Bill chats with David Walton


David Walton is the author of Quintessence (which I highly recommend) and Terminal Mind, which won the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback science-fiction novel that year....

Read More
Suldrun’s Garden: Why is Lyonesse out of print?


Suldrun’s Garden by Jack Vance As I’m writing this, Jack Vance’s under-appreciated Lyonesse trilogy has been off the shelves for years. My library doesn’t...

Read More
Myth & Fantasy


Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

Read More
Our rating system


We realize that we’re not professional literature critics — we’re just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction — but we...

Read More

Recent Posts

Wolfen: There goes the neighborhood…

Wolfen directed by Michael Wadleigh

I well remember loving Whitley Strieber’s 1978 novel The Wolfen, back when it was first released. The book was atmospheric as could be and managed to do something that all good horror novels of its ilk should do: make the reader believe in the possibility of the supernatural. The book was most assuredly unsettling, and one that this reader has not forgotten, even 40+ years after experiencing it. But despite my love of that book, somehow, I never got around to seeing the film that was made from it, three years later. Released in July ’81, Wolfen (why the name was changed is a matter best asked of the Hollywood production team that doubtless spent hours wondering if the dropped “The” would lead to more ticket sales) turned out to be something of a box office flop, pulling in only $10 million after being produced for $17 million. Today, the viewer can only wonder why, as it is most assur... Read More

The Midnight Bargain: A charming frolic of a book, barbed with social commentary

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk 

By the bottom of the second full page of text, when the protagonist of The Midnight Bargain (2020) walked into Harriman’s Bookshop, I was hooked. When Beatrice Clayborn entered the second-hand shop and I saw it through her eyes, the book claimed me, not unlike the way a spirit might claim a sorceress in Beatrice’s magical world.

It’s bargaining season, or marriage season in Beatrice’s world, and young women of the upper classes, like Beatrice, jostle and compete for the hand of a suitable husband. Suitability is decided by their fathers, of course, and usually determined based on wealth, status and influence.

Beatrice loathes the bargaining season. She wants to study magic and become a full-blown Mage, a path closed to women, especially upper-class women. Instead of being able to pursue their talents, magical women are... Read More

Verdigris Deep: Be careful what you wish for

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge

A glance back at former reviews of Frances Hardinge’s work reveals that I have overused the word “weird.” Hardly the nicest word, and yet I meant it as a compliment. It’s a testament to my struggle to pinpoint what it is that makes Hardinge’s books stand out. Nevertheless, stand out they do.

Verdigris Deep (2008) is a weird book and, once again, that’s meant as a compliment. Ryan, Josh and Chelle get stranded in a forbidden village when they miss their bus home. Finding they have no money for the next bus they resort to pinching coins from an old wishing well hidden in the wood. What they don’t know is that the well is inhabited by an angry well spirit who doesn't react well to h... Read More

The Beast Within: Born on the bayou

The Beast Within directed by Philippe Mora

In the February 1974 TV movie A Case of Rape, Ronny Cox portrayed a man whose wife, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, is raped and beaten not once, but twice by the same man. The film was an enormous success, and indeed remains the most-watched TV film in NBC history. But few could have foreseen that almost precisely eight years later, Cox would again play the part of a husband whose wife undergoes a violent rape, but this time with far more dire results. The film in question is The Beast Within, which was initially released in February 1982. This film, far from being a hit, was something of a flop at the box office, pulling in a mere $8 million, and has gone on to be critically reviled ever since. Thus, it was with a sense of what I like to call “cinematic masochism” that I sat down to watch this film just the other night for the first time. And after all the bad word of mouth, including the esteeme... Read More

Sunday Status Update: October 25, 2020

Jana: This week involved a lot of cold-weather prep at my house, so I didn’t get a lot of time to sit in front of my keyboard, unfortunately. But I did get a little farther into The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, and am still enjoying myself, and I made the very questionable choice of reading through T. Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones in installments before bed. It’s a great book! Just, you know, not so great to lie awake thinking about in the dark.


Bill: This week I read the good if jargony Att... Read More

The Voyages of Star Trek: Nothing new or surprising

The Voyages of Star Trek by K.M. Heath & A.S. Carlisle

The Voyages of Star Trek: A Mirror on American Society through Time (2020), by K.M. Heath and A.S. Carlisle, explores how the various Trek incarnations — TV shows, movies, comics — mirrored (or not) the culture of the time, beginning with the original series (TOS) and ending with Discovery (Picard was released too late and is only mentioned as existing). The book grew out of an undergraduate anthropology course, and you can see some of that in their explanation of their methods (taking random “snapshots” of shows, for instance, to assess the prevalence, or lack thereof, of non-white or women characters), but the target is the popular audience. Their main claim, as they put it, is that “Star Trek has survived across five decades in the face of rapid cultural change because it adapts to the times while staying ... Read More

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats: Talking head

Horror Rises From the Tomb & Panic Beats directed by Carlos Aured & Paul Naschy

Looking for a good creepy double feature to help you pass the time one stormy October evening? I’ve got a doozy for you. Hang tight!

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB

As if to prove the old adage "you can't keep a good man down," the 1973 Spanish film Horror Rises From the Tomb gives us the story of 15th century Satanist Alaric du Marnac. When we first encounter this demonic figure, he and his consort, Mabille de Lancre (Helga Line), are about to be executed by torture and decapitation in the France of 1454. (This opening scene, it must be noted, almost seems an homage to the similar opening in Mario Bava's classic Black Sunday, except here, we have a male Satanist and a female helper, instead of the other way around.) Flash forward 520 years or so, and Alaric's blood descendant (also played by the film's screenwriter, Paul ... Read More

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: A memorable book about what’s-her-name

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (2020) is a charming, thoughtful, sometimes-dark, sometimes moving, story about memory, love, rash decisions, female agency, stubborn defiance, mortality, resilience, and the power of art. In this time of Covid, a novel focused so much on the desire for human contact and fear of dying without leaving “a mark” is especially timely, though The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue would have been a highly recommended book in any other year.

Addie LaRue is a young woman in 18th Century France who yearns to be her own person, like the old woman outside town, Estele, “who belongs to everyone, and no one, and herself” and who is sai... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday is on Fall Break

Here are our current giveaways.

See you next week! Read More

Sea Change: Thought-provoking and compelling

Sea Change by Nancy Kress

Ever read a book and immediately wish that you’d been able to read it in school, rather than [insert inaccessible book of choice]? For me, Nancy Kress’s 2020 novella Sea Change, with its gutsy-yet-conflicted heroine and all-too-real near-future global catastrophes, is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d been handed way back when.

Renata Black is a lawyer, handling cases for citizens of the Quinault Nation in the Pacific Northwest. She’s cultivated friendships among them, especially in the wake of the Catastrophe of 2022, in which a biopharmed drug caused agricultural collapse across the planet, destroyed the global economy, and brought personal devastation to Renata’s family. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were banned in the aftermath of the Catastrophe, but there are under... Read More