Best Dads in Fantasy


Last weekend in the US it was Father’s Day, so I thought it would be fun to name some favorite Dads from the Fantasy genre. I think I’m a good Dad. I often feed my baby,...

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The Very Best of Charles de Lint: Truly Charles de Lint’s very best


The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint With a title like The Very Best of Charles de Lint, I had high hopes, and I have to say that they were met. Yes, this is the best...

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Why I Write About Gay Dragons


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: Summer reading giveaway!

Today’s the last day of school for my kids, which means that summer is here! Even though it’s a little chaotic around here with the kids home for the next couple of months, I am out of the classroom and teaching only one online course, so my schedule is lighter than usual and I’m planning to get a lot of reading done.

Click to embiggen.



I took a good long look at what will be landing on our bookstore shelves soon when Woman’s World Magazine asked me to contribute to their Summer Reading issue (it was in your grocery store check-out line this past week!).

There are several important sequels coming out, but for the magazine article, I focused on books that didn't have any prerequisites.

They only printed two of my suggestions, probably the two they thought would be most appealing to their readers:

Children of Earth & Sky by Read More

The City of Mirrors: An overlong but fitting conclusion to an excellent trilogy

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The lengthy journey from Justin Cronin’s vampire apocalypse The Passage comes to a full conclusion (and maybe a bit more) in the third and final book, The City of Mirrors. If The Passage was absolutely great (and it really, really was), and the sequel The Twelve was good but not quite as, mostly due to it feeling much more its length than the first book did, then The City of Mirrors falls somewhere in between, though my guess is that some will react more negatively to a few of its elements than I did. It’s impossible to discuss this final book without spoilers for books one and two, so fair warning. Also, I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two books and so won’t other re-detailing characters and events.

The story focuses mostly on the hundred thousan... Read More

The Healer’s War: Harrowing tale of a Vietnam combat nurse

The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

This is another Nebula winner I’ve had on the shelf ever since it was published in 1998, but hadn’t got around to reading. So when I found an audio version on Audible narrated by Robin Miles, one of my favorite female narrators after listening to N.K. Jemisin’s phenomenal The Fifth Season, that was enough to pull it to the top of my TBR list. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is mostly known as a writer of humorous fantasy novels, along with several collaborations with Anne McCaffrey, so it was quite a surprise to discover that she was a combat nurse in Vietnam, and The Healer’s War is a fictional ... Read More

Thirteen: A story with conflicting agendas

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

Like drugs for techno-action junkies, Richard K. Morgan did the futuristic, world-weary warrior story well in his TAKESHI KOVACS series. With a Wild West-style of justice continually seeping through the scenes of blood and gore, Morgan also indicated there may be a little more on his mind than just action. The nihilism was left without an explicit voice, so Morgan set out to rectify this in his 2007 Thirteen (Black Man in the UK*). Slowing the plot to allow ideological exposition a place, the novel finds the author highlighting the prevalence of vice in unabashed, overt style. The thematic content does not always match character representation and premise, so the result is a story with conflicting agendas.

Thirteen is the story of... Read More

WWWednesday; May 25, 2016

Today’s word for Wednesday is a noun, enantiomorph, which means mirror image. The original meaning came from the words for “opposite shape.” Thanks again to HaggardHawks.

Saturday May 21 was Owl Saturday. Baby owl after a bath, courtesy of Ellen Datlow.



Awards:

File 770 reports that the Eugie Foster award will be given out at DragonCon. Foster, who wrote the beautiful, elegiac short story “When it Ends, He Catches Her,” died in 2014. The award will be given to shorter works that are “irreplaceable, that inspire, that entertain.”

Books and Writing:

Damien Walter talks about the various sub-sub-genres in SFF. Oh, oo... Read More

Troika: Russian cosmonauts explore a BDO

Troika by Alastair Reynolds

Troika is a stand-alone hard science fiction novella that was first published in the 2010 anthology Godlike Machines edited by Jonathan Strahan. In 2011 it was published on its own by Subterranean Press. The story is Alastair Reynolds’ take on the Big Dumb Object trope.

In Reynolds’ future, Russia is the world’s only major superpower and has sent three cosmonauts to examine an alien object, which they call the Matryoshka, which has arrived in Earth’s solar system through a wormhole. The story takes place years after the cosmonauts return and one has escaped the mental institution he’s been imprisoned in to visit the female astronomer who was part of their crew and now lives in poverty. Through their conversation, a... Read More

Red Queen: Reads like a YA lucky dip

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen reads a little like a YA lucky dip. You get the feeling that Victoria Aveyard just chucked a list of YA clichés into a bag and picked them out blindfolded. Katniss, sorry, Mare Barrow is a “Red”, which makes her a lower class of citizen compared to the “Silvers” who govern the world. But... isn’t that exactly the concept behind the “Reds” in Red Rising? And wasn’t the protagonist of that YA mega-franchise called Darrow? Sort-of-almost-exactly-the-same-as Barrow? Hmm, there is something fishy going on here...

So Mare Barrow is seventeen and about to be sent off to war, because that’s what usually happens in these dystopias. The Silvers are needlessly wasting thousands of Red lives — though why they’re fighting a war... Read More

The Ship: A sinister, watery utopia

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

Lalla has never had a real apple before. She’s eaten tinned apple and dried apple and apple preserve, but never a real apple. This is because sixteen-year-old Lalla is born at the end of the world, in a London where Big Ben is underwater and Regents Park is nothing but a tent city of homeless people and the British Museum is shelter to the starving masses of a dying civilisation. But Lalla’s father has a solution to the destitution her family face. The prospect of The Ship has taken on a mythical quality in Lalla’s life, as she’s heard her parents planning and arguing over it for most of her childhood, and as society teeters on the brink of collapse, the time has finally come to board the legendary vessel.

The Ship consists of 500 hundred lucky souls that her father has personally selected for his new society, though his selection process is not initially clear. On board, Lalla is astounded to... Read More

The Pool of Fire: Wraps up the TRIPODS trilogy

The Pool of Fire by John Christopher

The Pool of Fire is the third book in John Christopher’s TRIPODS dystopian series for children. If you haven’t yet read The White Mountains and The City of Gold and Lead, you need to go back and read those first. (And expect mild spoilers for those previous books in this review.)

At the end of The City of Gold and Lead, Will had escaped from the Masters and was heading back to the rebels in the White Mountains with the important knowledge he gained while he was a slave. In The Pool of Fire, the rebels are using Will’s intelligence to plan a way to defeat the Masters. The scientists and engineers, who are starting to re-learn some of the “ancient”... Read More

Dragon Bones: Despite falling short at times, still an entertaining read

Dragons Bones by Patricia Briggs

Dragon Bones is the first book in Patricia Briggs’ HUROG duology. Ward, our main character, has lived the past seven years of his life playing the role of a simpleton, ever since his father nearly beat him to death. His pretending has kept him alive all these years, but when his father dies in a hunting accident Ward is suddenly declared the heir of Hurog. He now has to convince his remaining family and friends that he has what it takes to rule Hurog, while also keeping his eyes on the threat posed by his uncle, who he isn’t sure he can trust.

Although I’m a big fan of Briggs’ MERCY THOMPSON books, I often find myself wishing she would return to the high fantasy novels she produced earlier in her writing career. Dragon Bones and its sequel aren’t my favorite of her earlier works (in my opinion the later... Read More