Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fairies "With Fate Conspire" in Victorian London

With Fate Conspire
Marie Brennan
TOR 2011

Review by Clare Deming

The first thing that grabbed me about With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan was the cover of eerie green and black. A train rushes out from the artwork, beneath the gaslamps of a London street, all suffused with shadows and sparkling wisps of power. This is a Victorian novel set in 1884 during the industrial revolution when the city of London is being riddled with tunnels for the expanding network of railroads. This is an immediate threat to the Onyx Court, an underground (literally and figuratively) faerie realm, for iron is poison to the fae.

This is the fourth book in the Onyx Court series, and I had little trouble jumping into it not having read the previous volumes. The plot follows two main characters. Dead Rick is a skriker - a faerie were-dog based upon the black dog myth of the British Isles. His memories have been stolen by unknown means, and he has been enslaved by Nadrett, one of the crime bosses of the Goblin Market. For as the Onyx Court is weakened by encroaching industrialism, other powers have risen up to take advantage of this vacancy for whatever profit they can squeeze from the failing realm.

Dead Rick is a sneaky and devious creature, however. He hoards bread (which can protect a faerie when tithed by mortals), searches for clues about his missing memories and tries to devise a means to escape the Onyx Court before it is destroyed.

Eliza O'Malley is a young Irishwoman on the streets of London who has fled her home turf on the other side of town. Scotland Yard wants to question her about a bombing, but she was only in the area of the blast because she was following a group of faeries. Of course, who would believe that story? Eliza has been tracking rumors of faeries since her childhood sweetheart, Owen, was stolen by them seven years ago.

When she finds an announcement for a meeting of the London Fairy Society, Eliza has to figure out how to attend, for a low-class miscreant cannot expect to be welcome among any type of proper society. Through forgery and subterfuge, she gains a position as a houseservant to one of the Fairy Society's younger members, but faerie mischief ensues, and Eliza struggles to avoid the attention of the authorities while tracking down the fae.

I loved the way that industrial London was merged with the underground Onyx Court, and the overall atmosphere of failing empire amidst progress that Ms. Brennan has created in this book. The Queen of the Onyx Court has not been seen in years and her Prince is weakened and struggling with even basic tasks. There is even a group of faerie scientists that are trying to discover a way to save the Court with fanciful devices reminiscent of steampunk, but without the steam.

Eliza's narrative drew me in most strongly, perhaps because her human concerns were more tangible to me. I have not read any previous Onyx Court novels, so it did take me a little while to orient myself with those aspects of the story. The plot moved steadily to a conclusion that brought all of the smaller details together nicely. I only wish that I was more familiar with London personally, because I think I would have taken more away from this book in that case. It is clear that Ms. Brennan has done quite a bit of research so that the historic details of place and society feel correct.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Film Fun

It is indeed a happy Friday for me, Ann Wilkes. I landed a job yesterday and sold a story to a pro mag today! w00t! Also of note: My post on suspending disbelief generated a discussion at the Science Fiction Readers, Writers, Collectors and Artists group on LinkedIn and is at 97 comments and counting. Feel free to go join the group and then join the fun there. Perhaps, when I have the time, I'll try to summarize that thread here.

Forgive the lazy linking, but I'm off to celebrate. ;)

This just in from The Hunger Games folks:


The 74th Annual Hunger Games have finally arrived! Go see the highly anticipated film that has been receiving rave reviews from critics across the country in theaters and IMAX everywhere starting today. The world will be watching this weekend. Will you?

Don't miss out on the movie event of the year. Get your tickets now.

THE HUNGER GAMES is based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins.


DEFEND KATNISS AGAINST THE CAPITOL! From the award-winning creators of indie game sensation CANABALT comes the official FREE game, THE HUNGER GAMES: GIRL ON FIRE.

Download the game now for iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch at!

Play as KATNISS EVERDEEN, the young heroine from District 12, whose sharp instincts are matched only by her even sharper bow-and-arrow shot! Help her find her way back home, while taking down the tracker jackers with your trusty bow and arrow — but be careful once you get to District 12... The Capitol's hovercrafts may come looking for you!

Currently #26 on the iTunes App Store and #17 in Games (the largest and most competitive category) THE HUNGER GAMES: GIRL ON FIRE also has 4.5 out of 5 stars so be sure to download it now!

Please find photos and video previews of the game attached below.

Be sure to check out THE HUNGER GAMES in theaters tonight at midnight!

In the meantime, tour The Capitol!

The Host, based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer (of Twilight fame) premieres March 29th.

Lockout has a new release date of April 13th.

Here's a new five minute clip:

Starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace and set in the near future, LOCKOUT follows a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Pearce), whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in the dangerous mission of rescuing the President’s daughter (Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum security prison.

Official Site:
Official Facebook Page:
Official Twitter:!/LockoutMovie

I also have more AM2 news as follows:
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (March 3, 2012) – The extremely popular and highly
anticipated sequel KAIJI 2 (2011/Drama, Thriller/Approx. 133 min) to be screened EXCLUSIVELY at this summer’s most anticipated Anime, Manga and Music event AM2. Two screenings will be available-one EXCLUSIVELY for Passport holders ONLY and the second for Passport holders preferred (with general attendees as seating permits).. Ever since first appearing in 1996 as a serial manga in Kodansha’s Young Magazine, KAIJI has amassed a cult-like following, recording book sales of over 18 million copies and
leading to a box office hit film adaptation in 2009 entitled: KAIJI. More info and attendee registration can be found at

“With our growing guest list, screenings and activities AM2 will be the place to be this summer in Southern California for all that is anime and manga,” states Chase Wang of AM2, “Get your Passports today and join us for all the fun!”

The much-awaited second film is set to hit the screens as KAIJI 2, based on what many assert is the most popular episode from the comic book series, “The Greed Swamp”. Kaiji author Nobuyuki Fukumoto was at the center of the screenplay writing process for the sequel, adding a new high-risk game of his invention to ratchet up the psychological intensity. There’s Chinchirorin, the “dice game from Hell” that lifts Kaiji out of an underground slave labor existence to take part in Princess and Slave, a live-or-die game of choice, and finally, the “Man-eating Swamp” – a monstrous pachinko machine capable of instantly destroying lives of anyone dazzled by its big payoff. On his own, Kaiji stands little chance of beating any of these games. But that won’t stop him from staking his life on saving his friends and restoring everyone’s lives!


Engines Start Revving at Cars Land and Passport Holders Can Be One of the First to Experience Cars Land! Get your Passports Today and Experience the Difference!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (March 9, 2012) The Happiest Place on Earth gets happier on June 15, 2012 with the grand opening of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street and the Carthay Circle Theatre at Disney California Adventure park and AM2 Passport attendees will be able to be one of the first people to experience the new park attractions at a major discount by obtaining an official Passport for the highly anticipated anime, manga and music convention event June 15-17, 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center! More info and attendee registration can be found at


One of Many U.S. Convention Film Premieres Happening this June 15-17, 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center and Anaheim Hilton! Get your Passports Today and Experience the Difference!

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (March 14, 2012) The extremely popular and highly anticipated sequel to the legendary manga based TV drama series comes to life in KAIBUTSU-KUN THE MOVIE (2011/Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy/Approx. 103 min) to be screened EXCLUSIVELY at this summer¹s most anticipated Anime, Manga and Music event AM2. Two screenings will be available-one EXCLUSIVELY for Passport holders ONLY and the second for Passport holders preferred (with general attendees as seating permits). More info and attendee registration can be found at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shadows in Flight delivers a unique family struggle

Shadows in Flight
Orson Scott Card
2012 Macmillan Audio

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

I still remember the original trilogy in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin series (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide) fondly, decades later. I haven’t read any of the others in that universe, which includes the Shadow series of which Shadows in Flight is book five.

This fifth book follows Shadow of the Giant. The Giant is Bean, who, as a boy, fought in the wars of Earth and was friends with Ender Wiggin. Bean and three of his children are both blessed and cursed. They are the result of an experiment which gave them super intelligence, but also gave them giantism (a real human disease in which the body never stops growing until the heart gives out in very early adulthood). Bean separated from his wife and other children to take their affected children to safety. He and the children are antonines (the genetic mutation is called Anton’s Key) and are feared by humans both because of their intelligence and the possibility of the spread of the mutation. They are aboard a starship heading away from the human worlds, but still linked to them through the ansible (although they never use their real identities when communicating over it).

Bean has grown so large (four and half meters tall) that he only fits in the cargo hold, and only on his back. The children each have special areas of talent. Ender continually searches for a cure for the giantism that will spare their hyper-intelligence. He has a temperament very similar to his namesake. Carlotta makes it her business to know everything there is to know about the operation of the ship and its maintenance. She also keeps the gravity low in the cargo bay to make it easier on the Giant's heart. Their brother, "Sergeant", concerns himself with weapons and war. Sergeant often gets Carlotta to side with him against Ender. Faced with this new possible threat, they must put aside their differences. These six-year-old children are smarter than any adult, but still, at times, have impulses and reactions, which makes for a very interesting dynamic.

Just when their life support is dwindling along with their father's life, they come across another ship near a habitable world. The ship seems empty, yet is piloted. Ender suspects it is a Formic ship. But how can any of the Formic have survived the “xenocide”? The answer to that question and much more awaits the children aboard that ship. They have no choice but to risk taking a closer look - and boarding it.

The thing I liked most about this story was the interplay within this unique family. They are more than just a family. They are the only surviving antonines – or leguminotes, as they prefer to call themselves in honor of their father – and the only living beings they may ever know; the only community they will ever be physically a part of. Even when Ender discusses genetics with scientists back home over the ansible, he cannot form friendships because he can’t even let on who or what he is.

The action in this audio book is fast-paced and the emotions palpable. I never found my mind wandering while I listened. The narrators did an excellent job holding my attention with this riveting yarn. With a novella length, it was a quick “listen”. At the end of the book, Orson Scott Card talks about how he came up with the idea for the book and what it means to him. That’s worth a listen as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On IN TIME and suspending disbelief

I watched In Time and it spurred a whole host of questions in my mind. This is definitely a movie where you have to check your brain at the door. But what is it about some movies that make that harder than others? The movies that are obviously not trying to be serious are easier. We can suspend our disbelief for our favorite comic superhero or super heroine. We just want to watch him or her fight bad guys with slick, fun-to-watch skills.

When it comes to science fiction, it's a little trickier. I think the first thing is that the premise has to be somewhat in the ballpark of feasible, right? Or is it just that even if it's too far out there, it has to have logical rules?

In In Time, time is a commodity. Everyone is born with (or inserted with at birth? - not quite clear) a subcutaneous clock on their arm. They have 26 years on the clock. They live for 25 and then the clock "starts." People exchange time on their clocks for services and goods. When their clock starts at 25, they stop aging. But if they don't earn more time to add to their clocks, they'll quickly use the year they start with long before that year is up.

At first glance, it's an interesting premise. It puts a whole new spin on “Time is Money.” It plays to our dual desire to live forever and never age.

In the In Time society, there are time zones - but not like we have today. These zones are to separate the classes. And apparently the powerful system that governs society can raise the cost of living in the zones of the lower classes at will, causing the clocks of those unfortunates to run out. The script suggests that many must die for a few to live forever. But how does the death of some poor soul increase the amount of "time" available to the rich? That’s never explained.

Transactions are conducted by grasping each others arms and magically, the correct amount is transferred sans device. And never is their a suggestion that anyone would take more, even though some are mugged or timed out by thugs or well-dressed, greedy people.

And if this can be done person-to-person and is all digital, what’s with the clunky cases that have a concave edge that fits over the arm to download or upload time? I suspect they’re a device to enhance the whole Bonnie and Clyde thing that the co-stars have going on. A bank robbery isn’t as exciting if you can’t take stuff out of a physical vault. And didn't I see this on the news in the 70s? Her name was Patty Hearst.

What's with the old-fashioned rotary (or perhaps push button) phones again? Is writer/director Andrew Niccol a Battlestar Galactica fan?

And puzzle me these…

If Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake) and his mother (Olivia Wilde) are so short on time and in debt, where did she get all those fancy, new-looking clothes?

What society would stand by and put up with prices going up arbitrarily on everyday services without any advanced warning? They may be the powerless, lower classes, but they are still the masses! The rich are afraid of accidental death and the poor have nothing to lose.

What's with the women always running (and very well) in high heels? OK, this is just a personal pet peeve that spans all genres.

Wouldn't looking exactly the same all your long life be a little boring? I'm surprised they don't do things to alter their looks in other ways to break the monotony.

The flashing lights on the retro cop cars are too close to the edge of the windshield. That would distract the heck out of the driver. Just saying.

Speaking of the cars…what fuels them? Still using fossil fuels in this advanced medical-manipulation age?

That’s another thing. It seems like the time thing is the ONLY advancement. How likely is that?

The life clocks have to be part software - or wetware. Where are the hackers?

Was I just in a bad mood that night, unwilling to just park my brain and enjoy? Or was it the inconsistencies? I loved Logan’s Run (the 1976 movie based on a similar premise) and didn’t get bent out of shape over the mysterious tech. I can’t wait to see MIB III. I do know how to shut my brain down and enjoy. Why couldn’t I this time?

What makes it hard for you to suspend disbelief? What makes it easier? Let the discussion begin!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Matheson is a master of inner dialog

Steel and Other Stories
Richard Matheson
TOR 2011

Review by Ann Wilkes

I thoroughly enjoyed Steel and Other Stories by Richard Matheson. His prose sings like poetry and his inner dialog has a grit and genuineness I seldom find. The stories aren't all speculative, but they are all excellent stories. Oddly, "Steel", though it has been produced as Twilight Zone episode and a movie (Real Steel with Hugh Jackman), was not my favorite. Of course, I'm not much for boxing, either, so I could be prejudiced against it for that reason. I think my favorite was the last one, "Window of Time", in which a man is able to browse through a day in his past on the street where he grew up. The inner dialog in that piece is thrilling. I felt as though I was walking those streets with that 82-year-old man and feeling the delight, the terror, the awe that he felt.

I also enjoyed "Grantville", a story set in the Wild West for the same reason. The inner dialog was addicting. In this story, a young man dressed in fine clothes clutching a mysterious bag is a fellow passenger of the protagonist's on a stagecoach. He reminds the man of his dead son and the man feels a sense of protectiveness towards him in spite of the fact the mysterious stranger, upon arriving in Grantville transforms himself into gunslinger intent on killing the fastest gun in town.

"The Splendid Source" is an interesting farce with a certain film noir appeal. It was made into a Family Guy episode apparently. An idle rich man goes on a quest to discover where all the dirty jokes originally come from. It's tongue-in-cheek cloak and dagger.

"A Visit to Santa Claus" is another story that has no speculative element, but has awesome inner dialog. A man arranges for his wife's death and must take his son to see Santa Claus to give the hit man his opportunity. His emotions swing wildly and he goes from panic, to hopefulness to fretting, to irritation, to regret - the whole gamut. The ending is a little predictable, but the journey made it not matter. And it was delicious all the same.

This excerpt from "The Traveler" provides an example of Matheson's vivid descriptions:
Silent snows descended like a white curtain as Professor Paul Jairus hurried under the dim archway and onto the bare campus of Fort College.

His rubber-protected shoes squished aside the thin slush as he walked. He raised the collar of his heavy overcoat almost to the brim of his pulled down fedora. The he drove his hands back into his coat pockets and clenched them into fists of chilled flesh.

Though the book is 319 pages, its size is small and its font large, making it a wonderfully quick read for an airport layover or a quiet evening.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Flying robots, Jenny Agutter and more

Sometimes size matters. :) In this case, small and agile is the ticket. These little flying robots are awesome! Check out this lecture/demo.

Here is another interview (actually the second part of the last one I posted) with Jenny Agutter of The Minister of Chance.

The first clip of The Hunger Games was released on their facebook fan page. You can find it and more on the The Hunger Games page.

Fans in Boston, Miami, San Diego, and Philidelphia gained Advance Screening locations for their city on Twitter. Fans can enter for a chance to win ticket at The Hunger Games will be in theaters March 23rd, 2012.

Phoenix Pick’s Stellar Guild Series, edited by Mike Resnick, has released titles by Kevin J. Anderson and Mercedes Lackey and these authors are on the hook to write more:

1. Larry Niven
2. Robert Silverberg
3. Mike Resnick
4. Harry Turtledove
5. Eric Flint

Phoenix Pick’s free ebook for March 2012 is Leigh Brackett’s The Big Jump. The coupon code is 9991393 and will be good from March 2 through March 31. Download the ebook at

Phoenix says this about the author and book:

Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978) was an American author, particularly of science fiction. She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on famous films such as The Big Sleep (1945), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Her novel The Long Tomorrow is one of the original post-holocaust books and considered by many to be a classic work on the subject.

About The Big Jump:

What awaits us out in space?

New star-drive engines promise to open up the galaxy to humankind. But the first ship to use the engines disappears and a sole survivor returns...alone and dying of some strange type of radiation.

No one can figure out what has happened to the ship or the crew. Nor does anyone know what happens to a ship travelling using star-drive technology.

Does some unknown horror await us out there?

The only way to find out is to go out again. And Arch Comyn is determined to be the one to solve the mystery.

But is he, and the rest of mankind, ready for whatever awaits us beyond The Big Jump?