Sunday, 11 April 2021

Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming by Christie Golden - Review

One of the great ideas that you'll come across when exploring the world of Star Trek tie-in fiction is that of the relaunch novels. The concept is to continue telling the stories of your favourite Star Trek series; specifically the stories that take place after the series finale. What to know what happened to Picard and the Enterprise-D crew after the end credits of Star Trek Nemesis? There are plenty of books devoted to the idea. What happened to all the storylines that weren't wrapped up by DS9's "What We Leave Behind" and the new stories they teased? There's a novel series for that. 

In fact, there are multiples novel series for that. Several dozen books, plenty of multi-series crossovers, stories taking place with a focus outside of the Federation and other stories focusing on characters that only appear in a handful of episodes and were significantly more fleshed out in the novels. Honestly, it's a treasure trove of Trek goodness. It's big, messy, and complicated. Take a look at The Trek Collective's reading guide if you need convincing about my last point.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Short Story Sunday 28: “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” by Gene Wolfe

The ebook version of The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction is on sale for the month of February. A sale price of $2.99 for a book running a length of 224 thousand words and collecting more than 30 short stories, it’s a hard deal to pass up. Despite having read only two books and a handful of his stories, Gene Wolfe looms large in my pantheon of favourite writers. I find his work to be difficult and frustrating (probably the reason I haven’t read many of his works), but his mastery of prose sucks me in every time. It’s alluring and hypnotic in the way good fiction can be, but what makes it great is that the time I spend rereading large passages and sometimes entire chapters or stories is greatly rewarded. It’s challenging, but worthwhile.

As I’ve been doing with other anthologies, I’ll be writing about the stories I read here at SUR. It’ll undoubtedly make my progress through the book laboriously slow. However, I trust it will be a labour of love and like the strongest of loves will require a lot of work and dedication. Pick up your copy and join along. Wolfe writes the kind of fiction that generates discussion and interpretation, so do not be shy about leaving comments.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Short Story Sunday 27: Johanna Sinisalo and H. G. Wells

There was a fair amount of hubbub in 2016 around the release of The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. I knew of their reputation even though wasn’t very familiar with their work. Still, a new collection of science fiction stories by dozens of authors spanning roughly 100 years of publishing history carefully curated by two knowledgeable editors and anthologist in the field does call for some attention. That and its very reasonable price point and easy availability led me to purchase a copy. The goal was to read each story and write about it here on the blog. Five years lately, I’m finally starting.

I’ll be taking a specific approach to these reviews. For starters, the VanderMeers wrote wonderfully detailed introduction to each story. Part biography, part career overview, sometimes structured like a miniature essay about an author’s work, these text pieces are as much a draw of the book as the written contents. They also have a great and lengthy introduction to the whole collection in which they write about the difference phases of science fiction writing in the English language while also making mention of non-English authors and their work. They present their criteria in compiling the collection and it makes for a compelling read as well as an excellent contextualization for the reader to sample all of these stories.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Short Story Sunday 26: Fritz Leiber and Tanith Lee

I’ve spent more time reading and writing about short stories this month than I had reading novel-length prose. That’s a little unusual for me as I tend to read comic and novels much more frequently than I read short stories. Upon further reflection, that surprises me as I tend to be like a variety in my fiction. More so variety of authors and moods than in variety of genres, but there is some variety there as well.
This week’s selection of stories offers some nice variety. The first author, Fritz Leiber, I’m already familiar with form his work in fantasy. I’ve read a couple of collections of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. I enjoy them, but I’m not quite swept away like some of his fans or, in general, fans of sword of sorcery. His “A Pail of Air” is a science fiction story and it was fun following him over into another mode of writing. The second author, Tanith Lee, is new to me. I first heard of her upon her passing in 2015. Reading appreciations of her body of work and her contributions to literature in the wake of her death made an impression on me and I’ve been keeping my eye out for her work ever since. I remember searching for her work at my local bookstore, but I couldn’t find any volumes that started a series or any short story collection that wasn’t part of a larger series. I didn’t buy anything. Finally, I got my chance this week and I was not disappointed.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Short Story Sunday 25: Robert Reed and N. K. Jemisin

The year’s first week back to work is done and I’m trying to keep the ball rolling here on the blog. I have specific reading and blogging goals for the year that I’m intentionally not making public on the site. I tend to get fired up each January about making Shared Universe Reviews a place full of content and I inevitably fail to meet any of those goals. So, for now, all I’ll be sharing is that I will try and post new reviews regularly in the hopes of striking up interesting conversation with others who enjoy a good book. This week, I went back to the well that is Year’s Best SF 16 and I also had a wonderful time listening to LeVar Burton’s podcast while shovelling the driveway.

“The Good Hand” by Robert Reed
Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction (January 2010), edited by Sheila Williams

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Short Story Sunday 24: Brenda Cooper and Gregory Benford

Let's try to start the New Year with reviews of stories originally published in 2010. The key to making this little blog a popular place to hangout online is keeping it relevant to the times. What better way to do that than to continue my review, one story at a time, of Year's Best SF 16?

“The Hebras and the Demons and the Damned” by Brenda Cooper
Read in Year’s Best SF 16 (2011), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Originally published in Analog (December 2010), edited by Stanley Schmidt

As is usually the case when reviewing stories in either of Hartwell and Cramer's long running Science Fiction and Fantasy anthologies, Brenda Cooper is an author I was not familiar with until picking up this book. Discovering new authors is one of the pleasures of reading these annual anthologies. Cooper's "The Hebras and the Demons and the Damned" has made it very clear to me that I need to seek out more of her work as it's topic is right up my alley: colonization of alien planets.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Short Story Sunday 23: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter (Reading Conan 08)

Robert E. Howard

Two weeks in a row of Conan? Yes! Somebody give me a medal and a cookie.

“Rogues in the House” by Robert E. Howard

Last Conan version of the story published in 1976.

We begin on a windy plain high up in the north. Two warrior are fighting. They are the last two standing after a fierce battle. One of them is Heimdul, the other is Conan.

After defeating his opponent, Conan is now exhausted with the exertion of battle. He is visited by a nearly nude woman of great beauty. She teases and taunts the tired warrior, causing him to lust and hurry after her.

She leads him on a chase and soon draws him into an ambush. Conan stands face-to-face with the woman’s giant twin brothers. Roused by his passion for Atali, the beautiful woman, he defeats the giants and the pursuit continues. While Atali grows tired, Conan continues to be stirred on by her alluring figure and provocative words.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Short Story Sunday 22: Rogues in the House (Reading Conan 07)

It has been a long time since I wrote about Robert E. Howard’s Conan. I’ve been meaning to write stuff for the blog more often this year. If you’re reading this in 2020 you know the kind of year we’ve had. If you’re reading this from sometime in the future, then I would like to apologize from bringing up the horrors we went through.

Suffice to say that it’s been too long since my last time hanging out with the Cimmerian. Long ago my goal was to read all of the Conan stories written by Howard and write something about each one as I go along. Unfortunately, since writing about each story requires time and effort, the project stalled a few years ago. Recently, I’ve been taken by the Conan bug again (lucky for me it wasn’t another altogether dangerous bug, yes more dangerous than Conan) and decided it was a good idea to give this another go.

Another reason to pick up this project again is that I’m looking forward to reading Conan in physical medium. The edition I’ve been reading so far is an ebook compendium of all of Howard’s Conan stories. I also have the three-volume set edited by Karl Edward Wagner. It found it randomly in my local used bookstore and, liking the covers and having always wanted to read these stories, I picked it up. I didn’t find out about how well-regarded they are by fans of Howard and Wagner until after I have purchased them. They do not collect all of the stories, mostly the later ones. I’ve got a three or four more to read as ebooks before I start reading the Wagner edited volumes. That’s extra enticement.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Short Story Sunday 21: Jo Walton and Ted Chiang

I’ve been reading stories in Year’s Best Fantasy 2 for three weeks. I’m starting to get a bit tired of them, not because of the content necessarily as I’ve enjoyed these last six stories, but of their length. The very short length of these stories has limited their scope and depth. That changes today as one of the stories is technically the length of a novelette and it has the kind of deep storytelling that I was looking for and it’s tremendous. 

“On the Wall” by Jo Walton
Read in Year’s Best Fantasy 2 (2002), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (uncredited)
Originally published in Strange Horizons (September 2001), edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj

This is my first time reading something by Walton but I’m already a big fan of her through her various non-fiction writing at I’ve been meaning to explore her body of work, but I simply seem to never get around to it. Because of that I welcomed the opportunity to get my first taste with this anthology.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Short Story Sunday 20: Gene Wolfe and Patrick O’Leary

I had a good time reading short stories last weekend so I decided to do the same again this week. I was hoping for some better stories. One of these confused me and I’m still not sure what to think of it. The other certainly delivered the goods.

“Queen” by Gene Wolfe
Read in Year’s Best Fantasy 2 (2002), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (uncredited)
Originally published in Realms of Fantasy (December 2001), edited by Shawna McCarthy

I haven’t read much by Wolfe, but what I have read has blown me away. The Fifth Head of Cerberus and Peace are worth your time and will certainly stay with you for weeks after finishing them. That’s the effect they had on me. I’ve read a handful of his short stories and all of them read like they’ important and worth reading, even if they often leave me questioning what actually happened. That’s standard fare for a Wolfe story.