Review: Semiprozine round up – Abyss & Apex

Following on from this

Abyss & Apex a semiprozine with a name easily confused with Apex Magazine which is a different semiprozine altogether. Published quarterly it carries a mix of SF and fantasy stories as well as poems and book reviews. An excellent back catalog of authors but nothing really stood out in the issue I read but sufficient quality that I’d come back for a second visit.

Sorry? An elephant? Where? Oh the one in the room…OK Abyss & Apex were a Sad Puppy nominee for a Hugo in 2015 and were highly approving in an editorial about it here: and they also have one of those ‘Human Wave’ (the Sarah Hoyt thing) going on but in the end it is the quality of the stories that matter.

Review: The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest Cixin Lui (The Three Body Problem 2)
Novel: 2015.

At the end of The Three Body Problem humanity had discovered that the civilisation of Trisolaris had sent its fleet towards Earth with the aim of taking the planet and rebuilding Trisolaren civilisation in a more stable solar system By the use of artificial intelligent protons the aliens were in contact with a shadowy organisation working on their behalf despite the vast distances between the two systems. Humanity has hundreds of years to prepare but the situation looks grim.

The Dark Forest picks up directly from there. Humanity is busy trying to work out what to do, build some kind of defences in space and to find away past the interference in scientific research caused by the ‘siphons’ (the smart elementary particles that allow the aliens to act on Earth). What follows is a tale that covers a couple of hundred years of humanity coping with the changes in technology and outlook in the face of what appears to be impending doom.

The book has the same heady mix of ideas and speculation that makes the plot and direction largely unpredictable. Unfortunately it suffers from the same thin characters and a tendency towards clunky exposition. At the same time it lacks the powerful historical grounding that made The Three Body Problem feel like a novel that went beyond speculative fiction.

If you didn’t like The Three Body Problem then The Dark Forest is certainly not going to win you over. The first 10% of the book is also tough going but eventually the story settles in a rhythm as humanity explores its options in the face of the approaching threat.

Novel, original and brimming full of ideas but not as brilliant as its predecessor.

Review: Fool’s Quest

Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool 2) Robin Hobb
Novel 2015

When you get to the second book in the third trilogy of a fantasy series of fourteen books, you have already invested a substantial amount of time in the fictional world of the author. In Robin Hobb’s case her world is both substantial and somewhat narrow. She has built two different fantasy series around the same world. In the north the Fitz novels about a royal bastard and his life and further south the sea and river based adventures of the traders of Bing Town and the Rain Wild River. The overarching connecting stories between the three Farseer trilogies (centered on Fitz) and Rain Wild River books is the return of dragons to the world and the legacy of the humanoid elderling civilization that once lived and cared for the dragons. A primary strength of these books is Hobb’s ability to layer story arcs across different time spans that allow her immediate storytelling to concentrate on what can seem like the nitty gritty of people’s lives whilst still maintaining a sense of  an epic fantasy story line.
Continue reading “Review: Fool’s Quest”

Looking at Semiprozines…

An overlooked category that is very Hugo-rulesish. The rules basically are that it has to be published periodical, have at least four issues in a year, pays its contributors *OR* is sold for actual money *BUT* doesn’t actually make money for somebody. In others it is more like a professional magazine than a fanzine but is still primarily a labor of love.

In terms of pop-culture/SF websites something like io9 or The Mary Sue don’t count because they are published by commercial entities, whereas Black Gate does because, well because it does [ETA: or maybe not – consensus is that it is a fanzine nor a semiprozine]. Of course this makes it a very insiderish category and demonstrates the extra level of abstraction involved in Hugo categories like best fanzine. It isn’t enough to know what SF/F works you like and their relative merits you need to be able to make an informed judgement about the relative merits of magazine/blogs that themselves judge the relative merits of the SF/F works you like *AND* also have some idea of their commercial status.

So inevitably you need a website that provides some sort of guide through and luckily there is this

I’m going to start working my way through…