“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)


Charlie Jane Anders is someone who has been very much a mainstay of the science fiction and fantasy world, is a co-editor of the science fiction blog iO9, and Emcees a monthly reading series Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. So it’s not surprising that she should write an interesting novel the blends the worlds of fantasy and science fiction in a delicious way.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are an unusual couple of kids who never really fit in with school and life and form a union because of this. But they are of different worlds: Patricia develops magical powers while Laurence has an incredible scientific mind and becomes one of the few people to develop a two-second time machine. Their worlds diverge and they go their separate ways.

Now they’re adults and living in the hipster mecca San Francisco and yet things are not going well with the rest of the planet, as the world brings itself to the brink of annihilation. Now an engineering wiz, Lawrence is working for a company that is trying help the world and those suffering through breakthrough inventions and technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of the Eltisley Maze, a secret academy for those magically gifted, where she has learned much, but also made at least one terrible mistake that cost people their lives. She works with a group of magicians also looking to help those in need by using their magical talents. But there is a prophecy, spoken of years ago, that the two would come together in a final battle and cause the end of it all.

All the Birds in the Sky has a lot going for it, with its complex and interesting characters and whirlwind plot. Plus for anyone familiar with San Francisco, Anders has fun taking readers around the scenic city. But at times the book has too much going on that loses the reader. There is a lot of jumping back and forth and around, to different characters and times, which at first is interesting, but as it goes on, also loses the reader and is at times confusing. The novel feels like it could’ve used another round of editing to make the ideas and points more coherent and fluid. Nevertheless, All the Birds in the Sky does some things no book of either genre has before, and is its own unique tale that won’t be found anywhere else.

Originally written on March 25, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of All the Birds in the Sky from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Homeland” by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2013)

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After the traumatic events of the bestselling Little Brother, Cory Doctorow returns with the sequel in Homeland, as Marcus Yallow finds himself in a harsh world where the government is always watching and waiting.  His time being detained has scarred him in some ways — though not as bad as some of his friends — so that he is now less trusting than ever.  But he also knows that while the truth may not set or keep him free, getting it out to the masses is more important.

Homeland opens with an entertainingly fantastic chapter where Marcus is at Burning Man for the first time in his life, which Doctorow describes with such detail that it seems as if he may have been once or twice himself.  It culminates in a Dungeons & Dragons session with the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and actor Wil Wheaton.  Marcus also comes across an old enemy and comes into possession of a flash drive with some very incendiary information.

Back in San Francisco, life is the same with Marcus’s parents out of work, as well as himself, with everyone trying to get by in this terrible economic climate.  Marcus gets a job offer he can’t refuse: working as the webmaster and tech guy for a candidate running as an independent for the California Senate, looking to change the world and make it a better place.  So things start to look up for a little while, but Marcus has to make the decision about what to do with the flash drive.  It contains a torrent address and password that lets him download gigs of information on the corruption in the government, hard proof of what they have perpetrated, how they have tortured, under the guise of protecting the American people.  Marcus will have to decide if his safety and health are worthy sacrifices for getting this information out to the people.

Doctorow keeps the thrill running just like he did with Little Brother, putting Marcus into tight spot after tight spot, using his friends when he can, but also knowing the risks of putting them in danger.  Doctorow also does a great job of using cutting edge technology to make the story feel a little futuristic, but at the same time completely plausible.  Fans will be sucked into Homeland and kept going until the last page, hoping for a possible future continuation to this chapter in the story of Marcus Yallow.

Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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

“Inmate 1577” by Alan Jacobson (Norwood Press, 2011)

Inmate 1577
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When it seemed like the great thrillers involving the ace FBI Profiler, Karen Vail, couldn’t get any better after the bestselling Crush, Alan Jacobson brings Vail back to Northern California, this time in sunny and chilly and foggy San Francisco, with a new serial killer on the loose, and the growing and undeniable ties to one prison located on a certain island out in the bay.

Jacobson tells two stories here, jumping back and forth in time and from place to place.  First there is the story of Karen Vail, the FBI’s best profiler, who has been called back to California, to San Francisco to investigate a growing series of horrible killings, specifically elderly women who have been raped and brutally murdered, and their husbands, killed and left dangling and hanging from San Francisco landmarks.  SFPD Inspector Lance Burden is working with Vail, along with former colleague, Detective Roxxann Dixon; and with a crack team, the clues lead them throughout the beautiful city, as they investigate the bodies and put the pieces together.

Then there is the story of Walton MacNally, back in 1955, who has a series of really unfortunate events that lead him to start stealing and breaking the law, all to help and support his son.  But then he gets caught and spends his time in Leavenworth Penitentiary, and after a failed jailbreak, ends up on the rock of Alcatraz, where his life continues as a prisoner of one of the most infamous prisons in history.

The reader knows these stories are somehow linked, but Jacobson does a fantastic job of maintaining the suspense for literally hundreds of pages, and Inmate 1577 is a great 500-pager.  The author makes working a serial killer case more real than ever, as the agents involved continue to be stumped at finding the killer, and feeling simply lost, until they get another clue they must chase down.  While Jacobson does take a little while to actually get to Alcatraz in the book, as well as being a little too liberal with the acronyms, these are but minor distractions in this great example of the page-turning thriller.  Jacobson even spent some time on Alcatraz writing the book, as well as many days and interviews researching the book.

Inmate 1577 is simply a great book that any mystery fan will gobble up like their favorite dish.  Whether this is your first Karen Vail novel or you’ve been working your way through them; you will not be disappointed with this lengthy book that will keep you reading and both wanting to reach the end and at the same time not be done with the book.

To purchase a copy of Inmate 1577, go to the Norwood Press site.

Originally written on August 31, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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The Man of Westeros: An Interview with George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin needs little introduction after the recent success of the HBO show Game of Thrones, as well as his internationally bestselling epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. At a recent signing Kaye Cloutman and I had the chance to interview the great man himself and find out what he has to say on matters like his strength and weakness as a writer, what he likes to do in San Francisco, what he thinks about eBooks and the end of Borders, and whether he’s know how the series ends. [Read the interview . . .]

A Dance with Dragons

“Rosemary and Rue” by Seanan McGuire (Daw, 2009)

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For those looking for a fresh dosage of new reading after getting the latest fix of Dresden Files, look no further than the fresh voice of debut author Seanan McGuire and the first in her October Daye mystery series, Rosemary and Rue.  Think Harry Dresden, but make him female, set her in San Francisco, and accept that the world of Faerie not only exists but has portals linking to our own world and the characters of fable are very real and terrifying.

October Daye is a changeling (half-human half-fae) who has never really felt she belongs in San Francisco, or the realm of Faerie for that matter.  A private detective, who seeks to help out her kind when they are in trouble, has her world changed when she is turned into a koi fish in the opening pages of the book and finds herself trapped beneath the waters for fourteen years and six months.  The spell finally breaking, she returns to a very different San Francisco.  While she attempts to acclimatize to this future world, a high ranking elven lady is found murdered, and as Toby investigates she finds herself magically bound to the woman until the mystery of her death is solved.

And so begins a fascinating story wonderfully blending the incredible sights of San Francisco and its noire foggy nights with visits to the world of Faerie where everything is new and very different.  McGuire even provides a glossary for those having trouble with the faerie jargon.  With three books slated for publication (and McGuire currently working on book five), the author doesn’t give too much away in this premiere tale, but just enough to leave readers hungry and wanting for more.  Fortunately they won’t have to wait too long, with the second in the series, A Local Habitation, due out March 2nd 2010.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on August 28th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Seanan McGuire check out BookBanter Episode 15.