Enter into Neth Space and you will find thoughts and reviews of books and other media that fit the general definition of speculative fiction. This includes the various genres and sub-genres of fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, high fantasy, hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, new weird, magical realism, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, slipstream, horror, alternative history, SF noir, etc. Thoughts are my own, I'm certainly not a professional, just an avid reader avoiding his day job.
terrible at picking a best of pretty much anything, but if I had to pick the
best book that I read in 2012, it was Of
Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (My Review, Indiebound, Book Depository,
Amazon). Therefore, it should be no surprise that its sequel, And Blue Skies from Pain (Indiebound,
Book Depository, Amazon), was a very high priority for me to read. I feel that
these books are powerful examples of what urban fantasy can and should be – a mix
of old and new, history and contemporary, mythic and modern. Her tales of a war
between the Catholic Church, Fallen Angels, and Irish Fey set against the
backdrop of The Troubles in Northern Ireland is a great balance.
tragedy of Liam’s life and continued struggles with who he is drives And Blue Skies from Pain. The conflict
Liam has with those in his life comes to forefront – his only real friend and
partner, a priest who betrayed him the past, his long absent father and his
clan of Fey warriors, his dead wife, and those who seek to use or kill him.
Leicht’s books are more tragic than anything else – victories feel pyrrhic rather
than victorious, and a melancholic hopelessness seems to dominate through Liam.
In this Leicht’s writing feels more real and less formulaic as it distinguishes
itself from the rest of urban fantasy.
must point out that I am an American reading these, an American who has not
ever been to Northern Ireland and only has the vaguest idea of what The
Troubles were truly like. So, I think that this criticism/deconstruction of
Leicht’s The Fey and The Fallen
series (so far) is a valuable perspective. And while it is highly critical of Leicht’s
writing, I found that it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the series at all, even
though I read And Blue Skies from Pain
after I had read that deconstruction.
While I can’t
claim that And Blue Skies from Pain
had the same impact that Of Blood and
Honey did, it is a powerful sequel in its own right. Unfortunately, the
exact fate of the series is a bit uncertain with all the happenings around
Night Shade Books, but I’m confident that there will be a conclusion, and it
will be a conclusion that I very much look forward to reading.
A few months
ago I was very saddened by the announcement that Iain Banks had terminal cancer
and was only expected to live a few short months in the best case scenario. At
that time I had only read a short story or two of his and not any of his
novels, though I had copies of several and have been meaning to for many years.
Of course I reacted to the news by finally choosing to read one of his novels.
Since that time Iain Banks has passed on and now that I have finally read one
of his books I can more fully appreciate the magnitude of his loss to the SFF
I wanted to
read one of the books from his Culture series, which is less of series and more
of a setting in which a lot of stand-alone, space-opera style books are set.
And there is a good bit of dissention on which book is best to start with – Consider Phlebas (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), the first one he wrote, The Player of Games (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), or Use of Weapons (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). Each has a good case for it, though in the end I chose to
read The Player of Games, as it’s
generally recognized as one of his better books and a good introduction to the
is a large galactic civilization and a human-machine symbiotic society that is so
far advanced is essentially a utopia. Within the Culture there is tradition of
gaming and Gurgeh is one of the best there is (yes, that is one of the most
unfortunate character names I’ve ever come across). The short of it is that
Gurgeh is manipulated by government forces to represent the Culture in the
neighboring Empire of Azad where a complex game forms the pillar of its
The Player of Games is a relatively straight-forward story of Gurgeh’s trip to Azad,
his first contact with their society and his more important journey through a
grand tournament of Azad where the winner emerges as the new Emperor.
Parts of the
book could be read as a condemnation of authoritarian governments, colonialism,
and militarism. And with the gender flexibility of the Culture and the rigid
gender distinctions in Azad, additional gender issues are certainly present.
And while all of these are interesting, the real enjoyment come through simple
story of game play, getting to know Gurgeh and seeing how he changes through
this experience, and enjoying the knowledge that he’s being manipulated from
afar the whole time.
end of the story is expected, and the big surprise will likely not be a
surprise to most readers, however as I’ve indicated above, it’s enjoyment of
the journey that drives this book. Banks makes it all seem effortless, only to
make us miss him even more. So, what’s the best way to honor a SFF writer who
died before his time – read his books of course.
I’ve said it
often and I’ll say it again – I really like the writing of Charles de Lint and
I think it’s a shame that he’s not discussed more in the online circles I
follow. I find his prose to be an ideal expression of mythical feeling in the modern
world as it verges on poetry at times. De Lint’s form of Urban Fantasy is to me
the standard that all should be reaching for, and I love how it doesn’t fall
into the trap of some ‘badass’ supernatural person violently realizing their
dominance over some other supernatural entity (good or evil).
Someplace to be Flying (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) is set in de Lint’s made up city of Newford and features the
interaction of Native American types of mythos interacting with the modern
world. De Lint’s approach is great – the writing at the beginning of the book
feels rather mundane and uninspired. Everything changes when the two main
protagonists come into contact with something strange and otherworldly that
literally transforms everything about their lives. De Lint’s writing shifts at
this point to a more magical, mythical and poetic prose that follows the
characters’ journey into a deeper part of world around them that they had no
Someplace to be Flying really is a journey on many fronts, possibly even an epic
journey, though it will always fall squarely in the urban/mythic fantasy
classification (for good or ill). The two main protags, one a young man from
the streets with an atypical nice side and the other a reporter who finds
herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, journey into the unknown mythic
world around them as they predictably fall in love. There are several parallel
journeys – two sisters seeking freedom and reunion, a storyteller looking to
his past and future, a trickster god seeking a power to remake the world, and
others. Through this all is the powerful theme of family and belonging, though
not in a traditional sense.
Someplace to be Flying is set in the early 1990s and it will likely feel dated in some
places, though it does have the underpinnings of modern urban life – email and
even mention of cell phones. However, most of the book takes place with a
timeless, if distinctly modern feel of the old interacting with the new.
Every time I
read a de Lint book I think that I need to read more of them. And that is the
case again here.
As promised, it's been a while since my last post. Of course a little while ago I did say I was going to stick with shorter, mini-reviews and then I went and posted a 2000+ word review of The Wheel of Time series. Oh well, don't get used to it. I hope to post one or two mini-reviews this week. If I don't get to them now, it'll be quite a while. Starting next week I'll be travelling almost full time for the next month. It'll be exhausting enough that I don't expect to get too much reading done (except perhaps on airplanes) and certainly not any blogging.
Below is a picture of books I've received in the last couple of months. It's a lot and there's even more considering a bunch of ebooks I've gotten. Conspicuously absent is one of the most anticipated books of this year that it seems that every other blogger already has and is reading (or spent all of last weekend reading). No worries - I'll get a copy soon and then I'll read it and promptly not review it for a long time (just like every other book I read these days).