Archive for the ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy’ Category

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.

Rumor Mill: The Winds of Winter out in 2016?

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.30.26 PMMaybe, just maybe George R.R. Martin is getting near to finishing The Winds of Winter, the next book in his glacially slow-to-appear yet meteorically popular Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga.

Alejo Cuervo, an editor for Ediciones Gigamesh, the publishing house which owns the Spanish language rights to the books, told a Catalan radio station that the new book will come out in 2016.

A release date early next year would coincide with Martin’s own self-proclaimed goal of publishing the new book before the premiere of the sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, which is anticipated to air next spring.

New York magazine reports the story and includes a link to an English-language version of the radio  transcript.

NOTE: The cover we use here  is NOT official, according to the publisher. It seems to have originated as fan art that has become the internet stand-in until the real cover debuts.

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.’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.


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:

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.