April 7, 2020

January 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

The month of January sees the first month of the first year of the second decade of the 21st century. While we continue to review and bring you the best in astronomy, science, and science fiction, some would argue that we’re already living it… shouldn’t we have jet packs by now?

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2009: The Year in Science Fiction and the Look Ahead.

2009 was an interesting year in the realm of science fiction. Sure, we had our predictable, (and sometimes regrettable) run of video games and toys turned into a two hour special effects gags, but some indie and foreign flicks made minor inroads into our sci-fi consciousness. The SyFy channel shortened its name for greater texting ease, while hip publishers like Pyr and podcasts like Escape Pod and the Drabblecast continued to gain ground in terms of exponential coolness. [Read more...]

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself  is the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy “The First Law” and is also Abercrombie’s amazing first novel. In April of this year, I came to have the third book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, and I decided to read it as a standalone and not wait ’til I could acquire Book One.  It did stand alone…easily.  I had questions, however, and knowing that I’d started at the end, I went back to the beginning to see if there were answers.  When one starts at the beginning of a story, this is usually not an option, so I was happy to take the opportunity.

My curiosity was mostly about Glokta, the Inquisitor who’d once been a champion. Was he that champion in the first book?  Will we learn how he came to be who he is now?  Then, there’s the crew that went on the quest for ‘The Seed’.  How did their relationships develop and change?  What is behind the veiled references to past events in each of their lives?  How did these people all find each other?

I got answers.  Glokta is already his Inquisitor self in The Blade Itself, BUT there is considerably more back story on him.  The same is true of the other central characters.  Knowing already where they finish, I found it fascinating to see where everyone started in this story.  In many ways, there is a giant chess game played out over three volumes, and one could look at it in two ways.  Either everyone is a pawn….or no one is.  Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one person who is played from the beginning, and really, the reader is kind of happy to see it.  Even though all the characters are being played to some degree, each has his or her own self to put into play and that makes for somewhat unexpected outcomes.

Abercrombie’s visceral description of battle that I noted in Last Argument of Kings is no less so in The Blade Itself.  The entire story, despite the number of characters, flows easily and draws the reader from word to word.  The character development is wonderful; the story is dramatic; the details are relevant.  Abercrombie’s use of soliloquy offers insight that might otherwise not be offered.

I can easily recommend this trilogy to lovers of fantasy, as well as anyone who appreciates a good story written well. I was thinking to read this first volume and, having read the third, let it lie.  Now, I see I’m going to have to read Book Two, Before They are Hanged, as well… Such a sacrifice…

Fables of Tonight.

Note: This week’s installment was written by our guest SciFi reviewer extraordinaire, Sabrina Fobes!

In 1987, Michael Resnick introduced a new gumshoe to the literary world.  It’s New Year’s Eve and John Justin Mallory is alone in his Manhattan office, hiding from his rent demanding landlord; bemoaning the loss of his wife to his partner; drinking bourbon and generally reflecting on a truly unmemorable year.

It’s into this emotional miasma that a belligerent elf named Murgensturm enters to plea for Mallory’s help in retrieving a stolen unicorn –  a unicorn whose loss could cause the elf his life if not found by morning.  When Mallory is finally convinced the elf and his dilemma are real, the fun begins.

Mallory goes to an alternative Manhattan, the “…Manhattan you see out of the corner of your eye.”, with the same map and sites as the Manhattan he knows, but with very different residents and very different rules.

He befriends a cat girl named Felina, who is a big help in his quest to solve the mystery of the unicorn.  He finds himself challenged by the alternate Manhattan’s “big bad” known as “The Grundy”, and is frequently finding himself rewriting the rules of his trade as he moves toward solution.

Along the way is a lot of humor and even some not so subtle social commentary.  The twists and turns are every bit as engaging as in a mystery set in traditional Manhattan.  The novel leaves us satisfied with the solution and also craving more travel with John Justin.

Segue to real time year 2008.  The long-awaited sequel is here!  The reader is reintroduced to John Justin Mallory who has now set up shop in the alternative Manhattan. Felina the cat-girl is a friend, pet, and member of staff.  Also, the big game hunter Colonel Winnifred Carruthers, who Mallory saved from a dreary retirement in Stalking the Unicorn, is working beside Mallory in his crime solving endeavors.

It is Halloween when Winnifred’s nephew arrives with two tell-tale holes in his neck and then later in the day turns up dead.  The quest is to find whodunnit and beat the challenges along the way.  The Grundy has become an uneasy ally to Mallory, who has successfully assisted The Grundy in recent history, and is  helping with the hunt for the offending vampire.

Add to the team a crime-novel-writing dragon pen named Scaly Jim Chandler, and a vampire who doesn’t care much for blood (but a good glass of tomato juice goes a long way) , and you have the basis for another good time.

Again, Resnick’s acid wit and clean, unadorned style make this a delightful read.

I, for one, hope I don’t have to wait 22 years for the next installment!