William Gibson on Futurism


The record of futurism in science fiction is actually quite shabby, it seems to me. Used bookstores are full of visionary texts we’ve never heard of, usually for perfectly good...

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Epiphany of the Long Sun: Wolfe has so carefully executed his vision


Readers’ average rating: Epiphany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe EPIPHANY OF THE LONG SUN is an omnibus that combines Caldé of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun. A...

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SF or Fantasy? Who cares?


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

Three-Bladed Doom: Howard’s only El Borak novel

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Three-Bladed Doom by Robert E. Howard

Even those readers who have previously thrilled to the exploits of such Robert E. Howard characters as Conan the Barbarian, King Kull of Valusia, the Puritan fighter of evil Solomon Kane, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, the piratical Cormac Mac Art, and boxer Steve Costigan might still be unfamiliar with the author’s El Borak. And, I suppose, there may be good reason for that. Howard only managed to sell five stories featuring the character before his suicide death, at age 30 in 1936, although 11 more would surface in later years. Of those 16 tales, only one was of a full novel length: Three-Bladed Doom. Like many other fans, this decades-long Howard buff had never run across this character before, and so, when I spotted the 1979 Ace edit... Read More

Daring: John Charming meets his makers

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Daring by Elliott James

This second novel in Elliott JamesPAX ARCANA saga begins with an amusing top-ten list of things that people who didn’t read the first book, Charming, “really ought to know” (it’s a great way to do a re-cap), then jumps into the story.

Half-werewolf John Charming gets involved with both halves of his heritage in Daring (2014). One part is the Knights who raised and trained him, have been hunting him for years, and are now a threat to John’s new friends. The other part is a werewolf clan that wants to teach John their ways and initiate him into the pack. As he learns more about both groups, he uncovers a plot that endangers the Pa... Read More

To Kill a Kingdom: …but to merely disable a deadly love affair

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I loved the concept for this book. Siren princess (Lira) is punished by her power hungry Sea Queen mother for harboring a shred of "human" sentiment, and therefore, forced to seek the heart of a siren-hunting prince. Prince (Elian) casts about on the deep, in self-imposed exile from his own kingdom, vanquishing the world of the human killing sirens dominating the sea, and his only true home.

There were times, yes, many times when the narrative prose was lyrical and immersive and it drew me right in to this commercially quite popular story. Regrettably, that voice was inconsistent. In the main, I think this is due to imperfectly executed dual POV.

It’s hard to do dual POV well. Lira’s voice was by far the stronger of the two. Prince Elian had narrative responsibility for the “rag tag” crew’s assembly and much of their dialogue... Read More

Charming: Contemporary fantasy with a strong but vulnerable hero

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Charming by Elliott James

John Charming doesn't know exactly what he is. Well, he knows he’s a descendant of the Knights Templar, a group that’s under a geas to slay supernatural creatures who violate the Pax Arcana (a secret treaty the Knights made with the elves), but when his mother was pregnant with him, she was bitten by a werewolf. The werewolf blood gives John supernatural powers, something that’s anathema to the Knights. They trained him when he was young, but when his powers manifested, he was ostracized, and now some Knights are even hunting him, so he has to hide.

That’s how John Charming ended up as a bartender in a backwoods bar in a small Virginia town. He was satisfactorily flying under the radar until a beautiful six-foot-tall blonde showed up one night. John reluctantly gets pulled into her ragtag team of monster hunters who are trying to flush out a nasty nest of... Read More

Sunday Status Update: May 20, 2018

Another week has passed, which means...

 

Bill: This week I read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a debut YA novel that in many ways was overly-familiar in plotting and character, but that I’m still recommending due to its excellent presentation of theme and its relatively unique setting and background mythos, which are both African-based. I also finished Menno Schithuizen’s Darwin Comes to Town, an excellent examination of urban eco-systems and how cities are driving a fast-paced evolution of creatures and plants. And I’m just about three-quarters of the way through Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age, which looks at early Christians’ physical destruction of the classical world — its statues, writings, temples, etc. It’s vividly told, though a bit repetitive.  Finally, I also read... Read More

Grey Sister: A solid follow-up

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Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Grey Sister, second novel in Mark Lawrence's BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR series, is a good follow-up to its predecessor. It's not a perfect novel, but on the whole it's exciting, well-written, and very gripping.

Since the last installment in the series, two years have passed, and Nona Grey is still a novice at the convent of Sweet Mercy. Her classes -- and her magical abilities -- have continued apace, teaching her to be deadlier than ever, but two years have brought her no closer to avenging her friend Hessa or recovering the convent's prized Ship Heart. Instead, Nona once again finds herself facing more typical schoolgirl problems such as sneering bullies and difficult exams. But just as it seems that her adventuring days might be behind her, she finds herself caught up in the long-gestating pla... Read More

The Prisoner of Limnos: Another chapter in Penric’s life

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The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Prisoner of Limnos (2017 print, 2018 audio) is another of Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA novellas. It is a direct sequel to Mira’s Last Dance, so I’d recommend reading that (and its prequels) first.

Penric and Nikys, the widow Penric is in love with, are safe at court in Orbas when Nikys gets an encrypted letter stating that her mother has been taken prisoner by political enemies in Cedonia.

To his delight, Nikys comes to Penric for help, and the two set off for Cedonia to bust mom out of jail. This will involve Penric dressing up like a woman (again), using his chaos ... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: The 2017 Nebula Awards: Novelettes, Short Stories, YA

This year’s Nebula conference (May 17-20) will be held in Pittsburgh, and the 2017 Nebula Awards will be announced on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

We talked about the nominees for Best Novel and Best Novella last week.

Now let's talk about the finalists for Best Novelette, Best Short Story, and the Andre Norton Award for YA SFF.

Here they are. Click the links to read our reviews and get the links to the stories:

BEST NOVELETTE:

“Dirty Old Town” by Richard Bowes, published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
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Catseye: Another otherworldly adventure by Andre Norton

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Catseye by Andre Norton

Andre Norton’s novels are always a good option when you’re in the mood for an exciting, fast-paced, imaginative, and family-friendly adventure story. This one stars Troy Horan, a young man who lives hand-to-mouth in a ghetto called The Dipple on the luxury planet of Korwar. He’s a refugee from his home planet of Norton which has now been commandeered as a military outpost. Back home, his family were herders and his father, at least, seemed to have some sort of empathetic bond with the animals he cared for. Troy, being young when he was on Norton, isn’t quite certain about the nature of that bond.

When Troy gets an unexpected job offer from the owner of an exotic pet emporium, Troy realizes that his heritage may be an advantage. On his first day of work, Troy indeed f... Read More

All Systems Red: The adventures of an introverted killing machine

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All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The narrator of All Systems Red (2017), a 2017 Nebula award-nominated novella by Martha Wells, is a once-nameless cyborg security unit or SecUnit that has given itself the name Murderbot (for reasons disclosed midway through the story). Using its own unprecedented and highly unauthorized initiative, Murderbot has hacked the governor module software that controls its actions and obligates it to be obedient. But instead of going on a killing spree, as one might expect given the name it adopted, Murderbot elects to spend its spare hours watching countless hours of video entertainment and trying not to interact more than is necessary with the group of eight humans that it’s responsible for protecting, a survey group of eight scientists called PreservationAu... Read More