Connie Willis, Crosstalk (2016)

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Connie Willis, one of the most critically acclaimed SF writers of our times, the winner of 11 Hugo Awards and 7 Nebula Awards, the 28th SFWA Grand Master… The list goes on and on. We’ve reviewed some of her works before on Re-enchantment – Blackout/All Clear and Passage; we’ve read many more – and here a really big shout goes to To Say Nothing Of The Dog, which to this day remains my favorite Connie Willis novel.

So, Crosstalk; the newest Willis’ novel, in her own words, is:

about telepathy–and our overly communicating world. It’s also about helicopter mothers, social media, Joan of Arc, sugared cereals, Bridey Murphy, online dating, zombie movies, Victorian novels, and those annoying songs you get stuck in your head and can’t get rid of!

(More of Willis’ thoughts on Crosstalk here.)

It sounded like fun – and besides, Willis always writes greatly enjoyable novels – at least from my limited experience :). Telepathy and Irish, a touch of Powers’ penchant for conspiracy theories, contemporary covens and a bit of light-hearted satire on our over-social-medialized world… If every ingredient is tasty, then, logically, the dish you prepare from them should be tasty too, right? Not.

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The new Red Sonja (2013-?)

Red Sonja. Female version of Conan the Barbarian, in a way lingerie football* is a female version of American football.

*There really is such a thing, and apparently quite popular in the US. Isn’t it a perfect summary of what is worst in today’s pop-culture? The worst trends in advertising and entertainment combining sport and sex to appeal to the lowest instincts of mass audience. And there is talk of empowerment and providing role models for little girls, of course… and fining players for not revealing enough skin.

This digression is not completely out of topic, because Red Sonja seems to be part of the same problem. Pulp had its strong points and can still be fun to read, but it also targeted male teenage audience with soft erotica in days when it had to be disguised and the regular porn was not easily available. Scantily clad women on the covers, damsels in distress rewarding dashing heroes with their graces, and sometimes sword-wielding females like Sonja, inspired but slightly different fantasies of authors and readers. Still, no actual women were hurt and left without medical help in the process, so maybe these were better times…

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Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire (2014)

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Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, the first installment in her Worldbreaker Saga, came to my attention when Adrian Czajkowski recommended it on his blog. If not for his short review, I doubt I would have even known the book existed. And it would have been a missed chance, because even if it’s not a masterpiece – and to be frank, it’s not, not by a long shot – the book’s worldbuilding and the sheer size of the what-if exercise poured onto its pages is something definitely worth acquainting oneself with. Just look at the gorgeous cover! 🙂 Angry Robot really knows how to do them.

Hurley creates a world teeming with poisonous, semi-sentient plant life, and a variety of wizard priests, whose power is derived from one of the natural satellites circling the planet. There are four main moons, and four types of magic associated with them. Every talented person can pull on the power of one satellite: Tira, Para, Sina or Oma. Rarely, there are people able to pull on more than one magic. But as the satellites circle the planet on their respective paths, their magic waxes and wanes, according to their position on the sky. The most mysterious and dangerous of them all is Oma, the black moon, or maybe just a black hole, giving unearthly power to those who are able to wield it, and raining destruction on the worlds as she nears them. Oma is the harbinger of death and profound change; once she passes, the world is never the same. And – yeah, you’ve got it – she is coming, much earlier than any of the star gazers could have anticipated.

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If this is not complex enough for you, let me add the twist: there are many worlds like this, each a reflection of the world described in the novel. There are changes, of course, but even the people are the same on every world. Which means that if one is to move through a rent between the dimensions to another world, his or her mirror twin needs to be dead.

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R. Scott Bakker, The Warrior Prophet (2005)

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The Warrior Prophet is the second installment in Bakker’s well-known trilogy Prince of Nothing. The first book, The Darkness That Comes Before, brought about an intriguing world, closely mirroring early medieval Europe, particularly the First Crusade, but also imbued with many-flavored, dangerous magic as well as with a secret knowledge of a past Apocalypse.

The first installment, despite its numerous flaws detailed in my earlier review, had been promising enough to lure me into reading the second book. The first book in any trilogy is an opening. A statement, a brag, an invitation. It shouts loudly and clearly the intentions and ambitions of an author, but it is also, maybe even mainly, a promise. A promise of what will come after – after the game is set, the figures introduced and prepared for action, and the beginnings of all the plot strands are woven. It’s also a promise of getting ever better. The second book should fulfill that promise, leaving the readers yearning for more, waiting for a satisfying, all-encompassing conclusion of part three (at least in case of trilogy). Does The Warrior Prophet deliver on that promise?

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R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before (2003)

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I’m back from vacation, at least for a few days ;). And thus I can give you the first review from my summer readings :).

The first installment in the famous grimdark sequence The Prince of Nothing, The Darkness That Comes Before, is as long and convoluted as its title. An almost 650 pages long, heavy piece of literary work (both literally and figuratively), Bakker’s debut had been a resounding one as well.

A time of Second Apocalypse is nigh… Sounds captivating, doesn’t it? It means that the First Apocalypse had already happened, that it wasn’t as all-encompassing as to kill everyone, and that survivors managed to carry the knowledge of that terrible event through the centuries to come. Unfortunately those in the know are few and far between, and do not enjoy any kind of esteem from their contemporaries. So it doesn’t come as a big surprise that they somehow failed to share their knowledge with others, and in the consequence, the majority of the humanity is heading blindly and meekly, like lambs, to their slaughter.

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Jay Faerber, Copperhead (2014-…)

Wow, that was the longest break ever, for various reasons.  Sorry. Shit happens…

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There is more to comics than Marvel & DC. There is weird European stuff and there are things like Saga or Copperhead. And many many others. But I wanted to call everybody’s attention to Copperhead.

Still a new thing, published by Image from late 2014, with only two collected volumes out on the market.  Written by Jay Faerber, illustrated by Scott Godlewski, this space western features a single mum who becomes sheriff of a small town on a peripheral desert planet. Full of proven tropes, sometimes reversed, sometimes played straight, a great read for genre lovers.

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Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana (1990)

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A successful lawyer, a philosophy student who helped Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion edits, a reasonably well-known author of award-winning fantasy novels, Kay is a veritable jack of all trades. He prefers to set his novels in historical periods, but in imaginary settings, which allows him to create interesting parallels without the burden of fact-checking ;). Although it may be a bit unfair to judge him so harshly – I think that writing responsible historical fiction is a very difficult task and I’m the last to blame anyone if they prefer to concentrate on character development or creating worlds of their own.

And Tigana is set in such a world: one strikingly similar to Renaissance Italy, called Peninsula of the Palm and divided into nine separate provinces sharing a long, not always benevolent or peaceful history. Tigana is the name of one of the provinces; when two warring tyrants with magical powers conquer the subsequent pieces of land, Tigana is the last one to be subdued. In the battle there the son of one of the tyrants, Brandin, dies. Stricken by grief, Brandin decides to erase the name of Tigana and all of its history from the human memory. But there are survivors. One of them is Alessan, the last prince of Tigana. The others – Catriana, Dianora, Devin and the duke Sandre d’Astibar – he gathers around himself as he prepares his vengeance against Brandin.

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