Gene Wolfe on SFF


Two different breeds of dogs: Fantasy is a collie, and science fiction is a German shepherd.     Source: io9 Art: “Cities” by Edward...

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The Price of Spring: Finale of one of the best fantasy epics in recent years


Readers’ average rating: The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham I’ve been a big fan of Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet and The Price of Spring, its concluding volume,...

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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

WWWednesday: June 20, 2018

Books and Writing:

President Barack Obama shares his late-spring reading list; in this case, it’s all non-fiction. There are some interesting books on here.

"The Skeleton Bridge" (c) Alia Yusuf for the short story Chinlap by Sunny Moraine



Sad news for readers and writers. Shimmer, known for publishing fantastical short stories that preferred poetic prose, is closing after thirteen years. I will miss their great stories by writers like Alix E. Harrow, and I’m glad we had the magazine around as long as we did. The November issue will be the last (and watch for... Read More

A Shadow All of Light: The shadows grow on you

Readers’ average rating:

A Shadow All of Light
by Fred Chappell

A Shadow All of Light
(2016) is a collection of linked, chronological stories by Fred Chappell that add up to a full-length narrative if not a seamless novel. Some individual stories are stronger than others, and I would have liked more of a full sense of place, character, and culture, but I enjoyed the underlying magic system, the main character, and how the structure built up over time to a decent climax.

Our narrator is Falco, a country boy from an area of “small, muddy farms” who has run away to the big city (the port of Tardocco) and seeks to apprentice himself to the legendary shadow thief Maestro Astolfo. When they first meet, Astolfo calls Falco a “bumpkin,” a “sneak,” a “hot-blood lazybones,” a “rustic Lumpfart,” an “imbecile,” and a “lunatic.” And of course he takes him ... Read More

The Siren Depths: Best book in the series so far

Readers’ average rating:

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells

Book three in Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA is The Siren Depths (2012). (By the way, the novels’ titles are only vaguely related to the plot, I’ve noticed.) If you've loved this series so far, I feel certain that you will love The Siren Depths. In my opinion, it's better than both of the previous books (The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea).

Moon, a Raksura (shape-shifting human/dragon) who used to be a lost orphan, is finally starting to feel comfortable in his new home with the Indigo Cloud Rak... Read More

When the Birds Fly South: Profoundly moving, stands the test of time

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Katie's new review.

When the Birds Fly South by Stanton A. Coblentz

Never let it be said that you can’t learn anything from Facebook! It was on the Vintage Paperback and Pulp Forum there, for example, that this reader recently discovered his newest favorite author. Several of my very knowledgeable fellow members on that page happened to be discussing the merits of a writer who I had previously never even heard of before; a man with the curious name Stanton A. Coblentz. Very much intrigued, I later did a little nosing about, and managed to lay my hands on Coblentz’ highly regarded When the Birds Fly South. And I am so glad that I did. This novel, as the author revealed later, was his very favorite of all his many sci-fi/fantasy works. It was, appropriately enough, originally released in 1... Read More

Sufficiently Advanced Magic: Amazing LitRPG world that hijacks the plot line

Readers’ average rating:

Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe

Sufficiently Advanced Magic (2017) took 2nd place in SPFBO 3, which wrapped up last week. The book is a strong addition to the highly popularized LitRPG subgenre, though Rowe avows it is not strictly LitRPG. I am not a follower of the subgenre, but this book has enjoyed such runaway popularity over the past year, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Introducing Corin Cadence, resident of a world where people can earn magical enchantments by progressing through magic towers where they encounter tests of strength, judgment and combat skill. If all goes well, the goddess grants the challenger an attunement, including a magical skill, and safe exit of the tower. If all goes poorly, challengers die ... get lost ... imprisoned ... or some other unpleasantness.

Corin’s primary motive in life is to enter... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mout... Read More

Sunday Status Update: June 17, 2018

As ever, we're reading plenty of new books, and preparing our reviews!

Bill:
This week was mostly reading a lot of hiking books. But I did manage the flawed but often brilliant An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon and the flawed but often gorgeously written Time Was by Ian McDonald. Media-wise, I continue to be pleasantly surprised and impressed with the narrative risks Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger is taking, this week with a non-linear structure filled with visions and symbol, and the continued slow-walking of the two main characters’ relationship. The Expanse was a bit more choppy this week, but any scenes with Miller are sheer joy, and the same with Amo... Read More

Akata Warrior: Scores goal after goal as it enhances the series world

Readers’ average rating:

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

From its stunning cover to the triumphant final word (“Gooooooooal!”), Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior (2017) continues to deliver on the promise of Book One, Akata Witch. Sunny, an American-Nigerian girl currently living in Nigeria with her family, has embraced her heritage as a Leopard Person, one of a magical lineage, but things to do not get easier for her or for her magical friends, the oha coven. Ekwensu, the evil force that Sunny faced and vanquished in the first book, is back, and she’s brought friends. In the mundane, everyday world, Sunny’s older brother Chukwu, the favored child, gets into serious trouble when he goes away to university, and Sunny’s attempt to help him puts her squarely at odds with the teachings of the Leopard Peop... Read More

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

Readers’ average rating:

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

In Origin Story: A Big History of Everything (2018), David Christian ably does what I would have guessed was nigh on impossible — cover 13+ billion years of history from the Big Bang to current times (and actually further since he takes a quick look in the future as well). It’s a smoothly told, incredibly efficient history that mostly lives up to its subtitle.

At the core of Christian’s “Big History” is an ever-increasing complexity: “in special and unusual environments such as our planet ... in these Goldilocks environments, increasing complex things have appeared over many billions” (he is quick to note that “more complex” is not synonymous with “better”). Often, he says, complexity took big leaps forward at various transition points, which he labels “thresholds” and around w... Read More

In Shining Armor: Great hero, loose plot

Readers’ average rating:

In Shining Armor by Elliott James

The fourth book in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA series is In Shining Armor (2016). In this installment, someone has kidnapped baby Constance, the god-daughter of John Charming. She was being guarded by a team consisting of both Knights and werewolves, so now the Knights are blaming the werewolves and vice versa. This threatens to upset their recently established, but tentative, truce, and the results could be disastrous, especially for John Charming. It’s up to him and his strange group of allies to figure out what happened to Constance and, hopefully, get her back safely. Otherwise, a deadly supernatural war is likely to break out.

As John and his team investigate the kidnapping, they run into all sorts of mythical crea... Read More