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Charlie Jane Anders’s novel All the Birds in the Sky came out earlier this year, and has been very well received. This unusual tale follows the lives of a witch and a...

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The Two Towers: Exploring Middle-Earth

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien The Two Towers is the second third of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, and begins right where the previous book left off: the...

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Brains vs. Beauty: The Women of Harry Potter

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

Ten reviewers … Ten novels … One great bundle of books!

Blair MacGregor writes fantasy—adventurous, epic, and dark. She is a graduate of Viable Paradise, chairs SFWA's Self-Publishing Committee, and runs a Patreon for self-defense and fight-scene writing. When not writing, she hangs out with family, camps alone, teaches and trains in Okinawan karate, and speaks to groups on resilience and wellness. She loves traveling to places both wild and domesticated. 

KATE: We usually use the Expanded Universe space for short essays on SFF topics. But today I've invited Blair McGregor to tell us about the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, which FantasyLiterature is participating in. Ten fantasy book bloggers and blog-sites (that's us!) collectively read almost 300 self-published fantasy novels, with the goal to choose ten of their favorites. And here's ... Read More

The Expanse: Can’t wait for Season Two and I want to read the books. That’s a win.

The Expanse Season 1

A couple of weeks ago I watched Syfy’s space-opera adaptation The Expanse all the way through, ten and a half hours. The series left me eager for January 2017, and Season Two; it also inspired me to go buy the first two books. I call that a success.

My comments here are about the television show, not the books. Daniel Abrahamson & Ty Franck, who wrote THE EXPANSE novels under the name James S.A. Corey, have writing credits on all ten episodes, so clearly they are influencing the project.

The first season follows three main characters in a solar-system-wide story. A few hundred years from now, Mars has been colonized and terraformed, although the cities are still domed. The Kuiper Belt is being actively mined for gases, metals and ice. Earth is a major economic power. The relationship betw... Read More

The Rithian Terror: A pleasing blend of hard SF and hard-boiled espionage

The Rithian Terror by Damon Knight

A pleasing blend of futuristic science fiction and hard-boiled espionage caper, The Rithian Terror, by Damon Knight, first saw the light of day in the January 1953 issue of Startling Stories, under the title Double Meaning. For 25 cents, readers also got, in that same issue, a Murray Leinster novelette entitled “Overdrive,” as well as five short stories, including Isaac Asimov’s “Button, Button” and Jack Vance’s “Three-Legged Joe;” that’s what I call value for money! Anyway, the Knight novel later appeared in one of those cute little “Ace doubles,” and, later still, in a 1965 paperback... Read More

The Fall of the Towers: Early Delany shows promise

The Fall of the Towers by Samuel R. Delany

Not yet out of his teens, Samuel Delany had his first short stories published in science fiction magazines around 1962. Moving on to works of greater length, he shortly thereafter published two novellas, the second of which was called Captives of the Flame. Seeing the story’s greater potential, he expanded the novella (to Out of the Dead City) and tacked on two additional novels, The Towers of Toron and City of a Thousand Suns to create a series. Strongly hinting at the unique books he would later write, these three novels are collected in an omnibus called The Fall of the Towers and are the subject of this review.

The Fall of the Towers is centered around Jon Koshar, the rebellious son of a fish hatchery magnate. Having k... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Free Comic Book Day 2016! (15th anniversary!)

Free Comic Book Day — FCBD — is always the first Saturday of May and this year marks the celebration's 15th anniversary. To get your free comics on May 7, you’ll need to locate a local comic bookstore and, if in doubt, give them a call to see if they are participating. Chances are, if it’s an independent comic book store, they are offering free comics, because FCBD is designed to celebrate comics, to introduce comic books to new readers, to celebrate the unique independent comic book stores that sell them, and to support comic book stores by bringing in new customers in addition to the regular patrons.

If you are new to comics, FCBD is for you just as much as it is for those of us who can’t make it through a single day without reading comics. For me and others like me, it’s a day of celebration. But we also want to reach out to new readers.

So, if you have never been... Read More

Career of Evil: J. K. Rowling casts a different kind of spell

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Though they are a far cry from the HARRY POTTER series, J. K. Rowling’s CORMORAN STRIKE novels still possess the same storytelling magic. Rowling’s ability to capture an audience, to evoke a character so vivid they become real, triumphs in her crime series.

Sending a leg to the office of Coromoran Strike is surely the most conspicuous way to get the detective’s attention. Strike is famously an amputee himself, and when he realises the leg is accompanied by a note bearing the lyrics tattooed on his mother’s body, there can be no doubt that this is a personal attack. And the fact that the leg is addressed to his assistant Robin? The attack was meant to hit the detective where it hurts.

This is Strike’s most grisly and disturbing case to ... Read More

Strange Monsters: An entrancing musical/literary performance

Strange Monsters by Peter Brewer & Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s short fiction for a few years. She captures a lovely intersection between the mundane and the mythic in her stories, so when she asked if I’d like to review her newest collection, I jumped at the chance. Strange Monsters (2016) is a music-and-words collaboration between Stufflebeam and Peter Brewer, a jazz musician and Stufflebeam’s partner. Over melodies both slow and easy, and chaotic and exciting, a cast of actors reads five short stories and five poems by Stufflebeam. The resulting listening experience is fulfilling, funny, and ultimately haunting.

The first story, “The Stink of Horses,” was inspired by a real-life quote from Chekhov about how dancers stink like horses. It tells the story of Marina Golovina, a mysterious Russian ballerina who inspires obsession, posses... Read More

Rage of the Fallen: Tom et al go to Ireland

Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney

In Rage of the Fallen, the eighth book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE / WARDSTONE CHRONICLES horror series for children, Tom flees with Alice and the Spook to Ireland to avoid the war that has engulfed their county. The evil creatures who live in Ireland are different from those they’re used to, so Tom gets to learn about, and attempt to defeat, these new threats to the world. Basically it’s the same sort of trouble he’s always been dealing with, just more Celtic-inspired. There are Irish gods, Irish witches, Irish mages, Irish ghosts, Irish blood-suckers, etc.

In addition to these new challenges, the old ones remain. The Fiend continues to dog him as we wait for their final confrontation. Witches are trying to get revenge on Tom.... Read More

WWWednesday; April 27, 2016

In Memoriam

I’m not going to write another obituary. I’m just not. Instead, I’m going to link to this essay by Charlie Jane Anders, about a comic book that starred Prince as a superhero. And what was his super-power? Music.


The Hugo short list has been announced, to much discussion.

Best Novel Finalists are: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie; The Cinder Spires (The Aeronaut’s Windlass) by Jim Butler; The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, Read More

Song of Kali: A terrific horror novel from a future Hugo Award winner

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

In Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, Edward Bryant, writing of his choice for inclusion in that overview volume, Dan Simmons' Song of Kali, mentions that Simmons had spent precisely 2 1/2 days in Calcutta before writing his first book, in which that city plays so central and memorable a role. Despite Simmons' short stay, Bryant reveals that the author filled "voluminous notebooks" with impressions and sketches of the city, and any reader who enters the grim but remarkably detailed horror novel that is Song of Kali will be amazed that its author spent such a short time there. The city is superbly well depicted in this book, and indeed is its most fully fleshed-out "character:" a vile, overcrowded, steaming cesspool of a city that breathes iniq... Read More