Mapping the Stars: A Review of The Forbidden Stars, by Tim Pratt

Science-fiction is one of the most versatile genres of fiction around, capable of combining settings with any other tale.  Science-fiction as a genre is also a bit of a misnomer.  The average science-fiction story is not just science-fiction.  Tales can be action films, adventure stories, romance, horror, and more.  From Blade Runner to Black Mirror, from Polaris Rising to Foundation.  Science-fiction can be defined by both fun and thoughtfulness, and there is always a place for a fun adventure that does not require readers to analyze every paragraph.  Books like The Forbidden Stars, Tim Pratt’s third novel in the Axiom trilogy, show the importance of such escapism while also taking the opportunity to define a possible future.  While entertaining, the novels also take some time to normalize behaviors and lifestyles, sexual orientations and body modifications.  Science-fiction lets us see all futures and revel in them.

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Never a Hindrance: A Review of Aurora Blazing, by Jessie Mihalik

There is a certain amount of joy gained in reading some fiction.  Fiction meant to entertain, to transport the readers to fantastical worlds and witness the deeds of heroic peoples.  Where literary fiction tends to prioritize specific word choice and meaning over plot and character, many authors realize that there can be greater value in drawing in and entertaining your audience.  Sometimes the best books are the ones that make you forget that you are reading words on a page, instead conjuring images in your imagination.  These are the kinds of books that are hard to put down, and you wonder how you managed to read through them so quickly.  These types of books thrive in science-fiction, where most things, if not all things, are possible.  The only barrier is the author’s imagination.
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The Space Princess and the Wanted Criminal: A Review of Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik

Science-fiction takes many forms, but there are two archetypes which nearly all science-fiction stories fall into.  First, there is the hard sci-fi.  The Expanse, The Three-Body Problem, anything by Robert A. Heinlein.  These are the stories which pay extra attention to the technologies of the future and go to great lengths to explain exactly how races have progressed to their points.  This type of science-fiction can be literary, it can be intellectual, and it can be gritty.  On the other end of the spectrum is the space opera.  Star Wars, Firefly, A Princess of Mars.  In space operas the technology is present, but is not central to the story.  These stories are all about the characters.  Where hard sci-fi series can fluctuate between multiple viewpoints, space operas relish in following an individual or a group of characters throughout their adventure.  As our world changes and progresses, hard science-fiction and sometimes feel outdated, but space operas are timeless.  Polaris Rising is very much a space opera.

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A note about tomorrow’s review

Tomorrow morning I’ll be posting my review of The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, by Nova Jacobs.  This is a little unusual for me in that it’s neither science-fiction nor fantasy.  There’s some elements of thriller, a touch of romance, a brief murder-mystery, and a lot of family drama.  Most of all this, this is literary mathematical fiction.

I am lucky to have seen Nova read portions of the story at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena last month at a launch event, and am happy to share her first novel with you all.

Check back in the morning for the complete review!

A Love In Kind: A Review of The Shape of Water, by Guillermo Del Toro and Daniel Kraus

Romance literature can easily seem like a stale genre.  There are certain beats and plot points which we know most romance novels will follow.  We know the characters long before we open the first page or even learn their names.  There is an entire industry based around this, and authors take full advantage of our desire to experience love vicariously.  The male and female protagonists—and there are nearly always white—may fall in love at first sight.  The entire world may try to get in there way.  There will be a sex scene, or multiple, described in such circumstantial language so as to not appear pornographic.  The Shape of Water novel is not like this.  These are characters you have never met, experiencing life and love in different ways.  Even the sex is new and strange and different.

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