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.

The Word for World is Forest: A powerful, somewhat allegorical tale

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tor recently re-released the Hugo winner The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin in a lovely paperback edition, so I thought it finally was time to check out this famous short novel, originally published in the seventies.

The novel is part of Le Guin’s famous HAINISH CYCLE (see also, among others, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed) but can be read completely separately, although being familiar with the larger story will give you a better understanding of the broader context and some of the technologies, such as NAFAL and the famous ansible. Earth-based humans have established a logging colony on the world of New Tahiti and... Read More

Vallista: Vlad gets trapped in a mysterious mansion

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Vallista by Steven Brust

Everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin is back in Vallista, Steven Brust’s fifteenth VLAD TALTOS novel. If you’re not familiar with this series, don’t start here. Get a copy of Jhereg and read the books in publication order (which is not, by the way, the same as the internal chronological order, but that’s okay). Let me recommend the audio versions produced by Audible Studios and read by Bernard Setaro Clark. He does such a great job capturing Vlad’s sarcastic personality and the amusing dialogue between Vlad and Loiosh, the reptilian familiar who rides around on Vlad’s shoulder.

If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re a fan... Read More

Provenance: A coming-of-age tale blended with a murder semi-mystery

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Whether you’ve read Ann Leckie’s IMPERIAL RADCH trilogy or not (though I highly recommend you do, as it’s excellent), there’s plenty to enjoy about Provenance (2017), a new and stand-alone novel set within the reaches of Radchaai space. The Empire-shifting events of Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy have an effect on the political schemes in progress within Read More

Inverting Utopia (Giveaway!)

Today we welcome Greg Hickey, a former international professional baseball player and current forensic scientist, endurance athlete, and award-winning screenwriter and author. His debut novel Our Dried Voices was a finalist for Foreword Reviews' INDIES Science Fiction Book of the Year Award. It depicts a future colony where humans live without disease or hunger, where every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for labor, struggle or thought. Interested readers can start Our Dried Voices for free at Greg Hickey's website. Greg lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay.

One random commenter wins a Kindle copy of Our Dried Voices.

The most compelling dystopian stories sta... Read More

Phule’s Paradise: Silly but fun

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Phule’s Paradise by Robert Asprin

Phule’s Paradise is the second book in Robert Asprin‘s screwball comedy series called PHULE’S COMPANY. These are being released in audiobook format by Tantor Audio with excellent narration by Noah Michael Levine. You’ll want to read the first book, Phule’s Company, before picking up Phule’s Paradise.

In Phule’s Company, we met Willard Phule, a mega-billionaire who, as a punishment, was assigned to captain the Space Legion’s company of “losers and misfits” that was guarding a swamp on a backwater planet. (Don’t ask why a mega-billionaire would want to ... Read More

Winds of Fury: Better than previous book, but that’s not saying much

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Winds of Fury by Mercedes Lackey

I read Winds of Fury (1993) because I owned it at Audible and had already reviewed the previous books in this MAGE WINDS trilogy (Winds of Fate and Winds of Change). I haven’t been enthusiastic about the story or the characters thus far, so if you have enjoyed them, you should ignore this review because it won’t be helpful. If you haven’t read those books yet and are trying to decide whether to read them, perhaps my review will be helpful.

When we left our heroes in Winds of Change, they had been trained up in their magical abilities and, at the very end of the book, fought ... Read More

Owlknight: A satisfactory ending to Darian’s Tale

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Owlknight by Mercedes Lackey

Owlknight (1999) is the final story in Mercedes Lackey’s DARIAN’S TALE. This trilogy is part of her huge VALDEMAR series, but it can stand alone just fine. However, don’t start here. The first book is Owlflight and the second is Owlsight. Expect a few spoilers for those books in this review.

As Owlknight begins, a couple of years after the events of the previous novel, all is going well for Darian and Keisha. Thanks to their actions, their people have befriended the barbarians who appeared to be a... Read More

Owlsight: Adds a new protagonist to Darian’s story

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Owlsight by Mercedes Lackey

Owlsight (1998) is the second novel in Mercedes Lackey’s DARIAN’S TALE, a trilogy set within her VALDEMAR universe. DARIAN’S TALE is a fine place for newcomers to begin reading the VALDEMAR books, but you should start with the first book about Darian, Owlflight. If you do start with DARIAN’S TALE instead of the first VALDEMAR book, Arrows of the Queen, there are a few passing references to people, places, and events from previous books that you won’t unders... Read More

Winds of Change: Boring middle book

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Winds of Change by Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Change (1992) is the middle novel in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGE WINDS trilogy, which is part of her larger VALDEMAR saga. I wasn’t impressed with the first book, Winds of Fate, which was a standard high fantasy novel that didn’t stand out in any way. I decided to read book two anyway because I already owned it at Audible and I wanted to review it for FanLit.

In this sequel, Elspeth and Skif are living with the Tayledras clan. The novel starts with quite a bit of recap of previous events and then the preparation for a ceremony in wh... 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

Planet of Exile: Enjoyable, but not the best place to start with Le Guin

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin

Planet of Exile is a novel in Ursula Le Guin’s HAINISH CYCLE and one of the author’s first published books. In this story, a colony of humans has been stranded for many years on the planet Werel, which has such a long orbit around its sun that one year is like 60 Earth years. These humans, gently led by Jakob Agat, live in a city surrounded by a stone wall. Because of the conditions on Werel, especially the effect of its sun’s radiation on human genes, their colony is dwindling. The humans share the planet with two other humanoid species. They have no contact with the Gaal, a nomadic tribe, and they have a tense but sometimes cooperative relationship with the Tevarans.

The planet is moving into its harsh winter phase, which will last abou... Read More

Phule’s Company: A short, entertaining, and heart-warming SF tale

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Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin

Until I picked up Phule’s Company, I hadn’t read anything by prolific author Robert Asprin. I hadn’t planned to, either, but Tantor Audio is producing his PHULE’S COMPANY series in audio format, so I figured I’d give the first book a try. I liked it well enough to ask them to send me the second book, Phule’s Paradise. There are six PHULE’S COMPANY books, published from 1990 to 2006. The latter four were written with Peter J. Heck and were some of the last books Asprin penned before his death in 2008.

Willard Phule, the heir to a vast fortune, has done something to annoy his superiors in the Space Legion. As a punishment, they promote him to captain and send him off... Read More

Neverwhere: Wonderfully fantastical setting

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Reposting to include Tadiana and Jana's review of William Morrow's new illustrated edition.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is a novel that improved dramatically for me on reread, which actually was a surprise to me. I originally read it about six years ago when, in an odd twist worthy of London Below, it mysteriously appeared one day on my clunky Kindle 2, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again (luckily I had finished it just in time). I was fascinated by the marvelous and imaginative setting of Neverwhere and London Below, but only mildly entertained by the plot, which ― other than the beginning and the end ― I found quite forgettable.

Still, when I was offered the chance to read a 2016 edition of Neverwhere with the “auth... Read More

The Privilege of the Sword: Enjoy another visit to Riverside

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Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

“Whatever the duke means to do with her, it can’t be anything decent.”

The Privilege of the Sword is Ellen Kushner’s sequel to her novel Swordspoint which was about the doings of the high and low societies in her fictional town of Riverside. The main characters of that novel were the nobleman Alec Tremontaine, a student, and his lover, the famous swordsman Richard St. Vier. You don’t need to read Swordspoint before reading The Privilege of the Sword, but it will probably be more enjoyable if you do because you’ll have some background on most of the characters.

Now Alec is known as the Mad Duke Tremontaine. He spends some of his time in his mansion outside the city, but he really prefers to reside in hi... Read More

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young: Selected graduation speeches

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If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young by Kurt Vonnegut

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young collects nine graduation speeches delivered by Kurt Vonnegut. Published in 2013, this posthumous collection is introduced by the writer Dan Wakefield. The earliest speech was delivered in 1978, while the latest was given in 2004.

These speeches are almost exactly what Vonnegut’s fans would expect of him — so much so that I wish I’d attempted to write a speech from the point of view of Kurt Vonnegut before beginning this book. The speeches feature his darkly humorous assessment of the human condition, as well as his deeply felt esteem for mercy, compassion, and contributing in spite of it all to make the world a slightly better place. He is also ha... Read More

Winds of Fate: Fairly average epic high fantasy

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Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Fate (1991) is the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGE WINDS trilogy which is, in terms of internal chronology, an early trilogy in her VALDEMAR series. The VALDEMAR universe currently contains dozens of novels and short stories. So far I have read only six of them, but I own several more which I’m planning to review for our readers here at FanLit.

The VALDEMAR books are best suited for readers who enjoy classic high fantasy. They’re filled with mages, orphans, princesses, magic swords, animal familiars, and flashy magic spells. In my middle-age, and with decades of fantasy reading behind me, I’m a little tired of these elements, so please keep that in mind when reading... Read More

Expanded Universe: Mediums & Hysterics by Kathryn Troy

Welcome back to Kathryn Troy, an historian turned novelist who, last time she was here, gave us An Undead History. She has taught college courses on Horror Cinema and presented her research on the weird, unnatural, and horrific to academic conferences across the country Her nonfiction book, The Specter of the Indian: Race, Gender and Ghosts in American Séances, 1848-1890, has just been released by SUNY Press. Her historical expertise in the supernatural and the Gothic informs her fiction at every turn. Her genres of choice include dark fantasy, romance, horror, and historical fiction. She lives in New York with her husband and two darling children. Connect with Kathryn Troy at  Read More

Rocannon’s World: Ursula K. Le Guin’s debut

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rocannon’s World, published in 1966, is Ursula Le Guin’s debut novel and the first in her HAINISH CYCLE. The story describes how Rocannon, an ethnographer, became stranded on the planet he was charting when a spaceship from Faraday, a rogue planet that is an enemy to the League of All Worlds, blew up his spaceship and the rest of his crew. Rocannon thinks he’s trapped forever until he sees a helicopter and realizes that Faraday must have a secret base on the planet. If he can find it, he can use its ansible to communicate with the League, not only letting them know that he lives, but also the location of the secret enemy base. (Fun Fact: This is the book that one of Orson Scott... Read More

Red Sister: Magic nuns. Need we say more?

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Reposting to include Kat's new review of the audiobook.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence's previous six novels have been interesting and unique in their own ways, but have also formed part of a recognizable corner of the genre. That is, Lawrence's name often appears alongside those of Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker on lists with titles like "So You've Just Finished A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE — What Next?" This isn't to say that the books set in Lawrence's Broken Empire aped George R.R. Martin, only that they seemed ... Read More

Owlflight: Heroic fantasy for less-experienced fantasy readers

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Owlflight by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon

Owlflight (1997) is the first book in DARIAN’S TALE, one of the many trilogies/series that make up Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga. Though DARIAN’S TALE was first published twenty years ago, according to the series’ internal chronologically it takes place late in the overall story. I had only read four of the VALDEMAR books before picking up Owlflight. I read it because Tantor Audio has just released it in audio format and will release its sequels, Owlsight and Owlknight, in the coming months. I’m hoping this means that the other trilogies in the series that haven’t been published in... Read More

THE ASSASSIN SERIES: Three horror novellas by Tim Lebbon

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Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

The three novellas Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, and A Whisper of Southern Lights make up Tim Lebbon’s ASSASSIN series. They were originally published in 2004, 2005, and 2008 by Necessary Evil Press but were reprinted by Tor.com in 2016. Tor packaged the first two stories together under the name Pieces of Hate.

The ASSASSIN series tells the story of a man named Gabriel who has, for centuries, been hunting Temple, a demon who slaughtered Gabriel’s family. Gabriel can feel when he is close to Temple and uses this sense to follow ... Read More

Twisting the Rope: A sequel to Tea With the Black Dragon

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Twisting the Rope by R.A. MacAvoy

Twisting the Rope (1986) is a sequel to R.A. MacAvoy’s Tea With the Black Dragon. It’s recommended, but not necessary, to have read Tea With the Black Dragon first.

It’s been five years since Martha Macnamara met Mayland Long at the hotel in San Francisco. They’ve been together since. Martha is now approximately 55 years old and Mayland appears to be around the same age, but we don’t really know how old he is. He has secrets.

Martha, an exellent violin player, has put together a folk band that travels around playing traditional Irish tunes. Mayland manages the band, collecting their ea... Read More

The Thief of Always: A delightful children’s horror story

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The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

It’s summer and Harvey Swick, a ten year old with an active imagination, is bored. That’s how he gets lured into Mr. Hood’s Holiday House. It’s a wonderful place that’s fun and exciting, where Harvey gets everything his heart desires, and where he and the other kids who live there can play all day every day and eat delicious food whenever they want. As the seasons fly by, Harvey is happy at Mr. Hood’s house until things start to get a little spooky and it starts to dawn on Harvey that the place seems unnatural. When Harvey tries to leave, the Holiday House gets downright scary.

I was thoroughly entertained by Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always and I suspect that most children and teens will easily identify with Harvey and, ... Read More

Starman’s Quest: Silverberg doesn’t want you to read it

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Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg

Editor’s Note: Being in the public domain, Starman’s Quest (1958) is available free in Kindle format. You can add audio narration for $2.99.

There’s an author’s note attached to various versions of Starman’s Quest at Amazon that goes like this: “This book is a very early and not very good work of the author, who has tried to prevent the issue of a new edition of it. Unfortunately, since it is no longer protected by copyright, he can't prevent its distribution, but he recommends that you choose some other book of his to read.” The audio version I listened to has a less dire warning: “This was my second novel which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I’ve written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a ... Read More

Tea With the Black Dragon: Refreshing romance + 1980s computer nostalgia

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Tea With the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

Martha Macnamara is a free spirit. Although she’s 50 years old and has accumulated much wisdom over the years, she can also be innocent and even childlike. She’s a musician with much talent, but no fame, and she usually spends her time travelling around and staying with friends. When we meet her, she has flown to California at her grown daughter’s request. Elizabeth, who’s just as independent as her mother but is career-driven and successful, has paid for Martha to stay in an elegant hotel in San Francisco.

While Martha is waiting for Liz to call on her, she meets Mayland Long, a wealthy Asian man who lives at the hotel. Martha and Mayland are instantly attracted to, and intrigued by, each other. When Liz goes missing and Martha starts investigating, Mayland decides to help. When Martha then also disappears right in front of his eyes, Mayl... Read More

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