The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

About the only thing I know about R. A. MacAvoy is that she’s female. Apparently she was born in my (former) neck of the woods in 1949 and attended Case Western Reserve University. This, apparently, allows her to make Cleveland jokes. (It’s okay. The Browns are enough of a joke for most of us.) She now lives in a horse pasture and writes full-time. This book, if I’m not mistaken, was originally published as an Amazon Short in 2005 and sold only as an ebook, entitled The Go-Between, until Sub Press picked it up for a September release.

Ewen Young is a painter by day and a kung fu master by night. His uncle Jimmy is his teacher, and one night, after an art show, several thugs jump him outside as a ‘message’ to said uncle. Soon thereafter, he goes to the kung fu studio and finds Jimmy shot in the head; the man who did it is still there and shoots Ewen in the heart. The next thing he knows, he’s in the hospital, on morphine. But every so often, he — isn’t there. Or particularly anywhere. The nurses accuse him of pulling out his IV, despite the fact that it’s out cleanly. Where is he going? And what’s going on? Continue reading The In-Between, by R. A. MacAvoy

Angelic, by Kelley Armstrong

A little over a year ago, I decided to read everything that Kelley Armstrong had published at that point, being that I’d been recommended her works by so many different places so many times, and in general I quite enjoy the genre she writes (urban fantasy, whatever you’d like to call it). So I read all eight available Women of the Otherworld books, and reviewed them. All the titles can be found either in this review, or this one. Ms. Armstrong is a full-time writer and presumably a full-time Canadian; I think I’m behind on this series by one book, and she started a YA series when I wasn’t looking.

This particular volume, a slender 98 pages, will be a Subterranean Press publication in December of this year. It concerns Eve Levine, the star of book five, and the mother of Savannah, a common character in the other volumes. Eve is dead (seriously, that’s not a spoiler) and is currently working part-time for the Fates as an avenging angel. Or something like that. The djinn have been behaving poorly recently — torturing those who have summoned them — and just when Eve is about to get some time off, the Fates decide to make her investigate. Alone. Well, she’s never been one to follow rules, and usually, that gets her into trouble . . . Continue reading Angelic, by Kelley Armstrong

The Skylark, by Peter Straub

Peter Straub is a Wisconsinite; he was born and raised in Milwaukee and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his undergraduate education. He has a master’s degree from Columbia University, and at least started a Ph.D. in Dublin. He’s apparently a famous writer of poetry and horror novels; the latter have won him several Bram Stoker awards, as well as leading to several collaborations and a friendship with Stephen King. Later this year, his novel The Dark Matter will be published; as well will this novel, which is actually the same book. The Skylark is the mostly-unedited, 200-manuscript-pages-longer version, which Mr. Straub wanted preserved, so Subterranean Press is doing so.

In the mid-1960s, a group of high school friends fall under the influence of a magician-philosopher-charlatan named Spencer Mallon. The influence ends abruptly a few months later when something horrific happens, but nobody can quite determine what actually occurred. The fifth member of the group, who was not involved but was still friends with the bunch, is a famous writer, and while trying to write his memoirs, gets stuck dead at the point when the ‘something horrific’ happened. More than anything, he needs to find out what that event was, and so he finds his old friends, to figure his past out. Continue reading The Skylark, by Peter Straub

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

Woods and Waters Wild, by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint — one of my favorite authors, treatment if you hadn’t guessed, ascariasis and one I’ve reviewed quite a few books by (here’s one) — has been slowly but steadily publishing his hard-to-find back catalog of short stories in four volumes, all wonderfully done by Subterranean Press. I pre-order these months in advance, and am never disappointed. He is, first and foremost, a short-storyist; his collections of Newford stories (those set in his invented North American town) have won awards upon awards, and have sold many copies. This volume of short stories is the last in the Sub Press series of his early works.

The seventeen stories in this volume range from early (published) pastiches, to the stories that later turned into two early novels (Into the Green, and The Harp of the Grey Rose), to folk-ballad retellings (“Thomas the Rhymer,” “Cruel Sister,” and “Gipsy Davey”). A few are just straight-up secondary-world fantasy — the Dennet and Willie tales, which I had never even heard of. A few more are just miscellaneous tales. One, almost the last story in the book (“The Graceless Child”), Mr. de Lint still considers one of the best stories he’s ever written. Continue reading Woods and Waters Wild, by Charles de Lint

The Ladies of Nell Gwynne’s, by Kage Baker

I actually very much liked the first three or four Company books by Kage Baker. I remember most of her biography, somnology too: she lives in California, information pills knows more about Elizabethan England than is healthy, viagra and has done a good deal of theatre in her day. Her Company series, which starts with In the Garden of Iden, is about cyborgs — but in an interesting way. The Company has discovered how to go back in time, and once there, they make local kids who would be dead into cyborgs who then take and hide artefacts so that they can be discovered at some point in the future. It’s actually a lot better than I’m making it sound — tons of intrigue and fascinating characters.

Anyway, this novella is tangentially related, in that way where there’s a secret gentleman’s society (the Gentleman’s Speculative Society) that will, in about three or four hundred years, become the Company that is involved. Nell Gwynne’s is a house for ‘fallen women,’ and Lady Beatrice is one of them. These women, however, aren’t just ladies of the night — they’re also rather intelligent spies who retrieve information from the powerful men they service. The information, which goes to the GSS, is used to manipulate their world, which is England in the early Victorian era. When one of their contacts disappears, Lady Beatrice and three compatriots are dispatched to a house party in order to find out what’s going on. Continue reading The Ladies of Nell Gwynne’s, by Kage Baker

Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch is probably best known for writing the novel Psycho, hygiene that would eventually become the most famous Hitchcock thriller of all time, cardiology but he also wrote a lot of other novels, side effects stories, essays, and other forms. He was a protege of H. P. Lovecraft, probably one of the greatest horror writers of the century, and also wrote science fiction, fantasy, and crime novels. He also wrote a handful of scripts for Star Trek (the Original Series) in the sixties. For a short period of time, he was involved with making campaign spectacles — balloons and the whole shtick — for a political candidate in Wisconsin. He was born in 1917 to a family of German-Jewish descent, and passed away in 1994.

Many of Mr. Bloch’s early stories were only published in pulp and other transitory magazines, and they have not been collected. Therefore, Subterranean Press has been putting out volumes of what they call The Reader’s Bloch, of which this is volume 2. The stories in this volume are slightly more science-fiction-y, rather than crime stories, and it includes such titles as “Never Trust a Demon,” “The Last Plea,” “The Strange Island of Dr. Nork,” “Skeleton in the Closet,” “The Bat is My Brother,” “The Hound of Pedro,” “Iron Mask,” “The Red Swimmer,” “Curse of the House,” “Pink Elephants,” “Unheavenly Twin,” “Tooth or Consequences,” “The Tchen Lam’s Vengeance,” “Satan’s Servants,” and “Fairy Tale.” Continue reading Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

[Happy birthday, syringe Ben!]

Subterranean Press has introduced me to quite a large amount of the science-fiction authors of the 1980s and 1990s that I missed the first time around, view either due to youth or a predilection for fantasy over sci-fi. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. This, side effects which appears to be Allen Steele’s fifth collection of short stories, was no exception. Allen Steele, a native of Nashville, was educated at New England College and the University of Missouri, and worked as a journalist for some years. He started publishing short stories in 1988, and has won the Hugo Award twice, in 1996 and 1998. He has published quite a few novels and short story collections, and one collection of essays.

This collection consists of ten stories; the first is a young-adult novella entitled “Escape from Earth,” about a young man who runs into a handful of people from the future, complete with spaceship, and helps them get back to their time. The other stories include “The War of Dogs and Boids,” “An Incident at the Luncheon of the Boating Party,” “The Teb Hunter,” “Moreau^2,” “High Roller,” “World Without End, Amen,” “Take Me Back to Old Tennessee,” “Hail to the Chief,” and “The Last Science Fiction Writer.” The topics range from time travel to teddy-bear hunting, and the lengths range from quite short to the aforementioned hundred-page novella. Continue reading The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

The Best of Michael Swanwick, by Michael Swanwick

Today’s short story collection, ambulance with a title like “The Best of, neurologist ” represents another kind of short story collection: the retrospective, or career-spanning collection. These stories represent twenty-seven years’ worth of Michael Swanwick’s career, including five Hugo-Award-winning stories produced over the span of only six years. Mr. Swanwick is, according to his blurb, one of the most prolific writers of his generation; I’d never even heard of him before I received this ARC in the mail from Subterranean Press, but then again someone who writes mostly hard science fiction for adults and happens to be male might fly under my radar a bit. (I have my biases; who doesn’t? At least I’m working to overcome them!) He’s a Philadelphian with a rather large beard; he’s won nearly every single major award in the speculative fiction field, and usually more than once.

This massive collection — 470 pages — starts in 1980, with two of his earliest published works, and ends with a couple of stories copyrighted in 2007. Mr. Swanwick introduces his stories himself, in a three or four page introduction, and he gives a small amount of information on the background of each story. The tales range from pure high fantasy with elves to rock-hard science fiction; science-fictionalized blues to the edge of the world. The settings include various planets and moons, the earth’s moon, an office building in 1936, a pub in a secondary fantasy world, and more than one bar in the supposed current world. Nuclear war, first contact, and time-space paradoxes all have their days in these stories, but so do life, love, death, and humanity. Continue reading The Best of Michael Swanwick, by Michael Swanwick

Nick and the Glimmung, by Philip K. Dick

One of these days, nurse I really need to read a ‘real’ book by PKD. I’ve read his screen treatment of one of his novels (reviewed here) and then this book, medicine and the works of some of his friends, and of course I’ve seen Blade Runner and Minority Report, but I’ve never actually read any of his standard novels. Considering that he was a powerhouse of hard and futuristic (and just plain weird) sf for two decades, and even after his death he’s still got a huge influence on the spec-fic field (see: The Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi, the cover at least), I really should do better. Subterranean Press is publishing an edition of this novel, to be released in December of this year.

Anyway, in this book, his only “YA” (middle readers, really) novel, we have a future world with colonies on other planets and such an overloaded earth that pets are illegal (they eat too much food) and no one works more than 22 hours a week (and that’s an extreme case). Nick Graham’s father is lucky enough to work fifteen hours a week, and they own a cat, Horace. Unfortunately, one morning the cat gets out and someone sees him, and the anti-pet man comes after them. Instead of giving up the cat, Nick’s father (who is unhappy on earth anyway) decides to move the entire family (including the cat) off-world, to Plowman’s Planet. Plowman’s Planet comes with several of its own interesting life forms, like werjes, wubs, spiddles, and the Glimmung — some of whom are at war. How will Nick’s family (and Horace) deal with this? Continue reading Nick and the Glimmung, by Philip K. Dick