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...

Read More
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories


The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories,...

Read More
How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, 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....

Read More
SUBSCRIBE!


Sign up to receive our notifications by email. We promise not to spam you or give your email address to anybody else. (That would be mean!!) You can easily unsubscribe at any...

Read More

Recent Posts

Coming Up with Fantasy Names: A Somewhat Vague and Impractical Guide

Sam Bowring

Sam Bowring began writing at a young age, and had his first book published when he was nineteen. Since then he has written various other books and stage plays, as well as for various television shows. His critically acclaimed fantasy series THE BROKEN WELL TRILOGY has reprinted four times and sold over ten thousand copies. He recently started self publishing works too whacked out for traditional publishers, including a choose-your-own-adventure style gamebook entitled Butler to the Dark Lordand a series of short, punchy reads called Sam, Jake and Dylan Want Money Read More

How Great Science Fiction Works: A college course for science-fiction fans

How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe

For years I’ve been a fan of the GREAT COURSES audiobooks, which I usually pick up at my library or at Audible. These are a series of college-level lectures devoted to a specific topic and delivered by an expert in the field. A couple of months ago they released a set called How Great Science Fiction Works. Our teacher is Gary K. Wolfe, a professor of Humanities who received a BA in English from the University of Kansas under the tutelage of science fiction writer James E. Gunn and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago. Wolfe (no relation to Gene Wolfe) is well known in the fantasy and science fi... Read More

Jackaby: Fun start to a fresh YA fantasy series

Jackaby by William Ritter

William Ritter’s Jackaby is a pleasant young adult mystery with a smart girl main character and a title character who is the Sherlock Holmes of the paranormal.

It’s 1892 in New England, and Abigail Rook has just stepped off a freighter onto the waterfront of New Fiddleham. Abigail is British, the daughter of a socialite mother and a globe-trotting paleontologist father. Raised to be a lacy, docile, obedient girl, Abigail kicked over the traces and went to Europe on a “dinosaur dig” of her own. The funds ran out, and now she is stuck in New England.

Her first night in the new town, Abigail encounters a young man who can describe just where she’s been in Europe. He says he is doing it from observation, but what he claims to be observing are the supernatural creatures who tagged along with Abigail, unbeknownst to her. She writes him off as e... Read More

The Visitant: Satisfying historical fantasy

The Visitant by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear

The Visitant brought all sorts of family vacation memories to my mind. It reminded me of all the times I’d hiked through the ruins of Mesa Verde and imagined all the people who had worn those same rocks smooth hundreds of years ago. That’s part of the power of the book. It takes people back in time to revisit portions of their own lives, and back to the time of the Anasazi.

The Visitant is told from two different periods of time. There is the modern day story, centering around the archeologist Dusty and his crew as they unearth bones which tell a mysterious story. There’s also the ancient past involving the war chief Browser and his warrior Catkin. Their perspectives basically tell the reader how the bones got to be where they were. These two very different perspectives work together to unravel a very absorbing my... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read last month?

It's the first Thursday of the month. You know what that means, 'cause we do this on the first Thursday of every month! Time to report!

What is the best book you read in April 2016 and why did you love it? It doesn't have to be a newly published book, or even SFF. We just want to share some great reading material. Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

(And don't forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page. And we've also got a constantly updating list of new and forthcoming releases.)

As always, one commenter will choose a bo... Read More

Daughters of Ruin: An interesting concept, but a muddled execution

Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Daughters of Ruin is the debut novel from K.D. Castner and, presumably, the first of four books. This first title focuses on Princess Rhea of the Kingdom of Meridan, shown on the cover in her country’s colors (red and gold) and displaying an ornate set of jewelry which also doubles as her weapon of choice.  The cover art is quite striking, and seems to promise a tale full of intrigue and danger, but I couldn’t see past the narrative missteps and flimsy logic, and Daughters of Ruin never came to more than a disappointment for me.

The plot has a fascinating premise: after long years of war with the neighboring kingdoms of Tasan, Findain, and Corent, King Declan of Meridan declared that he would symbolically adopt one daughter of royal blood from those countries and raise them alongside his own daughter. This would be known as ... Read More

Replay: Imagine reliving your prime years over and over

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Replay is a story that every reader can empathize with. Who wouldn’t want to relive their best years over again, with all their memories intact? Fixing all the mistakes, seizing all the missed opportunities. It’s an irresistible thought, a fantasy of “what ifs.” Ken Grimwood’s Replay (1986) predates Groundhog Day (1993) by 7 years, and explores the concept in far more depth, taking it to the extreme to examine what gives our lives meaning. It’s a very appealing story, and delivers some powerful moments in the latter half.

Replay is about 43-year-old Jeff Winston, who dies of a heart attack and finds himself back as an 18-year-old student at Emory University with all his memories intact, reliving this 25 year period over and over. This could easily be simple wish-fulfillment fantasy, and it star... Read More

Queen of Candesce: Characterization is better in this sequel

Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder

“I’m someone infinitely more capable than a mere heir to a backward nation on this backward little wheel.”

Warning: This review contains a minor spoiler for Sun of Suns, the previous volume in the VIRGA series, but the same spoiler is in the publisher’s blurb for the book, so maybe it’s not really a spoiler after all.

Queen of Candesce is the second book in Karl Schroeder’s VIRGA series. It’s been four years since I read the first book, Sun of Suns, so I don’t remember all of the details of that story, but I do vividly recall the fascinating world that Schroeder built and I remember that... Read More

WWWednesday; May 4, 2016

Today’s word for Wednesday is egrimony, meaning intense sadness or sorrow. From the Latin, this noun was first listed in a lexicon or dictionary in 1626 according to the OED. It is obsolete now, but has real potential as a character name; you know, like “Egrimony Jones, Steampunk Detective.”

Awards

The Locus Award finalists were announced yesterday. This is a pretty competitive list. Aliette de Bodard manages to make both Best Fantasy Novel and best Short Story. Ann Leckie, Neal Stephenson and some other familiar names show up as well. First Novel looks like an intriguing category with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Kai Ashanti Wilson.

The finalists for the Arthur C Clarke Award have been announced.
Read More

Too Like the Lightning: An ambitious speculative novel

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Ada Palmer’s debut novel, Too Like the Lightning, is an absorbing, exhausting, and complicated work of science fiction literature. This is not the kind of book you can read in bits and pieces and quickly pick up the plot threads after watching a couple of nights of TV. Once you jump in, it’s best you stay focused, allow her world to wash over you and trust that Palmer’s taking you a worthwhile ride.

It’s the 25th century, the church wars are long over, and society is in relative balance. We’re reading the government-edited recounting of something of political, cultural, and pan-global significance. The narrative of Mycroft Canner is largely first-hand, but some elements are witnessed through trackers that allow him to see and hear events through a device attached to individuals. And some events Canner has asked others to retell on th... Read More