Neal Stephenson on Swords


When Star Wars came out, I was terribly excited to see they were using swords, and I remember reading Dune and being hugely impressed by the fact that Frank Herbert had come up...

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The Habitation of the Blessed: Perfect source material for Valente


The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente [Note: I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version of The Habitation of the Blessed read by Ralph Lister. It took me a while...

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Strangely Beautiful’s Uncanny Real-Life Magic


Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, artist and the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker...

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Our rating system


We realize that we’re not professional literature critics — we’re just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction — but we...

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Recent Posts

The Bard’s Blade: A solid enough first book that left me wanting more bite

The Bard’s Blade by Brian D. Anderson

The Bard’s Blade (2020), by Brian D. Anderson, is the first book of THE SORCERER’S SONG trilogy and as such it’s a perfectly serviceable fantasy, a comfortingly welcome invitation into a new series. If that seems a bit like damning with faint praise, that’s because while the novel goes down easily and smoothly, I can’t say there’s anything that makes it particularly stand out. I’d say it’s the vanilla flavor at a Ben and Jerry’s, save that vanilla is actually my favorite flavor. Maybe it’s a peanut-butter sandwich. It satisfies, it fills that need in your stomach, assuages your hunger, but you won’t be grabbing someone in the grocery store while they’re shopping and telling them, “You really have to try a peanut-butter sandwich!”

The story opens in Vyla... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in December 2019. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title



Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday, you can come back and identify more.

Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a winner within 2 weeks, plea... Read More

The Bronze Skies: Another adventure in the undercity

The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro

The Bronze Skies (2017) is the second book in Catherine Asaro’s MAJOR BHAAJAN series. In the first book, Undercity, we met Bhaajan, a private investigator who recently retired from military service. When she is hired by the royal family to track down a runaway prince, she must descend into the grimy tunnels under the capital city of Cries. This is where the lowest cast of citizens live — in the city’s underbelly — and this is where Bhaajan grew up before escaping into the military. As Bhaajan searches for the prince, it’s easy to draw parallels between the class system of Cries and our own world’s socioeconomic hierarchies.

In The Bronze Skies Read More

WWWednesday: January 15, 2020

Passing:

Mike Resnick passed away at the age of 77. His best-known book was probably Kirinyaga, but Wikipedia lists 69 books for him, including tie-ins and some mysteries. He won the Hugo and the Nebula in 1995 for his story “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” and a Hugo in 1991 for his novelette “The Monamouki.” Recently he edited Galaxy’s Edge. On Twitter, Tobias Buckell acknowledged Resnick as one of his Clarion teachers, a mentor and an inspiration.

File770 has an obituary.

Neil Peart, extraordinary drummer and the lyricist for Rush, passed away. John Scalzi added a Rush video to his blog in memoriam. Read More

Shatter City: A fast-paced follow-up to Impostors

Shatter City by Scott Westerfeld

Shatter City (2019) is the sequel to Scott Westerfeld’s Impostors, a set of four novels extending his UGLIES series by picking up roughly a decade after that earlier quartet ended. As I noted in my review of Impostors, this series doesn’t quite match the high quality of those earlier books, and seems aimed at a somewhat younger audience, but still retains enough of Westerfeld’s plotting strengths to make for an often exhilarating read. Fair warning, some inevitable spoilers for book one ahead.

The first point to note is you’ll definitely want to have read Impostors before picking up Shatter City. I won... Read More

Strange Exit: Muddled plot and mostly flat characterization

Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse

Decades after the Earth was destroyed by nuclear war and its aftermath, a group of teens aboard an orbiting spaceship meant as a refuge are stuck in a VR stasis while their ship falls apart around them. Only if all them “wake up” and exit the VR simulation will the ship allow them to leave. One girl, 17-year-old Lake, has made it her mission to return again and again into the sim, despite the danger of getting stuck in there, to wake those still “living” there. She’s joined by her younger sister Willow in the form of a sim “figment” (her sister is lost in real life) and a young boy, Taren, whom she recently awakened, as they race against time to save the teens and the ship.

Such is the premise of Parker Peevyhouse’s 2020 YA novel Strange Exit. The premise is in... Read More

Exhalation: A strong collection by Ted Chiang

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s stories are the very best kind of speculative fiction. They’re modern, sophisticated, intelligent, clever, thoughtful, and entertaining. Best of all, they’re full of futuristic science and explorations of the personal, sociological, and ethical considerations we may be facing as science and technology advance.

Most of the stories in Exhalation have seen print before; only two are new. Here are my thoughts on each:

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" — Originally published in 2007 by Subterranean Press, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. A man in Baghdad visits a merchant who shows him a gate that allows his customers to go backward and forward in time. Both amusing and poignant,... Read More

Come Tumbling Down: An entrancing world of heroes and monsters

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children was an island of misfit toys, a place to put the unfinished stories and the broken wanderers who could butcher a deer and string a bow but no longer remembered what to do with indoor plumbing. It was also, more importantly, a holding pen for heroes. Whatever they might have become when they’d been cast out of their chosen homes, they’d been heroes once, each in their own ways. And they did not forget.

Come Tumbling Down (2020), the fifth installment in Seanan McGuire’s WAYWARD CHILDREN YA fantasy series, returns to the conflicted relationship between twins Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill Wolcott, in a some-months-later sequel to where we left them at the end of Read More

An Unkindness of Magicians: Dark and brisk with lots of good visuals

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

Wizard tournaments and wizard duels are standard fare in fantasy now, and Kat Howard puts the concept to good use in her fast-paced An Unkindness of Magicians. Published in 2017, the story follows a group of families based in Manhattan, who call themselves the Unseen World. They use magic to enrich themselves, gain power and ensure their comforts. Periodically, they engage in a magical struggle for control called the Turning, in which each family or House appoints a champion who duels other champions, often to the death. The House whose champion wins the tournament becomes the Head of the Unseen World until the next Turning, which is usually twenty years. When the book opens, the Turning has been announced seven years early, and two wild card champions are set to disrupt things in a big way.... Read More

Sunday Status Update: January 12, 2020

Jana: This week I managed to read Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down, the latest in her WAYWARD CHILDREN series (and the first instalment I’ve read), and Literary Yarns: Crochet Projects Inspired by Classic Books, by Cindy Wang. I enjoyed Come Tumbling Down quite a bit, and it’s given me the boost I needed to seek out the preceding four books in the series so that I can better appreciate who/what the characters and overarching world are. Literary Yarns has a lot of fun-looking projects in it, like making a tiny Read More