California Literary Review

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Weekly Listicle: Dystopian Futures

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March 18th, 2010

The March 19 release Repo Men is about a near-future in which organ transplants are simple, commonplace procedures and citizens can save their loved ones or prolong their own lives on a payment plan. Unfortunately, the moment customers fall behind on their dues, the Repo Men hunt them down to take back what’s owed—no matter […]

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham

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January 21st, 2010

But without a doubt, it’s the series that he began seven years ago, Fables, that has captured the imaginations of so many readers. The premise of this story is clear and simple—familiar characters from fairy tales and folklore escape after an army of creatures led by the mysterious Adversary has come to conquer their home worlds. Where do all these exiled creatures go? New York City, of course.

The Ghost King: Transitions III by R. A. Salvatore

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December 22nd, 2009

A fast-paced, heartrending book, The Ghost King is a must-read for any fans of the Drizzt Do’Urden stories and a welcome read for general fantasy enthusiasts. While The Pirate King has a tighter plot and better action scenes, it’s this book that people will long remember.

Flesh and Fire: Book One of the Vineart War by Laura Anne Gilman

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December 3rd, 2009

The first clue that Gilman is not going to zing this story along with Tom Clancy speed is that her Prelude has a pre-Prelude—never a good sign if you’re in the mood for a fast-read airplane book, which so many fantasies are. But the Vin World is rich with vattage and vine, mustus and maturation, such that even non-oenophiles cannot help but feel immersed in a unique world full of a strange richness and beauty.

The Child Thief by Brom

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October 26th, 2009

There are moments of genuine mystery and magic, scenes where we are bedazzled and terrified simultaneously. The walk through the mist, crunching on the bones of those who strayed from the path has a Tolkienian resonance. The bloody battles that Peter leads in the real world echo those in the enchanted world. And the myth of the Horned One, who is Peter’s father, overshadows everything. For Peter is an immortal wild child who may look mostly human but who is decidedly something … other.

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf

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September 17th, 2009

The Otherkin Resource Center (ORC) exists for people who don’t believe they are human. Elves, vampires, and unicorns are among the most popular non-human races that they claim to be.

The Twelve by William Gladstone

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September 14th, 2009

This novel follows the exploits of intellectual and spiritual wunderkind Max Doff who, even as an infant, clearly was set apart from the rest of humanity. He’s destined for greatness along the lines of the Buddha and other prophets. During a near-death experience from a severe case of the flu at age 15, Max has a vision in his euphoric delirium that he can’t quite make sense of yet, but it reveals to him the names of twelve people…

The Big Machine by Victor LaValle

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September 3rd, 2009

The Big Machine is what urban fantasy looks like when it’s grown up and the writer isn’t relying on paranormal clichés to flesh out an epic tale of good versus evil. Not that you can pigeon-hole this novel—it’s a dizzying slipstream mashup of genres and memes and tropes and legends wrapped around a cross-cultural love story. This is a story that has depth, richness; a heart and a soul. Above all, it has a soul.

Movie Review: District 9

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August 15th, 2009

It is perhaps the most dystopian vision of alien contact ever filmed: the aliens are not the enemy, we are. The humans in the film are horrid, cruel stereotypes, laughing as alien eggs pop like popcorn, shooting creatures at random, and torturing an innocent man to discover the meaning of the alien weapons. The aliens (one of whom is Christopher Johnson, a decidedly nondescript and very American name) are scammed, abused and tortured, living in a horrendous slum. Unlike in Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, or any number of other self-congratulatory sci-fi films, we are not fighting to save ourselves from these unthinkably pitiful creatures. We’re using, torturing, and abusing them.

The Stranger by Max Frei

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July 16th, 2009

The Stranger is a translation of the first of a wildly popular series of novels from Russia. By turns serious and screwball, it combines sly, sometimes campy, humor with a yearning for personal insight and a good day’s sleep. The Stranger is an episodic quest set in a parallel universe, in which a Sherlock Holmes-Dr. Watson duo combat malign magicians and search for the perfect restaurant.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

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July 1st, 2009

Readers who know Tanya Huff from her Blood, Smoke, and The Keeper’s Chronicles books (or even the Blood Ties show on Lifetime) will find this stand-alone modern urban fantasy right in line with what they’ve come to expect from her. For those of us not so familiar with Huff’s work, a warning: This is not your usual fantasy fare. Not in the least.

Turn Coat: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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May 14th, 2009

Turn Coat is the 11th installment in the story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard private investigator. Jim Butcher has often said he has enough ideas to take the series well into the twenties, though he’s smart enough to provide an “in” for every book such that new readers can join up at anytime without starting at the beginning (or watching the interesting but short-lived Sci-Fi Channel Series The Dresden Files).

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

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June 14th, 2008

Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel, The Stone Gods, is a science-fiction novel-within-a-novel adventure and might come as a pleasant surprise to the fans who have seen her through the days of feast then famine.

William Gibson: The Father of Cyberpunk

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October 2nd, 2007

“The part of me that walks around and does interviews is incapable of doing very much in the way of writing a novel. My unconscious is what I’m after and my unconscious is not very reliable. It doesn’t pay taxes and it won’t turn up every day to sit in the chair and type for me. I have to turn up and sit in the chair every day and type and occasionally it does turn up.”

The Athena Factor by W. Michael Gear

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April 10th, 2007

In The Athena Factor W. Michael Gear explores the compelling and in many ways horrifying world of biotech engineering, principally in the form of DNA research and manipulation. While this book is fictional, what the author describes is not.

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