Locus Online

2008 Reviews Archive

Film reviews are exclusive to Locus Online. Book reviews are reproduced from Locus Magazine, typically two per month, plus Graham Sleight's bimonthly "Yesterday's Tomorrows" column. New & Notable Books from Locus Magazine are archived on the Issues Archive page.

Saturday 27 December 2008

REVIEWS : Films :
Backward, Turn Backward, O Time, in Your Flight:
A Review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

the curious case of benjamin button Since film critics must so often complain that a film has shamelessly trashed or dumbed down its source material, it is refreshing to report that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is actually far richer and more nuanced than the 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald story that inspired it.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

REVIEWS : Films : 1958: Science Fiction Film's Sense-of-Wonderful Year

1958 It would be an interesting question for a panel at a science fiction convention: What was the most important year in the history of science fiction film? My own personal choice is a year that most people would not even consider: 1958. It's a year that commands special attention because a convergence of three separate developments combined to produce an unusual number of films which were unlike any other films that had preceded them and which still make for rewarding viewing today.

Sunday 14 December 2008

REVIEWS : Films :
Captain Klaatu and the Planeteers, or, The Day the Face Stood Still:
A Review of The Day the Earth Stood Still

the day the earth stood still I can value this film only for its unintended but interesting commentary on the ways that human society, and science fiction, have changed in the last fifty years...

Think about it: in this film, aliens have been carefully monitoring Earth not because they have any interest in human accomplishments, but only because they are fretting that this trivial species might be doing too much damage to one of the few worlds around that is capable of sustaining life.

Friday 12 December 2008

REVIEWS : Books : Locus Magazine's New & Notable Books, December

spectrum 15 December New and Notable books, selected by Locus Magazine editors, include Spectrum 15: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by Cathy & Arnie Fenner, Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters, K.J. Parker's The Company, Stephen King's Just After Sunset, and other titles by Aiken, Becket-Griffith, Blaylock, Carroll, Dean, Disch, Ford, Jones, Kelleghan, Lovecraft, Pratt, Rand, Rutkoski, and VanderMeer & VanderMeer.

Thursday 13 November 2008

REVIEWS : Books: Locus Magazine's New & Notable Books, November

flynn November New and Notable books, selected by Locus Magazine editors, include Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, Neal Stephenson's Anathem, Gene Wolfe's An Evil Guest, and others.

Friday 10 October 2008

REVIEWS : Books: Locus Magazine's New & Notable Books, October

greg bear October New and Notable books, selected by Locus Magazine editors, include Stephen Baxter's Flood, Daina Chaviano's The Island of Eternal Love, Daryl Gregory's Pandemonium, Joe Haldeman's Marsbound, John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale, Karl Schroeder's Pirate Sun, Jack Williamson's Gateway to Paradise, and others.

Monday 6 October 2008

REVIEWS : Films : A Lack of Vision: A Review of Blindness

blindness Blindness is clearly a film that was designed to attract audiences and earn awards all around the world, and such attention to this earnest, well-made adaptation of a masterful novel would hardly be undeserved. Still, the film is not quite a masterpiece because it is so visibly compromised by the filmmakers' desire to achieve commercial success in American theatres, which meant that it could not be as ugly, or as profound, as Saramago's novel.

Sunday 28 September 2008

REVIEWS : Opera : The Fly: The Opera

the fly opera Howard Shore's operatic score for The Fly, which is closely based on David Cronenberg's 1986 film, is very colorful, and often quite lovely from moment to moment, and not at all like Shore's Lord of the Rings scores, let alone typical overbearing John Williams/Hans Zimmer-style Hollywood film music. It is spicy with dissonance, avoiding predictable turns, flirting with atonality -- even as the orchestral color and phrasing provide recognizable support for the nature of the drama unfolding on stage.

REVIEWS : Books : Gary K. Wolfe reviews Neal Stephenson

Locus Magazine features twenty book reviews in its September 2008 issue. Here's Gary K. Wolfe on Neal Stephenson's new novel Anathem.

anathem Anathem will more than repay the demands it makes, and will almost certainly become the topic of endless online seminars of its own. For others, it may become one of those classic philosophical fictions more browsed than read, more admired than engaged. In either case, its brilliance is undeniable...

REVIEWS : Books : Paul Witcover reviews Cecelia Holland

And here's Paul Witcover on Cecelia Holland's new novel Varanger.

holland varanger Cecelia Holland continues her quintet of meticulously researched, vividly imagined, action-packed novels exploring the Viking impact on tenth-century Northern Europe and North America. Holland is a skillful stylist and plotter. Her battle scenes are especially fine, the action related with precision but also capturing the headlong confusion of fast, brutal combat...

Sunday 31 August 2008

REVIEWS : Books : Russell Letson reviews Charles Stross

Locus Magazine features more than two dozen book reviews in its August 2008 issue. Here's Russell Letson on Charles Stross' new novel Saturn's Children.

stross Charles Stross dedicates Saturn's Children to the memories of Asimov and Heinlein -- so why did I keep thinking of Futurama and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? There's something very interesting going on in this book, genre-wise -- and, of course, it's also engaging, ingenious, and thoughtful. And funny.

REVIEWS : Books : Faren Miller reviews Ekaterina Sedia

And here's Faren Miller on Ekaterina Sedia's new novel The Alchemy of Stone.

kelly link Readers in Sedia's adopted home America are bound to think of 9/11. There's a familiar sense to a passage where even some more positive responses to the disaster lead one character to declare, "It makes me wonder, it truly does -- is a disaster the only thing that can bring us together? Are we that selfish, that embroiled in our own lives?" But The Alchemy of Stone isn't just a transparent allegory of recent events...

Thursday 21 August 2008

REVIEWS : Books : Yesterday's Tomorrows: Philip José Farmer

Graham Sleight's column from Locus Magazine looks at four classic titles by Philip José Farmer.

farmer Almost everything he's written makes clear what its sources are and what the writer thinks of them. So "The Lovers" can be seen as a vastly more adult take on the first contact stories that had been written in SF up to that point... In fact, the word that springs to mind — and I hope one can use it without the pejorative these days — is fan fiction.

Monday 18 August 2008

REVIEWS : Films :
For All Maggotkind, or, Swatted Dreams: A Review of Fly Me to the Moon

fly me to the moon An oddly bifurcated film, almost at war with itself: in part a brilliantly animated, awe-inspiring depiction of the entire flight of Apollo 11 from liftoff to descent -- juxtaposed with a rather ordinary kid's cartoon about adorable little flies and their amusing antics.

Thursday 24 July 2008

REVIEWS : Books : Gary K. Wolfe reviews Margo Lanagan

Locus Magazine features three dozen book reviews in its July 2008 issue. Here's Gary K. Wolfe on Margo Lanagan's new novel Tender Morsels.

lanagan Lanagan's Tender Morsels is perhaps best approached without any YA preconceptions, for reasons that become apparent before we're halfway through the prologue, which begins literally with a roll in the hay...

REVIEWS : Books : Amelia Beamer reviews Kelly Link

And here's Amelia Beamer on Kelly Link's new collection Pretty Monsters.

kelly link Link freely uses the cast and furniture of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but for the most part, the narrative worlds in Link's stories do not follow the rules of any of these genres. Her characters aren't afraid of (or astonished by) zombies and ghosts and wizards. Strangely enough, the emotional payoff from all of this wackiness is something akin to what science fiction readers call sense of wonder.

Sunday 20 July 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews The Dark Knight

dark knight

This fine film offers an intriguing meditation on the character of one of America's most enduring superheroes, a meticulously constructed argument about conflicting attitudes towards crime, and even a cautionary tale about the use or misuse of advanced technology.

Sunday 13 July 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews Journey to the Center of the Earth


Journey to the Center of the Earth is at least better than we had any right to expect, a lively and enjoyable popcorn movie that only occasionally insults the intelligence of filmgoers. ... Whatever its shortcomings as a film, Journey to the Center of the Earth is still one of the best adaptations of [Verne's] works.

Sunday 29 June 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews Wall·E


It constitutes a sad commentary on contemporary filmmaking to report that one of the best science fiction films I've seen in years is a G-rated animated cartoon, but that strangely is the case... I have enormous respect for Andrew Stanton and the other people involved in making this film, and believe they are capable of the sort of subtlety rarely seen in contemporary filmmaking. So, allow me to turn to what I regard as the really unsettling aspects of this story...

Friday 27 June 2008

•   Special Feature: Comments from this year's Locus Poll & Survey

feb issue

Voters in this year's Locus Poll and Survey offered criticism and suggestions, had words of praise for Locus, commented on the state of the SF/F/H fields, and gave insight into their own preferences and reading habits.

Winners of the poll were announced last weekend; complete poll results are published in the upcoming July issue.

The page of voter comments is open to (moderated) comments.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Greg Bear reviews Damien Broderik

Locus Magazine features three dozen book reviews in its June 2008 issue. Here's guest reviewer Greg Bear on Damien Broderick's speculative nonfiction anthology Year Million.


Extreme sport of the intellectual variety — that's one way to characterize writing about the far future. In this innovative collection of new essays, Damien Broderick has marshaled some of the brightest minds in science fiction and futurist thinking, instructing them to climb very high mountains and tell us what might lie on the other side.

Nick Gevers reviews Daniel Abraham

And here's Nick Gevers on Daniel Abraham's novel An Autumn War.


With its third installment Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet moves from relatively quiet patterns of intrigue to large-scale violence, and the power of the series, considerable before, becomes quite formidable. Abraham, one of the most gifted newer fantasists, keeps his material under tight control, and by this cool restraint if anything magnifies the tension of his narrative.

Monday 16 June 2008

•   Feature:

Yesterday's Tomorrows: Algis Budrys

Graham Sleight's "Yesterday's Tomorrows" column from Locus Magazine's June 2008 issue examined three classic novels by Algis Budrys -- who died last week at the age of 77.

budrys michaelmas

The author I want to discuss this time seems to have none of his work available in North America, the UK, or Australia, although a couple of his books were reissued in 2000 and 2001. That said, given the online book-finding resources available these days, it shouldn't be too difficult to track them down. I want to make the case that it's worth doing so.

Thursday 12 June 2008

•   Feature:

Yesterday's Tomorrows: Eight Contemporary Classics

Graham Sleight's "Yesterday's Tomorrows" column from Locus Magazine looks at contemporary classics by Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Christopher Priest, Greg Egan, Richard Morgan, Dan Simmons, Alastair Reynolds, and Paul J. McAuley.

gollancz classics

The occasion for all this is the reissue, by Gollancz in the UK, of eight of their backlist titles as "Future Classics." The oldest dates from 1985, the newest from 2002. Five are by British authors, two by Americans, one by an Australian. None are women.

Friday 6 June 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews the film documentary
about Harlan Ellison, Dreams with Sharp Teeth

The film is playing at New York City's Film Forum for a week, through June 10th.

dreams with sharp teeth

I am determined to write a review of a new documentary entitled Dreams with Sharp Teeth, and not a review of its subject, Harlan Ellison. Indeed, while some commentary will surely prove inevitable, I would like to say as little as possible about Ellison, the writer who, by means of his habit of phoning and screaming at anyone who writes something about him which he disapproves of, has unknowingly done more than any living writer to promote self-censorship among science fiction critics.

Friday 30 May 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Gary K. Wolfe reviews Walter Jon Williams

Locus Magazine features over two dozen reviews in its May 2008 issue. Here's Gary K. Wolfe on Walter Jon Williams' novel Implied Spaces.


Williams is asking what good the singularity is purely as a literary device — what possibilities does it open up for the SF novelist, and how do these possibilities relate to earlier traditions? Williams's answer is interesting and often delightful, if not always fully worked out, and his angle of approach harks back to classic ludenic SF writers like Zelazny and Farmer...

Russell Letson reviews Elizabeth Bear

And here's Russell Letson on Elizabeth Bear's novel Dust.


Dust is the opening volume of a new three-book sequence by Elizabeth Bear, a genre- and gender-bending mixture of fantasy motifs overlaid on a very-high-tech lost-starship scenario that had me thinking of Karl Schroeder and Roger Zelazny right away.

Monday 26 May 2008

•   Feature Review:

Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person review
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

indiana jones

Not only is this a sequel to Raiders, in many ways it's an homage to it. Certainly part of the appeal is nostalgia for a film now a quarter-century old. And certainly this sucker is going to make a mint. But there's still enough of the old magic, and heart, left in to leave no doubt that this was a film that everyone involved really wanted to make for the characters and story, not just for the paycheck.

Monday 5 May 2008

•   Feature Review:

Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person review
Iron Man

iron man

Most of my complaints have to do with the nature of the plot, but the direction is first rate, and the first 20 minutes fly along with just the right economy of motion. I also like the fact that Stark is actually shown doing engineering design work. ...Actually, of the recent spate of superhero movies, this is probably better than anything but the first two Spiderman and X-Men films and Batman Begins.

Thursday 24 April 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Russell Letson reviews Greg Egan

Locus Magazine features over two dozen reviews in its April 2008 issue. Here's Russell Letson on two new books by Greg Egan.


A very welcome double shot of Greg Egan — Dark Integers and Other Stories, a collection of five novelettes covering 13 years, and Incandescence, a new novel demonstrates his range and his consistent focus on philosophical questions enabled by mathematical conjectures and the thought-experimental possibilities of various post-human conditions...

Faren Miller reviews Felix Gilman

And here's Faren Miller on Felix Gilman's debut novel Thunderer.


The various plot threads lead to a powerful series of denouements that could serve as both endings and beginnings, extending beyond the city and deep into its heart. Whether or not Gilman returns to some of his surviving characters in future work, I don't think we're in danger of any cookie-cutter sequels from this talented new fantasist.

Monday 21 April 2008

•   Feature Review:

Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person review
The Forbidden Kingdom

forbidden kingdom

This was lot better than we expected it to be. Not only does it blow away anything Jackie Chan's done in American films, it's actually as good as one of his middling Hong Kong films, which is high praise indeed. It's a kung fu time-travel movie for the whole family.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

•   Special Features

Locus Online's roving correspondents report the following developments and breaking news in this busy Spring of 2008...

New Heinlein Novel to be Written
Immew Sill Chalazion reveals the existence of a previously unknown manuscript.

» Multiple Moorcocks to Receive Grand Master Award
Paoli du Flippi reports on the upcoming SFWA event.

» Doctorow releases self under Creative Commons License
Marshal Gegith has the details.

» Bravo TV Wraps First Season of Top Writer
Ferje Vedfamner has seen the first episode.

» Howard Waldrop Upgrades to Steam-Powered Typewriter
L. Ron Creepweans' advice pays off.

» VanderMeers to Assemble Anthology of Kincaidism
Flip Luppaidio looks at Jeff & Ann VanderMeers' latest anthology project.

» Final Martin Manuscript Triggers Mass Suicides at Bantam
Narceen Plowers was there when it happened.

Friday 28 March 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Faren Miller reviews James Morrow

Locus Magazine features over two dozen reviews in its March 2008 issue. Here's Faren Miller on James Morrow's new novel The Philosopher's Apprentice.


...Enlightenment notions can have very little relevance in a particularly mad sector of a mad, mad world. Of course Morrow himself knows this all too well, and keeps escalating the weirdness and the mind games that surround his hapless hero until the plot achieves a degree of insane improbability that's the hallmark of Swiftian satire. Call it fantasy, SF, or some mixture of the two, it's perfectly suited to expose humankind's pretense of rationality for the delusion it really is.

Graham Sleight reviews Iain M. Banks

And here's Graham Sleight on Iain M. Banks' novel Matter.


Matter, Banks's first SF novel since The Algebraist, and first Culture novel since Look to Windward, is told by the merry chatterer for most of its length. Indeed, much of its story doesn't feel like SF at all. It has more to do with the dynastic intrigues you might find in the fantasy novels of, say, George R.R. Martin.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

•   Feature Essay:

Gary Westfahl updates his controversial 2003 essay about Columbia and the promises of science fiction in Tunnel Vision and the Unfarmed Sky

Large numbers of people within the science fiction community apparently still believe that human beings, using only the technology of today, are perfectly capable of doing everything that science fiction said they could be doing in the early twenty-first century, and if hardy farmers aren't planting their crops on the surface of Ganymede in the year 2008, that is simply because we have all been betrayed by a short-sighted public, gutless politicians, inept bureaucrats, and effete academics...

Tuesday 11 March 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews Cj7


The capsule summary of Cj7 on everyone's lips — that it is a Chinese version of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) — is accurate enough. I would also argue that Stephen Chow's effort is, in my expert opinion, a much better film than E.T.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kathleen Duey

Locus Magazine features over two dozen reviews in its February 2008 issue. Here's Gary K. Wolfe on Kathleen Duey's young adult novel Skin Hunger.


Skin Hunger is one of the more accomplished and original fantasy novels of the year, and the trilogy it inaugurates might well constitute a major work (the narrative here is too truncated to claim that quite yet). ... [I]f the remainder of the Resurrection of Magic plays out at this level of intensity, it will easily take its place among those YA trilogies that ought to earn the attention of fantasy readers of any age.

Russell Letson reviews Chris Roberson

And here's Russell Letson on Chris Roberson's novel The Dragon's Nine Sons.


Here, as in The Voyage of Night Shining White, character, character relationships, and cultural background are at least as compelling as the melodramatic action in the foreground. In fact, those are the qualities that would have me return to this charming and oddly-retro-feeling alternate future.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

•   Update: Locus Index to SF Awards

The Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards is now updated with most awards results through the end of 2007, plus 2008 lists so far announced.
» Includes the first online listing of the complete 2007 Locus Poll results

Monday 18 February 2008

•   Feature Review:

Gary Westfahl reviews Jumper


Pondering why Steven Gould's novel works so well, and why this film doesn't work at all, reveals yet again that the wisest observation ever made about the film industry is, "Nobody knows anything." In this case, with access to delightful source material that might have yielded a charming, low-key movie classic, a small army of Hollywood smart guys made all the right moves and ended up producing a one hundred million dollar mess which, if it is lucky, will earn back enough money to cover its catering bills.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

•   Feature:

Yesterday's Tomorrows: Ray Bradbury

Graham Sleight's "Yesterday's Tomorrows" column from Locus Magazine looks at classic works by Ray Bradbury.

ray bradbury

I don't think a critic should go on too much about their own personal experiences, because the point of criticism is after all to get past the personal and find responses to a work that are of more general use. But I can't do that so easily with Bradbury...

Wednesday 30 January 2008

•   Locus Magazine: Sample Reviews

Gary K. Wolfe reviews Paolo Bacigalupi

Locus Magazine features over two dozen reviews in its January 2008 issue. Here's Gary K. Wolfe on Paolo Bacigalupi's collection Pump Six and Other Stories.


If Bacigalupi challenges SF's traditional valorization of reason, he's very much an SF writer in the particulars. One can hear echoes of everyone from Harlan Ellison to David Bunch, Geoff Ryman, and even H.G. Wells here — there are shadows of Morlocks and Eloi all over — but Bacigalupi is mostly the spiritual heir of C.M. Kornbluth, one of the few classic-age SF writers with a similarly grim and mordant view of human nature.

Faren Miller reviews Ekaterina Sedia

And here's Faren Miller on Ekaterina Sedia's novel The Secret History of Moscow.


With a mix of blunt, colloquial language, wry humor, a generous dollop of psychological traumas, and some fine descriptive passages (whether setting a scene, showing moments of self-understanding, or producing both in one decisive moment), Sedia moves effortlessly from a '90s Moscow where the world seems to have gone "upside-down overnight," to its magical counterpart where weirdness is the norm...

Monday 28 January 2008

•   Feature Essay:

Jeff VanderMeer's 2007: The Best of the Year

cisco the traitor

Jeff VanderMeer's surveys the year's best novels, first novels, anthologies, graphic novels, notable reprints, and overlooked books, by Dan Simmons, Michael Cisco, Susan Palwick, Brian Francis Slattery, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Shaun Tan, K.J. Parker, Kelley Eskridge, and many others.

•   Feature Essay:

Claude Lalumière's 2007: Recommended Reading

tatulli lio

Claude Lalumière recommends slipstream and cross genre novels, genre collections, associated nonfiction, and comics, highlighting favorites by Nicholas Christopher, Cory Doctorow, Alan Weisman, and Mark Tatulli.

Monday 21 January 2008

•   Feature Review:

Howard Waldrop and Lawrence Person review


Split decision on Cloverfield, AKA The Blair Witch Godzilla. Howard thinks it's a noble failure. Despite reservations going in, Lawrence thinks it's one of the most effective, and terrifying, monster movies of recent memory.



Earlier Reviews/Features Archives: