Rob Chats with Alex Bledsoe


Retired reviewer Robert Rhodes recently had a chat with Alex Bledsoe, author of the EDDIE LACROSSE MYSTERIES and the MEMPHIS VAMPIRES novels. His third EDDIE LACROSSE novel, Dark...

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Someplace to be Flying: Memorable, quixotic, original characters


Readers’ average rating: Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint Someplace to be Flying is the story of a gypsy cab driver and a freelance photographer who meet each other...

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How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, Part 2


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

WWWednesday; June 29, 2017

There is a bird theme in this week’s column and our word for Wednesday goes with it. Killy-wimple, a noun, is an archaic Scots word for the undulating flight of a bird, or a musical trill in singing.

Red Kite in Flight



Awards:

Ann Leckie won the Locus Reader Award for best science fiction novel (Ancillary Mercy), while Naomi Novik won for Best Fantasy Novel (Uprooted).

Jeff Bezos was awarded the Heinlein Prize, which acknowledges progress in commercial space travel activities, with a goal of advancing the Heinleins’ dream of humans moving into space. Bezos, the Amazon CEO is also the hea... Read More

Forever Peace: Wildly implausible and poorly written

Readers’ average rating:

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Forever Peace won the Hugo, Nebula, John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for Best science fiction novel in 1998. Certainly Joe Haldeman’s earlier 1975 The Forever War is a beloved science fiction classic that deals with the Vietnam War, time paradoxes, and the absurdity of endless conflict. First off, Forever Peace is not a direct sequel, and is hardly related other than sharing a military science fiction theme. Even that connection is tenuous, so I can only think the publisher intended to sell more copies by linking them. It creates unfair comparisons, as this book should be judged solely on its own merits (or lack of). I though this book was pretty bad, but the only way for ... Read More

Lone Star Planet: The Wild West in space

Readers’ average rating:

Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper

Lone Star Planet (1957) is a fun science fiction murder mystery novella by H. Beam Piper. The murder occurs on a planet colonized in the future by the citizens of Texas who wanted to escape the intrusive United States government on Earth. They set up a system where there’s not much centralized government and it doesn’t have much authority, for they all agree on this tenet:

Keep a government poor and weak and it’s your servant; let it get rich and powerful and it’s your master. We don’t want any masters here on New Texas.

Thus, New Texas looks a lot like the Wild West. Men wear Levis and cowboy hats and carry pistols on each hip. Everything is super-sized and even the cattle whose beef they export (which they... Read More

The Queen of the Tearling: Weaves an original and compulsive plot

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Before The Queen of the Tearling had even been published, movie rights had been sold and Emma Watson was set to take the lead role (which has now been confirmed, with David Heyman -- of Harry Potter fame -- as producer). The buzz around this book was hard to ignore, but I was surprised to discover that many of the early reviews had been pretty scathing. Loopholes in the plot was a common complaint, as well as a dislike for the book’s protagonist, Kelsea Glynn. Now, I’m all one for franchise-bashing, and this planned trilogy definitely looks set to become the next Twi-Games, Diver-light, Hunger-Whatever (and comparison to the other YA bestsellers will, no doubt, come) but I am here to put forward the case that it is in a league of its own.

Kelsea Glynn, ... Read More

Bandersnatch: The Inklings as writers group

Readers’ average rating: 

Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer

Diana Pavlac Glyer abridged her academic book The Company They Keep and published the abridgement as Bandersnatch. In it, she studies the Oxford circle of writers and thinkers that included J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams through the lens of a creative community. Glyer chose the title Bandersnatch from of a quote by C.S. Lewis about Tolkien, that “No-one ever influenced Tolkien — you might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch.” In fact, the book goes on to explore in depth just how deeply and broadly Tolkien was influenced by the Inklings and by the creative currents that swirled around the group. T... Read More

After Worlds Collide: A near-perfect sequel that’s in need of a sequel itself

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After Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer

At the conclusion of Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s classic sci-fi novel When Worlds Collide (1933), the Earth is spectacularly destroyed in a collision with the rogue planet that had been dubbed Bronson Alpha. Only 103 people, it would seem, managed to get off our world safely, aboard American scientist Cole Hendron’s rocket ship, and land on the rogue planet’s sister world, Bronson Beta. It is a marvelous cliffhanger of an ending, leaving the reader wondering just what might have happened to Hendron’s other, larger rocket ship, carrying around 400 more prospective colonists; whether any other ships from other countries managed to g... Read More

3001: The Final Odyssey: Short, unnecessary series conclusion

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3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

The elements that make 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic — the pacing, dramatic tension, smartly efficient plot lines — are mostly missing from Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey finale, 3001: The Final Odyssey. What it retains is Clarke's obvious exuberance for biological, technological and cultural evolution. Each book in the series represents an evolution in itself even, of Clarke's own perspective and thinking on the growth of humanity overtime, while providing a platform for his reflections on extraterrestrial life and evolution.

Beware of spoilers for the previous books below. I’m assuming anyone who... Read More

SFM: Ronald, Vernon, Tregillis, Kowal, Hartley, Deeds

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



“And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (June 2016, free at Clarkesworld or paperback magazine issue)


Dr. Kostia is a keynote speaker and panel participant in an academic conference. Her specialty is extra-terrestrial intelligence ― specifically, the analysis of some radio-like transmissions from an alien race called the Coronals. About thirty years before, Earth scientists received a signal from the Corona Borealis that rewrote an entire computing cent... Read More

Shadowshaper: Five-star characters with five-star prose

Readers’ average rating: 

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

I’ve commented before that I give very few five-star reviews. Usually, I expect a book to somehow change my thinking, or how I see the world, in order to rate it a five-star book. As I sat down to write this review I was going to say something like, “While that didn’t happen with Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older, I still…” and then I thought more about it, and decided that Shadowshaper has changed how I think about the world, mostly because of the time I spent with the main character, Sierra Santiago, who is a hero, an artist and a genuine girl.

As far at the plot goes (and it’s a fast-paced one) in many ways Sierra is a classic Chosen One, a trope that some of us feel has been done a... Read More

Dead Ringers: Mirror, mirror

Readers’ average rating: 

Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden

During my final college years, I was frequently greeted with warmth by complete strangers who thought they knew me. It was disconcerting to be hailed across the quad only to have these folks say, “Oh, you’re not her,” when they got a bit closer to me. Apparently I had a doppelganger! It happened again a few years later, when my college boyfriend (with whom I had broken up) got a new girlfriend who looked enough like me to be my mirror image. That was creepy.

So I could easily sympathize with Frank Lindbergh, one of a group of protagonists in Dead Ringers, when a man enters his home late one night who looks exactly like him — “His own eyes. His own smile. His own face.” The man beats him to a pulp and makes himself at home. As far as anyone can tell, Frank continues to go about his business, but in fact the ... Read More