A Long Transition: Visitor by C.J. Cherryh


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Significant spoilers included.

The difficulty with reviewing a novel many books in to a long-running series—and Visitor is the seventeenth volume in C.J. Cherryh’s ongoing Foreigner series, a series that shows no signs of coming to an end—is a difficulty of audience. Should I assume that everyone reading this review is already familiar with the series? Or should I attempt to provide a full context?

The latter, at this stage, is the next best thing to impossible. So much of Visitor — all of it, in fact—relies on what has gone before to make sense: the complex nature of the position the human Bren Cameron, paidhi, Lord of Najida, and Lord of the Heavens, holds in atevi society; the nature of his relationships with Ilsidi, grandmother of Tabini-aiji, and with Cajeiri, Tabini’s nine-year-old heir, and also with the humans resident on the atevi planet, the human-atevi Alpha Station, the ...

Interpersonal Space Opera: The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel


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cold-between-cover Every so often a debut novel comes along and surprises you with the fact that it’s a debut, because it has the polish and confidence of a mature writer. A few years ago, that was Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice; last year, for me, Fran Wilde’s Updraft and Becky Chambers’ A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet gave me that same jolt of surprise. Now Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut The Cold Between joins the ranks of “debuts that surprised me with their accomplishments.” It might not be Gladstone or Leckie, but despite the occasional hiccup? This is a solid and engaging novel, and a welcome addition to the space opera genre. Central Corps chief engineer Commander Elena Shaw is on shore leave on the planet Volhynia when her crewmate—and ex-lover—Danny is killed. But she knows the man whom the local police have arrested ...

A Crowded Narrative: The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon


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lyre-thief The Lyre Thief is the opening volume in a new epic fantasy trilogy by Australian author Jennifer Fallon. It follows on from one of Fallon’s previous trilogies, forming a ten-years-after sequel of sorts to the events of her Demon Child trilogy (Medalon, Treason Keep, Harshini). I know I read the previous trilogy—I’ve kept a log for years, and those books are in it—but it seems to have left as much an impression on my memory as frost leaves on a window when it melts. Some names are vaguely familiar, but that’s as far as it goes. Perhaps that, as much as my recent burnout on narrative in general, may explain why The Lyre Thief left me cold. Or perhaps, as far as epic fantasy goes, The Lyre Thief simply isn’t very good. There are four main narrative threads in The Lyre Thief. The prologue—baffling in its attempt to ...

On the Lam from the Fae: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs


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Fire Touched Mercy Thompson Patricia Briggs book review Fire Touched is Patricia Briggs’ latest urban fantasy novel. Ninth in the Mercy Thompson series (although thirteenth in this particular continuity if you count the Alpha & Omega spin-off series), it follows on from the events of Night Broken into a whole new coyote-shifter-and-werewolf-pack-and-occasional-vampires-and-faeries adventure. I confess, I had all but forgotten what transpired in Night Broken by the time I picked up Fire Touched—there was a volcano god-monster? Mercy Thompson’s husband’s ex-wife showed up and there was a very frustrating catty insecure-women competition between Mercy and said ex-wife?—so it’s a good thing that Fire Touched doesn’t require its reader to recall too much backstory. Mercy is (still) married to Adam, leader of the local werewolf pack—and poster boy for werewolf integration—and his pack is (still) not entirely happy with her. The fae are (still) on the outs with the US government in a dispute that may yet ...

Sleeps With Monsters: SFF Television and Female Mentorship


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100-clarke-lexa Before I begin this week’s column, a note about column regularity going forward. I won’t be writing Sleeps With Monsters weekly for the foreseeable future: in fact, it’s likely you’ll only be hearing from me once a month for a while. It turns out that after a certain point, it’s really difficult to keep up… In the last couple of weeks, I’ve caught up on the second season of The 100, the post-apocalyptic murder-fest television show of our time. Somewhere around halfway through, and definitely by episode 2.12, “Rubicon,” I started having a vague niggling itch: it was reminding me of Xena: Warrior Princess. “But that’s not right,” I said to myself. “They’re completely different: tonally, stylistically, structurally, in all ways. Have you been sniffing glue, self? Just because people are bringing Xena back is no reason to have it on the brain!” And then I realised ...
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Karen Miller Answers Five Questions


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SWM-Miller

< p class="frontmatter">Please enjoy this encore from the Sleeps With Monsters archives, first published June 19, 2012. The writing career of prolific Australian author Karen Miller kicked off in 2005, with the publication of her first novel, The Innocent Mage, an epic fantasy in the traditional mould. Since then, she’s published a further fifteen novels: four more in the world of The Innocent Mage, a trilogy (the Godspeaker trilogy) in a second epic fantasy universe, three novels in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, two in Fandemonium’s Stargate SG-1 line, and four more fantasy novels—these with a humorous and Edwardian tone—as K.E. Mills, of which the latest is Wizard Undercover. This time out, your not-so-humble correspondent isn’t the one doing all the talking. Karen Miller herself graciously agreed to answer a few questions at length about her novels, writing for media properties, and feminism and the Australian ...

Elizabeth Bear Answers Eight Questions


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SWM-EBear

< p class="frontmatter">Please enjoy this encore from the Sleeps With Monsters archives, first published February 4, 2014. Today we’re joined by the amazing Elizabeth Bear, who has graciously agreed to answer some questions. Bear is the author of over twenty novels and more short fiction than I dare to count—some of which is available in her collections The Chains That You Refuse (Night Shade Books, 2006), and Shoggoths in Bloom (Prime, 2013). She’s a winner of the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and Hugo Awards in 2008 and 2009 for her short story “Tideline” and the novelette “Shoggoths in Bloom,” among other accolades. Many of her novels feature highly in my list of all-time favourites (and I’m really looking forward to her next one due, Steles of the Sky) so I’m thrilled to be able to interrogate her here today. Without further ado, then, let’s ...

Sleeps With Monsters: “There are Such Monsters in a Palace”


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ghost-dragon-saraais Before I get into the meat of this week’s column (four novellas!), I want to extend my thanks for the thoughtful and constructive comments on last week’s column. Well done for those, dear readers! You (some of you) restore my faith in human nature. This week, I thought I’d have a fine and uncontroversial blog post about a wee selection of novellas: Foz Meadows’ “Coral Bones,” from the anthology Monstrous Little Voices (out of Abaddon Books); Beth Bernobich’s The Ghost Dragon’s Daughter (self-published); Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com Publishing, forthcoming); and Heather Rose Jones’s The Mazarinette and the Musketeer (self-published). Believe me when I say I didn’t set out to read four novellas in a row in which queer and female relationships, both romantic and not, prove the main factor shared between them: it happened entirely by accident. I’m not exactly unhappy with this turn ...

A Magical Arms Race: Revisionary by Jim C. Hines: a review


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Revisionary Jim C. Hines has made a career out of writing immensely fun fantasy adventures; novels which possess both a measure of thematic depth and a sense of humour. Revisionary is his latest, the fourth and final novel in the well-received Magic ex Libris series. It might be an end—but it’s a pretty solidly satisfying one. Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a magician whose power comes from books and belief. For years he’s been a member of the secretive organisation known as the Porters, who existed to exert control over magic and books, and to preserve the safety of ordinary people. But as a result of the upheavals of Unbound, the Porters’ immortal leader, Gutenberg (yes, that Gutenberg) died, and Isaac found himself in the unenviable position of having to reveal the existence of magic to the world. The results, as of the beginning of Revisionary, have been about as ...

Sleeps With Monsters: There’s A Counter In My Head


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Sleeps With Monsters There’s a counter in my head. Imagine a tiny recording demon, making marks in its ledger, constantly alert. There’s a counter in my head, and I can’t turn it off. It counts women present in a narrative. It counts people who aren’t men. It counts queer representation. It counts—although somewhat less strictly, due to the blinkers of its upbringing—the presence of people who aren’t white, or who aren’t able-bodied. It counts up roles. It compares and contrasts roles. It counts incidences where things follow a trend, and where they diverge. It recognises patterns. Dead women. Sexual objects. Motivating objects. Objectified. Tragic queerness. Queerness-as-a-phase. Women sidelined. Elided. Present but only significant for how they relate to a white able-bodied cisgender man. It counts whose story gets to be told, and by whom. It counts opportunities to include people. And opportunities to include people NOT TAKEN. The tiny recording demon isn’t ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Hollywood’s Problem With Really Low Bars


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TFA-Leia The spoilers are strong with this one. So. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s pretty Star-Wars-y, isn’t it? Nice change from the prequels: it’s got that lived-in space opera feel about it again, the feeling that there’s a life beyond what we’re shown on the screen. And Rey! Rey with that lightsaber, man, that’s a moment. But for all my tiny feminist glee about Star Wars finally showing me a Force-sensitive hero who is also a woman on the big screen (a competent woman! who isn’t made into a sexual object! who isn’t the only visible woman in the whole course of the film!) it brought home to me, yet again, just how low Hollywood’s bar really is when it comes to giant franchises and women’s roles. We really are so used to making do with scraps that we end up delighted to get tossed even half a ...
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The Politics of Justice: Identity and Empire in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Trilogy


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Ancillary-trilogy

“…I don’t think you know many Radchaai, not personally. Not well. You look at it from the outside, and you see conformity and brainwashing… But they are people, and they do have different opinions about things.” [Leckie, Ancillary Justice: 103]

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch books—the trilogy which comprises Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy—have a significant amount of thematic depth. On the surface, this trilogy offers fairly straightforward space opera adventure: but underneath are a set of nested, interlocking conversations about justice and empire, identity and complicity. How one sees oneself versus how one is seen by others: when is a person a tool and when is a tool a person? The trilogy is one long argument on negotiating personhood and the appropriate uses of power; on civilisation and the other; and on who gets to draw which lines, and how. It’s also, as I may ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Catching the Stragglers from 2015


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SWM-January How many months will it take to get used to writing “2016” instead of “2015”? The annual complaint, adjusted for the year: as a child, I always wondered how the characters of the various Star Treks could keep their Stardates straight. But before we ramble on into the meat of 2016 proper, there’re a few books from 2015 that I’ve only just caught up on, and that I really think you should check out. I’m late to the party when it comes to Claire North: months and months late. Touch is the first of her novels I’ve ever read, and it’s her second novel under this nom de plume. (She’s also got an urban fantasy series as Kate Griffin, among other things, I believe). It’s an excellently taut thriller with one speculative conceit: what if there were people, beings, who could move into any body, live any life, with a ...

Sleeps With Monsters: In Defence of Fanfiction, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Trust Myself


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korrasami It’s been a while since I got personal in one of these columns. So I thought while everyone in the northern hemisphere is sleeping off the midwinter revels, it might be a good time to slip some deep and philosophical navel-gazing in under the wire. Exciting, right? (It’s okay. You can still go back to sleep if you like.) Many people have written a lot of things concerning fanfiction. Most of them have a wider appreciation of the history—and the breadth—of the form than I do. Fanfiction and fairytale exist on the same continuum, I remember reading somewhere: it’s all part of the human impulse to take the stories we hear and make them our own. And that makes a lot of sense. It’s less difficult than it used to be to find mainstream narratives that feature, for example, QUILTBAG protagonists. But it is still far from common. Fanfiction ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Books To Look Forward To In The First Half Of 2016


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SWM-2016
  1. Hell, 2016. How is it coming up 2016 already? I’d only just got used to it being 2015. Now I’m going to have to get used to a whole new year.
But in compensation for none of us being as young as we used to be, there are new and interesting-sounding books coming out in the next six months. So many, in fact, that I can’t keep track of them. I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are a few I’m looking forward to in advance. January offers us Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky, a debut SF novel from an already-acclaimed writer of short fiction. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard bids fair to be an interesting YA epic fantasy. There must be other things as well – what else comes out in January? Seriously, tell me, because I’ve managed to miss pretty much everything but ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Looking Back On 2015


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SWM-best2015 As the long year draws to its close, I think it’s time we looked back at some of the highlights from 2015. I’m not normally a fan of “Best Of” lists, but I think this is a good season for “Favourites.” I don’t watch a lot of TV, but 2015 left me with two genre shows that stick in my mind as examples of complex narratives done well. Both of them, rather surprisingly, are made-for-Netflix series, and both of them are strongly character-focused. Sense8 is a many-faceted gem of a show about eight people across the world who abruptly find themselves mentally connected to each other, and under threat from a mysterious organisation. Despite the background of global conspiracy, on an emotional level the narrative impact is intensely personal: it succeeds in making you care, almost painfully, for each of its characters. Jessica Jones is, on the surface, a ...

Profound Indifference: Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan


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Meeting Infinity

I read short fiction seldom, which makes me an odd choice to review an anthology of it. Let me get that caveat out there before everything else: although I know what I like, my ignorance of the form is vast.

Meeting Infinity is the fourth in a series of science fiction anthologies out of Solaris, curated by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan. It comprises sixteen pieces of short fiction by James S.A. Corey, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Simon Ings, Kameron Hurley, Nancy Kress, Gwyneth Jones, Yoon Ha Lee, Bruce Sterling, Gregory Benford, Madeline Ashby, Sean Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Ramez Naam, John Barnes, An Owomoyela, and Ian McDonald, as well as an introduction by the editor.

Strahan suggests in his introduction that the theme of the anthology is the impact of profound change on human beings:

“I asked a group of science fiction writers to think about the ways in which profound ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Tempus Fugit


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How is it the middle of December already? I could swear that the last time I looked around, it was only October. This whole business of time travel only taking us to the future is terribly infuriating: how am I ever supposed to catch up on my reading?

(It might not really be time travel, but damn does it feel like time sped up when I wasn’t looking.)

Sleeps with Monsters Liz Bourke Planetfall Emma NewmanIf I were a less cranky person, I might have thoroughly enjoyed Emma Newman’s Planetfall, instead of appreciating it as a well-written novel that did very little for me. Decades ago, a thousand people followed Lee Suh-Mi from Earth to a new planet, a planet whose co-ordinates came to her when she woke from a coma, a planet home to a mysterious structure that the colonists call “God’s city.” As far as most of the colonists are concerned, Suh ...

Sleeps With Monsters Liz Bourke The Fire Sermon Francesca Haig
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Cliffhangers and Character Arcs: Adapting Abaddon’s Gate


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Abaddon's_Gate

Abaddon’s Gate is the third novel in James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series. The powers-that-be here at Tor.com asked me to revisit it in advance of the premiere of the television series based on the books. To talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the adaptable…

In my case, though, it’s less revisit than visit for the very first time. I’ve only just read Abaddon’s Gate, and I haven’t yet made it to books four and five. What long threads does Abaddon’s Gate lay down that will be taken up later on? I don’t know. But I do have opinions on what should come out of this section of the narrative arc in a television adaptation—as well as rather less optimistic opinions on what we will, in the end, eventually see.

Some series/book spoilers.

Like its immediate predecessor, Abaddon’s Gate uses four difference points of view to ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Space Opera and Explosions


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I’ve been reading several books that I’d like to be able to tell you about in detail. Unfortunately, a feverish chest infection is really really good at wiping the details from my mind, so I can only talk about these excellent books in the broadest strokes. Still, if you need a pick-me-up? Here’s some reading I’d very much like to recommend to you.

Long-WayIt took me a long while to get around to reading Becky Chambers’ The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet. I confess that the title put me off a little: it seemed to signal something humorous, and I have peculiar tastes in that direction. But instead of being an intentionally funny book, The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet is a story of finding one’s own way, and making one’s own family. Set aboard a small ship, it gives us the story of a disparate ...

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