Bill chats with Michael Pryor


Michael Pryor is the author of THE LAWS OF MAGIC, a young adult series which begins with Blaze of Glory and ends with the just completed but not yet released Hour of Need. He has...

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Hercules: The best of McCaughrean’s retellings


Readers’ average rating: Hercules by Geraldine McCaughrean Geraldine McCaughrean has written four retellings of Greek myths, fleshing out the personalities of various heroes...

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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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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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Recent Posts

Relic: I really ached for Ruslan’s plight

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Relic by Alan Dean Foster

A man-made virus has wiped out all the humans in the galaxy... except one. Ruslan (he doesn’t know whether that’s his first or last name) is the last man standing, literally, on a faraway planet colonized by humans long ago. He was rescued by aliens who took Ruslan in and cared for him. They’re nice aliens and, with Ruslan’s help, want to study and preserve human culture. Now Ruslan is an old man, living in this pleasant but alien society. He likes his hosts, but he is still lonely for human contact even though he knows that humans are at fault in masterminding their own extinction. When he makes a bargain with the aliens, they go in search of Old Earth and make a surprising discovery.

I just can’t resist a “last human in the universe” kind of story. Even though I’m pretty far out on the “I” side of the Read More

The Moons of Barsk: Not as good as book one but leaves you excited for book three

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The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen

I was a big fan of Lawrence M. Schoen’s first entry in this series, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, and therefore was excited to pick up its sequel, The Moons of Barsk (2018). I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed, but despite suffering from a bit of a second-book slump, The Moons of Barsk does move the big story arcs along while broadening/deepening some characterization, and so hasn’t lessened my interest in seeing where both story and character go moving forward.

For convenience’s sake (mine, not yours) I’m going to simply reuse my description of Barsk’s universe from my revi... Read More

Stars Uncharted: Pleasant but lacks originality

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Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

I’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of shows with this basic premise: several individuals, each with their own secrets and special skills, end up together (in this case, on a spaceship) and must bond with each other so they can outwit and overpower the evil enemy that’s chasing them. That’s what’s happening in S.K. Dunstall’s version of this classic storyline in Stars Uncharted (2018).

There’s Nika Rik Terri, a famous body modder (think artistic genetic engineer) who is trying to hide from the criminal organization her ex-boyfriend belongs to. There’s Snow, a young body modder who gets swept up in Nika’s adventure without recognizing Nika as his idol. There’s Josune Arriola, an engineer, spy, and darn good fighter who is trying to find the location of a deposit of extremely valuable elements.... Read More

The Calculating Stars: A fight for the right to go into space

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The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York has a PhD in physics, and her husband has one in engineering. They are enjoying a much-deserved weekend getaway in the Poconos in 1952 when a huge meteorite destroys Washington DC and much of the North American eastern seaboard. Experts fear the aftermath will create an extinction-level event, and this accelerates the race to the stars. Elma has a front row seat, but she wants more; she wants to go into space.

2018’s The Calculating Stars is the first novel of Mary Robinette Kowal’s LADY ASTRONAUT series. Kowal has written two short stories, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and “We Interrupt this Broadcast... Read More

Spinning Silver: One of the best books of the year

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Let’s get this out of the way early. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver (2018) is not perfect. It’s a little overlong, with a bit of a pacing issue about two-thirds of the way through. Beyond that, other problems include ... no, wait. I forgot. There are no other problems. And I lifted up each and every page to check under them. Zip. Nada. Nothing. So yeah, the biggest problem with Spinning Silver is kind of like the problem you have when the waiter brings out your chocolate cake dessert, and it’s a little bit bigger than you were planning on. Oh, the humanity.

My marketing info calls this a “retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale,” and sure, it’s that. But such a narrowly focused pitch does a real disser... Read More

Rogue Protocol: Can humans and bots be friends?

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Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ endearingly grumpy cyborg Security Unit Murderbot returns with a vengeance in Rogue Protocol (2018), the third novella in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series. In Rogue Protocol, Murderbot heads off to Milu, a deserted terraforming facility in space, to investigate the past of a murky group called GrayCris, which we originally met in the first book in this series, the Nebula award-winning All Systems Red. GrayCris appears to be intent on illegally collecting the extremely valuable remnants of alien civilizations. To all appearances Milu is an abandoned project of GrayCris, but Murderbot suspects, based on its ... Read More

Status Update: August 12, 2018

This week, we read a lot of great books!

Bill: This week I read in order of preference (mostly)

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver: almost surely going on my best of the year list
Anna-Lisa Cox’s The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality: a vividly compelling history that should be required reading — at least excerpts — in all schools (I’m pushing for just that via teachers I know or have worked with).
Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack: a sensitive, imaginative, bizarre Jack and the Beanstalk story updated to modern day
Oren Harman’s Evolutions: an odd little work that tells a brief history of the universe and life in the style of myth. I liked most of them most of the time.
Zachary Mason’s Read More

Foundryside: Come for the action and characters, stay for the thematic depth

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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bill: Robert Jackson Bennett hit the trifecta, as far as I was concerned, with his DIVINE CITIES trilogy. I placed each book pretty much immediately on my respective best-of-the-year lists as I finished them, and then, once the trilogy was completed, put the whole thing on my best-of-the-decade list. So it would be more than a little unfair to expect his newest novel, Foundryside (2018), to match that experience. But like a younger sibling following after a genius older sister or brother, Foundryside finds its own kind of greatness, a no-less pleasing but more “moderate” greatness if you’ll allow the seeming paradox. Even, I’d... Read More

Angel Station: Needs some humans we can root for

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Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria are a couple of young adults who were genetically engineered by their “father,” a spaceship pilot and explorer who recently committed suicide on his ship, leaving his two “kids” to fend for themselves. The money is gone, and so are their prospects, so Ubu and Maria set out to try to make enough money to avoid foreclosure on their ship.

Luckily, they both have a couple of special skills engineered into their DNA. When they happen upon an unknown alien civilization, they come up with a get-rich quick scheme. But for it to work, they have to keep the aliens a secret from humanity. This becomes more and more difficult to do as their competitors plot against them.

Angel Station (1989) is the type of space adventure t... Read More

The Book of Peril: Trouble with magical illusions

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The Book of Peril by Melissa McShane

Abernathy’s Bookstore is a powerful oracle, used by the community of mages to answer important questions and foretell the future. Its proprietor, Helena Davies, is a critical part of the bookstore’s oracular function: she takes augury slips of paper with questions on them from customers, wanders among the bookshelves until she finds a book that glows to her eyes, and sells the book to the customer as the answer to their question. The price for the augury is conveniently and magically printed inside the book on the title page, along with the customer’s name. It works great … until suddenly it doesn’t.

The trouble begins when the book that glows for a particular customer’s question has the wrong customer’s name magically printed inside of it. When the next request for an augury comes in, Helena finds three glowing books on the she... Read More