Fantasy vs. Science Fiction


“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” ~ Rod Serling Source: The Twilight Zone, “The Fugitive”...

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The Farthest Shore: One of the strongest books in the series


The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin The Farthest Shore is the third book in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, and the concluding one for several decades. Since it’s...

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Categorizations in Genre Fiction: A Mini-Manifesto


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 Broken Crown: Did Not Finish

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

WWWednesday: February 19, 2020

Bass Reeves, the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi.



Conventions:

Walnut Creek, CA’s FOGCon conference will be held March 6-8 at the Walnut Creek Marriott. Mary Ann Mohanraj and Nisi Shawl are the Guests of Honor. I have heard both these writers before (at this conference and at ReaderCon) and both of them are wise, thought-provoking and lively. Other participants include Juliette Wade, Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms.

... Read More

Dispel Illusion: A satisfactory ending to this time travel trilogy

Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence

Tadiana:   Kat:

Dispel Illusion (2019) is the final book in Mark Lawrence’s IMPOSSIBLE TIMES trilogy. Readers will need to finish One Word Kill and Limited Wish before beginning Dispel Illusion, so we’ll assume you’ve done that. Kindly, Mark Lawrence provides a recap of previous important events at the beginning of this book. (Thank you, Mr. Lawrence!) Then the story begins, literally, with an explosion. It’s a singular explosion, though: time itself is exploding in their lab, affecting various things in different ways. Dangerously ... Read More

Mazes of Power: A fascinating start to an intriguing series

Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade

Juliette Wade’s 2020 debut novel, Mazes of Power, is the first book of THE BROKEN TRUST series. Wade has created a rigidly stratified society in a subterranean world as a way to answer big sociological and biological What-If questions. The book explores genetics, distribution of resources, social mobility and what happens when people prioritize the consolidation of political power above their own self-interest or even their own survival.

And the book is a novel of manners, a story of young love, and a tense political thriller in a world where assassination is simply one more tool in the toolbox, frowned upon but still utilized.

Mazes of Power follows three characters: two brothers of the First Family, Tagaret and Nekantor, who belong to the ruling Grobal caste; and Aloran, of the Imbati ca... Read More

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow: Left me wanting

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

I found Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street entirely charming even if I didn’t fall wholly in love with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same positive response to the sequel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (2020), which felt meandering and surprisingly flat to me, despite some solid moments.

It’s half a decade after the events of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, and after a brief time in Russia and London, Pulley shifts the vast majority of her story to Japan in the late 1800s (with flashbacks to earlier times in the country). Keita Mori, clockmaker and clairvoyant who can “remember” possibl... Read More