Kat Hooper

KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.



Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.

There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn ... Read More

The Shadow of the Torturer: SFF’s greatest and most challenging epic

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Reposting to include Stuart's review of THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN epic.

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

For those of you enjoy audiobooks, this is the perfect time to finally read (or to re-read) Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer. Audible Frontiers recently put it on audio and the excellent Jonathan Davis is the reader.

The Shadow of the Torturer introduces Severian, an orphan who grew up in the torturer's guild. Severian is now sitting on a throne, but in this first installment of The Book of the N... Read More

Invisible Cities: Philosophical sketches of imaginary cities

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino has long been on my list of foreign writers of the fantastic who have been deeply influential to SFF writers while remaining only tangential to the genre. This would include the great Jorge Luis Borges, as well as Stanislaw Lem. All these writers revel in philosophical musings, magic realism, and intellectual play. They belong to the deeper end of the fantastic literature swimming pool, but adventurous readers and authors have often plunged into those depths to one degree or another.

Invisible Cities was first published in Italian in 1972 but appeared in English in 1974 and was a surprise nominee for the Nebula Award in 1976. It is a unique and al... Read More

Christmas SFF(riday): Clarke, Swanwick, Wentworth, Correia

Short Fiction Monday falls on a Friday this month! In this special edition, we've found speculative short stories with a Christmas theme. 


“The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke (1954, free online or purchase at Audible)

In this Hugo-awarded Christmas-themed story, an astrophysicist who is also a Jesuit priest struggles with his faith as he returns from a scientific voyage to investigate a white dwarf, the remains of a star that went supernova thousands of years ago. What they discover shakes the priest’s faith as he tries to incorporate his new knowledge with some of the more innocent-seeming ideals of his order’s teachings.

For people of faith, “The Star” ... Read More

The Dragonbone Chair: Finally in audio format!

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Note: This review has been updated after a re-read, but we're keeping the old comments on the post.

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW, & THORN was one of the first epic fantasy trilogies I ever read and, two and a half decades ago, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s one of the two series I recommend to new fantasy readers who ask me where to start (the other is Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga). For years I’ve been wanting to re-read MEMORY, SORROW, & THORN but I’ve been waiting patiently for it to be released in audio format, even going so far as to pester the audio publishers about it, as well as Tad Williams’ w... Read More

Mythago Wood: Dreamy and strange

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.

Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps — both figuratively and literally — for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos — the idealized forms of ancient mythic... Read More

The Dark Talent: The penultimate ALCATRAZ book

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The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

This review may contain mild spoilers for the previous books in the ALCATRAZ series.

Fans of Brandon Sanderson’s ALCATRAZ VS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS series have been waiting for six years for book five, The Dark Talent (2016), which was finally published a couple of months ago by Starscape (Tor’s children’s imprint). Recorded books brought back Ramon de Ocampo for the audio version that was released at the same time. As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, The Shattered Lens, it’s hard to know which one to recommend because Starscape’s hardback version has wonderful illustrations by... Read More

The Shattered Lens: Metafiction for middle graders

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The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

This review may contain mild spoilers for the previous books in the ALCATRAZ series.

The Shattered Lens (2010) is the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s hilarious middle-grade series called ALCATRAZ VS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS. The first four books were originally published by Scholastic but Starscape (Tor’s young readers imprint) has recently re-issued the series in lovely hardback editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo. The long-awaited fifth volume, The Dark Talent, has also just been published by Starscape. They sent me all the books and they are gorgeous. My daughters love them and I’ve been recommending them to friends looking for gifts for young readers.
Read More

American Gods: Great premise that (we think) doesn’t quite deliver

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is a bad land for Gods... The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Read More

SFM: Dicken, Martin, Sturgeon, Simak, Garcia-Rosas, Vonnegut

Short Fiction Monday: Here are a few short stories we've recently read and listened to that we wanted you to know about. This week's selection includes some excellent classic tales.


“The Uncarved Heart” by Evan Dicken (Nov. 2016, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue, 0.99£ UK magazine issue)
It’s hard to tell what someone is really made of, at least until you crack them open. Some have hearts fragile as spun glass, quick to bre... Read More

The Last Wish: Engaging dark fantasy stories

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (1993 in Polish, 2007 in English) is the first book in the WITCHER series by best-selling Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. You might recognize the name from the popular video games based on the books. The series features a hero named Geralt of Rivia who, when he was an orphaned child, was transformed into something more than human through a process involving magic and drugs. Now he has white hair and some subtle superhuman powers — for example, he can see in the dark and he is stronger and faster than other men. He roams the world looking for odd thankless jobs that only a Witcher can do.

... Read More

The Dispatcher: Interesting premise that’s hard to believe in

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The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

A weird thing has happened in our world. Suddenly, people who are murdered can come back to life. Nobody knows why. It doesn’t happen when people die naturally — only when they’re murdered. To take advantage of this new death loophole, the job of Dispatcher has been created and Tony Valdez is one of them. His job is to murder people so they can end up in their own beds a few hours before they died. For example, in one scene we see Tony murder a man who is about to die on the operating table and in another we see him shoot a woman who just got hit by a bus. Dispatchers occasionally do less savory jobs, too, such as shooting injured stuntmen on movie sets so the studio won’t get sued for damages.

When one of Tony’s fellow Dispatchers disappears, a policewoman asks him to help with the investigation. Tony is reluctant, but she is persuasive and he get... Read More

SFM: Baker, Chatham, Watts, Fawver, Liu

Short Fiction Monday: Sharing our finds in free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet.

“The Likely Lad” by Kage Baker (2002, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Starship Sofa podcast #23)

Kage Baker is one of my favorite authors. I love her sense of humor and sardonic voice. She’s at it again in “The Likely Lad,” a funny novelette that you can find in print in Asimov’s Volume 26(9) or free in audio format from Starship Sofa’s podcast #23 (which I listened to and recommend).

The story, which tak... Read More

The Tower of Swallows: Sapkowski always subverts expectations

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The Tower of Swallows by Andrzej Sapkowski

Warning: This review of the sixth book in the WITCHER series will necessarily have some spoilers for the plots of the previous books.

The Tower of Swallows, published in Polish in 1997 and translated into English in 2016, is the sixth and penultimate book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER series. I’ve enjoyed all of these books. If you look at the covers and read the publishers’ promotional materials, you get the feeling that WITCHER is just another one of those medieval-style epic fantasies full of elves who are tall and beautiful but arrogant, dwarves who wield axes and mine precious metals and gems, kings and courtiers who conspire against each other, and magicians and ... Read More

Chapel of Ease: A romantic ghost story

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Chapel of Ease by Alex Bledsoe

I love that each of the novels in Alex Bledsoe’s TUFA series can stand alone. They are all set (at least partly) in the same area of Appalachia and have overlapping characters, but they each tell a self-contained story. They can be read in any order, though it would probably be ideal to read them in publication order: The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing, Long Black Curl and now, Chapel of Ease (2016).

Chapel of ... Read More

The Purloined Poodle: Oberon solves a mystery

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The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

If you haven’t been reading Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES series, you are really missing out. These are fun fantasy adventures featuring a cool modern-day druid named Atticus and his canine familiar, an Irish Wolfhound named Oberon, possibly the most awesome sidekick in all of fantasy literature.

Everyone loves Oberon, so it’s not surprising that Hearne would spawn a series (called OBERON’S MEATY MYSTERIES) that gives Oberon center stage. As the name of the series implies, these are fantasy mysteries and the first one, a novella, is called The Purloined Poodle. You do not need to be familiar with the IRON DRUID CHRONICLES to enjoy The Purloined Poodle Read More

Neverwhere: Wonderfully fantastical setting

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew has a life that most men would envy: He’s got a good job, a nice apartment in London, and he’s about to be married to a beautiful wealthy woman. But when he stops to help a girl (named Door) in the street, Richard soon finds that he’s slipped through the cracks into Neverwhere: a magical and frightening underground London that people like Richard never knew existed. How could he have known that his Random Act of Kindness would ruin everything? And, most importantly, how can he get his old life back?

Neil Gaiman rarely fails to amuse me with his creative concepts, quirky humor, and over-the-top villains, and Neverwhere (1997), the novelization of his BBC television program of the same name, has all that. What it doesn’t have is a tight and gripping p... Read More

Baptism of Fire: The story does not progress, but entertains us nonetheless

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Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski

Baptism of Fire is the fifth book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s WITCHER series. It starts up immediately after the events in The Time of Contempt, which you must read before picking up Baptism of Fire. This review will contain spoilers for previous books.

Previously, in The Time of Contempt, Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri got caught up in a coup on the island of Thanedd. The Chapter of Mages was destroyed as the sorcerers and sorceresses were either killed or otherwise dispersed. Geralt was defeated and sev... Read More

SFM: Carroll, Yoachim, Anders, Haldeman, Rusch, Herbert and Anderson

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week:


“The Loud Table” by Jonathan Carroll (Nov. 2016, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

A group of retired old men meets every day at a coffee shop to hang out most of the day and shoot the breeze. They live for each other's company, so they're bewildered and alarmed when the coffee shop manager announces that the café is closing for two months for renovations. After considering and discarding several other options, they wind up at Tough Nu... Read More

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred: An SF spin on the Trolley Problem

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The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan

Subterranean Press is one of my favorite publishers because they’re always putting out distinctive speculative fiction that’s beautifully packaged. I especially appreciate the many novellas they publish because I am often in the mood for shorter works these days and novellas give me the opportunity to read authors whose stories I might not otherwise have time for.

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred (2016) is Greg Egan’s recent science fiction novella about a woman named Anna who directs the spaceport on the asteroid Ceres. Ceres is being inundated with refugees from Vesta, an asteroid habitat that is in political upheaval. When Vesta demands that Ceres stop harboring its fleeing citizens, and then threatens to stop t... Read More

The Jennifer Morgue: Ian Fleming meets H.P. Lovecraft

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

The Jennifer Morgue (2006), the second novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES, is a science fiction spy thriller that’s an obvious homage to Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft. Bob has been sent to the Caribbean to try to find out why Ellis Billington, an evil megalomaniac billionaire, is interested in The Jennifer Morgue, a place deep in the ocean which may be an access point into our universe by tentacled eldritch horrors. For this assignment, Bob is paired up with someone from the American agency that deals with this kind of supernatural stuff — a gorgeous woman possessed by a succubus.

As usual, Bob has been insufficiently briefed about his mission, so he’s bewil... Read More

The Atrocity Archives: A sysadmin saves the world

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives contains the first two novellas in Charles Stross’ THE LAUNDRY FILES: The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle. The series is based on the premise that, before he died, Alan Turing solved a theorem that proved that mathematics could be used to gain access to other space-time dimensions. Unfortunately, what’s out there is exactly what H.P. Lovecraft said there was — sleeping tentacled horrors that might be inclined to enter our universe if gateways were opened. To avoid mass panic, this has been kept secret from most humans. The ones who accidently find out are scooped up and brought into a secret organ... Read More

SFM: McDonald, Marzioli, Downum, McGuire, Headley, Castro, Anders, Porter

Special Halloween issue of Short Fiction Monday: This week all of the stories reviewed in SFM feature zombies, haunted houses, vampires, intelligent rats, and various other types of creepiness and spookiness. Enjoy! 




The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer by Sandra McDonald (March 2016, free at Nightmare, Kindle magazine issue)
There are customary ways to begin a letter and end it, to address the envelope and set it to post. We have delivered to you (while you slept so prettily, your pale face a serene oval in the moonlight) this polite and improving manual of letters for the Fair Sex. We know you will be grateful.
The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer is, appropriately, written in the form of a lett... Read More

SFM: Killjoy, Gaiman, Arimah, Tolbert, Bisson

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“Everything that Isn’t Winter” by Margaret Killjoy (Oct. 2016, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

This piece includes a great range of storytelling in few words. “Everything that Isn’t Winter” is set post-apocalypse in a small community that has carved out a comfortable place in the new world. The setting may sound run-of-the-mill, but what Killjoy does with it makes it come to life.

It would be apt to describe “Everything that Isn’t Winter” a... Read More

Zoe’s Tale: “The Last Colony” from Zoe’s perspective

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

Zoe’s Tale (2008), the fourth book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, is the same story we were told in book three, The Last Colony, except it’s from Zoe’s perspective. Zoe is the 17-year-old daughter of the traitorous scientist Charles Boutin. Jane Sagan and John Perry adopted Zoe when she was a small child and they’ve been farming on one of Earth’s colonies for years. Now, though, the family is off to lead the settlers of a new colony called Roanoke (uh-oh). When they get there they realize they’ve been duped and life on Roanoke has a lot more going on than just terraforming a new planet.

While I was reading The Last Colony there were several times I wondered “what’s Zoe doing?” or “what does Zoe think about this?” or even “i... Read More

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