Living With The Writer: Deborah Beale


Here we are with the second edition of Living With The Writer, a semi-regular feature where I grill the partners of those authors that entertain us with their speculative fiction....

Read More
Dangerous Space: Gorgeous short stories


Readers’ average rating: Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge Dangerous Space is a revelation. I had no idea these gorgeous short stories were out there. Put me on the list of...

Read More
Elite Groups in SFF


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

Read More
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...

Read More

Recent Posts

WWWednesday; March 22, 2017

According to Haggard Hawks, the same way a flock of crows is called a murder, the poetic term for a group of salamanders is a maelstrom. And you can find many more cool collective nouns for animal groups here.

Awards:

This year’s Tiptree Award went to Anna-Marie McLemore for When the Moon was Ours.

Independent horror publisher Word Horde had a very good day at the This is Horror awards. John Langan’s The Fisherman Read More

The Wanderers: A wonderfully intimate, character-driven story

Readers’ average rating:

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

The Wanderers
(2017), by Meg Howrey, focuses on a simulated mission (code name: Eidolon) to Mars more realistic than anything ever attempted before. Prime Space has chosen three exemplary, experienced astronauts (American Helen, Japanese Yoshi, and Russian Sergei) for a 17-month, fully immersive simulation in the Utah desert in preparation for the real thing two years later. We join the “journey” via their 3rd-person POVs, but are also given a broader view thanks to their family members (one might consider them “satellites” orbiting the main characters — always tied to them): Helen’s actress daughter Mireille, Yoshi’s robot-salesperson wife Madoka, and Sergei’s sexually-uncertain 15-year-old son Dmitri. We also get a POV from Luke, one of the “Obbers” — the Prime Space employees tasked with observing the crew an... Read More

The Evil Wizard Smallbone: Young readers will love this funny, exciting fantasy

Readers’ average rating:

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

What is it about Maine? Stephen King and John Connolly both write terrifying horror stories set there, and Delia Sherman places The Evil Wizard Smallbone, a middle-grade fantasy published in 2016, in Maine in the winter. That state must have a lot of magical juice.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone not only shares the horror of a Maine winter, it’s got an evil wizard, shape-shifting coyote-bikers, a small and somewhat magical town called Smallbone Cove whose residents have forgotten their own strange history to their peril, and a scrappy boy named Nick who stumb... Read More

Mr. Adam: The last fertile man on Earth

Readers’ average rating:

Mr. Adam
by Pat Frank

Pat Frank’s Mr. Adam (1946) is billed as “[o]ne of literature’s first responses to the atomic bomb,” and the uncertainty of the freshly-minted Atomic Age is palpable within the novel’s pages. With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in his mind, and within the minds of his readers, Frank crafted a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of nuclear power and its invisible, unstoppable effects on the future of mankind.

Steve Smith, intrepid journalist and recent veteran of the European theatre in WWII, quite literally stumbles through winter snow into the biggest story of his life: there are absolutely no maternity ward reservations booked in New York City after June 21. In fact, there are no reservations for maternity wards anywhere... Read More

Passing Strange: Simply irresistible

Readers’ average rating:

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages’ short novel Passing Strange (2017) is a beautiful, fantastical melding of history, romance, magic and revenge, set against a meticulously researched San Francisco of 1940. At just over 200 hundred pages, the story follows six women in the city, each one in some way an outcast. Add a present-day story frame that includes secret passages in Chinatown, pulp magazine covers of the 1940s, and an elaborate scam, and for many of us you have something irresistible.

I loved Passing Strange from the cover by Gregory Manchess. That wistful moonlit scene is central to the story in more than one way. Take a moment to study that cover before you open the book, and then, when you’ve finished, feel free to go back and savor it some more.

In the present day, Helen Young, a ... Read More

SFM: Barnhill, Clark, Goss, Smith, Polansky

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. We've found some excellent stories this week!

 


“Probably Still the Chosen One” by Kelly Barnhill (Feb. 2017, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Eleven year old Corinna discovered a strange metal door in the cupboard under the sink of her home, which is a portal to the magical land of Nibiru, where she is hailed as their Princess, their Chosen One. After spending a year and a day in war-torn Nibiru, where she learned swordfighting, battle tactics and survival skills fighting wit... Read More

Magic of Blood and Sea: Boundless freedom awaits on a wave-tossed ship

Readers’ average rating:

Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Magic of Blood and Sea (2017) combines two of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s novels, The Assassin’s Curse (2012) and The Pirate’s Wish (2013), into one volume. Originally, these novels were published by Strange Chemistry, the YA branch of Angry Robot Books, but the imprint went defunct (as sometimes happens) and the publication rights to their various books were scattered to the four winds. In this particular case, Saga Press swooped in to save the day, and not only did The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish get a shiny new re-packaging, but two oth... Read More

Greatmask: A satisfying conclusion to a rewarding trilogy

Readers’ average rating:

Greatmask by Ashley Capes

Greatmask (2016), the third and final book in Ashley Capes's BONE MASK TRILOGY successfully brings each character's arc to a satisfying conclusion and wraps up all the disparate subplots — while still leaving room for the promise of new adventures on the horizon.

Anaskar has been invaded by the blue-cloaked Ecsoli; they now control all three tiers of the city, from the seaside docks to the lofty palace where King Oseto is held captive. Would-be rebels hide in the back alleys and taverns, slowly building up a resistance and waiting for an opportunity to fight back. Among them is Flir, whose preternatural strength seems useless against the powers of the Ecsoli, and who doesn't know who to trust among her own people.

Meanwhile, Sofia Falco and her father make the journey back toward Anaskar... Read More

Sunday Status Update: March 19, 2017

This week, the Beast pitches what is basically a superhero revenge movie.

The Beast: This week, I kidnapped an old man and then performed a prisoner exchange for his daughter. It all seemed reasonable at the time, but I'm beginning to think it may not have been my finest moment. Only, honestly, how else am I going to spend time around a young woman? This curse seems designed to make me fail. I have to make a human woman fall in love with me while I'm a sort of bison/bear thing? What is that? What, I'm just supposed to happen on a woman who not only suits me personality-wise but is also into bestiality? It's absurd. I'm beginning to think I should just use my Beastly superpowers to track down this enchantress and make her lift the curse.

Actually, why haven't I thought of that before? It's not like it's just me who's suffering -- my entire staff was turned into doodads, and they didn't eve... Read More

The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall by J. Torres

Readers’ average rating: 

The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall written by J. Torres,  Corin Howell (illustrations), Maarta Laiho (color), Warren Wucinich (letters)

The Mighty Zodiac has a wonderfully cosmic and original premise — the death of a constellation leads to the fall of six stars from the skies and the freeing of the Rabbit Army from the moon. Or as it is put early on:
When the Blue Dragon died, he left the eastern skies vulnerable. Without another dragon to immediately take its place and ascend into the position of the Guardian of the East, six stars fell out of heaven . . . Darkness fell across the region like no one had seen before. The darkness drew out dark creatures with dark designs!
Soon it’s a race between the heroes (the anthropomorphized ani... Read More