3.5

Click on stars to FIND REVIEWS BY RATING:
Recommended:
Not Recommended:

The Burning World: On the road in the zombiepocalypse

Readers’ average rating:  

The Burning World by Isaac Marion

When we left R, the recovering zombie, and his human love Julie at the end of Warm Bodies, things were looking hopeful. But not so fast: becoming fully human again after years of zombie-hood isn't as quick or easy as R hoped. His body is still stiff and clumsy, and his memory of his prior life is still a blank to him (in fact, he's not at all sure he wants to remember his prior life). The recovery of the other zombies that have taken over America is equally tentative, one small step at a time, with many zombies not recovering at all, and others backsliding. R has no idea what to do next. It’s a spectrum: Living, Nearly Living, Mostly Dead, All Dead, with unsettlingly fluidity between them.

If this weren't diffic... Read More

Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire: Darkly poetic WWI story

Readers’ average rating:

Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

On a cold autumn night, under a black sky leached of starlight and absent the moon, Captain Henry Baltimore clutches his rifle and stares across the dark abyss of the battlefield, and knows in his heart that these are the torture fields of Hell, and damnation awaits mere steps ahead. 

Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (2008) is a darkly poetic story of supernatural horrors unleashed during World War One. Lord Baltimore is our broken hero, chasing a plague-spreading vampire across the blooded lands of Europe. This is no graphic novel, but author/artist Mike Mignola, who is most known for his work on the HELLBOY Read More

Black City Demon: This creepy, magical Prohibition-era Chicago comes to life

Readers’ average rating:

Black City Demon by Richard A. Knaak

Black City Demon (2017) is the second BLACK CITY SAINT adventure of 1930s ghost-hunter Nick Medea, who is really Georgius, or Saint George, and who is sixteen hundred years old. Currently living in Chicago, Nick, who is also the guardian of the Gate between our realm and Faerie, combats human evil and the worst of the Faerie influences that come through the Gate. He has very few people he considers friends, but several allies he can’t completely trust... and a strong, beautiful woman who is the current incarnation of the princess he loved when he was Georgius.

Richard A. Knaack’s historical urban fantasy series delves into the history of Chicago and provides a different spin. In Read More

Skyborn: Fun MG series comes to a satisfying end

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Skyborn by Lou Anders

Lou Anders concludes his THRONES & BONES trilogy for middle graders with Skyborn, which follows Frostborn and Nightborn.

Skyborn begins as our three young heroes have just lost one of the Horns of Osius which are able to control wyverns and dragons. To free these creatures from the empire that controls them, they must travel to Thica to find and destroy the horn.

Our heroes couldn’t be more different from each other. Karn is the human son of a w... Read More

A Conversation in Blood: Will keep Kemp’s fans coming back for more

Readers’ average rating:

A Conversation in Blood by Paul S. Kemp

It’s hard to resist Egil and Nix, a hard-bitten wise-cracking roguish fantasy duo modeled after Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. They’re back in Paul S. Kemp’s third novel featuring the pair: A Conversation in Blood. It would help, but isn’t necessary, to have read the first two books, The Hammer and the Blade and A Discourse in Steel. Each story stands alone, though following the chronology is recommended for the best experience, I think.

In this story... Read More

Nightborn: Kids will love this fun warm-hearted fantasy quest

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Nightborn by Lou Anders

Nightborn is the second novel in Lou AndersTHRONES & BONES series for middle graders. I enjoyed the first novel, Frostborn, for its likeable protagonists, sense of adventure, touch of humor, and warm-heartedness. It’d be best to read it before beginning Nightborn.

The beginning of Nightborn finds Karn, our young gaming hero, back on the family farm. But not for long. Soon he is picked up by a wyvern and taken to the dragon in the coliseum who insists that Karn go find and solve a riddle that will lead him to another of... Read More

Shards of Honor: Fall in love with the Vorkosigans

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Editor's note: This is Marion's review of Shards of HonorBarrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice. Kat's comments about Shards of Honor and Tadiana's review are below.

Do you like fancy military uniforms? Shiny spaceships that blow things up? Brooding aristocrats with hulking stone castles and dark secrets? Snappy comebacks and one-liners? Voluptuous women warriors? Swords and secret passages? Surprising twists on standard military tactics of engagement?

If you answered “Yes” to three or more, check out the Vorkosigan Saga. Lois McMaster Bujold started this series in the mid-80s. The Vorkosigan books start out as space opera, even having maps of the various planets a... Read More

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

Readers’ average rating:

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar (writer) & Steve McNiven (illustrator)

Logan, a grizzled west coast farmer whose only joy is his wife and two children, knows that the rent is due. He doesn’t have the dough, and when the cannibalistic Hulk Gang arrives, he will suffer a beating – if he’s lucky.

What if… all of the villains teamed up to defeat the heroes and then took over the country? Written in 2009, Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan was not released as a “What If…?” adventure, but it might as well have been. The heroes were wiped out long ago, and Logan, who has sworn to never do violence again, takes his beating to protect his family.

Hawkeye, now equal parts blind samurai and archer, hopes there might still be a bit of Wolverine left in the old farmer. He offers to pay Logan to drive with him in the Spider-... Read More

Dracula vs. Hitler: Lively war story pits the undead vs. the inhumane

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Dracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan

Dracula vs. Hitler?! Yes, yes, I know — the title is beyond hokey and there’s no way that this could be a good book. A graphic novel? Maybe. But not a full-sized, 500-page novel. I love horror and I love Dracula, the Dracula as he was originally … gothically evil, not gothically high school. And World War II lit is cool. But the combination? It sounds like a comic book, or maybe the next generation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s classic-lit/horror mash-ups.

Do you want the honest truth? Dracula vs. Hitler is a very fun book. The title was a warning, but the evil v. evil angle drew me in and Dracula’s placement on the side of the allies in the middl... Read More

Ninefox Gambit: Geeky, hard sci-fi for Stephenson fans

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

In an advanced, multi-planetary empire replete with advanced technology and magical mysticism, Captain Kel Cheris finds herself forced to use heretical tactics to save her troops when she puts down a sacrilegious rebellion. Unfortunately, her superiors in Ninefox Gambit (2016) aren’t quite sympathetic to her gambit, choosing to use her as a tool to revive and serve as a bodily host to the immortal spirit form of General Shuos Jedao to save the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a religious stronghold that’s critical to the civilization’s magics. It would be a difficult enough task for Cheris since the rebels have taken and are now defending what was supposed to be an impregnable fortress — but did I mention that J... Read More

Coco Butternut: A brisk “Texas Weird” adventure by the master

Readers’ average rating:

Coco Butternut by Joe R. Lansdale

Coco Butternut, which came out in January 2017, is a short HAP AND LEONARD novella written by the inimitable Joe R. Lansdale. You may already have read some of these East-Texas, sort-of-detective stories, or seen episodes of the television show on Sundance. While Coco Butternut has no supernatural elements at all that I can spot, it is a fast-paced, enjoyable read with perfectly timed banter, strange and wonderful characters, and perfect, quirky descriptions of the landscape and countryside.

I don’t believe there is a sub-genre called “Texas Weird,” but if there were, Lansdale would own it. He owns it here with a story that kicks off in bizarre-mode from the first sentence. A man who runs a... Read More

Game of Shadows: An action-packed YA adventure

Readers’ average rating:

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

High school is hard enough on its own — there’s homework, bullies, unrequited crushes, and overprotective parents, just to name a few hurdles on the way to freedom and adulthood. But that’s nothing compared to the challenges presented in Erika Lewis’ Game of Shadows (2017); our intrepid hero must also learn sword fighting, diplomacy, and an entirely new language and culture if he is to save his mother from an evil sorcerer’s machinations. By comparison, Advanced Geometry seems a lot more appealing!

Ethan Makkai, newly fourteen, wants only one thing for his birthday: to walk to school without his overbearing mother, Caitríona, at his side. Sure, Los Angeles isn’t the safest city in the world, but what’s the worst that could happen? Unfortunately, after Ethan sneaks out of their apartment and gets into a fight with a bu... Read More

The Diabolic: Stabbing and backstabbing in the galactic Imperial Court

Readers’ average rating: 

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

The Diabolic (2016) is set in some distant future, when humans have settled the galaxy using spaceships that travel through hyperspace. Humanity has also been experimenting with genetic engineering, and for a period of time it becomes fashionable to purchase so-called Diabolics as bodyguards. Diabolics are cloned humans, engineered to have superior strength and resistance to sickness and poisons, and trained from early childhood to be skilled and ruthless fighters and killers, with no regard for anyone but the person they are chemically induced to love and protect. They are given names like Hazard and Enmity to reflect their dangerous role and, one assumes, to strike terror into the heart of any who might oppose them.

Nemesis is a young Diabolic girl, raised in a pen surrounded by a force field, treated as less than human by her keep... Read More

Wondering Sight: The price of vindication

Readers’ average rating: 

Wondering Sight by Melissa McShane

In Wondering Sight (2017), the second book in Melissa McShane’s THE EXTRAORDINARIES series, we return to a fantasy-touched version of Regency-era England where some people have magical talents ― throwing and extinguishing fire, shaping one’s appearance, flying, teleporting, and more. Sophia is an Extraordinary, one of the very few people who have particularly strong magical abilities. As a Seer, she can cast herself into Dreams, which show her future events as a series of doors in her Dreams that she can open and explore, as well as Visions, where she can see past and current events by holding an object that has a significant history with a particular person.

Before this book begins, Sophia, like Elinor in the first book, Burni... Read More

The Stone of Farewell: A long rambling middle book

Readers’ average rating: 

The Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams

Twenty-five years ago I read Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy and since that time I’ve considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. For years I’ve been planning to re-read it when an audio version was published and that happened recently, so here I am. A few weeks ago I reviewed the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, which you need to read before picking up this second book, The Stone of Farewell (1990). If you haven’t, stop right here because there be spoilers (and dragons) beyond this point.

After a quick synopsis of the first book, The Stone of Farewell begins wh... Read More

Dr. Futurity: An underrated Dick outing

Readers’ average rating:

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

As I mentioned in my review of Philip K. Dick’s 1960 novel Vulcan’s Hammer, by 1959, the future Hugo winner was feeling decidedly disenchanted with science fiction in general, despite having had published some 85 short stories and half a dozen novels in that genre. The author, it seems, was still pinning his hopes on becoming a more “respectable,” mainstream writer, and had indeed already completed nine such novels: Return to Lilliput, Pilgrim on the Hill and A Time for George Stavros are considered lost, probably never to see the light of day, whereas Gather Yoursel... Read More

The Conclave of Shadow: Dragons, magic and Alcatraz have the starring roles

Readers’ average rating:

The Conclave of Shadow by Alyc Helms

In The Conclave of Shadow (2016), the second MR. MYSTIC / MISSY MASTERS novel by Alyc Helms, Missy, AKA “Mr. Mystic,” a shadow mage, has saved the spirit guardians of China at great cost to herself. Now back home in San Francisco, she makes a reluctant rapprochement with the corporate superhero group called Argent. Increasingly frequent earthquakes, a surprise encounter with the twin dragons Mei Shen and Mian Zi, a shadow attack at the Academy of Sciences, and the theft of super-secret technology soon put San Francisco, this dimension, and Missy herself at risk. To prevail, and hold back the forces of both the Shadow Realms and the Voidlands, Missy may have to reach out to people she does not want to trust. Along she way, she, and ... Read More

The Dragons of Heaven: A rowdy festival of fantasy genres

Readers’ average rating:

The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms

The Dragons of Heaven (2015), by Alyc Helms, is a rowdy festival of fantasy genres, expertly managed by the writer. You’ve got an urban fantasy set-up with the caped-heroes angle; you’ve got Chinese folklore, dragons, shadow realms, and conventional magic; and also, for part of the book, a family saga. It’s an exciting, eclectic read.

Here is the visual of this book for me: Helms is juggling many tropes and themes. It’s like she’s got three flaming torches, a couple of clubs, a pineapple, a strawberry, and a chainsaw all whirling through the air. I may think she doesn’t need the strawberry, but everything’s moving in rhythm, so maybe I’m wrong. The story has good momentum and the characters are engaging. Helms’s visual descriptions, especially of dimensions that are different from our... Read More

Department Zero: Nifty mashup of humor and Lovecraft

Readers’ average rating:

Department Zero by Paul Crilley

Department Zero by Paul Crilley is a neat mashup of humor and horror, of interdimensional fantasy and Lovecraft. First person narrator Harry Priest has a lively voice and a lot to learn when his life gets turned upside down after one really bad day at work. If you like acerbic British humor and the Old Ones of H.P. Lovecraft, this is a book for you.

Priest is a crime-scene cleaner in Los Angeles. He is separated from his wife and daughter, and bitter about it. Priest hates everything about his life and takes no responsibility for anything that has gone wrong in it. Then he and the boss’s son go to a scene of carnage at a motel. Soon Priest is encountering wizened, S... Read More

Metallic Lover: An unusual sequel to an unusual book

Readers’ average rating:

Metallic Love by Tanith Lee

Metallic Love (2005) is technically a sequel to The Silver Metal Lover, but (despite the same premise and a few reappearing characters) is so drastically different in tone and content that it barely counts as a continuation of Tanith Lee's earlier unorthodox love story between a young woman and a silver android.

That said, it is preferable if you read The Silver Metal Lover before Metallic Love, as it is a story that exists within this one: Jane's manuscript is found by new protagonist Lr4eoren and constantly referred to over the course of her experiences. Growing up in a strict religious cul... Read More

The Rising: Fast-paced alien invasion adventure

Readers’ average rating: 

The Rising by Heather Graham & Jon Land

In The Rising (2017), Alex Chin is a rising star, the handsome blond quarterback of his high school football team, dating the head cheerleader. His Chinese adoptive parents are concerned about his grades not being good enough, and his nerdy tutor Samantha, a classmate with plans for a career at NASA, hounds him to work harder at school, while nursing a secret and seemingly hopeless crush on Alex. He also has strange dreams that cause him to fill a drawing pad with detailed drawings of a world filled with menacing machines. Other than those minor drawbacks, though, Alex has what he thinks is an ideal life.

But Alex’s plans for football glory may be crushed when he’s severely injured playing football in a regional championship. When the hospital doctor takes a CT scan, it shows a mysterious shadow in his brain. A sec... Read More

Vulcan’s Hammer: Minor Dick, but still very entertaining

Readers’ average rating:

Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick

According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography Divine Invasions, by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published … yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of an eventual five) to support, and his first child on the way, economic necessities did, it seem, perforce drive him back, unenthusiastically, to the sci-fi realm. Tw... Read More

Mixed Magics: A short story anthology for Chrestomanci fans

Readers’ average rating:

Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones

Mixed Magics (2000) is comprised of four short stories set in the fantasy worlds of Diana Wynne Jones's CHRESTOMANCI; an enchanter responsible for the proper use of magic wielded by the various witches, warlocks, sorcerers and enchanters prevalent throughout his world (and several others). Although the stories are readable enough by themselves, filled with Wynne Jones's trademark humour and originality, it's best if you're already familiar with her previous work in the series, these tales being filled with plenty of in-jokes and cameo appearances.

It starts off lightly with "Warlock at the Wheel", concerning a hapless warlock who inadvertently kidnaps a little girl and her dog after he steals a car. The most humorous ... Read More

Survival Game: Played out across multiple universes

Readers’ average rating:

Survival Game by Gary Gibson

Humankind has a weird fascination with its own demise. It's the reason apocalyptic fiction has been a staple for decades. You've read zombie apocalypse, imminent meteor, killer virus stories a million times, so the real challenge now is finding an interesting way to explore said demise. Gary Gibson's take on the genre is surprisingly refreshing in the second instalment of his APOCALYPSE DUOLOGY series, The Survival Game.

We first meet Katya Orlova as she is jumping off a train. She is a scientist working for the Russian Empire, but due to her knowledge of alternate worlds, she has been blackmailed into obtaining an item that will grant the Tsar new life. This item is the Hypersphere: an artefact which allows the user to move be... Read More

Eternal Frankenstein: A Frankenstein horror story for practically everybody

Readers’ average rating:

Eternal Frankenstein edited by Ross Lockhart

Eternal Frankenstein (2016) asks horror writers to imagine, or reimagine, the life of Mary Shelley’s infamous doctor and his “creature.” The book includes 16 stories, all of them original to this anthology, with one that appeared in a different form in the publication Perihelion.

Make no mistake, these are horror stories. Some may glance at science fiction, and some flirt with fantasy, but their primary purpose is to scare us, or make us uncomfortable as we read, and this collection succeeds at that.

The story that succeeded the best for me, because I felt the horror on multiple levels, was “Post Partum,” by Betty Rocksteady. The first-person n... Read More