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Sat, Aug. 1st, 2009, 08:43 pm
calico_reaction: Dozois, Gardner: The New Space Opera

The New Space Opera (2007)
Edited by: Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
Genre: Short Stories/Science Fiction
Pages: 517 (Trade Paperback)

The premise: with anthologies, I always laugh when I force myself to define a "premise" but I will say that the stories--all original to the anthology--are based on upon the premise that space opera, as a genre, has evolved from its roots and become something rather different, maybe harder to define, and each of these stories illustrates that. The editors didn't want to pigeon hole readers into a specific definition of what "new space opera" is, and instead let the readers try and figure it out for themselves, based on the stories in the anthology.

My Rating

Buy the Paperback: and by that I mean the mass-market, which is all you'll really find in stores anyway, unless you're going through Amazon. It's a good anthology overall, and while I feel that only half of these stories might fit any sort of definition for space opera, new or old, I do feel that whatever your story preferences, you're probably going to like more stories than not. IF, and only IF, you are a fan of 1) space opera and 2) space-based and planet-based SF in general. The stories in this anthology cover a large spectrum in terms of taste, and my faves might be someone else's hates and vise-versa. For my buck, the stories that make this anthology worth the cash are the Mary Rosenblum, Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Dan Simmons, Nancy Kress, and Robert Silverberg. However, depending on your SF tastes, your mileage may vary. I liked this volume enough that I'm going to pick up the second volume, and if I have one complaint about the anthology as a whole, it's this: while all the stories are original to THIS anthology, some are written in the author's existing universes. In some cases, the author pulls off a story that works as a stand-alone, but in other cases, the author doesn't even try and that gets frustrating: knowing that you're reading something that you know you don't have the big picture on since you haven't read the related work. At least only a handful of stories do this. For the most part, it's worth the cash, and I applaud the editors for publishing (much like Pyr does with its Fast Forward anthologies) an anthology of ORIGINAL work, rather than a bunch of reprints.

Review style: for this anthology, I really have no interest in sitting down and discussing each individual story (there's 18!), so I'm grouping each story into categories with perhaps a sentence or two commentary for each. No spoilers here, just generalities and some story premises.

So if you're interested in the full review (remember, no spoilers!), feel free to head over to my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome. :)

REVIEW: THE NEW SPACE OPERA edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan

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Wed, Jul. 15th, 2009, 08:47 pm
calico_reaction: The Homeless Moon: Imaginary Places

The Homeless Moon: Imaginary Places (2009)
Written by: Jason S. Ridler, Michael J. DeLuca, Erin Hoffman, Scott H. Andrews, Justin Howe
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 79 (Chapbook)

The premise: this year, Homeless Moon's chapbook has a theme (yay!) of lands from Manguel and Guadalupi's The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (huh?), which sent me marching to Wikipedia to learn what I could about this volume, and then it sent me marching back to the chapbook to see specifically had been used and when it first appeared. Fortunately, all the imaginary places used in this chapbook are obscure to me, so I was mostly happy. Plus, I got my theme, something that unifies the chapbook while also allowing each author to be true to him(and her!)self.

My Rating

No Rating: as with the first chapbook, this was free for me, and it's free for you too, because you can download it from the website as a PDF. Just go here to download not just this second chapbook, but the first too! As a whole, I was really thrilled with the fact this particular chapbook is united with a theme, all be it one I wouldn't have remotely considered if I were brainstorming with them. I wonder, because of the homages paid in each story, if any of the writers could get these stories published elsewhere if they hadn't published them here in this chapbook, but that's neither here nor there. This chapbook really charmed me with Scott H. Andrews's fantasy, as well as Justin Howe's short but amusingly dark tale. On a technical note, I was glad to see fewer typos and formatting errors in this edition, though I would like to see--should the Homeless Moon folks do another chapbook--the headers use not just the author's name, but the title of the short story as well instead of "The Homeless Moon". It really confused me in the first chapbook, but simply annoyed me here, as I would've liked to look up and see the title of the story at any given moment. But maybe I'm just too demanding. However, if I'm being demanding, I'd like to see a different theme for the next chapbook. Selecting imaginary places from Manguel and Guadalupi's The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is all well and good, but I'd like to see a theme where the writers don't have to walk the fine line between homage and, well, the dark side. Not that any of the stories strayed to the dark side, but sometimes, it was a close shave.

Still, a great little read that is easy to get through and won't demand too much of your time or any of your money, as you can read it for free here. What have you got to lose? It's worth your time, trust me, especially if you enjoy short fiction.

Review style: I will review each story individually, though I reserve the right to use the term "review" loosely. Will there be spoilers? I'll speak in generalities the best I can, focus more on the technique and the ideas driving the story rather than any specifics.

So if you want to see a story-by-story review, NO SPOILERS, then just hop over to my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are welcome.

REVIEW: The Homeless Moon: Imaginary Places (chapbook)

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Sun, Jul. 12th, 2009, 05:41 pm
calico_reaction: The Homeless Moon

The Homeless Moon (2008)
Written by: Michael J. DeLuca, Jason S. Ridler, Scott H. Andrews, Erin Hoffman, Justin Howe
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 43 (Chapbook)

This is a rather odd review for me to write. For starters, if you click on the title of the chapbook, you'll find out rather quickly that you can read this chapbook for free, online. Or, if you must have a print copy (and if they have any LEFT from 2008), you can pay for the shipping and they'll send you one.

So that's one reason this is, in short, an odd review. The other, more important reason this is an ODD REVIEW is that I know every single one of these writers. All of them were my classmates at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2005, and one of them was my roommate!

Consider that a warning of sorts in terms of how objective I'll be. I've read their work before, so there's a tendency to want to compare their stories to what I've read before, especially if I've critiqued the story in the chapbook. However, I'll give my honest opinion, but my official rating is going to be odd. Since all of my ratings are essentially based on my purchasing of the material, well, you can see how the current ratings don't apply.

The premise: I didn't recognize a discernible theme holding the stories of this first chapbook together. The only connecting factor is that the writers attended Odyssey 2005, and have formed a kind of group. Is it a critique group? I don't know, to be honest. But they call their online blog "The Homeless Moon" and decided to put together a chapbook to showcase their fiction. This chapbook they handed out at ReaderCon 2008. There are three stories I'd label as fantasy, one I'd label as science fiction, and one that simply defies genre of all kinds. So really, there's no premise to this: it's just a batch of short fiction. :)

My Rating

No Rating: this was free for me, and it's free for you too, because you can download it from the website as a PDF. Just go here to download not just this first chapbook, but the second too! In terms of summarizing, I can objectively and safely say that the writing in each of the stories is very strong, and each story is unique to its author. Critiques for the chapbook as a whole include wishing there was a unified theme (I was kind of hoping all of the stories would relate to the moon, but at least two did), and I also noticed a number of formatting errors, where lines weren't indented correctly, and I recall noticing a number of typos as well. But you know what? The chapbook is free, so who am I to complain? The stories are enjoyable, though not all of them sat well with me. I love the DeLuca the best, and that story alone is worth reading the chapbook. If you're a mythology buff, I dare you not to fall in love with Hoffman's story as well. The Homeless Moon writers are definitely making their mark on genre fiction (it's not a huge mark, not yet, but wait, one day!), so getting a chance to sample their work for free is more than worth it. The chapbook is only 43 pages, and doesn't take that much time to read at all. So read it. And enjoy.

Review style: I will review each story individually, though I reserve the right to use the term "review" loosely. Will there be spoilers? I'll speak in generalities the best I can, focus more on the technique and the ideas driving the story rather than any specifics. So if you want a story-by-story review, just click the link below to go to my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

The Homeless Moon Chapbook

Happy Reading!

Sun, Jun. 21st, 2009, 01:13 pm
calico_reaction: Bacigalupi, Paolo: Pump Six and Other Stories

Pump Six and Other Stories (2008)
Written by: Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: Short Stories/Science Fiction/Dystopia
Pages: 248

The premise: it's a short story collection. What more do you need? Bacigalupi's stories tend to focus on dystopic, sometimes dark futures that sometimes contain multi-cultural characters and settings. The prose never fails to grab your eye and hold it, as it's sharp and magnetic and keeps you turning the pages. And maybe this is my bias showing, because I love his work so much, but in spite my general ambivalence and dislike toward the art of the short story, I consider Bacigalupi a master, simply because he tells full, complete stories that always resolve in some form or fashion, and I'm rarely left feeling like I've missed something. To me, few short stories do that, and few have the staying power in my mind that Bacigalupi's do. I don't have to look at a title and wonder what the story is about. I remember, every time. That's how well they stick with you.

My Rating

Must Have: If there's one good thing about Bacigalupi short stories, it's this: when you're done, you really don't MIND the prospect of reading them again. And again, and again. That's saying something (especially coming out of my mouth), and it gives credence to the fact that I think Bacigalupi is a modern master, and if he isn't yet, then I have every confidence he will be. No doubt, these are not stories that are filled episodic points of adventure (thank god), but if the stories don't make you really uncomfortable in some way, or if they don't make you think SERIOUSLY about the issues he's tackling and how they relate to the world we live in now, then you're not paying attention. This is MY kind of science fiction, the kind of SF that makes me excited to be a writer (and for that matter, a reader). But what I really want to know is why the hell Bacigalupi hasn't yet won a Hugo. Maybe it's because there's not enough people reading his work, and if that's the case, go forth, buy this collection, and READ. Read your eyes out, and enjoy.

Review style: If I've read the story before, the title of the story will be a link to the first review. However, this review will be very general in nature. I usually do a story-by-story breakdown when it comes to magazines/anthologies/collections, but I'm not feeling it this time. I do try to discuss each story in generalities though, so have no fear of spoilers.

To read the full review, just click the link below, which goes to my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading!!

Sat, Apr. 18th, 2009, 10:11 pm
newfoundspecfic: NewFoundSpecFic - Submissions open for Volume Two

 NewFoundSpecFic (New Found Speculative Fiction) is a bi-annual speculative fiction anthology. Founded in 2008 by Devin Drover and Jennifer Graham, NewFoundSpecFic aims to showcase the creative speculative fiction stories of horror, fantasy and science fiction written by many of the undiscovered talents of Canada for others to enjoy.

We've officially started accepting submissions for the second issue. For more infomation on what/how to submit, visit our submission guidelines.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

- Devin Drover

Wed, Feb. 11th, 2009, 10:48 pm
calico_reaction: Schoen, Lawrence M.: Prime Codex

Prime Codex: The Hungry Edge of Speculative Fiction (2007)
Edited by: Lawrence M. Schoen & Michael Livingston
Genre: Short Stories/Science Fiction & Fantasy
Pages: 205

In terms of a premise, this anthology has only an organizing principle: every story was written by an author who's a member of the Codex Writer's Group. Each of these stories has been previously published elsewhere and has been gathered together in this anthology as, well, I suppose a means of both promoting the group and showing off some of its members. Not a bad idea, and it's one I'm happy to support.

My Rating

Give It Away: out of 15 stories, I enjoyed 9 of them, but of those nine, only about 4 really stuck with me. The anthology has a variety of speculative fiction, a decent mix of science fictional stories and fantasy stories and some are in between. For some reason, I was hoping more of the stories would really stand out to me, and while there's no reason I should've thought this, I was also hoping these stories would be original for this specific anthology. Maybe they'll do that for their next one, should they decide to do another, which I think they should. Using an anthology to promote a writing group is a great idea for so many reasons, and like Codex intends, it brings us stories from authors we might not have heard from otherwise. I think my own personal reticence in making this "worth the cash" comes more from the fact I'm growing more and more disillusioned with the short story as a form. I want to really sink my teeth into something, and it's a rare short story that lets me do that. However, if you're unlike me and love gobbling of short stories in the speculative fiction genre, this book's for you!

The full review, which includes commentary for each story in the anthology, may be found in my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


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Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008, 05:50 pm
calico_reaction: Harris, Charlaine: Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
Edited by: Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner
Genre: Short Stories/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 340

I've already said that I'm not fond of urban fantasy's trend of publishing anthologies simply because some of the authors contributing write stuff that is important to the series, which means if you don't read the story, you're going to end up a little lost.

But I made an exception for this one, because first and foremost, it has my favorite urban fantasy author, Carrie Vaughn, contributing, but there's also a contribution from Patricia Briggs and Charlaine Harris, and since I'm a fan of werewolves, I figured this one wouldn't hurt. I was a little put off by the fact it's in hardcover, but what the hell, let's give it a shot.

The premise of this anthology is lump werewolves with Christmas, which I think is a wee bit limited in regards to the latter, because many of the stories had a mystery element to them, and often the mystery was undermined because the reader already knew two factors: werewolves and Christmas.

Normally, when I review an anthology, I sit down and I jot down a response to every single story, no matter what I thought of it. I'm not going to do that this time, for reasons I'll explain later. Instead, I'm going to talk about the stories I liked and/or by the authors of series I'm already familiar with, and then I'll talk about the anthology as a whole at the end, like I'd do for any other review.

Expect to find spoilers for the stories I do review.

My Rating

Wish I'd Borrowed It: I'll be honest, I lost interest during so many of these stories it wasn't even funny. Most of them were either too easy to figure out, or they were GOTCHA stories that barely had any skin on the bones, or were frankly just not very well constructed period. Some stories should've ended much sooner than they did, and some just didn't make a lick of sense. This was such a disappointment for me, because I did get this in hardcover, and I was expecting something more entertaining, to say the least. But let's face it, the premise of the anthology was limited: werewolves and Christmas. Not only does the werewolf factor take the mystery out of some of the stories, but the fact it must take place in Christmas time really limits the stories you can tell. You get the usual "truths" about Santa, or the variations on the Christmas story itself, but very little that was really memorable. I'll give honorable mentions to Donna Andrews, Alan Gordon, and J. A. Konrath for having cute/interesting premises, but unfortunately, even those stories didn't stick with me once I was done reading. To be honest, the best ones in the bunch were Carrie Vaughn's, Keri Arthur's, and Patricia Briggs's. Considering the anthology features 15 stories total, those aren't good numbers. This doesn't bode well for the pile of UF anthologies I've got waiting in the floor.

Then again, maybe I was just in a really, REALLY bad mood during the week it took me to read this.

The specific story reviews I actually wrote up are for Charlaine Harris, Keri Arthur, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs and Rob Thurman, and those contain spoilers and may be found in my personal LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

REVIEW: WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

List of All Contributors

Charlaine Harris
Donna Andrews
Simon R. Green
Dana Cameron
Kat Richardson
Alan Gordon
Carrie Vaughn
Dana Stabenow
Keri Arthur
J. A. Konrath
Patricia Briggs
Nancy Pickard
Karen Chance
Rob Thurman
Toni L.P. Kelner

Happy Reading!

Tue, Oct. 14th, 2008, 06:59 pm
calico_reaction: Allen, Mike: Clockwork Phoenix

Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness
Edited by: Mike Allen
Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy
Pages: 285 (ARC)

Normally, in book reviews, I give you the premise. With short story anthologies, that's a bit trickier, and even reading the whole book doesn't really tell me the idea or theme that gels these tales together. They're mostly fantasy (some are more horror, some have an SF-nal touch), and they're all written well. And as I usually do for anthologies, I'll give each story it's own review (at my journal, that is), and then review the book as a whole at the bottom of the entry.

My Rating

Worth the Cash: of the 18 stories, I really enjoyed 12, and even the ones I wasn't crazy about weren't horrible or anything, but more or less not to my personal taste. I'm surprisingly impressed with the quality of stories and writing in this anthology, and it's an easy book to recommend, especially when you consider my biggest complaints are the cover and the intro, which in the total package, is completely superficial (go me!). My absolute favorites of the book are Grant's, Brennan's, Singh's, and Hoffman's. This book is definitely worth the cash to those readers who enjoy spec-fic shorts, and to those readers who may be tired of the stories offered by the Big Three, especially in regards to fantasy. And this might be random, but I was very impressed with the story order and how the stories sometimes fit together and led into each other. That was very nice. :)

The full review, which does include spoilers for the various stories, may be found at my LJ. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.

REVIEW: Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness

Anthology contributors are:

Catherynne M. Valente
David Sandner
John Grant
Cat Rambo
Leah Bobet
Michael J. DeLuca
Laird Barron
Ekaterina Sedia
Cat Sparks
Tanith Lee
Marie Brennan
Jennifer Crow
Vandana Singh
John C. Wright
C.S. MacCath
Joanna Galbraith
Deborah Biancotti
Erin Hoffman

Tue, Mar. 4th, 2008, 03:37 pm
calico_reaction: Pelland, Jennifer: Unwelcome Bodies

Unwelcome Bodies
Writer: Jennifer Pelland
Genre: Short Stories/Science Fiction/Horror
Pages: 247

When I heard Pelland was releasing a short story collection, I was very excited. Granted, I've only read two of her short stories, but the one really stuck with me. Pelland has a smooth, clean writing style and her story ideas can really knock a person on their ass.

Unwelcome Bodies is a collection that focuses on a variety of issues: the environment, religion, and terrorism, and the one thing that unites these stories is the character's body image and how they fit into the world/society around them. Each of the stories are different and unique, and most all of the stories balance a wonderful blend of science fiction and horror. This collection is an easy one to recommend.

The full story-by-story review, which does include spoilers in some cases, is in my journal. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading!

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