Tag Archive: Tor Essentials library


Review by C.J. Bunce

Is it possible Ursula K. Le Guin’s first novels were her greatest works of fantasy and science fiction?  The author, one of both genre’s greatest contributors, revisited the “Hainish” world she created multiple times over the course of her 60 years as an American novelist  The scope of these stories is grand and her writing style immediate and urgent.  Is this a world of our own future, or of a future combined with other worlds?  She keeps the possibilities open, something like Planet of the Apes.  In three novels, Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions–published from 1966 to 1967 in lengths that likely would be considered novellas today–she exhibits a deep understanding of all the important components of culture, while digging mercilessly into what traits best define mankind across time.  The trilogy, re-issued with a new foreword as part of MacMillan Publishing’s Tor Essentials library under the title Worlds of Exile and Illusion, is now available here at Amazon.  What does it take to be able to present brilliant fantasy and science fiction in a single vision?

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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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