Science Fiction/Fantasy Reviews | October 15, 2012

The school year is in full swing and the buildup to Halloween has begun, as evidenced by the number of horror titles in this month’s column. Zombies continue to make their mark with the inclusion of Scott Kenemore’s Zombie, Illinois , while a first novel from Douglas Wynne ( The Devil of Echo Lake ) combines punk rock with a supernatural thriller. Two excellent short story collections feature the works of a pair of horror writers: Ian Rogers’s Every House Is Haunted and Robert Shearman’s Remember Why You Fear Me.

A trio of sf titles adds a welcome variety to the October mix. A collaborative effort between sf veterans Larry Niven and Gregory Benford (Bowl of Heaven) begins a hard sf saga. Christopher L. Bennett’s Only Superhuman, the debut of the month, places the fantastic world of superheroes firmly within the sf genre. Finally, Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi follows his superb debut, The Quantum Thief, with The Fractal Prince, the second book in a trilogy that challenges the imagination.

Fantasy titles also demonstrate a broad range of subjects and styles. Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country dresses a stand-alone fantasy in quasi-Western trappings, while Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead and K.W. Jeter and Gareth Jefferson Jones’s Death’s Apprentice borrow the style and feel of urban fantasy but set their stories in worlds that are very different from contemporary Earth. Kate Griffin’s Stray Souls provides a rare delight with an urban fantasy that is also a prime example of comic fiction. A debut novel by Kristina Meister, Craving, offers a paranormal fantasy for conspiracy theorists, while Roberta Trahan launches a Celtic-based fantasy series with The Well of Tears. Rounding out the fantasy titles, Patricia A. McKillip’s story collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, proves once again why she remains one of the genre’s most elegant storytellers.

starred review starGriffin, Kate. Stray Souls. Orbit: Hachette. (Magicals Anonymous, Bk. 1). Oct. 2012. c.544p. ISBN 9780316187268. pap. $14.99. FANTASY

When coffeeshop employee Sharon Li discovers that she is a shaman, her first act is to start Magicals Anonymous, a support group that draws a mix of some of London’s more unusual inhabitants. Her new companions in magic include a druid with multiple allergies, a vampire who can only tolerate type O blood, a banshee determined to improve her appreciation for impressionist art, and a soft-spoken troll named Gretel. Although Sharon knows next to nothing about being a shaman, she soon learns that someone is stealing the souls of London’s buildings and leeching life from the city. Somehow, she and her tribe of misfits must find out the identity of their enemy and save London from spiritual destruction. Set in the same world as her Matthew Swift books (The Minority Council), this series launch brings to light a new force to be reckoned with in Griffin’s magical version of London. VERDICT Sharon is a delightfully complex character who combines an ingenuous sense of wonder at her new abilities with a strong instinct that leads her to the right—if not always the most obvious—decision. Written with a sense of humor found only in such classics as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, this novel is a welcome addition to the urban fantasy genre.

starred review starJeter, K.W. & Gareth Jefferson Jones. Death’s Apprentice: A Grimm City Novel. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780312547714. $25.99. FANTASY

Grimm City sits above the Gates of Hell. As the Devil’s capital on Earth, it serves as a dark testimony to the presence of evil and the certainty of death. For Nathaniel, a 17-year-old apprentice to Death who can stop time long enough to free the souls of the dying from their bodies, Grimm City becomes a battleground in a war to defeat the Devil himself. Aided by two wounded souls, one cursed to a half-life as a wraith, the other a giant whose total lack of fear makes him the consummate killer, Nathaniel will risk everything to save the life of a child with the potential to make the world a better place. Jeter (Infernal Devices) and first-time author Jones launch an ambitious series based on the entire canon of the Brothers Grimm. ­VERDICT With bold storytelling, one-of-a-kind characters, and a flair for both the rhythm of fairy tales and the atmosphere of noir fiction, this dark fantasy deserves a wide audience.

starred review starRajaniemi, Hannu. The Fractal Prince. Tor. Nov. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780765329509. $25.99. SF

When Mieli, the winged Hunter and servant of a goddess, encounters quantum thief Jean de Flambeur for the second time, the thief is in the process of experimenting with Schrödinger’s box for his current patron. Together the pair must travel to Earth on a mission intimately involved in the planet’s future. At the same time, two sisters in the haunted city of Sirr, one of the last cities on a broken Earth, plan a revolution to free their city from the might of the Sobornost’s virtual control of the solar system. Rajaniemi’s sequel to The Quantum Thief blends the action-based story of de Flambeur, Mieli, and the sarcastic, sentient ship Perbonen with the slower-paced story arc of sisters Tawaddud and Dunyazad as they work and plot for social change and freedom. VERDICT Stories within stories, mind-boggling scientific extrapolations, and flamboyant characters mark the author as a rising star of the genre.

The following titles are reviewed in the October 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Abercrombie, Joe. Red Country. Orbit: Hachette. Nov. 2012. c.640p. ISBN 9780316187213. $25.99. FANTASY

Benford, Gregory & Larry Niven. Bowl of Heaven. Tor. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780765328410. $25.99. SF

Gladstone, Max. Three Parts Dead. Tor. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780765333100. $24.99. FANTASY

Kenemore, Scott. Zombie, Illinois. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. Oct. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781616088859. pap. $17.95. HORROR

Meister, Kristina. Craving. JournalStone. (Apocalyptic, Bk. 1). Oct. 2012. c.338p. ISBN 9781936564514. pap. $19.95. FANTASY

Trahan, Roberta. The Well of Tears. 47North: Amazon. (Dream Stewards, Bk. 1). 2012. c.362p. ISBN 9781612183725. pap. $14.95. FANTASY

Wynne, Douglas. The Devil of Echo Lake. JournalStone. Oct. 2012. c.252p. ISBN 9781936564538. pap. $16.95. HORROR


starred review starMcKillip, Patricia A. Wonders of the Invisible World. Tachyon, dist. by IPG. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781616960872. pap. $14.95. FANTASY

Rogers, Ian. Every House Is Haunted. ChiZine. Oct. 2012. c.300p. ISBN 9781927469163. pap. $16.95. HORROR

Shearman, Robert. Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman. ChiZine. Oct. 2012. c.344p. ISBN 9781927469217. pap. $16.95. HORROR

Additional SF/Fantasy

starred review starJohnson, Kij. At the Mouth of the River of Bees. Small Beer. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781931520805. pap. $16. SF