Marion chats with Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and grew up in Southeast Asia, Norway and Britain. He won the British Science Fiction Association Award for best novel in 2003, for...

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The Killing Machine: Nobody outdoes Vance for sheer inventiveness

The Killing Machine by Jack Vance After successfully dispatching the first of his lifelong enemies in the previous novel, The Star King, Kirth Gersen now takes on the second of the...

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The Expanded Universe: Elite Groups in SFF

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I’ll be featuring essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and...

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Recent Posts

Michael Livingston talks about THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN (and gives away a book!)

Jason talks with Michael Livingston, historian, author, and Professor of Medieval Literature at The Citadel in South Carolina. Michael's fiction debut was recently released: The Shards of Heaven, a historical fantasy mashup set in the ancient Roman Empire. Jason and Michael talk about the worries of a historian moving into the world to fiction and his passion for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Plus, we're giving away a copy of his book to one U.S. and one Canadian commenter. See below for details.

Jason Golomb: You've written a lot of in-depth and detailed history like ... Read More

Retribution Falls: Everything I wanted from a tale about sky pirates

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Confession: I love pirates. Stories with pirates in them have captivated me for as long as I can remember (and I’ll blame my family for sitting me in front of such movies as Muppets Treasure Island and The Princess Bride) and continue to bring me great joy. With this in mind, you can imagine how excited I was when I found a pirate story by one of my favourite authors, Chris Wooding. Retribution Falls is everything I could have asked for from a swashbuckling tale: there are old foes, daring escapes, dirty jobs, betrayal, heartbreak, and breathtaking battles. Also, in a fashion I have grown to love, Wooding delivers a myriad of things that I didn’t ask for but absolutely wanted. If it wasn’t already apparent, I loved this story about flying pirates.

Darian F... Read More

The Broken Sword: A dark fantasy classic

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (1954) was selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, and is highly praised by Michael Moorcock, whose character Elric of Melnibone and his demon-possessed sword Stormbringer are directly inspired by The Broken Sword. The audio version is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who has an amazing vocal range and narrates with passion.

To get right to the point, this book is amazing and deserves a much wider readership. It’s one of the most powerful, tightly-written and relentlessly-dark high fantasies I’ve ever read. It’s chock full of Norse gods, demigods, Vikings, elves, trolls, goblins, sea serpents, evil witches... Read More

Three Moments of an Explosion: Not all winners, but more than enough to enjoy

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville

I am, like many, a huge Miéville fan (I’ve lost track of how many of his books I’ve placed on my best-of-year lists). I’m also more of a fan of the long-form rather than the short form, especially in the genre, greatly preferring novels and novellas to short stories. So how, I wondered, would I respond to Three Moments of an Explosion? Would Miéville’s style and deep ideas win out, or would the short story form constrain him, robbing him of some of his tools? It turned out to be a bit of both, and though I was admittedly somewhat disappointed in the collection as a whole, I’d still call it well worth reading. I’m going to give my impression of some selected stories, then discuss the work in its entirety.

“Polynia” — Icebergs over London. The story, told from a young teen’s POV, is well told with some lovely imagery of the floating ic... Read More

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer: Explores madness, suicide, faith, the occult

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick

Philip K Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth (1985) and VALIS (1981) were strange but moving attempts to make sense of his bizarre religious experiences in 1974 when a hyper-rational alien mind contacted him via a pink laser from space. He then wrote The Divine Invasion (1981) and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982), both loosely connected titles in the VALIS TRILOGY, although the latter was posthumously substituted for the unfinished The Owl in Daylight. Sadly, these were the final novels that PDK wrote before his death in 1982. The Divine Invasion is a complex retelling of the second coming of Christ to an Earth dominated by the fallen angel Bel... Read More

The Case Against Satan: An infernally fine piece of work

The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell

Up until a few years ago, the name "Ray Russell" was only familiar to me by dint of his work as a screenwriter on such marvelous horror/sci-fi films as Mr. Sardonicus (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Zotz! (also from 1962) and X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963). It wasn't until I noticed a highly complimentary review of his 1962 novel The Case Against Satan, in Jones & Newman's excellent overview volume Horror: Another 100 Best Books, that I even knew he was an author at all, but I've since run across a quote from a guy named Stephen King, calling Russell's original novella Sardonicus "perhaps the finest example of the modern gothic ever written"! I'd been thus trying to lay my hands on ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 22, 2015

This week, Kvothe grapples with some cognitive dissonance.

Kvothe: The other day, someone had the gall to insult the Edema Ruh in my presence. That is the one thing I... well, actually, that's one of the two... um. Starting again. That is one of the many and various things I cannot let pass without argument. So let me say it here and for all time: we Edema are not the thieves they make us out to be. We are innocent performers. We follow songs and stories across the world, and if ever we steal, our plunder is measured only in hearts and in minds. Well, except for me. I steal things all the time. I think I might have a problem, actually. But that doesn't count as a black mark against the Ruh, of course, because... becauuuuse... uh...

... uh oh.

Bill: This week is finally edging into m... Read More

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Eric Anderson

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Eric Anderson

Marvel’s X-Men franchise is long-running and crosses into so many different titles that it’s difficult to know where to start if you know only the movies, but want to start reading some actual comics. There are many excellent titles to start with, but the stand-alone 1982 graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills is the book I recommend for those who want the single best X-Men title that makes clear the thematic significance of the X-Men characters as outsiders persecuted for their differences.

Christopher Claremont’s story is not for those looking for light entertainment. He deals explicitly with the conne... Read More

Babel-17: A dazzling new-wave SF space opera from the 1960s

Reposting to include Kat's review of the new audio version.

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 won the 1966 Nebula award for best novel, tying with Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon. Samuel Delany’s space opera novel is dated in many ways, but still holds up.

In the future, humans have colonized many star systems. Currently, the Alliance is engaged in a war with the Invaders, who, despite the name, are also human. The Alliance has intercepted many dispatches in a code they can’t break. They’ve labeled it Babel-17. Desperate, they turn to the inter-galactically renowned poet Rydra Wong to help them decipher it.

Wong is in her late twenties, a linguistic, semantic and telepathic genius, a starship captain, and so compelling that the general who meets with her falls in love with her almost instantly. There is more than a bit of fan... Read More

Curse of the Bane: Another scary adventure

Curse of the Bane (The Spook’s Curse in the UK) by Joseph Delaney

Curse of the Bane (2005) is the second book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE series. (The series is confusingly called THE WARDSTONE CHRONICLES in the UK and this book is titled The Spook’s Curse there.) The first book, Revenge of the Witch (The Spook’s Apprentice in the UK) was terrifying and though I really enjoyed it, I warned that it might be too scary for many kids in the target age range of 9-12.

Tom Ward is the thirteen year old apprentice of the regional Spook. Together they travel around the county banishing witches, ... Read More