Marion chats with Robert Jackson Bennett (again)


American Elsewhere is Robert Jackson Bennett’s fourth novel. Every book by Bennett is a little bit different; American Elsewhere (which I’ve reviewed) is a meditation on the...

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Downward To The Earth: Coexisting beauty and horror


Readers’ average rating: Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg Up until recently, I hadn’t read Robert Silverberg‘s brilliant sci-fi novel Downward to the...

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Welcome to the Hope-and-Tragedy Era of Space Exploration


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

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

Readers’ average rating: 

Spill Zone written by Scott Westerfeld illustrated by Alex Puvilland

Scott Westerfeld’s newest story, Spill Zone, is a graphic novel illustrated by Alex Puvilland that takes place several years after Poughkeepsie suffered a major “spill,” and while nobody knows exactly what that entailed, nanotechnology and a nuclear power plant are mentioned as being involved. Whatever it was changed things inside the city, leaving behind fantastical creatures, changed animals, and “meat puppets” (think zombies). Addison’s twelve-year-old sister Lexa escaped that night, driven out on a bus with some other school children by a mysterious driver. Her parents, working at the hospital that night, did not. Addison herself was out of the city that night partying. Now she tak... Read More

The Collapsing Empire: Entertaining setup for a new space opera series

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Marion Deeds: John Scalzi’s “brand” is generally known for thoughtful premises, fast-paced action and a humorous tone (certainly there are exceptions). The Collapsing Empire hits all the right Scalzi-notes: it provides a big problem that will have long-reaching influence on human society; it has smarter-than-average characters working to fix things; it has action, snark, and humor. While one storyline is resolved, somewhat, by the end of this book, what The Collapsing Empire does best is set up the problem and introduce characters for the rest of this series.

The Empire of the Interdependency spans many star systems, and is itself dependent on the Flow, an extra-dimensional field with “s... Read More

Agent of the Crown: The princess spy

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Agent of the Crown by Melissa McShane

Agent of the Crown (2016), the third book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series, shifts to a third generation of the royal North family: Princess Telaine North Hunter has been secretly working for her uncle, the king of Tremontane, as a spy for the last nine years, since she was 15. She’s deliberately created a public image as a frivolous, bubble-headed socialite, while she works behind the scenes to uncover plots against her country. Only the king and her maid (who is also an agent) are aware of her double identity. Telaine’s job is made somewhat easier by an inherent magical talent that she also guards as a close secret: she can instantly tell if anyone is lying directly to her. (A lie is indicated by bold font in the text, a trick that took me a few pages to catch on to.)

One night... Read More

Voyage of the Basilisk: Science and curiosity

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Warning: Some inevitable spoilers for the previous novels, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, will follow.

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (2015) is the third in Marie Brennan’s series A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, and I found it falling somewhere between books one and two in terms of the reading experiences (better than the first, but not quite as good as the second). As always in this series, the narrative voice is the strongest aspect and managed to (mostly) outweigh the book’s weaknesses.

Readers will most likely note the resemblanc... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Rename this horrible cover! (giveaway!)

 

Time for another "Rename This Horrible Cover" contest!

Please help us rename this atrocious-looking science fiction novel by Robert Silverberg.

(We love Robert Silverberg, by the way.)

The creator of the title we like best wins a book from our stacks

Got a suggestion for a horrible cover that needs renaming?  Read More

Dragon and Thief: The boy with the (living) dragon tattoo

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Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn

Dragon and Thief (2003, issued in trade paperback in 2016) blends dragons and space opera in an exciting middle grade science fictional adventure. The dragon in the title is Draycos, a warrior-poet of an alien species called the K’da, who are able to shift from a three-dimensional being to a two-dimensional tattoo that attaches to your skin, moving around your body at will. The K’da are also a symbiont species, requiring a host to attach themselves to at least every six hours, or they fade away and die. In return, they offer their host protection and companionship.

The K’da have been linked with the humanoid Shontine people for years, but recently both have been under attack from a vicious people called the Valahgua, who are doing their best to exterminate the K’da and the Shontine and gain control over their part of spac... Read More

Riders of the Purple Wage: One of the most unique SF texts

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Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip Jose Farmer

At the risk of being overly simplistic, Jacque Derrida’s concept of deconstruction/post-structuralism (whichever you want to call it) is at heart the perspective that any ideological paradigm can be picked apart, bone by bone, until the skeleton lies in shambles on the floor. The purpose is not nihilistic in nature; it is intended, rather, to cast a wrench of relativity into such lofty ideals as modernism, and the rigid mindset of structuralism that came in tow. In practice, I have yet to read a science fiction text that deconstructs the Silver Age better than Philip Jose Farmer’s 1967 Riders of the Purple Wage. From its irreverent title to the telling conclusion, the bones are dust.

Anything but a modernist vision of man as hero... Read More

WWWednesday; April 19, 2017

This week’s word for Wednesday is a noun, zounderkite, which you may have heard if you watched Penny Dreadful. It means a person who does very stupid things; “Chester, you zounderkite, I said ‘Don’t push the big red button!’” The word is believed to be Germanic in origin and was popular in Victorian times. It looks like it would be a good Scrabble word.

Rain Puddles on Mendocino Headlands



Awards:

Courtesy of File 770, here are the winners of the British Science Fiction Awards. The winner for Best Novel was Europe in Winter by David Hutchinson.

The finalists for the Eugie Foster Award for short fiction were announced and include work from Alyssa Wong, Read More

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Hard as it may be to fathom, once upon a time (the early 1900s), radium was thought of as a miracle substance, enhancing all it touched. And so companies flooded the market with products like radium makeup, radium water, radium butter, radium toothpaste, and radium paint. The last was used by the young women who painted luminescent numerals on watch dials (a tool that became all-important to the war effort), though they also snuck some paint now and then to paint their nails, their dresses, even sometimes in sillier moments their teeth and faces. They had no idea, of course, that they were poisoning themselves, and the story of the devastation that poison wreaked on their bodies, and their subsequent fight for compensation from the companies who knew of the substance’s danger makes for compelling, infuriating, heartbreaking re... Read More

Blackout: If you think you’re fed up with zombies, make an exception

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Blackout  by Mira Grant

This review contains spoilers for the first two books in the NEWSFLESH trilogy, Feed and Deadline.

Mira Grant’s Blackout (2012) ends almost exactly where Deadline (2011) ended. Georgia — George — Mason has awakened to find that she has made a miraculous recovery from being shot in the brainstem, and without retinal Kellis-Amberlee (the virus that causes people to become zombies, named for the discoverer of a cure for the common cold and the discoverer of a cure for cancer, which combined with obviously horrible results; and a reservoir condition like retinal Kellis-Amberlee is one in which the virus is resident in a single organ, but the individual never amplifies to... Read More