4.5

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

Ruin of Angels: Gods, sisterhood and venture capitalism collide

Readers’ average rating:

Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

Ruin of Angels, published in 2017, is Max Gladstone’s sixth book in the CRAFT series. This story follows Kai, a priestess we met in Full Fathom Five. Kai is a, well, a “venture priestess.” She creates internal spiritual spaces for clients, and invests in projects that reach into the metaphysical — as everything in this world does. A project has brought her to Agdel Lex, a modern city nested in the time and space of Alikand and a dead city as well, while outside the squid-powered protection of Agdel Lex, starving remnants of half-dead gods ravage anyone who tries to enter the Wastes. Kai’s sister, Ley, an artist, suddenly approaches... Read More

The Stone in the Skull: Wonderful start to a new series

Readers’ average rating:

The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

With The Stone in the Skull (2017), Elizabeth Bear returns to the world of her ETERNAL SKY trilogy with the opening book in another series, this one entitled THE LOTUS KINGDOMS. I only gave the first trilogy a 3.5, but recognized that score as being more than a little “churlish” as I put it, since the series was “So smart. So deep. So beautiful ... [with] Complex, realistic characters ... Big ideas. Strong females. Prose carved to a near-perfect edge. Moving moments ... “See, churlish. (Hmm, I may have to start rereading that series after this review). Well, all of those elements are there as well in The Stone in the Skull, a book which starts off slowly and ends with a bang (li... Read More

Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC

Readers’ average rating:

Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker

Once upon a time, Reed Tucker reminds us in Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle Between Marvel and DC, comic book fans might come to blows over the great dividing question of their time: Are you Marvel or DC? This may seem a strange debate for those who are now living through what could easily be called the Age of Marvel, as their ubiquitous heroes dominate our screens both large or small. It’s nearly impossible, after all, to go to the theater or turn on a network/cable/streaming TV channel and not come across some Marvel character flying, tromping, or speeding across the screen. Nor was Marvel-DC much of a debate in my own youth, as I grew up reading comics in the late 60s/early 70s, when upstart Marvel had beaten the staid DC almost to its knees. I didn’t know anybody wh... Read More

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: Poe shines in his only novel

Readers’ average rating:

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe

Note: This public domain title is free on Kindle.

In his short story entitled “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833), author Edgar Allan Poe told a tale of shipwreck on the high seas, following the mother of all storms. Along with one other survivor, our narrator drifts helplessly on the surface of the water, later encountering what seems to be a ghost ship, on which he climbs aboard, only to be swept toward the south polar regions and to an unknown fate. Flash forward five years, and Poe has now enlarged on some of this story’s set pieces and themes, and turned them into the long-form work known as The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Although Poe would ultimately write 50 poems (Poe-ems?), 68 short stories,... Read More

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders by Hirohiko Araki 

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders by Hirohiko Araki (An Oxford College Student Review!)

In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Nicolas Ingle:

Nicolas Ingle is a sophomore at Oxford College of Emory University. Nicolas is intending to major in chemistry and Japanese with the intent to go to medical school. Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Nicolas loves hanging out with frie... Read More

Nyxia: More than just another game competition

Readers’ average rating:  

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

A group of teenagers, engaged in a deadly serious game-like competition. Life-changing fortunes are at stake, if not life itself. An ominously secretive corporation pulling the strings.

Many of the elements in Nyxia (2017) are familiar, but Scott Reintgen combines them with some more unusual plot features ― a worldwide cast that is primarily of minority races and nationalities, an appealing urban black young man as a protagonist, and a trip through space to a distant planet, rather misleadingly called Eden, that is clothed in secrecy. The result is an adventurous page-turner of a YA book.

The mysterious Babel Communications has gathered ten teenagers for a trip to the planet of Eden. As they begin their trip to Eden on the spaceship Genesis, Marcus Defoe, an executive of Babel, explains to the teens tha... Read More

Hawaiian Dick Vol. I: Byrd of Paradise by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin

Hawaiian Dick Vol. I: Byrd of Paradise by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin (An Oxford College Student Review!)

In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Vivian Fu:

Vivian is a freshman at Oxford College of Emory and is aiming to pursue a PhD in psychology. She is from Hsinchu, Taiwan, and she came to the States for education at the age of fourteen. In the future, she wishes to become a famil... Read More

Red Sister: Magic nuns. Need we say more?

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Kat's new review of the audiobook.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence's previous six novels have been interesting and unique in their own ways, but have also formed part of a recognizable corner of the genre. That is, Lawrence's name often appears alongside those of Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker on lists with titles like "So You've Just Finished A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE — What Next?" This isn't to say that the books set in Lawrence's Broken Empire aped George R.R. Martin, only that they seemed ... Read More

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869: A beautiful story for young readers

Readers’ average rating: 

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 is a beautifully drawn graphic steampunk tale by author/illustrator Alex Alice, whose artwork alone makes the book worth picking up for a middle-grade reader (or relatively advanced younger reader). Luckily, the narrative/text half (translated from the original French by Anne and Owen Smith) has its own charm and strengths, even if it doesn’t quite match the quality of the illustrations.

The tale opens in 1868 with a young woman (Claire) preparing, to the inspiration of her young son (Seraphin) and the dismay of her worried husband (Archibald), to head aloft in a hydrogen-filled balloon to unprecedented heights in order to prove the existence of aether in hopes of turning it to an energy supply.

Unfortunately, the mission doesn’t fully succeed and our intrepid scientis... Read More

The Power: It’s electrifying

Readers’ average rating:

The Power by Naomi Alderman

One thing’s for sure, The Power (2016 in the UK, Oct 2017 in the US) demands attention. Margaret Atwood has given it her blessing and I’ll eat my hat if The Power doesn’t have its own Netflix series sometime soon. Naomi Alderman could well be the next big name in subversive, feminist fiction.

The Power asks — what would happen if all women could physically dominate men? Over five years, Alderman answers that question and the answer is explosive, bloody, wild and thought-provoking.

One day, across the globe, fifteen-year-old girls realise they have electrical power in their fingertips. For some of them it’s strong enough to kill a man with one blow, or rather, one jol... Read More

The Half-Drowned King: A fascinating tale of revenge and freedom

Readers’ average rating:

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

The Half-Drowned King (2017), Linnea Hartsuyker’s debut novel, is a fascinating glimpse into a long-ago time, when Scandinavian warriors took their dragon-boats as far south as Constantinople or west to Ireland, trading with and terrorizing the locals, depending on regional treaties and individual temperaments. By necessity, this accounting of events leading up to the coronation of King Harald Fairhair is largely fictionalized, but as most sagas and poems about his life were compiled a few centuries after his death — rather like King Arthur of Britain — their own historical accuracy should be taken with a pinch of salt and enjoyed for their entertainment value.

Set roughly in the late 9th century, The Half-Drowned King focuses on three individuals whose lives and fates are... Read More

Black Light Express: A strong follow-up to its predecessor

Readers’ average rating:

Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

Black Light Express (2017) is Philip Reeve’s just-as-good-as-the-first-book follow up to Railhead, continuing the exhilarating romp while expanding the universe and its inhabitants, as well as digging a bit more deeply into the hidden history of the created world and offering up some more page time to some of the first book’s secondary characters. Warning: there will be some inevitable spoilers for book one (you can just stop here with the take-away that I recommend the duology). First spoiler begins in the very next line!

So at the end of Railhead, Nova and Zen had opened a gate to a whole other set of worlds, these i... Read More

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Spy vs. Spy in the city of a hundred spires

Readers’ average rating:

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis & Michael Swanwick

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold (2017) is a study in contradictions. It’s a collaborative novel that feels seamless despite the five contributing authors: Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It was originally published in serialized form by Read More

Age of Myth: Well-wrought prequel to the RYRIA fantasy series

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

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

With Age of Myth, Michael J. Sullivan begins a prequel series to his RYRIA CHRONICLES and RYRIA REVELATIONS series. The good news for newcomers to his books is that, since this series takes place about 3,000 years earlier, you don't need to be familiar with either of those series or the world of Elan to enjoy this new LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE series, so I was in good shape. I know pretty much zero about the other Ryria books, except that many epic fantasy fans are very enthusiastic about them, but I really enjoyed Age of Myth and am anxious to start the next book in this series, Read More

The Prey of Gods: Two takes on this imaginative and compelling story

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

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods (2017), by Nicky Drayden, takes a well-worn concept — what if gods walked among regular humans? — and breathes new life into it through her innovative uses of location, technology, mythology, and complex characters in this blend of real-world problems and fantastical situations.

Life is pretty great in futuristic Port Elizabeth, South Africa (so long as you’ve got money); people have access to genetically-engineered pets, personal robots with varying degrees of intelligence and capability, and solar wells that draw both energy and moisture from the air. When a long-forgotten demigoddess currently styling herself as Sydney sees an opportunity to restore her former glory and supremacy, just as a powerful new hallucinogenic hits... Read More

The Gauntlet: A celebration of family and culture

Readers’ average rating:

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Karuna Riazi has already made a name for herself on social media; if you’ve seen or used the widely popular Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen, you have Riazi to thank for it, along with her many other meaningful contributions to conversations about diversity, inclusivity, and representation in media. This year, her debut middle-grade novel The Gauntlet (2017) was published, and it is every bit as positive, well-crafted, and insightful as her non-fiction.

Birthdays ought to be a big deal for any child, but twelve-year-old Farah Mirza spends hers playing games with her little brother, Ahmad, rather than spending time with her friends Alex and Essie, or the family members who have also gathered at her Upper East Side home to celebrate. It’s part of being a good big s... Read More

Heroine Worship: Bridezilla: San Francisco S.O.S.

Readers’ average rating:

Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn

Just three months have passed between the events of Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship (2017), which is just about enough time for Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang), San Francisco’s beloved superheroine, to go out of her mind with boredom. She’s not quite at climbing-the-walls or intentionally-setting-fires levels of stir crazy, but she seems pretty close. (Daily multi-hour breakfasts leading to afternoons filled with absolutely nothing would do that to anyone.) Demon activity has been nonexistent since the big battle at the end of Heroine Complex, which is great for the people of San Francisco, but bad for superheroes. Read More

End of the World Blues: Grimwood is a superb stylist

Readers’ average rating: 

End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Roger Zelazny, on top of writing a number of immensely popular books and stories, was one of the genre’s great stylists, with noir minimalism utilized in nearly all his works. He was likewise predictable for his main characters, often world-weary men with personal issues who find themselves facing situations they would rather avoid. I have come to think of Jon Courtenay Grimwood, who bases his fiction on these two same elements, as a successor to Zelazny, but significantly upgraded for the (post-) modern world. An exemplary text, his End of the World Blues (2006) possesses a sophisticated sense of noir that does not lack for eye-kicks (to borrow a phrase from Read More

Pebble In The Sky: One down, 500 to go…

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

Pebble In The Sky by Isaac Asimov

In a now-famous interview, sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov once revealed how he avoided getting stuck with writer’s block. The hugely prodigious author would often be working at four or five books at the same time, with five typewriters arrayed side by side, and when he would get inextricably bogged down with one book, he’d simply move to the neighboring typewriter, and recommence work on that one! Thus, one can almost understand how it was possible for Asimov — who claimed, in his later years, to do nothing but write, eat, sleep, and talk to his wife — to rack up the almost superhuman tally of just over 500 books written before his death in 1992, in every subject category of the Dewey Decimal System (does anybod... Read More

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter: Monsters, men, and monstrous men

Readers’ average rating:

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), Theodora Goss has created something really exciting and rewarding: a novel that pays homage to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of speculative fiction which inform every standard the modern incarnation of the genre is judged by, and yet stands on its own as a twenty-first century creation.

The epigraph — “Here be monsters” — and a subsequent recorded exchange between Mary and Catherine set the scene: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is a collaborative effort, though by whom and for what purpose is not immediately plain. First we are introduced to Mary Jekyll, recently orphaned daughter of Dr. ... Read More

Barsk: A wonderfully thoughtful, imaginative work of science fiction

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

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

When I put in my ARC request for Lawrence M. Schoen’s new novel Barsk, all I knew about it was that the setting involved a group of worlds inhabited by a variety of anthropomorphic space-faring animal species, with the main focus on elephants (thus its subtitle: The Elephant’s Graveyard). C’mon. El-e-phants in Spaaaaaccce! How could I resist? But Barsk is much more than a funny-but-cool premise; it’s a thoughtful, moving, and provocative exploration of a host of issues, including but not limited to memory, history, free will, and power. Eve... Read More

Wytches by Scott Snyder

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

Wytches by Scott Snyder (writer) and Jock (artist)

Wytches by Scott Snyder is the horror book I never thought I would enjoy. I just do not like being frightened by the literature I read, and yet, I enjoyed every page of this tense story. In Wytches, a single-volume put out by Image, Snyder creates his own unusual tradition of Witches in a small town in New Hampshire. I read the entire volume cover to cover without any awareness of time passing.

Before the events of the book, Sailor, a high school student and only child, suffers bullying from Annie, another teenager... Read More

Firebrand: Evil has many faces

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

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Firebrand (2017) is the second of A.J. Hartley’s STEEPLEJACK series, following shortly after 2016’s Steeplejack and continuing the story of Anglet Sutonga, a young woman with a very strong sense of justice and a knack for finding herself in trouble. Firebrand builds on the events of Steeplejack, and as a result, this review will contain very mild spoilers for Steeplejack.

Firebrand takes places three months after Steeplejack’s ending, providi... Read More

Steeplejack: A good detective story blended with biting social commentary

Readers’ average rating:

Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

I knew Steeplejack (2016) was a YA thriller/mystery before picking up my review copy, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as solidly-written and entertaining as I ultimately found it to be. A.J. Hartley has not only created a compelling heroine and a richly imaginative world, but also multiple schemes driving the plot which depend on (and drive) social unrest that strikes extremely close to home in places.

Our story begins in the glorious city of Bar-Selehm, a metropolis which is geographically and culturally reminiscent of Johannesburg, South Africa; white Feldesland colonialists inhabit the upper echelons of power, brown-skinned Lani perform menial labor and live on the outskirts of town, and dark-skinned Mahweni generally live in the surrounding ... Read More

Cibola Burn: The flagship space opera series

Readers’ average rating:

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

In my review of the third EXPANSE novel from James S.A. Corey (actually a collaborative effort from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), I said this:
How did Corey do, based on strengths I highlighted in reviews of the first two books?

fluid prose: check
likable characters: check
mostly strong characterization: check
humor that runs throughout: check
nice balance of shoot-em-up action, political fighting, and personal conflicts: check, check, and check
quick pace that had me knock of a 500+ page book in a single setting: check
a feel (in a good way) of old-time sci-fi along the likes of Heinlein or Asimov: check
a ratcheting up of tension and stakes: check and check
a sense of risk thanks to not al... Read More