Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Truth About Owls, by Amal El-Mohtar

Published in Kaleidoscope, from Tor, August 2014

Anisa is a young girl now living in Glasgow with her mother, but she spent her earlier childhood living in Lebanon with her father, grandmother, and other relatives. When war struck a little too close to home, her father decided that Anisa, having been born in the UK, needed to go join her mother there and be safe.

Starting with her first sighting of an owl in Lebanon, an eagle owl that kills one of the family's chickens, Anisa becomes fascinated with owls, and in stages, learns more about them, and about herself.

At some point, strange things start happening when she's feeling strong emotions.

She's feeling destructive surges of power that she struggles to control, struggles not to hurt anyone.

It's not really possible to say more without giving too much away. This is a gentle, surprising, moving coming of age story, and well worth your time.

Recommended.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart

St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, ISBN 9781250072320, September 2015

Li Du is a Chinese scholar, formerly a librarian in the imperial library. Now,in 1780, after a political scandal in which he was collateral damage, he's an exile wandering China. His wanderings have brought him to Dayan, a Chinese town on the Tibetan border, and he expects a quiet, provincial town.

Instead, he finds a town teaming with visitors, as the Emperor is about to arrive for a spectacular event: a total eclipse of the sun. He wants to be gone as quickly as possible, before the Emperor arrives, but an elderly Jesuit priest, an astronomer, dies suddenly, and Li finds evidence of murder. He's drawn in to investigating the death. He has three days.

Li quickly acquires friends and allies, starting with the wandering storyteller from Egypt. His suspects include the local magistrate himself, the magistrate's first consort, another Jesuit brother, and the ambassador of the powerful British East India Company.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Breath of War, by Aliette de Bodard

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2014
http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-breath-of-war/

Rechan is pregnant, near term, and separated from her breath-sibling by distance and the last remnants of a war. There are special challenges to bearing a child on the world of Voc, and her baby won't survive if her breath-sibling isn't there to attend her. But unlike most young women, when it came time to carve her breath-sibling, Rechan didn't carve a stoneman or stonewoman, out of a stone block brought into her community. She ran away into the mountains, the source of the lamsinh stone that is used to carve breath-siblings, and carved--something else.

Now Rechan needs to reach her breath-sibling in the mountains, before she goes into labor. It's not going to be easy.

We discover the world as Rechan travels through it, and through meeting the people she meets. And in the mountains, something wonderful is waiting.

Recommended.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

John Scalzi is Not a Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels, by Theophilus Pratt

Hymenaeus House, August 2015

If the title seems a little out there, there's a reason.

Theodore Beale, a.k.a. Vox Day, leader of the Rabid Puppies faction in the slate attacks on this year's Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy, has been a bit obsessed with John Scalzi. He also rants a good deal about "SJWs"--"social justice warriors," who according to him and his friends are destroying science fiction by liking things the Puppies don't. Recently, he's released a book, promised for at least two or three weeks beforehand, entitled SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police, under his his online name, Vox Day. You can find it on Amazon, no problem.

Or you can get this book instead. It's a lot more fun.

This is a parody, a total send-up of Vox Day's book. SJWs Always Lie has two chapters 5; John Scalzi is Not a Very Popular Author has three chapters 5! Bonus! Theo Pratt (a.k.a. Alexandra Erin) reveals the true evil of the dread John Scalzi as Vox Day never truly can. His deviousness! His SJWness! His obviously terrible $3.4 million, ten-year contract with the equally dread Tor!

You can purchase the Kindle edition here, or true fans of the absurd can listen to the audiobook, read by John Scalzi, here. Why did John Scalzi read the audiobook version? To raise money for a science fiction fandom charity, Con or Bust. Click the link for the audiobook, and you'll find more information about Con or Bust, the fundraising, and the other bonus coming from Scalzi: a song he's commissioning, about his noted Not Very Popularity.

Click one of the links; go have fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When It Ends, He Catches Her, by Eugie Foster

Daily Science Fiction, September 2014
http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fairy-tales/eugie-foster/when-it-ends-he-catches-her

This is a story that would have been on the 2015 Hugo ballot but for the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slating.

Aisa is a dancer, or former dancer, dancing on an empty stage in an abandoned, decaying theater. She's dancing one of her favorite leading roles, except that in the last dance number, she should be dancing with partner, who is not there. The final, triumphant leap must be omitted, because Balege is not there to catch her.

And then there is applause from an audience of one.

The time and place are not clear. What is clear is that this is a society in collapse. Many have died; many are starving. Aisa is hungry. But Balege is there now; he's got the death plague, but they dance again. And Balege prods her memory,

There's a quiet horror here, as we discover what the real conditions are. There's also a victory of love, in the face of it.

Recommended.

Goodnight Stars, by Annie Bellet

The End is Now, Broad Reach Publications, ISBN 9781497484375, September 2014

Goodnight Stars

Lucy Goodwin and friends are camping and watching an exceptionally impressive meteor shower when something goes wrong. Heidi has claimed the moon looks "lopsided." Lucy's boyfriend Jack, an Afghanistan veteran, gets a message that the reserves are being activated--and it's the last contact they have before their phones can't get a signal anymore.

They head for the nearest gas station in the Jeep, and there's still TV reception there. Something hit the far side of the Moon, and did major damage, producing a major fall of space rocks onto Earth. It will cause an impact winter, which might last years.

Lucy's mother was an engineer working at a base on the far side of the Moon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard

Gollancz, ISBN 9781473212558, August 2015

In a Paris that isn't our Paris, Houses led (mostly) by Fallen angels rule the city, in uneasy peace and much quiet conflict. The oldest of these Houses, Silverspires, was founded by Morningstar, the first and oldest of the Fallen.

But Morningstar vanished without warning twenty years ago, and his last apprentice, Selene, has led Silverspires since then. She's not as hard and ruthless as Morningstar, and that may not be a strength. The House is having problems, and its allies are perhaps becoming unreliable.

Meanwhile, a new Fallen has just fallen to Earth, in a bad section of the city, and a few members of a gang reaches her just before Selene does. Selene wants the Fallen alive and in Silverspires' care and service; the gang wants to dismember her for the magical artifacts they can make from her breath, blood, skin, and bones.

One of the gang, going by the name Philippe, is his own kind of strange, neither Fallen, nor ordinary, mortal human with no magic but what he can steal from angels. He's not comfortable cutting pieces off the injured and not yet fully awake Fallen, but he knows that if he doesn't make himself useful to the gang willingly, they'd be just as happy to dismember him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, by Catherynne M. Valente

Part 1 Clarkesworld, January 2015
Part 2 Clarkesworld, March 2015

Violet Wild is a young girl living in the Purple Country, in a world where countries are actually different colors, and words can have wildly different meanings in different countries. Violet's Mummery is a clarinaut,who pilots a Clarinet to all the different countries, and so is often away, leaving Violet with Papo and his herds. Violet has a friend named Orchid Harm, and they are very fond of each other, and he gets eaten by time squirrels. Not long after, Violet discovers her Mummery is having an affair with the Ordinary Emperor.

So Violet sets out through the assorted color countries with her pet sorrow (apparently, in most places, an elephant), and has adventures and encounters with various forms of metaphor. In one country, money means sorrow, and Violet has to pay for her meal by reliving grief. In another, money means time, and the meal is paid for with a dead time squirrel.

Her ultimate destination is the Red Country, and it's an open question whether she'll get there alive.

This is an odd and challenging story, not to be read unless you can devote your full and complete attention to it. I'm not sure yet whether I liked it or not.

Summer at Hideaway Key, by Barbara Davis

DAW, ISBN 9780451474582, August 2015

Lily St. Claire's father has died, and he's left her a cottage in Florida that she never knew he own. It's a surprise that he owned it because it had long belonged to her aunt, her mother Caroline's sister Lily-Mae, who died a year earlier. Lily's back from Paris, before heading to a new job with a major fashion design house in Italy, but she's got a month before she'll start there. Curious and frustrated by her mother's long-standing hostility and silence about Lily-Mae, and puzzled about why Lily-Mae left the cottage to her father, who then left it to her, Lily heads off for Sand Pearl Cottage in Hideaway Key, Florida.

What she finds there are new friends, and old, disturbing revelations about her mother, her aunt, her father, and even herself.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Daddy's World, by Walter Jon Williams

Amazon Digital Services, January 2013

Jamie is a little boy growing up in a safe, perfect world. Fun things happen here, like new parts of the world appearing, with entertaining creatures like the Whirlikins, or when he's a little older, the Roman Forum and Coliseum--complete with Cicero, and chariot races. Jamie does have dim memories of being in a hospital, but that was a long time ago, when he was very  little. Magical things happen in this world.

But Jamie starts to notice some strange and disturbing things. His little sister, Becky, is now older than he is. There are other anomalies.

There's a quiet horror building here, and we feel deeply for Jamie, and for Becky.

Maybe not quite so much for Daddy, even though he has the best of intentions.

Science fiction with a well-done thread of horror. Recommended.

I received a free ebook of this story from the author.