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A poetic, finely-crafted Asian fantasy.


Ou Lu Khen and the Beautiful Madwoman

Ace Books, 1985, 243 pages




Known to readers for her magnificent TOMOE GOZEN SAGA, Jessica Amanda Salmonson here turns her talents to the story of a simple man's quest for love.

Lu Khen was in love with the madwoman who lived in the forest. But the Powers had decreed that an ordinary mortal could never marry one blessed with the gift of madness. To win it for himself, Lu Khen set out for the crumbling tombs of the Lost Dynasty, a period of demonic rule so horrifying that it had been erased from the history books.

There he would find the power to win the love he sought... or perish!


It's not a sequel to the Tomoe Gozen trilogy, but it shares its heart and world. )

Verdict: I'm a huge fan of Jessica Amanda Salmonson and wish she was still writing fantasy. Like most of her books, Ou Lu Khen and the Beautiful Madwoman is out of print and I don't think any of them have been made into ebooks. They're so out of print you probably can't even pirate them. But if you are a fan of any combination of: (a) Asian fantasy; (b) epic fantasy; (c) traditional swords and sorcery; (d) non-traditional protagonists; (e) descriptive, poetic writing; then hunt down this book or the Tomoe Gozen trilogy. They are pure fun and better than almost any fantasy being written today.

Also by Jessica Amanda Salmonson: My reviews of The Tomoe Gozen trilogy and A Silver Thread of Madness.




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Ten excellent short stories in a book that sadly few people will buy.


Straying from the Path

WSFA Press, 2011, 198 pages




Best known for her New York Times bestselling urban fantasy novels, Carrie Vaughn has also written dozens of short stories for Talebones, Realms of Fantasy, and many other magazines and anthologies.

Collected here for the first time are ten of her favorite hard-to-classify stories covering the full range of speculative fiction -- science fiction, fantasy, horror -- sometimes all in the same story. Read about Emily Dickinson's dog, women pilots in WWII, future Hollywood, a haunted Europa, and more!

Acclaimed author and editor Jay Lake contributes an introduction to this unique collection.


I like Carrie Vaughn's short stories much better than her werewolves. )

Verdict: It's a shame this book is so rare and expensive, because for someone like me who is not a big Carrie Vaughn fan, it was well worth reading. This collection of short stories is a nice assortment of themes, and none of them struck a sour note, so if you have a chance to read it, you should. If you are a big Carrie Vaughn fan, it's worth buying.

Also by Carrie Vaughn: My reviews of After the Golden Age and Kitty and the Midnight Hour.
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A tale of mythological science fiction


Silently and Very Fast

WSFA Press, 2011, 127 pages




Fantastist Catherynne M. Valente takes on the folklore of artificial intelligence in this brand new, original novella of technology, identity, and an uncertain mechanized future.

Neva is dreaming. But she is not alone. A mysterious machine entity called Elefsis haunts her and the members of her family, back through the generations to her great-great-grandmother -- a gifted computer programmer who changed the world. Together Neva and Elefsis navigate their history and their future, an uneasy, unwilling symbiote.

But what they discover in their dreamworld might change them forever...


Available online (in audio too!) at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Catherynne Valente takes SF for a spin, manages not to hit a tree. )

Verdict: An elegant, verbally elaborate construction of sci-fi and folklore. Silently and Very Fast tells a human fairy tale about an artificial intelligence. This novella is either literary ambition or literary pretension, depending on how you feel about Valente's prose.

I go both ways with her, as you can see from my reviews of The Habitation of the Blessed and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. But TGWCFIASOHOM is one of my favorite books ever. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is one of the few books I've ever pre-ordered - I'll be receiving it this week!




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Didn't Stephen King write this one already?


Swan Song

Pocket Books, 1987, 956 pages




In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets; Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station; and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gifts. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself.


MacGuffin Girl and the Magical Negro prove that even a book neck-deep in tropes can be just too damn much fun. )

Verdict: You will love this book exactly as much as you love great big cheesy epic doorstoppers. Swan Song is really a fantasy novel disguised as a post-apocalyptic thriller. Comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand are inevitable, but don't detract from this book, which stands on its own just fine for what it is.




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Didn't Stephen King write this one already?


Swan Song

Pocket Books, 1987, 956 pages




In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth's last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets; Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station; and Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan's gifts. But the ancient force behind earth's devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself.


MacGuffin Girl and the Magical Negro prove that even a book neck-deep in tropes can be just too damn much fun. )

Verdict: You will love this book exactly as much as you love great big cheesy epic doorstoppers. Swan Song is really a fantasy novel disguised as a post-apocalyptic thriller. Comparisons to Stephen King's The Stand are inevitable, but don't detract from this book, which stands on its own just fine for what it is.




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A vampire story that sucks the blood out of weak-ass YA novels, and will also make you deeply uncomfortable.


Fledgling

Seven Stories Press, 2005, 317 pages




Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods, she appears to be a little black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds. But Shori is a fifty-three-year-old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near-immortals who live in dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots-or all bigots are human.


Only Octavia Butler could get away with this, and I'm still not sure what she was thinking. )

Verdict: Octavia Butler iswas :( brilliant and I have yet to be disappointed by her, and I loved this modern, highly intelligent take on vampires done in her signature style, which incidentally also happens to be a brilliant subversion of the YA & PNR vampire shit that has been afflicting shelves these past few years, though I don't think Butler intended it. I wish I could shove Octavia Butler into the hands of everyone who coos over the writing in a YA novel. But, this is also a book with some huge freakin' squicks for which it makes no apologies, so be warned.

And boy am I sucking at my Mount TBR challenge. This is only the second book I've picked off of it this year.

Also by Octavia Butler: My reviews of Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.




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A vampire story that sucks the blood out of weak-ass YA novels, and will also make you deeply uncomfortable.


Fledgling

Seven Stories Press, 2005, 317 pages




Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods, she appears to be a little black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds. But Shori is a fifty-three-year-old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near-immortals who live in dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots-or all bigots are human.


Only Octavia Butler could get away with this, and I'm still not sure what she was thinking. )

Verdict: Octavia Butler iswas :( brilliant and I have yet to be disappointed by her, and I loved this modern, highly intelligent take on vampires done in her signature style, which incidentally also happens to be a brilliant subversion of the YA & PNR vampire shit that has been afflicting shelves these past few years, though I don't think Butler intended it. I wish I could shove Octavia Butler into the hands of everyone who coos over the writing in a YA novel. But, this is also a book with some huge freakin' squicks for which it makes no apologies, so be warned.

And boy am I sucking at my Mount TBR challenge. This is only the second book I've picked off of it this year.

Also by Octavia Butler: My reviews of Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.




My complete list of book reviews.
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An anthology of optimistic science fiction.


Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF

Solaris Books, 2010, 453 pages




Shine: a collection of gems that throw light on a brighter future. Some of the world's most talented SF writers (including Alastair Reynolds, Kay Kenyon and Jason Stoddard) show how things can change for the better. From gritty polyannas to workable futures, from hard-fought progress to a better tomorrow; heart-warming and mind-expanding stories that will (re-) awaken the optimist in you!


The future's so bright, you'll have to wear shades. Actually, it's mostly civil wars, recessions, and environmental collapse. But optimistic! )

Verdict: A few stories were quite good, but while ambitious and optimistic in its intentions, this is a fairly mediocre collection of near-future SF, with a variety of writers not all of whom are particularly impressive. If the theme or any of the authors really appeal to you, then it's certainly not a bad collection, but I've read much better anthologies and I wouldn't rush out to buy Shine II.




My complete list of book reviews.
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An anthology of optimistic science fiction.


Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF

Solaris Books, 2010, 453 pages




Shine: a collection of gems that throw light on a brighter future. Some of the world's most talented SF writers (including Alastair Reynolds, Kay Kenyon and Jason Stoddard) show how things can change for the better. From gritty polyannas to workable futures, from hard-fought progress to a better tomorrow; heart-warming and mind-expanding stories that will (re-) awaken the optimist in you!


The future's so bright, you'll have to wear shades. Actually, it's mostly civil wars, recessions, and environmental collapse. But optimistic! )

Verdict: A few stories were quite good, but while ambitious and optimistic in its intentions, this is a fairly mediocre collection of near-future SF, with a variety of writers not all of whom are particularly impressive. If the theme or any of the authors really appeal to you, then it's certainly not a bad collection, but I've read much better anthologies and I wouldn't rush out to buy Shine II.




My complete list of book reviews.
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[livejournal.com profile] calico_reaction pointed me to the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012.

This is perfect for me. I have so many books lying around that I've been meaning to get to "someday." So I am taking up the challenge, and counting only books that I actually own, as physical print books, right now.

I am setting a modest goal of Mt. Vancouver (25 books), since I will still be doing my [livejournal.com profile] books1001 thing next year (we aren't even close to halfway done with the list yet), and of course I want to reserve some slots for books I haven't scheduled or been "assigned." But if I get all the way through my 25 books early, I may go for Mt. Ararat (40 books) as I'll still have dozens of unread books on my shelves.

So, here are the books that are actually, physically, literally in my TBR pile right now which I am going to read in 2012.

My TBR reading challenge list for 2012 )

Anyone else want to join?

[Poll #1799636]

(And if you answer "yes" to the poll, back it up and sign up at the MY READER'S BLOCK link above.

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