What splinters are stuck under your fingernails?


We’re pleased to once more welcome Max Gladstone, author of the excellent CRAFT series. Max is here to talk about the psychic origins of some of his influences and to ask about...

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The Thief: Hits all the right notes


Readers’ average rating: The Thief by Claire North I am absolutely loving Claire North’s THE GAMESHOUSE series so far. Loving it. These are short stand-alone novellas set in...

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Cover Reveal: Children of the Different


S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of...

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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: Identify last month’s book covers

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in November 2016. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title

Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday, you can come back and identify more.



Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a winner within 2 weeks, please bug Marion.

And, as always, we've got Read More

Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins: Sometimes convoluted, thoroughly informative

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Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins by Charles R. Ault, Jr

In Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins (2016), Charles R. Ault, Jr. takes a unique path to explaining the complexities of evolution, using children’s books such as Morris the Moose, Treasure Island, Diary of a Worm and others as springboards to discussing Charles Darwin’s path to discovery, from his time as an insatiably curious child to his adventure-filled twenties to the twilight years he spent focused on the lowly (though not to him) earthworm.

The focus is, as the title notes, on origins, and so we learn about the early ancestors and evolutionary route to those elephants (yes, by the way, they do have knees), whales, tetrapods, and p... Read More

The Prefect: Complex detective procedural set among orbitals

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The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect is the fifth Alastair Reynolds book I’ve read in his REVELATION SPACE series, though it is a stand-alone and set earlier in chronology than the other books. By the time of the main trilogy Revelation Space (2000), Redemption Ark (2002), and Absolution Gap (2003), the Glitter Band of 10,000 orbitals has already been destroyed by the corrosive Melding Plague, so we see only its wrecked aftermath. With such tantalizing hints, it is ... Read More

WWWednesday; December 7, 2016

Today’s word for Wednesday is the noun flummadiddle, which means something worthless or foolish, a bauble. It used to be the name of a bread-and-pork-fat based pudding with sweet spices like cinnamon and allspice (that doesn’t sound worthless). It might come from the word “flummery,” also a kind of dessert, which is believed to be of Welsh origin.

You will see this word again later in the column. 

Dreamer of Dreams by Edmund DuLac



Gift Recommendations and Giveaway:

I’m always amazed and impressed by the knowledge base of our readers, so I’m turning part of the column over to you today. Since it’s that time of year, please go to the comments and tell us all your best gift-book recommendation. If you are a writer, it might be your own book (if indie published, please provide the purchase details.) It does not have to have come out ... Read More

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood: Perfect for fans of the cult TV series

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Heiress of Collinwood by Lara Parker

Heiress of Collinwood (2016) is the fourth DARK SHADOWS novel written by Lara Parker, who happens to have been an original cast member on the gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows, which ran on American television from 1966 – 1971 and has inspired a large number of tie-in novels. (Ms. Parker starred in the role of Angélique Bouchard Collins, in addition to a few other characters.) Contrary to the comedic tone of Tim Burton’s 2012 film based on the show, the original soap opera was quite serious and melodramatic, and Heiress of Collinwood follows that same vein.

Book 1



Our tale begins in Collinsport, Maine, in the distant year of 1797. The Collins family’s young governess, Victoria Winters, previously became... Read More

Spellbreaker: An imaginative and challengingly complex fantasy

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Spellbreaker by Blake Charlton

If someone is offering to sell you a spell that predicts one hour into the future, one excellent way to test whether the spell really works is to try to murder the man selling it to you. If you succeed in killing him, clearly it wasn’t a valid prophetic spell. In any case, that’s Leandra Weal’s rationale for poisoning the blackrice liqueur she offers to the smuggler selling her the spell. Luckily for both Leandra and the smuggler, the spell warns the smuggler not to drink the puffer fish liver-infused drink. Unfortunately, once Leandra tries the spell, making a small spelling adjustment to allow her to see twenty-four hours into the future, she sees that she will either have to murder someone she loves or die herself. If she tries to run or avoid the prophecy, everyone she loves will suddenly die.

With this compelling start, Spellbreaker Read More

Stephanie Burgis chats CONGRESS OF SECRETS and gives away a book!

Stephanie Burgis established herself as a middle grade fantasy writer with her KAT, INCORRIGIBLE series. In 2015, she expanded her repertoire with the romantic fantasy novel Masks and Shadows, set in an alternate 18th century Austria. She followed that up with Congress of Secrets, which is set in Vienna in the early 19th century and includes hidden identities, political secrets and elemental alchemy. Burgis lives in Wales. She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Marion about her work, living in Wales, and how history can repeat itself if we’re not careful.

One random commenter with a USA or Canada address will get a copy of Congress of Secrets. Read More

Last Year: Time travel tourism

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Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Jesse Cullum works security at the City of Futurity – in fact, he just saved President Ulysses S. Grant from an assassination attempt, though he lost his Oakleys in the process.

The science fiction premise of Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year (2016), is outlined in its opening scene. Oakleys are sunglasses that come from our time, but Ulysses S. Grant was one of the most important generals in the American Civil War. How can both exist in the same place? Well, in this novel, a “mirror” allows people to travel back in time, but to a specific point in the past — and it will produce a different a future. The people who travel back are tourists, and the City of Futurity, run by August Kemp, makes money from the past’s weal... Read More

The Tengu’s Game of Go: The second generation rises to make things right

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The Tengu’s Game of Go by Lian Hearn

At the beginning of THE TALE OF SHIKANOKO, Shikanoko’s father played a game with a tengu. He lost, and what he lost cast an entire kingdom into disaster. Shikanoko, whose birth name was Kazumaru, was tainted by sorcery and as much a victim as a wielder of it. Now, in The Tengu’s Game of Go, the second generation rises to try to set things right.

Lian Hearn’s four-book saga reads convincingly like a Japanese tale cycle, and in The Tengu’s Game of Go, elements which seemed to have left the story return, some in surprising ways. When the story opens, Shikanoko, who is trapped within the deer mask, is living a half-deer, half-man existence in the Darkwood, and Yoshi, the hidden emperor, is ... Read More

A Wrinkle in the Skin: A gritty, post-apocalyptic winner

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A Wrinkle in the Skin by John Christopher

Although most of us probably deem earthquakes to be relatively infrequent phenomena, the truth is that, as of this writing in late November, almost 150 such seismic events, ranging from relatively minor to completely devastating, have transpired somewhere in the world in 2016 alone. That’s an average of one earthquake every two or three days! But although these events are not only, uh, earth-shattering for those in the areas directly affected, few would deem them a possible concern for long-term, apocalyptic scenarios, as might be the case with, say, an asteroid collision ... except, that is, British author John Christopher, in his 1965 novel A Wrinkle in the Skin. Christopher, who was born in Lancashire in 1922, had already pleased this rea... Read More