Mary Jo is that rarest of creatures, a true Portland native. Before she
came to Powell's, she worked for a panoply of small presses, doing everything
from making editorial decisions to feeding the cats. In her four and a half
years at Powell's she has worked in a wide variety of sections, including
Children's Books, Poetry (why she gave up that peach remains a bit
of a mystery; Mary Jo is after all a published poet), and finally Science
Fiction/Fantasy/Horror. She also currently orders for Romance, Westerns, Large
Print, and, eh-hem, Erotica. When she's not getting her poetry published,
Mary Jo likes drinking merlot by the bucket, playing softball, eating molasses
cookies (a nice old fashioned girl), and hanging around with her many merlot
Fiction / Fantasy
Call by Tim
Generations of Powell's Science Fiction Team members have read and loved
this book, and it is one of my favorites to sell science fiction-reading customers
who are looking for something new. Powers combines Arthurian mythology, chaos
theory, tarot, and poker in an adventure set mostly in Las Vegas. Only a writer
of Powers's skill could combine these ideas successfully into such an unforgettable
plotline. This is the first volume of a trilogy, and by far the strongest.
Expiration Date is the second volume, followed by Earthquake Weather. Trust
me, you'll never experience a ringing telephone, the smell of coffee, or a
deck of cards the same way after you read this book.
Club Dumas by Arturo
We keep this title in our Mystery section, but it was once nominated for a
World Fantasy Award (though it was thrown out on a technicality). It was later
made into a very bad movie, The Ninth Gate, which should be avoided
at all costs. Club Dumas is the story of Lucas Corso, a slightly shady
bookdealer, and his search for an ancient rare text said to contain the secret
of summoning the devil. He finds three copies of it. He also discovers there
is a beautiful, mysterious woman following him. But who she is and what exactly
her reasons are for getting involved with him aren't quite clear to Corso,
or to the reader. The atmosphere throughout the novel is dark and brooding,
a world haunted by elusive facts and people. Club Dumas is stuffed
with antiquarian book lore, but watching Corso make his way through the mazes
that surround him is the true pleasure of reading this work.
Mockingbird is the story of a young woman who grudgingly
inherits her mother's psychic powers. This book reads like a shot of whiskey
sweet, fiery swirls in the throat that linger on. Galveston
centers around two different characters and their response to the flood of
magic that divided the town in two. Half of Galveston is the Carnival, presided
over by Momus and full of magic. In the other half, magic is strictly forbidden
and those caught succumbing to its influence are sent off to Carnival. The
book deals with trying to reconcile the two halves of the town, the halves
of the main characters' lives: what is pieced together is an entirely new
in Flame by Jonathan
"It took me less than half a lifetime to realize that regret is one of
the few guaranteed certainties. Sooner or later everything is touched by it,
despite our naive and senseless hope that this time we will be spared its
cold hand on our heart." Not bad for an opening paragraph, eh? A friend of
mine once said of Carroll's work, "He writes from his soul," which sums it
up rather nicely. Sleeping in Flame is the story of Walker Easterling
and his rather unusual ancestors. The story of Rumplestiltskin figures largely
in the plot, but Carroll does unexpected things with it. Walker falls in love
with a woman, and the first third of the book is about how they meet. The
rest of the book centers around Walker's unusual ancestors and how he comes
to terms with his inheritance. Carroll's work is mostly out of print, but
well worth the extra effort it takes to seek it out.
the Bells on Earth and The
Last Coin by James
"..what was obvious was probably lies; the truth lay hidden,
and you got at it by ignoring what passed as common sense," writes Blaylock
in The Last Coin, neatly summing up the thematic structure of the book,
as well as of All the Bells on Earth though these novels were
written seven years apart, they share a very similar structure. Taken together
they provide the reader with a fascinating look at how an author's powers
develop over time. The Last Coin centers around the thirty pieces
of silver that Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus. Some of the characters
want those thirty pieces of silver gathered together again, and others do
not. Whoever possessed them would have great power. All the Bells on
Earth revolves around a glass jar with a preserved bluebird inside.
This object also confers unusual powers. In both cases, the protagonist has
no idea what power the object he possesses has, and there are all sorts of
people trying to take it away from him. Full of eccentric characters, a protagonist
who is well-meaning but a bit of a bumbler, and a wife who sees her husband
exactly as he is and likes him that way both novels have essentially
the same cast. All the Bells on Earth is much darker, infused with
a deliciously realized sense of menace.
Session by Daniel
Paul Skoglund gets a call from his aunt. She wants him to come repair
her damaged home in the country. Paul has Tourettes syndrome and a spotty
history of employment. Paul is horrified at the extent of the damage: no human
could have done it or could they? Paul's girlfriend Lia is addicted
to risk: skydiving, exploring caves, basking in adrenaline's fierce glow.
Lia may end up with more than she bargained for this time. Skull Session
explores the dichotomy between our conscious, rational selves and the instinctual,
unconscious layer below. The relationship between Paul and Lia is engrossing
and accurately portrays the kind of struggles we know only too well.
Tooth Fairy by Graham
The Tooth Fairy is a particularly subtle literary horror novel.
It is dark, erotic, filled with adolescent passions and nightmares. Joyce
manages to capture the agony of unrequited love and its compensations in prose
that is both freshly revealing and all too familiar. You won't ever think
about the Tooth Fairy in quite the same way after you read this novel: here
she is a feral, darkly erotic, willful creature. Set in the English countryside
in the early sixties, The Tooth Fairy is that dreadful thing
the coming of age novel but Joyce does not wax nostalgic. There is
nothing tame and pedestrian about these characters, or what happens to them.
I am thoroughly sick of the whole vampire fiction craze. Unfortunately,
I keep discovering more and more of it that I find truly entertaining.
Z. Brite's Lost Souls and Drawing Blood started
me off. These novels are packed with memorable characters and luscious prose.
Souls is set largely in New Orleans, and while these vampires are a little
bit too Goth for me, the characters of Ghost and Steve are people I would
happily drink beer with. Drawing
Blood doesn't exactly have vampires, but it certainly has a haunted house
that craves blood, not a unique thing, but this novel is so well done that
the idea of a vampire house will seem quite believable. When Travis McGee
was a child, his cartoonist father murdered his mother and brother, then hanged
himself. Travis has inherited his father's drawing ability, and comes back
to the house where the murders took place to better understand his past.
Last summer I made my way through all of Laurel
Hamilton's Anita Blake series, which begins with Guilty
Pleasures and hasn't ended yet. These are what I call popcorn novels
kind of lightweight, but as satisfying and addictive as a bowl of buttery
popcorn. Be forewarned: if you read one, you'll want the rest soon after.
Anita Blake mixes it up with all sorts of vampires, werewolves, and other
beasties that go bump in the night.
If you've already read Laurel Hamilton, you'll probably enjoy Tanya
Huff's Victoria Nelson series. She isn't a vampire, but her partner
in crime-solving, Henry, is. Victoria Nelson is an ex-policewoman who has
lost all of her night vision, so an ally that can see in the dark is a useful
addition. Both the Hamilton and Huff series can loosely be described as supernatural
Collins's Sonja Blue novels are the darkest and spookiest of the
After Dark introduces Sonja Blue and several of the characters that frequent
her world. She is not a tame vampire. She will as happily rip your head off
as she will save your life it just all depends. In
the Blood finds Sonja taking revenge on her creator, Morgan. Paint
it Black is a continuation of events in the previous two novels. One of
the ongoing themes in the series is Sonja Blue's identity there seem
to be at least three different personalities living in her head, and she struggles
to keep them in balance.