Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler–described by Vibe as “do[ing] for people of color” what William Gibson did for “young, disaffected white” speculative fiction fans–unfortunately passed away in 2006. But before she did that, she wrote a dozen or so novels and a couple collections of short stories, primarily science fiction. She described herself as primarily a novelist at one point, although she started as so many authors do with a short story publication in the early 1970s. Over her career, she won a handful of major awards, including Hugos, Nebulas, and a MacArthur Genius Grant. She is primarily known for tackling social issues unflinchingly through her works, and Fledgling, a solo novel published about a year before her death, is no exception.

Fledgling is Ms. Butler’s foray into the vampire-novel genre. The main character–also the narrator–is Shori, a young vampire who survived a vicious attack on her family that left her very much injured and suffering from amnesia. The rest of the story details her fight to save her family, and her re-learning of what exactly she lost by not remembering the rest of her life. Continue reading Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

Spock’s World, by Diane Duane

Yes, it’s a Star Trek book. I thought I’d already established my nerdiness prior to this. However, note the author: Diane Duane not only wrote an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation but I think even a couple episodes of Gargoyles (a cartoon that no one under the age of 20 probably remembers, but it was Disney and most of the voice actors were from ST:TNG (1)) and at least one other ST:TOS book other than this one. Oh, and also So You Want to be a Wizard? and its myriad sequels, a standard of the YA fantasy genre. She lives in Ireland with her husband, fantasy author Peter Morwood, who apparently writes big ol’ Irish-inspired epics.

The plot’s pretty simple: Vulcan is having a debate over whether to stay in the Federation or leave it. Spock, Kirk, and McCoy have been called to Vulcan to assist in the debates on the side of staying in the Federation (obviously) but Sarek, Spock’s father and the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation/Earth, is called to speak on the side of withdrawing from the Federation. Continue reading Spock’s World, by Diane Duane

Star Trek (2009)

Confession time: I am a Trekkie. When I was a kid, Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) was still being aired live, and my parents were not only fans, but felt that it was good, clean family entertainment. (Close enough.) I’ve seen enough episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS) to know what’s going on; I’ve probably seen all of them at one point or another, but it’s been fifteen years on many of them. I don’t, however, have the sentimental attachment to ST:TOS that I do to ST:TNG, and that’s obviously coloring my observations on the movie — which, by the way, was directed by J. J. Abrams of Alias and Lost fame, and starred Zachary Quinto (of Heroes infamy) as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Chris Pine as James T. Kirk. (Also Leonard Nimoy [Spock, also] and Bruce Greenwood [Capt. Pike], with appearances by Winona Ryder [Amanda], John Cho [Sulu], Simon Pegg [Scotty], Anton Yelchin [Chekhov], Karl Urban [McCoy], and Eric Bana [Nero].)

In the beginning, there was a brave young first officer named Kirk — George Kirk, thank you very much — who realized that he was in a no-win situation, and ordered the entire ship evacuated, including his wife who was pretty much in the process of giving birth at the time. Fast forward to twelve years later, and we see the baby — James Tiberius Kirk, after his grandfathers — has already started a life of rebellion and general James Deanishness. Eight or ten years later, after a bar fight, a Starfleet officer named Pike convinces the young Jim Kirk to join the academy. Three years later, while there, Kirk is on the verge of getting thrown out when a situation requires a good deal of the cadets to be used on ships, and via subterfuge, he gets onto the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701). Will they survive this situation? Continue reading Star Trek (2009)

The Lone Star Stories Reader, edited by Eric T. Marin

I like free books. So when I was alerted to the presence of a free PDF copy of this brand-new anthology, also available in print form, I was excited. I don’t get around to reading e-zines as often as I should, and there are some amazing stories one can read for free out there. This is a collection of fifteen of the best from several years of Lone Star Stories, and it’s available for download here. I do, of course, encourage you to buy a print copy if you like the PDF. Eric Marin pays the contributors out of his own pocket, and it would be great if he could recoup some of the costs. (Or, ideally, make millions of dollars and publish all sorts of things, but I’ll aim for a more realisic goal.)

The stories include: “Wolf Night,” by Martha Wells; “Seasonal Work,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman; “Janet, Meet Bob,” by Gavin J. Grant; “The Great Conviction of Tia Inez,” by M. Thomas; “Angels of a Desert Heaven,” by Marguerite Reed; “The Disembowler,” by Ekaterina Sedia; “A Night in Electric Squidland,” by Sarah Monette; “Thread: A Triptych,” by Catherynne M. Valente; “The Frozen One,” by Tim Pratt; “Dragon Hunt,” by Sarah Prineas; “Manuscript Found Written in the Paw Prints of a Stoat,” by Samantha Henderson; “Giant,” by Stephanie Burgis; “When the Rain Comes,” by Josh Rountree; “The Hangman isn’t Hanging,” by Jay Lake; and “The Oracle Opens One Eye,” by Patricia Russo. Continue reading The Lone Star Stories Reader, edited by Eric T. Marin

Virtually His, by Gennita Low

Gennita Low is unusual among authors in that not only does she have a day job — she runs her own roofing company — but it’s sort of a working-class day job, and she celebrates it. Her blog is at rooferauthor.blogspot.com, and she doesn’t pretend she’s just doing it until she can write full-time, as so many other authors do. A student of languages, she apparently yells at her employees in Chinese and Malay, and is learning German and Russian in her spare time. (What spare time?) She got her start in publishing by entering a lot of contests, and even being a finalist in a good deal of them. She writes primarily in the romantic suspense genre, but she includes some science-fictional themes in her works.

Elena Rostova — now Helen Roston — was a Russian orphan, but she joined the military and eventually was selected as the best candidate for a top-secret experiment, in making a supersoldier-spy. One of her primary qualifications was that she has psychic abilities. The supersoldier part included intense physical and mental training, and the spy part included virtual reality and clairvoyant training — which they call bilocation. Her mentor in this is a man she doesn’t meet; in the virtual-reality world where they see each other, she has designed his avatar. They are very attracted to each other, but will she ever find out his real-world identity? And will the experiment that is her life succeed? Continue reading Virtually His, by Gennita Low

M is for Magic, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is everyone’s darling right now. Not only have his last two movies (Coraline and Stardust) done fairly well, viagra order but he won the Newbery Award just recently for The Graveyard Book, link a novel about a toddler who runs into a graveyard to escape being murdered with the rest of his family, and is raised by the denizens there. (No, really, it is a children’s book. For more commentary, see The Colbert Report.) Anyway, Mr. Gaiman has also written a handful of books for adults and children, as well as the amazing comic series Sandman, and the scripts or translations for several movies. He’s also got a very popular blog, and now a Twitter.

M is for Magic is a collection of his already-published stories that he put together for children; the title, as he says in the introduction, is after Ray Bradbury’s similarly-collected (already published and picked for children later) works with titles such as R is for Rocket and S is for Space. The titles include “The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” “Troll Bridge,” “Don’t Ask Jack,” “How to Sell the Ponti Bridge,” “October in the Chair,” “Chivalry,” “The Price,” “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” and “Sunbird,” as well as “The Witch’s Headstone,” which is an excerpt from The Graveyard Book. Continue reading M is for Magic, by Neil Gaiman

Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner

Ahh, tooth Lewis Shiner. The man who convinced me that I never want to move to Durham, gynecologist NC (the same way that Slumdog Millionaire made me not want to visit India). Born in Eugene, OR in 1950, he moved around a lot as a kid, and read science fiction and adventure novels. One of Bob Dylan’s first few “Dylan Goes Electric” concerts changed his life utterly, and he became involved in music, which would turn out to be a lifelong love and the inspiration for many of his tales. After a degree in English from SMU, he started writing more and more and although his path wasn’t straightforward (there was some technical writing in there, as well as computer programming and car trouble), eventually he was regularly selling detective fiction and science fiction to short-story magazines. His first novel, Frontera, was a finalist for a couple of major awards, and he has written five since.

This collection of short stories includes apparently 41 of his biggest and best tales, ranging from one of his first published works (“Deep Without Pity”) to three stories that had web debuts within the last couple years (“Straws,” “Golfing Vietnam,” “Fear Itself”). The tales range from a couple of punk westerns, a few pulp-type stories, straight-up science fiction, ultra-short literary fiction, a few that were intended for men’s magazines, and, of course, a few tales about rock ‘n’ roll. I won’t list all 41 titles, as that would take too much time, but interested readers can haunt the Sub Press website until they post the table of contents. This book will be published at the end of November this year. Continue reading Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner

The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard is up for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, discount as part of the Hugo Awards; this is her second year of eligibility. She’s an author that most of us probably haven’t heard of, check especially book reviewers like me, viagra buy being that she writes short stories. As much as I love short-story collections, she doesn’t have a compilation published (yet), being that she’s only been publishing for two or three years. She lives in Paris, although she has American citizenship; she’s half Vietnamese by heritage and speaks English as a first language. By day she works as an engineer; by night, she’s an expert on Meso-American mythology and culture. Here’s a link to her bibliography page; it contains links to all of her short stories that are available for free on the internet.

The titles of the stories that I reviewed are as follows, with a short description:

“Autumn’s Country” (Asian-set story about arranged marriages and the possible results)
“The Dancer’s Gift” (Dark secondary-world fantasy about destructive empathy)
“Through the Obsidian Gates” (Sort of an Orpheus-in-the-Underworld story, but with Mayans)
“Obsidian Shards” (Aztec death priest fights crime!)
“The Lost Xuyan Bride” (Alternate-history Dashiell-Hammett type mystery)
“The Dragon’s Tears” (Asian-set death, riddles, and [obviously] dragons story)
“Beneath the Mask” (Aztec death priest fights more crime!)
“Sea Child” (Secondary-world fantasy with high cliffs and dangerous waters)
“The Naming at the Pool” (Different secondary-world fantasy, with different riddles and changes of identity)
“Weepers and Ragers” (Future-set science fiction with melting brains and murder)
“For a Daughter” (Literary flash fiction about China’s one-child policy)
“Citadel of Cobras” (Hermits, forests, and magic)
“The Triad’s Gift” (Novella-length story about riddles, losing one’s kingdom, and nagas) Continue reading The uncollected stories of Aliette de Bodard

Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell

Tobias Buckell was born on Grenada; he is of mixed racial heritage. He moved to the U.S. right before he started college, surgeon and attended Bluffton College, located in middle-of-nowhere, Ohio. (I can say that because my father was born there.) He still lives in Bluffton, Ohio, and complains about its land-lockedness. (I’m pretty sure he knows about Lake Erie.) He started publishing short-form fiction in 2000, just after attending Clarion East and around his 21st birthday, and Tor published this, his first novel, in 2006. They also gave it away as a free e-book during their spate of free e-books last year. There are, to my knowledge, two sequels published as of yet.

Nanagada is a smallish continent on a world that has been populated by people who used to live in the Caribbean on Earth, several hundred years ago. They share the continent with the Azteca, who are obviously of Central and South American heritage. The Nanagadans worship the Loa, and the Azteca the Teotls. Of course, they have major differences, and these erupt in a full-blown invasion at some point. John de Brun, a fisherman and sailor living towards the southern part of the land, is apparently the man of the hour — two men are looking for him, both to get the codes for the Ma Wi Jung, whatever that is. But John de Brun has no idea what they’re talking about, because he’s got amnesia prior to about twenty years ago. Can the Nanagadans survive, and will John live? Continue reading Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell

Hellflower (book 1), by Eluki bes Shahar

Eluki bes Shahar is the legal name of Rosemary Edghill; apparently a long-ago publisher suggested that the name was insufficiently English-sounding, mycoplasmosis so most of what she publishes is under the pseudonym. Under that name, she writes romance novels (mostly Regencies), detective fiction (a series about a Wiccan detective named Bast), and fantasy (the Twelve Treasures series, of which only three were published), as well as collaborations with Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton, among others. Under Eluki bes Shahar, she writes science fiction, apparently. This is the first of a trilogy, expanded her first published short story, and published in the early 1990s. It appears to be out of print.

Butterfly St. Cyr — actually named Saint Butterflies-are-free Peace Sincere — is a stardancer darktrader, or a smuggler starship captain. While making a deal, she unfortunately manages to get involved with a fight between some other darktrader-types and a hellflower — a member of the alMayne family of honor-bound mercenaries who command a significant amount of political and financial capital. The hellflower, unfortunately, turns into a bad penny, and she gets into all sorts of trouble — which, of course, she can’t deal with, being that not only is she an illegal immigrant from an Interdicted World, but she owns a Library — an AI that is completely prohibited by the Imperial law. Will she survive, and what about the hellflower? Continue reading Hellflower (book 1), by Eluki bes Shahar