Morning all -- welcome to another edition of Green Man Review. Come sit down in our Pub, have a pint of our most excellent Midsummer Ale, and we'll talk over what's up for all of us this summer.
Yes, that's Deborah Grabien, author of Rock and Roll Never Forgets, over in the Snug laughing at something Peter S. Beagle just told her -- their conversation will grace our special High Summer edition devoted exclusively to our good friend Peter. It will be published on the tenth of August, but this edition is concerned with the tale of Kit, the woodsteward at our sprawling estate, and the fascinating tale he has to tell.
Oh, I forgot to mention Subterranean Press has reached agreement with Peter to produce Mirror Kingdoms, a 200,000 word career retrospective next year. The editing duties are in the capable hands of Jonathan Strahan! Yea!
Meanwhile Mia Nutcick's busy Guest Editing our Patricia McKillip edition which will feature a long and loving interview with her, and another with Kuniko Y. Craft, the cover illustrator for most of her Ace editions; a look at all her works, and a review of her forthcoming contemporary fantasy novel, The Bell at Sealey Head.
Reviews and one amazing interview are here in droves this edition! Do savour Robert Tilendis' interview with Steven Brust, the author of Jhereg and The Taltos Cycle series; fans of Patricia McKillip’s Moon-Flash will be pleased to read Camille Alexa’s enchanted review of its sequel, The Moon and the Face; go read why Cat Eldridge decided to rectify a grievous error as we had failed until now to provide a detailed review of Emma Bull’s Finder – a Novel of the Borderland; and check out all three of Christopher Conder's looks at an eclectic selection of gigs.
Hi there, it's me -- Robert. Here, come sit with me under this oak tree here. I was just remembering the other night at the Pub. It had gotten late and we were all sitting around swapping stories, and of course I can never think of a story when I need one, but I just remembered one that Kit, the woodsteward, told me. That's what he calls himself, 'woodsteward,' although forest warden or ranger might be just as accurate. He takes care of the Wood behind the GMR building (as much as it needs caring for -- it's a self-sufficient sort of place, when all is said), and he's quite an interesting character. He's quite striking, sharp-featured, great bones, tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, well-knit, of no particular age, with a great mane of fox-red hair that he wears in a tail down his back most of the time. And of course he knows all about the animals and trees. He always seems to have a little smile hovering around his lips, but it's his eyes that hold you -- strange eyes, golden, watchful like a cat's, tilted like that, with a sparkle to them that says good humor and maybe just a touch of mischief.
At any rate, we've gotten to be friendly over the years -- I spend a fair amount of time in the Wood. And it's definitely 'the Wood,' and not any sort of common old 'woods,' Kit made that clear early on. He says it's part of the First Wood, but that's all he'll say about it. It's a nice place to be when I'm too restless to settle down in my office or my reading room, quiet but not too quiet and always something interesting to watch. And of course, Kit spends almost all his time there. He does have a little room down by the kitchen where it's warm in the winter, but he only uses it during the worst weather -- he says everyone needs a nice cozy den sometimes, but he'd rather be under the trees. So, I guess it was inevitable we'd start spending time together, and he's even invited me to visit him in his room. It really is a snug little place to spend a long winter night. Uh, 'evening,' I meant to say. 'A long winter evening.'
Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, Kit's story. I was out walking down the Road one day about this time of year -- maybe a bit later in the Summer, right about First Harvest -- Lughnasadh, they call it around here -- and I happened across Kit. He greeted me warmly, and suggested we take a walk into the Wood. 'I want to show you something,' he said, 'and you might as well not waste your time on this Road. It only goes from here to there, since it's not really part of the Wood at all, and I suppose that's good enough for most times, but today is special.' And he led me off into the Wood, along a path I had never noticed before, guiding me along by the hand, and putting an arm around to help me over the tricky parts. He's certainly nimble, for such a big man -- and very strong, too.
The Wood was wonderful that day, warm and a little sleepy, and every once in a while we'd hear the buzz of a greenbottle or see a butterfly glowing in a shaft of sunlight, the trees and bushes all leafy and green, and every so often we'd cross a small clearing where summer flowers had found a place to bloom, asters purple and white, and sunflowers and rattlesnake weed and swamp lilies (the Wood does have some wet parts) and all sorts of things, all like little bits of sunlight themselves. I have to confess, I was surprised to see some of them in the woods, although I suspect Kit does as much gardening as stewarding, and even more surprised that some were blooming this time of year, but we had crossed the Border, I think, so I guess time wasn't that much of a consideration.
Well, we eventually got to a clearing around a great, ancient oak, a really massive old tree. Kit says he thinks it might be as old as the Wood, or almost. We found a fallen log to sit on, all mossy, just like a storybook log, and Kit made sure I was comfortable -- he was being particularly nice that day -- and produced a little hamper with some lunch for us, and a flagon or two of ale.
'It was right here,' he said, 'where the Lord and Lady of the Wood tied the knot. Just this time of year, at the First Harvest, High Summer, as the poet says, when --
our days are long and sleepy,
our nights too brief for rest,
summer's bloom is sweetest now
and summer's pleasures fullest.
I looked at him, and he blushed, just a little. 'I do know some things besides woods and beasts, you know.' He seemed quite pleased with himself.
Oops, look at the time. On this side of the Border I have to pay attention to it, I'm afraid, and I've really got to run. Will you be around for a while? Good. Why don't you meet me back here later, and I'll finish the story for you. It’s quite the tale. Wonderful! Later, then.
Robert M Tilendis takes a stab at Elizabeth Bear’s linked novels Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth, which is really one large novel divided into two parts that combines Elizabethan history and all its intrigues with the magical word of Faerie. Robert raves in his omnibus review, 'Where others are writing mythic fiction, Bear has written mythic history -- it may not be history as it happened (as much as we can know what happened), but it is history that rings true in a much deeper way than a mere relation of events could ever accomplish. What's left to say? Brava!'
Robert also interviews Steven Brust, the author of Jhereg and The Taltos Cycle of fantasy-noirs. Together, they discuss the influence of detective novelists such as Chandler on Brust’s writing, what goes into writing a consistent series like The Taltos Cycle, collaborating with Emma Bull, fantasy and social commentary, and vampires. Yes, vampires. Intrigued? Read about their interesting discussion here.
Robert's CD review that is featured is of a modern artist as he spent time with a reissue of one of Morton Feldman's most important records, which brought him some new insights into the composer -- 'Listening to The Viola In My Life, I realize that Feldman does rather more than fill space -- he shapes it, gives it duration and form, brings a dimensionality into music that is all too rare. . . . And he does it with silence.' Lest you think Robert has gone around the bend, read what he has to say in his review.
Before we go to our reviews, an announcement for Charles de Lint fans from Subterranean Publications -- 'As we published the start of Jilly Coppercorn's story in Promises to Keep, it only seemed right that we do a special edition of The Onion Girl, perhaps the most important of the novels or stories to feature what may be Charles de Lint's most beloved character. This special edition of The Onion Girl will feature not only an original, exclusive introduction by Charles, but a full-color cover, endsheets, and a chapter heading illustration by Mike Dringenberg, who contributed the striking cover to Promises. As Charles has moved beyond Newford in his new stories and upcoming novel, join us in celebrating Jilly with this special edition, which will be smythe sewn, and up to our usual production standards.'
Camille Alexa couldn’t quite get into Green Man Review’s own Richard Dansky’s Firefly Rain. While she was put off by his use of first-person narration, Camille says one shouldn’t write off the novel so quickly. 'If you like a novel willing to roll out at a leisurely southern pace, filled with good eerie moodiness, bigger-than-life characters, and an eventual crescendo of double-barreled rough-and-tumble paranormal action, give this one a try.'
Fans of Patricia A. McKillip’s Moon-Flash will be pleased to read Camille’s enchanted review of its sequel, The Moon and the Face, which, according to Camille, provides a worthy continuation. She particularly 'liked that The Moon and the Face, while retaining the mysticism and almost dream-like fantasy setting of the Riverworld, also brought into play a more science-fiction feel with Kyreol's sojourn to space.'
J.J.S. Boyce reviews the latest entry in Neal Asher’s science fictional Polity series, Hilldiggers. Green Man has reviewed several of Asher’s Polity books, but according to Boyce, in Hilldiggers he seems to be starting from scratch. 'Although the characters and situations in his latest are in many ways different from some of Asher's other works, Hilldiggers still has this much in common with previous Polity novels -- it makes your heart pump faster and it makes your brain work harder. If you like high-octane science fiction, you can't ask for any more than that.'
Craig Clarke, unfortunately, had a negative reaction reading horror novelist Jack Ketchum’s Weed Species and the rereleased Joyride. While Ketchum’s always been at the forefront of horror writing, Craig’s review sums up how these two novels feel like Ketchum’s slipped from horror into sensationalism, particularly with Weed Species, which sounds like it’s loosely based on the Karla and Paul Bernardo killings. 'Weed Species and Joyride thus make an interesting pair. Put together, they seem like two parts of a whole, but taken separately, each feels as if it is missing something vital.'
The Immortal Bard and Gene Roddenberry apparently walk hand-in-hand in Dan Simmons’ Muse of Fire, reviewed by Faith J. Cormier. With a story involving some of the last surviving humans working as a travelling Shakespeare troupe in space, 'Muse of Fire is basically a Star Trek episode. Humans have to prove their worth in the universe to a bunch of enormously powerful aliens with whom they share very limited frames of reference. Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer -- they all did it, with varying degrees of scenery-chewing frenzy. Please note that I do not say whether this is good or bad, merely that it is. Me, I like Star Trek.' If you do as well, be sure to check out Faith’s review here.
Faith found herself a more than a little surprised to be liking Steward of Song, the sequel to Adam Stemple’s Singer of Souls, a novel Faith cared for about as much as she did its protagonist, Douglas Stewart. 'I wasn't at all sure I wanted to read anything more about this twerp, or indeed anything else by Adam Stemple,' she recalls. 'So imagine my surprise when I did something totally unexpected -- stayed up late on a work night to finish the book.' Find out more about what changed Faith’s mind by reading her review here.
The title of John Crowley’s new novel Conversation Hearts may give some readers the wrong impression, but reviewer Richard Dansky seeks to correct that. 'Judging by the title, you'd expect Conversation Hearts to be something of a mawkish read, overly sentimental but ultimately chalky and cloying. In this, then, the book far surpasses its inspiration, proving instead to be a delightfully light yet satisfying confection whose message is far more profound than two-word phrases stamped into candy.' Read more about his insightful review here (sweet tooth not required).
However, Richard found that his (literary) taste didn’t at all agree with Brandon Choi, Jim Lee, and J. Scott Campbell’s graphic novel Gen 13 -- Who They Are and How They Came To Be, whose plot seems to be dedicated to bending how the laws of physics affect certain shapely parts of the female anatomy, and very little else. 'Gen 13 -- WTAAHTCTB left a bad taste in my mouth. It's juvenile stuff, cheap titillation with lots of gratuitous exploding heads, and mostly lacking in anything original, notable, or interesting. There's good stuff to be found in the Wildstorm universe, but it's not found here.' Read his Grinch Award winning review here!
Richard moves on to more delicate, sinister fare with Invisible Fences, by Norman Prentiss, a subtle horror story about repression and family trauma. 'Prentiss handles a story that could have been melodramatic or slight and instead infuses it with a quiet dignity and an admirable style. If you're missing the work of the late Charles E. Grant, you'll find what you're looking for here.'
However, Richard comes up against an odd duck with Michael Resnick’s Kilimanjaro -- A Fable of Utopia, the sequel to his controversial Kirinyaga. A book with no violence, no giant ray guns, where people fight out their problems with intelligent discussion? How quaint! 'Kilimanjaro is a gentle book with a hopeful attitude and a somewhat dated moral, deeply concerned with good people in conflict for the best of reasons. For some readers, that may be enough, or it may be nothing at all.' Or it could be Resnick thumbing his nose at his critics -- decide for yourself by reading Richard’s review here.
Denise Dutton sinks her teeth into YA novel Zombie Blondes by Brian James, about a school run by the titular fair-haired undead who moan over prom dresses as well as brains, but Denise finds the aftertaste not entirely to her liking. 'James' dead-on (excuse the pun, couldn't help myself) characterizations, not to mention the clarity and humor throughout the book, built up such an expectation in me that when the ending came I was nonplussed. It's not that the ending is bad, or that James takes a sudden turn into poor quality writing (though the denouement does feel a bit rushed). Not at all. With such an interesting premise in Zombie Blondes, I had hoped that the ending wouldn't be such a been-there, done-that retread.' Hungry for more? Shuffle on over to read her review here.
Meanwhile, our editor-in-chief Cat Eldridge seeks to rectify a grievous error -- can it be that Green Man has failed to provide a full review for Emma Bull’s Finder – a Novel of the Borderland? Cat quickly fills the void in the Green Man archives with this luminous review -- 'it’s a rich enough tale that I've read it three or four times over the intervening years since Emma sent me this copy. It's a richer, more nuanced tale than the decade earlier work she did in War For The Oaks which I also dearly adore and reread as often as I do this novel. Not to mention her Bone Dance novel... Yes, she's that good!' Those unfamiliar with Emma Bull’s impressive oeuvre would do well to learn from this review.
Cat follows up with a surprisingly positive review of a comic book reference guide, Robert Greenberger’s Essential Batman Encyclopedia, a heavy tome that succeeds in cataloguing over seventy years’ worth of the Caped Crusader -- 'The Essential Batman Encyclopedia is an awesomely entertaining collection of facts, fictions, and more than a bit of good old-fashioned trivia about the Dark Knight and everything in his reality.'
It’s apparently a good year for comic reference guides in general, as Cat explores Hellboy – the Companion to find enough research and information to satisfy the most voracious fanboy. 'Now it is correct that it is 'every hardcore Hellboy fan's key' as there's more than enough information genre to situate the most voracious of appetites for information about Hellboy and his 'verse. It is not by any means where a new reader should start as it will scare them off very fast as there is a wealth of information that could easily confuse a newcomer to the Hellboy 'verse!' And Cat, the ultimate Hellboy fan, would be one to know. Check out this review, if you dare.
Cat continues the graphic novel streak with a rapturous review of Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo’s Hellboy Volume 8 – When Darkness Calls, going so far as to call it 'one of the best, if not simply the best, graphic novels I've read this year.' High praise indeed.
The reaction Robert M Tilendis had to Caitlyn R. Kiernan’s new story collection Tales of Pain and Wonder wasn't positive. Kiernan’s stories, while beautifully written, never seem to come to a point or provide much reason for reading them. 'These are, for the most part, dreary little stories about dreary people who have little to recommend them -- pathetic, some of them, and some in need of help, the kind of people who, if we read about them in the papers, would excite our pity, or even compassion, but when we're given the chance to understand them, we find that they are unpleasant people, not very interesting, and there's nothing to understand except that they've all forgotten what it is to be human. Encountering these people might stir one to volunteer at a social-service agency; it doesn't make for fiction worth reading.'
Elizabeth Vail also dips into science fiction with her positive review of Eric Brown’s space exploration novel Helix. 'The story is really so engaging, colourful, and entertaining one might be tempted to forget its core theme as an exploration of the advantages and drawbacks of sentient life, thought, and choice,' she says. 'Helix is one of the few science fiction books that manages to make the future of humanity look both bleak and hopeful at the same time, and that's a testament to Eric Brown's skill with characterization, description, and narrative.' Read her interesting review here.
Finally, Matthew Winslow reviews the concluding novel in John C. Wright’s The Chaos Chronicles trilogy, Titans of Chaos, and finds that while it’s the weakest book of the trilogy, it still delivers a satisfactory conclusion. 'To those who have read other of John C. Wright's novels, there is the familiarly strong and profound philosophical undercurrent to the novels as questions of ontology and epistemology, off-set with an incredibly fast-paced series of events.' Learn more about Matthew’s in-depth review here.
Christopher Conder has been busy for us again, out and about in London attending an eclectic selection of gigs.
First up, Christopher headed over to the Royal Festival Hall to catch Seu Jorge and Airto Moreira. Though Jorge was the headline act, Christopher seemed more impressed with the support -- 'Moreira would be a tough act for anyone to follow in my estimation, but Seu Jorge didn't do a lot to help himself in the first half hour on stage. Coming on with just a guitar he performed what I frankly found to be one of the dullest sets I can remember hearing'. You can find out if things got better in the second half of Jorge's set by reading the full review here!
A few days later, Christopher was back in the Royal Festival Hall for a concert by Paul Brady and Emily Maguire, and this sounded relatively disappointing by all accounts -- 'Singer-songwriter Emily Maguire opened with an unmemorable set... Much as I would love to I can't say this was prime Brady, I can't. The more recent love songs... just didn't cut it with the classics, and the band arrangements seemed to be stuck in a Dire Straights meets Genesis 1980s timewarp'. Oh dear! Take a read of Christopher reasoned account right here!
Finally for the month of May, Christopher paid a visit to LSO St. Lukes to listen to the ethnic sounds of Anoushka Shankar -- 'It was a fascinating brew of classical elements from both the East and the West mixing with a strong flavour of improvisational jazz. They performed a number of pieces composed by Shankars Jnr and Snr, from almost conventional ragas to Indian-flamenco hybrids.' Christopher's concise musings on these two nights in Ms Shankar's company can be found here!
Donna Bird makes a rare foray into music reviewing this turn (perhaps not too surprisingly, given Donna's interest in things Middle Eastern), with comments on Arabesque Music Ensemble's The Music of the Three Musketeers. Doesn't sound particularly Levantine? Donna says, 'the Three Musketeers referred to in the title of this CD are definitely not Athos, Porthos and Aramis from the Alexandre Dumas novel of the same name. These three Musketeers are Zakariyya Ahmad, Muhammad al-Qasabji and Riyad al-Sunbati, composers of Egyptian popular music.' So, get your ears set and take a look at her review.
Donna seems to have had an embarras de richesses this time around. About Le Trio Joubran's Majaz, she says, 'We get the most amazing CDs at the Green Man offices! Le Trio Joubran is an ensemble of Palestinian oud players, the brothers Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran. They come from a very musical family -- their father, Hattem Mdada Joubran, makes ouds and other stringed instruments; their mother, Ibtisa Hanna Joubran, is a singer.' Go ahead -- join Donna in an exotic coffeehouse as she describes this album.
Dick Hensold's Big Music for Northumbrian Smallpipes appears to be a first solo release for the Minnesota-based artist. Says reviewer Christopher Conder, 'The album opens fairly conventionally with 'Mysteries of Knock', a tune from Ryan's Mammoth Collection (a well known collection of folk tunes from 1883) that introduces Hensold's confident, accomplished piping style. It is lively, bouncy and unsubtle -- on hearing it my friend compared it to the music from Super Mario played by leprechauns, which is a surprisingly fitting description!' And it gets better!
Scott Gianelli gives us a survey of several new recordings of Celtic music. (At GMR? Are you surprised? Of course not.) He starts off with an interesting point -- 'Bands that play traditional Celtic music generally operate under a basic formula, mimicking what goes on in typical pub sessions. . . . This approach has generally worked well over the past thirty-five years or so. Still, bands or duos interested in recording albums or going on tour know that they have to distinguish themselves in order to get noticed. . . . Sometimes this can mean adding instruments on. . . . [or] stripping things down, focusing on the clarity of the melody instead of maximizing the energy. I've had the opportunity to listen to new albums from several Celtic acts over the past few weeks, with each act bringing something different to the table.' Read his review to see how this work s out.
Peter Massey has this to say about Bill Malkin -- 'This is the fifth and latest album by singer song-writer Bill Malkin. . . . As with most singular singer-songwriters, Bill has found his own indescribable sound but it is instantly recognisable. I am fortunate to have heard Bill sing live, both with the Full House backing band and as a solo artist many times. In my opinion he is well worthy of the bigger stage and notoriety. Do see what else Peter has to say.
Peter also listened to a pair of recordings from Scottish label Greentrax -- Margaret Stewart's Togaidh mi mo Sheolta and Sylvia Barnes's The Colour of Amber. What to expect? Says Peter, 'That in itself should give you an indication of what you can expect to hear. Greentrax is synonymous in producing excellent recordings of artists dedicated to preserving the heritage and the tradition of Scottish music and song.' See how it all plays out here.
Like the rest of us here at GMR, Barb Truex is enthusiastic about learning something new. For example, she says, 'I still have much to learn about Icelandic folk music, but Bára Grimsdóttir's recording Funi is an immensely enjoyable introduction. Having started singing at the knees of family members in the '60s, Grimsdóttir is now a seasoned performer, composer and folklorist. Her voice is extraordinary.' Read Barb's thoughtful and perceptive review, which earned an Excellence in Writing Award, to learn more.
Gary Whitehouse brings us a look at a new band from Texas. Says Gary, 'Just when I'm about to write off alt-country as a genre, thinking that nobody can possibly carry it any further, along comes another band to prove me wrong. Fresh from winning the title of "Best New Band of the Year" for 2007 in the Austin Music Awards, The Band of Heathens debuts with a strong self-titled album. This release just has class written all over it.' If you want to know why he thinks so, just check out his review.
An older band also caught Gary's ear. He says Dropkick's new release, dot the i, 'is a punchy blend of pop-friendly rock and alt-country, with gorgeous layered vocals that reveal the Taylors' love of classic rock harmony vocals by the likes of The Byrds, Beach Boys and The Beatles.' Sounds good to me.
In fact, Gary's ears have been very busy lately. Here's his review of two recordings, Nels Andrews' Off Track Betting and Elliott Brood's Mountain Meadows, of which Gary says -- 'Lately, though, as the paradigm in recorded music has shifted from major releases on big labels to small, self-produced and self-distributed projects via the Internet, musicians are free to release albums on a schedule dictated only by their own creativity. Here, in fact, are two sophomore releases that are major improvements over excellent debut recordings.'
I hear there are a couple of reviews still drifting around cyberspace; as soon as Arthur manages to catch them, we'll put them in our next number. But, as they say, that's it for now.
For your summer reading consideration, we offer you our reviews of the 2008 final list for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature
Theodora Goss' In the Forest of Forgetting (Prime Books)
Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon’s Arms (Grand Central Publishing)
Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel (Roc)
Catherynne M. Valente's Orphan’s Tales, consisting of In the Night Garden (Spectra) and In the Cities of Coin and Spice (Spectra)
John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, consisting of Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, and Titans of Chaos (all from Tor)
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Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2008, Green Man Review and Midwinter Publishing except where specifically noted such as all of the GMR logos which are usually by Lahri Bond including this one. All Rights Reserved.
A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man metanarritve have agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarritve do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of Midwinter Publishing. They might, they might not.
Any resemblance in Continuity to persons, places, or times of anyone or anywhere living or dead, is purely coincidental unless otherwise noted. Those who know differently are unlikely to admit their involvement.