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Slan Hunter: The sequel to a Retro-Hugo winner

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Slan Hunter by A.E van Vogt & Kevin J. Anderson

A.E. van Vogt always intended to write a sequel to his most famous novel, the Retro-Hugo Award winning Slan. But by the time he got around to it, decades after publishing Slan, he had started to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. van Vogt’s wife, Lydia, gave her husband’s notes to Kevin J. Anderson, who wrote Slan Hunter and published it in 2007. Slan Hunter picks up right after the events of Slan and, if I hadn’t known better, I wouldn’t have realized the change in authorship. Read More

The Phoenix Empress: An improvement on book one, but still has issues

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The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera

I’ll confess at the start that I was not a fan of K. Arsenault Rivera’s first novel in the THEIR BRIGHT ASCENDANCY series, The Tiger’s Daughter, and came about as close as I can to just stopping at several points along the way. So it was with some trepidation that I began The Phoenix Empress (2018), book two of this Asian-influenced series. The good news is that the sequel improves on its predecessor in many ways. The bad news is the bar was pretty low, so my response through much of it was mostly just lukewarm. Spoilers for book one to follow.

Rivera picks up pretty close to the end of book one here, w... Read More

The Book of Hidden Things: Well, that was interesting

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The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

Francesco Dimitri’s 2018 novel The Book of Hidden Things is one that I appreciated more than I liked. In fact, I had to think about it for a few days before I wrote this review, because I started seeing more positives in it upon reflection. This is because, despite the title and the packaging, I’m probably not the ideal audience for this book. In reading this review, understand that your mileage may vary.

The Book of Hidden Things takes place in Salento, where every year, on a specific day, four men gather at The American Pizza pizzeria. They made this Pact, to always meet on this day, when they were teenagers. This year, though, Arturo, who goes by Art, is missing. His three friends, Tony, Mauro and Fabio, embark on a search for him that leads them into madness, mysteri... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle by L.J. Smith

Elena is the ice-blonde queen of the school, admired by girls and boys alike. With her friends, Bonnie and Meredith, she enjoys her status and uses it to snag the most eligible boys. However, Elena always feels as though something is missing. When new boy Stefan starts at the school, she suspects she has found what she is looking for, but Stefan manages to resist her charms. Elena makes a vow with Bonnie and Meredith that she will have Stefan no matter what — little suspecting that he hides a deadly secret. When Stefan's brother Damon arrives on the scene, Elena may be in more trouble than she realizes.

I am a big fan of L.J. Smith's writing, and have enjoyed a number of her books. I did enjoy both The Awakening Read More

Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America

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Scream and Scream Again! edited by R.L. Stine

Scream and Scream Again!: Spooky Stories from Mystery Writers of America (2018) is a short-form horror anthology in which “every story begins or ends with a scream,” and its twenty contributors are all members of Mystery Writers of America, an organization “dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre.” The anthology is edited by R.L. Stine, himself a contributing author, and the overall age range of its protagonists and general subject matter mark it firmly as suitable for the pre-teen and early-teen crowd.

Two of the authors may be familiar to Fantasy Literature readers — Beth Fantaskey and Read More

You May Now Kill the Bride: Nostalgic fun for fans of FEAR STREET

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You May Now Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine

If you’re an adult who enjoyed R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS series as a kid and/or his FEAR STREET series as a teenager, then his new RETURN TO FEAR STREET series, beginning with You May Now Kill the Bride (2018), will surely pluck some of your nostalgic heart-strings. (The distressed, much-read appearance of the cover is an obvious nod to that very appeal.) I devoured Stine’s work as a young reader, so I wondered, what would my slightly-more-mature self think of it now?

The answer is that I wasn’t blown away by the quality of Stine’s writing nor his subject matter, but You May Now Kill the Bride was fun in a melodramatic paranormal soap opera kind of way. The biggest appeal for me was the nostalgia factor, and Stine didn’... Read More

Good Guys: Pleasant but forgettable

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Good Guys by Steven Brust

The Foundation, a secretive government agency, collects people who have magical powers and puts them to work for minimum wage. They are tasked with keeping evil magic users under control while ensuring that normal people don’t find out that magic exists.

In Good Guys (2018) we follow three of these folks: Donovan, Susan “Hippie Chick,” and Marci. At the Foundation’s direction, they are working together to investigate a string of magical murders which are getting progressively more gruesome and seem to have a particular end-game in mind. Donovan, Susan, and Marci investigate crime scenes, find clues, make deductions (and huge leaps of logic), and attempt to find and stop the killer before the killer gets them.

This is all very dangerous and they don’t get a lot of support (or pay) from the bureaucratic organizatio... Read More

Free Live Free: No rent, but you’ll have to pay in brain cells

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Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe

First of all, let me lay a few cards on the table: Gene Wolfe is my favorite science-fiction author and might be my favorite author, period. I’d give something like fifteen of his books five-star reviews; the only other author who comes close to that is Jack Vance.

Free Live Free (1984) is one of his two books that I just. Don’t. Get. (Castleview is the other.) I’ve read it at least three times, I’ve puzzled over the explanatory synopsis of one character’s actions at the end (I believe the publisher insisted on its inclusion), I’ve read a couple of essays commenting on it, and I still have no clear idea how most of the story connects to ... Read More

Fright into Flight: This anthology gives “flight” a broad definition

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Fright into Flight edited by Amber Fallon

2018’s Fright into Flight anthology, edited by Amber Fallon, contains a collection of stories written by women. Theoretically, each story deals with flight, although that definition is broad. Because this was published by Word Horde, I expected a horror anthology, but several of these stories aren’t horror, and one is straight-up fantasy. All but one of the stories is a reprint. “I Did it for the Art” by Izzy Lee, is original to this volume.

Here’s the table of contents:

“The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” by Damien Angelica Walters. Written in “found-footage” structure, this story addresses a bizarre occurrence that happened twelve years ago, as the documentarian wrestles with her own sense of guilt over the loss of her childhood friend.

“I Did it for the Art,” by Izzy... Read More

Darkest Hour: This series is getting a bit more complex

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Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot

“You really have the most alarming way, Susannah, of getting yourself into scrapes.”

Darkest Hour is the fourth book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. It’d be best to read the previous books, Shadowland, Ninth Key, and Reunion before picking up Darkest Hour. While each short book has a stand-alone story, the key characters are the same and there are some overarching plotlines including Suze’s crush on the ghost who live... Read More

The Hercules Text: Asks interesting questions in an uninteresting way

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The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt

In the near future, NASA scientists pick up a signal from space that turns out to be a coded message (“The Hercules Text”) from an alien species. It originated a million years ago, so it’s unlikely that the aliens still exist, and even if they do they’re very far away, but the message tells us that (1) We are not (or were not) alone in the universe and (2) A million years ago these aliens were sophisticated enough to send this technologically advanced message.

These facts have profound effects on the scientists and other people involved with the NASA project. They are forced to re-think much of what they thought to be true and they need to work with the US government (and other nations) to decide how much of the information should be made public because some of it is dangerous. As you’d expect, there are differing and strongly-held opinions on ... Read More

Wavesong & The Stone Key: Still a long way to go…

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Wavesong & The Stone Key by Isabelle Carmody

Every book in Isabelle Carmody's THE OBERNEWTYN CHRONICLES is longer than the one before, which accounts for the splitting of the fifth volume into two parts. Though The Stone Key (2008) was originally published by Penguin as a singular book, American publisher Random House divided it into Wavesong and The Stone Key, turning the original volume into the fifth and sixth books in the series.

As I'm a New Zealander, I ended up reading the Australian copy of the book, so any American readers should consider this a review of Wavesong AND The Stone Key. By this poi... Read More

Castle in the Stars: The Moon King: Artwork raises the overall result

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Castle in the Stars: The Moon King by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Moon King is the second installment of Alex Alice’s graphic story involving a 19th Century space race between the two hostile nations of Prussia (led by Bismarck) and Bavaria (ruled by “Mad” King Ludwig. Book one tells of the attempt to prove the existence of “aether,” a substance that along with flight would potentially be a nearly limitless source of energy. The first book ended on a cliffhanger, with the prototype space vehicle unexpectedly taking off with more on board than expected. The Moon King (2018) picks up right afterward, with the vehicle entering space and then, thanks to sabotage, landing on the moon rather than returning to Earth. This version of our moon ... Read More

Bellewether: A cozy but slow-paced historical novel

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Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley is a popular Canadian novelist who writes historical fiction, favoring the dual-timeline model with a current plotline and a historical one that intersect in one way or another. Her novels are generally spiced with a mystery, a romance (or perhaps two, one in each of the timelines) … and a paranormal element, such as time travel, ghostly spirits, or a character with psychic abilities.

Bellewether (2018), Kearsley’s first novel in three years, is of the dual-timeline model. The historical plotline, set in about 1760, alternates between the points of view of Lydia Wilde and Jean-Philippe de Sabran, a French Canadian lieutenant who was captured during the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years’ War) and is n... Read More

Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

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Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers was first published in 1980, won the Locus Award for best novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was made into an unsuccessful film in 1987. It’s recently been on people’s radars due to the upcoming SYFY series based on the novella. You can purchase it in several new (2018) formats including an illustrated edition, a story collection, and an audio version. I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by actress Adenrele Ojo.

The story is a... Read More

Stars Uncharted: Pleasant but lacks originality

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Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

I’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of shows with this basic premise: several individuals, each with their own secrets and special skills, end up together (in this case, on a spaceship) and must bond with each other so they can outwit and overpower the evil enemy that’s chasing them. That’s what’s happening in S.K. Dunstall’s version of this classic storyline in Stars Uncharted (2018).

There’s Nika Rik Terri, a famous body modder (think artistic genetic engineer) who is trying to hide from the criminal organization her ex-boyfriend belongs to. There’s Snow, a young body modder who gets swept up in Nika’s adventure without recognizing Nika as his idol. There’s Josune Arriola, an engineer, spy, and darn good fighter who is trying to find the location of a deposit of extremely valuable elements.... Read More

Angel Station: Needs some humans we can root for

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Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria are a couple of young adults who were genetically engineered by their “father,” a spaceship pilot and explorer who recently committed suicide on his ship, leaving his two “kids” to fend for themselves. The money is gone, and so are their prospects, so Ubu and Maria set out to try to make enough money to avoid foreclosure on their ship.

Luckily, they both have a couple of special skills engineered into their DNA. When they happen upon an unknown alien civilization, they come up with a get-rich quick scheme. But for it to work, they have to keep the aliens a secret from humanity. This becomes more and more difficult to do as their competitors plot against them.

Angel Station (1989) is the type of space adventure that I usually find very appealing and there were some aspects of t... Read More

Mystic Dragon: Enjoyable enough to finish but a bit underwhelming

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Mystic Dragon by Jason Denzel

Mystic Dragon (2018) is the second book in the MYSTIC series by Jason Denzel, and I confess I did not read book one, Mystic. The good news is that while I assume having done so will help reader pick up on a few references to past events, I never felt that my stepping in at book two was any serious detriment to the reading experience. The bad news is that while Mystic Dragon is a solid enough entry in the fantasy field, it didn’t do enough to convince me to go back and pick up its predecessor.

The novel centers mostly on Pomella, a mystic apprentice (think wizardly sort) who, shockingly, came out of the commoner class. We meet her as she is investigating a slavers ring, but the true threat is much less mundane. The rare (every 60 years) celestial e... Read More

The Psychology of Time Travel: A very different take on time travel

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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Note: Available on August 9, 2018 in the UK.
Available in the US in February 2019.


Any author who ventures forth into times unknown, or those gone by, must accept more than the usual scrutiny of their work. It was a brave move then, by new British author Kate Mascarenhas to not only write a debut novel about time travel but also to delve into the psychological implications on those who practice it.

It is 1967 and four talented young women (the pioneers) build the first ever time machine and leap forward one hour in time. Unfortunately for one of them, Bee, these initial experiences are damaging. Just as the BBC are called in to interview the fantastic foursome, Bee has a breakdown live on air, forever landing time tra... Read More

Hullmetal Girls: A fast, generally fun read

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Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Hundreds of years into the future, humanity abandoned Earth and embarked upon an interstellar mission aboard a cluster of ships which eventually became the Fleet. Fleet ships are policed and protected by an elite squad of mechanically-augmented super-soldiers known as Scela, who serve the whims of the Chancellor and enforce her laws (along with a rigid social caste system). Aisha Un-Haad is desperate to provide a good life for her younger siblings, but her deck janitor’s salary isn’t enough to cover her plague-infected brother’s medical bills, so the only option left is to join the Scela. Key Tanaka is a mystery, a near-perfectly blank slate with no idea of who she used to be or why she volunteered for Scela service, but fragments of memory pop up in times of extreme stress, and they seem to indicate that her current identity can’t be trusted. Can these two unl... Read More

The Book of Secrets: Introducing a magical bookstore with oracle powers

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The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane

Helena Davies, a twenty-one year old who's been living in her parents' basement since dropping out of community college for lack of funds, is at loose ends and clueless about her future. She needs a job ― any job ― while she tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Surprisingly, the proprietor of Abernathy’s Bookstore immediately hires her, despite her sparse resume. But her new boss barely has time to have her sign an employment agreement (“I … swear to uphold the standards of Abernathy’s without fear or favor, and to seal its secrets in my heart”) when he’s murdered in the basement on Helena’s very first day.

As the sole surviving employee of Abernathy’s, Helena unexpectedly finds herself in charge of the bookstore … which is far more than an ordinary bookstore. Helena gets swept into a society of hidden mages ... Read More

Kill the Farm Boy: It’s “Bored of the Rings” for the 21st Century

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Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne

Usually, any book that deals with cheese and has a talking goat will win me over. 2018’s Kill the Farm Boy has a talking goat, and it devotes many pages to thoughtful discussions of cheese. It looks deeply into the tropes of epic fantasy and fairy tales, then turns them upside down and inside out. Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne give us gonzo variations on conventional characters, lots of flatulence and poo jokes, and plenty of puns, all the while providing nudges, raised eyebrows and smirky grins from not very far on the sidelines.

Fair warning: It is difficult to review this book without spoiling the plot, but I will try. I fully plan to spoil several of the puns, though.

Some... Read More

Summon the Keeper: Entertaining urban fantasy

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Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff’s KEEPER’S CHRONICLES is about a family of Keepers, descendants of Lilith who have the power to close up holes in the fabric of the universe that appear when evil things happen. Keepers get supernaturally summoned toward these holes, so they’re often on the go, traveling from place to place as they feel the pull of their summons.

Claire, a Canadian Keeper in her late 20s who travels with Austin, an elderly talking cat, has been summoned to a bed & breakfast called the Elysian Fields Guesthouse. When she arrives, the owner turns his establishment over to Claire and quickly bolts.

That’s because there’s an unconscious evil Keeper in room six, the place is haunted b... Read More

Arrow’s Fall: The end of Talia’s story

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Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow’s Fall (1988) is the third and final novel in the first trilogy of Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR saga (THE HERALDS OF VALDEMAR). This trilogy features Talia, a girl who lived in a close-knit conservative rural area who was unexpectedly chosen as the Queen’s Own Herald. In Arrows of the Queen and Arrow’s Flight we watched Talia come to the heralds’ collegium, learn to be a herald, and go out on her first circuit of the kingdom. She has grown and matured in many ways since the beginning of her adventure.
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Pocket Apocalypse: Alex goes to Australia and it’s not fun

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Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse (2015) is book four in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series. You should probably read book three, Half-Off Ragnarok, before reading Pocket Apocalypse, but you don’t have to read the first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

We met Alex Price, Verity’s big brother, in the previous INCRYPTID novel, Read More