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SFFH Reviews and Articles in General Publications

Tuesday 28 August 2001

§ Washington Post August 26, 2001
A column by Greg Feeley covers books by Kelly Link, Terry Bisson, and Jack Womack.

§ New York Times August 26, 2001
Judith Shulevitz chimes in on the new Narnia marketing campaign.

§ London Times August 26, 2001
A review of the new Salman Rushdie novel, Fury.

§ The Onion A.V. Club August 22, 2001
A review of Brian Aldiss's Supertoys Last All Summer Long.

§ January August 2001
Neil Gaiman is interviewed, and Claude Lalumière reviews the new books by Ray Vukcevich and Kelly Link.

§ Publishers Weekly August 20, 2001
Starred reviews for Paul Di Filippo's Strange Trades (Golden Gryphon) (reprinted on the Amazon page) and for Stephen King and Peter Straub's Black House (Random) (reprinted on its Amazon page). This issue of PW also has an article about the 35th anniversary of the Star Trek publishing program.

Tuesday 21 August 2001


§ Chicago Tribune August 19, 2001
NPR commentator Alan Cheuse reviews Hope's End (Tor), a first novel by Stephen Chambers, not so much because it's a great book, but for the local angle:

[T]he author is a sophomore at the University of Chicago who began writing this novel when he was in high school. ... Though the book is literally sophomoric, we should blame its few lapses in diction on the editor rather than the writer. Having just attained the age when he can buy himself a drink, Stephen Chambers deserves to be feted. The best toast I can think of would celebrate the fact that once you begin reading the novel, you don't care if it was written by a sophomore or a senior citizen: You just keep reading.

§ Washington Post August 12, 2001
Carmela Ciuraru briefly reviews [scroll down] Michael Moorcock's "savagely funny new novel" King of the City, just published in the US by Morrow.

Moorcock is an exuberant and witty storyteller. While taking on large social issues such as consumerism, corporate greed and the sacrosanct treatment accorded to celebrities, he also creates nuanced, immensely likeable characters. Moorcock's tendency toward staccato sentences becomes tiresome at times, but this is a novel well worth reading for its brilliant ideas.

§ The Age 18 August 2001
A review of 2007 (Hodder), the debut novel of Australian popular science celebrity Robyn Williams. The book is

in the form of an environmental comedy-cum-futurist thriller-cum-eco-manifesto. ... But this book fails on too many fronts (and, depressingly, does not at least have the virtue of being a page-turner). The plot, characters, dialogue and style all misfire...

§ The Independent 18 August 2001
A review of Clive Barker's imminent Coldheart Canyon, a novel about Hollywood, where Barker lives.

Most of Barker's weighty novels are secondary-world fantasies, finding vast wonderlands adjacent to our reality. This one features a pocket medieval fantasy-land, transported in the 1920s from a Romanian monastary to Los Angeles inside a Bosch-like painted mosaic. But the book does not need to stress a sub-universe, populated by the mutant offspring of animals and movie-star ghosts, because it already has a secondary world to hand: in Hollywood itself.

§ Publishers Weekly August 13, 2001 [not online]
Two starred SF/Fantasy/Horror reviews in the big Fall Announcements issue, first for Ursula K. Le Guin's forthcoming Earthsea novel, The Other Wind (Harcourt):

Now she returns with a superb novel-length addition to the Earthsea universe, one that, once again, turns that entire series on its head. ... In her new novel, however, she reconsiders relationship between magic and something even more basic: life and death itself. This is not what 70-year-old writers of genre fantasy are supposed to do, but then, there aren't many writers around like Le Guin.
And a star for Judith Tarr's Pride of Kings (Roc):
The fantastic may be subsidiary to fact in Tarr's (Kingdom of the Grail) latest historical fantasy, but it lends an eerily beautiful, sometimes frightening undercurrent to this engrossing, thoroughly satisfying novel, set in the late 12th century.


§ The Spectator 18 August 2001
Not about science fiction at all, but rather about the current spiritual and cultural crisis of England, is this interview with J.G. Ballard.

§ frontwheeldrive 08132001
frontwheeldrive, a webzine out of Seattle which "humbly attempts to bring intelligent reporting to emerging sciences such as Artificial Intelligence, Memetics, Media Theory, Complexity, Chaos Theory and the like with an open eye on the new media in which we participate" interviews Paul Levinson, about McLuhan, and science fiction, including his response to the question

Science Fiction authors are often considered by scholarly types as the true beacons of the next age. What are your aims as a SCi-Fi author?

Monday 13 August 2001


§ The Times [London] July 24, 2001
Buzz is building about new writer Jasper Fforde, whose first novel is The Eyre Affair (UK: Hodder & Stoughton, July 19). Vanora Bennett reviews it in The Times...

Itís a long time since fantasy was respected as an artistic genre. But in the past few years, since the Harry Potter phenomenon, it has become fashionable again, and will no doubt be boosted further by the first part of the movie version of Lord of the Rings in December.

So the climate is exactly right for Jasper Fforde, whose first published novel, The Eyre Affair, out this month, is an exuberant - and elf-free - comic fantasy. Itís set in an alternative 1985, when Wales is a Soviet Republic, the Crimean War is still on and time travel is possible. Oh, and dodos have been cloned back from extinction.
And here's a review in The Independent by Charles Shaar Murray...
What Fforde is pulling, of course, is a variation on a classic Monty Python gambit: the incongruous juxtaposition of low comedy and high erudition. Though not wholly original - these days, what is? - this scam hasn't been pulled off with such off-hand finesse and manic verve since the Pythons shut up shop. The Eyre Affair is a silly book for smart people: postmodernism played as raw, howling farce.

§ Guardian August 12, 2001
An SF column by Jon Courtenay Grimwood provides brief reviews of current books by Adam Roberts, Gwyneth Jones, Tom Holt, and Simon Clark, and a reissue by John Christopher. On Roberts's On:

Fine writing, hard science, carefully crafted dialogue - Adam Roberts's first novel, Salt, had everything except a plot. His new one, On (Millennium, £10.99), is a major step forward. This time there is plot, almost overwhelming amounts of hard science and writing that is less fine but far more effective. In this world, gravity pulls along instead of down, turning every landscape into one vast, dangerous cliff face from which it is always possible to fall. ...

§ Publishers Weekly July 30, 2001
Maureen F. McHugh's new novel, Nekropolis (Eos), gets a starred review (which is reproduced on the Amazon page):

In this exquisite if melancholy novel, McHugh (Mission Child) evokes a repressive, intensely sexist 22nd century Morocco that is largely cut off from the rest of the world by the dictates of the Second Koran. ... McHugh's Morocco, with its intensely symbolic Nekropolis, is very real, but ultimately it is Hariba, Akhmim and their heartbreaking, impossible relationship that the reader will remember.

PW also has an interview with McHugh, by Michael Levy and Sandra Lindow.

§ January July 2001
Claude Lalumière reviews David Hartwell (and Kathryn Cramer)'s Year's Best Fantasy (Eos), contrasting it (of course) to Datlow & Windling's long-running annual collection, and concluding:

Finally: an anthology that showcases the potentially vast scope of fantasy, instead of trying to squeeze it into a specific school of writing, a rigid definition, or a one-note commercial category. Hartwell celebrates the genre's achievements in all its thrilling and gaudy glory. This book is a great start to a new series.

§ Denver Post August 12, 2001
Roger K. Miller reviews Whitley Strieber's first novel in many years, The Last Vampire (Pocket):

But don't read "The Last Vampire" for its story, because that way madness lies. No, read it instead for the ludicrous made portentous.

§ Washington Post August 12, 2001
Maria Russo reviews Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon (Putnam):

Fowler, the author of three other works of fiction (including Sarah Canary, set in a slightly earlier San Francisco), is in love with the weird, seamy underworld of proper 19th-century society. At moments her prodigious research threatens to take over Sister Noon; the story mentions so many odd events, bizarre sights and peculiar juxtapositions that they nearly verge on the rote. Overall, though, she handles her material with delicious irreverence -- you could read the novel as a sly, campy-Gothic send-up of the sorts of books Lizzie herself devours ("swoony" novels such as Ivanhoe and popular, feverish "female adventure stories").

Also, Does anyone still read comic books? asks Bradford W. Wright -- author of Comic Book Nation -- and reviews several recent graphic novels, including Ted Rall's 2024.

For most Americans, [comic books] are synonymous with superheroes and adolescent fantasy. Yet there is another creative tradition in comic books, which has produced the kind of adult dramas, historical works and social satire usually seen in more mature media. And even as superhero comics are enjoying something of a comeback lately, this tradition of adult-oriented comic books is alive and flourishing in the latest batch of graphic novels. These books may keep a low profile, but anyone looking for an original and genuinely personal creative vision told in words and pictures -- so rare to find in today's popular culture -- should seek them out.

§ Boston Globe August 9, 2001
Vanessa E. Jones reviews Tananarive Due's The Living Blood.

''Gripping'' doesn't begin to describe Tananarive Due's supernatural thriller ''The Living Blood.'' Try ''riveting.'' ''Spellbinding.'' ''Mesmerizing.'' ... Since becoming part of the literary scene in 1995, Due has become a modern-day Octavia Butler, a talented storyteller who stands tall among her horror cohorts Anne Rice and Stephen King. She's written two other supernatural suspense novels - ''The Between'' and ''My Soul to Keep,'' the latter of which introduced Jessica's character.

§ San Francisco Chronicle August 12, 2001
Michael Berry's SF column covers Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Connie Willis's Passage, and Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl.

§ The Sunday Times [London] August 12, 2001
J.G. Ballard's Super-Cannes (Flamingo) is a paperback pick:

This is a highly readable novel that works both as a thriller and as a sour commentary on contemporary capitalism.

Profiles and Interviews

§ New York Times August 2, 2001
Here's a Circuits Section profile of Vernor Vinge, whose 1981 novella "True Names" is characterized by writer Katie Hafner as significant a vision of a networked world as anything by William Gibson. The story will be reprinted in the much-delayed, variously-titled fiction/nonfiction collection True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier, currently due from Tor in December.

[C]omputers are at the center of Dr. Vinge's vision of the challenges that the coming decades will bring. A linchpin of his thinking is what he calls the "technological singularity," a point at which the intelligence of machines takes a huge leap, and they come to possess capabilities that exceed those of humans. As a result, ultra- intelligent machines become capable of upgrading themselves, humans cease to be the primary players, and the future becomes unknowable.

Dr. Vinge sees the singularity as probable if not inevitable, most likely arriving between 2020 and 2040. Indeed, any conversation with Dr. Vinge, 56, inevitably turns to the singularity. It is a preoccupation he recognizes with self-effacing humor as "my usual shtick."

§ Guardian Unlimited Observer August 12, 2001
Robert McFarlane offers a slightly skeptical portrait of the late Douglas Adams, by way of reviewing The Dirk Gently Omnibus (Heinemann).

A comic writer, then, first and foremost. The tributes to Adams which flooded in after his death, however, and which proliferate daily in various corners of cyberspace, take his writing very seriously indeed. But how to take seriously an author who calls his characters Bang-Bang, Trillian and Vroomfondel? Perhaps a useful way to think of Adams is as the Lewis Carroll of the twentieth century. Both writers possessed an admirable knack for creating alternative worlds. Both laboured unthinkably hard behind the scenes to give their writing the appearance of madcap tomfoolery, which just happened to hit on accidental truths. And both had serious satirical points to make about the dogmatisms of their respective ages.

... Rereading much of the Adams oeuvre, I have also been reminded of two earlier comic satirists, Rabelais and Swift. In common with both, Adams loved playing with scale. A lot of his best gags revolve around sudden shifts of size. There's the one where the fleet of Vogon starships are described massing in a corner of the galaxy. And then a dog swallows them all.

§ The Onion A.V. Club August 8, 2001
Tasha Robinson profiles Samuel R. Delany, on the occasion of the reissue of his 1975 novel Dhalgren.

The Onion: In the introduction to Dhalgren, William Gibson describes the book as a riddle that was never meant to be solved. Do you think that's an apt summary?

Samuel R. Delany: Yes. A number of things in Dhalgren are just meant to function as mysteries. They're mysteries when the book begins, and they're mysteries when the book ends. When it first came out, something that probably made the book confusing, especially to younger readers, was that some readers felt the only reason to have a mystery is if you were going to solve it. The idea that certain things in life--and in the universe--don't yield up their secrets is something that requires a slightly more mature reader to accept.
And, re: Bread and Wine and Times Square Red, Times Square Blue...
O: Do you think that loss of dignity is the only potential problem with loss of privacy?

SRD: Oh, no, I think privacy is very important. Nevertheless, I think people often value it for the wrong reasons. The reason for privacy is not so that people will not know you go to the bathroom. It's to allow certain things to go on that you don't want other people to know about, when all is said and done. But the things I don't want other people to know about are not my sex life.

§ BookSense
Two recent interviews on this site, by Gavin J. Grant: the interview with Lewis Shiner is about his latest novel Say Goodbye, comics, small press, electronic books, and more.

Glimpses, your previous novel, seemed to have considerable autobiographical elements, whereas the protagonist of Say Goodbye is a woman in her twenties. Was that a stretch?

Say Goodbye is actually my most autobiographical novel. In 1992 my freelance writing career collapsed -- the comics industry was going through a sea-change, and I couldn't get any work there that I was comfortable with, and I couldn't support myself on my novels, so I had to go back to work. I wanted to write a novel that attacked the common wisdom that if you try hard enough, you can always get anything you want. Because I'm so interested in the music business, I kept seeing story after story about bands that were going through much the same thing I was.
And this interview with Molly Gloss, about her latest novel Wild Life, living in the West, her favorite writers, and more.

Then there's an essay by Paul J. McAuley about the reality of "Microbes and Mars" against the current zeitgeist...

A very common early twenty-first century condition is that of disappointed or diminished expectations. Here we are in 2001, the future of science fiction's Golden Age, and we don't have the aircars, jetpacks, vastly ambitious space programs, and homicidal computers we were promised. Not to mention, of course, aliens willing to meddle in human evolution, or even their black monolithic stand-ins.

Even so, not since the end of the space age have there been so many science-fictional headlines in the newspapers: planet-busting asteroids; worlds around other stars; cloning ... and, of course, life on Mars.

§ 10 August 2001
Barry Forshaw profiles Stephen Baxter, whose new book is the third novel in his "Manifold" sequence, Origin.

Which particular premise is exercising the Baxter brain at present? He grins eagerly. "That's easy... It's the Fermi paradox, which essentially states that if alien life existed, we'd know about it by now. There are a million arguments as to why this might not be so, and this is the basis of my Manifold sequence... Are we alone in the universe? That's possibly the most provocative question that science fiction can answer. If the earth has had visitors, why is there no evidence of their coming? There should be something like the relics of the ancient Roman Empire."

§ New York Times August 9, 2001
And here's an article about the 2001 Black Writers Reunion and Conference, and prominent participant Steven Barnes.

July Field Inspections

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