KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Jason Sheehan

Open the cover of a Fonda Lee Green Bone Saga book and you can smell the blood on the pages.

Autumn leaves, too. Strong tea. Watermelon soda and sea air, delicate perfume and gunsmoke. You fall into these books like a love affair — all rough physicality and surprise — but stay (across thousands of pages) because there's so much more to it than that. Laughs. Heartbreak. Depths that loom unexpectedly. Friends that come and go.

Fan Fiction begins with a pig penis. It ends with a killing. And in between it touches on murder, obsession, Frank Sinatra, quaaludes, Hollywood, series television, fandom and the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In 15th century Constantinople, a young girl scales the high walls of an abandoned monastery said to be haunted by spirits who carry their chamberlain through the broken halls on a throne made of bones.

In the 1940s, in Lakeport, Idaho, a boy follows his father to a new job, a new life and, eventually, a new war.

In 2020, a troubled teenager sits in his car outside the Lakeport public library, a gun in his pocket, a bomb in the backpack beside him.

What would you do if monsters were real?

No, wait. Think about that for a moment. If the last several years have taught us anything, it's that our actual reactions to things are not always (or ever) what we imagine they might be.

I mean, what would you do if a global pandemic was real? What would you do if the millions of dead were real? What would you do if American fascism was real?

What would you do if monsters were real?

Cadwell Turnbull knows exactly what you'd do. Almost all of you. Almost all the time.

You'd do nothing.

Let me tell you about the most revolutionary science fiction book I've ever read.

It was a few years ago. 2018. And I didn't think much about it when I shoved it in my bag and headed out the door. It was a slight thing with a weird title by an author just debuting on the adult lists and, to me, it was just the thing I was reading on a weekday when I had nothing else more pressing that I had to do.

It's been days since I finished Claire North's newest book, Notes From The Burning Age, and I am still angry at it. Not because North did anything wrong, but just because there isn't more of it.

Editors' note: This review was written and posted before the revelations about the Roadrunner documentary's use of artificial intelligence to reconstruct Anthony Bourdain's voice. To read more — and see reactions from critics including Jason Sheehan — click here.

Sometimes, in the dark, a book will talk to you. The words stop crawling on the page and become music. Its voices whisper in your ear.

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

Imagine for a moment that Hercule Poirot was a robot. Cyborg, really. Armed and armored against all the evils that men do.

Imagine that Agatha Christie or Nancy Atherton woke up one morning and decided to set their newest ticking-clock, cozy mystery not in some quaint English seaside village but in a quaint, progressive orbital station; that Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher was hurled forward a thousand years to find herself tutting over the body of a dead spaceman dumped in a hallway — no fingerprints, no DNA, no record of how he got there or who did him in.

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective. Warning: If you haven't played The Last of Us Part II yet, there are some spoilers ahead.

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

Persephone Station is many things. It's a samurai story told in shades of horse opera space-western. It's a rough-and-tumble mercs-in-trouble story that tries (really hard) to give almost everyone a redeeming heart of gold. It's an overclocked action novel with a lot of pudge in the middle and a political novel wearing the shirt and pants of an old-fashioned pew-pew shoot-em-up. There are dogfights and bar fights, battle mechs and assassins.

"Burn Corpo Sh**"

That's what it says on my jacket. My weirdly puffy, annoyingly yellow, impressively armored and oh-so-very cyberpunk jacket. Because Cyberpunk 2077 operates almost exclusively in a claustrophobic first-person, I can't actually see the slogan sloppily written on my super-cool popped-collar jacket except when I'm tinkering with my loadout on the inventory screen. But I know it's there. I know it's there all the time.

"Burn Corpo Sh**"

I was in Mira HQ and all the lights were out. The reactor was failing. No one was doing any tasks because the doors were on the fritz and there were only three of us left: Brown, Pink and me. We ran in tiny circles in the dark, rotating around each other in small, panicked orbits, waiting to see who would make the final move ...

Cixin Liu's To Hold Up The Sky is a 1974 Chevy van with icy moons and swirling nebulae painted on the side that you saw for sale by the side of the road in a snowstorm. It is a copy of Heavy Metal you found stuck in the back of the rack at Empire Comics when you were looking for old Savage Sword of Conan issues to read on a long road trip with your parents.

Nora Seed wants to die.

This is where we begin, in Matt Haig's new novel, The Midnight Library: with a young woman on the verge of making a terrible choice. She's lost her job, her best friend, her brother. Her relationships are in shambles and her cat is dead. More importantly, she is just deeply, seemingly irretrievably, sad. She can't imagine a day that is better with her in it. Living has become nothing but a chore.

So she ends it. Overdose. Antidepressants. The world goes black.

Okay, sit still. I have a lot of things to say about Maria Dahvana Headley's new book, Beowulf, and I'm gonna try to say them all right now.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it's okay. You don't have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book.

You know how sometimes people say, It's like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

I like a small book. I trust a small book. I appreciate a small book for all the things it doesn't do, for all the stories it does not tell.

Big books? They're dangerous in their excess. Bloated (often) with words they do not need and larded (often) with detail that no one asked for. You can slip into a big book and lose your way too easily. But a small book is intimate. Close. Every word it says matters. The writer of a small book knows that every page has to count.

From the very first page of Paul Tremblay's new book, Survivor Song, you know exactly how it's going to end. You know because you know. Because you've seen this movie before, read these books before, heard these stories before. You know because it is in your bones to know how certain stories end even before they've really begun.

Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.

Ken Liu does a lot of things as a writer. He creates big, doorstopper novels of his own (the Dandelion Dynasty series), and translates works from some of the best Chinese genre writers working in that language (Liu Cixin, Hao Jingfang, others).

You have to be careful. Claire North's The Pursuit of William Abbey is not the book you think it is.

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