A necessity for those wishing to broaden their understanding of science fiction as a genre...or just those looking for some...

THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION

A comprehensive, chronological journey through a century of seminal science fiction, compiled by the editorial team of the VanderMeers (Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, 2015, etc.).

This ambitious collection is united around no less humble a theme than the very nature of science fiction—a question endlessly debated by genre aficionados. In their introduction, the VanderMeers define SF as that which “lives in the future”; they trace the history of the form from its early roots in contes philosophiques to the pulps; followed by the golden age, new wave, humanist, feminist, cyberpunk, and postmodernist traditions...and non-Western SF too. Feeling dizzy yet? But if the task of trying to chart such a broad sea seems prohibitive, the anthology does its best through the inclusion of a massive 105 short stories. Legendary authors are present, of course—Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick—but the strength of the collection lies in the light it shines into lesser-known corners of science fiction's past and present: stories translated into English (Sever Gansovsky's “Day of Wrath” is worth special mention, as is Jean-Claude Dunyach's surreal “Paranamanco”), many for the first time, as well as stories by women (Carol Emshwiller's excellent “Pelt,” C.J. Cherryh's moving “Pots”) and authors of color (Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler are predictable names, but did you know W.E.B. Du Bois wrote science fiction? Misha Nogha, Ted Chiang, and Manjula Padmanabhan also feature, to name just a few). Teachers wishing for a survey text of SF could hardly do better than this exhaustive volume. The stories defy neat classification beyond being science fiction, resulting in a reading experience as diverse as its author list.

A necessity for those wishing to broaden their understanding of science fiction as a genre...or just those looking for some darn good stories.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-91009-2

Page Count: 1216

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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