Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic

Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic

Babel By R.F. Kuang: a revolutionary historical fantasy epic that examines the influence of cogent language and its romantic secrets, bitter deceptions, and intoxicating effects that mark the meek and the brash, the power-hungry and the marytrs.

Babel By R.F. Kuang may be the best book I read this year.

If you are a fan of language or translation or history or great characters being challenged beyond your wildest prescient thoughts, then you must read this must-read, this phenomenal tale by R.F. Kuang.

As with many great stories – especially in the SFF-speculative fiction realm – the character’s path needs to resonate deeply, and Kuang’s protagonist Robin Swift does this while being utterly captivating.

The name he chooses after being dragged from his home in Canton and near-forcibly adopted by an English professor is one stemming from a love of literature that he identifies with, Robin Swift.

The following book review of R.F. Kuang’s Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution is SPOILER-FREE.

Robin Swift’s journey is so real, it hurts.

His awe at his first foray into an English bookstore, or an Oxford library, is moving and relatable.

You swell with joy, with Robin, as he delights in the exotic tastes of desserts from bakeries for the first time, just as you will feel the shock of betrayal least looked for when it lashes out at him.

Betrayal is a theme in Babel.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.”

babel, babel by R.F. Kuang, the poppy war, r.f. kuang, book review, book, sff, fantasy, history

Language and story metaphorically and literally make magic in Babel.

Words reside at the center of civilization but also at the panopticon, whether for use in aiding humanity, or in enslaving it.

Seeing the black, white, and gray areas in Babel proves difficult for those involved in the tower, the school of translation at Oxford, of Babel, for the spell of comfort, happiness, fulfillment, and friendship casts a certain amount of myopia that runs deeper than the magical silver bars the translators create and maintain.

The history in Babel is, itself, a mythology by which Kuang makes the reader climb and dive off a cliff and deeply submerge into the early 19th Century as the riotous age of colonialism is at a zenith, and at the same time depict Oxford University – and the college life that Robin embarks on – which is outwardly fun, but filled with racism, misogyny, and final exams that can cause the students to bleed out.

Make no mistake, Babel will tear at your heart, gouge deeply, and continue to stay with you, long after you finish reading.

Babel is a masterpiece of fantasy literature that reaches depths similar in scope and artistry to the most deeply moving and impactful symphonies, works of literature, epic poems, and fine art.

Babel is a masterpiece of fantasy literature.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)!


Want To Buy A Book & Support A Local Bookseller? Click Here!

Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

babel, babel by R.F. Kuang, the poppy war, r.f. kuang, book review, book, sff, fantasy, history

 

 

 

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review gives a Spoiler-Free account of the new prequel in the Star Trek: Picard Series, and TFF is also simultaneously publishing an Author Interview here for the first time, as David Mack was kind enough to take the time to speak with R.J. Huneke about this brilliant novel.

At the heart of this gripping science-fiction story is identity.

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to face rejection and prejudice because of one’s appearance?

How do we come to grips with the evolution of our personality, our self-understanding, and our self-reflection as the years roll on into adulthood?

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall, firewall, david mack, star trek, picard, seven of nine

Not only is Star Trek: PicardFirewall a great Star Trek story, but it is a phenomenal work of fiction, in general – this is a classic.

Anyone can enjoy the venture into the thrilling world of Seven of Nine…even if you have never watched or read Star Trek.

I love the accessibility of David Mack’s Firewall, and though I am admittedly a big Star Trek fan, it is quickly apparent when reading this that anyone can enjoy the venture into the thrilling world of Seven of Nine at this tumultuous time in the character’s life, even if you have never watched or read any Star Trek.

Star Trek: Picard – Firewall is a powerful and moving queernormative coming-of-age story about Seven of Nine in the years leading up to her role in Picard (the mini-series).

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall, firewall, david mack, star trek, picard, seven of nine

For Seven of Nine is not just searching to find her way as an independent adult, and a human, when she had her formative years taken away – along with many of her memories – by the alien cybernetic organisms known as the Borg, but she is also struggling to learn her identity as a bi-sexual woman and as a person who is prejudiced against for her appearance, in her visible remains of the Borg implants.

If you are not familiar with the TV series Star Trek: Voyager or Star Trek: Picard, Firewall brings the reader into the life of a character who was commandeered by a cyborg alien force as a child and who lost many of those years and even into early adulthood, because her mind was a part of a hive mind Collective.

Seven of Nine has had nearly all of her robotic elements – her implants – removed, but some on her face remain.

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall, firewall, david mack, star trek, picard, seven of nine

And so many people dehumanize her, so much so that her application to join Starfleet is rejected.

Up to that point, her human identity was that of a Starfleet officer.

When this is denied, she seeks to escape earth and find a way to feel like an included member of human society, and a new way of life that suits the personality that is still forming within her.

The writing in this book is enthralling, from the world-building to the character development, and the memorable prose.

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall, firewall, david mack, star trek, picard, seven of nine

To be human means to struggle to find a path in life, and so meanings found in Firewall’s coming-of-age storyline are very visceral and accessible.

You feel for these characters, especially Seven of Nine.

Firewall is a deeply personal and impactful book full of piercing themes.

Seven of Nine deals with PTSD, brutal anxiety and depression, and even feelings of neurodivergence.

There are keen metaphors in Firewall for the struggles of LGBTQ+ folks, especially for trans youth and trans people youth seeking identity.

Seven of Nine is an extraordinary person who deals with love and hate and creature comforts in equal measure, while striving to retain that sense of being a good person in familiar ways that we can all recognize within ourselves.

The Bookshop.org description of Star Trek: Picard – Firewall:

A thrilling prequel adventure based on the acclaimed TV series Star Trek: Picard! Two years after the USS Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine finds herself rejected for a position in Starfleet…and instead finds a new home with the interstellar rogue law enforcement corps known as the Fenris Rangers. The Rangers seem like an ideal fit for Seven–but to embrace this new destiny, she must leave behind all she’s ever known, and risk losing the most important thing in her life: her friendship with Admiral Kathryn Janeway. [bookshop.org]

Firewall debuted on February 27, 2024, so get your copies, Fictioneers!

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!) I gave it 5/5 Stars!


Want To Buy A Book & Support A Local Bookseller? Click Here!

“David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall, firewall, david mack, star trek, picard, seven of nine

 

 

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is all aces in TFF’s book, and this preview review aims to uncover some of what makes this engaging mystery so damn good, without lifting the veil too much.

This story is one of the more perplexing murder mysteries you may come across, combining new, thrilling elements with style!

Agatha Christie would love Schillace’s THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE.

Not only are the brilliant and extremely engaging facets to this case enveloping, but solving a murder by antique pistol, as well as the mysterious disappearance of a rare Ardemore family portrait that may be connected, prove to be difficult entanglements that unwind in wholly unexpected ways and leaves the reader feverishly turning pages to follow the threads.

The following Preview Book Review of THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is SPOILER-FREE.

Schillace’s characters, from the outsider-protagonist Jo Jones, to the Detective Inspector MacAdams with his inferiority complex due to his divorce, to Gwilym the young antique and hobby collector, and to the brazen Irish innkeeper and fellow outsider, Tula, they all stand up with great intrigue and pack a punch.

To ramble a little, characters are the lifeblood of fiction, with few memorable exceptions.

The one I come back to frequently is the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, because it simultaneously thwarts the rules by creating a compelling and innovative pillar of science-fiction without (I argue, though some disagree) characters being central to the story told over the course of centuries.

I appreciate Foundation for that, but my favorite work of Asimov is and will always be THE END OF ETERNITY.

Aside from being used for near every time travel tale post-H.G. Wells, THE END OF ETERNITY has memorable and incredibly realistic characters that you root for.

They make you love the story.

Just as each character in THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE stands out in their own ways and brings you on a wholly uncharted journey to a murder / painting mystery, this too is a story to love.

The young American woman, Jo, inherits an old estate with a decrepit English manor house that holds her in uncomfortable territory.

She finds hidden in a locked room what appears to be an Ardemore family portrait of an unknown relative that was taken from the library for some reason.

Shortly thereafter, it is stolen.

And then a body turns up.

The neurodivergent Jo felt like an outsider before she becomes a suspect in the murder, and that feeling only grows as she attempts to solve the crimes and find out who was the Ardemore mystery woman.

The witty, charming, and intelligent character of Jo is thirsty for answers.

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE, brandy schillace, neurodivergent, autistic, autism, mystery, murder mystery

And despite her difficulty overcoming a not-too-distant divorce with a husband that continually reminded her of her autism and her behavioral faux pas – some of which she deems may be fair and some of which are certainly not – she collects herself time and again and proves to be insightful, well-read, and courageous as she presses on.

The insight into the way this character thinks is exciting, and makes me feel like I am privy to a behind the scenes look into the methods of Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes that is essential to their effectiveness in solving a crime.

Schillace’s Jo Jones is flawed and extremely realistic.

The ways in which Jo reflects on how she thinks – especially using memories of her experiences to guide her – makes for a refreshing new perspective into someone who is on the spectrum and not just surviving society, but thriving despite it.

In a touching moment, the Irish innkeeper speaks of leaving her home and landing in England as an outsider, like Jo, and then the younger woman reveals a fun and difficult attribute:

“Words have just always been my people…and I don’t forget them after I read them.

“Ever? Like a photographic memory?” Tula asked. Jo scrunched up her nose. She’d never liked the term.

“It doesn’t work like that. I can recite from most of the books I’ve read–but it has to be triggered…sometimes the connections I see aren’t really there…but sometimes it means I see connections other people can’t see.”

The marked self-reflection makes the reader empathize with Jo in a deeply impactful way.

Despite the social difficulties of inter-personal relationships and reactions to situations, social norms, and speech that are often a struggle for Jo Jones, she proves to be an exceptional force in the book and a very relatable person of interest.

 

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is out tomorrow – February 13, 2024 – so get your copy post-haste!

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


Want To Buy A Book & Support A Local Bookseller? Click Here!

 

“THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace” Book Review Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE, brandy schillace, neurodivergent, autistic, autism, mystery, murder mystery

Short Fiction Serialized Chapbooks By R.J. Huneke Are Here

Short Fiction Serialized Chapbooks By R.J. Huneke Are Here

Short Fiction Serialized Chapbooks By R.J. Huneke Are Here, and they look gooooood, Fictioneers!

If you are a fan of fiction, TFF is a magazine dedicated to celebrating the art, and subscribers to our Patreon get some insane exclusives, including a new work by author R.J. Huneke, which will at the least become a future novella.

I have serialized my story so that the first three chapters are offered up – my rough draft, though edited and polished a bit, is written longhand and then transcribed.

These are all signed and numbered limited edition chapbooks.

Only the TFF Patreons and a few family members are getting these extremely limited chapbooks featuring a thrilling work of dark fantasy for all ages as I write it.

When it’s all done, perhaps it will make up a new novel to be sent off to a publisher. Maybe I will keep it on its MI6 FOR YOUR EYES ONLY designation, or Top Secret as Americans like to say.

Either way, I have a professional Epson printer that I have used to make professional archival safe lithographs, and I just found a bunch of really nice heavyweight paper with which I am printing these oversized chapbooks, so that readers have a really nice reading experience in the hand, the way many old books used to be made hundreds of years ago.

No, it is not letterpress.

Believe me, I would love that, but the difficulty in designing, laying out, and figuring out a good offset printing process is more than enough for me to handle for now.

In the future, when I have used all of my existing paper I may outsource this.

But for now, you have a piece of art I created every aspect of, except the cover art which is a gorgeous work that I found from an anonymous artist at Prettysleepy Art, and it fit the story too well to not use.

chapbooks, r.j. huneke, short fiction, patreon, tff

I started the TFF Patreon to ensure that I can NOT use Amazon or Google ads and instead I rely solely on Bookshop.org affiliate monies (may never happen, but I put links up) and the Patreon.

Doing this allows me to pay other writers to write book reviews for The Forgotten Fiction, and to get supplies for things related to the work at the zine – like the archival paper stock I have used in the chapbooks here.

I hope you all love the story I am writing – if you are a fan of SFF fiction then you are in for a treat!

 

Best,

 

RJH

 

 

Best Books of 2023: the TFF To-Read Guide

Best Books of 2023: the TFF To-Read Guide

Best Books of 2023: the TFF To-Read Guide kicks off an inaugural tradition of Winter Solstice book review wonderment and reading highlights to recap some of the incredibly fun works of fiction we have reviewed this year, and also to mention many bright authors we found this year, in 2023, whose light has further emblazoned fiction, even if we have not yet written a review of their books.

Who does not love a ‘Best Of’ list, especially for books?

TFF To-Read Guide Winter Solstice 2023! All Hail the Holly King!

The following will lean on The Forgotten Fiction’s many deserved book reviews from the past year, and are entirely subjective, being put forward by TFF’s managing editor, namely me.

This will be as unconventional and engaging a series of lists as can be arranged.

At TFF we review newly released books and also books that have been released in years prior to 2023, so our ‘best of list’ contains what we found and loved this year, not necessarily what was published this year.

To be honored by the fiction gods in any year is a reason to rejoice!

So place your heads on the Green Knight’s proverbial chopping block, if you will, and prepare to sacrifice a drop of blood – Ow* that hurt! – to his neck-nicking axe in celebration of fictitious truth, as Sir Gaiwan did.

First, I want no feelings hurt if your books do not make a list here: if you write or read fiction, you are awesome and are to be commended, thank you, beautiful people, because your promotion of the art helps makes the world a bit brighter.

Without further ado, here are the year’s best-of lists from TFF:

ray bradbury, books, best of books, sff, fantasy, speculative literature

Author Ray Bradbury and his wife Maggie at their home in Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles

The Ray Bradbury Award Winner For Best Speculative Fiction Likely To Blow The Doors Off Your Mind Palace goes toAlix E. Harrow for the novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

This book is extraordinary in every sense of the word.

ten thousand doors of january, alix e. harrow, book review, best of books, ten thousand doors

The prose is vivid, the story poignant and oh so moving, and the characters invoke tears of joy and loss that leaves you reeling.

Bradbury said, you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you, and this writing by Alix E. Harrow truly invokes that kind of reality-proof power!

Coincidentally, The Ten Thousand Doors of January also wins the 1984: You Made Me Cry…Twice Award, and that does not often happen to me (Orwell always gets me though, which is why I do not reread 1984 every year).

Edgar allan poe cottage, Edgar allan poe

The Red Death Award For A Work Most Likely To Keep You Too Terrified To Sleep Award goes to…Philip Fracassi for his novel Boys In The Valley.

The blast of the winter storm in this book will chill your bones!

But do not fret, because the amount of blood spilled in the turn-of-the-century Catholic orphanage is more than enough to warm your hands.

Boys in the Valley, Philip Fracassi, Author, horror

The writing is top-notch, the story is one for the ages, and the events that unfold within the tale bring up just enough flashbacks to The Exorcist that you will hide under your covers shaking.

The Michael Crichton You Better Check Your Technology At The Door Sci-fi Award goes to…Blake Crouch for Upgrade.

This is phenomenal science fiction, and the evolution of DNA manipulation and self-imposed bio-hacking makes for new frontiers in this one.

upgrade, blake crouch

The pace is furiously fast, thrilling, and thrash-metal-like in its loud challenges to many aspects of society and civilization in a fun new way that builds on Huxley’s Brave New World.

The Da Vinci Ornithopter Award For Best Small Press Publication goes to…Earthling Publications for their incredible signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman.

This is a book that is so awe-inspiring you fear to open it, because it may melt off your face a la the Ark of the Covenant.

There is no title on the cover, no author name, no letters of any kind.

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

The sleek, stark red leather sets a mood and the eye is drawn in to where a line of children stand, black silhouettes stamped into the cover, awaiting their inspections.

This coming-of-age genre bender from Malerman is a powerful and moving work that examines humanity at its core.

And as Inspection is a work of art, so too is this jaw-dropping edition from Paul Miller of Earthling, and I am deeply grateful to have gotten my dragon-hoarding claws on one.

The Kurt Vonnegut Satiric Stylin’ Society Needs Kilgore Trout To Give It An Enema Award goes to…Chuck Palahniuk for his novel Not Forever, But For Now.

The joeys that survive this tale will not ever want to come out of their kangaroo mums’ pouches again.

This brilliant work of fiction pushes boundaries well beyond their breaking points.

Not Forever, But For Now, chuck palahniuk, fight club

The ability to make readers despise a main character, abhor them, and then become not only invested, but rooting for that protagonist-antagonist (who the hell knows which it is), despite the epic fallout they may bring about is truly remarkable.

This also takes home the Award For Best Use Of A Hearing Aid In A Work Invoking An Outstanding British Dialect and the Harpo Marx Laugh Until You Snot Comedy In Prose Award.

Last, but not least is the Inklings Award For Best Fantasy In Fiction …goes to Kat Howard for the novel A Sleight Of Shadows.

Kat Howard’s writing is pure magic.

A Sleight Of Shadows is the second book in Kat Howard’s The Unseen World duology, following up the Edgar-award winning An Unkindness of Magicians.

Rarely do so many characters come off the pages with such a presence.

The world is very much rooted in our own, but the magic of these magicians and the immersive imagining of New York City in the Unseen World they inhabit is so alive, so unexpected, and so much more then it lets on.

An Unkindness of Magicians, kat howard, a sleight of shadows, unseen world series, fantasy, thriller

When the bone trees sprout up near Central Park’s solitary island moaning with the voices of dead magicians long gone, readers are brought over the threshold into something new and wonderful.

Here dear readers is the list of TFF Best Books of 2023:

  • The Ray Bradbury Award Winner For Best Speculative Fiction Likely To Blow The Doors Off Your Mind Palace
  • The Red Death Award For A Work Most Likely To Keep You Too Terrified To Sleep Award
  • The Michael Crichton You Better Check Your Technology At The Door Sci-fi Award
  • The Da Vinci Ornithopter Award For Best Small Press Publication
    • Earthling Publications signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman
  • The Kurt Vonnegut Satiric Stylin’ Society Needs Kilgore Trout To Give It An Enema Award
  • Inklings Award For Best Fantasy In Fiction

 

Happy New Year, Fictioneers!

 

 

Dark Matter By Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi

Dark Matter By Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch forges great sci-fi, as a 21st century high point of transformative art continues the tradition of science miracles having a very good and very bad fallout.

Dark Matter provides a visceral thrill ride empowered by science the way Michael Crichton’s work has for decades.

I do not throw around the name of Crichton often, because no one is quite like the late author, the scientist-teacher-turned novelist.

But Crouch in his own brilliant way reminds me of him.

The Following Book Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is Spoiler-Free.

dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup, Hilary Clarcq

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious, and he wakes in another world, another reality, exactly like his own except for where he made a fundamentally different life choice that drastically altered his life and those of his loved ones.

Would the science he had given up come to change the course of time?

Or times?

These are not spoilers.

This is just how you get thrown into a story that is every bit as much an intimate lovers’ voyage, as it is a spine-rattling suspense thriller.

Genres are, like rules, made to be smashed, chopped up and baked into a wholesome and delicious culinary innovation.

And so too does the vision of Crouch cook up the best parts of sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, a sprinkling of horror, and a love story into a unique and infamous warning of what tampering with alternate timelines might be like for those equipped with dark matter in the near (or far) future.

I love this book.

dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup

It evokes many of the best traits from what I consider to be the pinnacle of time travel fiction, Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity.

Most if not all of the time travel medium, in films, video games, comic books, and novels lift ideas and tropes from Asimov, but Dark Matter takes it all a lot further and also gets very specific with the fringe science theories and experiments with time and matter.

At the heart is a man who loves his wife, Daniela, has his reality and their life together taken from him, and must work with a future science he never invented to try and right the wrongs.

“Last night, I set out to answer a simple question: Where is Daniela . . . This is not my world. Even as those five words cross my mind, I’m not exactly certain what they mean, or how to begin to consider their full weight.” [DARK MATTER, pg. 118, B. Crouch]

Dark Matter continues to blow my mind after each read.

To give this extraordinary book the treatment it deserves, Suntup Editions strove to encompass this classic with a gorgeous signed-numbered limited edition.

The spine is goatskin and feels so soft and smooth.

Hilary Clarcq, dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup

And since the story deals with alternate realities, what better way to show that than to have three different bradel-bound numbered versions, purple, green, and blue, and then randomly send them to the 350 owners upon release.

They are all great to hold, with a brilliant sheen to the thick cloth covers and the minimalism evokes less is more.

I wanted and was thrilled to get the purple cover.

Unique to the edition is an introduction by another favorite author and one of the most innovative voices of 21st century sci-fi Andy Weir, and he, crouch, and artist Clarcq each signed the book.

dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup

All of these Suntup editions are so well made and fit Dark Matter’s story so well!

Suntup made a limited artist edition and a lettered edition as well, and the art that Hilary Clarcq brought makes this tale come alive in an exciting way.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


Want To Buy A Book & Support A Local Bookseller? Click Here!

 

“Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

patreon, tff, book reviews, rj huneke

 

 

dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup