“Men Without Women” by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, 2017)


One good thing fans of Haruki Murakami must really like is the worldwide bestselling author never really slows down or takes a break, but just keeps on writing and writing and writing. The other good thing is the two men who have translated all of his work – Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen – also like translating his work and continue to do so, and Knopf continues to publish his work. So generally readers can expect a new book of some sort every two to three years.

Murakami’s latest volume, Men Without Women, is a collection of seven short stories that all have a similar sense and feel – a vibe if you will. They all deal – as do most of Murakami’s works – with relationships between men and women and how varied and unique they can be.

“Drive My Car” is a story about a man who due to a case of glaucoma and a DUI must be driven around by a female chauffeur who is enigmatic in her own way, as he relates stories about his life as an actor and his wife’s extramarital affairs. In “Yesterday,” Kitaru wants his friend Tanimura to go on a date with Kitru’s girlfriend to learn more about this woman. “An Independent Organ” is a story about a man who has never fallen in love, but seeks out married and committed women for relationships, until he finally does fall in love. The “Scheherazade” of the next story is a woman sleeping with a man who never leaves his room, and each time after having sex relates an unusual tale. “Kino” is a man who after being cheated on, leaves his wife and opens up a bar and meets some interesting people, and a cat. “Samsa in Love” is a twist on Kaftka’s The Metamorphosis where the cockroach wakes up as a man. In the final tale, “Men Without Women,” an unnamed narrator relates stories of a woman he cared deeply for.

Each story in this collections rings true for classic Murakami. Fans will be happy; new readers will enjoy this first foray into the author’s works. Men Without Men is both engaging and delightful.

Originally written on July 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Men Without Women from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Arcanum Unbounded” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


If you’re any sort of epic fantasy fan, then by now you know full well who bestselling author Brandon Sanderson is. You may know him as the author who finished the long-spanning Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan; or the creator of the fantastic Mistborn series; or perhaps you know him as the great mind behind his ongoing epic Stormlight Archive series. As a young adult reader, you may have also discovered him through some of his YA titles like The Rithmatist or the Reckoners trilogy, or perhaps even his Alcatraz series.

In case you haven’t realized, the guy can write. What you may not know is that all his books and stories are intrinsically linked together in his Cosmere universe. I know. Woah! Just when you think the guy can’t astound you more, he does. Sanderson has mentioned and hinted at this over the years of his climbing to stardom and bestseller status, and now readers get their first full insight into this galaxy of wonders, and of course, it’s a heavy tome weighing in at 672 pages, in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.

The book collects a good amount of Sanderson’s short fiction. Of course, one can’t really consider these short stories, because when it comes to writing, the word means little to Sanderson unless he’s referring to a character’s stature. Each novella and novelette features an introduction by one of Sanderson’s knowledgeable characters about what they know about this particular planet and system and how this affects those who live on the world or worlds within it.

The collection features nine tales, including an Elantris novella, a Mistborn story and novella that brings back an old beloved character. It features the first chapter for what became the script to his graphic novel, White Sands, as well as a sample of the great artwork. Included is also his novelette “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” which first appeared in the George R. R. Martin’s and Gardner Dozois’ anthology Dangerous Women, which features one of the strongest and most impressive female protagonists ever, and is one of Sanderson’s best stories. Period. Arcanum Unbounded also has a very nice and very long novella from his Stormlight Archive called “Edgedancer.” The book showcases impressive artwork of the planets and star systems, and is of course beautifully designed and executed, as is any high-class work from Tor books.

Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Arcanum Unbounded from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)


It’s been a few years since fans enjoyed the last Newsflesh novel, and in that time the dark and twisted Mira Grant has written a number of novellas for various anthologies, which fans may have missed along the way. Thankfully, the wonderful people at Orbit have helped collect all these separate stories together in this mighty and magnificent tome, Rise.

After a thankful introduction from the author, the collection begins with “Countdown,” originally published as a series of blog posts, that helps document the lead up to the rising. “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” is the incredible story of the rising at Comic Con when thousands of fans were trapped inside with some amplified zombies and what some did to survive, and what others did to help those outside survive a little longer. In “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea” new head of After the End Times Mohinder travels to distant Australia which is different from the rest of the world in that the Aussies have always lived in a world where things were trying to kill them. The newsie travels to the Rabbit Proof Fence, a massive enclosure protecting the Australian people from amplified kangaroos and other marsupials that would love nothing more than to sink their teeth into some human flesh. “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” tells an origin story for a known Newsflesh character and is one of the most moving stories in the collection, as one teacher fights to keep her first grade class of children alive.

Rise also features two brand-spanking new novellas the world has never seen before. “All the Pretty Horses” is the powerful story of Shaun and George’s parents, Stacy and Michael Mason; how they survived the rising and found a new lease in life and ultimately made the decision to adopt two very special children. “Coming to You Live” continues the events immediately after Blackout, giving fans some much needed answers and story.

This collection is a delight and shows the true breadth and complexity of the Newsflesh world. And to add the icing on this delicious bloody cake: there is a NEW Newsflesh novel coming out in the fall called Feedback.

Originally written on July 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rise from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep” edited by Peter Öberg (Affront Publishing, 2015)


When people think of Sweden a number of cliche thoughts and preconceived notions come to mind. When they think of Swedish authors, they are likely two that come to mind: Stieg Larsson of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and John Ajvide Lindqvist of Let the Right One In. One is a thriller writer, the other horror, but what about speculative fiction?

In Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep readers get to experience the genres of science fiction and fantasy in this fascinating anthology from the land of the midnight sun. 26 stories (some quite long) cover the gamut of the genres, with plenty of dystopian worlds spelling doom and gloom. Others will take you to other worlds, others to the future, and others to a very familiar place where things just aren’t quite right.

“Melody of the Yellow Bard” is an unusual story about wormholes and how what you find on the other side isn’t always that great. “The Thirteenth Tower” is a moving tale set in a destroyed world where those within it learn of how good times were before. “The Road” is of an alternate world featuring a female marshal employed by the Road Council, charged with keeping everything in order.

While the dystopian future is a common theme with a few of the stories, there are many others on diverse and unusual subjects, some short some long, providing a great smorgasbord (sorry, I had to) of stories for interested readers.

Originally written on July 9, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2015)


To date, Stephen King has published seven short story collections, proving that the prolific writer is still a big fan of the short form. This latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, has perhaps one of the more horrifying and chilling covers to grace the front of a book in some time. But this makes sense, since many of the stories in the pages of this collection are both chilling and horrifying. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is perhaps King’s best collection of stories since his debut collection Night Shift.

The anthology kicks off with “Mile 81” where there is an old abandoned vehicle at a defunct rest stop that has a tendency to absorb everything that touches it; one might even say eats. In “The Dune” a man can see people’s futures written in the sand. “Morality” is the story of the collection that really makes you think, as a couple must decide whether they will perform a certain act for a large amount of money, and whether their relationship can survive because of it.

What happens when you die? King decides to present his thoughts in “Afterlife.” In “UR” an ereading device has special powers. “The Little Green God of Agony” is a story about pain in its many forms and if it had a physical presence, what it would look like. “Obits” is a story about a journalist who causes bad things to happen to people when he writes their obituaries. The collection also features King’s novella “Blockade Billy” in its entirety, about an old baseball player who had certain “abilities,” as well as King’s most recent short story published in the summer of 2015, “Drunken Fireworks.”

For those wondering why so many readers love everything King does, the many great stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams makes it easily convincing. The anthology has a little bit of everything: ghost stories, psychological thrill rides, captivating thrillers, and moving stories of fiction. You will not be disappointed.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Dark Screams: Volume One” edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar (Hydra, 2014)

Dark Screams Volume 1
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Ebooks have and are continuing to change the way we read books, with shorter chapters and a growing popularity in short stories, ideal for reading on your particular ereader on the go just about anywhere. When it comes to horror, you want to make sure you find a good story to enjoy, and the first volume of Dark Screams features some big names in the genre and at a very reasonable price.

The opening story and high-point of the collection, “Weeds” by one Stephen King, is about a meteor that crashes to the earth and the weedy alien life upon it begins to grow in this world as well as on one of its inhabitants. The next story keeps the thrill and chill going with “The Price You Pay” by Kelley Armstrong about the price of debts, and how some can never be repaid.

Sadly, the collection goes downhill from there with the remaining three stories from Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark and Ramsey Campbell doing little to stimulate the mind and are just dark and don’t really go anywhere whether it’s about a strange member of an asylum or a doomed person trapped in a chamber of torture. Nevertheless, Dark Screams: Volume One is worth the read for a reader looking to experiment in the genre.

Originally written on December 8, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dark Screams: Volume One from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Dangerous Women” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, 2013)

Dangerous Women
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While George R. R. Martin may be taking his time with his next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, he definitely has an ability for finding some great talented storytellers when working with the master editor and anthologist, Gardner Dozois. Dangerous Women is one of those books that you’re very thankful for being a giant tome, as you look forward to finishing the thrilling story you’re currently reading, so you can see how it ends, as well as discovering what the next story is going to be like.

A number of big fantasy name authors make the contents list in this collection, as well as a number of other mainstream authors you may not have read before. Each of them write about heroines or female villains or powerful stories with moving female characters, from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughan and S. M. Stirling, as well as a new novella from George R. R. Martin set within his fantasy world.  Not all the stories are fantasy or horror or science fiction, such as with Carrie Vaughan’s riveting story about female fighter pilots.

The beauty of a collection like this is that the reader has a chance to discover a number of new authors they never planned on reading, or maybe have wanted to try. Also, since the book is called Dangerous Women, it does respectfully feature more stories written by women authors, as it should. Ultimately, it’s a collection that features wall-to-wall female characters everywhere, which sadly cannot be said for most books published these days.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dangerous Women from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.