What to read, what to watch in SciFi and Fantasy
The Lampworks Lamplighter SF & Fantasy News & Reviews
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It’s been a mixed bag for reading this month. I read three excellent stories, reviewed below. Two were fantasies of the fairy tale category, princesses, godmothers, and all. If you like that sort of thing, I especially urge you to pick up Nettle and Bone. It’s that good. John Scalzi’s Kaiju Preservation Society is everything a light science fiction novel should be: an extrapolation of a leap into the unknown. If Kaïju exist, where do they live, and what might hunt them?
There were a couple of disappointments, too. Linda Nagata’s Limit of Vision started with an interesting premise of symbiotic nanobots, but somehow didn’t manage to turn it into much beyond a standard little guys-vs-evil-corporation saga. Then there was Garth Nix’s The Left Handed Booksellers of London. Great title, I just wish the rest of the book measured up to it. It had to have one of the most unmotivated protagonists I’ve seen. These are supposed to be best-selling authors, but I have to wonder why. At any rate, I just wanted to let you know that I only recommend books here that I really enjoyed. I filter out the rest for you.
I won’t have a chance to watch Picard’s final episode before the newsletter has to be wrapped up, so I’ll leave final impressions for next month. I’ll just have to say that I think Alison Pill gets the best actor award so far, from the sheer range of personalities she’s portrayed. It’s right up there with Santiago Cabrera’s split personality holograms from last season.
Till next time…
Monsieur Resche is an art thief. He has crossed a bridge into a quaint town that disappeared from Switzerland four centuries ago. All the magic that our world once had has ended up there. A precisely tied knot, an exactly folded paper, or a cunningly drawn figure can unlock wonders and horrors.
Resche has a mind that lets him excel at this new craft, but that brings him to the notice of powerful mages who play a great game of geomancy with tiles the size of countries. And when he looks for the bridge back to Geneva, it is nowhere to be found.
The Fractalist priest offers aid that may not be what it appears, the Jeweler has intricate schemes, the newspaper editor has taken an interest, the Astromancer had good advice before she was murdered, and Resche’s cat just makes wisecracks.
Knots is a compelling story filled with unexpected characters, plot twists, literal location twists, mystery, and redemption.
Have Kindle Unlimited? Read Knots for free on Amazon!
What We‘re Reading
Visit our archive of reviews and recommendations on the Books We Like page of our website. You‘ll find over one hundred recommendations in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Non Fiction.
Nettle and Bone
The third princess from a small kingdom has been shut away in a convent, like a winter apple, in case she is ever needed. Her second sister has been married to a cruel king; if her sister doesn’t survive it, that could become Marra’s fate as well. She sets off to rescue her sister, along with her dog made of bones, a dust-wife, a possessed demon chicken, and a godmother. It’s a new fairy tale from the inventive mind of T Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon).
Kingfisher’s heroines are very sensible people, more likely to daydream about gardening than about handsome princes and glamorous courts. They’re generally rather plain, and no braver than they need to be. And yet they manage to be vaguely absurd. Who else would wire old bones together to make a dog when she needed one?
I was hooked from the first two lines of the book:
The trees were full of crows and the woods were full of madmen. The pit was full of bones and her hands were full of wires.
Kaiju Preservation Society
Start with pandemic angst, layoff devastation, and gig-economy poverty. Wouldn’t you grab a lifeline if someone threw it? Jamie Gray did, even though there were some dark insinuations of hazardous working conditions. But the job was in a remote location protecting endangered animals, so that sounded pretty good right now. When Jamie found out that the animals involved were as large as skyscrapers and belched plasma beams, well, it was probably still less hazardous than delivering food in New York City traffic.
I enjoyed the way that Scalzi structured a scientific explanation for kaiju, made movies into cover-ups of actual incursions, and hung the conflict and resolution on those mechanics.
° If you’re not in the know, kaiju is the general term for towering monsters such as Godzilla.
The Sword of Happenstance
Steven BrustSkyler White
A grandmother and a grandfather tell a tale to the children. There was an enchanted sword, that much they agree on, but not how many edges it had or whether it was straight or curved. The king, they did agree, was false, usurping the throne by magic. And one of them was the heir and one was a witch, but which was which was muddled. So,they tell the children, they set off for the castle with the sword and a bat that was maybe a hat or maybe a cloud of midges.
This is a story about how the world is very much the way you see it, so don’t let people put their world view on you. If you believe in yourself, you can tell a story where you’re the hero.
Oh, and they were both right in their own way.
Buy on amazon
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