Archive for the ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy’ Category

Readers Advisory: ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

9780765379948_59f81The editor-in-chief of the science fiction site, Charlie Jane Anders, is receiving critical attention for her new novel  All the Birds in the Sky (Macmillan/Tor Books; OverDrive Sample), which is an example of the rich possibilities along the crossroads of genre.

As we reported last week, it is a Feb. Indie Next pick. In addition praising the story, characters, and writing, reviewers say Anders is re-examining the genre.

The Los Angeles Times offers:

“[A] brilliant, cross-genre novel [that has all] the hallmarks of an instant classic. It’s a beautifully written, funny, tremendously moving … Like the work of other 21st century writers — Kelly Link and Lev Grossman come immediately to mind — All the Birds in the Sky serves as both a celebration of and corrective to the standard tropes of genre fiction.”

Cory Doctorow agrees, writing on Boing Boing that the novel is “smartass, soulful … everything you could ask for … a fresh look at science fiction’s most cherished memes, ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.”

The Guardian echoes those thoughts, saying that the novel “subverts genres … coming up with something greater than the sum of its parts … the result is a weird and charming read.”

Finally, Jason Heller, reviewing for NPR, says:

Anders has been writing with passion and insight about science fiction and fantasy for years — so it only makes sense that … she’s melded the two genres in a way that opens a profound, poetic new perspective on each … With All the Birds in the Sky, Anders has given us a fresh set of literary signposts — and a new bundle of emotional metaphors — for the 21st century, replacing the so many of the tired old ones. Oh, and she’s gently overturned genre fiction along the way.”

All the attention has yet to transfer into large hold queues but this is certainly a book to watch as award season comes around again.

Today on io9, in the essay “What It Means To Be a Science Fiction Writer in the Early 21st Century,” she describes how the process of writing the book led to her believe that “There is a huge opportunity, in 2016, for authors (and creators of all kinds) to scrape off the accumulated layers of meta from old story ideas—and to come up with brand new story ideas as well.”

Anders also recently gave a Harvard TedX presentation.

Winter Is NOT Coming
Anytime Soon

Monday, January 4th, 2016


“THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished.”

With those stark words, George R.R. Martin sums up his lowest point of 2015, confessing on his blog that he failed to complete The Winds of Winter before the new season of HBO’s adaptation, Game of Thrones, begins airing again in mid-April.

In what amounts to a baring of the authorial soul in the sad grip of “bad writing days,” Martin says to his fans that it gave him:

“… no pleasure to type those words. You’re disappointed, and you’re not alone. My editors and publishers are disappointed, HBO is disappointed, my agents and foreign publishers and translators are disappointed … but no one could possibly be more disappointed than me. For months now I have wanted nothing so much as to be able to say, ‘I have completed and delivered THE WINDS OF WINTER’ on or before the last day of 2015 … But the book’s not done…. I am months away still… and that’s if the writing goes well.”

Martin goes on to confesse he has no idea when the book will be done, asserts that deadlines simply “stress him out,” and says the book will “be done when it’s done. And it will be as good as I can possibly make it.”

Addressing the concerns of fans worried that the HBO series will reveal spoilers he says “Some of the ‘spoilers’ you may encounter in season six may not be spoilers at all… because the show and the books have diverged, and will continue to do so.”

He goes on to point out that people read books and watch adaptations of those books in various orders all the time so the question of the series spoiling the novels is really “Maybe. Yes and no.”

It is a your-mileage-may-vary answer and he defensively supports it with a list of dozens of characters who have already had different fates in his books than on the HBO series.

Nancy Pearl’s New Year’s Pick

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

9780804137171  9780553419719_04f49

Looking for a book for the New Year, something a bit different that crosses a number of popular genres? In her most recent KUOW radio appearance, librarian Nancy Pearl offers a suggestion, the 2014 genre-blending City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample).

Saying it’s exciting to discover an author she has never read before, especially one with a backlist to explore, Nancy discusses the first in Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy (the second, City of Blades, PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample will be published on Jan. 26), a cross between mystery, fantasy, and SF about a land once ruled by incarnate gods and a young spy sent on a mission to catch a murderer.

The beginning is a bit odd, she says but the story and the world-building quickly caught her attention and drew her in.

She is not alone in that assessment.

NPR’s reviewer says he put the book down three times but,

“I also came back, drawn by something about City of Stairs, even in those interminable opening pages … It was the shine of a wholly and fully realized world. The hard gleam of competence coming from a writer who knows what he’s doing, where he’s going and just exactly how to get there … Bennett is plainly a writer in love with the world he has built — and with good cause. It’s a great world, original and unique, with a scent and a texture, a sense of deep, bloody history, and a naturally blended magic living in the stones.”

Novelizations, No Phantom Menace

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

9781101965498_0e088We don’t often see reviews of novelizations, but in The Washington Post Elizabeth Hand addresses the question, “You’ve seen the new Star Wars movie — should you read the book tie-in?” Her answer may be a bit biased. She wrote the novelization of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys as well as a few Star Wars titles.

She reveals that authors “typically don’t see the film before they write the book. They’re given a screenplay and some still photos, and they work from that.”

Some may believe that novelizations were a 70s phenomenon, but Hand dates the popularity of books based on movies as far back as The Perils of Pauline, The Ten Commandments, and Metropolis, and writes that Jack London even made money as a novelizer.

Other well-known authors such as John Steinbeck, Orson Welles, Graham Greene and Arthur Miller produced them as well. Take that, novelization snobs.

As to the newest Star Wars novelization, The Force Awakens (PRH/Del Rey/LucasBooks; Random House Audio/BOT), Hand loves it, saying author Alan Dean Foster (who also wrote the very first Star Wars novelization although it got credited to George Lucas), does the movie “proud.”

At this point, the only available edition is the eBook. The print version has been delayed until January, for fear that hackers would get into printers’ files and reveal key plot points before the movie’s release. Hand says the reading experience is “fast-moving, atmospheric and raises goose bumps at just the right moments … it’s a testament to Foster’s skill and professionalism that he not only evokes entire onscreen worlds but that he also gives us glimpses of an even more vast, unseen universe that has arisen from his impressive imagination.”

So cheer up Star Wars fans, even as the movie ends, the story does not.

MAGICIANS, Sneak Preview

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

9780399576645_c2490After last night’s final episode of Childhood’s End, adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel, the Syfy channel gave viewers an early look at the pilot for The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s novel, which is set to begin  January 25th..

It’s not clear why they decided to release the pilot ahead of the series, but if they were hoping to build buzz through good reviews, that didn’t work out.

The fan site Den of Geek is the most positive, acknowledging that the pilot is overstuffed, but “With a number of paths towards mystery and adventure (perhaps too many) already established, there’s plenty of material to explore, both from the novels and this already quite different screen adaptation. Fans of the Grossman trilogy and of the fantasy TV genre are both sure to be pleased.”

Salon‘s reviewer notes that the adaptation “makes big changes but keeps the heart of the original books,” objecting that “it’s hard to not feel rushed through the pilot  … Which is too bad, because the story of The Magicians would be well-served with a little bit more time to breathe,” and concludes, “it’s a bit too early to judge the show, even on potential. The rapid-fire introduction of all of the characters and major plot drivers doesn’t do any of it real justice”

Entertainment Weekly’s reviewer hasn’t read the books, but spends quite a bit of time analyzing how the TV version relates to other books (the Narnia series, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass) and ends up giving the pilot a middling B.

The Wrap is the most damning;  “Imagine a horny Hogwarts and you’re on the wavelength of The Magicians, a somewhat intriguing, occasionally diverting, mostly just silly and campy adaptation ” — After only one episode, it would take a clairvoyant to know whether “The Magicians” will eventually develop into an agreeably dark and twisty piece of juicy genre fare, but at this early stage its future looks murky.”

Tie-in: The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Plume).

Season Six in April

Friday, December 4th, 2015

The first teaser for the next season of HBO’s Game of Thrones has just arrived, along with the news that it will debut in April.

Those 41 seconds are bringing much speculation on what will happen this season (see Rolling Stone, the Telegraph, and Wired).

There is no tie-in to turn to because George RR Martin has not yet completed the sixth in the book series, Winds of Winter, although he recently dropped hints about what to expect. In the past, he declared it was his goal was to finish it before the HBO series begins. That window is now getting shorter.

Back to 11/22/63

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

On President’s Day, 2016, we will travel back in time to 11/22/63, the date John F. Kennedy was assassinated, via an 8-part series based on the novel by Stephen King. Produced by J.J. Abrams, it will stream on Hulu and feature James Franco as a teacher going back in time to stop the assassination.

The first trailer was recently released. No tie-ins have been announced.


Monday, November 30th, 2015

9780544817289_23384The new Amazon series, The Man in the High Castle began streaming last week and is bringing people to the Philip K. Dick novel on which it is based. The trade paperback edition debuted at #13 on the NYT‘s  list and is rising on Amazon’s sales rankings, now at #34.

Coverage, as we have been reporting (here, here, and here), is both plentiful and favorable, powering the book’s rise along with heavy promotion by Amazon.

Holds are also strong, spiking to 8:1 in some locations. Resourceful readers are even seeking out the Library America edition containing The Man in the High Castle along with three other Dick novels.

To feed the demand, a tie-in edition (HMH/Mariner Books; OverDrive Sample) just arrived with cover art that evokes the dystopian alternate reality of the series.

Once readers get their hands on the book they will find, as Laura Miller, Slate’s books and culture columnist, writes, a story very different than the one currently streaming on Amazon.

“the new TV series is so alien to the book in spirit that it would be a shame if it came to supplant our understanding of what is also one of the best mid-20th-century American novels about colonialism and its corrosive effects on the human psyche.”

On a side note, the PR for the show is gathering its own attention.

NPR’s The Two-Way reports that the New York Metro Transportation Authority has removed Nazi-themed subway advertisements for the show at the request of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the call as well, saying the images are “irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers.” (NPR has images of the subway cars as part of their story).

A second trailer captures the alternate reality and the moody feel of the show:

David Mitchell takes on
Genre Snobbery

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

9780812976823_4747a 9780812998689_94f63David Mitchell just won the 2015 World Fantasy Awards for The Bone Clocks, (Random House; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample).

His most recent book, Slade House, published last month (Random House; Random House Audio and BOT; OverDrive Sample), is a blend of genres.

Few authors are in such a strong position to call out the war on genre. In Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast he does so in no uncertain terms, calling it a “bizarre act of self-mutilation” for readers to avoid certain genres, such as SF or Fantasy, or only read certain kinds of fiction.

“The book doesn’t care if it’s science fiction,” he says. “The book doesn’t give a damn about genre, it just is what it is.”

In a wide-ranging interview Mitchell also talks Dungeons & Dragons and its relation to Slade House, defends and praises Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and extols Andy Weir’s The Martian. He is a big fan of Susan Cooper as well and discusses how Ursula K. Le Guin sparked his desire to be a writer:

“I have clear memories from way back of finishing A Wizard of Earthsea on a rainy Saturday morning, and just having this incandescent urge inside me, like a magnesium ribbon, that I badly wanted to do that as well. I wanted to make those worlds and people—those imaginary worlds—and send them on journeys, and give them quests, and make other people feel what she had made me feel.”


Catching Up With Nancy Pearl

Monday, October 26th, 2015

In her recent weekly book chats airing on Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW librarian Nancy Pearl talks Mystery and Fantasy.

9781608197088_acf81Last week she discussed Tabula Rasa (Bloomsbury USA; Tantor audio; OverDrive Sample) by Ruth Downie, the newest in Downie’s Ruso mysteries set in Roman Britain. Just released in paperback, the sixth in the series takes place while the Romans are building Hadrian’s Wall and involves the case of a missing British boy.

Nancy says that Downie “give such a picture of the time and the place” that she feels she is taking a wonderful Roman history class as she reads them.

9780763681845_f6f18On October 6, Nancy addressed Fantasy with the last book written by the late Mal Peet, The Murdstone Trilogy: A Novel (Candlewick; Candlewick on Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Peet, who passed away in March, might have been best known for his YA novels, but Nancy loved this adult send-up of writing in general and Fantasy in particular.

Calling it “sui generis” she says it’s like nothing she has ever read before.

The story is about a writer urged by his agent to change his focus from YA realistic fiction to Fantasy so he can start to sell books again. Knowing nothing of the genre he makes a deal with a strange creature – the creature will write the novel in exchange for a mysterious amulet.

Nancy says the story “totally charmed” her and is full of word play, satire, and wonderfully humorous set pieces.

It is also an open question as to what the novel actually is, not a trilogy at all as the subtitle makes clear and perhaps not a Fantasy either, making it a challenge for catalogers.

Slate’s AudioBook Club Features THE MARTIAN

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

9781101905005_e42deThe team at Slate are back with their next book club pick, this time it is the ongoing best seller and basis for the blockbuster movie, The Martian (Mass Market MTI; RH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample) by Andy Weir.

The discussion is wide ranging and at times persnickety as the three participants go back and forth with negative and positive responses.

Katy Waldman, Slate’s words correspondent, was “weirdly riveted” by the process of how astronaut Mark Watney works through the catastrophes involved in being abandoned on Mars, but she summarizes it as “nerd-wish fulfillment fantasy, the next wave of reality shows, like Survivor Mars” and in the end can only recommend it with reservations. However, she recommends the movie wholeheartedly.

Laura Miller, books and culture columnist for Slate, is the most positive on the book, offering some book-discussion worthy ideas, comparing it to several recent novels in which the protagonists work through complex processes to avert disasters, such as Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves.

November’s conversation will address one of the year’s most talked-about literary novels, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday), currently up for two major awards. It is the favorite among odds makers to win the Booker Prize, to be announced later today. On the National Book Awards longlist, we will learn if it makes the shortlist tomorrow.


Monday, October 12th, 2015

New trailers for several forthcoming adaptations made their debuts at at New York Comic Con over the weekend. In addition to MTV’s Shadowhunters, which we covered earlier, the following three were featured.

The Magicians, Syfy channel, 12 episodes, beginning January 15

Official Web site:

Based on: Lev Grossman, The Magicians, fantasy trilogy (The Magicians, 2009; The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land)

Tie-in: Lev Grossman, The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) (Penguin/Putnam, 11/24/15)

Shannara Chronicles,  MTV, 10 episodes beginning January 5

Official Web site:

Based on: Terry Brooks, Shannara series (first in the series is Sword Of Shannara, but the first in the TV series is based on the second book Elfstones Of Shannara)


Terry Brooks, The Elfstones of Shannara (The Shannara Chronicles) (TV Tie-in Edition), (RH/Del Rey; mass market; 12/1/15)

Terry Brooks, The Wishsong of Shannara (The Shannara Chronicles) (TV Tie-in Edition) (RH/Del Rey; 12/1/15)

Outcast, Cinemax, 10 episodes begin 2016 (no exact release date yet)

Official Web Site:

Based on: Robert Kirkman comics, Outcast

Tie-ins: the series and the comics are being created simultaneously. The first collected edition of the comics was published earlier this year. Volume 2 arrives this week.(Image Comics).

In Dallas, It’s 11/22/63 Again

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Tourists at Dealy Plaza in Dallas were treated to eerie reminders of the past, as filming for the Hulu series based on Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 (S&S/Scribner, 2011) is wrapping up.

Produced by J.J. Abrams and starring James Franco, the series is expected to air next year.

TWILIGHT Reimagined

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

8e4c5dd6b8835b2f1bac34a6aae2a166  life-and-death

Ten years ago readers met Bella Swan and her dreamy vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen. Their story inspired teen bands, converted adults to YA fiction, and gave rise to Team Edward and Team Jacob.

To celebrate the milestone, author Stephenie Meyer has a surprise for fans, she has re-written the book and switched the gender roles in Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Hachette/Little, Brown; Listening Library).

The story now features Beau Swan, the new boy in Forks, WA and the vampire girl he falls for, Edythe Cullen (see Entertainment Weekly‘s glossary of name changes).

This is not just a find-and-replace-the-names job. According to Entertainment Weekly, it is 442 pages of reimagining, in which Meyer also took the opportunity to re-edit for “grammar and word choice issues” and correct some of the mythology. EW also reports (based on reading the forward to the new edition) that Meyer decided to switch the characters in response to critics who slammed her for creating a female “damsel in distress.”

The rewrite is being published as a flipbook with the original version of Twlight and new cover art.

Meyer appeared on Good Morning America yesterday. When her publisher asked for a forward for the milestone edition, she decided to do something more fun and interesting. She also shares that the story changes more deeply further into the novel, although it begins almost the same. Don’t expect more, however, she says she does not expect to rewrite the other titles in the series.

None of the trade publications reviewed Meyer’s latest but it is getting plenty of attention in consumer media from Bustle to Variety.

Ordering is very light (to nonexistent) at libraries we checked. Those that own it, however, are showing few holds, but the book rose to #1 on Amazon’s sales rankings.


Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.04.11 AMAfter its heady initial run in 2011, Ernest Cline’s debut Ready Player One, (RH/Crown; Random House Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) is getting new buzz as it makes its way to movie theaters.

Director Steven Spielberg has found his female lead, Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,  Bates Motel). According to The Hollywood Reporter, she beat out Elle Fanning and Lola Kirke for the role of Art3mis and is currently in negotiations to finalize the deal. THR comments, “The role is major breakthrough for Cooke, a rising talent who’s been working mostly in the indie world,” Meanwhile, the search for a male lead continues.

The story has been picked up by the consumer press and fan sites — Entertainment Weekly, io9, and MTV.

Holds are still strong in many libraries, with some still topping a 3:1 ratio. At other libraries, all copies are in circulation.