Best weapons in fantasy


Today’s topic of discussion is rather simple. What is the coolest weapon you have ever seen grace the page of a fantasy story? I have a couple in mind I’d like to...

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Sleeping Giants: Sci-fi thriller debut is one of the best of 2016


Readers’ average rating: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants honorably borrows from notable films — Pacific Rim, The Iron Giant, and the...

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Mystery in Fantasy


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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Rate books, Win books!


We’re interested in your thoughts about the books we review, and we know this information will be helpful to other readers, so we’re asking YOU to rate books...

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Recent Posts

WWWednesday: October 18, 2017

Cat Pumpkin



Word for Wednesday:

According to Haggard Hawks, the noun trollock is old English for a worn our coat or garment. This word has also been appropriated to refer to certain behavior on the internet, as in, “Save your trollocking for those who haven’t read it a million times.”

Donations:

Northern coastal California is facing the most destructive set of wildfires in our history. In Sonoma County, where I live, 19% of the population has been displaced, at least temporarily, by the fires. The Red Cross (of course) will accept donations. If, like me, you prefer to donate to local groups when you can, the Redwood Empire Credit Union has a fund for victims of fires in Mendocin... Read More

A Monster Calls: The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

Readers’ average rating:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, Conor O'Malley is visited by a monster. But it's not the monster he's expecting. This monster is wild and ancient. This monster comes in the form of a yew tree that usually stands atop the hill Conor can see from his bedroom window, in the middle of the graveyard. Except that now it is here, outside his bedroom window, and it wants something from Conor.

Conor O'Malley started getting nightmares after his mother got sick. In them he has terrible visions, visions which not even the monstrous yew can compare too, and it is perhaps for this reason that Conor is able to have a relatively nonplussed conversation with the tree outside his window. The mass of leaves and branches takes the shape of a man, and it seems to think Conor summoned him. The tree tells Conor he will tell him three true stories, after which Conor will have to ... Read More

The Small Hand: I’m giving it a big hand

Readers’ average rating:

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Susan Hill’s first ghost novel, 1983’s The Woman in Black, had recently surprised this reader by being one of the scariest modern-day horror outings that I’ve run across in years. Thus, I decided to see if lightning could possibly strike twice, and picked up her more-recent The Small Hand (2010). This latter title is the fourth of Ms. Hill’s five ghost novels to date, following The Mist in the Mirror (1992) and The Man in the Picture (2007), and preceding her recent Read More

The Beyond: All Hell busts loose

Readers’ average rating:

The Beyond directed by Lucio Fulci

In the 1977 film The Sentinel, a character played by Cristina Raines moves into a Brooklyn Heights apartment building that, as it turns out, sits above the gateway to Hell. But as Italian director Lucio Fulci shows us in the third picture of his so-called Zombie Quartet, 1981's The Beyond (which picture followed 1979's Zombie and 1980's City of the Living Dead and preceded that same year's House By the Cemetery), there are actually SEVEN gateways on Earth that lead down to the infernal nether regions! Here, a NYC-based woman named Liza Merrill (beautiful English actress Catriona MacColl, who stars in the final three films of the Quartet) inherits a run-down inn called the Seven Doors Hotel, in Louisiana. After a series of gruesome accidents transpires around the property, Liza is warned by a mysterious blind girl, Emily (Cinzia Monr... Read More

Boneyard: Fantastical creatures and a few chills

Readers’ average rating:

Boneyard by Seanan McGuire

Fans of the Deadlands tabletop RPG series will be happy to know that Boneyard (2017),  Seanan McGuire’s addition to the two previously published tie-in novels Ghostwalkers (2015) and Thunder Moon Rising (2016), is chock-full of Weird West goodness, steampunk-style mechanical creations, and mighty strange bumps in the night. Fans of McGuire’s fiction will be happy to know that Boneyard’s weirdness is matched by a strong and complicated main character, more fantastical creatures than you can shake a stick at, and... Read More

The Fall of the Kings: This book vanished like a ship in the Bermuda triangle, and I think I know why

Readers’ average rating:

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman

Ellen Kushner published Swordspoint in 1986. It gathered a swarm of fans who loved the prose, the magicless world with its glittering veneer and cloak-and-dagger intrigue, and the love story at its center. Readers clamored to know more of steadfast, enigmatic swordsman Richard St.Vier and his lover, the brilliant, neurotic noble Alec Campion.

In 2003, Ellen Kushner, writing with Delia Sherman, published The Fall of the Kings. Although it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award and a Locus Award, The Fall of the Kings... Read More

Tokyo Gore Police: “Once upon a time there was an engineer…”

Readers’ average rating:

Tokyo Gore Police directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura

Those viewers who thought the pyrotechnic gore FX of Yoshihiro Nishimura in the 2001 cult item Suicide Club to be a bit too over the top may want to hold on to their seats and wrap themselves in a full-length rubber coverall as Tokyo Gore Police begins to unspool. Living up to its title in spades, this 2008 offering does indeed give us a look at the cops in Japan's capital city in the near future, and ladles out more of the red stuff than The Wild Bunch, El Topo, The Evil Dead AND Dead Alive (four films once deemed the ne plus ultra of violence) put together ... and then some!

In this film, Nishimura has developed the "human blood fountain" to a fine art, a concept that I believe Akira Kurosawa initially used to great shock effect at the tail end of 1962's Sanjuro. Viewers with any sort of aver... Read More

The Ship of the Dead: Rough sailing for Magnus in the Nine Worlds

Readers’ average rating: 

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

When Naglfar ― a ship made out of the fingernails and toenails of the dead, eek! ― sets sail, carrying hordes of giants and zombies warriors to fight the gods of Asgard, Ragnarok and a world-ending battle aren’t far behind. Ragnarok can’t be entirely avoided (unfortunately, it’s an inevitable prophecy), but perhaps it can be delayed for a while longer?

As The Ship of the Dead (2017), the third and final book in Rick Riordan's MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series, begins, Loki has escaped from his imprisonment by the gods and is getting the dreaded ship Naglfar ready to sail against the gods, tr... Read More

Cast No Shadow: Good premise but weak execution

Readers’ average rating:

Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa

Cast No Shadow, written by Nick Tapalansky and illustrated by Anissa Espinosa, is a mostly muddled graphic story that mixes the paranormal, teen romance/angst, and coming of age in a blend that never really coheres.

Greg Shepard is a boy born without a shadow in a small town whose mayor regularly tries to rejuvenate the town via a string of cheap tourist-trap draws (The World’s Biggest fill-in-the-blank). Being without a shadow is the least of his issues though:  his mother died when he was young, his father has a new girlfriend (Ruth) whom Greg refuses to engage with, he’s regularly annoyed by the mayor’s son, and adding insult to injury, his best friend Layla is dating said annoyance. When he and Layla visit the town’s abandoned and decrepit mansion, Greg meets Eleanor, the ghost of a f... Read More

Inferno: A “mater” of life and death

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Inferno directed by Dario Argento

In Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, the viewer learns that the ballet school known as the Tanz Akademie, in Freiburg, Germany, was the home to a coven of witches led by a being later revealed to be the Mater Suspiriorum, Latin for "Mother of Sighs." And three years later, in Argento's semisequel, Inferno, the viewer learns something even more disturbing. The Mother of Sighs, the oldest, was apparently only one of three sister entities; living somewhere in Rome, there exists the Mater Lacrimarum (Mother of Tears), the most beautiful of the three (we DO get a look at her in Inferno, I THINK, in the guise of a music student played by Ania Pieroni), while in New York City abides Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness), the youngest and cruelest of the bunch. Together, the trio has caused woe to mankind for untold ages.

And when a young ... Read More