Bill Capossere

BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

The Maze Runner: Not as gripping as it could be

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (2009) is a young adult read that zips along, mostly keeping the reader’s interest. James Dashner’s new novel is relatively suspenseful, but never as gripping as it could be due to weaknesses in detail and character.

The Maze Runner starts off strongly. Thomas is riding upward in a creaky old elevator, seemingly forever. Details have been wiped from Tomas’ memory, so he has no idea of where he’s coming from or where he’s heading. In fact, he has no idea who he is save for his name. When he arrives, it’s in a place known as “The Glade,” a relatively large open area bounded by towering stonewalls and populated by a group of boys, all of whom arrived as he did and with their memories wiped as well... Read More

Oathbringer: Ambitious, often compelling, a bit over-long

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Tim's new review.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

So I’ve decided there’s so much to cover in Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer (1200+ pages), and there so much I can’t say so as to avoid spoilers, that I’m going to eschew the usual seamless essay structure for this review and just go with relating some brief and, at times, necessarily vague reactions to various aspects.

Structure: As with the other books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance), Sanderson offers up multiple POVs, with the flashback POV going to Dalinar... Read More

Hymn: Wraps up the series in solid fashion

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Hymn by Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes brings his PSALMS OF ISAAK series to a close with Hymn (2017), a novel that satisfactorily ends the series, even if the novel is perhaps a bit weaker in comparison to its predecessors.

One of the series’ strengths has always been Scholes’ vibrant imagination, and Hymn retains that quality here, building on earlier concepts and adding new ones, which I won’t detail here so as to avoid spoilers. Another positive quality of the series has been its, well, positive quality. By that I mean that while some horrific things happen in this series (and this book) there always remains a sense of optimism and warmth arising from either plot or the characters. Rather than an unremitting catalog of the ills o... Read More

The Whymer Maze from Lamentation to Hymn (giveaway!)

Today we welcome Ken Scholes, author of the PSALMS OF ISAAK series, which began with Lamentation and concludes this month with the fifth volume, Hymn. I have enjoyed this series, especially its internal mythology and interesting characters.

One randomly chosen commenter will win a copy of Hymn!

The Whymer Maze from Lamentation to Hymn

I think sometime around Canticle or Antiphon Read More

Persepolis Rising: The Rocinante crew discuss their options

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Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

(Some of these lines are direct quotes from Persepolis Rising (2017), the seventh book in James S.A. Corey’s series THE EXPANSE.)

Holden looked at Naomi over the cloud from his coffee. “I think it may be time for us to do something else. For me to do something else, anyway.”

Naomi stopped eating and looked up at him. “Walk me through it.”

“Pirates. Martians. The Protomolecule. The OPA. Gates to a thousand worlds. Dead men talking in my head. Belters. Earthers. Colonists. Ancient alien artifacts.”

“We’ve seen a lot, yeah.”

“We have. And I’m just not sure I have it in me to handle the same number of POVs I used to. I’m feeling ... old.... Read More

The Handmaid’s Tale: Chilling and tense

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

In Our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.

Margaret Atwood was once, via a review of her work, once taken a bit publicly to task by Ursula K. LeGuin for not wanting her books (specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake Read More

Artemis: Andy Weir’s moon phase

Readers’ average rating: 

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Artemis by Andy Weir

Life in Artemis, the only human city on the moon, is rough for Jasmine Bashara, a 26 year old delivery person, smuggler, and would-be tourist guide. She fails her EVA (extravehicular activity) Guild exam in, literally, breathtaking fashion; she’s somewhat estranged from her welder father, to whom she owes a huge personal debt; she’s living alone in a tiny, claustrophobia-inducing capsule room; she barely gets by on her payments as a porter (supplemented by some judicious smuggling activity). But Jazz wouldn’t want to live any other place ― certainly not on Earth ― and she’s determined to make a success of her life, with no help from anyone.

So when Trond Landvik, one of the wealthiest people on the moon and a regular customer for Jazz’s smuggled luxuries, offers her a million “slugs” (m... Read More

SFM: Castro and Zinos-Amaro, Brennan, Banker, Robson

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Mouth of the Oyster” by Adam-Troy Castro & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Nov. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

In the aftermath of a deadly plague that struck their area in ancient China, the narrator and his wife, Li-Fan, are among the survivors. But the plague has left its mark on them: the narrator has lost his sight but is otherwise still a healthy man; Li-Fan is frailer and weak... Read More

The Telescope in the Ice: Engineers, physicists, and bureaucrats, oh my

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The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole by Mark Bowen

The Telescope in the Ice
(2017) by Mark Bowen doesn’t quite delve as much into the science as I was hoping, but it is still a solidly informative and highly engaging work that tells the story of how the Icecube Neutrino Observatory (set at the South Pole) was conceived and built and how it was immediately successful. The strong personalities (often outlandish ones) make for interesting reading, but it’s the incredibly difficult conditions and engineering problems that create a compelling story.

Unfortunately, my usually trustworthy Kindle lost all my notes, so I’m working solely from memory here and won’t be quoting any passages. The Telescope in the Ice opens with an introduction into basic particle physics with an appropriate fo... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Please pass the yams!

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Americans!

OK, we all know the traditional Thanksgiving main course is turkey, but we also know that what really makes a great Thanksgiving repast/buffet are the sides: acorn squash, roasted Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin soup, curried, well, you get the picture.

Just like we know the protagonists of our favorite books and films do the heavy lifting, but the side characters add the rich flavor.

So let’s make a meal out of them (so to speak, this isn’t the Donner Party in Space): what three or four side characters would you put on the table? Who’s the yam to your main dish?

One random commenter will choose a book from our stacks. Read More

SFM: Kayembe, Johnson, Baker, Swirsky, Walker

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Faerie Tree” by Kathleen Kayembe (Nov. 2017, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Marianne’s family is in turmoil. Her sister, who always had such plans for her life, has come back from boarding school pregnant, moving back home with her husband. The real problem is that Marianne can see there’s something hugely amiss: Sister, who was so lively, now spends most of the time sitting like a china doll, st... Read More

SFM: Poe, Bradbury, Danvers, Mamatas, James, Parypinski

Short Fiction Monday: Happy Halloween from Fantasy Literature and SFM! Our column today has an extra-large serving of horror stories. 

“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (1846, free at Project Gutenberg)

Our narrator Montresor, an Italian nobleman, explains ― in a suspiciously vague way ― how his friend Fortunato has mortally offended and insulted him. Montresor sets himself on a course of implacable revenge ... but he wants to do so in a way that Fortunato understands that Montresor is the source of revenge, but without being caught or punished.

Montresor and Fortunato meet during a carnival festival ― which at first seems by chance, but then you find out that Montresor has set up the situation so that all of his... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Stranger Things Season 2

We love this VHS-style Blu-Ray set!

Sure, you could wait for October 31st to immerse yourself in the creepily disturbing, to wallow in waves of nostalgia, to set your eyes upon a child’s wonder and fear intermingled, and of course to down mounds of, well, Mounds (and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and M & Ms, and Almond Joys and and and...).

Or you could do what the rest of us are planning on: break open those bags of Halloween candy a few nights early, plop on the couch, and binge-watch season two of Stranger Things which will be released on Netflix tomorrow.

This show has it all -- arcade games, Eggos, and everyone's favorite childhood memory, riding bikes at night. Everything about this show has been unbelievably fun!

So, what are your predictions for the second season of Stranger Things? What do you think will happen in the crazy, um, “upside down” ... Read More

The Piper’s Apprentice: A fast-moving MG fantasy

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The Piper’s Apprentice by Matthew Cody

The Piper’s Apprentice concludes Matthew Cody’s THE SECRETS OF THE PIED PIPER series, which began with The Peddler’s Road, followed by The Magician’s Key. I haven’t read book one, but I found the second book to be an enjoyable enough story aimed squarely, and successfully I’d imagine, at its middle grade audience. Book three has its issues, but is mostly a solid and satisfying conclusion. Warning: there will be spoilers for the first two books, which I’ll assume one has read (and thus I won’t bother explaining characters or prior plots).

In The Magician’s Key Read More

The Core: A satisfying wrap to a consistently strong series

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The Core by Peter V. Brett

With The Core (2017), Peter V. Brett brings his well-received DEMON CYCLE series to a climactic close, rounding up the slew of characters he’s introduced along the way and given most of them (at least of those who have survived to this point) at least some moments of stage time for a fond farewell. I’ve enjoyed the series ever since its opening with The Warded Man, and while I had some issues with this final book, overall The Core makes for a satisfying conclusion and makes it easy to recommend the series in its entirety. I’m going to assume you’ve read the prior books, so I won’t bother recapping them, and as usu... Read More

Rapture: Starts off strong but then stumbles

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Rapture by Matt KindtCafu, Roberto De la Torre

is a Valiant omnibus collection of issues 1-4 to collect the entire story arc written by Matt Kindt and drawn by Cafu. I loved the artwork for the most part, and the story began well enough, but events quickly began to feel too rushed and too slightly developed, making for an overall disappointing read, though it’s possible those more familiar with this world and these characters might have a more positive response.

The story opens wit... Read More

Cast No Shadow: Good premise but weak execution

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Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa

Cast No Shadow, written by Nick Tapalansky and illustrated by Anissa Espinosa, is a mostly muddled graphic story that mixes the paranormal, teen romance/angst, and coming of age in a blend that never really coheres.

Greg Shepard is a boy born without a shadow in a small town whose mayor regularly tries to rejuvenate the town via a string of cheap tourist-trap draws (The World’s Biggest fill-in-the-blank). Being without a shadow is the least of his issues though:  his mother died when he was young, his father has a new girlfriend (Ruth) whom Greg refuses to engage with, he’s regularly annoyed by the mayor’s son, and adding insult to injury, his best friend Layla is dating said annoyance. When he and Layla visit the town’s abandoned and decrepit mansion, Greg meets Eleanor, the ghost of a f... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Thoughts about Blade Runner and similar films (giveaway!)

As I mentioned in my review of Blade Runner 2049, I thought the film was engrossing, atmospheric, and evocative, combining a deeply thoughtful and philosophical story with visual flare.

Whether you've had a chance to see it or not, here are some questions I'd like to discuss:

1) What are some other films (or books) that do a good job of questioning and/or blurring the concept of identity between humans and the Artificial Intelligence that we create?

2) Can you think of a film series that should have ended rather than adding one or more sequels? If there were multiple sequels, where should the series have ended and why?

3) What would a Blade Runner prequel look like/involve?

4) Where would a Blade Runner 3 go? (Let's try to avoid spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.)

One random commenter will ch... Read More

Blade Runner 2049: Visually stunning

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Blade Runner 2049 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Despite a very few missteps, Blade Runner 2049 is a true visual wonder and a rich, multi-layered narrative that feels languorous and evocative rather than slow, despite its nearly three-hour length.

The story picks up thirty years after the original (we get a bit of textual exposition to fill in the gap at the very start), with Ryan Gosling as K, a replicant serving the LAPD force who, in the opening scene, is charged with bringing in an allegedly dangerous replicant. Though he succeeds (painfully), the job also leads to a revelation that could topple the society, sending K on another seek-and-destroy mission that eventually leads him to Harrison Ford’s Deckard. Aligned against K is a new corporation, headed by Wallace (Jared Leto), a genius who helped feed the world and has been manufacturing more obedient replicants, though not fast enough for de... Read More

Superhero Comics: A detailed and insightful semi-academic work

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Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler

Superhero Comics
(2017) is my second Chris Gavaler book looking at the genre (I read On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics No. 1), and considering how impressed I was with both of them, I will gladly pick up a third if there is one.

The book is part of the Bloomsbury Comics Study Series, which aims for the sweet spot between the academic and the lay reader in creating a text that can especially be used in the college classroom, one that can “satisfy the needs of novices and experts alike.” The end may push the boundaries of that “novice” more than a little, but until that point Gavaler does a nice job of keeping to that directive; Superhero ... Read More

The Stone in the Skull: Wonderful start to a new series

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The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

With The Stone in the Skull (2017), Elizabeth Bear returns to the world of her ETERNAL SKY trilogy with the opening book in another series, this one entitled THE LOTUS KINGDOMS. I only gave the first trilogy a 3.5, but recognized that score as being more than a little “churlish” as I put it, since the series was “So smart. So deep. So beautiful ... [with] Complex, realistic characters ... Big ideas. Strong females. Prose carved to a near-perfect edge. Moving moments ... “See, churlish. (Hmm, I may have to start rereading that series after this review). Well, all of those elements are there as well in The Stone in the Skull, a book which starts off slowly and ends with a bang (li... Read More

Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC

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Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker

Once upon a time, Reed Tucker reminds us in Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC, comic book fans might come to blows over the great dividing question of their time: Are you Marvel or DC? This may seem a strange debate for those who are now living through what could easily be called the Age of Marvel, as their ubiquitous heroes dominate our screens both large or small. It’s nearly impossible, after all, to go to the theater or turn on a network/cable/streaming TV channel and not come across some Marvel character flying, tromping, or speeding across the screen. Nor was Marvel-DC much of a debate in my own youth, as I grew up reading comics in the late 60s/early 70s, when upstart Marvel had beaten the staid DC almost to its knees. I didn’t know anybody wh... Read More

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: An excellent exploration of the human genome

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A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived (UK 2016, US 2017), by Adam Rutherford, is a nicely measured work of popular science that, unlike far too many popular science books/articles, doesn’t overhype its subject matter — advances in deciphering the human genome and how such advances can be applied. Always seeking to inform rather than sell, Rutherford makes for a trustworthy guide whose down-to-earth, realistic perspective doesn’t at all detract from the inherent wonder of science.

He divides the work into two large segments: “the rewriting of the past using genetics, from a time when there were at least four human species on Earth right up to the kings of Europe in the eighteenth century” and an exploration of “who we are today, and what the study of DNA in the 21st century says about families, ... Read More

Horizon: A disappointing conclusion to a frustrating series

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Horizon by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde has had me on the fence throughout her Bone Cities trilogy — book one (Updraft) had some issues but I thought it just tipped the needle over into the positive. Book two (Cloudbound) had more issues, which sent the needle just over the line in the other direction, leaving me wondering at the end if the third time (Horizon) would be the charm that saves the series. Having just finished it, I reluctantly have to say it is not. In fact, I’m even more sad to report, Horizon (2017) may have been the weakest of t... Read More

Cloudbound: A disappointingly muddled follow-up

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Cloudbound by Fran Wilde

Cloudbound is Fran Wilde’s 2016 sequel to her debut novel Updraft, and if its predecessor was a mixed bag whose balance tipped toward the positive, albeit not as much as one would wish, Cloudbound doesn’t fare quite so successfully, with the needle pointing slightly more toward the negative. Thanks to a continuingly inventive world-building and a somewhat predictable but still intriguing ending, I’ll forge forward to book three, Horizon, but it’s a more grudging decision than I’d prefer.

Warning: there will be inevitable spoilers for book one, beginning with the next paragraph! I’m also going to ass... Read More

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