We get truly amazing things here to review, be it Elizabeth Bear's alternate history novel New Amsterdam, Cirque du Soleil's Corteo DVD, the Charles Vess illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, or the new Linda Thompson album, Versatile Hearts, but even I'm surprised by some of the odder offerings we get -- tarot decks from Prague, puppets, calendars, Hellboy action figures, chocolate so dark it's midnight black, wheels of sharp English cheese from Ryhope Manor, crates of Russian winter ale from Ekaterinburg, and even the occasional work of art. Some of it gets reviewed, much of it doesn't. (The ale, cheese, and chocolate got consumed rather quickly.) Read our reviews this edition to see what made the cut! Oh, that lovely tarot did get reviewed as did the superb troll and hedgehog puppets!

Now go read the story about the Neverending Session and the musicians that make it up. Let's just say not everyone appreciates them as much as Mackenzie does! While you do that, I'll be chasing the bloody group of drunken academics who are doing very off-key Tolkien filksinging (yes, that's how it's spelled) out of the Pub before Liath turns them into trolls or something far worse as they're spoiling her reading of Charles de Lint's Little (Grrl) Lost which is in your local bookstore right now. If you don't know this superb fantasy writer, have a look at our special edition about him.

The music? Yes, that's that Neverending Session you're hearing. 'Neverending' Session! More like 'Everlasting' Session, if you asks me!

They're everywhere, those musicians are a plague all by themselves. I keep thinking we should get a man in with a ferret. Squawking and squeaking away on those things, you'll run into 'em on the landings, in the kitchen, in the nooks of the upstairs hallway, in the offices, even in the library; gods' little green apples, hasn't anyone told them a library is supposed to be quiet?

Mr. Mackenzie doesn't help much either, I think he likes it. Miss Liath has more sense, but she's hardly ever around these days, more's the pity, off gallivanting 'round time and space gathering up manuscripts and books.

But then, no one much dares to disturb Miss Liath from her work, I think including Mr. Mackenzie. She just gives a look at one with those gray eyes, and people simply creep away to let her get on with it.

Those musicians. Always leaving bottles and glasses and plates behind 'em, too, as if us staff have nothing better to do than clean up after 'em, like. And the smokers? Well, leastways the building and grounds are non-smoking in these modern days, or the rugs would be full of ash as well as crumbs and such, as they used to be in the old days. Though they grumble.

Did you know the other day Mr. Augustus had to chase 'em out of a tree? They were up one of the old apples in the orchard, sawing away; it was probably some kind of bet.

Mrs. Ware chased 'em out of the kitchen the other day, but that happens at least twice a week.

When Mrs. Ware was Housekeeper, they at least stayed out of the hallways, but Mrs. Thompson, who came after Mrs. Ware took over the kitchens when Mrs. Clarke left for Australia to take care of her daughter's baby, seems to like it as well, so we end up beating out the hall rugs at least twice a week.

Just the other day Mr. DeBeauvoir, our House Steward, turfed 'em out of the wine cellars. 'Agnes,' he says to me in that accent of his, 'the vibrations! what they could have been doing to the wine!' Poor innocent.

The ferrets, I'm telling you, it's the only way.

Oh, all right, I don't suppose that it's all that bad. Nothing wrong with a bit of music about the place, and they always seem to have a good time. But I've no truckle with this mystic mumbo-jumbo-ish stuff they spout sometimes about the 'Neverending Session,' like. What's so mystic about a banjo?

Donna Bird concludes her look at Cirque du Soleil's Corteo performance on DVD thusly: 'I am sure that a live Cirque du Soleil performance has its own pleasures-but the video also offers clear advantages, such as being able to watch the show multiple times, to stop the action or to replay a favorite scene. All the Cirque du Soleil videos I've seen are very well-executed, making full use of multiple cameras to give the viewer angles and close-ups that would not be available to anyone sitting in a live audience. The Corteo DVD offers some of the best extras I've ever seen in such a package, including interviews with members of the company (both performers and behind-the-scenes folks) and a very nice "day-in-the-life" piece that follows two of the performers through a typical day in the big tent. We're loaning our copy to a friend, but will surely watch it again when she returns it.' Now go read her review to see why she came to these conclusions!

Richard Dansky reviewed Elizabeth Bear's alternate history novel New Amsterdam, which features a vampire and sorceress solving mysteries. Of the novel's various vignettes, he says, 'The murders are a means of instigating the character interactions, and as such, they do admirably. Bear plays with the classic images of both genres -- the locked room mystery, the ever-intriguing Tesla -- but ultimately lets them serve as supporting elements to the intriguing, and ultimately touching human story she is telling.' Check out the details here.

Elizabeth Vail took in a viewing of the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel Stardust and found it to be an engaging, if not precisely faithful rendition: 'Rare for a fantasy-novel adaptation, the film succeeds as a stand-alone movie, that is, it has a well-paced, coherent, smooth-flowing narrative that never leaves the book-shy members of the audience feeling left out. Fans of the novel may be disappointed (although hardly surprised) to find that Gaiman's bittersweet, laid-back fairytale has been translated into a more conventional, happier movie, but more conventional doesn't equal entirely conventional, and this engagingly quirky movie is still guaranteed to entertain.'

This week's featured CD review is by Gary Whitehouse. He took a listen to the new Linda Thompson album, Versatile Heart and he loves it! Gary says, 'it's a smashing album in every way. The songwriting, playing and singing all show an already iconic singer at the very top of her game. And that's saying a lot for the woman who sang on the original recordings of some of Richard Thompson's best songs.' High praise indeed. And he said a lot more too. Read it all here.

Camille Alexa has a rather bold statement to make about Lane Robins' Maledicte: 'In her debut fantasy novel Maledicte, author Lane Robins achieves something highly unusual in modern fiction: she creates a sympathetic villain hero. I'm not talking your average underdog or anti-hero. I don't mean one of those cute, on-the-cusp bad boys everyone loves to love, especially in Hollywood and darker fantasy. I mean an actual, cat-killing, baby-threatening, innocent-murdering, woman-terrorizing bad guy.' Well now, that's certainly intriguing. And that's not the most startling thing in Camille's review. To see what I mean, go read her entire Excellence in Writing Award-winning review!

Donna Bird was able to revisit a likable series when the publisher sent her the sixth in Barbara Cleverly's Joe Sandilands series, Tug of War. Donna says, 'Although Tug of War is indeed sixth in the Joe Sandilands series, I think that you could enjoy it as a stand-alone pretty easily. With the exception of Dorcas, there are no other continuing characters, and Cleverly provides enough of Joe's background and his relationship to his sidekick in the opening chapters to enable you to make sense of the situation.' For more, read the rest of her review.

Next up, Donna looked at a pair of books inspired by (or possibly inspired by) Arabic folktales. She says 'Ted Chiang has used his own creative intelligence to craft a story in the traditional Arabic style' in The Merchant and the Alchemist. By contrast, in the second book, the editor, Salma Khadra Jayyusi, ' has used her knowledge and love of Arabic culture to gather and present the traditional Tales of Juha in a format that is accessible to Western readers. For more details on both books, go here.

Donna took a look at two lengthy non-fiction books regarding 'the Raj, the British rule over large parts of the Indian subcontinent' She read David Gilmour's The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and Lawrence James' Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, and concluded that 'although these are both serious and well-researched history books, they are readily accessible to the general reader.' For a great bit more detail, read her Excellence in Writing Award winning review.

Lastly, Donna read Andrew Hammond's Popular Culture in the Arab World, which she found helpful, given her keen interest in Middle Eastern literature. She found that 'as one who has been dabbling at the edges of Arabic history, literature and music for the last couple of years, I found many of Hammond's insights into Arabic culture enlightening and useful.' To see if you might find it as useful, take a look at her review!

Deborah Brannon was quite entranced by Neil Gaiman's M for Magic, which she says follows in the fine tradition of both Ray Bradbury and fairy tales, full of thought-provoking pieces of fantasy, horror, and science fiction that will keep children and adults engaged for years to come.' Read her full review here.

Craig Clarke says that Norman Lebrecht's The Life and Death of Classical Music: Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made provides an 'exhaustive and engrossing history of recorded classical music which is essentially the beginning of the music industry as we know it' and is likely to provoke 'plenty of heated online discussions.' To find out why, check out the review

Richard Dansky did not have kind things to say about C.J. Ryan's space opera Dexta: 'There is certainly a place in science fiction for space opera. There is a place for strong, sexually liberated female characters, for space bureaucracies and space teddy bears and manly space Australians and everything else. But that's not the space that Dexta inhabits, and with luck, it never will be.' Ouch! See in excruciating detail why Richard didn't care for Dexta in his Grinch Award-winning review.

Book Editor April Gutierrez was disappointed with the latest of Bill Willingham's Fables graphic novel series, Fables: Wolves: Coming on the heels of such a strong entry in the series, 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Wolves was somewhat frustrating. At least everyone is back where they belong, so events in the next book, Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire, can pick right up.' To see why she was so frustrated, read here.

David Kidney enjoyed Will Hodgkinson's Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, or My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting, wherein the author who had previously detailed his experiences learning to play the guitar now details his quirky quest to learn to write songs. The results? David finds the songs to be 'interesting. Fun. The book? Every bit as entertaining as Guitar Man, and even instructional.' Go here for more of the review.

Kestrell Rath recommends Gary Braunbeck's Mr. Hands 'if you are looking for intelligent dark fantasy or psychological horror that reminds you of why we find ourselves endlessly fascinated with scary stories about monsters, ghosts, and haunted places.' Check out her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review for more details about Braunbeck's stories.

Robert Tilendis finds that anything by Connie Willis is on his 'must read' list, and The Marble Arch and Other Stories and D.A. are no exception. Robert's Marble Arch review is replete with sound bites a publisher would kill for: 'mordantly funny', 'stories with attitude', 'raucous satire', 'consummate skill.' And of D.A., he says 'It's a classic Heinlein juvenile brought up to date in a funny and refreshing way.' And if that isn't enough to pique your interest, go read his Excellent in Award-Winning review!

Robert had mixed feelings about Luis Ortiz's Emshwiller: Infinity x Two -- The Art and Life of Ed and Carol Emshwiller, finding the content to be largely good, but the presentation subpar: 'So, it's a mixed bag. The text is valuable and focuses on what I think are the important aspects of Ed Emshwiller's works and career. . . . The layout and design are not good, but the images are there, at least, complete with the garish 1950s color that was so much a part of their appeal. It's certainly a book worth reading, no doubt about that, and important for anyone interested in where science fiction came from.' For more details, read his review.

Seems Robert had some quibbles about Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette's A Companion to Wolves as well, though ultimately he did enjoy it and would like to see sequels: He says, 'the universe here is a fascinating one, drawing heavily on Germanic folklore and set in a grim, cold, unyielding world that reflects the dark cast of Norse mythology. . . . The narrative is fluent and absorbing, the characters engaging, the storyline moves along briskly. And yet I wasn't as enthralled as I should have been, I think.' To see why not, and yet why he'd still like to see sequels, read the entire review.

Next, Robert found himself rather frustrated with Sheila Finch's The Guild of Xenolinguists, intrigued by the premise, but finding the execution lacking: 'the potential for moral and, for lack of a better term, 'political' conflicts seldom gives rise to any really persuasive plot lines. They are there, but just don't seem to engage Finch very much, and so didn't really engage me.' For a more in-depth analysis as to why, read on.

And lastly, Robert was pleasantly surprised by Arnold Steinhardt's autobiography, Violin Dreams, which, he says, 'turned out to be, in spite of my initial misgivings, a charming and insightful adventure in the world of the musical life, high culture, and Bach. Steinhardt is, when all is said and done, a thoughtful and intuitive storyteller, and the book is terrifically rewarding.' Look here for more.

Elizabeth Vail gives kudos to Laini Taylor for breathing life into an old trope -- 'The Old Evil Returns to Wreak New Mischief Plot' -- with her debut novel, Faeries of Dreamdark -- Blackbringer. Elizabeth says that 'Taylor's mastery over narrative leads to a fully-realized story with a recognizable conclusion, but also leaves enough leeway for future books.' For more details, read on.

However, Elizabeth thought less of Adam Gopnick's The King in the Window: 'The experience of reading it isn't like participating in a fully-realized adventure, but rather more akin to watching a clever magic trick with golden keys, glass swords, and mirrors that ultimately ends with empty hands. It's all well and good to suggest that too much time spent looking at mirrors, TV screens, and computer monitors eventually leeches something essential out of a person, but are books supposed to be that way?' If you insist on more, you read why she didn't care for the book here.

Matthew Scott Winslow wrestled an anthology about The Fair Folk away from his fellow staffers and feels the book was worth the bruises! Reading the stories prompted him to ask, 'The existence of six such different stories, carefully arranged, gives one pause to wonder at what levels the fantastic collides with the mundane. Do we find escape in the fantastic? Does it lead us to greater insights of what it means to be human? Do our virtues of love and courage make us greater than the fantastic, although we often don't feel it to be the case?' Read his review, go read the book and perhaps you'll wax philosophical as well.

I took my new Epiphone 335 guitar up to my friend Wayne's studio last Saturday. Oh, I had my acoustic too. Wayne had some new recording software he wanted to work with, and he needed a guinea pig. He has a session coming up and wanted to have the glitches worked out before they come in. I'm all in favour of some free recording time, so I'm always willing to be the test case! We spent a few hours playing and recording, he gets a great guitar sound. If only I could play as well as the sound calls for! But that's what recording is all about, isn't it. We listen to all sorts of recordings, played by virtuosi and by rank amateurs, and sometimes it sounds fabulous... sometimes not. And it's all relative. Maybe you like this one that I don't, and vice versa. Today our peerless reviewers tell us about a broad selection of music, both recorded and live, that they were engaged with over the past few weeks.

Three CDs from Yo-Yo Ma struck Donna Bird's fancy. Mr. Ma is the leader of this group, called '...the Silk Road Ensemble, but that phrase seems to apply both to a core group of less than twenty musicians, as well as to a much larger cast of performers and composers who come together in various combinations for tour dates and recording sessions. I can say that they represent many of the countries along the Silk Road, including (from East to West): Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Lebanon-not to mention a few folks from Europe and the Americas.' Intrigued? Read more in Donna's Excellence in Writing Award winning omni.

Myself, I was trolling through a stack of re-issued material from a variety of sources. First up? VEE-JAY: the Definitive Collection, 'Blues, soul, jazz, doo-wop, what a cross-section of music they offered. Vee-Jay was the first successful African-American-owned record company, at points bigger than Motown and Chess...but eventually was wiped out by 'the vagaries of the music business.' The official box should be available shortly, with a full colour booklet giving the whole history...' and is it worth waiting for? You bet! Read why!

Another blast from the past came with a selection of seven different albums by the Rascals (or the Young Rascals). 'Felix Cavaliere's primal soul scream and his skill on organ are complemented by Gene Cornish's electric guitar and Dino Danelli's powerful drums... Eddie Brigati takes over on vocals...Gene Cornish sings too.. There's some good harmonizing all around.' Those Rascals were dandy, whether young or not! See my review here.

Then I reviewed Dear Mr. Fantasy, a retrospective history of the career of Jim Capaldi. Who? 'Although Steve Winwood got most of the press, Dave Mason had more hits, and Chris Wood... well... passed away in 1983...Jim Capaldi was a huge part of Traffic. Traffic was one of those bands that the cognoscenti appreciated far more than their success on radio ever showed. Capaldi was the drummer, but he also was a songwriter and a singer with a voice almost as recognizable as Winwood's.' This double CD is a record of a live show in tribute to Capaldi's life. Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, Joe Walsh, and many more. Is it good? Find out here.

Peter Massey checks in with some Celtic music from Stone Circle a '...5 piece band emanating from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., led by George Schoemaker on 12 string guitar and backing vocals [who] have been around for about 13 years.' He tells us that their album Winter Sky 'present[s] a nice balance with the slow airs, hornpipes, jigs, and reels.' Read Peter's whole review here.

Next, Peter checks out David Nigel Lloyd's How Like Ghosts Are We. 'On this album Nigel appears to be searching for deep hidden meaning in the way some songs are perceived or performed. Indeed he seems to have taken a lot of influence from Carthy in the interpretation and arrangements for the songs.' Is this a good thing? Find out by reading Peter's review.

Lars Nilsson takes on two new discs, one each by Jez Lowe and Kate Bramley. Kate has been playing in Jez's band The Bad Pennies for about 6 years. He seems quite taken with both albums and says, 'Lowe and Bramley are both clearly among Northern England's finest, and worth seeking out for anyone in search for good songs and good voices. I highly recommended both of them, and I assure you Lowe and the Bad Pennies are as good live as on record.' For more details read the whole review.

Robert Tilendis, (or Bob as we call him when he's not looking) displays the esoteric nature of GMR's music mandate with his look at two volumes of central Javanese gamelan, produced by John Noise Manis.  How does Mr. Tilendis keep up with all this stuff? I have enough trouble just listening to all the blues albums that are sent my way!  And listen to the work he puts into his reviews, 'In terms of listening, while I've managed to train my ear to identify the layers of sound in a gamelan performance, I still had to make an adjustment -- to the vocal parts. The intervals seem to be 'off' and, initially at least, I couldn't find a reference point. I seem to have made that transition, to the extent that I can see in the beginning of gending 'Gambirsawit' the degree to which vocal soloists become an integral part of the ensemble. That piece is perhaps a prime example of Javanese court music at its height: sophisticated, tremendously evocative, astonishingly intense in places, it provides a perfect beginning to a sequence that builds a vivid image of an ancient culture and its artistic expression. This is a very intelligently structured collection, containing some extraordinarily beautiful music.' Uh-huh! Curious? I was...so I read the whole review. You should too. It's right here.

Robert also listened to a new interpretation of Joe Green's Messa da Requiem. Okay, I apologize...that's Giuseppe Verdi. Senore Tilendis raves about this one. 'The soloists are superb, projecting a full range of moods from deep reverence to wonderstruck awe. Their ensemble work is flawless and their solos compelling. Eva Mei, soprano, and Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano, in particular, turn in a performance in the 'Lachrymosa' that bypasses all your defenses. Nor can I find any arguments with tenor Michael Schade or bass Ildebrando D'Arcangelo. Both perform with power and finesse.' Get the full story here. Wow, if only I liked classical music!

Gary Whitehouse was a busy lad over the past few weeks. He attended the Pickathon Festival, which he reviews here . Did he like it? Well, listen to this, 'Pickathon is well organized, with a good selection of food and merchandise vendors, a big truck full of free water to keep you hydrated in the sun, and lots of activities for kids and adults alike.' It had plenty of music too! While at the Festival, Gary had the opportunity to chat with the Handsome Family. He knew and liked the Handsomes, well, he '...knew that, for the most part, Rennie Sparks writes the lyrics and Brett Sparks the music for The Handsome Family's songs, a sometimes surreal blend of dark humor, grim pathos and gritty murder tales. But...was curious about how they worked -- which came first, the lyrics or the tunes? So that was the first question I asked them when we sat down backstage after their afternoon set at the Pickathon Roots Music Festival. For the answer to that, and much more the interview is here

Then he reviewed some music, from artists he heard at Pickathon. The Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, is one of the most fascinating. I must confess that I spent an afternoon checking out their web site after reading Gary's review. After all, who could resist this teaser... 'there's just no way you can fail to respond physically to this music -- especially if you put it on a good system and turn it up loud. This is not music for your MP3 player; you need to feel this in your bones.'

Johnny Irion and Elana James are two band members who have just released solo albums. Gary compares and contrasts these new CDs. 'Johnny Irion is stepping outside of his regular gig to play some music that's obviously near and dear to his heart but doesn't fit with the Guthrie clan's folk approach. And Elana James has found her own place in the music scene after a long run with a band. These are just two examples of the fireworks that can result when a musician steps outside his or her usual setting.' What are they like? Read Gary's review.

Then Gary looks at the new John Doe CD. 'John Doe has long been one of my musical heroes. As co-leader of the Los Angeles-based punk (and postpunk) band X, he and former wife Exene Cervenka brought incisive, poetic lyrics to the music's sharp political observations and passionate energy. As a solo artist, he brings all that as well as humility and humor to his performances, but his recordings have been spotty. He has begun to rectify that with 2005's Forever Hasn't Happened Yet and especially with his new A Year in the Wilderness. For the details go here

Gary recalls hearing the Kosher Red Hots at last year's Northwest Folklife Festival. They recorded this CD of Yiddish and Ladino tunes at a nursing home. Huh? That's right! And Gary advises, 'This isn't necessarily a CD that you'd put on and listen to casually, but it's really a delightful project that just can't help but bring a smile to your face.' Read on.

All this music and people like me are still going into studios to record more? Who can resist a chance to be reviewed (some day) in Green Man? I'll send along the MP3s when they're available. Til then, try some of today's CDs!

A decade ago, Jack Merry looked lovingly at the illustrated edition of Stardust: Being a Romance within the Realms of Faerie which is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess. Vertigo has released a cool new hardcover edition as the film version of Stardust just came out. Vess sent a copy of the new edition to us earlier this summer which needless to say was grabbed quickly by Jack so that he could update his review. That was the last we saw of this book and Jack also disappeared for quite some time emerging only for a tasty shepherd's pie and a mug of hot spiced ale which Bridget Comfrey served up to him. Other than that appearance, he stayed in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room reading very, very late into the evening.

His opinion when we saw him the next afternoon? That 'all lovers of good fantasy should immediately purchase a copy of this ever so handsome hardcover edition of Stardust before it too vanishes like a midsummer's dream upon the dawning sun.' Furthermore he says that 'This new edition is graced with Charles Vess' superb illustrations -- delicate, colourful, and ever so full of the exacting details that make Vess an illustrator on par with Arthur Rackham and Maxfield Parrish. His illustrations more than amply capture the magic that Gaiman's prose invokes, and perhaps quite a little bit more than that as the illustrations are simply magical. Like his work on Charles de Lint's Seven Wild Sisters and Moonheart, Vess adds nuances to already exquisite texts.'

He went on to add 'both gentlemen should be proud of both their work here and the absolutely fine job that Vertigo did. From its green and blue cover with a Vess illustration on the cover to the sewn in ribbon for a page marker, this is simply one of the finest printing job I've seen. At forty dollars in the USA, it is a bargain too. I've come to expect work this superb out of specialty presses like Subterranean Publications and Golden Gryphon Press but rarely do we see it from mainstream publishers! Good show all!'

Some notes from various writers we know on upcoming projects...

Tobias Buckell says 'We're taking pre-orders for my first short story collection that will be out in early 2008 called Tides From the New Worlds: 'Caribbean born novelist Tobias Buckell established himself as a gifted new voice in science fiction with his stunning first novel Crystal Rain. Now, in his first collection of shorter work, Buckell demonstrates his strengths in the short form, offering readers a collection of stories that are compelling, smart, wonderfully imagined, and entertaining. Tides from the New Worlds contains 19 stories that range from multicultural science fiction to magical realism, some in print for the first time.' You can pre-order it here.

Ellen Datlow tells us that Publisher Bill Schafer asked if I'd be interested in guest editing an issue of Subterranean Magazine and I jumped at the opportunity. "What are my parameters," I asked. The reply, "anything you want" made my heart go pitter pat. So I went out and solicited stories and one novella from a covy of writers, all of whom (except for Anna Tambour) I've worked with before.

The issue is a mix of 60,000 words of urban angst and horror, a story that begins creepily because you know that something bad has got to happen, somewhere along the way turning into a sort of love story, a tale about a really disgusting culinary practice of historical France, a lushly written story of contemporary malaise and revenge, another of possibly supernatural guardianship, an intricate, convoluted darkish fantasy about love, and a couple of stories that could have been ripped from the headlines, given their own peculiarly dark take by their respective authors.

I hope these stories entertain, provoke, and occasionally illuminate. In any case, I hope you enjoy them, for if nothing else they provide a glimpse into the amazing array of possibilities within the fantasy umbrella.

The TOC of my guest edited issue (Print Issue #7) includes all new stories by Terry Bisson, M. Rickert, Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Tuttle, Richard Bowes, John Pelan & Joel Lane, Anna Tambour, and a novella by Lucius Shepard.

Jane Yolen tells us that she has three books coming out soon: 'The Rouges with Robert J. Harris is the latest YA Scottish historical novel from us -- with a tip of the hat to Robert Louis Stevenson and all the poor folk cleared from their lands. Then there's How Do Dinosaurs Go to School (well of course it's fantasy!), and let's not overlook Baby Bear's Big Dreams which is two kinds of fantasy, or maybe three, touching on the folk tale, talking animals -- and the fantasy we all share about what we're going to be when we grow up.'

Mackenzie here, taking a breather from setting up a special case for all our J.R.R. Tolkien; especially our many editions of The Lord of The Rings. Not my favourite fantasy, nor even my favourite Tolkien -- but with The Birthday coming on, we'll be seeing lots of requests for the Professor's work this month, from the light of mind and the serious scholars alike. Reflecting on both popular taste and enduring literature, though, I think even Professor T's ponderous opus major still outshines more recent forays into the field. Two contemporary writers, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, have stirred up fanatically devoted followings, but neither of them carries the weight of Tolkien. It might be that, despite the impressive avoir de pois of the Potter saga, it's really a rather narrow focus. Pullman's story is narrower yet, and seems a sophomore effort compared to the intricacies of Tolkien's universe. It should be remembered that Tolkien's original intent was to create a mythology for Britain, after all, and he brought one of the best linguistic minds of his generation to the task. Of course, to savour the width and depth of his work, you to have to read more than just the trilogy … and since our staff has been busily doing just that, we can look forward to an entire edition dedicated to Professor Tolkien in a fortnight. There's a great deal more to his work than hobbits!

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