Archive for the ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy’ Category

RA Alert: Diverse Fantasy on NPR

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

NPR,org  is on something of a Fantasy spree, devoting stories to Terry Pratchett’s last novel and, in what seems like a direct response to both the Hugos and the We Need Diverse Books campaign, offering two reviews that highlight the diversity of the genre, its authors, and its characters.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.44.20 PMOne is Bradley P. Beaulieu’s newest novel, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Penguin/DAW; Brilliance Audio), a Silk Road Fantasy, set not in the fantasy genre’s  familiar quasi-medieval world of Western Europe but in locales inspired by and situated within Eastern cultures. For Beaulieu that means Islamic and Ancient Egyptian influences fill this first of a new series.

NPR.org’s reviewer Jason Heller sings the novel’s praises noting itsintricate, suspenseful” plot, the female “gladiator by trade” central character who is “fierce…dynamic, multilayered, utterly fascinating,” and a setting created out of a “fabulist mix of cultures.”

In recommending readers dive in he offers this ready-made RA annotation:

Fantasy and horror, catacombs and sarcophagi, resurrections and revelations: The book has them all, and Beaulieu wraps it up in a package that’s as graceful and contemplative as it is action-packed and pulse-pounding. As fantasy continues to diversify and open itself up to a more vibrant representation of cultures and possibilities, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai should rank among the most satisfying.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.46.53 PMThe second of NPR’s most recent picks is Zen Cho’s debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown (Penguin/Ace; OverDrive Sample).

Reviewer Amal El-Mohtar says it nods towards Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in its settings and blend of real world and magic, but that it “actively exploits gaps and shortcomings in” Clarke’s modern classic.

In a packed and multifaceted review, El-Mohtar neatly explains the many-threaded plot:

When Sir Stephen Wythe, England’s Sorcerer Royal, dies in mysterious circumstances, his adopted black son Zacharias takes up the Sorcerer’s staff amid malicious mutterings that he murdered his guardian for the position. The timing is terrible: Besides being in disgrace with Fairyland, England is enmeshed in non-magical war with France and in tense diplomatic talks with the Sultan of Janda Baik over the matter of witches and snake-women. Zacharias must contend with an overreaching government, assassination attempts, the decline of magic — and, most unexpectedly, with Prunella Gentleman, a dark-skinned young Englishwoman of uncertain parentage who wishes to escape her magical school and enter society.

And then heaps praise on Cho for her approach and execution:

Cho foregrounds characters that are usually treated as curiosities and set pieces in Regency fiction giving them complex inner lives and thoroughly enriching her world-building as a result… Cho’s achieved something remarkable in making corrupt bureaucracy more terrifying than dragons; ambitious baronets more dangerous than vampires. I was genuinely chilled by the depiction of powerful men’s whims where magic and the Sorcerer Royal’s position were concerned: Dragons can be fought and beaten, but white supremacy and institutional oppression are as atmospheric as the magic in Cho’s world.

Lest she leave readers thinking that Cho’s novel is a slog, El-Mohtar is also quick to point out

Absolutely everything about this book is delightful. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy novel that made me laugh so much — and as often as I laughed, I gasped, I shouted rude words at offending characters, and just generally fell over myself with admiration for Cho’s dextrous depiction of Regency manners and wit.

THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN Reviewed

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.20.58 AMNPR posted a sneak peek of Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown (HarperCollins; HarperCollinsAudio and Blackstone Audio) last week and on its heels comes Michael Dirda’s RA-friendly review and very helpful summary of the entire Tiffany Aching story arc.

Writing in The Washington Post, Dirda guides readers through Tiffany’s adventures, starting with The Wee Free Men (2003) and continuing through A Hat Full of Sky (2004), Wintersmith (2006) and I Shall Wear Midnight (2010). He explains both the story arc and the point of the adventures.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.43.34 AMDirda clearly admires Pratchett and adores Tiffany, sharing an excerpt from The Wee Free Men:

“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. . . . “All the monsters are coming back.”

“Why?” said Tiffany.

“There’s no one to stop them.”

There was silence for a moment.

“There’s me,” said Tiffany.

Writing about his feelings when reading, re-reading, and thinking of that passage, Dirda says, “Even now, I feel a thrill just typing those words.”

Readers’ advisory librarians in search of a quick catchup will be happy not only with Dirda’s summary but the way he shares his joy in the entire series.

The review ends with a quick summary:

The Shepherd’s Crown is certainly a worthy crown to Terry Pratchett’s phenomenal artistic achievement, though sharp readers will recognize that some elements… are never fully developed. Moreover, anyone expecting lots of laughs will need to revisit some of the other books set on Discworld… much of this novel concerns itself with death and life’s purpose, while also examining the claims of tradition against the need for change and progress. Above all, though, The Shepherd’s Crown — like all of Pratchett’s fiction — stresses the importance of helping others.

Sneak Peek: Terry Pratchett’s
Final Novel

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.20.58 AMAn exclusive excerpt of Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown (HarperCollins; HarperCollinsAudio and Blackstone Audio) is online.

Posted yesterday as part of NPR’s “First Read” series, the book jumped up the Amazon’s sales rankings as a result.

The final novel in the Discworld series, Pratchett completed it in 2014, prior to his death earlier this year. NPR describes Discworld as “a magical flat land borne through space on the backs of four elephants and a giant cosmic turtle … full of memorable characters” It will hit shelves on Tuesday.

The Hugos: Cixin Liu Wins,
the Puppies Lose

Monday, August 24th, 2015

The 2015 Hugo Awards were presented Saturday in Spokane Washington during WorldCon, the annual World Science Fiction Convention.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 10.00.39 AMThe Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Macmillan/Tor Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) won for Best Novel. An alien invasion story, it is the first English language translation of one of China’s top SF authors. It was reviewed on the NPR site last fall.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 10.02.31 AMBest Graphic Story went to Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics; GraphicAudio). The series stars a teenage girl, Kamala Khan, the first Muslim lead character in the Marvel universe. Here is a link to the audio.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 10.20.32 AMGuardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company) won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form while Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America) won Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Wesley Chu who has also won an Alex Award for The Lives of Tao (PRH/Angry Robot, 2013).

In response to accusations of ballot stuffing the nomination process, many voting members elected to select “No Award” rather than see the Hugo go to a title supported by the conservative group known as the “puppies” (see our overview of the controversy).

This occurred in the categories of Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Editor, Short Form, and Best Editor, Long Form, each of which were “won” by No Award. Many of these categories were either overwhelmingly affected by the ballot stuffing or only included “puppy” nominees.

In their liveblogging of the event, io9 said: “voting ‘No Award’ is a very legitimate choice, that’s always been possible. And it’s a very legit response to a small, tiny group of people trying to exploit a loophole in the nomination process to impose their choices on the vast majority of fans. This is fandom rejecting abusive behavior, and also saying that they want science fiction to have an open mind and consider many viewpoints.”

TV Turns to Magic, Monsters
and Myths

Monday, August 17th, 2015

It’s no surprise that the success of HBO’s Game of Thrones is spawning a whole new appreciation for the genre in the TV world. Variety trumpets that “Game of Thrones Leads Fantasy TV’s Transformation from Geek to Chic” noting,  “On tap for the 2015-16 season are no fewer than five series based on literary works that deal with magic, monsters, mythical realms or heroic quests.”

Those five series listed below:

MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles — ten episode series to begin January, 2016. Based on Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, the first in the book series is Sword Of Shannara, but the first in the TV series will be based on the second book Elfstones Of Shannara. Tie-in — see our movie and TV tie-ins.

Syfy’s The Magicians  — twelve episode series to begin January, 2016. Based on Lev Grossman’s  The Magicians fantasy trilogy (The Magicians, 2009; The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land). No tie-ins have been announced.

ABC Family’s Shadowhunters — Early 2016. Cassandra Clare’s YA series beginning with The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, (S&S/ M.K. McElderry Books, 2007). It was also made into a movie in 2013. Plans to turn it into a franchise when it flopped at the box office. the producers think it will do better as a TV series. Tie-ins — see our movie and TV tie-ins. Web site: Shadowhunterstv.com

NBC’s Emerald City — 2016, A “modern reimagining” of Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz, with stories drawn from all 14 books in the series. No tie-in has been announced.

Starz’s American Gods — 2016. Based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, (HarperCollins/Morrow, 2001). No tie-in has been announced.

Gaining Attention: John Scalzi

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.42.14 AMJohn Scalzi is a name to know in the world of SF, but as he wryly observes in L.A. Times, that is “exactly like being the best-known bluegrass artist in the country.”

Readers’ advisory librarians will disagree. Scalzi is not only an award winner but also a reliable sure bet for recommendations. It is true, however, that he has yet to gain major name recognition outside of science fiction’s devoted circle of fans.

That is likely to change. He signed a multi-million dollar contract with Tor last spring for 13 books to be delivered over the next 10 years.

The New York Times reported the story at the time and quoted Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the executive editor for Tor, that while Scalzi has never had a “No. 1 best seller he backlists like crazy … one of the reactions of people reading a John Scalzi novel is that people go out and buy all the other Scalzi novels.”

As Scalzi told Den of Geek in a recent interview, some of the 13 new books will be YA titles (they won’t necessarily be SF or fantasy; one is a contemporary story), and will include an epic space opera outside his established Old Man’s War series.

His newest book, The End of All Things (Macmillan/Tor; Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample), the sixth title in that universe, was published last week.

He also has an audio-only project in the works for Audible (unavailable to libraries, but sister Amazon company, Brilliance often publishes Audible titles as CD’s).

In addition, several of his titles have been optioned for TV series. That bluegrass analogy is likely to change.

Philip K. Dick, The Small Screen Version

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.38.59 AM  Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 11.40.14 AM

Philip K. Dick is having something of a moment … yet again.

Long beloved in the SF world, his novels and short stories have also long been adapted into movies including Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority ReportBlade Runner and A Scanner Darkly.

Now Dick is poised to make a splash on the small screen with a TV version of Minority Report (actually a sequel to the movie starring Tom Cruise, which was in turn based on the 2002 short story by Dick). airing on FOX beginning Sept. 21 and an adaption of The Man in the High Castle streaming via Amazon Prime starting Nov. 20 (poster at left, above and the cover of the most recent reissue of the book, HMH, 2012. No tie-in has been announced).

The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history in which the Axis powers won WWII and are ruling America, is getting a lot of attention. We wrote about its premier at Comic-Con, Entertainment Weekly is on board with frequent coverage, and the series is getting play in both mainstream media and specialized blogs.

Jeff Jensen writing for Entertainment Weekly reviewed the entire Amazon line up under the headline “Amazon pilot reviews: The Man in the High Castle is king” and said of the opener “this well-cast, well-acted, swell-looking pilot is by far the most polished of the group. It’s engrossing despite its stately pace, and a triumph of world building. [It] could be Amazon’s first successful attempt at big saga TV.”

Amazon says it is their most-watched pilot to date, reports Newsweek, also quoting executive producer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) “[the story] raises all kinds of questions about reality and what it means to be human in an inhuman world … The chance to dramatize it was just irresistible.”

Den of Geek has posted an interview with several of the executive producers, including Dick’s daughter Isa Dick-Hackett, David W. Zucker (The Good Wife), and Spotnitz. When asked just what it was about Dick’s writing that makes it so perennially popular his daughter replied:

He would be astounded that we’re sitting here talking about titles of 50-60 years past. Maybe people have caught up to his work. I think with every film adaptation the following grows and hopefully it brings people back to the written work. When he talked about technology it wasn’t just about the technology itself. It was about the how it impacted human beings and what it means to be human. What is reality? Those are universal questions and I think it is part of the draw.

The first episode of The Man in the High Castle is currently available free on Amazon. Trailer, below.

Ernest Cline: New Book Deal

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 11.11.38 AM  9780804137256_05e3b-2

First came a video game Easter egg hunt in Ready Player One (RH/Crown, 2011) then an alien invasion in Armada (RH/Crown; RH & BOT Audio; OverDrive Sample) and now comes the news via the Hollywood Reporter that Ernest Cline has just signed a contract for his third book, to be published by PRH’s Crown Publishing. Details are sketchy at best but the book will be another SF title.

Negotiations for the film rights to the untitled project begin this week. The rights to Armada were sold just after the ink was dry on that book contract. In addition. the the film adaptation of Ready Player One has just been set for release on Dec. 15, 2017 with Steven Spielberg directing the Warner Bros project.

All of this has prompted Deadline Hollywood to crown Cline as the next “Hollywood Franchise Author.”

Both of Cline’s novels have hit the NYT Bestseller lists. Ready Player One continues its long run on the trade paperback list and Armada hit the hardcover Fiction list in its first week of publication.

Librarians have been supporters of the books, making Cline’s debut the number one favorite of 2011 in a Twitter poll.

THE MARTIAN, New Viral Teaser

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Get ready for a full-on marketing campaign for the movie adaptation of Andy Weir’s debut sci-fi novel, The Martian (RH/Crown). Following the first trailer, released last month, comes a clip that cleverly introduces the characters.

The movie which debuts on Oct. 2, is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan and Kate Mara.

9781101905005_1ed84The Martian (Mass Market MTI)
Andy Weir
RH/Broadway; October 13, 2015
Mass Market; $9.99 USD, $12.99 CAD
9781101905005, 110190500X

THE MARTIAN Trailer Bump

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Sometimes movie adaptations bring new attention to the books they are based on, and sometimes all it takes it the release of the movie trailer.

USA Today notes that Andy Weir’s debut sci-fi novel, The Martian (RH/Crown), rose to its highest level, #4 on their June 18 best seller list, following the tailer’s debut. This week, it is still in the top ten, at #9.

The tie-in features a closeup of Matt Damon, who stars as an astronaut stranded on Mars. The movie debuts on  Oct. 2.

9781101905005_1ed84The Martian (Mass Market MTI)
Andy Weir
RH/Broadway; October 13, 2015
Mass Market; $9.99 USD, $12.99 CAD
9781101905005, 110190500X

 

Zuckerberg Picks SF Classic

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.16.25 AMMark Zuckerberg’s next Facebook reading club pick is a cult SF favorite, Iain M. Banks’s The Player of Games (originally published in 1988, now available from Hachette/Orbit; Hachette Audio/Blackstone; OverDrive Sample). It is the second of the Culture novels, a series that many consider a touchstone of the genre (the first is Consider Phlebas and the most recent is The Hydrogen Sonata).

This is the first fiction title that  Zuckerbeg has picked in his “Year of Reading” program.  The Player of Games may prove more accessible than the previous ten books on various business, culture, and social science subjects, some of them fairly weighty. If nothing else a discussion about AI and future worlds hosted by one of today’s leading tech companies should prove interesting.

Locus Award Winners, 2015

Monday, June 29th, 2015

The 2015 Locus Awards, for outstanding Science Fiction and Fantasy are:

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.28.53 PMAnn Leckie won best SF novel for Ancillary Sword (Hachette/Orbit; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), the follow-up to Ancillary Justice which won the 2014 Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke awards.

Nominees in the category that had the bad luck of going up against that juggernaut are The Peripheral (Penguin/Putnam; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) by William Gibson, The Three-Body Problem (Macmillan/Tor; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) by Cixin Liu, Lock In (Macmillan/Tor; Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample) by John Scalzi (which was a LibraryReads pick for August 2014), and all three books in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. The first in the set, Annihilation (Macmillan/FSG; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), just won the 2015 Nebula.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.34.00 PMKatherine Addison won best Fantasy novel for The Goblin Emperor (Macmillan/Tor; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample).

It topped an equally strong group of nominees that includes Steles of the Sky (Macmillan/Tor; OverDrive Sample) by Elizabeth Bear, City of Stairs (Hachette/Jo Fletcher Books; OverDrive Sample) by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Magician’s Land (Penguin/Viking; Penguin Audio; OverDrive Sample) by Lev Grossman (also a LibraryReads pick for August 2014), and The Mirror Empire (PRH/Angry Robot; OverDrive Sample) by Kameron Hurley.

The Locus Awards are decided by the readers of Locus Magazine. A full list of winners and nominees can be seen on the io9 site.

MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
Comes to Comic-Con

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Marvel and a few other studios are sitting out the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con, causing Variety to  declare, “TV Takes Over Comic-Con as Film Studios Back Out” (perhaps they haven’t noticed that TV seems to be taking over everything these days).

Further, they say this offers “upstart digital networks looking to compete with their broadcast counterparts” an opportunity to get more exposure.

One of those upstarts is Amazon Studios, appearing at the show for the first time this year with two series, one of which is The Man in the High Castle, adapted from the iconic alternative reality novel by Philip K. Dick. A special screening of the first two episodes at Comic-Con on Friday, July 10 will also be live-streamed on Entertainment Weekly‘s site.

The series is directed by Ridley Scott, known for 1982 movie Blade Runner based, if somewhat loosely, on another iconic book by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The first, rather obscure, trailer to promote that event has just been released:

Comic-Con will also feature a first look at at Outcast, the upcoming Cinemax series based on the comics by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta.

AMERICAN GODS Closer to Screen

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

9780062059888_0_CoverAfter several years, and changes in both production companies and networks, the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel, American Gods, (HarperCollins/Morrow) is now officially green lighted to run on the Starz cable network.

Gaiman, quoted in The Hollywood Reporter, says “Now we finally move to the exciting business that fans have been doing for the last dozen years: casting our Shadow, our Wednesday, our Laura …”

The book moved up Amazon’s sales rankings to #240 (from #1,633) on the news.

Love & Hate for JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.25.59 PMIn 2004 Susanna Clarke published Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Bloomsbury; OverDrive Sample), a moody, lavish literary fantasy novel set in an alternative 19th century England full of magic.

It was a sensation, reaching number three on The New York Times bestseller list, winning the Hugo Award for best novel, and getting longlisted for the Man Booker.

Still, for all the readers who adored the book, including Neil Gaiman who praised it lavishly, there were others who were not as charmed.

Now the BBC has adapted it into a seven-part mini series, airing on this side of the ocean on BBC America (Saturdays at 10 p.m.) and reaction is split again.

Mary McNamara, writing for The LA Times’s “Jacket Copy” says it is “a deft combination of Dickensian satire, Austenian wit and Gothic anxiety. For those put off by beheadings and orgies and even for those who are not, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a welcome return to literate magical fantasy.”

David Fear, in his Rolling Stone review, calls it “extraordinary” and says that it offers “some of the most fantastic imported TV you’re likely to view this year… the show’s immersive deep dive into the mystic is likely to leave jaws on the living-room floor.”

Dissenters include Mike Hale writing for The New York Times. He calls it “largely unremarkable” and warns “those who enjoyed the best-selling book to temper their expectations.” The highest praise Hale manages is “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is great to look at. It moves along at a gallop, and it’s not boring, even if it’s not exactly engaging either. Most important, it has appealing performances by Bertie Carvel as Strange and particularly by Eddie Marsan as the crabbed and proud Norrell.”

The AV Club, slightly less disappointed, wraps up its review with “The BBC’s first episode demonstrates it can pull off the story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll pull off the magic.”

Those knocks aside, it seems readers are responding. Holds are at very respectable levels for a book that came out over a decade ago, in some places topping a 3:1 ratio.

For libraries that need new copies, Bloomsbury has released a new TV tie-in edition. Readers’ advisors might want to take note that the audiobook version narrated by Simon Prebble  (Macmillan Audio; CD and downloadable) is well worth suggesting as well.