The Expanded Universe: Exploration Blues


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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Solaris: Can we communicate with an alien sentient ocean? If so, about what?


Solaris by Stanislaw Lem Solaris is an amazing little novel with a colorful history. First written in 1961 by Stanislaw Lem in Polish, it was then made into a two-part Russian TV...

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Death, the Deluxe Edition: A treasure for SANDMAN fans


Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman Death: The Deluxe Edition, was published by Vertigo in 2012. It’s a handsome book, slightly outsized (7 ¼ by 11 inches), perfect bound...

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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

Kevin chats with Seth Dickinson (and gives away a book he loves)

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, and Sekhmet the Dying Gnosis: A Computation and the novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant (my review here), set to be published September 15th by Tor. Seth writes humorous and intriguing posts... Read More

The Traitor Baru Cormorant: One of my new all-time favorites

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

(Foreword: actual rating: 5.5/5 stars. Do not read Dickinson’s short story of the same title; it’s a spoiler for the novel’s ending. Consider yourself forewarned. Also, please see my interview with Seth Dickinson which I'll be posting later today. It will include a giveaway of The Traitor Baru Cormorant.)

Breathtakingly original and carefully crafted, The Traitor Baru Cormorant by debut novelist Seth Dickinson is one of those very few works that straddle the line between “genre” and “literary” fiction. It’s the story of a girl: a lover, a traitor, a savant, an accountant, and above all, a daughter of a huntress, a smith, and a shield-bearer, but it’s also a story of oppression, of resistance, of identity, and of politics.  With a novel years in the making, Seth Dickinson brings us the heart-... Read More

Ready Player One: *tries to insert obscure 80s reference and fails miserably*

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My childhood consisted largely of wizarding duels and Pokemon battles (sometimes both at once), so I was a little dubious about picking up Ready Player One, a nostalgia fest about pop-culture in the 1980s. What’s more, gaming culture is at the heart of the novel. The closest I got to videogames was playing Solitaire on my dad’s computer, and I’m not even sure that counts. I was more than a little bit ambivalent about the book…

Wade Watts (alliteratively named in the hope he’ll turn out like a superhero) has a dreary life. He lives in the stacks — Ernest Cline’s futuristic interpretation of a trailer park, in which trailers are stacked on top of each other in towers — with his aunt and her knucklehead boyfriend. He spends his days plugged into the OASIS, a virtual rea... Read More

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch: What if god were a drug-pushing alien?

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was the 10th and final PKD book I read last year after 40 years without reading any. I always felt as a teenager that I would get more from his books as an adult, and I think I was right. This one is a real mind-bending experience, deliciously strange and tantalizing with its ideas.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) is one of the earliest PKD novels that deals overtly with drug use, hallucinations, and his thoughts on religion and the divine in our mundane lives. As usual, his near-future world is fairly dystopian, and his characters are everyday people trying to muddle through life. There are no superheroes, and his characters are filled with flaws. PKD was a champion of the downtrodden everyman, which makes sense since he himself was always struggling with poverty, mental i... Read More

State of Grace: Drugs, sex, and sunshine — what could go wrong?

State of Grace by Hilary Badger

State of Grace is Hilary Badger’s first Young Adult novel, and it is a doozy. If you put the Biblical concept of the Garden of Eden, Lord of the Flies, and 1984 in a blender, added teenagers with really heavy emotional baggage and a liberal sprinkling of futuristic pharmaceuticals, and turned it on, the result would be a fascinating examination of personal choice and free will (and a terrible smoothie).

State of Grace begins in media res: Wren lives with ninety-nine other teenagers in an apparent paradise, seven days away from the highly anticipated and mysterious Completion Night. They wear loose-fitting sungarb and play naked in a lagoon, sleeping with whomever they want (though never the same person two nights in a row, as per the Books of Dot, and the sex is hinted at rather... Read More

Hunter: Magical monster-hunting

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

In Mercedes Lackey’s new young adult novel Hunter, post-apocalyptic science fiction mixes with magical fantasy to produce an adventure in the tradition of The Hunger Games and Divergent. A series of catastrophes called the “Diseray” — a corruption of Dies Irae — has hit our world: a nuclear bomb (blamed on Christians) was set off in the near east, the North and South Poles switched, plagues killed countless people, and storms have permanently grounded most aircraft. These disasters culminated in the Breakthrough, a permanent rift in reality that allows deadly magical creatures to invade our world from the Otherside. Luckily, along with all of the hostile magical monsters have come some friendly ones, called Hounds by humans, even t... Read More

Servants of the Wankh: Still trying to get off that crazy planet

Servants of the Wankh by Jack Vance

Servants of the Wankh (1969) is the second of Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE stories. It’s a direct sequel to City of the Chasch, which you’ll want to read first, though Servants of the Wankh has a short but thorough recap of the story so far. Adam Reith was stranded on the planet Carina 4269 after his spaceship crashed there. He is now back to full health, has formed a couple of friendships and a romance, and is still trying to get off that crazy planet.

Audio version

First, though, he has agreed to escort Ylin Ylan, the damsel in distress that he saved in the previous book, back to her country. He’s secretly hoping that her wealthy... Read More

Sunday Status Update: August 30, 2015

This week, Legolas gives us an insider's view of Helm's Deep.

Legolas: Journal Entry 3450023: Still in Helm's Deep. Morale is low, so Aragorn's been strutting around all day doing that thing he does where he suddenly comes over all kingly and every human in the vicinity trips over him- or herself to kowtow to him. Personally, I don't understand the reactions at all. He just sort of squints into the middle distance, sticks his chin in the air, and puffs his chest out. It's not really that impressive. But these yokels seem to love it, so whatever. Meanwhile, word has arrived that the army heading this way is even bigger than we expected, and Mithrandir has managed to cunningly slip out of harm's way by muttering vague and wizardly-sounding things about three days and dawn. The one spot of good news is that Gimli's similarly lily-livered efforts to  sneak off the battlements and "marve... Read More

Clover Honey by Rich Tommaso

Clover Honey by Rich Tommaso

Clover Honey by Rich Tommaso is a re-release of his first graphic novel, originally published in 1995, when Tommaso was twenty-three-year-old. I’ve never read anything quite like it. It’s a quick read — I think it took me all of forty-five minutes to read it — but I think it’s going to stay with me for some time to come. And I’m sure I’ll return to it. My initial impression is four stars, but I think with time I’d be willing to go higher. I suspect that the more time I spend with the book and thinking about it, the more it will grow on me.

Clover Honey is a black-and-white slice-of-life story that deals with the ... Read More

Last Man Volumes 1-3 by Balak, Sanlauille, and Uiues

Last Man Volumes 1-3 by Balak, Sanlauille, and Uiues

Usually the books I review here at fanlit are those I’ve either requested or because the publisher has noted I’ve reviewed earlier books by a particular author and so sends along that writer’s newest work. Thus, I’m already somewhat predisposed to enjoy most of what I review. But once you’re on the BLOOR (Big List of Online Reviewers), truth is you get sent a lot of books you never asked for (I know, I know — you bleed for me). Some you may wonder what the publisher is thinking (“Have I ever reviewed books on the undergarments of 14th century French monks?”), and you simply pass them on elsewhere. Others, though, you think, “I didn’t ask for this,” but then before you put it in the Not For Review pile, you have second thoughts: “It’s probably not a great idea, but who knows, I might like it.” So it goes in the Not for Immediate Review pile instead.
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