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Eternity’s Wheel: A nice introduction to SF for tweens

Eternity’s Wheel by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves

This review will contain spoilers for the previous two INTERWORLD books, InterWorld and The Silver Dream. You need to read those books before starting Eternity’s Wheel or you'll have no idea what's going on.

After discovering in the last book, The Silver Dream, that Hex and Binary are working together to destroy the universes, Joey finds himself back on Earth and not able to get back to InterWorld because it’s being chased by Hex. Though cut off from his fellow Walkers, Joey is determined to fight for his universe’s future, so he focuses on recruiting new agents and building up an InterWorld ba... Read More

The Razor: Comfortably familiar

The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell

Reading J. Barton Mitchell’s The Razor (2018) was a lot like going to the cinema with friends to see a big-budget blockbuster of a sci-fi/horror flick: there are some interesting settings and explosive plot developments, tough-as-plasteel characters gradually reveal inner hearts of gold, shadowy figures make dubious deals while our heroes struggle valiantly against impossible odds, and the ending sets up the possibility for more of the same. It’s entertaining, even if there’s nothing all that earth-shattering, and it was relaxing to spend a few afternoons indulging the part of my brain that loves seeing stuff go boom.

11-H37, aka The Razor, is a prison planet tidally locked in orbit around a red giant star. The hemisphere facing the star is constantly blasted by radiation and is, therefore, uninhabitable; the hemisphere facing away is a frozen wastela... Read More

The Girl with the Dragon Heart: Creating your own story

The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis follows up last year’s award-nominated middle grade fantasy The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart with The Girl with the Dragon Heart (2018), the second book in her TALES FROM THE CHOCOLATE HEART series. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart followed the escapades of Aventurine, a chocolate-loving young dragon enchanted into the shape of a young girl. The focus now shifts to Aventurine’s friend Silke, a dark-skinned girl with short black curly hair. More importantly, Silke is also brave, quick-thinking and fast-moving, and has a great talent for creating stories, including her own.

Silke, an ... Read More

Sister Mine: A refreshingly unique stand-alone fantasy

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Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine (2013) is a refreshingly unique stand-alone fantasy novel featuring characters, settings, and situations that you’ve never seen before. Makeda and her twin sister Abby were conjoined at birth. Now that they are separated, they each suffer some sort of loss. Abby’s loss is obvious — her body isn’t formed quite right and she has some physical deficits. Makeda’s loss is less obvious — she does not have the mojo that her sister got from their unusual parents... or so she thinks.

Desperate to get out from under the wing of her protective twin sister, Makeda is moving into her own apartment. She wants to live her own life in a world where she doesn’t feel like she’s malformed. But in her new apartment... Read More

The Silver Dream: The stakes get even higher

The Silver Dream by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves

This review will contain spoilers for the first INTERWORLD book, InterWorld. You should read InterWorld (2007) before beginning The Silver Dream (2013).

Joey Harker, the Walker, is now almost 17 years old and he has so far survived as a member of the InterWorld, the military organization made up of all the Joeys in the altiverses who have come together to protect their earths from the Hex and the Binary. On one of their missions, they somehow manage to bring back a stowaway when they return to their secret base. It’s a girl named Acacia Jones and she has a supernatural power, too. While the Joeys can walk through different spatial dimensions, Acacia can walk through time. She’s a handy ally to h... Read More

Interworld: Fun science fiction for kids and teens

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Interworld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

Joey Harker thinks he’s a pretty normal kid except that he’s got a horrible sense of direction. When his social studies teacher makes the kids try to find their way back to school after being dropped off somewhere in town, Joey gets lost. That’s when he discovers there’s a good reason for his deficit — he’s a Walker. In fact, he’s THE Walker. He can travel through all the (heretofore unknown to Joey) alternate earths.

When Joey accidentally walks out of our earth, the InterWorld finds him. This is an organization made up of all the Walkers (i.e., all the Joey Harkers) who exist in all the alternate earths. They form a military unit that keeps their earths safe from the Hex and the Binary, the two groups that are trying to exploit the earths for their own purposes. The Hex, which controls some of the wo... Read More

The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey: The road not taken

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The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of Peter S. Beagle's gorgeous, iconic fantasy The Last Unicorn, he unearthed this long-buried first version of that novel, written one memorable summer in 1962 when twenty-three year old Beagle was renting a cabin in the Berkshires with an artistic friend, Phil, and working on his writing craft. The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey (2018) starts off nearly identical to the novel, painting a beloved character with these familiar words:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of... Read More

Diamond Fire: Wedding-related trials for the sister of the bride

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Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

Nevada Baylor is getting married to Connor Rogan, and when Rogan’s mother Arrosa shuts down their plans for a small and simple wedding, insisting on a full-scale formal wedding, a couple of things happen. Nevada inexplicably gets incredibly fussy and controlling about the wedding details, firing two wedding planners, and her beleaguered 18 and 16 year old sisters Catalina and Arabella decide that the only feasible option is to handle the wedding planning themselves. And a large crowd of Rogan’s Spanish relatives on his mother’s side descends on Mrs. Rogan’s Texas mansion for a few weeks’ stay before the wedding. The half of those relatives who descend from her father’s second wife are already hostile, and matters only get worse when everyone is cooped up together in the same home, however large and luxurious.

Now the Rogan fami... Read More

Bridge of Clay: The saga of five abandoned brothers, and a mule

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Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

In the beginning, there was one murderer, one mule and one boy, but this isn't the beginning...

Thus opens Markus Zusak's Bridge of Clay. Zusak has previously said that this novel has been two decades in the making and that, alongside being the follow-up to the wildly successful The Book Thief, meant that this story was always going to have its work cut out for it. It tells the tale of five feral brothers that have had to bring themselves up in a family saga of love and loss and tragedy that spans the lifetimes of multiple generations, and household pets.

The brothers themselves are self-named 'barbarians.' The story is narrated by Matthew, the eldest, the sole earner of the household inherited fr... Read More

The Man Who Fell to Earth: A vivid portrayal of alcoholism

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The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who has come to Earth on a mission. He hopes to save the remaining 300 aliens who are dying on his home planet. Since childhood he’s been preparing for this, training by watching and listening to Earth’s radio and TV broadcasts. Being mostly humanoid in appearance, and understanding much of Earth’s culture, he has disguised himself to successfully pass as a man from Kentucky.

Soon after his arrival, he contacts a patent lawyer and begins to “invent” the technology of his superior planet. His goal is to earn half a billion dollars so he can have the money he needs to fund his mission. He needs to keep his identity secret because, though his intentions toward the humans are completely benevolent, who knows what they will do if they find out there’s an alien among them.

But there is ... Read More

The Wizard Knight: A wonderful, deep, rewarding read

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Reposting to include Kat's new review.

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe

The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe is one of the best fantasy novels to appear in the last decade or so. The novel is split into two separate books, The Knight and The Wizard, but like Gene Wolfe’s classic BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, it’s really one big story split into separate volumes and best read back-to-back.

The Wizard Knight tells the story of Sir Able of the High Heart, a knight who is really a young boy pulled from our own world to Mythgardr, one of seven connected worlds that are mirrored on a combination of Norse mythology, medieval history and Christian theology. One of those other worlds, Aelfrice, is home to Disiri, an Aelf queen who helps Able towards... Read More

Necroscope III: The Source: Harry visits another world

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Necroscope III: The Source by Brian Lumley

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books, Necroscope. And Necroscope II: Vamphyri!. You’ll want to read those books before picking up this one.

Harry Keogh is back and now he’s got a body again. How that came about is a sad tale that you need to read about in Necroscope II: Vamphyri!. You’d think that all would be well now — Harry could get back with his wife and son and maybe life could somewhat normalize, though Harry, of course, still hears from the dead and can travel through time and space on the Mobius Continuum, so maybe Harry is never going to be normal or even really desire a ... Read More

The Bat: When Vinny met Agnes

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The Bat directed by Crane Wilbur

Although Vincent Price had appeared in a number of scary films before the late 1950s, it wasn't until 1958 and '59 that the beloved actor really began to concentrate his efforts in the fright field and thus become one of the true titans in the arena of horror. During those two years, Price starred in The Fly, House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler and The Bat, thus getting the ball rolling for one legendary horror career. This viewer, up until recently, had long enjoyed every one of those films except for The Bat, which had somehow escaped me. Thus, how pleased I was to discover that this film fits in very nicely with those other great three!

The Bat was based on a 1908 novel by mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart entitled The Circular S... Read More

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

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The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her ... Read More

Barren: Strong second half balances out novella issues

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Barren by Peter Brett

Barren (2018) is a novella-length (just over 130 pages in my ARC version) story that answers some questions left after the conclusion of Peter V. Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series. Specifically, what happened back at Tibbet’s Brook, the small village that was home to Arlen Bales and Renna Tanner, two of the protagonists of the Cycle.

The first point I want to make has more to do with marketing and target audience than the book itself. My accompanying publicity says Barren is a good “entry point” for the series, but I’d respectfully disagree with that assessment and hope the book doesn’t get sold as such, say, on inner covers or blurbs or online descriptions. While Barren certain... Read More

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds: Three novellas tell a compelling story

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Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if Batman’s rogues gallery was made up entirely from creations of his own mind (and only visible to himself) rather than individuals who are, more often than not, created as a result of his actions, then I recommend that you read Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds (2018). Compiled herein are two of Brandon Sanderson’s previously-published novellas, “Legion” (2012) and “Legion: Skin Deep” (2014), along with the concluding and never-before-seen third novella, “Lies of the Beholder.” I hadn’t read any of these works before opening Legion, nor had I read Kat and Tadiana... Read More

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms: And some pretty well detailed space realms, too

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Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms edited by Ellen Campbell & Patrice Fitzgerald

Beyond the Stars: Unimagined Realms (2018) is a space opera anthology released by Astral Books. I don’t know whether the realms in question are really unimagined. In some places they are pretty dimly lit.

A Lunar colony’s aroma of baking bread did enter into the narrative in “The Art of Baking Bread on the Moon” by David Bruns. Ah, fresh bread! But again, that’s more nostalgic.

My favorite story by some distance was “Adagio for Tiamat Station,” by Marion Deeds, who happens to be a colleague reviewer and author in her own right. Her writing is spare and mercifully unsentimental in relating a tale of poignance and significance. Its gentle urgency echoes through time, and in fa... Read More

Arabella the Traitor of Mars: Mars resists the British invasion

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Arabella the Traitor of Mars by David D. Levine

David D. Levine’s THE ADVENTURES OF ARABELLA ASHBY Regency fantasy trilogy wraps up in Arabella the Traitor of Mars (2018), which, appropriately, returns us to early 1800's colonial-era Mars, where all the action began in Arabella of Mars. The series is an engaging melding of Jules Verne-style retro science fiction with Horatio Hornblower-type naval battles in the air above Mars, with an intrepid young woman heroine. *Some spoilers for the first two books in ... Read More

Buying Time: Immortals running for their lives

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Buying Time by Joe Haldeman

Dallas Barr is a Stileman — one of the few humans who’ve paid a million pounds and given up all their assets to have their bodies rejuvenated. These folks need the process repeated every decade or so, so they spend that decade earning the money needed for the next treatment. To keep the Stilemen from gaining too much wealth and power, they’re required to give up their assets each time. This leads to the funding of many philanthropic initiatives around the world.

When Dallas and his girlfriend Maria discover a conspiracy affecting the Stileman Process, they are forced to run for their lives. If they can’t shake their pursuers and don’t solve their problem in time, their immortality will run out.

Joe Haldeman’s Buying Time Read More

Ninth Key: Decent fantasy entertainment for older teens

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Ninth Key by Meg Cabot

Ninth Key is the second book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series about Suze, a high school student who can interact with restless ghosts. She helps them settle their affairs on Earth so they can move on to wherever they’re supposed to go (she doesn’t know what happens after they leave Earth). In Shadowland, the first MEDIATOR book, Suze and her mom had just moved from New York to northern California so her mom, a widow, could marry a widower with three sons. None of the family knows about Suze’s ability to see ghosts.

Upon arrival in California, Suze discovers the ghost of a hot guy names Jesse in her bedroom. He’s been dea... Read More

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day: A brief, but tender, ghost story

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s novella Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day (2017) is a sensitive tale of love, loss, and regret — the kind that haunts people, turns them into ghosts, makes them flee thousands of miles from their homes, makes them linger somewhere long after it’s time for them to leave.

In 1972, Jenna Pace’s older sister Patty committed suicide in New York City, far away from her family home in Mill Hollow, Kentucky. Jenna, wracked with grief, ran out into a freak thunderstorm and tumbled into a ravine, where she died. Because her life ended before it was supposed to, though, Jenna remains in the living world as a ghost, able to make her body corporeal or in... Read More

The Remnant: A long but satisfying finale

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The Remnant by Charlie Fletcher

“No more hope. No more heroes.”

The Remnant (2017) is the third and final book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. You need to read the first two books, The Oversight and The Paradox, before opening this one, or you’ll be hopelessly lost. I’ll assume you have since I won’t be able to avoid some spoilers for the previous books in this review.

The Oversight is still struggling to maintain the balance between the old and new worlds. Its headquarters has been destroyed and its few remaining members are scat... Read More

Mem: A beautiful story that I didn’t believe in

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MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

Set in an alternate 1920s world, MEM (2018) is a short novel about a woman who is the physical manifestation of a memory extraction process. If someone has a traumatic memory they want to get rid of, Professor Toutant can remove it. The memory then becomes a physical person who lives in the “vault” below the health center at a university in Montreal. (The vault is very similar to a mental or convalescent care ward.) Most of these “mems,” whose brains carry not much beyond the extracted memory, sit around being cared for in the vault until they eventually pass away. Some of them are able to interact in the world better than others. Some even visit with the person whose memory they’re from.

Our protagonist, a mem who was the first extracted memory ever created by Professor Toutant, seems to somehow have retained a copy of the brai... Read More

The Dragon Lords: False Idols: Liberal amounts of blood and wine, but not much fun

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The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins

I rather liked Jon Hollins’ 2016 novel The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold. It was fun, it had heart, it was surprisingly insightful, and it was chock-full of wordplay and schemes in addition to epic battles and blood. Its 2017 sequel, The Dragon Lords: False Idols, inherited a lot of those traits but comes up short on the fun that previously enchanted me.

The situation is rather more serious this time around: our merry band of adventurers is scattered across the south and south-eastern reaches of Avarra, spending their vast fortunes or trading on their newfound fame and power, until the human prophets of a dragon-worshippi... Read More

The Moons of Barsk: Not as good as book one but leaves you excited for book three

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The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen

I was a big fan of Lawrence M. Schoen’s first entry in this series, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, and therefore was excited to pick up its sequel, The Moons of Barsk (2018). I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed, but despite suffering from a bit of a second-book slump, The Moons of Barsk does move the big story arcs along while broadening/deepening some characterization, and so hasn’t lessened my interest in seeing where both story and character go moving forward.

For convenience’s sake (mine, not yours) I’m going to simply reuse my description of Barsk’s universe from my revi... Read More