Useful fare for creative-writing classes but more significantly, an above-average set of takes on a worthy theme.

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ONE THOUSAND WORDS FOR WAR

Nineteen rising stars answer a challenge to write in a distinctive narrative frame native to East Asian literature, offering visions of alien contact, escape from repression, and exploits in alternate, virtual, and extraterrestrial worlds.

The editors begin their collection by loosely defining the four-stage form commonly transliterated as “Kishotenketsu" as storytelling in which conflict is just another element in the authorial toolbox rather than, as in Western conventions, central to plots and themes, inviting readers to see peacemongering as the common thread here. Though folding in violence either implied or explicit, most of the contributors work ingenious twists on this notion. Potential wars with aliens are headed off by new friends of different species who discover that the translation program their diplomat parents are using has been hacked (“In Other Words”) and also when a Pakistani village welcomes a pair of “Unexpected Guests” with tea. A transgender child crosses a personal “Threshold” by fighting off a bully at the boundary between this world and the magical Hidden Lands. Contrary to mythology, there is, it turns out, an afterlife “Beyond the Promised Land” for dead Viking heroes who weary of slaughtering one another over and over again in Valhalla. The stories range in length from short shorts on up, and if none of their authors are household names (yet), each is well-crafted and thought-provoking in both form and content.

Useful fare for creative-writing classes but more significantly, an above-average set of takes on a worthy theme. (Science fiction/fantasy short stories. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-933767-51-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CBAY

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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