And not so Nordic, but still a bit cool and removed was Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont, a novel that I enjoyed and absolutely no one else in the book club did.


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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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18 comments

  1. Can I just say that it’s amazing the incredible range of books and authors that we all tackle at Fan Lit? I don’t think any of us are overlapping on anything, and I don’t recognize 90% of the books mentioned above, but that’s what makes our group of reviewers so great. Hope our readers enjoy the eclectic output!

  2. Thanks for reading Raney, Kat! However, I apologize for making such a strong recommendation–I really thought you’d like it more than you did. Oh, well. There’s no accounting for taste. Mine, apparently!

    And you are right, what a strange couple to be married. Why, indeed, did they get married in the first place? Hmm. I thought that was one of the more realistic aspects of the book: A poorly-thought-out marriage . . .

    However, I can’t believe you had trouble with your suspension of disbelief, now that I think about it. We review books for a SCIENCE FICTION and FANTASY website!

    Perhaps I need to reread Raney and see what I think about your objection this time through.

    Peace,
    Brad

    • Brad, I didn’t dislike it, and I’m glad I read it. I think it’s interesting that you bring up the SFF thing because I do read mostly SFF these days and they’ve always been my preferred genres, but I was thinking as I was reading Raney that the book was making me mad because they were like real people and I was so annoyed by Raney and her family, probably because I know a few people like them and in real life they make me mad. Also, I thought Charles, who I really liked, was so stupid for marrying into her family and I just couldn’t believe he was that stupid. So I think maybe part of why I prefer SFF is that I’m protected by the fact that it’s all so unreal that it can’t make me mad or stressed. Does that make sense?

      • What you say here makes a lot of sense, Kat. And, I could tell you liked it; I just felt bad that I didn’t find a book for you to love! You know how that feels, I’m sure. And you’ve recommended so many great books for me; I wanted to do the same for you.

        But I get what you are saying. For some reason, I can get some emotional distance reading books and comics. If I were to see a movie or TV version of Raney I would NOT be happy. It would irritate me too much. I just can’t get any distance emotionally when I see a TV show or movie (even a poorly made one — I’ve been know to weep during commercials). Adriane (my wife, and also an English professor) is much more like you: She gets too frustrated with books like Raney (though, also like you, she liked Raney). But it frustrated her.

        I can read the most depressing books and be okay; I’m often more intellectually engaged than emotionally engaged. Or maybe it’s that I’m able to think about my emotions while I’m having them. When I watch a movie I just HAVE the emotions. I can’t think about them until later. By then, I’m usually a wreck. As a result, I just don’t watch many movies or TV shows.

  3. Kat, that’s funny that you mentioned Robot Dreams. I was just thinking about downloading that to listen to. But I’ll probably listen to the trilogy of Robot Noir novels he wrote first. I LOVE those three books, and I added them to my audible wish list just last night.

    Yesterday, I listened to the first few stories of The Martian Chronicles on audible, and it was brilliantly read (though I need to go look up the name of the narrator since there are 3 or 4 different versions on audible). I also downloaded Dandelion Wine, another favorite, and THE book that got me into Bradbury (since that other famous book almost made me determined never to read Bradbury again — and I didn’t for a few decades).

    Okay, I should stop typing now that it looks like I’m having conversations with myself.

    Have a great week everybody . . . .

  4. Hi Brad, I’ll jump in to make sure you’re not just conversing with yourself. I listened to 4 Bradbury books on audio earlier this year, and that was an excellent way to get into his work, since they feature such strong narrators. The version of Martian Chronicles I listened to was narrated by Scott Brick (one of Kat’s favorites), and I changed by opinion on Fahrenheit 451 (which I didn’t like initially) thanks to an “incendiary” performance by Tim Robbins.

    BTW, I noticed that The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (which I think Jana is reading and which has been getting rave reviews from some of my GR friends) is currently on sale for $4.95 on Audible until Sep 20th!

    • Yep, I saw that sale, Stuart, and bought the Jemisin book, of course. Jana, we are still waiting on that review….

      • I’ll have it on the worksite tomorrow! The book’s sitting on my desk right now, and I won’t do any other FanLit work until I get that review written. Super-duper promise! :D

        • Jana: you can make it up to Kat by writing ten comic book reviews this month. Just put them up on our work site, and I’ll be glad to post them for you.

          I look forward to your reviews.

          • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….we’ll see. :) If I can get through the books I need to review this month in a timely fashion, I’ll try to throw together some comics reviews for you.

          • Glad you liked that, Jana.

            And nine reviews will be just fine if you are busy.

    • Mark Boyett is the narrator I am listening to. But I’ll keep an eye out for Scott Brick, and I’ll check out The Fifth Season.

      “Incendiary.” Really? That’s just terrible. I’m actually in pain right now.

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