Review of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Sept 1)
This story centers around a caravan, and all the various beings associated with it. The setting has an African feel, with desert, oasis, plain, city and forest features at various points of the journey. It is sort of a strange travelogue focused on Demane and his boyfriend Isa, who is the Captain of the caravan workers. Some beings in the setting are of partially alien ancestry and so have skills and abilities outside the human norm. Isa and Demane both fall into this category. Isa has augmented physical skills and Demane has magical skills. He is called Sorcerer by the members of the caravan. Isa’s “hair” gathers energy from the sun, but looks very much outside normal hair range so he keeps it wrapped unless he is alone with Demane. Through flashbacks the tale of how Demane met Isa and they fell in love is interspersed with the ongoing caravan travel to the Wildeeps, and it turns out Demane left a good job in order to travel with the love of his life. The two men have an interesting relationship while traveling with the caravan because Isa is technically Demane’s boss and the boss can’t be seen obviously playing favorites. The astute members of course realize the truth. The ending is rather tragic and not at all what a reader would expect.
The world and characters in this novella are very rich, detailed and diverse (both racially and culturally). Characters who look similar but hail from different geographical locations show a wide variation in habits, knowledge and customs. The world feels real and the reader can’t help but feel the pain of these two lovers struggling to stay together while working their way across the world. Kai Ashante Wilson has only published short fiction previously so this is his debut longer work and what a wonderful debut. We will be looking for more of his work in the future. What a wonderful start to Tor.com’s novellas program!
This year’s Worldcon was held in the Spokane Convention Center and numerous hotels surrounding it. The convention center was clean, well-maintained, accessible, and had sufficient restrooms and food locations. Food was pricey as it is in all convention centers, but the convention had a con suite in an adjacent hotel and in the evenings there were parties in a hotel several blocks away. There were also some restaurants just a block or two away which were very reasonably priced. The convention center parking was reasonable but there was not enough of it so many had to use the lot across the street which was $15.00 a day. None of the convention hotels were of a price level most fans can afford for a five day stay. It was possible to find cheaper hotels in the area, but most of them were run down and in bad repair. In fact, many parts of Spokane away from the convention center could be described as old and run down in comparison to similar areas in Seattle and Portland.
Spokane has a very nice park with an antique carousel and a giant red Radio Flyer wagon with a slide for a wagon tongue. The Spokane Falls are at the back of the park and there was a ski-lift type ride which took you out over the falls. Unfortunately due to the fires in the surrounding areas the air quality was very bad and there were health alerts which warned everyone to stay inside, so the parks and outdoor eating places could not be enjoyed. Plus it was exceptionally hot, often above 85 °F, so being outside was a nasty chore, not something pleasant. This made the parking situation worse because you choked half to death while walking to your car. Due to the health alerts there should have been better provisions for people with breathing difficulties who do not normally need a Disabled placard. Read the rest of this entry »
The Exploding Spaceship Announces The Women Author Book Donation Project to Benefit the Glasgow Women’s LibraryPosted: 31 July, 2015
We are pleased to announce the start of a project to increase the size of the science fiction and fantasy collection at the Glasgow Women’s Library!
The library serves women of all ages so we want to include books aimed at middle grades, teens and adults. We would like to include as many author/editor signed books as possible but any books appropriate for a feminist audience are fine.
So please send us books and graphic novels by women with women main characters, we will deal with getting the volumes to the library.
We have setup an information page here: http://www.blackwelldevice.com/gwlproject.html
Please send books to P.O. Box 5845 Statesville, NC 28687-5845.
If you have any questions please direct them to Angela on Twitter @ExplodnSpceship.
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Time Salvager, Iron and Blood, Cities and Thrones, Roboteer and The Dead Man’s ReachPosted: 25 July, 2015
Review of Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (Tor July 7, 2015 in the UK, Angry Robot July 9, 2015)
The premise that the future is so bleak that they need to send people to the past to salvage energy sources and other resources makes for a very interesting setting. The main characters are salvager James, and two women, Grace and Elise. He meets both of them on trips to the past, but ends up bringing them to his own time in order for them to help him save the future. James’ efforts to balance his relationships with the two women make for some interesting scenes. They actually get along quite well but both are better at manipulating him than he is at dealing with either of the women.
The government in the future is just as screwy as the present US bureaucracy and seeing some of the workers try to get around the crazy rules was very familiar, unfortunately (Your Humble Reviewers both used to work for the US Government). In order to fix the Earth, Grace and Elise try to reverse the damage to the oceans. James makes many trips into the past for equipment and supplies with the help of his friend Smitt, who is still working for ChronoCom. This puts his life in danger because he doesn’t have the drugs needed to recover from the trips, plus he might get discovered and arrested by his former employers. James discovers that not all the time travelers follow the rules and that the world ended up a dismal mess because someone interfered with the plan to fix it many years before. This discovery makes him, Grace and Elise really pissed off so they rally everyone and fight the government people.
As expected of Chu’s novels, there is fast action with fighting both hand-to-hand and with guns. Even the bit characters have some depth and the cast is quite diverse. Elise is our favorite character, a scientist action heroine who has to use her people skills as well as her science and defense skills. She is awesome and deserves a later book from her viewpoint.
If you like SF or action adventure stories then you need to read this book!
Review of Iron and Blood by Gail Z and Larry Martin (Solaris, July 7, 2015) Read the rest of this entry »
The Exploding Spaceship Reviews The Oathkeeper by J.F. Lewis, Dark Run by Mike Brooks, and The Shadow Revolution by Clay and Susan GriffithPosted: 17 July, 2015
Review of The Oathkeeper by J.F.Lewis (Pyr, June 9, 2015)
This is the second volume of the Grudgebearer Trilogy. The main characters in this volume are Rae’en and Wylant. These female characters had a lesser role in the first volume because Kholster was alive then and for this volume he is a god.
Wylant and Kholster’s marriage is still ongoing even though he has passed into godhood, but the situation definitely makes for some amusing romantic confusion. Kholster wasn’t the brightest bulb about romance before he died, and becoming a god only made him more obtuse in some ways.
The Zaur attack while several of the other races are trying to make peace so that gets delayed and the city must be evacuated while also trying to fight the Zaur. It has lots of fight scenes and general confusion, including some caused by a dragon. The reptiles invaded the other races’ territories from several directions over both land and sea. They also are trying to settle a treaty with one of the races, but everyone is suspicious of this. The Zaur they are speaking with does have an ulterior motive but not the one they think.
Several characters in this book moved from being male idiots in the last book to being more sympathetic beings. This made this volume have a better overall tone than the last one (where several characters were males who deserved to have some sense slapped into them).
There is more magic use in this volume because of some changes with a few Eldrennai characters. The setting and races of beings in this are quite amazing. None of them are really typical fantasy races, although there are analogs to several. The writing is well done and it moves fast. That is actually the one problem with this volume: the scene shifts are too rapid in some cases so it is easy to get confused on where geographically you are and even in some cases whose viewpoint it is. Read the rest of this entry »
Review of RavenCon 2015
Well, first of all, given the presence of large numbers of people from both sides of several issues causing no small amount of strife in the SF/F fan community, the attendees were all very well behaved. There was only one incident by someone claiming to be press, but hadn’t bothered to notify the convention that they were attending. Your Humble Reviewers were among a number of press people who had notified the convention ahead of time and were badged as such; failure to conform to the event’s press rules is a good way to not be allowed back in the future.
This convention traditionally has many writers and publishers in attendance, and this year was no exception. The Baen road show was present along with a couple of their authors, Steve White and Michael Z Williamson. There were several book launches over the weekend. We attended one for Gail Z Martin’s War of Shadows which featured readings and munchies. Fantastic Books, a new publisher which we had not seen at a convention in the southeast before, was also in attendance and supporting the Writer Guest of Honor Allen Steele. Ian Randall Strock runs the publishing house, and he hosted a book launch for Allen Steele’s collection Tales of Time and Space and Bud Sparhawk’s planetary sailing adventure Distant Seas.
The convention has many writer panels, sometimes four or five running at once, and they run the gamut of topics from short fiction to novels to comics. Several writing workshop-type panels which must be signed up for ahead of time were also featured. This year they added an art track and that seemed to be well-attended. They also featured some musical guests and panels of interest to filkers.
Friday and Saturday nights saw many parties being hosted on the con hotel’s eighth floor. Saturday night also featured a costume contest with many very good costumes.
The dealer room had a wide variety of goods on offer, including several book and jewelry stalls, a weapons stall, and a couple of costuming stalls. The author’s book signing table was also in the dealer room near the book sellers so everyone benefits from their presence, rather than having them cloistered off alone in a room. Other conventions could learn from this arrangement.
This year’s convention was in Richmond, Virginia as it has been for the last ten years, but due to hotel issues, next year’s convention will be held in Williamsburg.
This convention has programming for all ages, including children. Aspiring authors and artists will find panels of great use to them. The parties allow for great networking. The convention is well run by experienced staffers. The anime crowd is evident at the convention but they are only a small portion of the convention, with most of the programming being influenced by the writers, artists and musicians.
Review of The Mirror Empire: The Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley (August 26, 2014, Angry Robot)
Your humble reviewers apologize for not posting this with their young adult appropriate fantasy column shortly after it was released. We wrote and edited the review but in the midst of the fall craziness it didn’t get posted in the column. The book has been nominated for a Gemmell award, and that made us go back to see where our review went. We loved the book, and knew we had reviewed it, but unfortunately had forgotten to share it with everyone else!
This book is set in a fantasy world where not only are there many different cultures and languages, but also alternate versions of the world where there are duplicates of almost everyone. People can only cross between parallel worlds if there is no version of them in that world, so this leads to intrigue and murder across the worlds as power groups try to go across to get more power, larger armies and more magic users. Some worlds have lost many magic users because of large scale genocide events in the past, so they try to get replacements from neighboring worlds. Magic is controlled by the satellites of the planet, with different magic users able to control things when a certain satellite is visible. A satellite with a very long and unstable period is coming into range so its powerful magic users will be getting strong and every time this happens, invasions occur in many worlds.
Lilia was raised as a drudge in the Temple of Oma (the satellite with the very long and unstable period). She has memories of her and her mother being attacked, then her being sent to her mother’s friend who took her to the temple. As a drudge she has access to all the books and strategy games that the students have and she takes advantage of them. She remembers her mother placing a sign on her hand, but she can’t see the sign now. When she is a teen, she asks a friend to research what the sign means. This leads to a mystery that isn’t solved until late in the book. Her friend Roh is a good fighter and good mage but not so good at the books. This makes them a good team, but unfortunately she is forced to leave the temple in order to save him.
When she leaves the temple riding a bear and in the company of a mage, her agenda is of course not that of the person with her. She travels around the world, gets injured, makes friends and enemies, learns to be a healer and learns more about her own magic. She is trying to follow the promise she made to her mother that she would return to her, but this involves many battles and travel through a portal into another world several times. The people she meets up with at the end have their own strands of plot through the book and these strands are woven together well, with all of the characters learning the true nature of their world at different points before the final scenes.
The magic system and parallel world setup make this a very interesting setting. It has rich and complex characters from many cultures, even the same cultures from parallel worlds are different. We are really looking forward to more books from Kameron Hurley, hopefully in this same universe. This is an amazing novel.