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.

Attack of the Fiend: Getting a bit repetitive

Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney

Attack of the Fiend is the fourth novel in Joseph Delaney’s THE LAST APPRENTICE / THE WARDSTONE CHRONICLES series for children. Interested readers will want to read the previous books before reading this one (and probably before even reading this review, since it may contain spoilers for previous books).

As I’ve noted in my previous reviews, this series is gruesome and scary and thus will be absolutely thrilling for some young readers. Children who are easily frightened should probably stay away unless they’re undergoing some sort of exposure therapy.

In this fourth inst... Read More

The Ringworld Engineers: Boring sequel

The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven

In 1970 Larry Niven published Ringworld, a high-concept novel that won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. What mostly captured readers’ imaginations was not RIngworld’s characters or plot, but its setting. The Ringworld is a huge (and I mean HUGE) artificial ring-shaped structure that orbits a star outside of Known Space. Nobody knows who built it or for what reason it was built. The protagonist of the story, Louis Wu, a bored 200 year old human from Earth, is invited on a quest to visit and study the Ringworld. As I mentioned in my review, I thought the novel was talky and a bit dull, but I absolutely loved the Ringworld itself.

Larry Niven didn’t plan to write ... Read More

Jokers Wild: Another WILD CARDS romp

Jokers Wild edited by George R.R. Martin

Jokers Wild (1987) is the third in George R.R. Martin’s WILD CARDS series. The WILD CARDS books are anthologies and mosaic novels set in a shared world and containing a large cast of regular characters. Authors contributing to Jokers Wild are Edward Bryant, Leanne C. Harper, George R.R. Martin, John J. Miller, Lewis Shiner, Walter Simons, and Melinda M. Snodgrass. Each author handles the perspective of a particular character and, under George R.R. Martin’s amazing editorship, the different perspectives and plotlines magically come together to form a cohesive and pract... Read More

The Rhesus Chart: Bob takes on a clan of vampire bankers

Reposting to include Marion's new review:

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

The Rhesus Chart is the fifth and most recent novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES. Bob Howard has been moving up the ranks in the Laundry — not due to any particular motivation or ambition on his part, but just because he has managed, so far, to stay alive as he and his fellow agents battle the eldritch horrors who are trying to find their way into our universe so they can eat us.

While doing some data mining in his office one day, Bob happens to notice a small but statistically significant outbreak of an illness that looks like Mad Cow disease in an area of London. Curious, he begins to investigate by consulting a neurologist, looking at cadavers, and tracing the habits of the people who’ve died of the disease. Eventually this leads him to a small group of data a... Read More

Podkayne of Mars: Heinlein gives us a smart feministic mixed-race heroine

Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

Podkayne (“Poddy”) Fries is a pretty, mixed-race teenager who lives with her parents and her younger brother (Clark) on Mars. We learn about her family and her adventures via the diary entries she writes. Poddy tell us that her family was planning to take a vacation to visit Old Earth, but when there is a mix-up with some frozen embryos, they had to cancel the trip so Poddy’s mother can take care of the unexpected new babies. Poddy is devastated until her Uncle Tom, a man who is a respected politician on Mars, arranges to escort Poddy and Clark to earth on a luxury spaceship.

Poddy is not White.

On the spaceship Poddy and Clark make a friend and get to enjoy extravagant dinners and dances. Poddy learns a lot about how to fly a spaceship and, along the way, readers will learn quite a bit about space travel, including... Read More

SFM: Adam Christopher, Alex Bledsoe, Will McIntosh, Matt Wallace, Keith Brooke and Eric Brown

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.



“Brisk Money” by Adam Christopher (2014, $0.99 for Kindle, free at Tor.com)

Ray is an electromatic man — a full-metal private investigator in 1960s Los Angeles — with a functional memory which must be reset every twenty-four hours. He relies on his assistant, Ada, an artificial intelligence who lives in a bank of computers, to keep him up-to-date on jobs, assignments, and information that isn’t hard-wired into his behavioral circuits. When Ray starts se... Read More

The Master: An epic game of chess

The Master by Claire North

The Master is the third and apparently final entry in Claire North’s wonderful THE GAMESHOUSE series of novellas. These stories are about a mysterious organization called The Gameshouse where elite patrons are invited to play for very high stakes. For example, they might win a prestigious political office, or they might lose the memories of their first love. Once they become involved with the Gameshouse, they belong for life and may be called on to participate in other players’ games.

In the first GAMESHOUSE novella, The Serpent, we met a 17th century Venetian woman who attempted to gain personal freedom from an abusive husband by helping another man become the doge of Venice. In the second novella, The Thief... Read More

A Necklace of Raindrops: Eight charming children’s bedtime stories

A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken’s sweet collection of eight short children’s bedtime stories, originally published in 1968, has just been released in audio format by Listening Library. The audiobook is just over 1.5 hours long and is excellently and lovingly narrated by the author’s daughter, Lizza Aiken. It contains these stories:

“A Necklace of Raindrops”  ̶  Every year on her birthday, the North Wind gives Laura Jones a new raindrop for her necklace. Each raindrop gives Laura a special power. When a jealous schoolmate steals the necklace, Laura has to find it. Fortunately, since she is such a nice girl, she has friends to help.

“The Cat Sat on the Mat”  ̶  Emma’s impoverished family lives on a broken-down bus. When a fairy gives Emma a cat that grants wishes, Emma has the chance to make... Read More

The Star Beast: A great story buried under a lot of politics

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

The Star Beast (1954) is one of Robert A. Heinlein’s “juveniles.” When I was a kid in the late ‘70s / early '80s, I loved these and can still remember where they were located in the library of my elementary school. My dad had some at home, too, and probably still does since I’ve never known him to throw out a book. I can’t say that I love all of Heinlein’s work — in fact, I absolutely loathe some of his novels for adults — but I can give him credit for inspiring my life-long love of science fiction, so I’ve enjoyed listening to the audio versions that Blackstone Audio had recently been producing.

The Star Beast is about a teenage boy named John Thomas Stuart (the eleventh) and his pet named Lummox, a six-ton eight-legged brontosa... Read More

Newt’s Emerald: A fantastical Regency romance

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Here’s a charming young adult novel that you could file under both “Regency Romance” and “Fantasy.” In this fun story, Lady Truthful is celebrating her nineteenth birthday with her cousins when her slightly dotty father, a retired British admiral, brings out the family heirloom that Truthful will inherit in a few years. It’s an emerald that has magical power over the weather. As the admiral is displaying it, a fierce storm suddenly blows in and, in the hubbub, the emerald is stolen and the admiral is injured. To save the family heirloom, to keep its magic from falling into the wrong hands, and to protect her father’s fragile health, Truthful sets off to London to find her emerald.

Since it’s unsuitable for a proper young lady to be running about London by herself, Truthful disguises herself as a Frenchman. She gets help from a few people, including her great aunt and a handsome young m... Read More

The Thief: Hits all the right notes

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 an alternate version of our world where an enigmatic institution called The Gameshouse works behind the scenes to influence minor and major world events. It does this by collecting and using people as “players” and “cards.” For example, The Gameshouse may offer to help a politician win a race and, in return, that politician must make himself available as a “card” when one of the players of the Gameshouse needs to use him in the future. Nobody knows what the ultimate goals of the Gameshouse are, and most people don’t even know that it exists, but there are many players and cards who have found themselves under its dominion:
There have always been houses where ga... Read More

Penric’s Demon: A new Five Gods story!

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold

It’s been ten years since Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite authors, published a story set in her FIVE GODS fantasy world. This is the award-wining series that consists of The Curse of Chalion (2001, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award), The Paladin of Souls (2003, Hugo, Nebula, Locus Award) and The Hallowed Hunt (2005). I read these when they were first released, and I loved them, so maybe you can imagine how happy I was to hear that Bujold has written a new novella set in the same world.

I listened to the audio version of Penric’s Demon, read by Grover Gardner. He has become one of my favorite narrators since I listened to him read most of Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN Read More

Only the Stones Survive: Has the emotional impact of a textbook

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn

Morgan Llywelyn has written dozens of historical novels about Ireland, the Celts, and the Túatha Dé Danann. Her latest, Only the Stones Survive, recounts her version of the legendary Gaelic conquest of the Túatha Dé Danann in ancient Ireland. According to the myths, the Milesians sailed to Ireland and, after fighting a battle, and with the help of the bard Amergin, made peace with the fae folk. They divided up the island so that the Milesians lived atop the land while the Túatha Dé Danann lived in the underworld below.

Told from multiple perspectives, Llywelyn’s tale fills in all the details, explaining some of the customs and powers of the Túatha Dé Danann, why the Milesians came to Ireland, why the peaceful Túatha Dé Danann didn’t fight back so that most... Read More

Ruffleclaw: Silly children’s story narrated by the author

Ruffleclaw by Cornelia Funke

Ruffleclaw is a chapter book (114 pages) recently written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, the German author and artist whose books (e.g., Inkheart, The Thief Lord, Dragon Rider) are loved by children and adults around the world. Ruffleclaw is translated into English by Oliver Latsch. I listened to the audio version which is read by the author and is just over 1.5 hours long.

Ruffleclaw is a furry red monster who lives under the toolshed in Tommy’s back yard. He thinks humans are icky (he calls them “slimy slugs”) but he loves their food, their cozy beds, and the music that he hears coming from Tommy’s mother’s piano. That’s why, against the advice of his monster friends, he decides to... Read More

In Endless Twilight: Timely discussions, then a really weird ending

In Endless Twilight by L.E. Modesitt Jr

In Endless Twilight (1988) is the final installment in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s THE FOREVER HERO trilogy. My review will probably contain spoilers for the first two novels, Dawn for a Distant Earth and The Silent Warrior. You need to read them before opening In Endless Twilight.

During Dawn for a Distant Earth, we saw Gerswin getting the education and skills he needed to be able to fulfill his dream of restoring the ruined Earth. In The Silent Warrior, we see Gerswin’s character darken as he realizes that the galactic empire he serves doesn’t share his goals. The commercial barons who control the economic and political systems are... Read More

The Serpent: A gorgeous novella by Claire North

The Serpent by Claire North

In 17th century Venice, the young daughter of a wealthy merchant is married off to an older aristocrat wastrel who has lost his money by gambling. His habits continue after the marriage, and he is abusive, which makes her respond by becoming cold and aloof. In an attempt to provoke her, he drags her to a gameshouse, where he continues to lose his money on trivial games of chance and skill.

But she is intrigued by the exotic setting and the cosmopolitan players. She studies the games and is eventually invited to play. Because she shows great skill, and perhaps because of her unhappy situation, she is invited upstairs to the real Gameshouse which only a few people know about. Here players compete in high-stakes real-life situations. The world is their gameboard and real people are their pieces and cards.

The game she is given the chance to play involves the election of the new Doge... Read More

Luna: New Moon: A glamorous lunar soap opera

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

I want to start this review by saying that many readers are going to absolutely love Luna: New Moon and, even though I’m not one of them, I can completely understand why they will. I admired this a lot more than I enjoyed it.

Luna: New Moon, the first installment in Ian McDonald’s LUNA series, is an epic soap opera. It’s like The Godfather, Dynasty, or Dallas on the moon. The story focuses on the Cortas, a family that lives on the moon under the head of its elderly matriarch, Adriana Corta. When she was a young woman in Brazil, Adriana was disillusioned with life on Earth, so ... Read More

Manners & Mutiny: An exciting “finish”

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

Manners & Mutiny is the fourth and final installment in Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series for teens (though as you can see from my reviews, adults will enjoy this, too!). This has been one of my favorite fantasy series in the last few years, so I’m sad to see it end. Fortunately, Carriger’s most-loved characters tend to show up in her other series, which are all set in the same supernatural England.

Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Ladies of Quality is, literally, a finishing school. Its ladies are taught how to “finish” other people, presumably enemies of the queen. At this point, Sophronia, Dimity, Agatha and their friends are close to completing their studies. They have learned many important espionage and finishing skill... Read More

SFM: Gwenda Bond, Neil Gaiman, Kij Johnson

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.



“Lois Lane: A Real Work of Art” by Gwenda Bond (2015, free at Amazon)

The first of two prequel stories for Gwenda Bond's Lois Lane: Fallout, “A Real Work of Art,” is a quick story in which pre-Metropolis Lois Lane puts her investigatory skills to use at a new school. She’s been forced to enroll in an art clas... Read More

The Silent Warrior: This story takes an unexpected turn

The Silent Warrior by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book, Dawn for a Distant Earth.

The Silent Warrior is the second book in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s FOREVER HERO trilogy. Published in the late 1980s, this series is about a man named Gerswin who grew up in the harsh environment of the ruined Earth. He was picked up by the galactic empire, educated, and enlisted in their military. He has been a successful leader for the empire, but his real dream is to restore Earth to her former glory. At the end of the first book, Dawn for a Distant Earth (which you really must read to appreciate The Silent Warrior), we saw that Gerswin is even willing to break the law to force the empire to co... Read More

Oryx and Crake: A scathing condemnation of the world we are creating

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood details an apocalyptic plague, introduces a new species of creatures that have been genetically designed to replace humanity, and the villain is a mad scientist in love. What could be more “SFF” than Oryx and Crake?

Quite a lot, according to Margaret Atwood, who prefers to describe her novel as “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction.” In interviews promoting Oryx and Crake, Atwood explained that everything that takes place in Oryx and Crake is based on trends that we can see today, as opposed to distant planets that have an allegorical connection to our lives. Atwood is “speculating” about where our society is headed. It’s a distinction th... Read More

The Game-Players of Titan: A highly entertaining but bewildering Dickian jaunt

Reposting to include Sandy's new review:

The Game-Players of Titan by Philip K. Dick

After a devastating atomic world war, the humans of Earth have mostly killed each other off. Only about a million remain and most are sterile due to the radiation weapons developed by the Germans and used by the “Red Chinese.” Some humans now have telepathic abilities, too.

The alien Vugs of Titan, taking the opportunity to extend their domains, are now the Earth’s rulers. They seem like benevolent conquerors and overseers. For their amusement, they allow human landowners (“Bindmen”) to play a game called Bluff, which is much like Monopoly where the stakes are real pieces of property on the ruined Earth. The Vugs, who seem (but may not be) intent on not allowing the human race to die out, also use the game to mix up couples, hoping to serendipitously find viable breeding pairs. Any Bindman can play in the district where they ... Read More

Dawn for a Distant Earth: Has aged well

Dawn for a Distant Earth by L.E. Modesitt Jr

In the far future, after humanity has spread throughout the galaxy, Old Earth is an abandoned ruin. Nuclear waste and bad environmental policies have killed the ecology and changed the climate. Now Earth is a frozen and desolate wasteland with dangerous sheer winds. Only the toughest people manage to survive in such a harsh climate.

Most of Earth’s sparse population huddles behind the walls of dilapidated shambletowns. Those who don’t have friends and family, or who don’t fit in for some other reason, remain outside. One of these misfits is a nameless “devil kid” who becomes the protagonist of L.E. Modesitt Jr’s FOREVER HERO trilogy after getting captured by the galactic empire. The empire takes him in, sends him to school, and enlists him in their military. Smart, s... Read More

Planetfall: An SF exploration of mental illness

Reposting to include Jason's new review:

Planetfall by Emma Newman

Planetfall, the first science fiction offering from Emma Newman, is about a colony of humans who left Earth to follow Suh, an alleged prophet who received a supernatural message giving her the coordinates of an unknown distant planet where she was supposed to travel to receive instructions about God’s plans for humanity. Suh and her best friend Ren, a brilliant geneticist and engineer, gathered a team of like-minded believers and they landed on the planet 22 years ago. After “Planetfall,” Suh disappeared into “God’s City,” where she continues to live and send yearly messages and instructions to the rest of the colonists. All is going well until a visitor arrives and claims to be Suh’s grandson. His presence threatens the colony... Read More

The Martian: Being abandoned on Mars is more fun than you’d think

Reposting to include Kat's new review:

The Martian by Andy Weir

Mars has long had a somewhat cursed reputation in space exploration. Launch failures, midair explosions, crash landings. Probes that missed the planet completely. Probes we’ve never heard from again and still don’t know what happened. By the time of Andy Weir’s The Martian, though, things have been on a better trajectory for some time and humanity has successfully landed several expeditions on Mars. Mark Watney is the engineer/botanist on the third such expedition, Ares 3, which is just coming up on the end of their first week of a month-long stay. Unfortunately, this is where Mars’ checkered past comes roaring back in the form of a sudden huge sandstorm that forces an abort of the mission and a quick exit from the planet. Or, a quick exit for all of the crew but Watney, who through a freak occurrence is presumed dead and thus abandoned, lead... Read More

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