Tournament of Short Stories: Robert E. Howard vs. Cordwainer Smith

Strike one up for the barbarian. So often, you just need the right story at the right time. I first read Cordwainer Smith last year and loved him. He’s excellent.   However, the two I read for this round just didn’t do the trick. For some reason, Conan the Barbarian, did. The two by Robert E. Howard that I read for this round, “The God in … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories: Robert E. Howard vs. Cordwainer Smith

Tournament of Short Stories SF/F Edition: Ted Chiang vs. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. VII

I’ve devoted this round of my tournament of short stories to science fiction and fantasy tales.  I’ve just enough anthologies to make it interesting, though I’m going to stretch the genre to include magical realism and people who included some SF/F in their books. It may be a challenge, but it should be fun. Science fiction and fantasy, even at their darkest, are fun. For … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories SF/F Edition: Ted Chiang vs. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. VII

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I really liked this book. Nnedi Okorafor’s fantasy epic Who Fears Death is something of a cross between Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler if both had grown up in Africa. The story follows Onyesonwu, a young woman living in what must be a post-civilization North Africa.  Her culture is clearly based on Africa and the setting is a vast desert like the Sahara, but there … Continue reading Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Of Flesh and Fur by Duncan Barlow

It’s not easy to find these books.  Small, very small, independent press books each of them clearly a labor of love at every step of the way. I found The Cupboard Press at a writer’s and writing conference in Los Angeles last year, two young people sitting at a table in the vast exhibition hall.  I liked their little books, each small enough to fit … Continue reading Of Flesh and Fur by Duncan Barlow

The Underground Railroad by Colsen Whitehead

Is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead as good as they say? Does it deserve all the awards and high praise it has been getting, earning the author an interview on every public television and NPR show that still interviews authors? No. There, I said it. It’s a very good book.  I had a very hard time putting it down–ended up reading nearly 200 pages … Continue reading The Underground Railroad by Colsen Whitehead

Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

I’m going to stick to my guns here, enforce my long time rule for selecting the top ten list which is “Do I want to read this book again someday?”  The answer must be yes to qualify. Which means there are many books that I loved reading that will not make the list. Lots of books are great books, great reads, but not something I’ll … Continue reading Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett

There are certain types of books with devoted readers–readers who purchase, collect, devour, debate them, become a bit fanatic about them.  The way certain kids did with Harry Potter.  They way some readers did with Lord of the Rings back before is was cool, back when people wrote “Frodo Lives” on the walls of subway restrooms.  Other, more cynical people, make fun of them on … Continue reading Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett

The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov

Do you read to understand yourself or to understand other people?  If what you’re looking for can be boiled down to what you have in common with others, does that mean you are essentially reading to understand yourself? Burannyi Yedigei, the hero of Chingiz Amitiov’s novel The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years, has spent his entire adult life on  the steppes of Central Asia … Continue reading The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Three things. First Ben H. Winters’ new novel Underground Airlines certainly works as a thriller.  Fans of his earlier series The Last Policeman will not be disappointed, though there may be a certain sense of de ja vu. While Underground Airlines is set in an alternative America, one where slavery never completely ended, the main character an escaped slave forced by a government agency to hunt down other escaped … Continue reading Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

In 1921, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel We became the first book to be banned by the Soviet censorship bureau, Glavlit.  Mr. Zamyatin was not able to emigrate until 1931 when he arrived in Paris, some seven years after his novel had been published in English.  We may have been the model for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; Mr. Huxley claimed not to have read the novel … Continue reading We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Tournament of Short Stories: Kelly Link vs. Raymond Carver

I hope Kelly Link won’t be mad at me. Kelly Link has had several stories featured on my favorite short story podcast, Podcastle.  If you’re a fan of fantasy/science fiction or just a fan of good, entertaining stories, you should be subscribing to Podcastle.  I loved her featured zombie stories “The Hortlak” and “Some Zombie Contingencies Plans” neither of which is really about zombies. So when I … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories: Kelly Link vs. Raymond Carver

Mother Tongues by Theodora Ziolkowski

Two young men arrive at the home of a peasant woman.  We hear you know many stories, they say. Will you tell them to us for the book we are writing. What follows is a wonderful collection of four stories, each perfect for the Brothers Grimm.  Stories left out of their collected tales you might say. Two are set in places that seem very like … Continue reading Mother Tongues by Theodora Ziolkowski