Jan 12, 2019

Book Recommendations of January 2019

New year, same shit all over again? Not in the Otherland. - and even if 2018 were to repeat itself, it would be great, because last year was awesome! Still we really hope to be able to greet many more authors from the SF/F/H realm and have a great time! Let’s see what this year will bring…
On January 25th, we’ll be having a book release party at the Otherland: contributing authors and artists of AndersWelt will be presenting this short story collection slash artbook! The reading is in German; it starts at 7 pm, and admission is free, as always.
You will find in this newsletter not only reviews of recommended books, but also little passages on what we’re looking forward to in the year 2019, enjoy!

Science Fiction

Wolf is looking forward to in 2019:

Errrm ... we are supposed to write what we are looking forward to this year for every genre - you can already tell by my stalling that I'm not really looking forward to anything.
Well, that's not quite right: I'm not looking forward to specific things to come, but I'm looking forward to the book I do not know yet, which will surprise and convince me, more than I am looking forward to the second part of series XY or the film adaptation of book XZ.
I'm looking forward to the countless book characters that I'm going to meet in 2019, which I'll miss when the book is over, which I'll hate and never want to read about again, crying, laughing and fretting. I'm also looking forward to new forms of the time paradox, to spaceships I've never thought of and solutions for the future that would never have occurred to me.
I look forward to the conversations in Otherland with all of you about books, spaceships, Klingon pronunciation, and the various ways in which you can lead a sword and whether a hammer is a more meaningful weapon than a sword.
I'm looking forward to the Otherland, to the writers who may visit us in 2019 and to the Gatherlands, my colleagues and you, our customers... :)

The Road to Nowhere 2: The Book of Etta by Meg Ellison
47North € 14,95

The follow-up to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Ellison, The Book of Etta starts about a hundred years after the first of the "Road to Nowhere" series. It’s about Etta/Eddy, who brings back women who had been stolen and enslaved back to Nowhere. On the road Etta becomes Eddy, back home she becomes Etta again - and tries to fit in.
Not as good as the first one, but still a decent read and follow-up. It tends to slip into the Mad Max/Walking Dead atmosphere a little too much. Definitely not a “wow”.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates
ecco € 18,50

In a sort of “Orwell-Wells-Atwood” future come to life, seventeen year old Adriane Stohl is sent back in time to the year 1959 to be reeducated. This is the time of the Civil Rights movement, women's rights, anti-war… The question Oates poses in this fascinatingly woven time travel-story is: What is reality, and how do we, each one of us, participate in what is “real” (and what is not)?
Not an easy, but a great and necessary, thought-provoking read with a great female protagonist from a great female writer.

Lady Astronaut 2: The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
tor € 15,99

The Fated Sky is the follow-up to The Calculating Stars. In this 1952 alt-history, humanity is soon to be wiped out by an asteroid-impact, if not some of our species colonize space. Some of the best female characters I’ve read so far in sf, and the struggle of Elma York to decide to become a female astronaut is more than just the fight for equality but also her internal fight with her self-understanding as a wife and a mother in that times. Great writing and understanding and communicating by Mary Robinette Kowal!!!

Farian War 1: There Before the Chaos by K.B. Wagers
orbit € 15,99

The Indrana war for the throne is over, and Hail Bristol did win - time to rebuild her empire. BUT there is another crisis, a war is brewing between to alien species, and this conflict could render the galaxy uninhabitable - so, what else to do for the best troubleshooter-who-wants-to-be-empress than jumping in between the two parties and find out what’s going on?
Like in her first trilogy, Wagers delivers a fast paced, character-driven space opera: start reading and be sure to have something to drink and eat next to you, because you will not stop ;-)
Here is her Author-description on Goodreads:
“K.B. Wagers lives and runs in the shadow of Pikes Peak. She loves flipping tires and lifting heavy things. She's especially proud of her second-degree black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and her three Tough Mudder completions. When not writing she can be found wrangling cats with her husband.” [Wolf]

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
harper collins € 9,70

Climate change. Denial and belief. Those are the main drivers in this book … And I have to quote from the cover description: “In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and readers alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.”
Not an easy read, but hey, what is?

The Fictional Man by Al Ewing
solaris € 9,99

Am I real? And oh! Is that James Bond over there?!? In Al Ewing’s The Fictional Man, first published in 2013, it is possible to make perfect human clones, but it is considered unethical to create doubles of real people. So Hollywood has an idea: Why not create fictional characters? Who could play a better Indiana Jones than – Indiana Jones?! Once retired, the characters end up as librarians, doormen and waitresses. Your best friend could be a fictional. Or your therapist.
L.A., Hollywood: Niles Golan is a pulp-novelist gone screenwriter and he’ll fabricate an enormously good script for the remake of a 1960‘s camp spy movie so that he can FINALLY finance his own phenomenal projects.
Beware: you might not like this overly flawed protagonist who continuously overestimates himself, who writes his own life-story as an inner monologue, who is unprejudiced towards fictionals – his best friend is one after all – or isn’t he…? In the first place, you might not want to relate to him, because at least some of his flaws might be found in your own character, wink wink.
And: This book is very meta. Meta meta meta. What is a “real” person, can a fictional be real? Like PKD, Ewing, who by the way has a comic-background (2000 AD, Judge Dredd, The New Avengers) circles around questions of identity and reality. This is not a comic-book turned flat, action-packed, bloodshed novel! The Fictional Man has complex plot lines, depth, twisted characters and oh – there’s FUN as well.



Charleen is looking forward to:
The new and final season of Game of Thrones!!! Anyone who isn’t curious about how it ends is just plain weird. And yes, I know that we’d all be rather reading it and we’re all waiting for the next effing book, whose publication date still hasn’t been announced. But sometimes you just have to be content with what you have :)

Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
ChiZine € 17,99

Every once in a while, ChiZine publishes a fantasy book that goes far beyond the conventional and, let’s face it, by now boring structure of high fantasy. A couple of years ago that book was Caitlin Sweet’s Pattern Scars for me, and I’m glad to have discovered a new one: Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield.
In order to understand how great this book is, first take a look at Pieter Bruegel's painting "De Dulle Griet" from 1562 and take your time to take in all the eerie little details.
Now think of a book that is based on this painting; a story set in the middle ages in a Belgian town that is under the siege of the Chatelaine of Hell. It is populated by widows because of the war, and their fallen husbands come back from the dead to bring even more diseases and grief.
Margriet de Vos finds out she too is a widow, when her dead husband comes back, robs all of her valuables and takes them to hell with him. Margriet won’t let him take her daughter’s inheritance and so, together with three other women and a transgender soldier, sets off to take back what is hers: It’s widows against Hell!
Written in a maybe a not always easy to read, but excellent prose, this novel is set in a complex universe and is historically coherent; it has hell beasts and transgender soldiers; likeable and relatable, real female characters and a dark humor. The only flaw I can think of is a slight pacing problem (fast-very slow-fast again) and nothing else!
I love this book and think that Heartfield slowly but firmly, thunderingly approaches the top of the crops of fantasy. I have no doubt she’ll be a household name soon.



İnci is looking forward to:

I have been psyched ever since I have found out that in 2019, "Paperbacks from Hell" will be published. Yes, you heard me right and no, I didn’t copy the first sentence of last year’s newsletter. Let me explain: Due to the smashing success of Grady Hendrix’s wonderful anthology of 70’s and 80’s horror fiction, Valancourt has decided to publish a new series of selected paperbacks from this book! And the series will be called “Paperbacks from Hell” too! I have already started to make room in my cozy little horror section!
With "Hereditary", A24 has given me a present that will keep more than happy for the rest of my life but to be honest I’m still curious about what else they have in store this year. I’m also excited about the remakes of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and of the unsettling 1990 movie Jacob’s Ladder, Jordan Peele’s Us, the film adaptation of (again) Stephen King’s and Joe Hill’s (with all due respect, I do hope they start adapting other great writers’ works too!) novella In the Tall Grass.. and oh, Spawn, Nosferatu and Chucky are coming back! Looks like I’ll be very busy this year, can’t wait!

Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie
permuted press € 15,24

Wtf? Every single child in the world dies at once, without warning?
And they revive three days later? Does this mean everybody lives happily ever after?
Oh wait, what’s that disgusting stench, are those little bundles of joy… rotting?
And need to drink BLOOD to keep on living? Eww…
A terribly gripping apocalyptic nightmare where parents of the world find themselves thrown into a race to provide blood for their creepy vampire-zombie offspring. How far will they go?
Yeah I know, the premise is somewhat over the top and maybe so are the characters in this book. But still, DiLouie manages to pack a few fairly interesting questions into a very very gripping read with a surprisingly good ending.

Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn
gallery € 14,40

Before reviewing Ania Ahlborn’s Apart in the Dark, I want to tell you about a regular of the Otherland, let’s call her… Luna. She is one of the most bona fide horror fans I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
Think of a person whose favorite novel ever is Ligotti’s My Work Is Not Yet Done; a compilation of short stories, the first of which deals with a man, oppressed by his everyday office life and coworkers, who snaps and starts to plot “punishments” for each colleague with the help of a cosmic entity.
A person who, when I told her the dread I felt while watching the sensationally unsettling 2018 movie Hereditary and how the audience at the cinema I saw it at freaked out and started screaming at certain scenes, can only smile wearily.
Asked whether she would watch "The Possession", a fictional and creepy reality TV show described in Paul Tremblay’s A Head full of Ghosts where alleged exorcisms are being documented, doesn’t even have to think before answering “Of course I would!”.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s the sweetest person, very quiet and pleasant, but she’s toughened, she’s rock-hart due to longstanding contact with the dark side, an incurable addict of the ever devouring “Angstlust”.
She’s also one of the few persons I can discuss current horror books on almost a weekly basis. I set a high value on her opinion and thus she acts as of a sort of proto-reader for books that I want to stock for the shop but am not quite sure about. A while ago, she decided to read female authors only, so I try and make sure there’s always a small selection for her in a corner. Apart in the Dark was part of that selection and to be honest, I forgot about it after recommending it to her.
It consists of two novellas; “The Pretty Ones” and “I Call Upon Thee”. The former is a quick and fun read: Set around the incidents of the so-called Son of Sam, the summer of '77 where the serial killer David Berkowitz was taken into custody, the story follows Nell Sullivan, a self-conscious Plain Jane, who struggles to make friends at her workplace while her brother Barrett tries to convince her to stay true to herself.
Now the second novella, that’s a whole different thing… and it is also the reason I went to great lengths to tell you about Luna. A few weeks ago, (I hadn’t read Ahlborn’s book yet) I was caught dumbfounded when she came in the shop with eyes shining bright, and told me “I Call Upon Thee”, the tale of Maggie Olsen who needs to face the shadows of her childhood, scared her shitless.
So, let’s cut to the chase: If this book can frighten the royalty of horror, it can certainly scare the soul out of us commoners! Highly recommended!

Role Playing Games

What Jakob is looking forward to:

Otherland has backed a lot of kickstarter campaigns for 2019, but what I’m looking forward to most is the 2nd edition of Greg Stolze’s Reign, the game of lords and leaders. It features a highly economic rules system that allows individual characters to interact with organisations, armys or whole countries, but the real treat for me is its signature setting: Heluso and Milonda, the continents, are in fact two titanic, half-submerged human bodies that come with strange people living on them and even stranger gravity … This world is full of weird tidbits that totally make sense if you take a closer look, among them the wide-spread belief that men will become impotent from riding a horse, so that mounted warfare is strictly women’s business. I own and cherish Reigns 1st edition, and I’m really curious what the 2nd will bring to the table.
Oh, and I’m also stoked for Swords of the Serpentine, a take on urban Sword&Sorcery using the excellent Gumshoe system with its tight focus on investigative adventures. Publisher Pelgrane Press never disappoints, and this combination of setting and rules is one that has me intrigued even more than all things Gumshoe do, anyway. If you want to get an advance look at how it plays, visit our next open-gaming night on February 7th, Otherland is part of the playtest!

Overlight - The Role-Playing Game of Kaleidoscopic Fantasy by Alexander Butler and George Holland
renegade game studios € 50,00

A colorful fantasy world inspired by prog-rock artwork … another auto-buy for me. Overlight is set in a world made of seven continental shards floating ,one above the other, over an endless ocean. They’re home to a number of intelligent denizens - winged ones, multi-legged ones, plant-likes, simians, and yes, also humans, who mainly live in the great city taking up most of the middle shard. A world of jungles, floating mountains, endless waterfalls, cracked deserts … and of ubiquitous magic in the form of the chroma, extraordinary abilities granted to individuals by the way in which they are able to break and focus the Overlight from above.
Aesthetically, Overlight has a lot in common with Numenera, but it presents a more coherent setting. It seems that it’s authors occasionally became afraid of their own creativity, because some of the advice - like underplaying the erratic nature of day and night in this world or limiting the abilities of flying characters - feels as if they thought: “Gee, that might be taking it to far …” But should I GM this, I’m free to play the setting to the hilt, so that’s okay.
The rules system, while quite minimalistic, looks a little unwieldy, which is mainly due to the authors trying to include certain setting-specific themes in the mechanics - like rolling seven dice for each test, which are symbolic for the seven prismatic colors of the Overlight. And the included starting adventure is a little too rail-roady for my taste … but even if the package as a whole is not perfect, Overlight is a goldmine of the strange and beautiful.

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