Monday, June 27, 2022
Friday, June 24, 2022
Everything in All the Wrong Order: The Best of Chaz Brenchley, by Chaz Brenchley (Subterranean)
Anything I say about the short fiction of Chaz Brenchley requires the disclaimer that he is a dear friend and colleague. Here’s the story of how I met him: Years ago, the Science Fiction Writers of America (note for the obsessive: it’s now the Science Fiction & Fantasy Association) had a Circulating Book Program of books provided by publishers for consideration for the Nebula Award. I made an effort to read at least the first few pages of every book I received. I flipped open one such submission and read:
“Down in the Shine was Issel, dreaming.”
A shiver went down my spine because I knew with utter certainty that here was a master of the craft. To begin a novel with such compelling poetry! (And the book did not disappoint, being a thing to be savored, not skimmed.) The book was Bridge of Dreams, by some Brit I’d never heard of.
A few years later I had signed a contract to edit my first anthology, Lace and Blade. I thought of that amazing opening line. I contacted the author and asked if he would submit a story. He agreed. “In the Night Street Baths” was set in the same world as Bridge of Dreams. I loved every word of it. (So did readers, and other editors — it was reprinted in a “Best of” anthology.)
So it made perfect sense that Chaz and I become personal friends, at first meeting on those rare occasions when he visited the United States, then more frequently once he’d moved to my home state. Since then I’d had the joy of editing more of his work, as well as many rich conversations.
Am I biased when it comes to Chaz stories? You bet, I am!
So here’s a truly amazing collection to be enjoyed slowly and reflectively, like fine wine. Share them with someone you love.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Friday, June 17, 2022
Scandal in Babylon, by Barbara Hambly (Severn House)
I loved Barbara Hambly’s Bride of the Rat God, a fantasy set in Roaring 1920s Hollywood. Now she returns to that era, with its glamorous silent film stars, bootleggers, gangsters, drug use, widespread corruption, and the frenzied exuberance that followed World War I. In this story, a murder mystery (without Bride’s supernatural elements) the viewpoint character is Emma, a young British widow who now works as a companion and secretary for her superstar sister-in-law, Kitty. Classically trained, Emma is constantly affronted by the wildly inaccurate movie scripts (Kitty is currently starring in The Empress of Babylon), many of which she is called upon to rewrite on the spur of the moment. She’s also embarked on a possible new romance with cameraman Zak. To complicate matters further, Kitty’s real life is as melodramatic as her screen characters. She is a generous person for all her antics, especially loving to her three adorable Pekinese. When Kitty’s dissolute ex-husband, Rex, is found murdered, it looks very much as if someone is trying to set Kitty up to take the blame and is doing a very bad job of it. A deliberately bad job?
Drenched in atmosphere and fascinating historical details, featuring vivid characters and snappy dialog, Scandal in Babylon is Hambly at the top of her form. The pacing and depth of the scenes are wonderful, just the right combination of page-turning action, whodunit tension, and moments of reflection and personal growth.
Rumor has it that Scandal in Babylon will be the first of a new series. If so, sign me up!
Monday, June 13, 2022
Friday, June 10, 2022
The Extractionist, by Kimberly Unger (Tachyon)
In a world in which people upload their minds into virtual reality, things sometimes go awry and they get stuck in “the Swim.” Enter Eliza McKay, freelance Extractionist. Highly skilled in navigating virtual reality, thanks to a combination of experience, native talent, and extensive implanted hardware, she’s the go-to specialist for difficult retrieval cases. Now she’s on assignment for a government agency, trying to preserve the investigation results of an agent’s digital persona gone missing in the Swim. One thing after another goes wrong, and soon she’s faced with a choice of pulling the agent out without what he’s learned or having to try ever more risky strategies. Then thugs break into her house and try to hack her cybernetic implants. And something dangerous is lurking in the Swim.
Like Unger’s debut novel, Nucleation, The Extractionist features vivid and highly imaginative hard science fiction world-building. I’m not a tech person or familiar with virtual reality, but the characters and situations were compelling enough to keep me reading, and eventually the internal consistency made sense to me. The story is full of fascinating details, like the need to replace neurotransmitter chemicals after a prolonged VR session. Unger writes with the ease of familiarity with challenging technical material, so that even if I couldn’t explain what was happening, I knew she could. The sureness of an author’s voice can carry us into worlds and situations we’ve never experienced for ourselves. Unger’s work is cutting-edge science fiction. I can hardly wait to see what she comes up with next!
Monday, June 6, 2022
Here's the cover for the next Darkover novel, The Laran Gambit.
The Laran Gambit ebook pre-order links
Links to other vendors and to the hardcover edition will be available shortly.
Friday, June 3, 2022
Forkpoints, by Sheila Finch (Aqueduct Press)
Sheila Finch is one of the treasures of modern science fiction. She’s literate, imaginative, and deeply insightful. Her contributions to the field include not only specific, awesomely good works, but her careful attention to how language shapes story structure and flow. Her short fiction works are like polished gemstones, with each facet reflecting and informing the central theme. Here is a collection of such jewels, each speaking to the profound transformative power of human understanding. We are more than our circumstances, these stories say, we have the ability to shift our perspective, to look and feel more deeply, and thereby to shift entire realities. From an elderly music teacher who could also have been an iconic physicist to an extraordinary communication across species to a time-traveler visiting his own ancestor during the World War II London bombings, each tale reaches deep into the mind of the reader, inviting us with Finch’s characteristically gentle wisdom to see the universe and ourselves in a revolutionary light.