Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Latest from King, Hill and Baker

SFGate has posted my review of new books from Stephen King, Joe Hill and Kage Baker. King's latest is a collection of 13 short stories, most of which are pretty good. It's not my favorite gathering of his short work, but there's enough of a mix to make it worthwhile for most fans. Stand-out stories include "The Gingerbread Girl" and "Ayana."

Joe Hill (who happens to be King's son, just in case you hadn't heard) created an on-going comics series for IDW. It's called "Locke and Key," and the first six issues are collected in hardcover as "Welcome to Lovecraft." (Minor quibble: I don't think H.P.'s surname works as a New England place name. Just sayin'.)

As crazy as I was for Baker's Company books, I'm really conflicted about her fantasy novels. I know they're well-written, but they just don't grab me. It seemed to take me forever to read "The House of the Stag," but don't let that stop you from giving it a try.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Books 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle publishes its annual Holiday Books section tomorrow, and it once again includes my list of recommended science fiction and fantasy titles.

It's not really a Best of the Year list, as I'm not able to read enough of the year's selections to make any kinds of definitive judgments. But I try to choose an interesting mix of authors working in a variety of modes. So, in addition to books by heavy-hitters like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Neal Stephenson, I give props to lesser-known authors like Jo Walton, Daryl Gregory and Jeff and Anne VanderMeer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

George C. Chesbro and the Last of Mongo

I was sad to hear that George C. Chesbro, author of the Mongo mysteries, has passed away, as noted at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, The Rap Sheet and the author's official site. With his dwarf protagonist, Chesbro brought something unique to crime fiction, a willingness to mix elements of the paranormal with the traditional gumshoe mystery, well before "The X Files" and its many imitators.

I started reading Chesbro with "The Beasts of Valhalla." (C'mon, look at that cover! How can you not want to pick it up?) It's an astounding mash-up of Wagner, "The Lord of the Rings" and a mad-scientist science fiction plot. I highly recommend it and its two immediate follow-ups, "Two Songs This Archangel Sings" and "The Cold Smell of Sacred Stone."

A few years ago Clayton Moore wrote an excellent column about Chesbro for Bookslut. It's worth reading now as an eloquent remembrance.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Remembering Michael Crichton

I think I read one of Michael Crichton's pseudonymous thrillers before I got around to his better-known work under his own name. It was the paperback original "Binary" (or as I pronounced it in my 13-year-old brain "bin-arry"), about a plot to release nerve gas at the Republican National Convention. (I guess that would be bad.) Anyway, it impressed the hell out of the teenaged me.

Throughout high school, I picked up "The Andromeda Strain," "Eaters of the Dead" and "The Great Train Robbery." I saw "Coma" and "Westworld" at the movies. "Sphere" was among my first assignments as a professional reviewer, and I was amused to see that the paperback edition prominently featured cherry-picked adjectives from my less-than-glowing critique.

Like a lot of folks, I was startled to learn on Wednesday that Crichton had died of cancer at age 66. He'll be missed by a lot of readers. I'm glad I was given the opportunity to write an appreciation of him for the Sunday Chronicle.