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2061: Odyssey Three: Blandly going where he has gone twice before

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2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke

This is not a great book. It's really more of an extended novella or perhaps part one of Arthur C. Clarke's SPACE ODYSSEY finale, 3001. This story has none of the depth, nuance or scale of Clarke's classic original, 2001 nor its solid follow up 2010.

Beware of spoilers for the previous novels below. I’m assuming anyone who reads this review will likely have read the two preceding novels, or at least seen their movie companions.

In 2061, Clarke creates a pair of focal points 60 years after modern man first comes across The Monolith buried deeply bene... Read More

Arena: Sex, drugs and virtual gaming

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Arena by Holly Jennings

In the year 2054, virtual gaming has become a major sport with a huge following, and the RAGE tournaments are the ultimate competition, a virtual fight to the death between two five-person teams. The death matches take place in a simple virtual world: a field of tall wheatgrass and two stone towers, one tower assigned to each team. The rules are simple ― kill everyone (in a virtual kind of way) on the opposing team ― but real-world strength and skills translate directly to this virtual world, so rigorous physical training and well-developed martial arts skills in real life are critical.

Kali Ling is a member of Team Defiance, which is favored in the main tournament. But then things quickly start to go wrong for Kali and Defiance, following the rule of bad things coming in threes: First, a stunning loss in the final game of the pre-season to Team InvictUS sends ... Read More

Stardance: A dated double-award winner

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Stardance by Spider Robinson & Jeanne Robinson

Spider & Jeanne Robinson’s Stardance was first published in Analog in 1977 and won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards for Best Novella. It was up against Vonda N. McIntyre’s Aztecs, John Varley’s In the Hall of the Martian Kings, Gregory Benford’s A Snark in the Night and Keith Laumer’s The Wonderful Secret. In 1978, Analog published a sequel called Read More

Transgalactic: Disappointing follow-up to its predecessor

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Transgalactic by James Gunn

Last year I gave a qualified thumbs-up to James Gunn’s Transcendental, which as I noted in the review, read like a mix of old guard sci-fi, The Canterbury Tales, Ship of Fools, and And Then There Were None. I absolutely loved (seriously, loved) the Chaucerian aspect, which were a series of stories embedded in the larger narrative that explained how various individuals — human and alien — ended up aboard the spaceship on a pilgrimage in search of the rumored Transcendental Machine (TM). The rest of the novel, however, I found far less successful. Now Gunn is back with the sequel, Transgalac... Read More

The Terminal Experiment: A substandard Crichton-style thriller

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The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is a very popular Canadian science-fiction author, with many novels under his belt and several major awards, including the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Mindscan. I hadn’t read anything of his so I decided to give The Terminal Experiment a try. It’s about an engineer who creates three artificial copies of his consciousness, and one of them becomes a killer. The audiobook, by Recorded Books, is narrated by the very competent Paul Hecht, and is an easy listen. But how well does it hold up as an award winner?

I’ll freely admit I am not a big fan of ... Read More

The Geek Feminist Revolution: Just didn’t do it for me

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The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of writing by Kameron Hurley, much of which was originally published online. And at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly and persnickety, from my viewpoint the problem was they read that way. Some of that I think is in the nature of the writing, and some of that probably is my own issue in the expectations I come with when a book is subtitled “Essays” (and there’s that “persnickety” part).

The collection is made up of nearly 40 essays divided into four sections, though as one would expect, there’s a fair amount of overlap in their subject matter. The sections are: Level Up (dealing with the craft and business of writing), Geek (media criticism), Let’s Get Personal (these are, well, more persona... Read More

The Ruby Airship: Slogging across France by land and by air

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The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling

The Ruby Airship is a direct sequel to The Diamond Thief and the second book in Sharon Gosling’s DIAMOND THIEF YA steampunk trilogy; though some key events from the previous book are recapped in this installment, I suggest that if you’re interested in the trilogy, you should read these books (and their reviews) in sequential order.

It’s been roughly six months since the water-soaked conclusion of The Diamond Thief. Rémy Brunel and a mechanically-inclined street urchin, known only as J, have moved into the Professor’s old workshop. Rémy works as a stage performer and moonlights as a vigilante, somehow having translated her skills as a trapeze artist into lite... Read More

Red Queen: Reads like a YA lucky dip

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen reads a little like a YA lucky dip. You get the feeling that Victoria Aveyard just chucked a list of YA clichés into a bag and picked them out blindfolded. Katniss, sorry, Mare Barrow is a “Red”, which makes her a lower class of citizen compared to the “Silvers” who govern the world. But... isn’t that exactly the concept behind the “Reds” in Red Rising? And wasn’t the protagonist of that YA mega-franchise called Darrow? Sort-of-almost-exactly-the-same-as Barrow? Hmm, there is something fishy going on here...

So Mare Barrow is seventeen and about to be sent off to war, because that’s what usually happens in these dystopias. The Silvers are needlessly wasting thousands of Red lives — ... Read More

Camouflage: Species meets The Abyss

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Camouflage by Joe Haldeman

How did Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage beat Susanna Clarke’s monumental work Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for the Nebula Award in 2005? Granted, I haven’t read that book, but I have read many glowing reviews from my fellow FanLit reviewers and Goodreads friends. It was also made into a major BBC miniseries and received many accolades. Clarke’s book is incredibly long and filled with dense footnotes that show the depth of research and creative energy, perhaps too much for some readers but showing great effort on the author’s part. It is a major literary work of speculative fiction, and won the Hugo, World Fantasy, Locus, and Mythopoeic awards, and was... Read More

The Illusionists: An intriguing premise lacks magic

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The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas

There is something rather bold about naming your Victorian protagonist Devil, and that sets the tone for the premise of Rosie Thomas’s novel, The Illusionists. Add to the mix a bad-tempered dwarf called Carlo Bonomi, a Swiss inventor named Heinrich who becomes obsessed with his creations of automata — mechanical women with rubber skin — and you’ve got yourself the beginnings of quite a tale. But The Illusionists falls short of the magic it promises and readers may struggle to sit through Devil’s performance.

We first meet Devil roaming the streets in want of a drink and a job. Instead, he finds a dwarf, dressed as a child and picking pockets with more skill than Devil has ever seen. The dwarf is Carlo Bonomi, a fellow illusionist and showman. Devil persuades Carlo to embark on ... Read More

YOU: For the nostalgia of the burgeoning game industry only

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YOU by Austin Grossman

Russell was a nerd in high school, running with a crowd of computer geeks before anyone knew what computers could do. Unlike his childhood friends, he didn’t stay a computer geek. He went on to try to have a ‘normal’ life. His friends went on to release a hugely popular video game, and founded a game label in its own right. Years later and after many changes in plans Russell comes back and applies to work for the people he left behind. Austin Grossman’s YOU is the story of a guy who isn’t quite anything but finds a place where maybe he can create something.

Characters are a huge part of any story for me. I can forgive most trope-filled plots if I can really dig into the characters. I had no such luck with Y... Read More

Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

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Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

Note: if you’ve never stumbled your way into a Spiderman/Spider-Man movie, or even past the poster, there will be spoilers in this review. If you’re somewhat familiar with the Spider-Man story and/or the Marvel universe (particularly in New York) then nothing in here should surprise you.

Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 covers a huge amount of Spidey: from his humble beginnings as a simple high-school student in New York through a seemingly never-ending parade of villains. Ultimate packs in romance, intrigue, S.H.I.E.L.D., loss, abandonment, sports, a... Read More

Only the Stones Survive: Has the emotional impact of a textbook

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Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn

Morgan Llywelyn has written dozens of historical novels about Ireland, the Celts, and the Túatha Dé Danann. Her latest, Only the Stones Survive, recounts her version of the legendary Gaelic conquest of the Túatha Dé Danann in ancient Ireland. According to the myths, the Milesians sailed to Ireland and, after fighting a battle, and with the help of the bard Amergin, made peace with the fae folk. They divided up the island so that the Milesians lived atop the land while the Túatha Dé Danann lived in the underworld below.

Told from multiple perspectives, Llywelyn’s tale fills in all the details, explaining some of the customs and powers of the Túatha Dé Danann, why the Milesians came to Ireland, why the peaceful Túatha... Read More

Hear the Wind Sing: Murakami’s debut novel

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Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

First published in 1979, Hear the Wind Sing is Haruki Murakami’s debut novel (or novella, depending upon where one draws the line). An unnamed narrator tells the story of what happened to him over the course of eighteen days when he was a university student. He spends most of his time either drinking beer with his friend, “The Rat,” or else in a confused relationship with a woman.

To be honest, I did not enjoy Hear the Wind Sing, since I prefer to latch onto the plot when reading. The novel is divided into forty chapters, and though a larger narrative loosely ties everything together, Hear the Wind Sing might actually be better read as a series of related vignettes that prod... Read More

Barely Bewitched: I’m done with Tammy Jo

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Barely Bewitched by Kimberly Frost

Note: Barely Bewitched has a rating of over 4 out of 5 stars at both Amazon and GoodReads, so please let that information guide how you perceive my review.

Barely Bewitched is the second novel in Kimberly Frost’s SOUTHERN WITCH series. I recently reviewed the first novel, Would-Be Witch, and wasn’t too impressed with Frost’s ditzy heroine and her aggressive alpha male lovers. If the book had had some redeeming qualities such as beautiful prose, appealing humor, or even an interesting plot, I could have happily gone along for the ride.

I only decided to pick up Barely Bewitched because Tantor Audio sent me a review copy of the audiobook. Penguin ... Read More

Diary of a Haunting: Great concept, but uneven execution

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Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano

The conceit behind Diary of a Haunting is that M. Verano is an associate professor at a university in Idaho who has devoted his life to “editing a series of first-person narratives” which demonstrate instances of occult or paranormal incidents. “Montague Verano” is a pseudonym used to lend authenticity to the framing device for this narrative, which purports to be a collection of journal entries from a turbulent six-month period in the life of a teenaged girl. Naturally, the reader is assured that pertinent details like names have been changed to protect affected individuals.

Book 2



Paige, her scientifically-minded younger brother Logan, and their mother have just relocated from sunny L.A. to dreary small-town Idaho following a much-publicized divorce. Mom, a m... Read More

The Spine of the World: Never mind, bring back Drizzt

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The Spine of the World by R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore’s The Spine of the World tries so hard that I actually feel a bit bad for giving it low marks. It’s akin to how I imagine a judge at a dog show must feel when sizing up that one dog who’s a bit too flaky for the event. It won’t stand on the podium or heel properly and it gets singed going through the fiery ring (this might be a good time to own up to the fact that I’ve never actually watched a dog show), but all the same it just looks so enthusiastic and eager to please that one feels guilty giving it a poor evaluation. The Spine of the World is that dog. It desperately wants your approval, but unfortunately it has committed a sin so heinous — especially for this series — that I don... Read More

Would-Be Witch: 1 ditzy heroine, 2 alpha males

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Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost

Would-Be Witch (2009) is the first book in Kimberly Frost’s SOUTHERN WITCH paranormal romance series. I picked it up because Tantor Audio has just released its sequel, Barely Bewitched, and offered to send me a copy for review. There are currently five novels in this popular series.

Tammy Jo is a fiery red-head descended from a line of witches. Tammy Jo’s magical powers never developed, so she doesn’t practice witchcraft. She spends her days working as a pastry chef and her nights sleeping with Zach, her gorgeous ex-husband, a good ol’ macho conservative Texas boy who works in law enforcement and doesn’t believe in magic. But one day everything blows up. Tammy gets fired from her job, ... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

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Reposting to include Katie's new review.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mouth, to say the least. And, as i... Read More

Solar Express: Not entertaining

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Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt Jr

L.E. Modesitt Jr’s newest work is a stand-alone hard science fiction novel that takes place in the 2100’s when the geo-political landscape of Earth has changed dramatically. Climate change and bad economic policies have nearly destroyed the United States, which now belongs to the North American Union. The major world powers have been exploring space, but all have signed a treaty that prevents them from weaponizing their spaceships or militarizing space in other ways. War threatens, however, after the Sinese Federation accuses the North American Union and the Indians of breaking the treaty. The Sinese seem to be using their alleged suspicions as an excuse to build up their own military capabilities in space.

As tensions rise, Alayna Wong-Grant, a young astrophysicist with a grunt job on a lunar space station, notices an anomaly in her data which indic... Read More

Undead and Uneasy: I’m finished with Queen Betsy

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Undead and Uneasy by MaryJanice Davidson

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the QUEEN BETSY series.

Undead and Uneasy is book six in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series, a humorous paranormal urban fantasy. I listened to the audio version which is only 5.5 hours long and is read by Nancy Wu.

Betsy is still working on her plans for her wedding to Eric Sinclair, the sexy Vampire King, and trying to stay within her 3 million dollar budget. She’s also spending a lot of time babysitting her half-brother, writing her advice column, and worrying about her best friend’s cancer. Then a sort of tragedy strikes and Betsy has to attend a double funeral. (I say “sort of tragedy” b... Read More

Glory Road: Sandy loves it, Kat doesn’t

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Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein

So what does an author do after writing one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time and in the process picking up his third out of an eventual four Hugo awards? That was precisely the conundrum that future sci-fi Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein faced in 1962, after winning the Hugo for Stranger in a Strange Land, and he responded to the problem by switching gears a bit. His follow-up novel, Glory Road, was not precisely Heinlein's first fantasy piece — his 1959 novella The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag had contained a large dollop of very strange fantasy mixed in with its central mystery — but, as far as I can tell, it was his earliest full-lengt... Read More

Teenage Zombies: Mullet heads

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Teenage Zombies directed by Jerry Warren

Despite the advent of Elvis Presley and the birth of rock and roll, the mid-1950s still proved to be a tough time for the American teenager... at least, on the big screen. From the juvenile delinquents in 1955's The Blackboard Jungle and the angst-ridden James Dean in the same year's Rebel Without a Cause, to the punks in Roger Corman's Teenage Doll (1957) and the dopers in 1958's High School Confidential!, theater goers in the middle of that decade were treated to a variety of troublesome predicaments befalling the nation's youth. But all those cinematic problems pall when compared to the even more horrible happenings that teens were subjected to in the horror films of the day. In 1957, audiences were treated to a teenage werewolf (I Was a Teenage Werewolf) and a teenage Frankenstein (I Was a Teenage Frankenstei... Read More

Undead and Unpopular: Short, silly, and shallow

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Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the QUEEN BETSY series.

Undead and Unpopular is the fifth book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series. Each of the books in this extremely fluffy paranormal fantasy series is short, silly, and shallow. The only thing that keeps me reading is that they’re quick breezy breaks between more substantial works — something I can read with half my brain tied behind my back. Also, they’re available in downloadable audiobook format at my library. I would have quit if it wasn’t for that, and the fact that I find MaryJanice Davidson’s sense of humor genuinely amusing, and Nancy Wu’s narration exceptional.

In Read More

Undead and Unreturnable: A little goes a long way

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Undead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the QUEEN BETSY series.

Undead and Unreturnable is the fourth book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series. In the first book, Undead and Unwed, we met Betsy, a shallow fashion-conscious young woman who died and woke up as a vampire. She tries to get back to her normal life, but discovers that the supernatural community expects her to participate. In Undead and Unemployed, Betsy has become the new vampire queen and is expected to do queenly duties, including recognizing the extremely sexy Eric Sinclair as her consort. In Undead and Unappreciated, Betsy... Read More