Predict future SFF classics


Back a couple of years ago, Smithsonian Magazine reminded its readers of a 1936 poll that asked which contemporary authors would endure the slings and arrows of critics, such...

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Naamah’s Kiss: Carey’s prose is as lush and sensual as ever


Readers’ average rating: Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey In Naamah’s Kiss, Jacqueline Carey returns to the world she created in the Kushiel’s Legacy series,...

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The Fairy-Tale Archetype of the Sexy Witch


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

Thoughtful Thursday: Our SPFBO winner!

We have finally chosen our winner for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), in which 300 self-published fantasy authors contributed their work to be reviewed by 10 fantasy review blogs. This last round was really tough, containing some of the best of the 30 books we were given. In fact, we had planned to have our winner declared last week, but we needed a little more time for comparison.

In the end, we chose the book that has been at the top of our list since our first round — The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis — but it just barely edged out three of the books in our last round! We liked The Shadow Soul for its engaging story, smooth pacing, complexity of character, and overall sense of ambition. It definitely has some “issues” that we’ll bring out in our review (which Tadiana is preparing), and the fact... Read More

Wonder Women: Perfect for young (and not-so-young) historians or scientists (PREORDER DEAL!)

See the information at the end of my review for a special preorder deal!

Readers’ average rating:

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

If you know a young woman who’s interested in the contributions of women to various STEM/STEAM fields, or perhaps were one of those young women at one point in your life, you’ll be pleased to learn that Sam Maggs’ latest non-fiction work, Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History, is an entertaining and surprisingly thorough look at the ways in which women have positively changed the world. The women featured in this book succeeded despite opposition from society as a whole, ruling theocracies, or discouragement from family members; very few of them began with the support one might ex... Read More

Blood of Elves: I thought I was tired of elves and dwarves

Readers’ average rating:

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Based on internal chronology, Blood of Elves (2008) is the third book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER series. Its format differs slightly from the previous two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, which are actually story collections. (But don’t think that just because they’re not novels they aren’t necessary; to have the requisite background information you really do need to read both of them before reading Blood of Elves.)

As much as I loved The Last Wish an... Read More

WWWednesday; September 28, 2016

This week’s word for Wednesday is anfractuous, an adjective, meaning winding or circuitous. The 16th century word comes from the Latin noun anfractus, meaning a bending.

Awards:

The MacArthur Foundation Fellowships were announced this week, and 23 Fellows were named. The group includes a civil rights lawyer, historians, art historians, linguists, poets, microbiologists, video artists and writers. Of the 23, ten are women. (Thanks to File 770.)

Tor.com lists the British Fantasy Award winners here.

Books and Writing:

Ruth Franklin has published a new book about Shirley Jackson, and she shares eleven facts you might not have known about one of America’s premiere writers. ... Read More

The Wolf in the Attic: Like reading two different books. I really liked one of them.

Readers’ average rating:

The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

Reading The Wolf in the Attic, by Paul Kearney, was like reading two different books. One of these books was a solid three-star read. The other was very familiar and ultimately unsatisfying, and would probably get a 2.5 star rating from me. I’ll explain at the end of the review how I came to the overall rating I chose.

Kearney’s other work is described as second-world epic fantasy and he is compared to David Gemell. The Wolf in the Attic is a departure for him. It’s set in 1920s Oxford, England, and the main character is an eleven-year-old girl named Anna.

Anna Francis, like her father, is a Greek refugee, forced t... Read More

A Fine and Private Place: A gentle tale of love, death, and lost souls

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A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle is a well-known author of many fantasy novels, including the classic The Last Unicorn. However, I don’t often hear mention of his debut novel, A Fine and Private Place (1960), written when he was only 19 years old. Given his age it’s a phenomenal achievement — the prose is polished, filled with pathos and humor, and the characters’ relationships are deftly described. And yet I couldn’t get into the story at all, because there was almost no dramatic tension of any kind — just two central romantic relations, one between two people lonely and disconnected in the living world, and one between two recently deceased spirits not ready to let go of life.

The story bears remarkable sim... Read More

Author Marc Aramini talks to Stuart about the complicated works of Gene Wolfe

Last year I tried twice (unsuccessfully) to finish The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Retrospective of His Finest Fiction, giving up in defeat. Many SFF readers are baffled and frustrated by his stories, because they are packed with metaphors, literary references, hidden themes, and require extremely close reading to understand and appreciate. I did get a lot of supportive feedback from various readers who encountered the same difficulties, including a very knowledgeable person named “Aramini”.

When the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced, Marc Aramini’s Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 was the runner-up in the Best Related Work category. It’s an 826-page analysis covering Wolfe’s output through 1986, including ... Read More

Sword of Destiny: More great WITCHER stories

Readers’ average rating:

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny is the second story collection in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER books which are the basis of the popular video game. Sword of Destiny should be read second in the series. (This is confusing because the English translations of the WITCHER books were not published in chronological order.) I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first WITCHER book, The Last Wish, and was eager to read Sword of Destiny. It did not disappoint. I love Sapkowski’s hero, a man named Geralt of Rivia who... Read More

Monsters: Some competition for Dagora

Monsters directed by Gareth Edwards

Fortunately enough for me, I first saw Gareth Edwards' 2010 sci-fi debut, Monsters, as a middle-aged adult, rather than when I was a kid. Decades back, any monster movie that didn't deliver the titular creature within the first 1/2 hour would invariably leave me very restless; even the great '50s shocker The Giant Behemoth was pooh-poohed by me back then for withholding its initial glimpse of the film's radioactive brontosaurus for "too long." (Hmmm ... maybe this partially explains why I STILL consider The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms — in which we see the monster in the film's first 10 minutes and regularly thereafter — the greatest such film ever created.) So what would I have made of a film like Monsters, in which, despite that title, we don't get a good, solid glimpse of the alien creatures until the picture's FINAL 10 minutes, and never get to see them in open daylight? Not much, I'm ... Read More

SFM: Hodge, Chiang, Vaughn, Ryman, Simmons

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand” by Rosamund Hodge (2010, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

Violet always knew she was different: she's unable to feel deep concern or love for others, whether it was her kitten that died or her Grandmama. So she isn’t too surprised when a tall pale woman with huge butterfly wings appears to her and tel... Read More