Without ever venturing into overt fantasy, Café Insomniac paints a fantasy landscape local to any city in the world in shades of sleepless deep grays and headlight yellow-whites.
The problem with “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes” is that it is not about superheroes or spiritual laws. It’s about selling a book.
For such a spiritual book, Simple Act behaves like a solid action thriller. Moving at a fine clip, the plot never lets readers get either bored or overwhelmed. There is just enough character development, just enough setting, just enough of everything—Veligor has a fine sense of balance. A multiplicity of threats keeps the hero on his toes even as he struggles with higher philosophical and metaphysical matters, none of which are dwelt upon so long that the reader loses interest, in between walks downtown in his beloved Portland.
Ultimately, intense world building makes The Exile’s Violin a success. Between exotic cities and frozen factories, Jacquie and her sidekick Clay seem to move through a world that is at least half travelogue. Readers will enjoy the meticulous details of each locale, particularly during the many dramatic battle scenes.
Chambers is an engaging writer with that rare golden ability to satirize with a straight face. He begins “In Search” almost believably, introducing the protagonist as a dedicated if somewhat dense science hero as he ventures north to locate a Great Auk.
Despite novel’s failings, both Asahel and Felix are distinct characters. While sexuality never pops up, the subtext of their love could hardly be clearer. While the many coy hints may enrage diehard romance fans, LGBT readers will appreciate the respect with which Perkins treats these sympathetic, though star-crossed, gay characters.
Monster is an ideal: freed from the body and blessed with ultimate mobility, it cares for others, and is immaculate. The whale is his polar opposite in every way. It hardly matters whether the whale is meant to represent The Monster’s uterus, the mother’s uterus, or simply the sheer concept of the uterus; knowledge of this engulfing thing is what replaces the monster in importance
In Datafall: Collected Speculative Fiction, Rich Larson explores the entrapment of humanity by technology. Each tale is an ideological Trojan horse set in a familiar, hyperactive future where silicon is at least as much a given as gravity and oxygen. Humanity distorts around its monstrous machines until it is only recognizable by its struggle against them.
Ninety-nine percenters will enjoy the tongue-in-cheek treatment of class status. Whoever heard of Dracula working the night shift at a hospital? Why on Earth would a bloodsucking demon need a paycheck? They may be the ultimate apex predator, but Shoreditch Slayer implies that vampires are stuck in the same grimy month to month realities as their food. After all, we’re all active expense accounts in the eyes of Wells Fargo.
Ashby’s writing is far smoother and easier on the eyes than Asimov’s. She breaks up heavy danger and daunting philosophical hurdles with well-placed, natural humor. vN is also strongly character-driven. Ashby orchestrates her cast of dynamic characters beautifully to bring her ideological points home in a way that is neither preachy nor weak.