Great Bookstores: Orielis’ Books


Elizabeth Campbell wrote in to tell us about a bookstore she loves. Orielis’ Books is an internet bookseller located in the Chapel Hill area. They attend the local SFF...

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The Vampire Lestat: Immensely rich and rewarding


The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice Anne Rice’s second vampire novel is both a prequel and a sequel to her original story Interview with the Vampire. A sequel because it is framed...

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Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology, Volume 4


Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology, Volume 4 by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday This is it. The culmination of the PLANETARY series. Does it live up to the hype? Does the climax...

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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...

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Recent Posts

The Never War: Subtle teaching moments and a real emotional impact

The Never War by D.J. MacHale

Note: Contains spoilers for previous PENDRAGON novels.

In The Never War, the third book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series, Bobby is now 15 years old and is gaining experience as a Traveler. His job is to protect Earth and other territories of Halla (which includes all peoples, places, and times that have ever existed) from Saint Dane, the super duper evil villain whose goal is to increase chaos everywhere. Somehow, the chaos gives him power.

By the end of book two, The Lost City of Faar, Bobby has successfully foiled Saint Dane’s attempts to throw the territories of Denduron and Cloral into chaos. Now he and Spader, the Traveler from Cloral, are following Saint Dane to the next territory: First Earth. When th... Read More

Macaque Attack: I fell off the teeter-totter with this one

Macaque Attack by Gareth L. Powell

For the first two books in Gareth L. Powell’s MACAQUE series, I felt like I was standing in the center of a seesaw or teeter-totter, trying to hold the plank level and balanced. With the third book, Macaque Attack, the totter tipped and threw me off. I can no longer maintain the suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy these adventures.

This review may contain spoilers of all three books, so be warned.

In Macaque Attack, Merovech, King of Great Britain and France, is back. Merovech was refreshingly absent from Hive Monkey. Now he’s back but his girlfriend Julie has been written out, which is too bad, because she was the more interesting character. Merovech’s villainous mother, Celeste, blew ... Read More

The Well’s End: Solid action with familiar YA tropes

The Well’s End by Seth Fishman

Thanks to a good sense of pace and a driving sense of urgency, Seth Fishman manages in The Well’s End to, for the most part,  overcome some overly-familiar YA tropes and weak characterization. The positives in the end outweigh the negatives, making for a solidly exciting story, if not a particularly deep or moving one.

Mia Kish is a sixteen-year-old top class swimmer at one of the country’s more prestigious prep schools, though her real claim to fame was as “Baby Mia,” a reference to when as a small child she fell down a well, prompting a multi-day, well-covered rescue effort. Her fifteen minutes of fame that continues, superior swimming skills (beating both the girls and then the boys), and the fact that she is a townie all work against her such that she is disliked by mos... Read More

2010: Odyssey Two: A good novel, but a frustrating sequel

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

Please note that this review will include spoilers of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we learn that mysterious forces have guided humanity’s evolution. We don’t meet these forces, but we do see their monoliths. The first monolith appears before a group of struggling chimpanzees. When they touch the monolith, they are inspired to use tools. The novel shifts to the twenty-first century, when another monolith is found on the moon. A third and final monolith is found near Jupiter (Saturn in Arthur C. Clarke’s first novel, but the location is ret-conned here). Humanity sends several people — two conscious humans, three humans in suspended animation, and one computer known as HAL — aboard Discovery to inspect the fina... Read More

The Lost City of Faar: An underwater adventure for Bobby Pendragon

The Lost City of Faar by D.J. MacHale

Note: The first paragraph of this review contains minor spoilers for The Merchant of Death.

The Lost City of Faar is the second novel in D.J. MacHale’s popular 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In the first book, The Merchant of Death, 14-year old Bobby Pendragon discovered that he is a Traveler — a person who represents a planet and is able to travel through space and time to visit other worlds. The Travelers are trying to stop an evil shapeshifter named Saint Dane from creating chaos in Halla, which consists of everything that exists in all times and places. In that first book, Bobby saved a world called Denduron. When he arrived back on Earth, he found that his family had ceased to exist. His Uncle Press, who is also a ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issues 169-170

Carrie Vaughn opens Issue 169 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies with “Sun, Stone, Spear,” a story about as different from her KITTY NORVILLE series as it seems possible to get. Two young women, Elu and the narrator, Mahra, have decided to leave their home village; Mahra seeks adventure, while Elu wishes to be the chief astronomer of any village in which she lands — not a position she is likely to get in her home village, where there are four apprentice astronomers ahead of her. Their travel to a new village is one frought with danger, from bandits, from demons, even from gods. Though they seem reasonably well-prepared and sufficiently cognizant of the dangers about them to fight them, it is a difficult journey. And always the question hovers over them: have they done the right thing by leaving their home village? The story made me think of dozens of stories starring youn... Read More

New Amsterdam: Forensic sorcery

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear

New Amsterdam is billed as “the hardcover debut” from Elizabeth Bear, who had been winning awards for her short stories and novels before this work was published in 2007. Though not exactly described as such, New Amsterdam is a compilation of six short stories, each connected to and increasingly dependent upon the others as the overarching plot progresses. While each story is ostensibly a mystery which requires investigation and the use of forensic sorcery in order to arrive at each solution, characters and world-building are the primary focus of Bear’s writing. For the most part, this works well, though there are some pieces which could have benefitted from closer authorial scrutiny, and I wish the concept of “forensic sorcery” had been brought to the fore. Read More

Timeless: A little goes a long way

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Timeless is the fifth and final book in Gail Carriger’s popular PARASOL PROTECTORATE series which takes place in a Victorian London where vampires and werewolves and other immortal paranormal creatures are integrated into society. Alexia Tarabotti, our spunky heroine, is a “preternatural” — she has the rare ability to cancel out the powers of other supernatural creatures when she touches them.

Over the course of the previous books, Alexia met, fell in love with, and married Lord Conal Maccon, an alpha werewolf. Their relationship is sometimes sexy and sometimes rocky. For example, he banished Alexia during her pregnancy because he thought he was sterile. Now the couple is back together and baby Prudence has entered their lives. Prudence is an enigma — she has some unique powers that nobody understands yet. Will she be some sort of abomination? Quite pos... Read More

The High Lord: Too much action crammed into too few pages

The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

Published in 2003, The High Lord is the action-packed third and final book of Trudi Canavan’s THE BLACK MAGICIAN trilogy. In The High Lord, Canavan brings us back to Sonea’s troubles and her “capture” by Akkarin, the High Lord of the Magician’s Guild. It’s hinted throughout book two, The Novice, that Akkarin might not be as evil and corrupted as his practice of black magic seems to suggest, but it’s in book three that we finally discover some of Akkarin’s motives and end goals. After hearing Akkarin’s life story, Sonea is convinced that her newfound mentor’s actions are justified and begs to assist him in his endeavors, even going as far as to learn black magic herself. Meanwhile, Canavan introduces several subplots into the series that make things vastly more interesting. While I enjoyed the multiple... Read More

Sunday Status Update: March 29, 2015

This week, Red Sonja addresses the hallowed seasoned warrior/brash youngster pairing.

Red Sonja: I'm not an adventurer anymore. I'm some kind of social worker. Seriously! I can't use the privy without stumbling over three vulnerable teenagers, and all of them seem to be hinting that I should play the old wolf, teach them about being women, and all that sort of thing. Gods damn it, I'm a thirty-year-old mercenary who runs around in her underwear killing monsters! You think I've got a handle on things? I don't want to be your cool aunt. Leave me alone! Look, new rule: when I'm not actively killing something, I just want to unwind without someone pestering me.

That goes for you too, Conan. There's only so long anyone can buy your "serendipitous coincidence" line on why we keep ending up hired for the exact same jobs. Getting a little obvious, buddy.

... Read More