Marion chats with Robert Jackson Bennett (again)


American Elsewhere is Robert Jackson Bennett’s fourth novel. Every book by Bennett is a little bit different; American Elsewhere (which I’ve reviewed) is a meditation on the...

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The Battle of the Labyrinth: Filled to the brim with monsters, traps, secrets and danger


The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan Just as every Harry Potter book began with the requisite tormenting of the Dursley family, every Percy Jackson book begins with the...

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Rising Stars: Compendium (Part One)


Rising Stars: Compendium (Part One) by J. Michael Straczynski Having just finished Straczynski‘s Rising Stars, I now have a new comic book to add to my list of favorites. ...

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Our favorite books of 2014


Here are our favorite books published in 2014. Hover over the cover to see who recommends each book and what they say about it. Please keep in mind that we did not read every SFF...

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Recent Posts

Cadmian’s Choice: A long middle book

Cadmian’s Choice by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Cadmian’s Choice is the fifth book in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s COREAN CHRONICLES and the second in the trilogy about Mykel and Dainyl. You don’t need to read the first trilogy in the COREAN CHRONICLES (Legacies, Darknesses, Scepters) before reading this one. In fact, I think it makes more sense to read this trilogy first since it focuses on events that occur generations before Legacies. However, you do need to read Alector’s Choice before starting Cadmian’s Choice.

In Alector’s Choice we met Mykel, a “lander” who lives on the planet Corus. He, like most of Modesitt’s protagonists, is ultra-honorable and ultra-competent, and he has risen remark... Read More

Interesting Times: Rincewind goes to the “Aurient”

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

Lord Vetinari receives a message from the Counterweight Continent — which isn’t China — demanding that Ankh-Morpork send the “Great Wizzard” at once. Vetinari, hoping to avoid a conflict, summons Mustrum Ridcully, the Archchancellor of Unseen University, to a top-secret meeting. Who do they want? Ridcully figures the Dean is the biggest wizard at the university — could they just send him? Of course, longtime DISCWORLD readers already know that “Wizzard” means Rincewind, and, of course, that he is going to the “Aurient.”

It takes some convincing, but Rincewind reluctantly agrees to the plan. Ponder programs Hex to send Rincewind to the Counterweight Continent, and, though the calculations are rough, Rincewind arrives more or less safely. Once there, he meets Cohen the Barbarian, who, at ninety-maybe-ninety-five, is aging like oak. Unhappy with the tide of po... Read More

A Case of Conscience: A Catholic priest faces aliens with morality but no religion

A Case of Conscience by James Blish

Great A-side, dreadful B-side. A Case of Conscience is James Blish’s 1959 Hugo-winning SF novel, expanded from the1953 novella. Part One (the original novella) is set on planet Lithia, introducing a race of reptilians with a perfect, strife-free society and innate sense of morality. However, to the consternation of Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, they have no religion of any kind. Their morality is inherent, and they have no need of a religious framework to direct their actions.

As a Catholic, Ruiz-Sanchez cannot make heads or tails of this. Without religion, do the Lithians have souls? If so, are they fallen into sin like humans, or still in a state of grace like Adam and Eve? He struggles with this conundrum, as well as the purpose of the expedition to Lithia, which is to determine whether the planet should be exploited for its lithium or quarantined sin... Read More

Sunday Status Update: April 26, 2015

This week, Galadriel returns.

Galadriel: Well, I've finally met that questing band Mithrandir (RIP) organized. They've got Legolas with them -- still as ditzy as ever -- and Gloin's son. Gimlet or whatever. He kept staring at my chest, though possibly that was just an eye level thing. Arwen's new boyfriend was there too, looking even seedier than last time (if possible). Still can't remember the poor man's name for the life of me, so I've kept up with the "elven nickname" nonsense. We're calling him Elessar (Elfstone), which is maybe a bit cheesy -- Celeborn thinks it sounds like a wrestler name -- but His Scruffiness doesn't seem to have noticed. Then there were these four halflings (no, really, four. I know Mithrandir was quite enamored of their pastoral quaintness or whatever, but four. On a quest). I've got the Ring-bearer's name, but I can't for the life of ... Read More

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope (Issues #1-6)

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (author) & Greg Tocchini (artist)

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope
, written by Rick Remender and drawn by Greg Tocchini has an intriguing concept whereby in our far, far future (it’s actually the deep past relative to the characters in the story) humanity has fled our burgeoning sun by setting up cities in the depths of the oceans, where they await the news from space probes sent out to seek inhabitable planets. Unfortunately, by the time of the storyline, no probes have returned, the air in what appears to be the only remaining city is turning toxic, and its citizens have turned to a nihilistic, hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs, and violence as a means of “dealing” with their impending doom.

The story focuses on a single family whose DNA allows them to work an integral “helm suit” and we meet them jus... Read More

The Next Species: Examining humanity’s past and potential future

The Next Species by Michael Tennesen

The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man, by Michael Tennesen, is an engaging, informative overview of the history of life on this planet and humanity’s impact on that life (mostly for ill), followed by a look into the future and what might happen were humanity to go extinct or diverge into a different species.

He begins with a trip to the rain forest in the Andes, cataloging the rich diversity of life in the relatively small area (“The tropical Andes contain about a sixth of the world’s plant life in less than 1 percent of its land area... more than 1,724 species of birds in an area the size of New Hampshire”) and segues from this richness to a discussion of the consensus belief that we are in the midst of a sixth great extinction.

Over the course of The Next Species, he details those other extinctions, ... Read More

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: TANSTAAFL on the Moon

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein’s libertarian creed is TANSTAAFL ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"), and this book is probably the most complete expression of his political ideas about self-government, attempts to empower women while still being incredibly sexist and condescending, and some pretty good hard SF extrapolation of what a moon colony’s technology, politics and economy might be like. Oh yeah, and there happens to be an omniscient, all-powerful AI named Mike who helps the Loonies stage their revolution against the oppressive Lunar Authority (can you say DEUS EX MACHINA?). The outcome is never really in doubt, so what we are given instead is a 300-page lecture on what Heinlein’s ideal society would be.

Basically Heinlein thinks that most politicians are self-serving and cor... Read More

Tarzan of the Apes: A very fine introduction to the original swinger

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Three years ago, the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th birthday. Making his initial appearance in the October 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine, in the original Tarzan novel Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation proved to be so popular that the author went on to create 25 more novels featuring the jungle swinger. Released in book form two years later, the novel is a perfect introduction to the character who has been called the best-known fictional creation of the 20th century. Like many others, my only previous familiarity with Tarzan was via the Johnny Weissmuller films of the '30s and '40s — all dozen of them — and, to a lesser degree, those featuring Bruce Bennett, Buster Crabbe, Lex Barker and Gordon Scott (I have never gotten a chance to see the... Read More

Fledgling: Love and relationships examined through vampirism

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

In some ways there are superficial resemblances between Fledgling and the last vampire book I read, Let the Right One In: both books have as their star apparently pre-pubescent vampires who have ‘complicated’ relationships with their human companions. In John Ajvide Lindqvist’s case it was a Renfield-like adult who was enamoured of the vampire-child for whom he obtained blood and the young boy who becomes a part of her life. In the case of Butler’s book the vampire in question, Shori, isn’t even only apparently pre-pubescent… according to vampire physiology she is in fact still a child, though that still translates to her being much older than her appearance would suggest (around 52 years old in fact). Despite this fact the relationships she has with the humans around her bear all of the appearances of a pedophilic relationship, at least from the outside.... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Who’s Your Favorite Frenemy?

Urban Dictionary gives one definition of “frenemy” as “someone who is both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive and fraught with risk and mistrust.” This made me think of many of my favorite SFF heroes and their various relationships. A “frenemy” may be an old comrade who went over to the other side; it might be a former mentor, or a family member. It might be that dangerous romantic partner our main character just can’t stay away from. A frenemy is always good for cranking up the tension, and provides useful information to our protagonist when it is needed.

"The Deal" by Lowranzy6699 at Deviantart (used with permission)

Who is your favorite “frenemy” in SFF? Tell us who and why in the comments. One random commenter w... Read More