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.

A Storm of Wings: Strange, outlandish, blurry

A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison

A Storm of Wings is the second part of M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM sequence. Viriconium has been at peace for eighty years after the threat from the north was eliminated, but now there are new threats to the city. Something has detached from the moon and fallen to earth. A huge insect head has been discovered in one of the towns of the Reborn. The Reborn are starting to go mad. Also, a new rapidly growing cult is teaching that there is no objective reality. Are the strange events linked with the cult’s nihilistic philosophy? And what will this do to Viriconium’s peace? Tomb the dwarf and Cellur the Birdlord, whom we met in The Pastel City, set out to discover the truth.

A Storm of Wings was published in 1980 — nine years after The Pastel City — and M. John Harriso... Read More

The Pastel City: A baroque, decaying, phantasmagoric dream city

The Pastel City by M. John Harrison

Viriconium sits on the ruins of an ancient civilization that nobody remembers. The society that was technologically advanced enough to create crystal airships and lethal energy weapons is dead. These Afternoon Cultures depleted the world’s metal ores, leaving mounds of inscrutable rusted infrastructure with only a few odds and ends that still work. The current citizens of Viriconium are baffled by what they’ve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it is for.

tegeus-Cromis, “who fancies himself a better poet than swordsman,” used to be Viriconium’s best fighter until he left the Pastel City after King Methven died. But Viriconium is now under threat — young Queen Jane, Methven’s daughter, is about to lose the empire to her evil cousin. Queen Jane needs the help of the men who once served her father so faithfully, so she sends tegeus-Cromis to find and take command of her army. A... Read More

Planet of Blood and Ice: A teen sci-fi horror thriller that wants to be a movie

Planet of Blood and Ice by A.J. Hartley

Planet of Blood and Ice (2017) is the first book in A.J. Hartley’s CATHEDRALS OF GLASS series for teens. Hartley is billing this story as Alien meets Lord of the Flies, and I’d say that description is fairly accurate since Planet of Blood and Ice is about a group of teens who must overcome the dangers of a hostile alien environment while struggling to live with each other in a safe and civilized fashion.

The story starts as a spaceship containing ten teenagers crash-lands on an icy planet (here is some concept art.) The kids are juvenile delinquents who had been on their way to a nearby planet for a we... Read More

The Lady of the Lake: The final (maybe) WITCHER novel

The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Lady of the Lake (English translation, 2017) is the final (maybe) WITCHER novel by Andrzej Sapkowski. Don’t bother to start it until you’ve read the previous novels. I’ll assume you’re caught up with the series, so this review will have mild spoilers for the previous books.

The story starts where the last one, The Tower of Swallows, left off. Ciri has disappeared into the Tower of Swallows, Yennefer has been captured by Vilgefortz and is being tortured, and Geralt has no idea if Yennefer and Ciri are still alive. He is wasting his time fighting monsters in a sleepy town that seems to have cast a spell over him. Meanwhile the war between the elves and hum... Read More

The Library at Mount Char: We all love it

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Ever wonder what might happen if a god went missing? The Library at Mount Char is Scott Hawkins’ fiction debut, and in my personal opinion, it is flawless. There are no wasted words, no unnecessary plot digressions, no moments in which a character says, “Wow, this crisis is important! We should respond right away!” and then tootles off to fold laundry for ten paragraphs. Each detail is crucial, even if the reader doesn’t realize it for a hundred pages or more, and the resulting novel feels enormous and expansive though the page count doesn’t hit 400.

Garrison Oaks was a lovely little slice of Virginian 1970s suburbia, where Adam Black roasted meats in an enormous metal bull and shared beer with his neighbors. Things changed, though, in one cataclysmic afternoon. Black revealed himself to be something far more than human and took twelve local children in... Read More

SFM: Lawrence, Vaughn, Kressel, Baggott, Mott, Veter, Clarke

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories that caught our eyes this week.



“The Secret” by Mark Lawrence (2015, $1.95 at Audible)


I haven’t read Mark Lawrence’s BROKEN EMPIRE series yet, but after reading “The Secret,” I definitely want to. This story gives some background into Brother Sim, an assassin who is part of Jorg Ancrath’s brotherhood. Brother Sim has snuck into a princess’s bedroom (invited) and is telling her the story of an assassin. I saw where this story was going, but I didn’t care. I liked Lawrence’s storytelling style and I was intrigued by Brother Sim. I want to know more about his origins and his goals and motivations. I wan... Read More

The Dispatcher: An interesting premise that made us think

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 gets roped in. As he tries to uncover the crime tha... Read More

Assassin’s Fate: Thank you, Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

“We follow you, Fitz, to the end, no matter how bitter.”

Kat: If you’re a fan of Robin Hobb’s REALMS OF THE ELDERLINGS books (which include the FARSEER SAGA, TAWNY MAN trilogy, LIVESHIP TRADERS trilogy, RAIN WILDS CHRONICLES, and the FITZ AND THE FOOL trilogy) you know as well as we do that you don’t need to read this review to decide whether to read Assassin’s Fate (2017), the last book in the FITZ AND THE FOOL tri... Read More

Borne: A moving and thoughtful work

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Amorphous shapeshifting blobs, winged children, and giant flying bears, oh my. Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne (2017) is a lyrical and lovely novel whose stylistic aplomb, weird inventiveness, and great heart more than compensate for what might have ordinarily been noted as flaws in the book. Sure, there are issues, but I loved nearly every minute of Borne, and if it hadn’t come in the same month I’d finished the exceptional City of Miracles and A Gentleman in Moscow, it would have been my best read of the month.

Borne is told from the first-person perspective of Rachel, a scavenger trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world in the near-ruins of a city ruled over by a Godzilla-sized fly... Read More

SFM: Brennan, Edelstein, Kress, Sterling, Sobin, Grant

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.




“From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan (2016, free at Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Have a little pity for the editors of the Falchester Weekly Review — when they published Mr. Benjamin Talbot’s news that he had recently come into po... Read More

Gather Her Round: A TUFA horror story

Gather Her Round by Alex Bledsoe

Gather Her Round (2017) is Alex Bledsoe’s fifth stand-alone TUFA novel. Though each of these stories has mostly the same setting and some of the same characters, and though they tend to have some of the same major plot elements (e.g., the appearance of ghosts, a musical performance, a murder mystery, an outsider who stumbles upon their tiny strange community), they are surprisingly different in tone. They can be read in any order and you don’t need any previous TUFA knowledge to enjoy Gather Her Round though it may help to know that the Tufa are a race of close-knit secretive folk who descended from the Tuatha Dé Danann and, sometime in the past, came to live in the rural mountainous region of Appalachia. Many of them are musicians a... Read More

Penric’s Mission: The best Penric story so far

Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric’s Mission (2016) is the fourth novella in Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA series which is part of her multiple-award-winning FIVE GODS series (The Curse of Chalion, The Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt). It follows the novellas Penric’s Demon (2015), ... Read More

SFM: Emrys, Edelstein, Goss, Forrest, Yang, Kinney, Deeds

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of  free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 



The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys (2014, free on Tor.com, 99c Kindle version)

Aphra Marsh lives in San Francisco, listening to the sounds of the sea and relishing freedom after spending years in an American internment camp. Her crime: belonging to a peculiar heritage, a dark legacy, and a little New England town called Innsmouth. World War II is over, now, and Aphra wo... 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 (2015) 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 Ea... Read More

Penric and the Shaman: Penric solves a murder mystery

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold’s FIVE GODS novels — The Curse of Chalion (2001), The Paladin of Souls (2003), and The Hallowed Hunt (2005) — are some of the most beloved in fantasy literature. They won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards. That’s why her fans (of which I am definitely one) where so pleased when she began writing novellas set in the same world. These have different characters than the three novels (which each stand alone), so this is a good entry for new read... Read More

Ace in the Hole: WILD CARDS gets back on track

Ace in the Hole edited by George R.R. Martin

Ace in the Hole (1990), the sixth WILD CARDS mosaic novel, is a vast improvement over the last two novels (Aces Abroad and Down and Dirty). Down and Dirty, especially, lacked cohesion due to George R.R. Martin’s lack of editorial control over his authors, something he laments in that book’s afterword. I suspect the experience was a good lesson because he’s fixed the issue in Ace in the Hole. You’d never know the story was written by several different authors (W... Read More

The Heart of What Was Lost: Tad Williams returns to Osten Ard

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for Tad Williams’ MEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, but please note that it is not necessary to have read MST and, in fact, this novel can stand alone.

There was great rejoicing heard around the world when Tad Williams announced he was returning to Osten Ard. His original OSTEN ARD trilogy, MEMORY, SORROW & THORN, has been popular with epic fantasy fans since the late 1980s. I’m one of those totally devoted fans who read it way back then when I was a young adult. Since then, I’ve been recommending the trilogy to every new fantasy reader I meet (along with Robin Hobb’s FARSEER ... Read More

SPFBO Final Round Reviews part 1

In Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, ten SFF review blogs joined forces to read 300 self-published fantasy novels. Each blog read ten books and chose one to advance to the top ten. The book that we advanced was Kaitlyn Davis's The Shadow Soul (here's our review) and we gave it a score of 5 out of 10 on Lawrence's scale. We are currently reading the remaining top ten SPFBO books. Here is our review of four of them. We'll get the last five books done soon.



The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker (read by Bill and Terry, given a score of Read More

Skyborn: Fun MG series comes to a satisfying end

Skyborn by Lou Anders

Lou Anders concludes his THRONES & BONES trilogy for middle graders with Skyborn, which follows Frostborn and Nightborn.

Skyborn begins as our three young heroes have just lost one of the Horns of Osius which are able to control wyverns and dragons. To free these creatures from the empire that controls them, they must travel to Thica to find and destroy the horn.

Our heroes couldn’t be more different from each other. Karn is the human son of a well-to-do farmer. His family expects him to take over the farm, but Karn is more interested in strategy games... Read More

SFM: Chiang, Liu, Sanderson, Kinney, Seybold

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 


“Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998, originally anthologized in Starlight 2, reprinted in Stories of Your Life and Others). 2000 Nebula award winner (novella) and 1999 Sturgeon award winner.

Being more of a fantasy lover than a sci-fi fan, I still hadn’t read the short-story superstar Ted Chiang. Keen to see what I’ve been missing, and possibly throwing myself in at the deep end, I read “Story of Your Life.” Boy,... Read More

A Conversation in Blood: Will keep Kemp’s fans coming back for more

A Conversation in Blood by Paul S. Kemp

It’s hard to resist Egil and Nix, a hard-bitten wise-cracking roguish fantasy duo modeled after Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. They’re back in Paul S. Kemp’s third novel featuring the pair: A Conversation in Blood. It would help, but isn’t necessary, to have read the first two books, The Hammer and the Blade and A Discourse in Steel. Each story stands alone, though following the chronology is recommended for the best experience, I think.

In this story we meet a monster who calls himself the ... Read More

Nightborn: Kids will love this fun warm-hearted fantasy quest

Nightborn by Lou Anders

Nightborn is the second novel in Lou AndersTHRONES & BONES series for middle graders. I enjoyed the first novel, Frostborn, for its likeable protagonists, sense of adventure, touch of humor, and warm-heartedness. It’d be best to read it before beginning Nightborn.

The beginning of Nightborn finds Karn, our young gaming hero, back on the family farm. But not for long. Soon he is picked up by a wyvern and taken to the dragon in the coliseum who insists that Karn go find and solve a riddle that will lead him to another of those nasty Horns of Osius that the dragon wants to destroy. It appears that Karn’s friend Thianna, the gi... Read More

To Green Angel Tower: Too long, but an exciting finale

To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

To Green Angel Tower (1993) is the third book in Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, following The Dragonbone Chair and The Stone of Farewell. This is an extremely popular trilogy, which is why the arrival of a fourth book published a few weeks ago (23 years after To Green Angel Tower was published!) is such a noteworthy event in the fantasy community. In preparation for the new book, The Heart of What Was Lost, Penguin ... Read More

The Stone of Farewell: A long rambling middle book

The Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams

Twenty-five years ago I read Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy and since that time I’ve considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. For years I’ve been planning to re-read it when an audio version was published and that happened recently, so here I am. A few weeks ago I reviewed the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, which you need to read before picking up this second book, The Stone of Farewell (1990). If you haven’t, stop right here because there be spoilers (and dragons) beyond this point.

After a quick synopsis of the first book, The Stone of Farewell begins where The Dragonbone Chair Read More

Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

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 good engineer, manages to rig up to produce unlimited supplies of excellent brandy, but generally this is an uncomfortable w... Read More

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