Marion chats with Peter Clines


The Fold, a science fiction thriller by Peter Clines, came out on June 2. I thought it was a perfect summer vacation read. Clines is known for the superhero-zombie series that began...

Read More
A Darkling Plain: Raw creativity and rich world-building


A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve Whatever becomes of us, we’ll be together… I read the first installment of THE HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES back in 2003 with Mortal Engines and now I...

Read More
Our Favorite Fools


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
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...

Read More

Recent Posts

Thoughtful Thursday: Free Comic Book Day 2016! (15th anniversary!)

Free Comic Book Day — FCBD — is always the first Saturday of May and this year marks the celebration's 15th anniversary. To get your free comics on May 7, you’ll need to locate a local comic bookstore and, if in doubt, give them a call to see if they are participating. Chances are, if it’s an independent comic book store, they are offering free comics, because FCBD is designed to celebrate comics, to introduce comic books to new readers, to celebrate the unique independent comic book stores that sell them, and to support comic book stores by bringing in new customers in addition to the regular patrons.



If you are new to comics, FCBD is for you just as much as it is for those of us who can’t make it through a single day without reading comics. For me and others like me, it’s a day of celebration. But we also want to reach out to new readers.

So, if you have never been... Read More

Career of Evil: J. K. Rowling casts a different kind of spell

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Though they are a far cry from the HARRY POTTER series, J. K. Rowling’s CORMORAN STRIKE novels still possess the same storytelling magic. Rowling’s ability to capture an audience, to evoke a character so vivid they become real, triumphs in her crime series.

Sending a leg to the office of Coromoran Strike is surely the most conspicuous way to get the detective’s attention. Strike is famously an amputee himself, and when he realises the leg is accompanied by a note bearing the lyrics tattooed on his mother’s body, there can be no doubt that this is a personal attack. And the fact that the leg is addressed to his assistant Robin? The attack was meant to hit the detective where it hurts.

This is Strike’s most grisly and disturbing case to ... Read More

Strange Monsters: An entrancing musical/literary performance

Strange Monsters by Peter Brewer & Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

I’ve been a fan of Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s short fiction from the past few years of reading SFF magazines. She captures a lovely intersection between the mundane and the mythic in her stories, so when she asked if I’d like to review her newest collection, I jumped at the chance. Strange Monsters (2016) is a music-and-words collaboration between Stufflebeam and Peter Brewer, a jazz musician and Stufflebeam’s partner. Over melodies both slow and easy, and chaotic and exciting, a cast of actors reads five short stories and five poems by Stufflebeam. The resulting listening experience is fulfilling, funny, and ultimately haunting.

The first story, “The Stink of Horses,” was inspired by a real-life quote from Chekhov about how dancers stink like horses. It tells the story of Marina Golovina, a mysterious Russian balleri... Read More

Rage of the Fallen: Tom et al go to Ireland

Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney

In Rage of the Fallen, the eighth book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE / WARDSTONE CHRONICLES horror series for children, Tom flees with Alice and the Spook to Ireland to avoid the war that has engulfed their county. The evil creatures who live in Ireland are different from those they’re used to, so Tom gets to learn about, and attempt to defeat, these new threats to the world. Basically it’s the same sort of trouble he’s always been dealing with, just more Celtic-inspired. There are Irish gods, Irish witches, Irish mages, Irish ghosts, Irish blood-suckers, etc.

In addition to these new challenges, the old ones remain. The Fiend continues to dog him as we wait for their final confrontation. Witches are trying to get revenge on Tom.... Read More

WWWednesday; April 27, 2016

In Memoriam

I’m not going to write another obituary. I’m just not. Instead, I’m going to link to this essay by Charlie Jane Anders, about a comic book that starred Prince as a superhero. And what was his super-power? Music.

Awards

The Hugo short list has been announced, to much discussion.

Best Novel Finalists are: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie; The Cinder Spires (The Aeronaut’s Windlass) by Jim Butler; The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, Read More

Song of Kali: A terrific horror novel from a future Hugo Award winner

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

In Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, Edward Bryant, writing of his choice for inclusion in that overview volume, Dan Simmons' Song of Kali, mentions that Simmons had spent precisely 2 1/2 days in Calcutta before writing his first book, in which that city plays so central and memorable a role. Despite Simmons' short stay, Bryant reveals that the author filled "voluminous notebooks" with impressions and sketches of the city, and any reader who enters the grim but remarkably detailed horror novel that is Song of Kali will be amazed that its author spent such a short time there. The city is superbly well depicted in this book, and indeed is its most fully fleshed-out "character:" a vile, overcrowded, steaming cesspool of a city that breathes iniq... Read More

Blindsight: Mind-blowing hard SF about first contact, consciousness

Blindsight by Peter Watts

This is ‘hard science fiction’ in the truest sense of the term — hard science concepts, hard-to-understand writing at times, and hard-edged philosophy of mind and consciousness. Peter Watts aggressively tackles weighty subjects like artificial intelligence, evolutionary biology, genetic modification, sentience vs intelligence, first contact with aliens utterly different from humanity, and a dystopian future where humans are almost superfluous and would rather retreat into VR. Blindsight (2006) is also a tightly-told story of an exploration vessel manned by five heavily-modified post-humans commanded by a super-intelligent vampire, and a very tense and claustrophobic narrative that demands a lot from readers. If that sounds like your kind of book, you’ll find this is one of the best hard science fiction books in the last 10 years.

I try to avoid using the... Read More

It: Stephen King’s best

It by Stephen King

Stephen King's It is a wonderfully sweeping tale of what it means to be a child and what it means to leave your childhood behind, inevitably and mostly forgotten, when transforming into an adult. This very evocative tale of childhood orbits and surrounds a tale of exquisite horror, and is my favorite of the 25 or so King books I’ve read.

It story takes place in King’s old fictional haunt of Derry, Maine, and focuses on two time periods — 1957 and 1984 — where a group of friends, as children and then as adults, form a magnificent bond to battle foes both natural and supernatural. One member of this group frames the story well:

My whole pleasant life has been nothing but the eye of some storm I don't understand.

An eye ... Read More

Charlie Jane Anders talks ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY and gives away a book!

Charlie Jane Anders’s novel All the Birds in the Sky came out earlier this year, and has been very well received. This unusual tale follows the lives of a witch and a super-scientist who were best friends in middle school, and raises lots of questions about science, magic, popular culture, and coming of age. Anders is well known for her short fiction and her work on the pop-culture website IO9. Anders recently read at a bookstore event in Petaluma, California, which Marion attended, and took some time to talk about the book, her influences, San Francisco, and Writers with Drinks.

One commenter with a USA or Canadian address will win a signed copy of All the Birds in the Sky.

Marion Deeds: You are a very well-known essayist and columnist with a track record with short fiction, but All the Birds i... Read More

Down and Dirty: Lacks cohesion, but still entertaining

Down and Dirty edited by George R.R. Martin

Jube: Hear who won the Miss Jokertown Beauty Pageant last week?
Croyd: Who?
Jube: Nobody.


I continue to listen to the new audiobook version of the WILD CARDS books as they are released by Random House Audio. Down and Dirty, the fifth volume, was published a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the previous volumes (Wild CardsAces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad), you should do so before reading this review. I’ll assume you’re familiar with the format of these anthologies / mosaic novels, and the story so far.

Down and Dirty (originally published in 1988) has a strange structure which, as George R.R. Martin admits in the boo... Read More