Sunday Status Update: April 24, 2016

This week, Legolas is back.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Legolas: Journal Entry 3450347: So apparently we’re now going to take the roads of the dead and attack the enemy fleet with a ghost army. Sounds fantastic, but it occurs to me to wonder why the enormous ghost army under the sole beck and call of Aragorn hasn’t come up before now. It seems like the sort of thing one might mention. Or not. Who knows? No one ever gave me a ghost army. We don’t pamper our royalty in Mirkwood. It’s just grit and nerve and a good honest yew bow in the hand, and… damn it, I really want a ghost army.

Brad: This week I’ve been re-reading volume 9 of The Sandman, The Kindly Ones. I also read and finished volumes one and two of Roche Limit. Volume two was good, but it didn’t blow me away like volume one, which I’ve been quoting from all week on Facebook and for which I wrote a four-star review (posted yesterday). I’ve also been reading some manga, particularly the old Black Jack short stories by Tezuka. I dipped into the first few issues of Resurrection Man by Abnett and Lanning and wasn’t impressed as I’d hoped. However, I re-read The Spectre volume one by Ostrander in order to teach it in my Crime Fiction course. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of my students liked it quite a bit, particularly since they said they had low expectations based on the cover. Ostrander’s interest in theology and ethics lends The Spectre more thematic weight than one would initially expect. Finally, I’ve been re-reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson this week, whose work veers from the nonsensically obscure to explosive little insights into human consciousness, often within the small space of only eight or so short lines of poetry.

Jason: I’ve had a terrific run of fun books recently. The triumverate review of Sylvain Neuvel‘s debut Sleeping Giants is already on the site. BUY THIS BOOK if you like scifi. It’s available on 4/26. I’ve got two more reviews queued up as well. Another debut, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, comes out 5/10. It’s a challenging and worthwhile read – a political scifi tale that takes place in a very recognizable evolved Earth. Following that, I’ve got Joe Hill‘s The Fireman on tap, which will be available on 5/17. He borrows a bit from his father’s The Stand, and it’s very good. And finally, I’m rereading Justin Cronin‘s The Passage, so I can read his follow-up The Twelve, so I can read his upcoming conclusion, The City of Mirrors, which will be available on 5/24. I’ve been a busy reading bee enjoying a number of new releases: 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for science fiction literature.

Kat: It’s exam week and I’m finally starting to come out of this semester’s fog. Since you heard from me last I’ve continued in my quest to finish all the series I started and never finished. I read Down and Dirty, the fifth WILD CARDS anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Queen of Candesce and Pirate Sun, books two and three of Karl Schroeder’s VIRGA series. This saga has some great world building and scenery, but the characters tend to feel a little shallow. I also read an excellent new audiobook version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales which has an all-star cast of narrators. Lastly, I read Gary K. Wolfe’s audio lecture series on How Great Science Fiction Works. Expect reviews of all of these titles in the next couple of weeks.

Marion: I read Eudora Welty’s Pulitzer-Prize-Winning 1972 novel The Optimist’s Daughter. As always, Welty’s prose is a joy to read and I could relate to the early sections of the book when the protagonist is sitting at her dying father’s hospital bed. When she and her younger stepmother return home, the description of small-southern-town behavior and comfort is probably pitch-perfect, but I had trouble with the single-note description of the stepmother. Was Welty being classist, or do folks from Mississippi just hate Texans? I don’t know, but it left my enjoyment of this powerful little book less than perfect. I’m also reading  James S.A. Corey’s book Leviathan Wakes, because I finished watching The Expanse and it made me want to read the books. I’m about two-thirds of the way through that, but I put it down to start Richard Kadrey’s comic novel The Everything Box. I have to pause now and then because I’m hyperventilating from laughing so hard, but I am blazing through it. Kadrey has moved into Christopher Moore territory and is making himself comfortable.

Sandy: Moi? I have just finished reading The Rithian Terror, a novel by Damon Knight from 1965 that combines futuristic sci-fi action with hardboiled espionage into one fast-moving ride. I hope to get a review out for this one very shortly. Next up for me will most likely be another sci-fi thriller from 1965, Keith Laumer’s A Plague of Demons, which has been sitting on my bookshelf patiently, waiting to be read, for a good long while now…

Stuart: I loved listening to Iain M. Banks‘ Feersum Endjinn (1994), read by one of my favorite narrators Peter Kenny, while hiking last week, so this week I did the same with Peter WattsBlindsight (2006). This was a very dense examination of non-sentient intelligence via First Contact. It was excellent so I immediately started the sequel Echopraxia (2014), but this was a huge disappointment as it was tangential to that earlier story and I gave up on it (DNF), which doesn’t happen often. As for comics, I’ve started Vol 4: Season of Mists of Neil Gaiman‘s SANDMAN series, and am also re-reading the previous three volumes now that I know the larger story. This week I’m tacking Greg Egan‘s Quarantine (1992), to get my quantum mechanics fix and learn more about how consciousness causes wave collapse and shapes our reality.

Tadiana: In the last couple of weeks I worked my way through Neal Stephenson‘s Seveneves while visiting Arches, Zion and other parks in southern Utah. The dry, seared scenery in some of these parks was a fitting backdrop for a novel where a rain of meteors from broken pieces of the moon burns the earth. I’m still slowly reading Richard Adams‘ Watership Down and Brandon Sanderson‘s Mistborn: The Final Empire. Both are rereads of lengthy novels, so I’m taking my time to read and savor them. I’ve also read two shorter novels, Jessica Day George‘s Fridays with the Wizard, the most recent book in her CASTLE GLOWER series, and Donna Jo Napoli‘s Spinners, a somber retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, and finished Patricia McKillip‘s collection of shorter SFF works, Dreams of Distant Shores. Reviews coming soon, I promise!

Tim: This week I reread Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere — this time in the author’s preferred edition. I’d like to say I drew enormous insight from the alterations, but I found that for the most part I couldn’t remember the original text well enough to notice where changes had been made. The story was nonetheless as engaging as I remembered, and I had a lot of fun. Otherwise, I plugged ahead on DEATH GATE CYCLE some more. Almost through with it now.

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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. Jason, does THE FIREMAN borrow literally from THE STAND, with a superbug, etc, or is it just mystical post-apocalyptic? My limited experience with Hill’s work is that it’s pretty original even though he writes horror. It’s pretty hard for anyone to write horror and not be influenced to some extent by Stephen King, and I worry that we don’t give Hill enough credit for his own work.

    Friday I was at a bookstore for an event. In highlighting upcoming events, the store employee mentioned Joe Hill and referred to him as “Stephen King’s son.” I feel like the poor guy gets no respect.

    • Marion – it’s not at all literal and I don’t think I (or anyone) would bat an eyelash if Joe’s father hadn’t written a book about key survivors following a major death event. It’s not quite a superbug, and not quite as mystical. It’s much more science fictional than fantasy. But you can’t help but make the connections.

      Joe’s writing absolutely stands on its own (get it…STANDS on it’s own…), but let’s face it, the poor guy is the son of one of the most prolific American writers EVER. And he chose to write horror/sci-fi just like his papa. He’ll be fine in the long run, but he’s kind of asking for the comparisons.

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