Tomine, Adrian. Killing and Dying.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.

I’ve become quite a fan of Tomine, one of the best graphic novelists around, although what he produces are actually graphic short stories. Graphic fiction has to be successful both literarily and visually — otherwise there’s no point — and while Tomine’s art is first-rate, his storytelling skills are even better. His stories are entirely realistic, exploring the lives of the people next door. The quality of the writing is such that I don’t doubt he could leave out the drawing altogether and sell most of the six in this volume to New Yorker. What I especially like is that he doesn’t just tell you everything. You have to look and listen and fill in those often subtle gaps for yourself.

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Card, Orson Scott (ed.). Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century.

NY: Ace Books, 2001.

“Best of” anthologies by multiple authors are a good way to catch up on above-average stories you might have missed the first time around, or to revisit those you haven’t seen in some time. But while there’s some superior writing among the twenty-seven short pieces in this volume, “best of the century” considerably overstates the case.

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Published in: on 20 June 2017 at 4:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Abercrombie, Joe. Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law.

NY: Little, Brown, 2016.

I’m a great fan of Abercrombie’s adult-level novels — six so far, the original trilogy plus three more set in the same bloody-minded world. (He’s done a YA trilogy, too, but that’s a rather different sort of story.) If you’ve read those books, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy these thirteen shorter pieces. But if you’re new to Joe’s work, these really won’t mean much to you.

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Rankin, Ian. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories.

NY: Little Brown, 2015.

Rankin has published (so far) twenty-two novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh, and they’ve mostly been quite good. But the author has also produced some thirty short stories about Rebus, most of them published originally in magazines and newspapers, often in the Christmas issue.

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Waldrop, Howard. Horse of a Different Color.

East Hampton, MA: Small Beer Press, 2013.

If Howard Waldrop, the Trout-Hunter, is not officially listed as a bona fide American Institution, he certainly ought to be, and any long-time attendee of ArmadilloCon can tell you why. For years, the Howard Waldrop Show at the con has been SRO, as his friends and fans hunker down to listen to him read a new story. Complete with props and often with dramatic lighting supplied by a flashlight.

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Clarke, Arthur C. Expedition to Earth.

NY: Ballantine, 1953.

Along with Heinlein and Asimov, Clarke is considered one of the Big Three of the Golden Age of science fiction. He was just as much a geek as the other two, but his literary style was rather more subtle, which made him a favorite (along with Ray Bradbury) with those who didn’t want to admit they read “that sci-fi stuff.” And after six decades, his books and stories are still well worth reading. They haven’t “aged out,” even if space ships don’t have radio tubes.

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Turtledove, Harry. Departures.

NY: Del Rey, 1993.

I began reading Harry’s short fiction in the pulps in the ‘80s, when he first appeared on the science fiction scene. He had a PhD in Byzantine history, so his alternate history yarns with a similar setting were pretty good. Accurate, anyway.

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Pratchett, Terry. A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction.

NY: Doubleday, 2012.

The late Sir Terry was best known, of course, for his forty or so Discworld novels (and more than a dozen other books of fiction), but he also produced a fair amount of short work over the years. This volume includes several Discworld “shorter writings” (stories, but also essays and odds and ends produced for conventions, introductions to online games, and so on), as well as twenty non-Discworld pieces —

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Utley, Steven. The 400-Million-Year Itch: Silurian Tales, Vol. 1.

Greenwood, Western Australia: Ticonderoga Publications, 2012.

Steve, who died recently at a shockingly young age, was one of the best of the handful of first-rate science fiction authors whom Texas produced in the 1970s and ’80s, and whom hardly anyone except their avid fans has ever heard of. I take that back: Most of the leading literary lights of science fiction themselves had a very high regard for Mr. Utley’s work. They recognized quality when they saw it.

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Forester, C. S. Hornblower During the Crisis.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1967.

Captain Jack Aubrey is widely considered the “best” Royal Navy hero of the Napoleonic wars these days, and he might well be (those books are amazing), but for modern readers over forty, Horatio Hornblower is where it all began. It certainly did for me, when I began reading my father’s collection as an adventure-addicted adolescent back in the ‘50s.

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