Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speculative Fiction Challenge 2011

This post is to follow up on the Speculative Fiction Challenge 2011, and show what I read in 2011.

The definition of speculative fiction is an "umbrella term". Especially considering this quote from the challenge:

For this first attempt at a reading challenge, I'm not going to be strict! Speculative fiction for me includes anything from the realm of science fiction, fantasy or horror - doesn't matter what subgenre, or whether it is tie-in fiction. I'm aiming to make this as inclusive as possible.

When I first signed up, 6 months late, I didn't initially include graphic novels in my first count. However, I have decided to include one in my final count - I think graphic novels can fairly count as speculative fiction. I also counted Hawkwood and the Kings as two, because it is an omnibus of two books, of at least 300 pages each.

It was somewhat stressful to come up with this list because I didn't read as much as I would have liked. I wanted to do better, and I hope to improve next year.

Here's what I read:

1. Watchmen
2. Spellwright
3. Speculative Horizons
4. Hawkwood's Voyage (Hawkwood and the Kings Book 1)
5. The Heretic Kings (Hawkwood and the Kings Book 2)
6. The Silent Land
7. Leviathan Wept
8. The Wise Man's Fear
9. The Executioness
10. The Alchemist
11. Game of Thrones (re-read)
12. Agatha H and the Airship City

The Executioness and The Alchemist

The Executioness and the Alchemist are shared world novellas by Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi. I read them months apart, and the setting is still very memorable. The world is being encroached by a dangerous and deadly bramble, which is compounded by the use of magic. Hence, any magic use affects the bramble, so it only must be used in the direst of circumstances.

These books stand alone, although perhaps the most interesting part is the shared world, which adds depth and credibility to the stories. Published by Subterrannean Press, these novellas are very thought-provoking and readable. Recommended.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Agatha H and the Airship City

Agatha H and the Airship City: A Girl Genius Novel by Phil and Kaja Foglio, is a novel based on the first three books in their series of graphic novels, Girl Genius, originally published as a web comic on

The premise is a world of gaslamp fantasy, which is like steampunk with a zany twist of mad science and otherworldliness. The main character is Agatha, a girl who is an assistant at a lab for mad scientists, aka Sparks. There are a lot of minor characters and I find that they are all rather unique.

I find it hard not to compare the novel to the graphic novels, upon which it is based. However, I will say that it does stand alone, so there really is no need to compare and contrast. There is a lot of contrast though, and it shows that a cartoon, or comic, is really only a way to tell a story, and that story can be transposed to another medium successfully.

The language is very good; it is both readable, with a large vocabulary, and stylistic choices. I enjoy hearing the Jagerkin talk, who speak with a certain dialect that is spelled out so you can imagine their accent.

Very early on I noticed something that seemed like deus ex machina, and in my opinion this can be a good plot device when used tastefully, especially if it has been foreshadowed. I know deus ex machina is sometimes seen as a negative thing, but I'm not criticizing anything here. The plot is actually refreshing and original. Highly recommended!

You can find out more on the official site for the book at