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.

Queen of Candesce: Characterization is better in this sequel

Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder

“I’m someone infinitely more capable than a mere heir to a backward nation on this backward little wheel.”

Warning: This review contains a minor spoiler for Sun of Suns, the previous volume in the VIRGA series, but the same spoiler is in the publisher’s blurb for the book, so maybe it’s not really a spoiler after all.

Queen of Candesce is the second book in Karl Schroeder’s VIRGA series. It’s been four years since I read the first book, Sun of Suns, so I don’t remember all of the details of that story, but I do vividly recall the fascinating world that Schroeder built and I remember that... Read More

Grimm’s Fairy Tales: An all-star cast narrates a new audio version

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, popularly knows as The Brothers Grimm, were German academics who, in the early 19th century, studied, compiled and published hundreds of folklore tales that have become an integral part of Western culture. They published their first edition of tales, titled Children's and Household Tales, or just Grimm's Fairy Tales, in 1812 and many editions have been published since.

Listening Library has just released a new audio version of 21 of the Grimm Brothers’ original fairy tales (not to be confused with the cleaned-up versions they later published as more suitable for civilized children). It’s narrated by a full-cast that includes some of the best and most popular readers in the business.

Here are the stories and narrators:

“Rapunzel” read by Katherine Kellgren
“Cinderel... Read More

SFM: Lemberg, Brockmeier, Das, Bishop, Bolander

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

“The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar” by Rose Lemberg (March 2016, free at Uncanny Magazine, Kindle magazine issue)

In this lush story, Lemberg shows us a long-distance romance developing between two makers-of-things. Maru lives in the desert and sings sand into glass; Vadrai lives in the Northern woods and uses deepnames to inscribe images into jewels. Each is enchanted with the work of the other, and through letters — over a four-year span, because lette... Read More

Rage of the Fallen: Tom et al go to Ireland

Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney

In Rage of the Fallen, the eighth book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE / WARDSTONE CHRONICLES horror series for children, Tom flees with Alice and the Spook to Ireland to avoid the war that has engulfed their county. The evil creatures who live in Ireland are different from those they’re used to, so Tom gets to learn about, and attempt to defeat, these new threats to the world. Basically it’s the same sort of trouble he’s always been dealing with, just more Celtic-inspired. There are Irish gods, Irish witches, Irish mages, Irish ghosts, Irish blood-suckers, etc.

In addition to these new challenges, the old ones remain. The Fiend continues to dog him as we wait for their final confrontation. Witches are trying to get revenge on Tom.... Read More

Down and Dirty: Lacks cohesion, but still entertaining

Down and Dirty edited by George R.R. Martin

Jube: Hear who won the Miss Jokertown Beauty Pageant last week?
Croyd: Who?
Jube: Nobody.


I continue to listen to the new audiobook version of the WILD CARDS books as they are released by Random House Audio. Down and Dirty, the fifth volume, was published a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the previous volumes (Wild CardsAces High, Jokers Wild, Aces Abroad), you should do so before reading this review. I’ll assume you’re familiar with the format of these anthologies / mosaic novels, and the story so far.

Down and Dirty (originally published in 1988) has a strange structure which, as George R.R. Martin admits in the boo... Read More

SFM: Caroline Ives Gilman, David D. Levine, Kij Johnson, Cixin Liu, Andy Weir

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.



“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (April 2016, free at Clarkesworld magazine, Kindle magazine issue)

In “Touring with the Alien,” an unnamed alien species has landed impenetrable bubble ships on Earth and is sending out “translators,” apparently-human people who claim that they were abducted as children and raised by the aliens. The translators claim that the aliens do not pose a threat to humans... Read More

Aces Abroad: Aces and Jokers tour the world

Aces Abroad edited by George R.R. Martin

Aces Abroad is the fourth WILD CARDS anthology edited by George R.R. Martin. It was originally published in 1988, released in a new print edition by Tor in 2015, and released in audio format by Random House Audio in March 2016. It would be best to read the previous volumes (Wild Cards, Aces High, Jokers Wild) first, not only because they introduce the most important characters and provide a lot of background information that you’ll need to fully appreciate Aces Abroad, but also because those first three books are more entertaining than this one is and represent the series better, I think.

WILD CARDS is a shared universe written by sev... Read More

SFM: Dellamonica, Malik, Gilman, Vaughn, Fischer, Hurley

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.



“The Cage” by A.M. Dellamonica (2010, free online at Tor.com or purchase Kindle version)

“The Cage,” a stand-alone short story by A.M. Dellamonica, was published a few years ago on Tor.com; I read it a while ago, re-read it recently, and am happy to report that it was just as enjoyable the second time around. Jude is a general contractor in ... Read More

Rise of the Huntress: Bony Lizzy escapes

Rise of the Huntress by Joseph Delaney

Rise of the Huntress is the seventh of Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE / WARDSTONE CHRONICLES popular horror series for children. The series deservedly has legions of young fans and it’s likely that nothing I, a jaded adult, has to say about a seventh book will mean anything to anybody, so I’ll make this short.

Rise of the Huntress delivers exactly what we expect. The formula has become clear by now. Each book is a scary little adventure which gives Tom and his friends an evil foe to fight while advancing the overall plot slightly. This time Tom, the Spook, and Alice flee the Spook’s house because it has been overrun by soldiers involved in the war we keep hearing about. Bony Lizzy, the evil witch that th... Read More

The Knights of Crystallia: Targeted at a YA audience

The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson

The Knights of Crystallia (formerly published as Alcatraz Versus The Knights of Crystallia) is Brandon Sanderson’s third book in this YA series and I have several confessions to make. One is that I haven’t read the first two Alcatraz books. The second is that I am not Y. Not even close. Usually, I don’t feel that hinders my reviews of YA books. But as I read much of The Knights of Crystallia, I started to wonder if I’d become the old guy in a bathrobe yelling “Get off my lawn ya lousy kids!” while waving a hairy-knuckled fist in the offenders’ general direction. Maybe, gasp, I just didn’t get the “Y” in YA anymore.

What tipped me off? Maybe the occasional reference to farts or “potty breaks,” the character who thinks curses in the Hushworld (our world) are phrases l... Read More

The Builders: A delightfully unexpected mash-up

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

I'm a huge fan of Daniel Polansky's LOW TOWN series, so I might have claimed that I wouldn't have bought The Builders if he hadn't written it, but that's not completely honest because there is something appealing about a story that features personified animals. I’m sure I’m not the only adult man who hasn’t outgrown them.

As it turned out, this novella is one the wildest stories I've ever read. I can't explain it any better than to quote what other authors and reviewers have already said:

The Wild Bunch meets Watership Down.” ~ Read More

Clash of the Demons: Tom and Alice go to Greece

Clash of the Demons by Joseph Delaney

In Clash of the Demons, the sixth book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE series, expect more of the same: scary creatures, dark magic, dangerous quests, captures and rescues, Tom’s insecurities, questions about whether Alice is good or evil, the Spook’s insistence that they can’t compromise with the dark, foreshadowing of war, etc.

This time, the quest is to accompany Tom’s mother to Greece where they must fight an ancient witch called Ordeen who threatens a group of monks who for years have held her at bay and protected the world from her evil. The monks are growing weak, though, and they need some powerful help. They may be able to destroy Ordeen once and for all if Tom’s mother can unite the witches and spooks against her.

This... Read More

SFM: Edgar Allen Poe, Gray Rinehart, George MacDonald, Henry Lien

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the short fiction works we read this week that we wanted to share with you.



“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe (1843, free online at Poe Stories, Kindle version)

I recently stumbled upon PoeStories.com and am pleased with the find. A Poe a day may well keep boredom at bay. The website helpfully gives descriptions of each story. I chose this one for the enticing simplicity of the summary: “a horror story about a cat”.

This is indeed a horror story about a cat, told by a particularly wretched narrator whose descent into alcoholism leaves him plagued with violent thoughts. One night he turns his rage on a once-beloved cat and from... Read More

Foundation: Psychohistory is a brilliant sci-fi concept

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Hari Seldon is remembered for combining principles from psychology and history into “psychohistory,” a discipline that projects humanity’s course for thousands of years into the future. Psychohistory cannot very accurately predict the actions of individuals, but large groups are less random in their behavior. Unfortunately, Seldon’s calculations predict that the Galactic Empire will soon fall—and its dissolution will give way to thousands of years of barbarism.

Seldon is not cynical: he turns his attention to manipulating a course of events that will condense the coming Dark Ages and give rise to a reborn empire. Seldon sets up a Foundation on Terminus, and dies hoping that he’s done enough to save the galaxy. Will his gambit succeed?

Foundation is usually classified as a novel, but it was originally published as a series of short stories in the 1940s. They were c... Read More

Wrath of the Bloodeye: Tom gets a new master

Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

Wrath of the Bloodeye is the fifth book in Joseph Delaney’s very popular LAST APPRENTICE (or WARDSTONE CHRONICLES) series for middle graders. This book has also been released in other countries, such as those in the UK, under the title The Spook’s Mistake.

Tom has been John Gregory’s apprentice for a couple of years now. In the last book, Attack of the Fiend, three witch clans worked together to summon the Fiend (the Devil). Now he roams the earth and would like to kill Tom because the rumor is that Tom will be the most powerful spook in history. Or maybe it would be better for the Fiend if he befriends Tom...
Call me what you will, Tom. I have many names... But none adequately convey my true nature. I... Read More

The Ringworld Throne: Did Not Finish

The Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven

Larry Niven has great ideas but, in my opinion, he’s weak with characters and plot. The Ringworld, a huge artificial ring that surrounds a star, is Niven’s greatest creation and accounts for the success of his most famous novel, Ringworld, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970. As I explained in my review, it’s the Ringworld itself that’s exciting, not the actual events that happen upon it.

The sequel, The Ringworld Engineers, was written ten years later to address several Ringworld stability issues that scientists, including some rowdy MIT students, leveled at Niven’s creation (pun intended). This sequel did deal with those issues and probably satisfied the friendly d... Read More

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

Happy Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

I’ve only got a wee bit of Irish in me, but every year I like to celebrate Irish history and culture on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mainly that includes food and drink. At this very moment there’s a pot of corned beef and cabbage simmering on my stove and the Guinness is chilling in the fridge.

But I also enjoy celebrating their literature and lore. After dinner I may settle down with some Irish-inspired text — perhaps a story set in their beautiful land, perhaps a tale inspired by their legends and myths, maybe just something written by an Irish author.

Do you have any suggestions?

One random commenter wins a book from our stacks. Read More

The Scrivener’s Bones: Continues to entertain

The Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson

My 13 year old daughter Tali and I are enjoying reading Brandon Sanderson’s ALCATRAZ series together. We thought the first installment, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, was clever and funny and I particularly liked how Sanderson had his first-person narrator (Alcatraz) explaining the literary techniques he’s using as he writes his autobiography. This was amusing as well as instructive.

The second book, The Scrivener’s Bones (the book formerly known as Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones), picks up soon after the events of the first book (which you really need to read for maximum enjoyment, though Alcatraz quickly reca... Read More

Version Control: Will probably be my favorite book of 2016

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

“Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger... And it is more interesting.” ~Stuart Firestein

Dexter Palmer’s Version Control is my kind of science fiction. I loved every moment of this book. The story is set in the near future and focuses on Rebecca Wright and her small circle of family and friends. Rebecca, who drinks wine at breakfast and works from home as a customer service agent for an online matchmaking company called Lovability, is married to Philip, an ambitious physicist. Early on we realize that the couple has recently suffered a tragedy that affects their relationship. Rebecca’s best friend Kate is a slightly unstable woman who has an on-again off-again relationship with Carson, a postdoc in Philip’s lab. Alicia, another postdoc, seems abrasive a... Read More

SFM: Bao Shu, Rose Lemberg, R.A. Salvatore, Ray Bradbury, Sarah Pinsker

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about, most of which are free to read online. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.



“Everybody Loves Charles” by Bao Shu, trans. Ken Liu (2016, free at Clarkesworld magazine; Read More

The Devil You Know: Saloninus makes a deal with the Devil

The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker

Everything that K.J. Parker writes automatically goes on my TBR list. So when I picked up The Devil You Know, I figured I was in for a treat but I didn’t realize that the novella is a sequel to Blue and Gold, one of my favorite Parker stories. You don’t need to read Blue and Gold to enjoy The Devil You Know, but you may as well, since it’s such a great story. But don’t worry; I won’t spoil it here.

In Blue and Gold we met Saloninus, a wily philosopher and alchemist who was commissioned to perform the two ultimate alchemical feats: creating the elixir of life and turning base metal into gold. In the first sentence of the book, he informed us that he had murdered his wife an... Read More

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: Funny middle-grade fantasy

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Smedry is a troubled boy. He has no parents and, because he breaks nearly everything he touches, he is regularly being kicked out of his foster homes and transferred to new ones. The only constant adult in his life is his case worker. The bag of sand that Alcatraz receives on his 13th birthday as an inheritance from his dead parents further highlights the fact that nobody ever loved him.

But then a strange man shows up, claims to be his grandfather, and announces that Alcatraz is actually the hero of a land called the Free Kingdoms. He further explains that the land that Alcatraz knows of as America is run by evil librarians who control all knowledge, squelch technological developments, and lie to people about reality. It turns out, also, that Alcatraz’s predilection for breaking things isn’t really a curse, but is a magical ability. Grandpa Smedry introduces Alcat... Read More

The Last Witness: A fascinating study of memory

The Last Witness by K.J. Parker

The Last Witness is another of K.J. Parker’s novellas in which an unreliable first-person narrator tells us the story of his unfortunate life. This technique worked brilliantly in Blue and Gold, and it does so again here.

The Last Witness is about a man who, when he was a boy, realized that he had the magical ability to remove people’s memories from their brains. This is a useful skill. When he was young, our narrator used it to remove incriminating memories from those who might punish him or testify against him, but later he begins to earn a living by selling his services to others.

For example, someone might hire him to eliminate a particularly u... Read More

Mockingbird: A warning against drug use and illiteracy

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

In the 25th century, the human race is quickly dwindling. Robots and computers do all of the work while humans spend their meaningless lives in a drug-haze. From birth they are not educated except to be taught not to question their circumstances (“Don’t ask; relax.” “When in doubt, forget it.”) and not to get involved with other humans except to quickly satisfy sexual urges. Most people think they’re happy this way and any who become conscious enough to realize they’re not tend to kill themselves. A preferred method is to set themselves afire in public while others try not to stare. Getting involved would be “invasion of privacy.”

One person who is deeply disturbed by humanity’s decline is an android named Spofforth who is the dean of New York University. He’s shaped as a tall handsome Black man and is the last of the most sophisticated model of robots ever created. Distressed abou... Read More

SFM: Amal El-Mohtar, Sam J. Miller, C.S.E. Cooney, Philip Pullman, Greg Bear, Catherynne Valente

Short Fiction Monday: Here are some of the stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. This week we continue focusing on 2015 Nebula-nominated short fiction, along with some other stories that caught our attention.



“Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar (2015, free on Lightspeed magazineKindle magazine issue), nominated for the 2015 Nebula award (short story)

Madeleine is in therapy after the death of her mother from Alzheimer’s. She and her therapist, Clarice, are discussing the loss of her mother and the odd side-effects from a clinical trial for an Alzheimer’s drug that Madeleine has taken part in. ... Read More

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