Freaks’ Amour, by Tom De Haven

Mutants on the Outside, Looking In Hardcore. That’s the word that comes to mind. But not just because Freaks’ Amour refers to a XXX rated show where Normals go to watch mutant men rape their wives and girlfriends (and for a finale the Normals pelt them with rotten fruit). The sex scenes are not particularly […]

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine

This novel, which received a Nebula nomination for Best Novel, takes place in a post-war landscape. The particulars are left vague: we know that there were bombs and radiation, followed by smaller wars for control, and the creation of city-states. Outside of these, borders have become fluid, and life brutal. To stay out of trouble, […]

Illyria, by Elizabeth Hand

An Elegant Explosion of Repressed Creativity and Desire This is beautifully written, Romantic (in the 18th century sense, not the Danielle Steele sense) novella about soul mates, forbidden love, and being a magical child in a family that’s lost its mojo. It’s also about talent, both the kind that emerges full-blown and the kind that […]

Osama, by Lavie Tidhar

Wishing Terrorism Was Only Fiction Many people have compared the novel Osama by Lavie Tidhar to books by Phillip K. Dick. It is similar in that the main characters come to realize that reality is not at all what it seems, and that there are those who would stop them from learning the truth. However, […]

Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes

A Noir Detective Pagan Cyberpunk Novel Zoo City is a ghetto in Johannesburg, populated by outcasts. Each person there is marked by the wild animal that appears just after they kill someone (intentionally or not). Animal and human become extensions of one another, and any “Zoo” unfortunate enough to lose her animal gets a visit […]

What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, by Karen Joy Fowler

Exploring the Historical Fantastic Karen Joy Fowler is one of the writers who, to me, exemplify the literary fantastic. Her stories crack the shell of history, looking for strange and beautiful pearls. The fantastical elements always seem entirely probable, if mysterious, and serve to deepen our understanding of the human condition. Her writing style is […]

Briar Rose, by Robert Coover

He is surprised to discover how easy it is. The branches part like thighs, the silky petals caress his cheeks. His drawn sword is stained, not with blood, but with dew and pollen. Yet another inflated legend. He has undertaken this great adventure, not for the supposed reward—what is another lonely bedridden princess?—but in order […]

Among Others, by Jo Walton

This very readable book (which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel this year) is part coming of age, part fantasy and part uber-geek love-letter to the classics of science fiction. Much of the drama has already happened before the novel starts. We learn that Morwenna and her twin sister Morganna spent their childhoods playing […]

Little, Big, by John Crowley

Little, Big is a modern classic of fantastic literature, a book that is praised far and wide, and with good reason. It’s a beautifully written, deep meditation on complex and arcane philosophies of magic and metaphysics (from Plato to Rosicrucian and Theosophist) and the challenges of living an ethical life in light of such considerations. […]

Shakespeare, the Sexy Fantatist

Most people will never read Shakespeare after wading through Romeo and Juliet and maybe Hamlet in high school, and that’s understandable. Elizabethan English is a bit of brain twister. It’s a shame, though, because unlike many greats of the past that we know we should read because it’s good for us, Shakespeare should be read […]