A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
Aspect, 1st edition, 2003
Genre: Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, short stories, Christmas
Synopsis & Review: The Christmas season (which for me lasts from just before Thanksgiving till January 7th) is an excellent one for indulging in short stories. For one, you’ve got the longstanding tradition of stories told ‘round the Yule fire. For another, many of us are so busy that we cannot quite commit to long novels, and a good anthology of short stories provides merriment or scares in small but satisfying doses in between shopping expeditions and baking extravaganzas, house tidying and decorating.
I had my eye on this one from the start of the holiday reading challenges. Boasting luminaries such as Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, how could I not enjoy it? Read the rest of this entry »
Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder edited by David G. Hartwell
originally published 1992
Tor, 1st printing, 2004
Genre: Speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, short stories, Christmas stories
Synopsis & Review:
The best of Christmas–past, present, and yet to come
Christmas is a time for miracle, scientific and otherwise, and for surprises that can only occur at this time of the year. But what marvels will the holidays bring to the far future–or to alien worlds light-years from the North Pole?
In this celebratory collection, many of today’s finest writers of fantasy and science fiction unwrap startling visions of the future of Christmas. An unusual Christmas spirit brings confusion-and romance-to a modern young woman. A father’s gift opens up the universe for all humanity. And a devout researcher uncovers the shattering secret of the original Star of Bethlehem. These and other stories shine like sparkling, unearthly ornaments on a fresh green tree of holiday traditions.
‘Twas the night before tomorrow, and all through the galaxy, nothing burns as bright as… Christmas Stars.
The Victorians loved their Christmas ghost stories and tales of terrors (need I remind you of The Turn of the Screw so soon?), a tradition which has largely faded, at least in the US. Despite the exhortation in “(It’s the) Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to enjoy “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago,” the only Christmas ghosts to regularly make an appearance are those in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But perhaps it’s time to enjoy another sort of Christmas story, that of speculative nature, or fantasy and science fiction. Edited by David G. Hartwell, Christmas Stars features twenty-five (get it?) short stories full of flights of fancy and imagination, and each with at least a touch of the holiday. There are stories set deep in space, on other stars, or amongst the moons of our solar system. There are stories in alternate versions of our world, or the future, and those set in our own mundane reality. Some stories are light-hearted, but others are dark indeed. The stories vary so widely in subject and scope (and quality), that it would be difficult to not find at least one appealing tale in the whole lot. Read the rest of this entry »
This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger
originally published 1986
Dell Yearling, 1st printing, 1989
Genre: Young adult, juvenalia
Synopsis & Review: Aurora Williams is thirteen and perfectly happy with her life. Oh, she has some small complaints–not enough allowance, her parents won’t let her get an eyelash transplant, and an annoying little sister named Starr–but she’s also part of the coolest clique in school, the Turnips, she’s a good student with a chance of being in some real high school plays now, and her longtime crush Matthew is reciprocating. And then her parents tell her that they’re joining an experimental colony for five years. On the Moon.
Forced by her parents to try lunar life for at least one year before they’ll reconsider letting her return to earth to live with her grandparents, Aurora’s perfect life is now upside down. She has to socialize with everyone in the small colony, adult and child, drippy and interesting folk alike. Nothing is like it used to be, and she misses her old life terribly. Will Aurora learn to be part of her community and family, and relinquish her self-appointed role as center of the universe?
I’m not sure I’d say this was my favorite Paula Danziger book–it’s so hard to choose–but it’s one I read and re-read voraciously, and when I mention it to others in my general cohort, they know and love it, too. Read the rest of this entry »
Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
Originally published 1976
Bantam, 22nd printing, 1986
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, young adult
Synopsis & Review: This is actually the second installment in the Harper Hall Trilogy. After the events of Dragonsong, Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold is taken to the Harper Craft Hall at Fort Hold as an apprentice. As Petiron’s lost apprentice, for whom harpers all over Pern had been assiduously searching, Menolly is welcomed by many. However, just as her own parents could not accept the notion of a girl harper, there are elements at the Harper Hall who would prefer that Menolly not be apprenticed. Resentments about her fair of nine firelizards cause Menolly some difficulties, with some people enchanted by the firelizards while others view them as noisy nuisances. Also troublesome is the antagonism of the Hall’s female students and their caretaker Dunca, who do their best to make Menolly miserable. But as Menolly proves her craft and skill to the masters and journeymen, she also gains friends and champions, such as the headwoman Silvina, the journeyman Sebell, the drudge Camo, and fellow apprentice Piemur. While learning the ways of the Harper Hall, Menolly must also come to term with her gifts, and accept her place in the Harper Hall and on Pern. click here for more about Dragonsinger
Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Originally published 1968
DelRey, 24th printing, 1984
Genre: science fiction, fantasy
Synopsis & Review: Long ago, a world called Pern was settled by colonists who eventually lost all memory of their home planet, their origins disappearing into obscurity. Some time after settlement, the inhabitants of Pern discovered the Red Star, a erratic orbiting planet home to a parasitic lifeform which threatened Pern at Intervals of two hundred years. As the Red Star rained devastation down in the form of these lifeforms, or Threads, inhabitants of Pern developed winged, teleporting, fire-breathing dragons from an indigenous lifeform, and used them to combat Thread. During Threadfall, the dragon riders are revered, but during Intervals without danger dragonriders slide into disfavor.
The opening of Dragonflight finds Pern four hundred years into an Interval, and many believe the legendary Threads are just that—legends. Resentment has been building against the sole dragon Weyr left on Pern, as the dragonfolk are viewed as obsolete parasites. Benden Weyr’s Queen has hatched a queen egg, and the dragonriders Search for young women to Impress the new Queen. It is on this Search that bronze rider F’lar finds Lessa, the last of Ruathan Blood, a young woman who has schemed and bided her time seeking revenge for the destruction of her family. As she completes her revenge, F’lar convinces Lessa to come to Benden Weyr, where he is sure that she is the Werywoman Benden—and Pern—need. For the Red Star is again in the skies above Pern, and F’lar and others in the Weyr believe that Threadfall is once again imminent. Only, with just one Weyr left out of six, how will the dragonfolk protect Pern from her ancient enemy? click here to continue reading about Dragonflight