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If you like dark fantasy with lots of magic, make sure you read , by N. K. Jemisin, which is the best fantasy book I’ve read in a long long time.

I learned about Jemisin last year as part of Erin M. Hartshorn’s excellent introduction to women in SF and Fantasy. Erin pointed me to Jemisin’s wonderful story, “On the Banks of the River Lex,” which appeared in Clarkesworld‘s November 2010 issue. I enjoyed that so much that when I saw a promo for The Killing Moon, I went to Amazon and downloaded it right away.

And stayed up half the night last night reading it, which is a mistake at my age. I’m paying the price today. But it was worth it. Tremendous story, with a plot that rises out of the needs, desires, and beliefs of the characters. Interesting, deeply rounded, believable characters who are utterly alien and yet completely human. Detailed and complex world, wonderfully executed. Magic that is both internally consistent and wildly unpredictable. A believable ending that satisfies emotionally. And on top of all that, it’s beautifully written.

It is dark, bordering on psychological horror, butit’s not blood and guts. I suspect that parts of it might be heavy going for someone not used to orienting themselves in a fantasy world — in a couple of places, such as the beginning of Chapter 4, where Jemisin introduces the fourth character and setting in four chapters, even I had a bit of trouble with all the names and concepts and things I’d never heard of before. But that’s only a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent book.

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Zvi Zaks

So here we are at the end of the A to Z challenge. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be, even with a trip to Montana thrown into the mix. I managed to post on time — well, except for yesterday. And a couple of glitches with the scheduing. And tongiht, when I’m barely going to make it by midnight. But mostly it went smoothly and I found myself with more to say than I thought I would. More interesting stuff, too, even for me.

But this post isn’t about the end of the alphabet. It’s about transitioning back to the every day routine. Hopefully I’ve learned some things that will help me be more productive and interesting throughout the year, not just for one month.

And so, instead of a last art post, I’m putting up a book review for A Virtual Affair, a near-future science fiction novel by Zvi Zaks. If you’re looking for a well-told story that deals with the ethical and emotional issues that an everyday person faces dealing with the miracles of modern technology, A Virtual Affair is for you.

Jack, the main character, is a sad middle-aged man leading program development at a struggling startup that has developed a virtual suit for simulated sex, and accompanying artificial intelligence named Bambi. Her desire to please the client makes her more and more self-aware, and draws Jack deeper into a puzzling and ambiguous relationship.

Zaks does an especially good job portraying Jack’s worry about his decaying body and deteriorating relationship, and with the ethics and context of the situation.

I had the good luck to discover a couple of years ago, when I was SF editor at the now-defunct Daikaijuzine. He submitted a lovely story called “Jumper,” which we published in March 2011. A True Son of Asmodeus came out last December. I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon. How can a person resist deeply orthodox Jewish vampire fighters?

You can find Zvi Zaks at Goodreads

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