A Review of The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Un-Broken

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy needs no recommendation. The first book, The Fifth Season, won a 2016 Hugo Award. The second, The Obelisk Gate, is on this year’s Hugo shortlist. The third title, The Stone Sky, is due August 2017. I, like many others, am waiting on tenterhooks to see how it ends.

N.K. Jemisin told John Scalzi how the whole series originated in a dream: “A few years back, I had a dream of a woman doing a Badass Power Walk towards me, with a mountain floating along behind her. I knew she was about my age – early forties, that is – and I could see that she wore dredlocs as I do, but it was very clear in the dream that she was not me. She was angry with me, in fact, because of something I’d done or hadn’t done, and if I didn’t find a way to appease her quickly, I knew she was going to throw that mountain at me. Why was she so pissed off? No idea. How was a mountain following her around like a geological puppy? She was controlling it through some unknown means. I woke up from this dream in a cold sweat – and fascinated. That was the moment the Broken Earth trilogy, of which The Fifth Season is book 1, was born.” Read more »

A Review of The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

 

Review by William Grabowski

…I was standing on my head…leaves were growing from my body, and roots were sprouting from my hands…

Some novels seize—like hawk on mouse—an idea, zip through empty space and leave us whirling in turbulence. Han Kangʼs Man Booker International Prize-winning The Vegetarian achieves far more, and cultivates with infinite delicacy and patience what life becomes when Yeong-hye, after bloody dreams, shuns all meat and animal products. In her Korean culture, this is perceived as deeply shocking and rebellious; deliberate betrayal of family and tradition.

 

The violent reaction from Yeong-hye’s father reminded me how little I knew about this culture, the pressure to conform, and its devastating affect on women. The men aren’t free of this pervasive stress, but being dominators fearful of underperforming and consequent shame, have near-zero tolerance for “freaky” behavior—no matter the hypocrisy of their own hungers and secret indulgence.

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A Review of Fever Dream: A Novel, by Samanta Schweblin

Review by Lauren Colie

There’s something in the water…

The vacation began as many do: with warmed and glistening skin, softly-scented sunscreen wafting in the breeze and a child’s energetic romp through the yard before lunchtime. Amanda and daughter Nina settled in for a week of relaxation in a rural rental, with Amanda’s husband set to join them the next weekend. Amanda, a city girl from the capitol, sensed another outsider when she met Carla of the gold bikini and chic bun and extended friendship to this temporary neighbor.

Through the pungent haze of cigarette smoke, Carla shared her story of loss. Her son, David, took ill after an accident she felt was her fault. She enlisted help from the woman who lives in the greenhouse because a doctor would have arrived too late, knowing her choice was risky. David was never the same.

All this, of course, you read from a great distance, a voyeur eavesdropping on the spirits of David and Amanda as he helps her navigate her fevered memories in the gray miasma of in-between. Timelines warp, logic stutters and some grand truth bubbles elusively, just beyond reach. Read more »

A Review of The Famished Road, by Ben Okri

 

by William Grabowski

In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn.

 

Ben Okri‘s Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road frequently has been compared to Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a not dissimilar work. Closer scrutiny reveals the facile utility of this comparison, but readers of Márquez unfamiliar with Okri will find much to like—even love—in The Famished Road. The ride itself, though, will be more turbulent and unsettling than that typically experienced in what is labeled Magical Realism. “The novel was written,” says the author in his Foreword, “to give myself reasons to live.”

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A Review of Pirate Utopia, by Bruce Sterling

Review by William Grabowski

To celebrate his new, improved torpedo, the engineer took his pirates to the movies.

 

Few novelists can create work that combines science, philosophy, art, and adventure into stories that shape the form and trajectory of emerging culture—popular and collective. The seminal cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades (1986), assembled and edited by Bruce Sterling, introduced the wider world to William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and others whose individual stars still burn bright. Sterling’s incisive take-no-prisoners Preface could be considered the Cyberpunk Manifesto, and it’s difficult to overestimate the movement’s influence—disruptive and liberating—on so-called hard science fiction and even the austere realms of post-postmodernism. Read more »

A Review of A Natural History of Hell, by Jeffrey Ford

review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh
book review of A natural history of hell by Jeffrey ford, at See the Elephant MagazineHellishly Good Stories

Veteran fantasy, science fiction, weird, and fantastic writer Jeffrey Ford has accumulated awards like it was going out of fashion: multiple World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson Awards, Nebula Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award …

A Natural History of Hell, from the enterprising and frequently delightful Small Beer Press, brings together 13 very diverse examples of his work, all of them except the opener, “The Blameless,” first published in various venues over the past four years, including one Shirley Jackson Award winner, the delirious Japanese yakuza weird slayride “A Natural History of Autumn.”

This collection pretty much picks up where the last Jeffrey Ford collection leaves off, but you only have to read it to know just why that is such a good thing. And if you haven’t yet had that pleasure, trust me, you should. Read more »

A Review of The Language of Dying, by Sarah Pinborough

by Lauren Colie

the-language-of-dying-sarah-pinboroughThe Wasting Agony of Waiting

The deep kernel of anger that has since burned you hollow. The petty betrayals and muddled affections of a broken family. The wordless sorrow of watching parents, those mighty Titans, crumbling in like a rotten egg, stinking, seeping into nothingness.

Sarah Pinborough holds aloft: death. In your eyes, your ears, filling your nose with the unpleasant emissions as a soul passes on – this is The Language of Dying. Read more »

A Review of The Fisherman, a novel by John Langan

Review by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

review of The Fisherman by John Langan,Draw Out Leviathan

Horror author and scholar John Langan has produced some of the new century’s most representative dark and weird tales, the kind of work that anyone getting into the modern genre cannot ignore, not least because they so perceptively interrogate the entire tradition. Any new book by him, then, is an event, and The Fisherman does not disappoint – it’s a Leviathan of a story, from the very excellent Word Horde. No spoiler alert needed here, really, but when Abe and Dan, both widowers, light out to Dutchman’s Creek in upstate New York for some fishing, they pull up some real monsters, cryptozoological and personal, but also ontological and spiritual. For these are very deep waters indeed.

Langan is a formidably learned and sophisticated writer, and this tale as much as many of his others is about storytelling and the act of spinning a yarn in itself, as much as the ostensible topic of the tale. “I’ve been fishing for a long time, now, and as you might guess, I know a story or two. That’s what fishermen are, right? Storytellers,” says Abe. The nested box construction of The Fisherman takes readers in to the heart of the mystery through a series of concentric tales stretching over a hundred years – only to leap out of the heart of the maze and grab you at the end. By that time, you’ll have been initiated into the dark presence of Der Fischer, the other things that lurk beneath the waters of Dutchman’s Creek, and even grimmer bottom dwellers under the surface of the world. Read more »

Review of Black Propaganda: Dark Stories by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

Cover art, Black Propaganda by Paul StJohn Mackintoshby Nicholas Shipman

Paul StJohn Mackintosh’s new collection is comprised of haunting tales both new and previously published. In these stories you will find worlds achingly familiar and eerily alien, the light of love coexisting with the darkest spasms of violent emotion and cruel detachment which may be found in the human spirit. Read more »

A Review of Greener Pastures, by Michael Wehunt

by Paul St. John Mackintosh

greenerpastures_smOblique Strategies

Georgia native Michael Wehunt has quietly, almost unobtrusively made a name for himself as a major figure in modern dark and weird fiction, and this first collection of eleven of his stories sets the seal on that endeavor. To say that the book comes garlanded with plaudits is a woeful understatement: The list of praise and compliments reads like a who’s who of the best and most brilliant living horror and dark fiction writers. Read more »