Weathering a Dearth of Ideas


Today we’re pleased to welcome Rachel Hartman, currently on a blog tour for her newest work Shadow Scale, the sequel to her very well-received Seraphina (I loved Seraphina and...

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Lud-in-the-Mist: Unconventional and terribly lovely


Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees I find myself in something of an awkward position with Lud-in-the-Mist, which is in part why it’s difficult to review. The fact of the matter is...

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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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Recent Posts

The World of the Giant Ants: Bugging out

The World of the Giant Ants by A. Hyatt Verrill

In two novels that I recently read, Ralph Milne Farley’s The Radio Man (1924) and its sequel, The Radio Beasts (1925), engineer Myles Cabot accidentally transports himself to Venus and discovers a society of enormous and intelligent ants, the so-called Formians. But, it would seem, if a certain book of 1928 is to be believed, Cabot did not have to leave planet Earth to discover such gigantic and civilized creatures. The book in question is The World of the Giant Ants, which initially appeared in the p... Read More

WWWednesday: February 26, 2019

Awards:

The Nebula finalists have been announced. Some interesting works on this list.

Katherine Johnson, shown here as President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.



Obituary:

Katherine Johnson, African American mathematician who worked for NASA and helped put people on the moon, died this week. She lived to be 101 years old, and an inspiration to many people. 

Books and Writing:

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Interior Chinatown: Guest starring in America

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

In his whimsical way, Charles Yu writes about the Asian-American immigrant experience in Interior Chinatown (2020). The story is about Willis Wu, a young man whose family lives in an SRO (Single-Room Occupancy Hotel) in the Chinatown of mid-20th century San Francisco. He’s the son of immigrants who came to America looking for a better life but who have been misunderstood, alienated, marginalized, ghettoized, and further discriminated against by an American government and populace that is always putting people into boxes and insisting that they stay there.

Willis’ goal in life is to appear as a “Generic Asian Man” in the popular TV show called Black and White, a ... Read More

False Value: Magic gets a 21st century reboot

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

It is hard to believe that we have reached the eighth book in Ben Aaronovitch's inimitable RIVERS OF LONDON series. Back with characteristic aplomb, Peter Grant returns in a somewhat unlikely position: he is interviewing for a job. He has, he explains to his new prospective employer, been suspended and is no longer working for the London Metropolitan Police. Given his previous track record of obliterating electronics, it might be surprising that Peter accepts a job at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation. But things are, as readers of the series are bound to anticipate, not quite as they seem.

The Folly, the building in which the state-sanctioned British magical institution resides, is under construction so Peter is staying at his girlfriend's. Beverly Brook is not only a river goddess, she is a... Read More

The Broken Crown: A slow, sprawling fantasy epic

The Broken Crown by Michelle West

I listened to 19 hours (60%) of the new audio version of Michelle West’s The Broken Crown before giving up. The Broken Crown (1997) is the first novel in West’s SUN SWORD series which contains six books that add up to a whopping 4,803 pages. After getting through 458 of these pages and feeling absolutely nothing, I was dreading the remaining 4,345. I decided to quit.

Many readers love long, slow, drawn-out fantasy epics. I used to, but the older I get, the less patience I have for them. I’ll enjoy them if the plot moves at a decent clip, if there are characters that I like and care about, if the world and magic system are fascinating, and if the writing style is appealing.

Unfortunately, The... Read More

Sunday Status Update: February 23, 2020

Jana: I’m still reading through A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name, and really enjoying it. I like what Larkwood’s doing with the characters and world-building, and the way she plays with fantasy-genre expectations without throwing everything out the window. My hope is to finish it next week, and then to get a review in the hopper shortly afterward.


Bill: This week I read in order of preference: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Queen of Raiders by Sarah Kozloff, Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy, and Read More

Hellboy (Vol. 11): The Bride of Hell and Others: Another Solid Hellboy Collection

Hellboy (Vol. 11): The Bride of Hell and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Richard Corben (artist), Kevin Nowlan (artist), and Scott Hampton (artist).

“Hellboy in Mexico, or A Drunken Blur” is a funny story about Hellboy’s lost five months in Mexico drinking and wrestling. The story starts in 1982 with Hellboy and Abe Sapien in Mexico together. Abe Sapien finds an old wrestling poster showing Hellboy with three other wrestlers. Hellboy tells him that it was from 1956. Hellboy then tells Abe the story of how he met the three wrestling brothers who were also monster hunters. Hellboy joined the brothers to fight monsters during the day and party at night. Then one night one of the brothers is taken by the vampires, and Hellboy goes in search of his lost friend. The story takes a strange turn once they locate the lost brother. Oh, yes, and there’s plenty of wrestling action.

“Double Feature of Evil” contains two stories tha... Read More

The Queen of Raiders: Satisfying, but left me wanting more

The Queen of Raiders by Sarah Kozloff

The Queen of Raiders (2020) is Sarah Kozloff’s second installment in her NINE REALMS series. In my review of book one, A Queen in Hiding, I used words like “nice,” “serviceable,” “pleasurable,” “solid,” and “satisfying,” eventually closing with “I’m hoping for more as I keep going.” Unfortunately, I can’t say I got the “more” I was looking for, but the series does remain, well, solidly satisfying.

The story picks up where book one ended (I’m going to assume you’ve read it) and mostly follows two main characters: Cerulia, the queen in exile, as she tries to escape Lord Marwyck’s attempt to track her down and capture/kill he... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Scientific breakthroughs

Companies like Apple, Samsung and Tesla put out new versions of their high-tech toys every six months practically. Watches get more elaborate; computers get smaller and thinner, TVs larger, flatter and higher in resolution. Electronic technology isn’t the only area that is booming with discoveries though. From exo-planets and the possibility of life on planets in our home star system, to the secrets of the human genome, science is also having a boom. Doors to mysteries are being stormed, and in many cases, unlocked.

We know more about our fellow animals than we ever did before; from the brilliant octopus to the micro-animals who live on the thermal vents at the ocean floor. Seismology, botany, disease research and cellular biology are changing what we thought we knew, and how we think, about just about everything. And I didn’t forget the continued forays into the concept of machine intelligence or AI.

Which scientific breakthrough or theory intrigues y... Read More

Black Leviathan: Starts decently but becomes too scattered

Black Leviathan by Bernd Perplies, translated by Lucy Van Cleef

Vengeance is a tale as old as a time, and female characters have been killed in order to set male characters off on a protagonist’s journey since well before there were refrigerators (almost before there was ice). But it takes a particularly audacious ambition to use Moby Dick as an explicit inspiration for a coming-of-age fantasy set in a world where sky ships hunt dragons and one captain becomes maniacally obsessed with killing one such dragon. And for a little while there I was thinking Bernd Perplies, author of Black Leviathan (2020) (translated in the US by Lucy Van Cleef), might be able to match execution to ambition. But while the story ends up being relatively entertaining, issues toward the close and an overall surface-level narrative had the execution falling short.

The story opens with a... Read More