“—All You Zombies—” by Robert A. Heinlein

Genre: Science fiction (short story)

Rating: 10/10

I glanced at the ring on my finger. The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail Forever and Ever… I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?

First point: This is a story about time travel, not zombies.

Though it’s not just a time travel story, it is by far my favourite time travel tale. It is remarkably convoluted, paradoxical and will leave your mind spinning. It’s a remarkably intricate tale that remains out of grasp of the reader’s understanding until the very end, resulting in a immediate take-back and reread. It is a definite classic of science fiction and is perfect for any fan of the genre. And trust me, once you read this story you won’t forget it. Unfortunately I cannot go into any details of plot before encountering spoilers of a sort. The story is only 19 pages long and is definitely worth the short read. In fact you can listen to this story, free of charge, from Escape Pod if you can’t get your hands on an anthology with this in it.

 

The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Volume 2 Edited by Gordon van Gelder

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, short storiesThe Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Rating: 10/10

Fantasy & Science Fiction is  a magazine that has been publishing short stories for nearly 60 years and during this time it has had the good fortune to showcase many ground-breaking and influential stories. This is the second part of an anthology of incredible short stories edited by Gordon van Gelder (who has won two Hugo’s for Best Editor Short Form). The stories themselves are, purposefully, incredibly varied. Some are funny, others heartbreakingly sad and others thrilling. The common thing across the board is that these are excellent stories. It is an incredible authors and stories. There isn’t much I can say, this is an anthology of some of the best writers and stories of science fiction.


 

All the stories are listed below, and I cannot say that I disliked any of them. I am not going to do a full review of any of the stories now, I am planning to review them separately and later with a link to this anthology. However I am going to make a small mention of my 3 favourite stories in it.

Jefty is 5, by Harlan Ellison is my favourite story from this anthology. It ‘s a thoroughly unusual tale of a boy named Jefty who never grows older than 5, not physically, not mentally and not (oddly enough) chronologically.

“-All You Zombies-“,  by Robert A. Heinlein, is one of the best and most paradoxical time travel stories I have read. This wasn’t the first time I had read it but it has not diminished in the slightest.

The People of Sand and Slag, by Paolo Bacigalupi is sad tale. Far in the future, when humans have perfected augmentation and can essentially live forever. When three humans find a  natural, unaugmented dog they are intrigued and decide to try and care for it.

What I really enjoyed was the range and quality of the stories. Although sharing the same genre the stories were completely different to each other: in tone, style and content. I would also like to note the authors present. Now, this anthology covers the last 60 years so there’s a near definite chance of being introduced to a new writer. It’s an excellent opportunity to be introduced to an author you may never otherwise stumble upon, and you have the added security of knowing that these are all good authors who had success in their field.

Story List

  • The Third Level by Jack Finney
  • The Cosmic Expense Account by C.M. Kornbluth
  • The Country of the Kind by Damon Knight
  • The Anything Box by Zenna Henderson
  • The Prize of Peril by Robert Sheckley
  • “-All You Zombies-“ by Robert A. Heinlein
  • A Kind of Artistry by Brian W. Aldiss
  • Green Magic by Jack Vance
  • Narrow Valley by R. A. Lafferty
  • Sundance by Robert Silverberg
  • The Attack of the Giant Baby by Kit Reed
  • The Hundreth Dove by Jane Yolen
  • Jefty is 5 by Harlan Ellison
  • Salvador by Lucius Shepard
  • The Aliens who knew, I mean, Everything by George Alec Effinger
  • Rat by James patrick Kelly
  • The Friendship Light by Gene Wolf
  • The Bone Woma by Charles de Lint
  • Maneki Neko by Bruce Sterling
  • Winemaster by Robert Reed
  • Suicide Coast by M. John Harrison
  • Have not Have by Geof Ryman
  • The people of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Echo by Elizabeth Hand
  • The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates by Steven King
  • The Paper Meagerie by Ken Liu

This is a fantastic anthology of science fiction and I would strongly recommend this to fans of the genre.

Received before public through NetGalley for review

Not all those who wander are lost

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

Genre: Fantasy (novella), dark humourThe Wurms of Blearmouth

Rating: 7.5/10

Steven Erikson is well known for his  series of door-stoppers, the Malazan Book of the Fallen (first book reviewed here), which averages at at 1100 pages per book. For those of you who look for books of a more manageable size, there is the Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach of which this book is the 5th. It’s a series of stand-alone novels following three side characters that were taken from the main work and given a life of their own.


 

Imagine, one’s seemingly loyal manservant attempting to kill his master. This is what the world has come to, Master Reece. Is it any wonder that I envisage a brighter future, one where I sit secure upon a throne, ruling over millions of wretched subjects, and immune to all concerns over my safety? This is the tyrants dream, Mister Reece.

Erikson seems to have taken the switch from complex, densely worded epic fantasy to witty banter and darkest humour in his stride, creating a marvellous story for which my biggest complain is that it is too short, with too sudden a resolution as the book is just above 200 pages long.

The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal, along with their manservant Emancipor Reese find themselves shipwrecked on a beach overlooked by the castle of Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render and the awfully inhospitable town of Spendrugle. Which is unfortunate as our necromancers aren’t good people. In fact another book The Crackedpot Trial focuses on a group of hunters trying to bring them to justice for their crimes against society. Amusingly for us they come across as relatively benign as they tend to meet the sort of people that are even more horrible and who are deserving of their kind and tender ministrations.

It’s a crazy tale, that is sure to induce laughter and cringes, sometimes both during a single sentence. The dialogue and narrative are testaments to Erikson’s talent, with scenes of bewildering cleverness and wit that he seems to pull off with ease. His characters are as memorable as ever, from the vain and pompous lord who commands his scribe document his every word (but revise, reinvent, and rewrite it to make it better) to the lonely militiaman who carries out his solemn duty to arrest all visitors while venting his dissatisfaction of married life while maintaining that he has never been married. As I’ve mentioned before my biggest complaint is that of pacing, with the end approaching just as you are getting used to all the characters.

“Behold!” The lord faced outward again, defiant against the roaring seas, and struck a pose looming ominously over the town. “Behold! Oh, and note my widespread arms as I face this wild, whore-whipped sea. Oh, and that wretched town directly below, and how it kneels quivering like an abject slave. Note, too, the grey skies, and that fierce colour of … grey. What else? Fill the scene, fool!”

Coingood started scratching furiously on the tablet.

Watching him, Fangatooth made circular, tumbling motions with one hand. “More! Details! We are in the throes of creativity here!”

Received before public through NetGalley

Humanity

Why, a god could get sick with this lot, no doubt about it. If it wasn’t too much work, he would have ended this world long ago, and without much regret. But I’ll settle for what washes up every morning. The bodies and dead dreams, the brave and the insipid, the frightened and the belligerent, the wise ones-but how rare they are!-and the idiots, of which there are far too many. – The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Genre: Crime, MysteryAnd Then There Were None

Rating: 10/10

And Then There Were None is the best selling mystery novel in the world, with over 100 million copies sold and is the 7th most sold book in the world.  It’s widely considered to be Christie’s masterpiece, and considering that Christie is the  best selling novelist of all time this is prestigious badge.


 

Unlike the majority of her other novels this book is not told from the detective’s point of view. It is told from the viewpoint of the 10 victims/suspects, a very unusual style which probably helped lead to her describing the novel as the most difficult novels that she wrote.

In a mansion on a lonely island, off the coast of England, 10 people are gathered together. Each had received their own unique invitation to the island, specially tailored to ensure their arrival such as promises of employment and grand summer holidays. They soon discover that they are alone, and that no-one has a clear idea of who the host is.  Despite mild unease they set out to wait for their mysterious host who had left orders behind for supper to be served and a gramophone record is to be played . The record accuses each of them with successfully getting away with murder – a charge which they all vehemently deny. Realizing they have been tricked into coming to the island they try to leave but they are  without a way off as the boat that took them there has left. And then they begin to die one at a time in ways which inexplicably follows an old nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians,  shown below. However with no way to leave the island, and nowhere to hide, it is an indisputable fact that the killer is among them.  And so they desperately begin to search for the killer.

“Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”

It presents a baffling, ingenious mystery which the reader will battle to solve before the reveal. It presents a seemingly unsolvable, impossible and puzzling mystery that happens to have a perfectly logical solution.

If you enjoy crime or mystery novels then without a doubt you should read this book. It’s short (250 pages) and incredibly enjoyable with at it’s heart baffling, ingenious mystery which the reader will battle to solve before the reveal. For that is Christie’s grand talent: the presentation of a seemingly unsolvable, impossible and puzzling mystery that is resolved by a perfectly logical explanation.

 “When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”

Related on site articles

Agatha Christie (author bio)

Cards on the Table

“If this had been an old house, with creak­ing wood, and dark shad­ows, and heav­ily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feel­ing. But this house was the essence of moder­ni­ty. There were no dark corners – ​no pos­si­ble slid­ing pan­els – it was flood­ed with elec­tric light – every­thing was new and bright and shining. There was noth­ing hid­den in this house, noth­ing con­cealed. It had no at­mo­sphere about it. Some­how, that was the most fright­en­ing thing of all. They ex­changed good-​nights on the up­per land­ing. Each of them went in­to his or her own room, and each of them automatical­ly, al­most with­out con­scious thought, locked the door….”

― Agatha Christie,  And Then There Were None

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Genre: Graphic Novel

Rating: 10/10

Probably the best graphic novel, and definitely one of the best novels written.


 

Watchmen

Watchmen is beyond a doubt the most famous and acclaimed
graphic novel that has ever been written. Now a graphic novel is, simply, a lengthy comic book, yet Watchmen clearly desired to achieve beyond it’s peers. Watchmen isn’t just a great comic book, it’s considered to be one of the greatest novels. It was included in Time’s, “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list (the only graphic novel on the list).   Entertainment Weekly also  included watchmen on their list of the best 50 novels of the last 25 years, where it was described as The greatest superhero story ever told and proof that comics are capable of smart, emotionally resonant narratives worthy of the label ‘literature’.”  If you had happened to watch the movie of this novel, I assure you that, once again, the book is a lot better.

Rorschach

Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”

Watchmen tells the tale of an alternative world in which superheroes (vigilantes) emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, ultimately helping the USA to win the Vietnam War. Now the country is slowly edging towards a nuclear war and society is restless. Costumed heroes were outlawed, bythe Keene Act,  and the ex-superheroes are now retired or working for the government.  The books follows this bizarre group of has-beens as they begin an investigation of the murder of a old team-mate which leads to a far more sinister conspiracy.  Overlapping plot-lines and a time-jumping, non-linear narrative, introduces us to the dark and ruthless world that is Watchmen.

It is the oldest ironies that are still the most satisfying: man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace.

In structure each issue or “chapter”, apart from the final, ends with supplemental fictional documents add to the detailed back-story.   The character’s aren’t the typical cartoon types that you might expect. No one is clearly bad or good, everyone is somewhere in the grey in-between.  Moore’s intention ,with the characters, was  to create several “radically opposing ways” of moral perception. To quote the creator,

What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.”


Watchmen is the graphic novel that breaks the trend and stands as a marvellous and different book. Even if you don’t normally read graphic novels take the chance and try Watchmen.