Tag Archive: Tor Books


Living Dead cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Oddly, creepily, Tor Books had readied a virus story that was supposed to land in bookstores early in 2020.  I reviewed an advance copy here at borg in March 2020.  Writer Daniel Kraus had picked up a story begun by zombie guru George A. Romero decades ago, a story about a zombie virus that leveled our world, a behemoth 654-page follow-up to his movie series called The Living Dead: A New NovelIt was delayed, but made its debut in hardcover in August 2020, and this month it’s available for the first time in paperback.  It’s the kind of story you either gravitate toward in a pandemic, or you duck away from.  Multiple scenes from the novel have played out over the past two years.  If that sounds like something for you as you head into Halloween season, you probably have enough time to fit this book into your reading schedule.  It’s big, and it could stand an edit, but if you’re a fan of horror and zombies, you’ll probably want to check this one out.

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Glass magician cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Caroline Stevermer’s acclaimed historical fantasy work now includes a tale of turn-of-the-twentieth century New York City and its magical elite.  In The Glass Magician a stage magician discovers there’s much more to her identity—and her talents—than she ever realized.

Thalia Cutler is a natural-born stage magician.  Trained in the craft by her late father and his lifelong friend, now her manager, Thalia and her tricks entertain crowds on the East Coast vaudeville circuit.  But this is not exactly the 1905 East Coast of our world; this is an alternate historical America where people with real magic live alongside the Solitaires, or mundane folk.  Well, not quite alongside: the wealthy Traders are the elite and powerful upper crust of society, barely deigning to acknowledge the Solitaires; and the solemn Silvestri keep to themselves, literally communing with nature.

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Engines of oblivion

Review by C.J. Bunce

In Architects of Memory, first-time sci-fi writer Karen Osborne created a corporate sci-fi story, similar to Alien’s Weyland-Yutani, where corporations compete for weapons and power.  In this futuristic realm, humans have been de-humanized to almost unrecognizable, something like in Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon.  In a world so vile, why fight to survive?  Is living enough when there’s nothing to live for, and if there is something worth living for, then what is it?  Osborne doesn’t answer that question in either the original book or its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, the second and last book in her “Memory War” duology.  Fans of the first book will be interested in this next novel, as it revisits the world of human bombs and a bleak dystopia, only this time moving from lead protagonist Ash to Natalie, as Natalie is manipulated into returning to find those she left behind after stumbling into a major military success for her board of directors.  Strong women on the brink of hopelessness struggle to understand their roles, their relationships, and a world bogged down in Avatar-esque designs in this wind-up to the Memory War story.

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Wood Wife cover

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Fantasy fans likely know Terri Windling primarily as an anthologist, editor of collections of modern fairy tales with co-editor Ellen Datlow including Black Thorn, White Rose, The Green Man, A Wolf at the Door, and others.  Now Windling’s own original novel, The Wood Wife (1996) is getting a new release from Tor Books as part of its “Tor Essentials” library of books.

Readers (and writers) who came of age in the 1990s will find much here that feels like coming home to a familiar landscape.  Windling’s tale of magic in the American desert, and the humans seduced by it, is at once a murder mystery, a story about art and artists, and a haunting fairy tale.  The Wood Wife is a classic example of American fantasy at its finest.

When a poet she’s never met dies and leaves writer Maggie Black his remote home in Arizona, Maggie seizes the chance to leave her nomadic life behind and settle in the stark and beautiful Sonoran Desert near Tucson.  Hoping to write a biography of Davis Cooper, the poet she wrote her college thesis on, Maggie eagerly digs into his papers, not realizing she’s opening the door to more than just his past.  Strange things begin to happen: objects and people go missing, she has mysterious encounters with even more mysterious strangers, and she begins experiencing rumbles of unearthly dangers.  As Maggie grows to understand the desert, she also uncovers its underlying magic, learning it’s as full of folklore, fairy life, and magic as anywhere in Western literature.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Tor Essentials is a new library of backlist science fiction and fantasy novels from Macmillan Publishing’s Tor imprint, so far featuring 15 novels plucked from the past few decades.  One of those 21st century titles is a well-constructed gem, Canadian author Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin A broad, epic story that traverses literally billions of years from the vantage of a doctor living on Earth, the novel packs a lot of ideas into 300 pages.  The sub-genres covered are a mix of apocalypse, speculative fiction, and Martians, but not quite the aliens of H.G. Wells or Robert Heinlein.  Like the inexplicable monolith of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a giant black barrier has blocked the atmosphere so we no longer see the Sun, the Moon, or the Stars, but some secret force is protecting the Earth from the effects of such an occurrence.  Somehow Wilson connects the dots between the absurd and the improbable with the realities of the human condition to arrive at a story similar to Daniel H. Wilson’s The Andromeda Evolution, another intriguing, creative tale that made readers believe the unlikely was possible.

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I’ve raved about Curtis Craddock’s The Risen Kingdoms series since he first dazzled us with his debut An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (which I reviewed here) and A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery (reviewed here).  Now he’s taking us on the final, most swashbuckling adventure yet in The Last Uncharted Sky.

After you get over the initial disappointment of learning this is the final book in the series, now revealed to be a trilogy (sob!), you’ll find yourself setting sail with Capitaine Isabelle, Musketeer Jean Claude, Marie, Major Bitterlich, and a handful of new faces as they head for the ends of the earth aboard the airship Thunderclap.  Taking up the mission introduced in the final moments of Book 2, they are searching for the Craton Auroborea, a mysterious landmass in uncharted territory, to claim it as a new colony for l’Empire Celeste.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In Architects of Memory, first-time sci-fi writer Karen Osborne creates an Alien-esque, Weyland-Yutani-inspired construct in outer space in Earth’s future, where corporations are competing for market share as salvagers acquire a laundry list of weapons of terrorism to pursue a pathway toward citizenship.  A race of unknown and unseen aliens (like those seen in Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers) are the threat, yet it may very well be the corporations themselves are humanity’s worst enemy.  Mad science has concocted the ultimate weapon.  Gruesome and invasive, humans become the experiment and the conduit to deliver destruction to the alien race, as a group of strong women struggle to understand their role in the corporations’ schemes.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Rod Serling, eat your heart out.  Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone writers could take some pointers from Eddie Robson′s new novel, Hearts of Oak It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.  Borrowing its title from the popular, age-old song of the British Navy, here the cryptic “hearts of oak” says a lot about the rollercoaster ride for readers that lies ahead.

Taking a cue from the stark, detached, and quirky science fiction mysteries of Adam Christopher’s robot detective in books like Killing is My Business (reviewed previously here at borg), readers, and the protagonists, never quite know what is real and who is real.  What we do know is Iona Taylor has been an architect so long everyone knows her and respects her as the very best there is.  But she is having a particularly bad week as her colleague has died in the collapse of a building.  As she contemplates attending his funeral a new student inquires about private tutoring, and when the student leaves her hat behind the feeling of felt texture in the hat conjures something surreal for Iona–a strange feeling tugging at her, maybe even loosening some long forgotten memories.  After a strange event at the funeral and the destruction of yet another building, Iona is called by the authorities not for her advice, but for questioning, becoming a target of the investigation.  When the prospective student vanishes, Iona must play detective to clear herself, but she might not like what she finds.

Eddie Robson, a writer of Doctor Who and other radio plays and non-fiction works about movies, is a good storyteller.  His narrative reads like a fantasy fable of a king with a talking cat who advises him, in an enchanted city of expansive buildings and replenished resources centered around creating ever higher architecture so the king may relocate his rooms at the very top.  The book evokes parts of great science fiction stories and films of the past without pulling too much from any of them.  But fans of all these works will find some surprisingly good fun in Hearts of Oak: Planet of the Apes, Tron: Legacy, Humans, Alien, Snowpiercer, The Truman Show, Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint, a flip on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and The Matrix, and a few episodes of your favorite sci-fi TV shows, especially The Twilight Zone.

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