Science Fiction/Fantasy Reviews | December 2012

As the holidays approach and winter settles in, two “big” sf/fantasy titles are guaranteed to find large audiences. Terry Brooks’s Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara continues the author’s latest series in his most popular fantasy world, while Star Wars® fans can look forward to Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars®: Scoundrels, featuring Han Solo in his other role as rogue and smuggler.

Some notable sf titles this month include Thomas Boyczuk’s The Book of Thomas, a postapocalyptic tale of faith and religion in an artificial world, and Sean O’Brien’s Vale of Stars, a classic story of space colonization with timely moral and ethical issues. An alien attack on a human colony planet forms the focus for a space mystery in M.C. Planck’s The Kassa Gambit. The fallout from a catastrophic eruption in North America provides Harry Turtledove with ample grist for his alternate-history mill in Supervolcano: All Fall Down.

Fantasy ranges from an epic struggle between light and darkness in Crown of Vengeance, coauthored by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, to the story of one woman’s battle to find a place for herself and her children in Jay Lake’s Kalimpura. A classic fairy tale gets revamped in Melissa Lemon’s Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem. Finally, this month’s featured debut, R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot, offers a tale of the Wild West that’s unlike any other.

 A quartet of anthologies provides reading for a variety of tastes. Fans of epic fantasy can enjoy their favorite authors in a shorter fiction style in Epic: Legends of Fantasy, while superhero and zombie comics devotees can sample a variety of tales in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius and Women on War!: A Zombies vs. Robots Anthology. Helen Marshall’s Hair Side, Flesh Side introduces an exquisite stylist to the world of horror fiction.

 Urban fantasy continues to have the edge in mass market paperbacks, with a new Edge story by Ilona Andrews (Steel’s Edge) and a new addition to Diana Pharaoh Francis’s “Horngate Witches” series (Blood Winter). The single sf title, the newest in Brett Patton’s “Armor Wars” series (Mecha Rogue), offers a strong example of military sf.

Library Journal Reviews starred review Boyczuk, Thomas. The Book of Thomas, Volume I: Heaven. ChiZine. Dec. 2012. 270p. ISBN 9781927469279. pap. $16.95 SF

For as long as anyone can remember, the Church has ruled the Spheres of the Apostles, an artificial construct whose origins have been lost in the past. After Thomas’s father is executed for heresy, the priests take the boy to an orphanage, where his beautiful singing voice attracts a recruiter for the Sistine Choir. As Thomas travels with his new master through a chaotic and dangerous world, he witnesses cruelty and violence that lead him to doubt the faith he has tried so hard to follow. VERDICT The author of Nexus: Ascension launches a new series that describes the journey of a soul in a time of tribulation and postapocalyptic ruin. As Thomas makes his way through the world, his backstory is gradually revealed, adding richness and somberness to a dark novel that is reminiscent of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s classic A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Library Journal Reviews starred review The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction
for the Modern Evil Genius. 
Tor. Feb. 2013. 368p. ed. by John Joseph Adams.ISBN 9780765326447. $25.99; ISBN 9780765326454. pap. $14.99. SF

Behind every superhero lurks a diabolical villain whose exploits gave purpose to the hero’s actions. Noted anthology editor Adams (see above; Brave New Worlds) has compiled a no-holds-barred collection of 22 stories that are all told from the villain’s point of view. From Theodora Goss’s brilliant tale of a band of women brought together by their fathers’ notoriety (“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter”) to Marjorie M. Liu’s insightful story of the molding of a legend among supervillains (“The Last Dignity of Man”), these short pieces demonstrate the seductive power of the “bad guy.” VERDICT In addition to the overall excellence of the stories, fans of superhero fiction should enjoy the variety of interpretations of the terms “mad scientist,” “super villain,” and “evil genius.”

Library Journal Reviews starred review Marshall, Helen. Hair Side, Flesh Side. ChiZine. 2012. 250p. ISBN 9781927469248. pap. $16.95. HORROR

For her seventh birthday, Chloe receives the body of a saint to be her companion in “Blessed.” A graduate student seeks out the graves of literary giants as places for her to meet her lover in “Dead White Men,” while the Angel of Death falls in love with Jane Austen in “The Book of Judgment.” A tour de force of imagination, this remarkable debut collection uses the conventions of dark fantasy and horror as the framework for some of speculative fiction’s most unusual stories. VERDICT Fans of experimental fiction and exceptional writing should find a wealth of enjoyment here.

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The following titles are reviewed in the December 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Brooks, Terry. Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara. Del Rey: Ballantine. Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780345523501. $28. FANTASY

Lackey, Mercedes & James Mallory. Crown of Vengeance. Tor. (The Dragon Prophecy, Bk. 1). 2012. 608p. ISBN 9780765324382. $27.99. FANTASY

Lake, Jay. Kalimpura. Tor. Jan. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780765326775. $27.99. FANTASY

Lemon, Melissa. Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem. Sweetwater Bks.: Cedar Fort. Dec. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781462111459. $16.99. FANTASY

O’Brien, Sean. Vale of Stars. JournalStone. Dec. 2012. c360p. ISBN 9781936564613. pap. $16.95. SF

Planck, M.C. The Kassa Gambit. Tor. Jan. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780765330925. $24.99. SF

Turtledove, Harry. Supervolcano: All Fall Down. ROC: NAL. Dec. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780451464811. $26.95. SF

Library Journal Reviews starred review Zahn, Timothy. Star Wars&#160® : Scoundrels. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jan. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780345511508. $27. SF


Epic: Legends of Fantasy. Tachyon. Dec. 2012. 624p. ed. by John Joseph Adams. ISBN 9781616960841. pap. $17.95. FANTASY

Women on War!: A Zombie vs. Robots Anthology. IDW Pub. Dec. 2012. 304p. ed. by Jeff Conner. illus. by Ericka Lugo. ISBN 9781613774076. pap. $19.99. HORROR


Library Journal Reviews starred review Herbert, James. Ash. Tor. Dec. 2012. 640p. ISBN 9780765328960. $26. HORROR



  1. Meg says:

    Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem by Melissa Lemon is really good for anyone who likes fairy tale re-writes. It keeps you guessing until the very end and no one is who they seem to be when the story begins. A good YA / Adult crossover title.

    • Wilda Williams says:

      Thanks Meg for your recommendation. Jackie also liked this title, noting that with the resurgence of folktales in popular culture this will find plenty of readers.

  2. Meg says:

    Another author for fantasy/fairy tale redo’s in Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her Tales of Goldstone Wood series. So far the series is at 4 books, with the latest Starflower having released on November 1st. There is fantastic imagery, dragons, faerie folk, shape-shifting characters, and humans. It book builds on the others, but they can stand alone.