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SFFH Reviews and Articles in General Publications

Wednesday 26 September 2001

§ King & Straub
More coverage of Black House, the sequel to The Talisman...

  • Bob Minzesheimer in USA Today profiles the writing process.
    The collaboration, [Straub] says, "worked like a charm," much smoother than the first time around.

    "We're older and calmer." (Straub is 58, King 53). With The Talisman, "more testosterone and more ambition were at stake. It was more gladiatorial. We wanted to impress the other guy, hurling thunderbolts back and forth, 150 pages at time."
  • Erica Noonan's review in the 9/20 Boston Globe:
    ''Black House'' is a mighty sequel indeed. It is gloomy and weighty, extending its literary reach far beyond its own covers, drawing together story and character strands with roots not only in its marvelous predecessor, but several other King novels as well.

§ Denver Post September 23, 2001
Fred Cleaver's Science Fiction column covers Robert Charles Wilson's "brilliant science fiction thriller" The Chronoliths, and Poul Anderson's Mother of Kings and Conan the Rebel. Anderson's new novel is

the epic story of the life of Gunnhild, a historical 10th century Viking queen. ... This is an old-fashioned epic. A lot of events are covered very quickly. The principal subject is not a nice person but has all the fascination of an ever-conniving soap opera villain. Despite her unpleasant nature, the end is tragic, although the reader and the author both know the world may be better off without her. Anderson's vision and love of this ancient world are evident throughout Gunnhild's story.

§ New Scientist 01 September 2001
Maggie McDonald reviews Paul McAuley's -- note he's dropped his middle initial J. -- Whole Wide World (Voyager).

McAuley has Len Deighton's gift for smuggling useful knowledge into a gripping tale. His story reminds me that the flip side of the saying "information wants to be free" is that everywhere information costs. The price may be paid in freedom--or in blood.

§ The Times September 22 2001
An interview/profile of Cecilia Dart-Thornton, author of The Ill-Made Mute.

In December 1999, in a burst of premillennial confidence, she posted an excerpt from her story, The Ill-Made Mute, on a fantasy fiction website. Within weeks she was the amazed recipient of a six- figure advance and a three-book deal from Time Warner. One day she was packaging shortbread for the food business she had recently set up in Melbourne, the next she was on a full bells-and-whistles publicity tour.

Now she is being touted as “Australia’s answer to J.K. Rowling”.
§ Guardian Unlimited Books
The website's collection of Top 10 Lists has added one by Michael Moorcock, with selections by Aldiss, Ballard, Bayley, Disch, Russ, Bester, Dick, Pohl, Sladek, and... Maurice Richardson. (Other lists are by Jeff Noon, Rob Grant, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Norman Spinrad, and Dick Jude.)

Friday 21 September 2001

§ Washington Post September 16, 2001

Black House allows us to see two master craftsmen, each at the top of his game, collaborating with every evidence of enormous enjoyment on a summery heartland gothic. The book is hugely pleasurable, and repays a reader in search of horror, adventure or of any of the other joys, both light and dark, one can get from the best work of either of these two scribbling fellows.
[H]is short fiction remains among the very best published in the last few decades. ... After the Plague's title story is best and most improbable of all: a tale of apocalypse with a happy ending. If (as seems likely) the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it would be a very good idea to pack Boyle's latest book, so you'll have something to read on the way.
  • And, Michael Dirda discusses British used-book scouts (called Runners) and (by way of John Clute) Iain Sinclair...
In his books Sinclair mingles learned wit, Welsh flyting, revved-up sentences, tall-tale exaggeration, paranoia and keen observation, blending them all together in a style halfway between the cut-up humor of Wodehouse and the "cut-out" technique of William Burroughs. Sinclair incessantly packs in allusions to odd corners of English and American literature, throws in bits of occult lore, allows fictional characters to complain about his portrayal of them (shades of Flann O'Brien), views everything through the mad logic of a conspiracy theorist, and makes his rabid excesses as funny as Hunter Thompson on a good day in the early '70s. ... I hope Iain Sinclair finds more of an audience in America: He's an astonishingly original and entertaining writer.

§ USA Today 09/13/2001
Here's Bob Minzesheimer's review of King & Straub's Black House.

The collaboration, he says, "worked like a charm," much smoother than the first time around.

"We're older and calmer." (Straub is 58, King 53). With The Talisman, "more testosterone and more ambition were at stake. It was more gladiatorial. We wanted to impress the other guy, hurling thunderbolts back and forth, 150 pages at time."

§ Denver Post September 16, 2001
And here's Dorman T. Shindler's review.

"Black House" has an ending that almost ensures yet another sequel. And, oddly enough, I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, looking forward, for the first time in my life, to taking on a sequel. Which is a fine testament to the literary skills of King and Straub, and the relentless narrative of "Black House," surely one of their finest novels yet.

§ London Review of Books September 16, 2001
Dave Langford's Ansible for September 2001 noted:

Take That, Joe Haldeman! `The best-known example of "future war" fiction is The Invasion of 1910 by William Tufnell Le Queux, a rich slice of scaremongering which was a sensational success when published in 1906.' (Rupert Forbes, The London Review of Books, 6 Sep)
That article is not online; but letters responding to it are (though this link will change).

§ January September 2001
Karen G. Anderson reviews Glen David Gold's slipstream Carter Beats the Devil (Hyperion), a novel about a 1920s magician perhaps responsible for the death of President Warren G. Harding...

Over the course of his yarn, Gold brings back to life the great and greatly egotistical Harry Houdini (who gives Carter a portrait of himself as a wedding gift). Based on extensive research into illusionists of the period, he also creates the sadistic Mysterioso, a top-billed prestidigitator who abuses the struggling Carter at every opportunity. When Carter finally turns the tables -- onstage -- on Mysterioso, it nearly costs him his career. Only Houdini's intervention saves him. Magic aficionados will enjoy these vignettes, as well as the quotations from magicians of the period, reproductions of rare show posters and organization of the book to parallel the three acts of a magic show.

And Monica Stark reviews Diane Duane's The Wizard's Dilemma (Harcourt), a children's novel about wizards...

Is Diane Duane the writer J.K. Rowling is? It's not really a fair question. Dennis Lehane and Sue Grafton both write crime fiction, but no one is constantly comparing them. It's safe to say that the world is big enough for two -- and more! -- fictional wizards aimed at juvenile readers.

National Review September 17, 2001 [not online]
Lawrence Person had a capsule review of Tim Powers's Declare.

Friday 14 September 2001

§ CNN September 10, 2001
Koontz's e-book collection of poems The Book of Counted Sorrows, now available from Barnes & Noble, is the focus of this interview.

The book includes all the existing verses that have appeared in my books over the years plus several new poems. In addition, there is a 22,000- word introduction providing the strange history of the tome. All of this is available as one download. Personally, I don't believe in serializing. I chose the e-book format for the launch of this because it is such an unusual project and seemed to fit best, at least initially, in this format. Besides, the people at Barnes and Noble kidnapped my pet bunny, and threatened it with mayhem if I didn't do this book with them.

§ Los Angeles Times September 13, 2001
Dean Koontz is interviewed about his use of computers and other technology. He does use a computer to write, but he's never upgraded beyond Word 5.0.

§ Salon September 4, 2001
In addition to the PW and BookSense interviews noted below, here's another, crankier, interview with Ray Bradbury...

Today Bradbury continues to criticize modern innovations, putting him in the seemingly contradictory position of being a sci-fi writer who's also a technophobe. He famously claims to have never driven a car (Bradbury finds accident statistics appallingly unacceptable; he witnessed a deadly car accident as a teen). He is scornful of the Internet (telling one reporter it's "a big scam" by computer companies) and ATMs (asking, "Why go to a machine when you can go to a human being?") and computers ("A computer is a typewriter," he says, "I have two typewriters, I don't need another one").
There are some equally cranky letters in response.

§ The Sunday Times September 9 2001
What Philip Pullman has on his bedside table.

§ Boston Globe 9/9/2001
Bruce Allen reviews Neil Gaiman's American Gods, his novel about the "old gods" battling the "new gods" of communication and commercialism...

This is a delicious premise, if not an entirely original one (in a typically gracious brief afterword, Gaiman implicitly acknowledges such influences as that of ''my favorite unfashionable author, James Branch Cabell'' - one of his own ''old gods,'' as it were). Much of the considerable pleasure this novel provides consists in identifying the legendary and/or divine counterparts of its irrepressibly colorful pseudonymous characters. Mr. Nancy, for example, is the West African spider-trickster (and lord of creation) Anansi. Hinzelmann is a German household spirit reputedly capable of both benevolent and malicious acts. ...

§ Independent 08 September 2001
An article about the commericialization of The Lord of the Rings.

§ The Age 10 September 2001
This short piece is about a new book by a Church of England theologian claiming Harry Potter as a paragon of Christian virtues; the book, not yet published, is The Spirituality of Harry Potter by Rev. Francis Bridger.

§ Amazon UK
Recently posted:

  • An essay by Adam Roberts about the several reasons his new novel, about people who live on a vertical world, is called On
  • A remembrance by David Langford of Poul Anderson
  • An interview with Michael Cobley, "once known as Britain's 'Mr Cyberpunk' "

Thursday 6 September 2001

§ Guardian Unlimited August and September 2001
Aug 22: An interview with Philip Pullman, whose The Amber Spyglass has appeared on the longlist for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize. Pullman admires J.K. Rowling but expects his own work to be judged to higher standards...

The Booker judges are inclined to agree with him. "There hasn't been a children's book since the prize began in 1968 that could be seriously considered for the Booker - certainly not Harry Potter," says one judge. "This isn't a sign that children's books are now as good as adults' books; this is simply a fantastic book, by any standards."
Aug 26: A later article is fascinating for its British perspective on Pullman's American success in the face of the religious Right:
With the sponsorship of the Bush administration, it has laid siege not only to American medicine, politics and academe - making Adam and Eve scientific fact in Kansas - it has also declared holy war on literature, targeting books written for young people. Against this tide of orthodoxy, Pullman's books - almost two million of them - have been selling like the fires sweeping the parched plains of the Bible Belt, a fact that gives him considerable satisfaction.
Sept 2: A brief review of a new edition of John Wyndham's 1951 "Darwinian parable" about carnivorous plants, The Day of the Triffids (Penguin). And Roger Sabin reviews several graphic novels, including Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

§ Publishers Weekly August 27, 2001
A starred review for Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned (Morrow), which novelizes a number of stories from early in Bradbury's career about the Elliot family, including "Uncle Einar" and "Homecoming". (The PW review is reproduced on the Amazon page.)

...a novel, funny, beautiful, sad and wise, to rank with his finest work. ... This book will shame the cynics and delight the true believers who never lost faith in their beloved author.

§ September 4, 2001
And here is the first part of an interview with Bradbury about this new novel.

§ New York Times Book Review September 2, 2001
Gerald Jonas's SF column covers

  • Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths (Tor), which "stands with his best. ... Wilson deftly interweaves a plausible time-travel thriller with the tender tale of a likable but immature loser who responds to adversity by growing up."
  • Howard V. Hendrix's Empty Cities of the Full Moon (Ace): "a case study of what can go wrong when a writer fails to play to his strengths"
  • Spider Robinson's The Free Lunch (Tor) "a fast-moving homage to the lighter side of Robert A. Heinlein"
  • and Robert Zubrin's First Landing (Ace), "best approached as a fictionalized tract for Zubrin's Mars Direct Plan, which promises to get humans to the red planet and back in 'our generation.' "

Also in NYTBR, Sven Birkerts reviews T. Coraghessian Boyle's short story collection After the Plague (Viking), which includes occasional SF. The reviewer notes that, like his teacher John Cheever, Boyle "need[s] to start a story with a concrete premise rather than, say, a feeling about character", but Birkerts likes the stories where "Characters emerge to steal the show and in the process reveal the limits of the story itself" and concludes the review suggesting that Boyle play to this strength.

§ Washington Post August 29, 2001
Peter Carlson profiles Warren Lapine and Angela Kessler, publisher and editor of Dreams of Decadence magazine, "America's foremost magazine of 'vampire poetry and fiction' ". Lapine's DNA Publications empire began in 1993 with Harsh Mistress (later Absolute Magnitude), founded after Lapine spent 10 years as a bass-player for heavy metal bands and then discovered "the sci-fi mags he had loved back in high school" didn't live up to his memories...

"I said, 'My God, these stink! These are boring!' " he says. ... "The stuff they're publishing now is just boring, pretentious literary crap, like the stuff I had to read in college. ... There's no plot," Lapine continues. "Science fiction has always been plot-driven but that went away. Somewhere along the way, a literary component had snuck in. I figured I could do better than that, so I decided to start a magazine."
A somewhat abbreviated form of the article is reprinted in the Sept. 5 Los Angeles Times.

§ The Longevity Meme August 2001
This website about how to "fight aging, live healthily, [and] extend your life" has republished articles by SF writers recently including

August Field Inspections

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