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Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.



Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.

There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn ... Read More

Ender’s Shadow: Ender’s Game from Bean’s perspective

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Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game was a SF book so successful and critically acclaimed that it launched Orson Scott Card’s career for decades to come. In fact, it’s fair to say that the story of Ender Wiggins is one of the most popular SF novels the genre has ever produced, to the point of getting the full-budget Hollywood treatment in 2013 (grossing $125 million on a budget of around $110-115 million) with A-listers such as Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, but receiving mixed critical reviews.

Not one to miss a commercial opportunity, Card has returned the favor, producing a whopping 15 Ender-related books with more in the works apparently. I read Ender’s Game Read More

The City of Ice: Still slow moving, but a worthy follow-up in a fascinating series

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The City of Ice by K.M. McKinley

I was going to start out this review of K.M. McKinley’s The City of Ice (2016) by saying that I could pretty much cut and paste the first paragraph of my review of its predecessor The Iron Ship, since it matched exactly what I’d say about The City of Ice. But then I realized why say I could when I actually can do that. So here it is, with some edits.

The Iron Ship City of Ice is a sprawling, slow build of a story that mostly follows the POV exploits of five siblings whose stories generally wend their own way. With its large cast, ... Read More

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa (2016) is an edited transcript of several conversations between Haruki Murakami, the novelist, and Seiji Ozawa, the conductor.

I came to this book as a fan of Murakami’s writing, as many of this site’s readers would. SFF readers may be disappointed to read that these conversations rarely touch on writing, let alone the imagined mirror worlds that give a haunting quality to his novels. Instead, they focus on Ozawa’s memories about his peers like fellow conductor Robert Mann or famous performers like Glenn Gould, of composers like Beethoven and Mahler, and of the day-to-day challenges of m... Read More

Lagoon: I loved it as soon as I saw the swordfish

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Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I thought I was going to love Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Lagoon (2014) when I read the first chapter, from the point of view of a swordfish. She is not just any swordfish; she is an eco-warrior. Through her eyes, we see the arrival of extra-terrestrials into the lagoon of Lagos, the Nigerian capital. And from that point on I was never disappointed.

Lagoon does not spend too much time with the swordfish, although we do see her again a few times. The main characters are three people who end up at the Bar Beach shortly after the beings from another place have landed, and these three become the spokes-humans for the visitors. They are Adaora, a marine biologist, mother of two and wife to a troubled husband; Agu, a soldier who has recently been in trouble with his command; and Anthony Dey Craze, a successful rapper... Read More

Invisible Cities: Philosophical sketches of imaginary cities

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino has long been on my list of foreign writers of the fantastic who have been deeply influential to SFF writers while remaining only tangential to the genre. This would include the great Jorge Luis Borges, as well as Stanislaw Lem. All these writers revel in philosophical musings, magic realism, and intellectual play. They belong to the deeper end of the fantastic literature swimming pool, but adventurous readers and authors have often plunged into those depths to one degree or another.

Invisible Cities was first published in Italian in 1972 but appeared in English in 1974 and was a surprise nominee for the Nebula Award in 1976. It is a unique and al... Read More

Crown of Midnight: A superior sequel to a ho-hum first installment

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

I was about three chapters into Crown of Midnight when I realized it was a sequel — after that it was a matter of tracking down Throne of Glass, catching myself up, and returning with a better understanding of the characters and situation. As it happens, I was a little lukewarm when it came to Throne of Glass, but I ended up much preferring this story to its predecessor.

Celaena Sardothien is the royal assassin to a king she despises, so it's just as well she's never actually killed anyone on his orders. Instead she fakes their deaths and helps them escape the kingdom of Adarlan, though she knows if she's ever found out she'll forfeit her own life — and those of her loved ones at court.

B... Read More

Huck by Mark Millar

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Huck by Mark Millar

Huck is the feel-good action movie you’ve been waiting for, except it is a comic. Of course, as with many Millar comics, there are already rumors that Huck is heading for Hollywood, so you could wait to see it in the theaters. But, why wait?

Huck is an endearing character who is based on the Clark Kent model of the good-hearted, simple-minded, small town farm boy with superpowers. However, unlike Clark, Huck isn’t putting on a simple man act. That’s who he is. He works in a gas station, and he tries to do at least one good act of kindness a day. Not all of them even require being a superhero: He might pay for ... Read More

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18

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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 by Joseph Loconte

During a stressful stretch at work, and the persistently weighty negativity tied to the 2016 U.S. election campaign season, I found myself turning to ‘comfort reading.’ The negative vibes, for me, carried through Election Day and I looked toward J.R.R. Tolkien for relief. I knew I wouldn’t have time to return to the warm depths of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, so instead I read something I’d downloaded a few months earlier: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friends, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18, by Joseph Loconte.

The unique relationship betwee... Read More

Infomocracy: Terrifyingly prescient

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Infomocracy by Malka Older

In the latter half of the twentieth century, most of the world (a few areas like Saudi Arabia excepted) has moved to a form of government called micro-democracy. The world is divided into "centenals" of about 100,000 people each, and each centenal votes for its own separate government. The political party that wins control of the most centenals wins the Supermajority, which gives that party additional political clout and power, although the specific details of that Supermajority power aren’t entirely clear. There are dozens, if not more, political parties, though only about a dozen have worldwide clout. Parties are based on all types of factors: aspects of identity (like race, nationality or religion), a particular view of policy, the importance of military might, loyalty to a particular large corporation, etc. In fact, one of the most powerful parties in the world is Philip... Read More

Heu-Heu, or The Monster: Another great Quatermain tale

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Heu-Heu, or The Monster by H. Rider Haggard

Heu-Heu, or The Monster is one of the 14 novels that the great H. Rider Haggard wrote that deals with the life of Allan Quatermain, an English hunter in South Africa. This is a stand-alone novel. Unlike the first two novels in the series, King Solomon's Mines and its sequel, Allan Quatermain; the so-called Zulu trilogy (Marie, Child of Storm and Finished); and the loosely linked series of books that I like to call the Taduki quartet (Allan and the Holy Flower, Read More

The Dragonbone Chair: Finally in audio format!

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Note: This review has been updated after a re-read, but we're keeping the old comments on the post.

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW, & THORN was one of the first epic fantasy trilogies I ever read and, two and a half decades ago, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s one of the two series I recommend to new fantasy readers who ask me where to start (the other is Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga). For years I’ve been wanting to re-read MEMORY, SORROW, & THORN but I’ve been waiting patiently for it to be released in audio format, even going so far as to pester the audio publishers about it, as well as Tad Williams’ w... Read More

Mythago Wood: Dreamy and strange

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.

Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps — both figuratively and literally — for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos — the idealized forms of ancient mythic... Read More

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories: Speculative Christmas-themed stories

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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (1999) is a collection of eight short science fiction and fantasies by Connie Willis, plus an introduction and an afterword. It was on sale for $1.99 in early December 2016 ― a great value. It combines Willis’ heartfelt love for Christmas with a clear-eyed but sympathetic view of humanity and its foibles. In the introduction, Willis talks about how she has tried to walk the fine line between cynicism and “mawkish sappiness.” I think she’s done a fine job of it.

"Miracle:" 4 stars. In this story, as sometimes in real life, office Christmas party planning and politics threaten to sideline the true meaning of C... Read More

The Book of Imaginary Beings: Would make a great gift

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The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges’s The Book of Imaginary Beings (1969) introduces readers to the origins and characteristics of creatures like the Chimera, the Chinese Dragon, the Jinn, and the Western Dragon. Although I am hardly a scholar when it comes to monsters and imaginary beings, I was still impressed by how many of 155 creatures included here were entirely new to me.

This book might seem limited to some twenty-first century readers, so let’s acknowledge these concerns (if only to get them out of the way). First of all, there is no entry on the demogorgan because this book was published decades ago. Second, many of the creatures listed here have longer entries on Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s article about the Read More

Night Train Murders: Stunning horror, and the darkest Christmas movie ever made

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Night Train Murders directed by Aldo Lado

Since watching Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972) more than 30 years ago, I have abided by my promise to never see this film again, it being truly one of the most repugnant that I've ever sat through. And yet, I didn't as much mind Aldo Lado's homage/remake/pastiche of three years later, Night Train Murders. As in the original, the film deals with the brutal rape and murder (inadvertent, in the Italian picture) of a pair of college girls by a trio of brutish thugs (in the latter film, one of the trio is an upper-class woman with sexually depraved tendencies) and the retribution taken on them by the father of one of the girls.

Lado's film starts out with a lighthearted, almost comical tone, which shades gradually into one of unease and finally sickening horror. His pictu... Read More

The Dark Talent: The penultimate ALCATRAZ book

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The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

This review may contain mild spoilers for the previous books in the ALCATRAZ series.

Fans of Brandon Sanderson’s ALCATRAZ VS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS series have been waiting for six years for book five, The Dark Talent (2016), which was finally published a couple of months ago by Starscape (Tor’s children’s imprint). Recorded books brought back Ramon de Ocampo for the audio version that was released at the same time. As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, The Shattered Lens, it’s hard to know which one to recommend because Starscape’s hardback version has wonderful illustrations by... Read More

The Shattered Lens: Metafiction for middle graders

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The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

This review may contain mild spoilers for the previous books in the ALCATRAZ series.

The Shattered Lens (2010) is the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s hilarious middle-grade series called ALCATRAZ VS THE EVIL LIBRARIANS. The first four books were originally published by Scholastic but Starscape (Tor’s young readers imprint) has recently re-issued the series in lovely hardback editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo. The long-awaited fifth volume, The Dark Talent, has also just been published by Starscape. They sent me all the books and they are gorgeous. My daughters love them and I’ve been recommending them to friends looking for gifts for young readers.
Read More

The Chessmen of Mars: Fun and lively

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Editor's note: This title can be purchased free on Kindle.

The Chessmen of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs' fifth JOHN CARTER novel out of eleven, first appeared in serial form in the magazine Argosy All Story Weekly from February to April 1922. It is easily the best of the Carter lot to this point; the most detailed, the most imaginative, and the best written. Carter himself only appears at the beginning and end of the tale. Instead, our action heroes are his daughter, Tara, who gets lost in a rare Barsoomian storm while joyriding in her flier and blown halfway across the surface of the planet, and the Gatholian jed Gahan, who goes in search of her.

In the first half of this novel, Tara and Gaha... Read More

Mr. Meeson’s Will: Half adventure novel, half legal thriller

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Mr. Meeson’s Will by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Mr. Meeson’s Will is free in Kindle format

Mr. Meeson’s Will was first printed in book form in October 1888, after having first appeared earlier that year in The Illustrated London News. It was H. Rider Haggard’s 11th novel (out of 58), and one in which his experiences as both a writer and aspiring lawyer were given vent. The novel is at once a tale of adventure, a critique of the publishing industry in late 19th century England, and a satire on the English legal system.

In the book’s first half, Augusta Smithers — our heroine and a successful author, who has unwittingly entered into an unfair contract with Meeson’s pub... Read More

The Prefect: Complex detective procedural set among orbitals

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The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect is the fifth Alastair Reynolds book I’ve read in his REVELATION SPACE series, though it is a stand-alone and set earlier in chronology than the other books. By the time of the main trilogy Revelation Space (2000), Redemption Ark (2002), and Absolution Gap (2003), the Glitter Band of 10,000 orbitals has already been destroyed by the corrosive Melding Plague, so we see only its wrecked aftermath. With such tantalizing hints, it is ... Read More

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood: Perfect for fans of the cult TV series

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Heiress of Collinwood by Lara Parker

Heiress of Collinwood (2016) is the fourth DARK SHADOWS novel written by Lara Parker, who happens to have been an original cast member on the gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows, which ran on American television from 1966 – 1971 and has inspired a large number of tie-in novels. (Ms. Parker starred in the role of Angélique Bouchard Collins, in addition to a few other characters.) Contrary to the comedic tone of Tim Burton’s 2012 film based on the show, the original soap opera was quite serious and melodramatic, and Heiress of Collinwood follows that same vein.

Book 1



Our tale begins in Collinsport, Maine, in the distant year of 1797. The Collins family’s young governess, Victoria Winters, previously became... Read More

Last Year: Time travel tourism

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Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Jesse Cullum works security at the City of Futurity – in fact, he just saved President Ulysses S. Grant from an assassination attempt, though he lost his Oakleys in the process.

The science fiction premise of Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year (2016), is outlined in its opening scene. Oakleys are sunglasses that come from our time, but Ulysses S. Grant was one of the most important generals in the American Civil War. How can both exist in the same place? Well, in this novel, a “mirror” allows people to travel back in time, but to a specific point in the past — and it will produce a different a future. The people who travel back are tourists, and the City of Futurity, run by August Kemp, makes money from the past’s weal... Read More

The Tengu’s Game of Go: The second generation rises to make things right

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The Tengu’s Game of Go by Lian Hearn

At the beginning of THE TALE OF SHIKANOKO, Shikanoko’s father played a game with a tengu. He lost, and what he lost cast an entire kingdom into disaster. Shikanoko, whose birth name was Kazumaru, was tainted by sorcery and as much a victim as a wielder of it. Now, in The Tengu’s Game of Go, the second generation rises to try to set things right.

Lian Hearn’s four-book saga reads convincingly like a Japanese tale cycle, and in The Tengu’s Game of Go, elements which seemed to have left the story return, some in surprising ways. When the story opens, Shikanoko, who is trapped within the deer mask, is living a half-deer, half-man existence in the Darkwood, and Yoshi, the hidden emperor, is ... Read More

The Sentinel: Near-classic horror thriller

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The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

I’d never heard of Jeffrey Konvitz’s superb horror/thriller, The Sentinel (1974), until I saw it promoted on a couple of discount ebook newsletters I receive. The cover, while lacking any subtlety, sold me on the whole horror-wrapped-up-with religion angle. And while the image may be a bit over the top, The Sentinel slow boils its simple premise and bubbles with persistent and pounding tension.

The Sentinel is reminiscent of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, and to a lesser extent Read More