Ruth has tea with Gail Carriger

Fantasy evokes a lot of emotions from me.  Giggling usually isn’t one of them.  But I giggled through much of Soulless, the first book in The Parasol Protectorate by the...

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Winter Duty: A violent emotional roller-coaster

Readers’ average rating: Winter Duty by E.E. Knight E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth is one of the most interesting military fantasy series around. Watching the maturation and...

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How to Make Fictional People Do All the Work, Part 1

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....

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We’re interested in your thoughts about the books we review, and we know this information will be helpful to other readers, so we’re asking YOU to rate books...

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Sunday Status Update: April 28, 2013

Today we hear from Tara of Helium, daughter of John Carter of Mars.

Tara of Helium: Today a most vexing matter disturbed the peace. My noble father John Carter, Warlord of Mars, came to visit together with my mother Dejah Thoris and my brother Cathoris. My father and brother fell to sporting, performing great feats and leaping in the air, displaying their superior strength for the amusement of the Barsoomians there gathered. At first all seemed well, but as he watched the idle play, the brow of my husband Gahan grew furrowed and his expression dark, until I asked him what so troubled the Jeddak of Gathol.

"Truly," said my beloved, "I realized not that John Carter's strength was passed to his son."

"That is strange, for it is no secret," I replied. "Were you more often in Helium, you would often see Cathoris perform such feats as these."

... Read More

The Book of Lost Souls by J. Michael Straczynski

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The Book of Lost Souls, Volume 1: Introductions All Around by J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and Colleen Doran (artist)

I am so pleased I picked The Book of Lost Souls up off the shelf at Oxford Comics in Atlanta, Georgia. Though I am familiar with the writer, J. Michael Straczynski (often referred to simply as JMS), I'd never heard of this book or its artist — Colleen Doran. But I was immediately grabbed by the title and cover image of a forlorn young man clutching a large, red book. In the center background is a large moon with the nighttime skyline of 19th-century London on the left and 20th-century New York on the right. I did judge this book by the cover, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the inside of the book was even better than was promised by the cover. In fact, this book made such ... Read More

The Colors of Space: An SF juvenile by MZB

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The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Bart Steele has been off at the Space Academy and hasn’t seen his father in years. When he goes to meet him at a Lhari space station, Mr. Steele never shows up. Instead, he sends an agent with a message for Bart. The Lhari, an intelligent alien race, suspect that Bart’s dad has stolen the secret of their warp drive. If so, this means humans will be able to manufacture their own warp drives and the Lhari will no longer have a monopoly on out-of-system space travel. The Lhari are trying to hunt down Mr. Steele and Bart is in danger, too.

Off goes Bart to try to find his father and his father’s secrets. All he knows is that the secret to the Lhari space drive has something to do with an eighth color that humans have never seen before (Marion Zimmer Bradley’s science is a little off here. Well, a lot off, but let’s just ignore that, shall we? Becaus... Read More

Unfilmable fiction?

As I was watching the trailers lately for Star TrekThor IIWorld War Z, and a few others, and thinking of what’s coming down the pipeline (The Hobbit IISnow CrashEnder’s Game, and others), as well as reading all the talk lately about the Star Wars franchise and what’s happening there, I was thinking it’s a pretty good time to be alive for those of us who enjoy good science fiction-fantasy films (or enjoy making fun of bad science fiction-fantasy films).

Clearly, one large reason for the explosion in such films’ popularity is the relatively recent ability to simply film the kinds of scenes we expect to see. It wasn’t too long ago, for instance, that conventional wisdom thought that the Lord of the Rings, for instance, was unfilmable: “A thousand page story with giant, talking trees and a disembodied villain? Yeah, good luck with that on-screen.” The same was true of Cloud Atlas, albeit f... Read More

Napier’s Bones: Fascinating idea not fully developed

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Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy

Imagine being able to manipulate numbers to do magic, just as so many fictional wizards manipulate words, as spells, to accomplish their ends. Imagine seeing everything as a number, with formulae streaming into the air from every physical thing, allowing you to bend and change them — using your abilities to smear a license plate into a new number, say, or blurring the serial numbers on dollar bills. It gives new meaning to the word “numerate.”

Derryl Murphy’s protagonist in Napier’s Bones is a numerate. As the novel opens, Dom is seeking an artifact of mathematical power when the numbers throw him far away, onto a bus in a city distant from his search. More than that, he has somehow picked up an adjunct; that is, residing in his body with him is the mind and soul of Billy, another numerate whose physical body died an unknown time ago. ... Read More

Planet of the Damned: Cheesy, pulpy, boring

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Planet of the Damned by Harry Harrison

Brion Brandd has just become the champion of his planet by defeating all the other contestants in “The Twenties.” Many men train all their lives for a chance to be the winner and Brion is ready to savor his victory. But not so fast! When a former winner challenges Brion to do something truly meaningful and heroic with his life, Brion sets off to save the planet Dis from a war that will surely destroy the entire planet. Dis has a hostile environment that nearly kills Brion before he even gets to meet the natives. Then he needs to figure out how the planet and the species that have evolved on it work together so he can solve their political problems.

Since this is a story written by Harry Harrison, there must also be a hot chick for Brion to save and fall in love with. My eyebrows rose when I found out that the girl in Planet of the Damned is Dr... Read More

WWWednesday: April 24, 2013

Free YA audio books to listen to this summer including The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

A great video discussing the controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card and the reaction to him writing Superman comics. Basically, does it matter if the artist creating something you like is "a dick"?

Rachel Rostad's slam poem "To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang," disc... Read More

Promise of Blood: A flintlock fantasy debut

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Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Flintlock fantasy is an interesting blend of settings. The use of firearms as a sort of technological off-set to sorcery makes all kinds of sense to me and the idea of there being an equalizer between sorcerer and normal people is intriguing. Promise of Blood is a truly energetic first installment in the POWDER MAGE series by Brian McClellan and it starts off with a bang, no pun intended.

Tamas, a powder mage, is the Field Marshall to Manhouch, the King of Adro. The skill of being able to draw energy and power from ingesting gunpowder makes Tamas a lethal force to be reckoned with. Add to that a strong will and a history of successful leadership in the Army and Tamas is exactly the man any King would rely on to keep his Kingdom safe. But for the King of Adro, this trust has backfired because Tamas has led his forces in the complete overt... Read More

The Queen is Dead: A fun fast-moving follow-up

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The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke

The Queen is Dead is the second installment of Kate Locke’s THE IMMORTAL EMPIRE series. As such, you kind of know what to expect and it does, therefore, lose some of its surprise. In God Save the Queen, our protagonist Xandra was established to be a tough-as-nails heroine who couldn’t seem to sit still for so much as a minute without finding some sort of chaos to get involved in. She’s always running from one disaster into another, and that’s pretty much what you can expect from The Queen is Dead, as well. Xandra is still Xandra, despite her Goblin Queen status. She still somehow manages to accomplish more in an hour than I probably will in my entire life and chaos must be glued to her.

While much of the plot and characters remain the same as in God Save the Queen, there is still plenty of characte... Read More

Dead Man Rising: Unpleasant in every way

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Dead Man Rising by Lilith Saintcrow

Dead Man Rising is the second book in Lilith Saintcrow’s DANTE VALENTINE series. Dante, a freelance necromance, has lived through her first assignment for the devil. (She didn’t want to work for him, but the devil can be very persuasive.) Now Dante’s brooding because her demon lover is dead and she’s just had a nasty surprise about her own heritage. When her friend Gabe, the police investigator, calls to tell her that her old school friends are being brutally murdered, Dante, with the help of her ex-boyfriend Jace, sets out to solve the crimes. Thus not only does Dante have to deal with her current grief, but she has to face her horrible past, too.

I didn’t like the first DANTE VALENTINE book, Working for the Devil (reviewed here), but ... Read More