Thoughtful Thursday: Why do people hate fantasy… but still love Harry Potter?


Bestselling author Kazuo Ishiguro isn’t known for writing fantasy, so when his novel The Buried Giant featured, among other surprising things, ogres, it caused quite a stir....

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The Dragon Charmer: Love it or hate it


Readers’ average rating: The Dragon Charmer by Jan Siegel There is no middle ground when it comes to Jan Siegel’s novels: you either love them or hate them. Considering I...

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Romani (Gypsy) Power in Sci-Fi and Fantasy


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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Recent Posts

The Hike: A surreal and often humorous journey

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The Hike by Drew Magary

I’m of two minds on Drew Magary’s The Hike (2016). On the one hand, it’s a fast, energetic, often funny and sometimes moving work. On the other hand, its plotting feels wholly capricious and arbitrary and some of the territory it wanders is well-worn or less profound than it seems like it wants to be taken. I mostly like my books with a bit more structured depth, and if you do as well, then I think you’ll zip through and enjoy The Hike while also being a bit annoyed. But if you’re looking for is a fun video game kind of ride with a smattering of emotionality, you’ll just enjoy.

Magary begins pretty mundanely, with the main character Ben on a business trip in a mountaintop motel in Pennsylvania. He sets off on a t... Read More

Owlflight: Heroic fantasy for less-experienced fantasy readers

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Owlflight by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon

Owlflight (1997) is the first book in DARIAN’S TALE, one of the many trilogies/series that make up Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga. Though DARIAN’S TALE was first published twenty years ago, according to the series’ internal chronologically it takes place late in the overall story. I had only read four of the VALDEMAR books before picking up Owlflight. I read it because Tantor Audio has just released it in audio format and will release its sequels, Owlsight and Owlknight, in the coming months. I’m hoping this means that the other trilogies in the series that haven’t been published in... Read More

The Power: It’s electrifying

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The Power by Naomi Alderman

One thing’s for sure, The Power (2016 in the UK, Oct 2017 in the US) demands attention. Margaret Atwood has given it her blessing and I’ll eat my hat if The Power doesn’t have its own Netflix series sometime soon. Naomi Alderman could well be the next big name in subversive, feminist fiction.

The Power asks — what would happen if all women could physically dominate men? Over five years, Alderman answers that question and the answer is explosive, bloody, wild and thought-provoking.

One day, across the globe, fifteen-year-old girls realise they have electrical power in their fingertips. For some of them it’s strong enough to kill a man with one blow, or rather, one jol... Read More

The Greatest Adventure: Dinosaurs and dynamite

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The Greatest Adventure by John Taine

In the 1957 Universal film The Land Unknown, a quartet of men and one woman discover a tropical wonderhell 3,000 feet below sea level in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, replete with killer plants and savage dinosaurs. But, as it turns out, this was not the first time that four men and one woman had battled prehistoric monsters and inimical flora in a surprisingly balmy valley on the frozen continent. That honor, it would seem, goes to a book called, fittingly enough, The Greatest Adventure, written by John Taine. In actuality, “John Taine” was the pen name of Scottish mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who used his own name only when he authored books on science and math, reserving the pseudonym for when he wrote works of science fiction, of ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: August 20, 2017

This week, Legolas and Gimli run into a snag on their way to the Havens (spoilers).

Legolas: Journal Entry 4858299: This week, I at long last set off for the Grey Havens, accompanied by Gimli. It was an auspicious moment, many tearful farewells. Still, I was eager to take to the seas, for ever since I heard the sound of waves on shore, there has dwelt in my heart a terrible desire for the shining land beyond the waters. Gimli just wants to hit on Galadriel again. Anyway, our journey went smoothly the first few days, but last night, a terrible storm blew in. We were both of us up all night struggling with sails and tiller, and by the time the tempest blew itself out, we had no actual idea where we were. Now here we are floating along beneath a featureless sky, and for all I know we're headed right back toward Middle Earth. Also, waterlogged dwarf smells awful.

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Call of Fire: Searching for friends in the shadow of Mount Rainier

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Call of Fire by Beth Cato

Call of Fire (2017) continues the adventures of Ingrid Carmichael, introduced in Breath of Earth as a secretary at a geomancy school with tremendous hidden powers and who, in this second BLOOD OF EARTH novel, is on the run from an ambitious ambassador with deadly secrets. This time, Beth Cato takes Ingrid, Lee Fong, Cy Jennings, and the brilliant engineer Mr. Fenris up the Pacific Northwest coastline to Portland and Seattle, where the Japanese influence of the United Pacific conglomeration is inescapable.

Ambassador Blum, a mysterious woman who can change her physical form and practices a dark form of reiki, desperately wants to get her hands on Ingrid, which forebodes all kinds of suffering, much like what ... Read More

Binti: Home: Adds complexity to a wonderful character

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Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

In Binti: Home (2017), the follow-up novella to her very successful novella Binti, Nnedi Okorafor takes us back to Earth, to show us Binti’s reunion with family and discovery of hidden aspects of her heritage.

After the massacre that preceded her arrival at Oomza University, Binti is struggling to relate to other students at university or even focus on the advanced mathematics coursework she was so excited about. Although she remains close to Okwu, the Meduse she befriended and vouched for after the massacre in Binti, Binti finds herself angry with the Meduse — and with life — at times. These mood swings vi... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Rename this horrible cover!

We're always on the lookout for horrible SFF covers that need renaming.

When we tweeted our review for this book last week, author Myke Cole pointed out that this awful cover is really begging to be renamed:

Folks. This cover is crying out for alternate titles. Something more clever than "Behold! My glowing junk!" Please. https://t.co/UKieUzZ2ZO


— Myke Cole (@MykeCole) August 11, 2017


 

Yeah, he's right, and there are lots of good suggestions in that thread (my favorite is "Gold Member" by @yourmomcjp).

Add your title here and th... Read More

Wicked Like a Wildfire: Edgy YA heroine, unique setting, extravagant imagery

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Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

In Wicked Like a Wildfire (2017), magic and secrecy swirl around Iris and Malina, a pair of seventeen year old fraternal twins who live in current-day Montenegro with their single mother, Jasmina. Jasmina confides to them that all of the women in their family have a distinct gleam, a magical way to create and enhance beauty. Jasmina bakes marvelous foods that call particular visual scenes to the minds of those who eat them. Malina can sense moods and reflect them back with an amazing voice that creates layers of harmony. And Iris can make flowers (and sometimes other objects) expand and fractal into spiral blazes and fireworks of color.

Their joyful, though private, practicing of their magic together comes to an abrupt end when the twins are seven and a neighbor nearly discovers their secret. Jasmina, pa... Read More

The Changeling: A rich dark fairy tale for the Information Age

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Ray's new review.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

“How do we protect our children?" Cal said quietly.
Apollo watched the soft little shape in his hand. "Obviously I don’t know."


Victor LaValle’s novel The Changeling (2017) is a five-star book, one of the year’s best. I predict this thoughtful modern dark fantasy novel — or it might be horror — will be shortlisted on several awards and Best Of lists.

LaValle takes the tropes of traditional middle European fairy tales and blends them perfectly with a view of modern living, specifically modern living in New York City. He uses this blend to explore the terrifying state of ... Read More