Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘sf’

invisibleSometimes you just need to get away. Could be that out-of-town isn’t enough, or even out-of- the-country. Let’s try out-of-this world.

First stop is Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library (Roc/Penguin, digital galley), where the shelves of books stretch in all directions across time and space and where hidden portals lead to alternate realities. Born and raised in the Library, Irene now works as a spy to retrieve rare volumes to add to the Library’s immense collection. On a mission to pick up a singular copy of Grimm’s fairy tales, she and her new assistant Kai arrive in a London infected by magic known as chaos, resulting in a steampunk Dickensian city whose inhabitants include demons, vampires and the Fair Folk. The rules are different here, as Irene and Kai’s pursuit of the stolen book is threatened by competing factions willing to kill for the prize. In the course of their adventures, they meet up with a Sherlockian detective, Irene’s former mentor and the evil Albion, the Library’s greatest traitor. Fans of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and/or Dr. Who will appreciate the imaginative worldbuilding, literary references and galloping pace. Sequels The Masked City and The Burning Page arrive in September and December.

onedamnedSpeaking of timey-wimey stuff, Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another (Night Shade/Skyhorse, digital galley) is also a British import, the first in the series known as the Chronicles of St. Mary’s. Time-traveling historians aren’t new — American Connie Willis has been dispatching them with elan for years — but Taylor takes the concept and runs with it. Narrator Madeleine Maxwell is a new recruit to the mysterious St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, where trained historians like herself “investigate historical events in contemporary time” — yep, time travel. Max soon discovers that hurtling back centuries can be downright dangerous, as when she and her colleagues work in a World War I battlefield hospital. But that’s nothing to the Cretaceous Period, where slathering dinosaur jaws await the unwary, as well as time-traveling terrorists determined to sabotage St. Mary’s research. Really, it’s one disaster after another for Max and company, but it’s often hilarious. Good thing, because the pace is uneven, the secondary characters underdeveloped and the laws of logic don’t apply. The whole could use an editor. Still,  A Symphony of Echoes arrives next week, and I understand there will be Dodos.

paperfireAction and adventure, knowledge and power. They’re intertwined in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series, which began last year with the thrilling Ink and Bone. In that book, London book smuggler Jess Brightwell was sent off to study at the Great Library of Alexandria, which has survived through the ages as librarians rule the world by limiting access to all original books. In the second book, Paper and Fire (NAL/Penguin, review copy), Jess and his fellow students who made it through the perilous final exams are ready to enter the ranks as soldiers or scholars. But the dark side of the Library is revealing itself: Jess’ best friend Thomas has been accused of treason and reportedly executed, his girlfriend Morgan’s alchemical talents have landed her in the Iron Tower, and their teacher, Scholar Christopher Wolfe, is barely recovering from torture and imprisonment at the hands of the evil Archivist. Still, when Jess and his friends figure out that Thomas is being held captive in Rome, they set out to rescue him, braving the fearful automata of the Library and the deadly explosives of the heretical Burners. Yes, you really need to read the first book, although Caine tries to fill in gaps for newcomers. This makes for some slow going at the beginning of Paper and Fire, but the action picks up in Rome, and then it’s off full speed ahead to London and presumed safety.  Ha! I’m booking passage now for a third book.

Read Full Post »

lexiconWord power! It’s way more than Reader’s Digest vocabulary quizzes. Words are weapons controlled by poets in Max Barry’s genre-melding, mind-bending novel Lexicon (Penguin, digital galley), the most fun I’ve had all summer.
The thrills begin in the first chapter when Australian Wil Parke is kidnapped in the Portland, Ore., airport, undergoes a quick personality test, survives a shoot-out and is whisked away in a van. The action switches to San Francisco where teen grifter Emily Griff is recruited to attend an exclusive academy outside Washington, D.C., where students study neuro-linguistics and the powers of persuasion. The most adept graduates take the names of poets, becoming agents for a secret society that uses words to control the minds of the unwitting populace. The enigmatic Yeats runs the organization; Eliot and Bronte are among the top agents, but Woolf has gone rogue. How is Wil Parke involved? It all has to do with a mysterious toxic event in Broken Hill, Australia, which killed thousands and wiped Wil’s memory clean. Emily’s connected, too, as is the discovery of an all-powerful “bareword.” Remember the Tower of Babel?
Barry’s smart, witty writing, well-defined characters and strong sense of place make his near-future world conspiracy of mind-hacking bizarre yet plausible. (Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you.) As Emily learns, words like “bewitched,” “fascinating” and “spellbound” were once literal magic. In Lexicon, they still are. Amazing!
homecomingThe fun continues in Carsten Stroud’s paranormal thriller The Homecoming (Knopf, digital galley), the sequel to last summer’s Niceville, in which a Southern town was beset by trigger-happy thieves, mysterious disappearances and Something Evil from beyond the grave. Detective Nick Kavanaugh returns to try and save the day from the treacherous thieves, possessed orphan Rainey Teague and the Something Evil, now appearing as a black miasma emanating from the Crater.
The story, which isn’t as far out nor as frenzied as the previous one, picks up two weeks after events in the first book with two mysterious plane crashes. Six months later, the mystery and mayhem intensify to include a shoot-out in a mall outdoors store and ghosts from a plantation past. The antique mirror, hidden by Nick’s wife Kate, exhibits its weird through-the-looking-glass characteristics, and strange “bone baskets” found in the Tulip River hint at more nastiness at work in Niceville. Happily, a fast pace and snappy dialogue encourage readers not to think too much and just go with the flow. Hang on, though, whitewater ahead and a third book.
starwars“In time so long ago begins our play/ In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.” If literary snark’s your thing, don’t missWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Quirk Books, digital galley), a five-act mash-up, “Verily: A New Hope,” in iambic pentameter by the clever Ian Doescher. He borrows from familiar Shakespeare passages — C-3P0 taking off from Richard III: “Now is the summer of our happiness/ Made winter by this sudden fierce attack;” Luke Skywalker doing Hamlet: “Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew you not;” Princess Leia singing a “hey, nonny, nonny” variation from Much Ado as Alderaan explodes.
Yes, it’s silly, especially when R2D2 beeps in and Jabba speaks jibber-jabber, but the Chorus has an Elizabethan field day: “Mos Eisley now is left behind at last/ While newer scenes come into view apace/ As Han’s Millenn’um Falcon flies far fast/ The action of our play moves back to space!”
May the forsooth be with you.

Read Full Post »