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SFFH Reviews and Articles in General Publications

Tuesday 31 July 2001

§ New York Times Book Review July 29, 2001
Gerald Jonas's SF column covers Donna McMahon's Dance of Knives (Tor), Liz Williams's The Ghost Sister (Bantam Spectra), and Mike Resnick's The Outpost (Tor). McMahon's book is an "ambitious first novel" and Williams's is a "finely honed first novel", but Jonas is baffled by who the audience could be for Resnick's "witless compilation".

Also in this Sunday's NYTBR: a brief review by Kera Bolonik of Neil Gaiman's American Gods: "he's a fine, droll storyteller".

§ Slate July 24, 2001
Chris Mooney's Culturebox installment has a warning for those about to read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings has its virtues, of course: a compelling plot, a vast imaginative scope. But it's also full of poetry that is—and there's no nice way to say this—simply awful.
There are plenty of supporting citations. And some interesting follow-on reader comments.

Publishers Weekly July 23, 2001 [review posted on Amazon]
Big starred and boxed review for Clive Barker's Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story (HarperCollins, October).

Barker fans may breathe a sigh of relief. ... Barker's new novel is a ferocious indictment of (and backhanded tribute to) Hollywood Babylon, depicted through Barker's glorious imagination as a nexus of human and inhuman evil where fleshly pursuits corrupt the spirit. It's also one ripping ghost story, spooky and suspenseful, as well as a departure for Barker in that here, as never before, the fantastic mingles with the real, kind of. ... [O]ne of the most accomplished, and most notable, novels of the year.

§ Amazon UK
Recently posted are undated interviews with Margaret Weis and Simon Clark.

Monday 23 July 2001

§ The Guardian July 21, 2001
Nicholas Wroe interviews Andrew Crumey, author of D'Alembert's Principle and this year's Mr. Mee (Picador), who talks about scientific fiction (though not science fiction):

'The trouble with so much science in fiction is that the science is usually used as a metaphor," explains the novelist and literary editor Andrew Crumey. "All these wonderful ideas about DNA or black holes or artificial intelligence or whatever end up just as the background to a relationship between a couple of people in Hampstead. The science is hauled in to ennoble the characters. But I take the view that the science is a lot more interesting than a couple of people in Hampstead. In fact, it mostly makes the people seem insignificant by comparison."
Also, Phil Daoust reviews Chris Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

§ The Age July 23, 2001
The Australian newspaper interviews Melbourne author Cecilia Dart-Thornton, whose debut fantasy novel The Ill-Made Mute "has been well reviewed in American publications ranging from obscure literary journals to The Washington Post."

Also, another take on the new book (see The Chronicle of Higher Education entry below), reviving old accusations, charging that some of C.S. Lewis's later works were written by others.

§ Boston Globe 7/21/2001
This review of Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon is titled "Page-turner leaves you wanting more pages".

§ The Globe July 14, 2001
According to this article by Sandra Martin, "Publishers and bookstores can hardly contain their excitement over the forthcoming Lord of the Rings movies", with discussion of upcoming tie-in nonfiction books and quotes from T.A. Shippey about Tolkien's place in 20th century literature.

§ Chicago Tribune July 22, 2001
Here's a belated review by Jeff Lyon of (suburban Chicago resident) Frederik Pohl's 2000 nonfiction Chasing Science: Science as Spectator Sport (Tor):

This is an invaluable reference for anyone with a whiff of scientific interest, or those with children whom they would like to inoculate with a zest for science. Pohl's enthusiasm is so contagious, his narrative so accessible and his example so stirring--Who can fail to be impressed by an octogenarian possessed of such energy and messianic zeal?

§ Denver Post July 22, 2001
One more review, by Candace Horgan, of Neil Gaiman's American Gods:

Gaiman keeps throwing surprises at the reader throughout the book. Just when you think you've figured out what's going on, he twists everything around. If you are familiar with some of the different worldwide mythological traditions, it is great fun to try to figure out who the different gods and goddesses are as Wednesday travels around with Shadow, trying to enlist their help in the war against the new pantheon.

§ Salon July 20, 2001
A profile of the third edition of The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children (Three Rivers Press) talks with Eden Ross Lipson, children's book editor of the New York Times, about whether or not Harry Potter is a classic, and ideological pressures on children's books, e.g., those who consider Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books to be the equivalent of Nazi propaganda from the '30s...

Friday 20 July 2001

§ January July 2001
David Dalgleish supplies the latest of many reviews of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (Morrow)...

One of the things Gaiman does in American Gods -- and it is a book which does many things and does them well -- is fantasticate the Midwest. ... It is, to my knowledge, the first major work of fantasy to do this. In Gaiman's hands, the Midwest becomes a wellspring of stories, like John Crowley's Edgewood, Charles de Lint's Newford, Stephen King's Castle Rock and other key venues in the alternate North America invented by fantasy writers.

§ Writers Write -- The Internet Writing Journal July 2001
The July issue of this e-zine has an interview by Claire E. White of Neil Gaiman; another interview by White of Eric Van Lustbader; and a roundtable discussion (transcribed from EosCon 4.0, produced by and HarperCollins) about alternate history with fantasy authors Guy Gavriel Kay, Susan Matthews, Sean Russell, and Pamela Sargent.

§ The Chronicle of Higher Education July 20, 2001
A long, fascinating piece by Scott McLemee reviews Kathryn Lindskoog's book Sleuthing C.S. Lewis: More Light in the Shadowlands (Mercer University Press, August 2001), which, reviving old allegations,

contends that several literary and theological works attributed to the British author are, in fact, the product of systematic forgery. Her arguments are well-known in Lewisian circles, where they have provoked intense scholarly discussion, not to mention a certain amount of litigation.

Publishers Weekly July 16, 2001 [not online]
Starred review for Harry Turtledove's American Empire: Blood and Iron (Del Rey, July 31).

Nobody plays the what-if game of alternative history better than Turtledove... This book begins a panoramic story, a new trilogy at least, that promises to be immensely fascinating.

Monday 16 July 2001

§ Denver Post Summer 2001
Dorman T. Shindler reviews Dan Simmons's new thriller Hardcase (St. Martin's Minotaur), written in homage to the novels of Richard Stark.

There is always a lot going on under the surface of a Simmons novel. He purposely uses a lot of familiar tropes, offsetting it all with philosophical ruminations and unusual twists. But the plot - the rushing, whitewater rapids may be pushing the reader along so quickly that the depth of the water goes unnoticed. And readers who figured hard-boiled fiction was a tapped-out river will find a leviathan tugging on the line when they sink their hooks into "Hardcase."
§ January July 2001
Claude Lalumière reviews Kevin J. Anderson's Golden Gryphon collection Dogged Persistence. He finds most of the stories "dull and bland" and spends most of the review taking exception to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's introduction...
There are, according to Anderson and Rusch, two kinds of writers: whiny, artsy authors who, at most, publish one short story a year in obscure academic journals while complaining about the popularity of bestsellers, or prolific, hard-working professionals who publish in popular markets and make good money. Anderson and Rusch try to intimidate readers into liking Anderson's fiction by suggesting rather strongly that to dislike Anderson's work is tantamount to the sin of voicing support for pretentious writers who hold their commercially successful colleagues in contempt.

§ July 2001
Roz Kaveney interviews Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of Pashazade (Earthlight).

§ July 2001
An essay by James Sallis describes his varied literary career...

Early on in my writing career, I realized I wasn't destined to have much company on the backroads I traveled. Fellow mystery writers are surprised when they learn of my background in science fiction. Members of the science fiction community are prone to ask why I stopped writing. Friends among poets and literary-magazine editors often know little of my activities in either arena.
Also: Three poems by James Sallis.

The New Yorker July 9, 2001
Andre Norton in The New Yorker? Well, yes; this issue's one-column "Book Currents" column by William Cohen [page 20; not online] discusses three books with "time" in the title, including the recent Baen Books hardcover of Norton's updated Time Traders, described as a "nineteen-fifties pulp classic".

Publishers Weekly July 9, 2001 [not online]
Starred review for Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fourteenth Annual Collection (St. Martin's Griffin).

Tuesday 10 July 2001

§ Rain Taxi Summer 2001
The online version of this review-zine features a long interview with Neil Gaiman by Rudi Dornemann and Kelly Everding, about the dedication of American Gods to Roger Zelazny and Kathy Acker and the various themes of that book...

I think that the biggest, quickest and hardest thing to learn for a writer is that what we think of as the unchanging verities of story are a load of bollocks. Absolute rubbish. There are no unchanging verities. Furthermore, the shapes of stories, which is what we’re conditioned to think in -- you know when something’s a story because a set of things have happened -- there is a very specific western one, and by Western I will take in all the way through Iran, Iraq, that kind of area. As soon as you’ve hit India, the shapes of stories change completely. Once you move into China and that whole area, the shapes of stories again change completely. Africa, again different story shapes -- what constitutes or satisfies that moment of satisfaction. ...

Also, an essay by Jeremy Smith on Utopic Fiction and the Mars Novels of Kim Stanley Robinson.

Entertainment Weekly July 13, 2001 [not online, at least not yet]
Neil Gaiman's American Gods gets the lead book review this week, by Jeff Jensen, who gives it a B.

...Gaiman's stories are always overstuffed experiences, and American Gods has more than enough to earn its redemption, including a hero who deserves further adventures. American Gods is not unlike those epic tales of old: The joy is not in the destination, but in the telling. ...

§ Guardian Unlimited June 16, 2001
The website of this UK newspaper has recently featured a long, substantial profile of Brian Aldiss by Andrew Brown, that opens:

Science fiction is the Cinderella of the literary family: well-brought up people don't acknowledge its existence but it is often the only member of the family that gets any work done and when dressed up can be one of the most beautiful, too.
And covers much:
An unaffected enthusiasm for women runs through his memories. He is both lustful and extremely uxorious. In Macau as a soldier he took himself, he writes in his autobiography, to a brothel, "a whorehouse of huge proportions, a flesh factory, feebly lit, steaming, odorous. Because of the heat the girl wore only vest-like garments, which reached down to, but failed to cover, their neat little wildernesses of pubic hair... I had a proper respect for those small furry entrances into pleasure; in that whorehouse, they hung like so many fruits on a gigantic Christmas tree."

It is worth noting that the man who so relished whores in his youth came to love his wife Margaret so much that when she was dying of cancer nearly four years ago he could observe that "visitors now come to see Margaret. I'm the one who serves tea, coffee or wine, according to the time of day. I'm now just Margaret's Husband - an enviable title, I'd say!"

Also, this review by Ian Penman of Michael Moorcock's short story collection London Bone, in which Penman distinguishes between

Moorcock One, with his Princes of the Southern Ice and Eldrean Princesses, [and] Moorcock Two, the Motörhead of Magical Realism, the author of Mother London, the missing link ("coming up next on London Yesterday...") between Max Miller and Malcolm McLaren.
The reviewer prefers the second...
Moorcock, like William Burroughs, uses sci-fi as a vehicle of louche nostalgia. He is transported by a dream of open-ended remembering - the adult child inhabiting the shades of gunslingers, pirates, jongleurs, spivs. Tellingly, all these stories feel of the past, even when ostensibly set in the future. ... Moorcock should simply mine this favoured vein for what it is - a fleet investigation of deep memory, its persistence and value - and drop the hackneyed sci-fi tics. They're as glintingly obtrusive as burger-bar furniture in an ocean of sand.

Also, Jon Courtenay Grimwood has this round-up of current SF titles by Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Kim Newman, Michael Marshall Smith, and Stan Nicholls.

Monday 2 July 2001

In Defense of Fantasy

§ Washington Post Book World July 1, 2001
Michael Dirda, prompted by a dismissal of last week's review of Neil Gaiman's new book, defends fantasy

In the first place, fantasy, not realism, actually represents the norm for most of the world's storytelling. ... In most instances, fantasy ultimately returns us to our own now re-enchanted world, reminding us that it is neither prosaic nor meaningless, and that how we live and what we do truly matters. After all, the plucking of a rose, the failure to ask the right question, the drawing of a sword, the touch of a woman's hand -- any of these may alter the course of a life. As Yeats, that poetic fantasist, reminded us, in dreams begin responsibilities.
— and offers a recommended reading list of works for people who only care for "literature", including books by Mervyn Peake, Philip Pullman, and John Crowley.


Publishers Weekly June 25, 2001 [not online]
Starred reviews for Jack Williamson's Terraforming Earth (Tor, July 16) -- "poetic undercurrents permeate this masterful work by a superb chronicler of the cosmic." -- and for Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection (St. Martin's Griffin, July 20). Also, from the June 11 issue of PW, a starred review for The Adventures of the Ingenious Alfanhui, by Rafael Sanchez Ferlosio, first published in 1952 and now translated from the Spanish, due August 9 from Daedalus [no Amazon page yet]:

Much honored in his native Spain, Ferlosio is a fabulist comparable to Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, as well as Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. The publisher's blurb saying the book has been as popular in Spain as the Harry Potter books in the English-speaking world is somewhat misleading. Ferlosio's hero, a gentle and observant little boy apprenticed to a master taxidermist, is no Harry Potter... This is a haunting adult reverie on life and beauty -- and as such will appeal to discriminating readers, not a mass audience.

§ Denver Post June 24, 2001
Harlan Ellison -- "the Kevin Bacon of the literary world" -- is interviewed by Dorman T. Shindler, about Ellison's one-man war against Internet piracy.

§ Book Magazine July/August 2001
The magazine's website has a tribute to Douglas Adams by Steve Hockensmith, with comments from Allen Steele and Mike Resnick.

§ The Luddite Reader
This website and review, which invites us to celebrate Ghost in the Machine Day on July 3, features as its current featured book, Keith Roberts's Pavane.

June Field Inspections

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