Daniel Polansky talks about Low Town

Earlier this week I reviewed Daniel Polansky’s debut novel, Low Town, and I mentioned that I loved the setting, characters, and tone of the novel. Mr. Polansky sent me this...

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The funniest SF novel of all time

Readers’ average rating: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams I can’t think of any other SF book which is this incredibly funny, in that droll British way...

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Casual Othering and Literature of the Fantastic

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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Recent Posts

Numbers Don’t Lie: A cocktail of laughs and what-ifs

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Numbers Don’t Lie by Terry Bisson

In 2005, Tachyon Press published three of Terry Bisson linked novellas in one volume, called Numbers Don’t Lie. This short, fun book follows Irving, a Brooklynite lawyer, and his genius best friend Wilson Wu on a series of adventures.

Wilson is a six-foot-tall Chinese American polymath; he is a math genius, he’s studied meteorology, botany, Chinese herbs, pastry-making, law and the care of camels at a caravansari in the Gobi. The three stories collected in Numbers Don’t Lie were published separately in Asimov’s. Bisson realized that, combined, the stories have a certain momentum, and by combining them, he also did something insidious — he programmed the reader. By the time you start reading “Get Me to the Church on Time” a story about, well, time, it’s impossible not to laugh.

But first thing... Read More

Iron Gray Sea: Significant events occur

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Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson

Iron Gray Sea (2012), the seventh book in Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series, begins with the sinking of a battleship and then a wedding. The remaining Destroyermen are all together to witness the marriage of Captain Matthew Reddy to Lt. Sandra Tucker, but soon they must disperse again because they and their allies are still fighting all over the world on several fronts, and they are spread thin.

Their own technology is advancing rapidly but, with the help of the Japanese, so is the Griks’. Not only are the bad guys making better weapons and using better military strategy than they did before, but they are also using genetic engineering to create better soldiers. The allies must stay ahead of the Grik and get control of the sea and the air and, maybe eventually, the land.

The political situation is changing, too, especially ... Read More

Darker Than You Think: A mighty gripping read

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Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think is a one-shot horror-novel excursion for this science fiction Grand Master, but has nonetheless been described as not only the author's finest work, but also one of the best treatments of the werewolf in modern literature. It has been chosen for inclusion in David Pringle's overview volume Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels  ("a relatively disciplined and thoughtful work," Pringle writes, in comparing it to the author's earlier space operas) as well as in Jones & Newman's Read More

14: Entertaining until the end

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14 by Peter Clines

Nate Tucker needs a new place to live and it needs to be cheap. When a co-worker recommends a place that’s inexpensive and close to work, Nate thinks it’s too good to be true. That’s because it is. After Nate moves in, he starts to notice some weird stuff going on — glowing mutant cockroaches, the light in his kitchen that turns into a black light no matter what kind of bulb he inserts, the elevator that never works, all the padlocks on apartment 14. There’s a lot of strangeness going on in Nate’s new home, but the manager is tight-lipped and disapproves of curiosity.

All of Nate’s neighbors have also noticed that there’s something wrong with their apartments, and the whole building, but most of them are happy to remain ignorant — too many questions can get you kicked out. But a few of the neighbors are willing to join Nate in his snooping. These folks are an ecl... Read More

Homeland: Fun For Your Inner Fourteen-Year-Old

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Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore’s brooding, noble hero Drizzt Do’Urden is almost inarguably the most popular character in the FORGOTTEN REALMS universe (which is to say, the Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novels). It has become a general joke through the years that half the new D&D players of the world incorporate something of the dark elf warrior into their first characters, and — tellingly — when Suvudu did their initial fantasy character popularity contest some years ago, Drizzt beat out such classic characters as Aragorn, Conan, and Ged to take the fourth spot. It’s hard to deny Drizzt’s popular success or his ponderous influence on heroic fantasy. That said, it’s an open secret that THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT has never accumulated a lot of critical success to correspond with its popularity. How to make sense of this divide? Well… frankly, both Drizzt fans and Drizzt... Read More

Sunday Status Update: July 7, 2013

This week, Richard Rahl.

Richard: This week I read a most entertaining biography of my early life, entitled Wizard's First Rule. It seems that the author regarded me as a kind of ubermensch: stunningly attractive, gracious in victory, wise in defeat (ha ha, my little joke, of course, I'm never really defeated), with a will to conquer the ages and the power of ten lesser wizards. A man before whom apparent impossibilities simply limp apologetically into the realm of plausibility on the flimsiest of justifications. All I can do in return is to congratulate the author on his sterling perception and excellent judgment.

Brad: I am teaching my crime fiction course in summer school, so I'll be reading through the syllabus at a faster pace than usual: I read some stories by Poe Read More

The Thousand Names: A promising start

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The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

The Thousand Names is incredible. Yes, right out of the chute I am saying that I loved this book. It’s not going to be for everyone because it’s in this new Blackpowder genre that I am only recently getting acquainted with. Basically, it’s a mix of Napoleonic era military technology and aspects of magic. The exact mix depends on the author, but it certainly can create some fun interesting props to tell a story with. When you add that level of technology…. well, the lines between nobility and peasants, men and women, blur compared to traditional fantasy and that can be a refreshing change when it is done well.

The Thousand Names mostly revolves around three different characters. Jaffa, a quasi police administrator in the city of Khandar; Winter Ihernglass, a young Soldier in the Vordanai First Colonial Regiment who is hiding the f... Read More

The Flight of Dragons: Fires the imagination

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The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson

I loved this book as a kid, and not just because it had naughty boobie pictures that had nothing to do with the text. Dickinson takes the position that Dragons actually existed, then goes from there to ask questions like: why are they not in the fossil record? How could a creature that is generally depicted as huge and armoured supposedly fly? What’s the deal with the fire-breathing? Why are they often depicted as speaking and/or telepathic creatures? How come the accepted method of killing them is by a dude with a magic sword? The answers he comes up with were pretty convincing, at least to young me, and do a lot to fire the imagination.

Scattered throughout the text where Dickinson expounds on his theories are excerpts from stories about dragons (both ancient and modern) that serve to back-up, or at least explicate, some of his theories. After covering th... Read More

A Discourse in Steel: E&N aren’t the next F&GM, but they are still entertaining

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A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp

A Discourse in Steel is the second novel in Paul S. Kemp’s EGIL AND NIX series about a couple of “retired” graverobbers who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I thought the first book, The Hammer and the Blade, was a fun story that didn’t quite meet the standards of Fritz Leiber’s LANKHMAR series which is an obvious influence. I was happy to give Egil and Nix another chance to charm me, though.

This time the guys investigate Black Alley, a dark extra-dimensional space that shows up somewhere around their town every evening. Then they take on the Thieves’ Guild who is planning to kill one of the women that Egil and Nix saved in the previous book. These adventures take them to strange places where they meet strange people and... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Best book you read in June 2013

It's the first Thursday of the month, which means it's time to report!

What is the best book you read in June 2013 and why did you love it? It doesn't have to be a newly published book, or even SFF. We just want to share some great reading material. Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

(And don't forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our Fanlit Faves page and our 5-Star SFF page.)

As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks. Read More