What threw you out of a story?


When you start to read a work of fiction, you check your disbelief at the door. This is even more important when you are reading speculative fiction or horror, and there’s even a...

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The War in the Air: Should be mandatory reading for all thinking adults


Readers’ average rating: The War in the Air by H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds wasn’t the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words “The War” in...

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Fantastic Romantics, Byron Edition


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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Great SFF Deals!


We’re always looking for money-saving deals on books, comics, and audiobooks and we bet you are, too. Let’s use this page to alert each other about great deals. Just leave a...

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SFM: Kritzer, Valentine, Robson, McClellan, Reed

Short Fiction Monday: Our feature exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we want to share with readers.



“Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer (2018, free at Apex Magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)When Amelia turns fourteen, everyone assures her that she’ll catch her fairy soon. Almost every girl catches a fairy, and the fairy will give you a gift if you promise to let her go. The gift is always something like “beauty or charm or perfect hair or something ... Read More

Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

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Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certain... Read More

Good Guys: Pleasant but forgettable

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Good Guys by Steven Brust

The Foundation, a secretive government agency, collects people who have magical powers and puts them to work for minimum wage. They are tasked with keeping evil magic users under control while ensuring that normal people don’t find out that magic exists.

In Good Guys (2018) we follow three of these folks: Donovan, Susan “Hippie Chick,” and Marci. At the Foundation’s direction, they are working together to investigate a string of magical murders which are getting progressively more gruesome and seem to have a particular end-game in mind. Donovan, Susan, and Marci investigate crime scenes, find clues, make deductions (and huge leaps of logic), and attempt to find and stop the killer before the killer gets them.

This is all very dangerous and they don’t get a lot of support (or pay) from the bureaucratic organizatio... Read More

Sunday Status Update: September 23, 2018

Here we are at the beginning of Autumn, with plenty of new books to read.


Bill: First essays came in so not as much reading this week.  I did complete V.E. Schwab’s Vengeance and finished listening to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Media-wise, my son and I both enjoyed the film The Endless, even if it overplays its metaphors a bit toward the end.  And we’ve really been enjoying The Travelers, even if we have to overlook some things now and then.

Jana: This week was, sadly, light on reading for me. I read  Read More

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka

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The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka is one of the best collections of his short stories and shows off his mature work. Chloe Metcalf has done an excellent job in the translations, and we have Digital Manga, Inc. to thank for this volume’s availability in the United States. The stories were written from 1972 to 1979, and the collection was released in Japan in 1979. Digital Manga, Inc. released this translation in 2017. I hope there is much more to come from this company.

The five stories in this volume are not for kids. If anybody has been exposed only to Tezuka’s Astro Boy and other works for children, they will be shocked to read these tales. The first story, “The Record of Peter Kurten,” is based on a true story, a... Read More

Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka

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Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka

In Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka, a plane wrecks on a strange island inhabited by peculiar beings. As the plane wrecks, it runs into part of a magical mountain, and bits of rock, or “dust,” land on ten people, bringing them back to life. Eight of these ten people leave the island and are rescued when they are found at sea. The other two stay on the island, and like the other eight, are alive only because they each have one piece of rock on them, as the mysterious creatures on the island explain. The creatures believe that the humans were fated to die, so they take back the rocks from the two survivors, who immediately collapse in death. The leader of the creatures sends off two others mysterious beings, who inhabit the two bodies of the recently perished humans, to retrieve the rocks, the eight pieces of “dust” from the eight survivors who have returned... Read More

Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories by Osamu Tezuka

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Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka’s Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories is a wonderful work by the “God of Manga.” It is has been translated beautifully by Adam Seacord and is published by Digital Manga, Inc., a publisher that is doing an excellent job of putting out in translation many of Tezuka’s works that are completely unknown in the United States. This work is one of Tezuka’s mature collections from late in his career. The original collection is from 1974 (Tezuka died in 1989), and this first edition in English came out recently in 2017.

“Melody of Iron,” the first of three stories in the volume, is the main one in terms of length and weighty subject matter. In it, a young man from the U.S. whose family is a part of the mafia in New York, marries a young Japanese woman. Th... Read More

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds: Three novellas tell a compelling story

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Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if Batman’s rogues gallery was made up entirely from creations of his own mind (and only visible to himself) rather than individuals who are, more often than not, created as a result of his actions, then I recommend that you read Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (2018). Compiled herein are two of Brandon Sanderson’s previously-published novellas, “Legion” (2012) and “Legion: Skin Deep” (2014), along with the concluding and never-before-seen third novella, “Lies of the Beholder.” I hadn’t read any of these works before opening Legion, nor had I read Kat and Tadiana... Read More

Meddling Kids: The Scooby-Doo gang faces the Elder Gods

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Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero 

“And I’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” –attributed to nearly every villain on Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo animated series, 1969-1971.

In the early 1970s, cartoon quintet Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Great Dane Scooby-Doo drove around in a painted van, solving supernatural mysteries — which always turned out to be staged by all-too-human villains. Edgar Cantero latched onto these cultural icons and flipped the script, asking the story what would happen if one of those ghostly, creepy, eerie creatures had not been human, after all.

Meddling Kids (2018) is set in 1990. In 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club, consisting of four young teens and a dog, solved the mys... Read More

SAGA Volume Two: A comic book that lives up to its name

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

I’m so late to the party that the weekend is over and everyone is back to work on Monday. I like to write SF reviews to introduce new books to people who might not have read them yet, but SAGA is already so popular and well known that the only advantage to discovering this series so late is that I can read the first 5 volumes straight through without having to wait!

The story moves so propulsively you have to force yourself to slow down. The characters are so likeable that even the contract killers and military robot royalty are sympathetic. And the dialogue written by Brian K. Vaughan is so infectiously fun, snarky and charming that I kept laughing out loud. It’s a space opera, yes, and a story of star-crossed... Read More