20 Heroes: The Lady


Last in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Electra Wilson. In the White Garden are many mirrors and many pools. She wanders among them in the unfailing...

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Chocolat: Pure indulgence and a hint of magic


Readers’ average rating: Chocolat by Joanne Harris I love stories that feature outright magic, fantastical worlds and mythical creatures — but sometimes all it takes is a tiny...

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Romani Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Part 2


Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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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 Bear and the Serpent: A battle for a throne; a war for survival

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The Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Bear and the Serpent (2017), an epic shapeshifter fantasy set in a Bronze Age type of era, is the sequel to 2016's The Tiger and the Wolf. It follows the continuing adventures of a young woman named Maniye, who has an unusual dual heritage that allows her to instantly shapeshift into Wolf (her father’s people) and Tiger (her mother’s). Now Maniye has been gifted a third form by the gods, called a Champion: a massive wolf/tiger/bear hybrid creature that's a serious threat in battle. Maniye has gathered a warband of Wolves around her, those who didn’t fit well in the rigid clan structure of their Wolf tribe. She and her Wolf group, along with a few other stray shapeshifters, are following Asmander of the River Lord (croc... Read More

Point Blank: Alex Rider is back (in more ways than one!)

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Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

I read the first book in the ALEX RIDER series (Stormbreaker) several years ago, and since I enjoyed it so much, I've no idea why it's taken me this long to get to its sequel: Point Blank, named for the elite boarding school high in the French Alps. Here the troubled sons of millionaires are sent in order to be tutored in isolation, away from any bad influences, though MI5 is concerned when two of the students' fathers are found dead in unusual circumstances. Surely it can't be a coincidence?

They decide to send in Alex Rider, the nephew of deceased agent Ian Rider, who has previously been used to infiltrate an organization that only a teenager could explore without attracting undue attention. Trained by MI5 and given a ... Read More

Autonomous: Is anyone truly autonomous?

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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

2017’s Autonomous is Annalee Newitz’s first novel. Autonomous questions what life would be like in a world with AI, a world where everything is property, whether it’s physical, molecular or intellectual.

Pirate Jack (Judith) Chen is a biologist who started off fighting the restrictive patent system that keeps vital medicines away from people who need them, guaranteeing instead corporate profits. Disillusioned, she has become a pharma-pirate. To her horror, a productivity drug she reverse-engineered is causing deaths. Jack is eager to get her knockoff version off the market, but then she learns that there is no error in her pirated drug; the official drug has the same effects and that news is being suppressed.

Meanwhile two operatives from the International Property Coalit... Read More

A Phule And His Money: Lacks the appealing qualities of the previous books

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A Phule And His Money by Robert Asprin

The first two books in Robert Asprin’s PHULE’S COMPANY series, Phule’s Company and Phule’s Paradise, were fairly amusing and worth my time, especially in the audio formats that have been recently produced by Tantor Audio. However, this third book, A Phule And His Money, which was co-written with Peter J. Heck, was sadly lacking in the qualities that made the previous novels so much fun.

The story begins immediately after the events of Phule’s Paradise. The gang has just saved the Fat Chance... Read More

SFM: Gregory, Roanhorse, Vernon, Mamatas & Pratt, Clarke, Lowachee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (2005, free in print and audio at Clarkesworld, November 2017 issue; originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2005 issue)

I love what Daryl Gregory does with drugs. “Second Person, Present Tense” is about the parents of a girl who died after overdosing on a drug called “Zen” or “Zombie.” Unable to cope with their loss, they latch on to a homeless girl (our narrator) who they hope will come live with them a... Read More

Hymn: Wraps up the series in solid fashion

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Hymn by Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes brings his PSALMS OF ISAAK series to a close with Hymn (2017), a novel that satisfactorily ends the series, even if the novel is perhaps a bit weaker in comparison to its predecessors.

One of the series’ strengths has always been Scholes’ vibrant imagination, and Hymn retains that quality here, building on earlier concepts and adding new ones, which I won’t detail here so as to avoid spoilers. Another positive quality of the series has been its, well, positive quality. By that I mean that while some horrific things happen in this series (and this book) there always remains a sense of optimism and warmth arising from either plot or the characters. Rather than an unremitting catalog of the ills o... Read More

Oathbringer: Ambitious in scope and depth; often compelling if a bit over-long

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Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

So I’ve decided there’s so much to cover in Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (1200+ pages), and there so much I can’t say so as to avoid spoilers, that I’m going to eschew the usual seamless essay structure for this review and just go with relating some brief and, at times, necessarily vague reactions to various aspects.

Structure: As with the other books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance), Sanderson offers up multiple POVs, with the flashback POV going to Dalinar this time around. Some of what we learn of his past won’t co... Read More

Sunday Status Update: December 10, 2017

Character update on break this week.

Jana: This week's FanLit reading was yet again complicated by homeowner stress, and I did a lot more me-reading in an effort to keep myself sane. So that meant books like Murder at the Vicarage and Legends and Tales of the American West, and I leisurely made my way through Philip Pullman's  Read More

The Whymer Maze from Lamentation to Hymn (giveaway!)

Today we welcome Ken Scholes, author of the PSALMS OF ISAAK series, which began with Lamentation and concludes this month with the fifth volume, Hymn. I have enjoyed this series, especially its internal mythology and interesting characters.

One randomly chosen commenter will win a copy of Hymn!

The Whymer Maze from Lamentation to Hymn


I think sometime around Canticle or Antiphon Read More

Mandelbrot the Magnificent: An almost-mystical origin story

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Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska

Prior to reading this novella, what I knew about the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot would have fit into an embarrassingly small thimble (with plenty of room to spare). I identified fractal shapes simply as “tessellations on steroids” and my only reference point for a “mandelbrot” was a delicious cookie.

But thanks to Liz Ziemska, I have a much greater appreciation for Mandelbrot’s work in his field, as well as the passion and determination that sustained him through his years in Nazi-occupied France. Mandelbrot the Magnificent (2017) blends real and imagined history with high-level mathematical equations and principles, and the result is a lovely little “psuedobiography.”

In his ow... Read More