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BOOK NEWS FOR MARCH 22ND: FAIRY TALES VS YA, POSITIVE FUTURES, AND MORE

by Dawn, March 22, 2010

The dark forest of childhood

By Laurel Snyder at The Boston Globe
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Recently, on a visit home, I was rifling through a box of old books in my mother’s dank basement when I came across a childhood edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I hadn’t thought about the book in years, but sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking at the wonderfully rich illustrations by Michael Hague, I found myself transported back to my childhood. Slowly I turned the big glossy pages and peered down at vivid portraits of fiery devils, haughty queens, and goblins painted in jewel tones. I spent several hours flying with the Wild Swans, swimming beside the Little Mermaid.

When I was done I sat there in the basement for a bit, and thought about the strange journey fairy tales have taken, from the book I held in my hands to recent novelizations of fairy tales for increasingly sophisticated “young adult” readers. These new books are rooted in old stories and fables, but written for today’s teens. They’re not so much retellings as spinoffs. Often they’re dark hybrids that blend a well-known fairy tale into a hot trend, as in the case of Jackson Pearce’s “Sisters Red,” which retells “Little Red Riding Hood” with a werewolf twist.

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Book Review: Cosmopath

by Eric Brown at Blog Critic
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I always appreciate finding an author, being mildly entertained, and then seeing him or her raise their game in a new book. That’s more or less what I found in this novel, the third in a series. I read Brown’s second Bengal Station novel, Xenopath, last summer and enjoyed myself. In this case, however, Brown took what worked best previously and trimmed away the rest.

The last book, set on a space station hovering high above the Indian Ocean, was basically a sci-fi whodunit. The action was interesting and, in places, the station was as much a character as anything else. What I liked best about it, though, was the thoughtful character development of Jeff Vaughn, telepathic P.I. The attentions Brown gave his leading man spilled over to the secondary characters and went a long way to making the book readable. In Cosmopath, he has taken that strength and used it to anchor an otherwise mild space-thriller.

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Sick of the apocalypse? Check out 16 futures worth living in!

By Nick Mamatas at Sci Fi Wire
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Science fiction can be a downer, and not just because the world has a nasty tendency to end, aliens to invade, wars to continue past the deaths of the last humans, and robots to go nuts and kill everyone in range of their pincer claws.

Even “positive” science fiction, which posits that humanity can rationally comprehend the universe and solve technical and social problems with the power of reason, can be a drag. Positive futures for whom is one question, and much science fiction answers the question like so: positive futures for Anglo-American engineering students who believe the municipalization of garbage collection to be the moral equivalent of Stalin’s death camps, duh! Who else even reads the stuff?

Like any anthology, Shine is a mixed bag. A few stories are a bit on the drier side, just like any PowerPoint presentation detailing how many kilowatt-hours a civil engineering project is going to save. But then there are gems like Alastair Reynolds’ “At Budokan,” in which T. rexes are cloned, genetically engineered and handed giant Gibson Flying V guitars to grind out heavy metal with. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing! Nothing can go wrong! Even when something goes a tiny little bit wrong, it’s all just rock ‘n’ roll, baby. Now that’s some sci-fi!

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Science fiction book returned to library. 45 years late.

By Patrick Lee at Sci Fi Wire
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Don’t feel bad if you’ve got some Blockbuster videos sitting around from last month: Your lateness doesn’t compare with the person who checked out a paperback of the sci-fi book Quatermass and the Pit from a U.K. library and only returned it now. Forty-five years later.

The staff at the Dinnington library in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Great Britain, got the paperback first edition of the book, which we presume was the 1960 script of the classic British sci-fi TV series, which aired on BBC in 1958-’59. The book, by Nigel Kneale, had been borrowed on Sept. 24, 1965, the Reuters news service reported.

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