Kevin chats with Seth Dickinson

We’re very excited to have novelist and short story writer Seth Dickinson here with us today. Most recently, Seth is the author of the short stories Kumara, Anna Saves Them All,...

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The Lies of Locke Lamora: Couldn’t put it down

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch The Lies of Locke Lamora introduces the reader to a world of politics, intrigue, history, and thieves. Locke is the leader of a particular...

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The Expanded Universe: When is Sci-Fi Really Fantasy, and Should We Care?

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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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

Sunday Status Update: November 29, 2015

This week, Sir Bors relates another masterpiece of plotting from the legends of King Arthur.

Bors: Today a damosel came to court. Not an unusual occurrence, save that this one came strutting right up to the king's throne and tossed off her cape and underneath she was girt with a sword. She said she didn't want to wear it -- in fact it caused her great inconvenience -- but she needed a noble knight to rid her of it. So the whole court tries to pull the damn sword out of its scabbard rather than just unbuckling it or cutting the belt, because apparently the whole court is made up complete morons. Eventually Sir Balin manages to pull the thing out, apparently liberating the damosel from the inconvenience of carrying it around. Yay? Only then the damosel wanted it back, because it would cause Balin an evil fate or some tosh. But Balin decided he was going to keep it, so the damosel fluttered off moaning a... Read More

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye

Reposting to include Skye's new review:

The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

In his introduction to The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman explains that the best zombie stories feature waves of blood but also come with strong undercurrents of social commentary. If the back of this graphic novel is to be believed, Kirkman will explore how “in a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.”

Kirkman mentions George Romero’s zombie movies in his introduction, but his take on the zombie is more than homage to Romero’s movies. While Romero’s zombies often satirize our consumer culture, Kirkman’s undead are presented in contrast to our complacent “lifestyles.” The walking dead literally hunger for life, while most of Kirkman’s readers, it seems, merely endure it.

So it is no surprise th... Read More

The Hunt for Vulcan: Wonderful exploration of the search of the hidden planet

The Hunt for Vulcan: How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe by Thomas Levenson

With recently-demoted-from-the-planetary-ranks Pluto in the news lately thanks to the New Horizons probe, it’s a good time to recall when the solar system, rather than shrinking, used to be larger by one planet. That would be the planet Vulcan, which for decades was listed as lying just inside the orbit of Mercury. Why did people think Vulcan existed? More interestingly perhaps, why did so many people think they actually saw it? And what eventually convinced the scientific community that it wasn’t there? That’s the story of The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson, and the answer to that third question lies in the book’s subtitle: How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe. Read More

The Philosopher Kings: Surprises and philosophy, with a touch of Greek mythology

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

My jaw remained open whilst I read the last pages of Jo Walton’s The Just City, and for a little while afterwards. Released earlier this year, Walton’s first novel in a new trilogy saw the start of a story whose foundational ideas are so wild, so daring, that only an author with the fullest grasp of her talent could even think of trying to wrestle with them, let alone to actually subdue and then use them to write an engaging story.

In that novel, scholars and philosophers from different times and places are selected by the goddess Athene to build the ideal society depicted in Plato’s famous dialogue, The Republic. To accomplish that, she gifts them multiple robots from the future whom we later learn are able to develop self-awareness. Those same schola... Read More

The People of the Mist: An exciting lost-race novel… with no Quatermain

The People of the Mist by H. Rider Haggard

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the so-called "Father of the Lost Race Novel," didn't write such stories featuring only Allan Quatermain and Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed. For example, his 17th novel, The People of the Mist (1894), is a smashing, wonderfully exciting, stand-alone lost-race tale featuring all-new characters. But the first third of the novel is hardly a lost-race story at all, but rather one of hard-bitten African adventure.

In it, we meet Leonard Outram, a penniless British adventurer who is seeking wealth in the wilds of the "Dark Continent" after losing his family lands and estates (through no fault of his own, it should be added). He becomes involved in the rescue of a young Portuguese woman from the largest slaving camp in Africa, and this thrilling and quit... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!

To all our American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it invites us to take stock, to reflect, and to be grateful. As a big fan of SFF, I've had a great deal to be thankful this year, including new novels by Robert Charles Wilson, China Miéville, and Neal Stephenson. However, perhaps this year will be remembered as a great year for SFF films, including Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and soon -- though not soon enough as far as I'm concerned -- another Star Wars film.

What are you grateful for?

One random commenter will choose a ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 25, 2015

Breatrix Potter; Peter Rabbit and Family

On this date in 1915, Albert Einstein presented the field equations of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. On this date in 1952, Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theater in London, beginning what would be the longest continuous run of a play in history. 


The Kunkel Awards are new! The inaugural award will be given next year, recognizing excellence in video game journalism. Nominations must have been published in 2015, and they can be from any source, even a personal blog, as long as they are “ethical and excellent.” (Apparently for some it is about ethics in gaming journalism.) Categories include news reporting, feature writing, feature streaming and photography/illustrati... Read More

Grudging: Siege and sacrifice in a Spanish realm

Grudging by Michelle Hauck

Grudging, a newly published young adult fantasy and the first in a new series called BIRTH OF SAINTS from Michelle Hauck, is set in a country reminiscent of medieval Spain, where noble warhorses are a soldier's right arm and religious faith is a significant part of most people's lives, giving this fantasy an somewhat unusual cultural flavor.

Seventeen year old Ramiro wants nothing more than to be a respected soldier in his pelotón like his older brother Salvador: to fight in hand-to-hand combat with his sword and earn the right to grow a beard, the ultimate sign of manhood in his society. Ramiro’s people avoid the legendary witches who live in the swamps and kill strangers with the magic in their voices. But when barbaric Northern invaders besiege Ramiro's walled city of Colina Hermosa and threaten to murder all who live there, his f... Read More

Made to Kill: Should have kept it as a long short story

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher

In his afterword to his new novel Made to Kill, Adam Christopher explains how the idea first saw life as a long short story/novelette entitled “Brisk Money.” While this more extensive take on the story is still relatively slim for a novel, coming in at just over 200 pages, I have to admit that it seemed to me that Christopher would have been better off simply writing another “episode” of his narrative via another short story rather than trying to expand the original into something larger.

That original story germinated out of a question from a Tor roundtable: “If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a nonliving author, who would it be?” Christopher, a huge Raymond Chandler fan, thought he’d like to read Chandler’s “lost science-fiction epic” (Ch... Read More

Michael Livingston talks about THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN (and gives away a book!)

Jason talks with Michael Livingston, historian, author, and Professor of Medieval Literature at The Citadel in South Carolina. Michael's fiction debut was recently released: The Shards of Heaven, a historical fantasy mashup set in the ancient Roman Empire. Jason and Michael talk about the worries of a historian moving into the world to fiction and his passion for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Plus, we're giving away a copy of his book to one U.S. and one Canadian commenter. See below for details.

Jason Golomb: You've written a lot of in-depth and detailed history like ... Read More