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 and conducts brain research 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.

Children of Time: Too long but fascinating

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time (2015), the first book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s CHILDREN OF TIME series, is an expansive and visionary epic that speculates about the future of humanity.

In the first chapter, we meet a scientist who has managed to extend her life so that she can create her own world. Her plan is to drop monkeys on a terraformed planet, let loose a virus that will uplift them, wait until they evolve, and then introduce herself as their god. Without her knowledge, something goes wrong and evolution goes off in a very different direction than planned.

Next we meet a spaceship whose crew is in grave danger because Earth, which has been ruined and is at war, has cut off resources and support, purposely stranding all of its space-faring brethr... Read More

Night of Cake & Puppets: Charming YA romance set in Prague

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

For years Laini Taylor’s been a favorite here at FanLit, and now I know why. I picked up Night of Cake & Puppets, a stand-alone novella set in Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE world, because it was short and available on audio at exactly the length I needed for a recent car trip: two hours and forty-five minutes. Perfect. That’s not all that was perfect about Night of Cake & Puppets. Everything was perfect about Night of Cake & Puppets. Well, except I wish it had been longer. Longer would have been perfect.

Night of Cake & Puppets is about Zuzana and Mik’s first date. Zuzana, in case you don’t know, is the best friend of Karou, Laini Taylor’s heroine in the SMOKE & BONE books. I haven’t read those books, but that... Read More

Terminal Uprising: Janitors save the day again

Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines

Terminal Uprising (2019) is the second novel in Jim C. HinesJANITORS OF THE POST-APOCALYPSE series. It follows Terminal Alliance, which should be read first. There you’ll meet “Mops” Adamopoulos, the boss of a human janitorial crew that works for the Krakau aliens. These friendly aliens saved humanity by genetically engineering thousands of humans after the Earth was ravaged by a virus that turned everyone into zombies.

It’s been a few months since Mops and her crew found themselves accidentally in charge of the spaceship Pufferfish. They had quite an adventure and they discovered a secret about their benign Krakau hosts and about what might have c... Read More

Agency: Sounds an alarm

Agency by William Gibson

William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency (2020), is a follow-up to The Peripheral which needs to be read first. In The Peripheral we learned that in the not-too-distant future, someone will discover some software on a secret server in China which allows users to interact with people using the internet in the past (our modern day). Contacting people in the past makes a new timeline branch called a “stub.” The future people who create the stub can play around with it, influencing the economy, politics, and even waging war.

The future people we met in The Peripheral are a group of friends named Wilf, Lev, and Ash who live in London, which has... Read More

Terminal Alliance: Janitors to the rescue!

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines

The people remaining on a devastated Earth have been turned into zombies by a virus accidentally unleashed by one of their own scientists. Fortunately for some humans, a race of aliens known as the Krakau have figured out how to genetically engineer humans without the virus. Thus, about 10,000 humans still live, but rather than return to Earth to be cannibalized by their own species, they choose to work for the Krakau who saved them. The Krakau are benevolent overlords; they have even preserved the records of as much of Earth’s civilization as they could so that their human fosterlings can have their own culture.

One of these humans is Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos who leads a team of janitors on one of the Krakau spaceships. When the ship is attacked by the Podryans, an aggressive alien species, a series of mishaps incapacitates their Krakau leaders and leaves Mops in charge of the ship. With h... Read More

Knife Children: A pleasant stand-alone SHARING KNIFE novella

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold

Knife Children (2019) is a stand-alone novella set in Lois McMaster Bujold’s SHARING KNIFE world. I wasn’t a fan of that series because I didn’t like its main character, Fawn, but I’m a huge fan of all of Bujold’s other work, and I think she’s one of the best speculative fiction writers that’s ever existed, so I was happy to try this stand-alone story in which Fawn played only an insignificant role. You don’t need to be familiar with SHARING KNIFE to understand and enjoy Knife Children. It will probably make you want to read SHARING KNIFE, though, so I hope you’ll like Fawn better than I did.

Barr Foxbrush is a Lakewalker — a protege of Dag who we met in the previous Read More

Interior Chinatown: Guest starring in America

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

In his whimsical way, Charles Yu writes about the Asian-American immigrant experience in Interior Chinatown (2020). The story is about Willis Wu, a young man whose family lives in an SRO (Single-Room Occupancy Hotel) in the Chinatown of mid-20th century San Francisco. He’s the son of immigrants who came to America looking for a better life but who have been misunderstood, alienated, marginalized, ghettoized, and further discriminated against by an American government and populace that is always putting people into boxes and insisting that they stay there.

Willis’ goal in life is to appear as a “Generic Asian Man” in the popular TV show called Black and White, a ... Read More

The Broken Crown: A slow, sprawling fantasy epic

The Broken Crown by Michelle West

I listened to 19 hours (60%) of the new audio version of Michelle West’s The Broken Crown before giving up. The Broken Crown (1997) is the first novel in West’s SUN SWORD series which contains six books that add up to a whopping 4,803 pages. After getting through 458 of these pages and feeling absolutely nothing, I was dreading the remaining 4,345. I decided to quit.

Many readers love long, slow, drawn-out fantasy epics. I used to, but the older I get, the less patience I have for them. I’ll enjoy them if the plot moves at a decent clip, if there are characters that I like and care about, if the world and magic system are fascinating, and if the writing style is appealing.

Unfortunately, The... Read More

Dispel Illusion: A satisfactory ending to this time travel trilogy

Dispel Illusion by Mark Lawrence

Tadiana:   Kat:

Dispel Illusion (2019) is the final book in Mark Lawrence’s IMPOSSIBLE TIMES trilogy. Readers will need to finish One Word Kill and Limited Wish before beginning Dispel Illusion, so we’ll assume you’ve done that. Kindly, Mark Lawrence provides a recap of previous important events at the beginning of this book. (Thank you, Mr. Lawrence!) Then the story begins, literally, with an explosion. It’s a singular explosion, though: time itself is exploding in their lab, affecting various things in different ways. Dangerously ... Read More

Skin Folk: Fifteen masterful stories

Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

In Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk, you’ll find 15 diverse Caribbean-inspired fantasy stories that are full of vividly-drawn characters, powerful prose, masterful storytelling, and imagery that is sensuous and haunting.

Skin Folk, Hopkinson’s first story collection, deservedly won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection.

Some of Hopkinson’s stories are metaphors, many having to do with the theme of “skin” — whether it’s characters who are hiding, changing, or pretending to be something they’re not. Many also deal with the unique experiences of the Caribbean people as well as people who are black and/or queer or transgender.

Here are the stories:

“Riding the Red” — An intriguing metaphor base... Read More

The Pursuit of William Abbey: Brilliant but painful

The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

“I do not know whether death is mercy, or love is easy, or vengeance is peace, or if all these things are lies or truth. Or if it is the truest thing of all to say that life is all of these things, all of these truths together in perfect contradiction, blinding us to a greater truth that lies beneath.”

My husband and I are foodies. We love to try new foods, new cuisines, and new restaurants. When we order off the menu, we each order different meals so that we can share and try multiple items. When we re-visit restaurants, we rarely order what we’ve already tried. At our favorite restaurant, the chefs are always experimenting. We like to sit at the chef’s table and order the six-course tasting menu which is different every time. It’s innovative and original and delicious.
Read More

The Flowers of Vashnoi: Hope blossoming in harsh circumstances

The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold

This VORKOSIGAN SAGA novella is a blast from the past, accompanied by a large dose of radiation. After Lois McMaster Bujold apparently wrapped up this long-running series in 2016 with Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, she returned once again to her immensely popular series with this brief novella, backtracking in the series timeline to just a few years after Miles Vorkosigan’s marriage to Ekaterin, when their oldest children, twins Sasha and Helen, are toddlers.

In The Flowers of Vashnoi (2018), told from Ekaterin’s point of view, she, Miles, and Enrique Borgos — a brilliant but odd scientist who we first met in Read More

The Bronze Skies: Another adventure in the undercity

The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro

The Bronze Skies (2017) is the second book in Catherine Asaro’s MAJOR BHAAJAN series. In the first book, Undercity, we met Bhaajan, a private investigator who recently retired from military service. When she is hired by the royal family to track down a runaway prince, she must descend into the grimy tunnels under the capital city of Cries. This is where the lowest cast of citizens live — in the city’s underbelly — and this is where Bhaajan grew up before escaping into the military. As Bhaajan searches for the prince, it’s easy to draw parallels between the class system of Cries and our own world’s socioeconomic hierarchies.

In The Bronze Skies Read More

Exhalation: A strong collection by Ted Chiang

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s stories are the very best kind of speculative fiction. They’re modern, sophisticated, intelligent, clever, thoughtful, and entertaining. Best of all, they’re full of futuristic science and explorations of the personal, sociological, and ethical considerations we may be facing as science and technology advance.

Most of the stories in Exhalation have seen print before; only two are new. Here are my thoughts on each:

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" — Originally published in 2007 by Subterranean Press, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. A man in Baghdad visits a merchant who shows him a gate that allows his customers to go backward and forward in time. Both amusing and poignant,... Read More

Empress of Forever: Thrilling space opera, but it is science fiction?

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone’s Empress of Forever (2019) is definitely space opera. In a far distant future, tech genius, entrepreneur and loner Vivian Liao travels from planet to planet and system to system trying to find an advantage in a losing war against an all-powerful space empress. Viv, who is plucked by that same empress out of her our-present-day life (and planned rebellion), draws to herself the usual strange pack of uneasy allies in this battle. The book is complicated, fascinating, fast-paced, and star-and-planet hopping. I’m not sure it’s science fiction.

Viv Liao is a titan of tech, a brilliant, quirky creator who has made billions of dollars and finally, become a threat to the wrong people. On the night of her birthday party she flees, enacting her own personal plan for a... Read More

The Outlaws of Sherwood: A strong contender in an overstuffed genre

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley

Robin Longbow, a lowly apprentice to the forester of Nottingham Forest, is on the way to Nottingham fair when he is waylaid by bullies. After he accidentally kills one of them, he is forced to flee and go into hiding. If he’s discovered by the sheriff of Nottingham, he’ll be hung by the regent who is sitting in for King Richard the Lionheart while he’s away fighting in Palestine.

But Robin’s friends Much and Marian see Robin’s exile as an opportunity to strike back at the regent and his Norman allies. They convince Robin to gather and lead a band of ragtag Saxon rebels against their enemies. Thus, Robin Hood becomes a symbol and a rallying point for Saxon resistance against Norman tyranny.

The Outlaws of Sherwood is a strong contender in the overstuffed Robin-Hood-legends genre. Read More

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: A fun feminist SF fairytale

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

Billed as “The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia” and “a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes,” How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse (2019) is a science-fantasy starring the first princess born to the royal family of her planet in generations (usually they have boys).

At her naming ceremony, the fairies bless Rory with all the usual fairytale drivel: golden hair, blue eyes, sweet disposition, embroidery and harp-playing skills, and all the other things she’ll need to please a husband. The last two fairies, though, give her some actually useful skills: the ability to always see what is true, and the ability to always find a way out.

Childhood is easy for Rory until her father is assassinated and a war begins. To ... Read More

Jinx High: Like a cheesy horror movie

Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey

Jinx High (1991) is the third novel in Mercedes Lackey’s DIANA TREGARDE trilogy, following Burning Water and Children of the Night. This series stars Diana Tregarde, a romance novelist and witch who protects humans from supernatural harm. The novels and short stories in this series can be read in any order.

In Burning Water we watched Diana catch a serial killer inspired by an ancient Aztec god and in Children of the Night she confronted vampires that were sucking the life out of people in her city.

Now... Read More

Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon: A charming historical fantasy

Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon by Lisa Goldstein

Alice Wood, a recently widowed middle-aged woman, is continuing her husband’s bookselling business in his stall in the courtyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Though Alice is liked by the other vendors in the courtyard, most think that, as a woman, she’s not equipped to run a business by herself. One of her competitors, a man named George, insists that she should sell her stall to him, or at least that she should marry him and let him run their combined businesses. Everyone knows that, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth, a woman needs a man around to run things.

But Alice is determined to prove George and her other detractors wrong and she continues to work with publishers to sell books and pamphlets (such as those by Thomas Nashe) to Londoners. Things are going well until her... Read More

Children of the Night: Not rewarding enough

Children of the Night by Mercedes Lackey

Children of the Night (1990) is the second novel in Mercedes Lackey’s DIANA TREGARDE trilogy, following Burning Water. Each of the novels can stand alone, so you don’t need to read Burning Water first. In fact, it could be argued that this one is a better starting place because it’s set earlier in Diana’s life and we learn more about her in this novel. I should mention that though this series is a trilogy, there are also several short stories about Diana that can be found in magazines or collections.

Diana Tregarde reluctantly writes insipid romance novels (but not enough to make a living at it) and, since she's a witch and a G... Read More

SHORTS: Cho, Machen, Rambo, Scalzi, Andrews

SHORTS: Our column exploring free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've recently read that we wanted you to know about.

“Head of a Snake, Tail of a Dragon” by Zen Cho (2018, free on the author’s website)

This short story is a delightful sequel to Zen Cho's Hugo award-winning novelette, “If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again.” And both are free online, so win-win!

Jin-Dae is an imugi, a magical serpent that can — if it learns and grows in the right way — turn into a dragon. But Jin-Dae has no particular interest in becoming a dragon; she's just fine with her life the way it is. Except that there aren... Read More

Burning Water: Urban fantasy by Mercedes Lackey

Burning Water by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey is best known for her VALDEMAR series, a multi-volume epic fantasy that is beloved by many fantasy readers. Some of Lackey’s legions of fans may not know that she also published an urban fantasy trilogy back in the late 80s and early 90s. It stars Diana Tregarde, a romance writer and practicing witch who solves magical murders and helps protect the world from evil supernatural beings. She is a Guardian.

In the first DIANA TREGARDE novel, Burning Water (1989), we meet Diana after her friend Mark Valdez, a police detective, asks for her help with a case. It involves the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, a photographer for a travel magazine, a fashion designer, four... Read More

The Rosewater Redemption: The Weird finale of a Weird trilogy

The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson’s WORMWOOD TRILOGY, which is a delightfully Weird take on the Humans vs Aliens trope, ends with The Rosewater Redemption (2019). You’ll need to read the first two novels first: Rosewater and The Rosewater Insurrection. I’ll assume that you have. (If you haven’t, I highly recommend them.)

It’s 2068 and, at this point in the story, nobody knows what to expect from the alien presence named Wormwood. It is trying to take over the earth, but in a gradual, insidious way. Most of humanity is unaware of this and many are enjoying the healing a... Read More

Grave Importance: Greta gets what she deserves

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance (2019) is the third DR GRETA HELSING book by Vivian Shaw, following Strange Practice and Dreadful Company. For the best experience, you should read those books first, though it’s not strictly necessary. Each book’s main plot stands alone, but the characters’ relationships (including a romance) develop over the course of the three novels.

After the events of Dreadful Company, Greta is back in England, helping vampyre Varney take care of the new monsters they’ve brought back from Paris. When a colleague who runs a clinic for ... Read More

The Queen of Nothing: A thrilling finale

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Holly Black’s FOLK OF THE AIR series just gets better and better. This final novel, The Queen of Nothing (2019) is a thrilling conclusion. You need to read the first two books, The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, first. There will be spoilers here for those books. You may also want to read The Lost Sisters, a novella that follows The Cruel Prince and provides another perspective on the events of that book.

When we left Jude at the end of Read More

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