Nov 032015
 
Martin Reviews: Undermajordomo Minor

. A castle and the town under its shadow is the setting for Patrick deWitt’s latest novel, Undermajordomo Minor (Ecco, 2015). It is in this alpine landscape where Lucien Minor (Lucy), deWitt’s protagonist, is provided all the requisite tests of adulthood and where deWitt loots the motifs of the Romantic coming-of-age tale to produce a rollicking, modern work. We join the seventeen-year-old Lucy as he leaves home for his new job as an under-servant at the castle Von Aux. After an exchange of farewells with his mother, he sets off down the road and soon finds the opportunity to sit […]

Aug 072014
 
Martin Reviews: Afterparty

Daryl Gregory’s new book Afterparty (Tor Books 2014) couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I was right in the middle of a punishing slog through Peter Hamilton’s 2012 novel Great North Road, where the plot is so overwhelmingly forced and the characters so underwhelmingly two-dimensional, that I was beginning to wonder if this huge tome (the trade paperback is over one thousand pages, and it must weigh at least a couple pounds) was worth finishing. Gregory’s book provided the perfect relief. Where Hamilton’s story contains a vast set of characters, Gregory’s is a tidy first person narrative. Where Hamilton’s […]

Mar 252014
 
Martin Reviews: Questionable Practices

  Reading Eileen Gunn’s latest collection of short fiction, Questionable Practices (Small Beer Press, 2014), is like buying a grab bag full of fireworks, having a few beers and then lighting fuses…and with each fuse, you have no idea what to expect. Launch. Color. Bang! It’s all here in an extraordinary display of virtuosity and craftsmanship. This collection is a perfect example of what contemporary speculative fiction should be, and Gunn is fearless as she leads us through the captivating landscape of her imagination. The three strongest pieces in this collection are “Up the Fire Road, “ “Chop Wood, Carry […]

Jan 162014
 
Martin Reviews: The Land Across

A travel writer arrives by train in a nameless Eastern European country, a mysterious remnant of the Soviet bloc and cast-off of Western civilization, in Gene Wolfe’s new masterpiece, The Land Across (Tor Books). To be sure, this place is no ale-toasting whistle stop on a Rick Steves European tour. Here, a dictator rules from a mountain retreat, the JAKA (the government’s secret police) operates through extortion and intimidation, and the clergy is at war with a satanic cult sprung from its own ranks. This is a state with an unidentifiable language, where outsiders are regarded with suspicion and where […]

Dec 182013
 
Martin Reviews: The Dante Chamber

On his website, Irish-born author, Alan Power, describes Knut Hamsun’s fin de siècle novel, Hunger as “one of my favourite books.” And there are certainly parallels between Hamsun’s work and Power’s well-written and exhilarating debut novel, The Dante Chamber. In each, the protagonist is in mortal combat with events beyond his control; and in each, we watch as the lead character spirals downward into madness. But this is where the similarities end. Where Hamsun’s main character struggled unsuccessfully against the social upheaval of the industrial revolution, a Christianity in decline, and intellectual and psychological alienation (standard themes in modernist literature), […]

Jul 262013
 
Martin Reviews: The Human Division

With the rise of serial ebooks on Amazon and other outlets, there is a new cast of offerings for thirsty readers, and John Scalzi’s latest effort, The Human Division, is no exception. This work, released as thirteen individual short stories between January and April of 2013, is the fifth installment of the Hugo Award nominated Old Man’s War series and Scalzi’s first experiment with a serial format. Scalzi mentions that the challenge in writing in this fashion was that each chapter, or single, had to succeed as a stand-alone story. Whether or not this contributed to a coherent whole (the […]

Jun 032013
 
Martin Reviews: All That Is

Women, booze and solipsism are recurring themes in James Salter’s historically sprawling and superbly written new novel, All That Is (Alfred A. Knopf.) His first novel, The Hunter (1957), was an account of Korean War jet fighter pilots, made the following year into a movie staring Robert Mitchum. It’s been over thirty years since Salter’s last novel, Solo Faces (1979), and one can only wonder if this is the closing work by the eighty-seven-year-old author, filmmaker and poet. The book opens in the summer of 1944 with naval navigation officer, Philip Bowman, waiting pensively on his ship before the U.S. […]

Apr 292013
 
Martin Reviews: The Far Time Incident

I must admit that when I pick up a book that uses time travel as a literary device I get a little nervous. It’s not that fiction can’t use time travel effectively: H.G. Wells began the fascination with time machines in his quintessential The Time Machine (1895); Dan Simmons succeeded brilliantly in weaving together the future and past time travel in the Hyperion Cantos (1989); and if we take the leap to film, Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” (1962) has perhaps one of the most chilling depictions of a protagonist traveling into the past to witness his own death. But then […]

Mar 252013
 
Martin Reviews: Homeland

If you don’t know who Cory Doctorow is by now, you probably are not an EFF-supporting, darknet-implementing, singularity-pushing, Creative Commons-loving, hackerspace-using, library-revering, left-leaning geek. And that is fine. But if Doctorow could have his way, he would welcome you into the club with open arms. In fact, that is what his latest YA book, Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother(2007), is all about. It is a call to youth to take charge of their electronic lives (and their lives in general) and to fight for an open and transparent government and a society that defends human rights. Although this book […]