Edge: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

“…I would see his hand on the doorknob, the door beginning to swing shut. I have something to say! I’d tell him, and the door would stop part way.

“Start in the middle, then, he’d answer, a shadow with the hall light behind him, and tired in the evenings the way grownups are. The light would reflect in my bedroom window like a star you could wish on.

“Skip the beginning. Start in the middle.”

As frustrating as it is, I am going to try to discuss Karen Joy F... Read More

Edge: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

I had high hopes for Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea. A literary author turning his hand to a post-apocalyptic tale that would focus less it seems on zombies and cannibals etc., but take the opportunity to make some searing points about class and globalization and other current issues. But as has been the case with a distressingly large number of my reads lately, while I ended up appreciating the starting premise and also what Lee was trying to do, he lost me in the execution.

On Such a Full Sea is set in the not-too-far future U.S., ... Read More

Edge: A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World

A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

When I distill down my responses to Rachel Cantor’s debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or; a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World, I find that what moved me the most profoundly was the main character, Leonard’s, relationship with his nephew, Felix. Leonard’s connection to his now-dead grandfather is important, and Sally the neo-Baconian librarian (not Read More

Edge: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

I consider the Man Booker Prize to be one of the most reliable guides to finding excellent work, much more so than say the Pulitzer or the National Book Award. And so when the long list comes out I dutifully copy it and think about picking up some of them eventually (usually when they’re out of hardcover). But when the shortlist is revealed, I’ll usually leap on those titles and try to read as many as possible as soon as possible. I’ve rarely been disappointed. This year, I’ve worked my way through several, and so far, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being is ... Read More

Edge: The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Jeanette Winterson is the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry and Passion. She writes beautiful prose about fascinating characters, some of whom really existed, and there is always an element of magic or the fantastical in her work. Her latest book, The Daylight Gate, is set in Lancashire, England, early in the 17th century, and reimagines the infamous Pendle Hill witch trials, focusing her storyteller’s lens most closely on the character of Alice Nutter.

Alice Nutter, a real-life person, was a wealthy, land-owning widow who was tried for witchcra... Read More

Edge: Hild by Nicola Griffith

Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Nicola Griffith’s Hild: A Novel is something rare. It’s a historical fantasy, but it’s not a magical adventure, a bodice-ripper, a military drama, or even a political thriller. It’s not the kind of book you dive into and finish a day later and forget almost immediately. Hild is a whole world with a taste and texture of its own. It lingers.

The story is a fictionalized (but not fantasized) vision of the early life of Hilda of Whitby, a slightly obscure 7th century English saint. The plot clings to the trailing skirts of a youn... Read More

Edge: Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson

Sworn Sword by James Aitcheson

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Sworn Sword is an historical novel set in the 1060s in England. James Aitcheson is a scholar, and the story of Tancred a Dinant, a knight in the service of William the Conqueror, is painstakingly researched, opening a window into a distant period of British history. There is no fantasy or magic in this book, but it is set in such a distant historical time that it does seem like another world.

Almost everyone knows the date 1066 and the Battle of Hastings, where William of Normandy deposed King Harold. William had relatively little trouble in bringing the south of Britain under his control, but it took another several y... Read More

Edge: The Cuckoo’s Calling: Rowling makes a break without forgetting her roots

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

Early in 2013, a new murder mystery came out. Written by an author named Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling was set in England and featured an army veteran detective with a prosthetic leg (he was injured saving other soldiers in Afghanistan), a strange family and an unusual name; Cormoran Strike. A few months later, through a series of different sources, it was revealed that “Robert Galbraith” was a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, who wanted to publish her first murder mystery without having it connected in any way to her globally-famous, history-making, best-selling series of YA fantasy best-sellers.... Read More

Edge: The Golem and the Jinni: A magical mural of the immigrant experience

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]


The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker’s debut novel, adds a layer of depth and mystery to the traditional immigrant’s tale with the addition of her title characters. In 1899 New York, a golem without a master and a jinni who was enslaved by a wizard struggle to survive and find meaning in their existences, and in doing so, bring changes to the humans around them.

The golem was created to be a wife to a lonely, self-centered furniture maker who leaves Prussia and go to New York. On the voyage, he dies after awakening the golem. In New York, the golem is taken in by Avram Meyer, a rabbi who knows a... Read More

Edge: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]


Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, is funny. Okay, it’s not snort-beer-out-your-nose funny, (it’s Virginia Woolf after all,) but it’s still witty and fun… probably about as “fun” as Woolf got. The writing is poetic, political and smart, and the story goes nowhere you would expect from the woman who wrote Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse.

Orlando is presented as the biography of a young British nobleman. The biographer’s voice is very present throughout the book, and at times the biographer shares with us the joys and difficulties of writing a biography; reading through sc... Read More

Edge: Life After Life: It shouldn’t work, but boy does it

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

What is it that drives us to pick up and complete a novel? A plot that carefully mortars brick upon brick, each clicking neatly together giving us no choice but to wonder “but then what?” until we look up surprised to find ourselves at the end? A character so intriguing we feel compelled to follow along wherever their thoughts and actions lead us? The range and depth of emotions that buffet us as we’re swept along? Any one or two or all of these?

What in the world, then, is Kate Atkinson thinking in her newest work, Life After Life? In giving us Ursula Todd, who struts not just one life on the stage but dozens... Read More

Edge: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon 

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

It’s 1999. In January, the Jewish enclave in Sitka, Alaska will revert to the US government, and the Jewish community that settled there in 1948, when an attempt to create a Jewish state in Israel failed, will once again be cast to the four winds, homeless. This isn’t even the plot, really, of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. The plot revolves around a murder mystery, the death of a man in the same Single-Resident-Only hotel that the main character, police detective Meyer Landsman, has lived in in since the collapse of his marriage.

With The Yiddish Poli... Read More

Edge: The Golem and the Jinni: Great premise, strong characters, engaging plot, no spark

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

A Genie. A golem. Nineteenth-century New York City. Boy, did I want to love this book. Drawn by its come-hither characters, its promise of poetry, and by its dark side in the form of a truly nasty character, I really, really wanted to love it. And truth is, I liked The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. But in the well-trod words of middle school, I didn’t “like like” it. Oh, it was fun, it made me smile sometimes and think sometimes and feel a bit sad at other times. I enjoyed hanging out with it for the length of its near-500 pages. But, despite that fire-genie at its heart, there just wasn’t tha... Read More

Edge: Yoko Ogawa’s “Revenge”

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

We get precious little science fiction, fantasy and horror in translation, which means most of our reading is Eurocentric and a lot of it, though enjoyable, is anything but challenging. That’s why, when I saw Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, Yoko Ogawa’s book of linked, strange stories, on my library shelf I snatched it up. And I’m glad I did, because these stories are odd, elegant and exciting.



The book begins with “Afternoon at the Bakery,” which starts prosaically enough with a description of a beautiful Sunday in a park, complete with a... Read More

Edge: Jenny Davidson’s “The Magic Circle”

The Magic Circle by Jenny Davidson

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

The Magic Circle by Jenny Davidson is the story of three young women in academia, all of whom become involved in a particular type of game that combines urban exploration with LARPing (live-action role-playing). Logical Ruth is primarily interested in games as teaching tools. Anna, a more right-brained sort, prefers visceral games that effect a psychological transformation on their players. Their more reserved friend Lucy is along for the ride. The novel is primarily narrated by Ruth and Lucy, with occasional Internet posts from Anna interspersed.

The novel begins slo... Read More

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