Kat Hooper

On FanLit’s staff since June 2007

KAT HOOPER is a professor at a university in Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing fantasy is much more fun. Kat has five young children and no time (or desire) to read inferior literature, so after being frustrated about the lack of a free, reliable source for information about excellent fantasy fiction, she started this website.

Kat’s first criterion for the novels she reads is that they be excellently written. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for grammatical errors, bad sentence construction, dull prose, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Dark elements are fine, but not horror. And it helps if there’s a tall good-looking man wielding a sword (Joscelin Verreuil is HOT, Thomas Covenant is NOT).

Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, Robin Hobb, Robert Holdstock, Roger Zelazny, and William Gibson.

Time Enough For Love: For masochists only

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein

You’d think I’d learn, but no, I just keep torturing myself with Heinlein’s adult novels. That’s because when I was a kid, Heinlein was one of my favorite authors, so I still think of him that way. I know it’s not that my tastes have changed because I still love those books I read as a kid. The problem is that many of the books he wrote for his adult audiences, especially those he wrote in his later years, are just horrid. And Time Enough for Love (1973), even though it’s a classic, is one of these. It’s everything I hate about Heinlein’s later novels. In fact, if I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say “YUCK!”

Time Enough for Love is the last of Heinlein’s novels about Lazarus Long. In fact, the full title is Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long. Lazarus is 2000 years old. He feels like he’s done it all and he’s refusin... Read More

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse: Amusing and thoughtful

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

Humorist Wayne Gladstone takes on the American obsession with the internet in Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, an amusing but thoughtful look at what might happen to our culture if the world wide web went down for good.

Gladstone himself is the protagonist of his story. Since both his job and his free time activities depend on the internet, he has no idea what to do now that it’s gone. So he begins keeping a journal about how the world is handling the crisis. Accompanied by a guy he’d previously met online and an Australian girl who earns her living selling online access to her in-shower webcam, Gladstone sets out on the streets of New York City to try to find out what happened to the internet. Is it a government conspiracy? Right-wingers? Muslim terrorists?

Many of the people Gladstone meets are trying to find low-tech ways to replace what they loved ab... Read More

The Storybook of Legends: Sucked into Matel’s merchandising scheme

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale

Okay, call me clueless, but I when I picked up Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends I had no idea it was a tie-in to a line of popular dolls, diaries and YouTube Webisodes produced by Mattel. All I knew was that it was a children’s story written by Shannon Hale and I happen to really like Shannon Hale’s children’s stories. I soon found out the truth and was disgruntled that I was sucked into Mattel’s merchandising scheme, but I must admit that Mattel made a brilliant move by asking a Newbery Award winning author to write their storie... Read More

Honor’s Knight: More trouble for Devi

Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

Honor’s Knight is the second book in Rachel Bach’s PARADOX series. Don’t even bother to pick it up until you’ve read the first book, Fortune’s Pawn. (And you might not want to read past the second paragraph of this review, either, because it will spoil some of the plot of Fortune’s Pawn.)

This series is best described as romantic space opera. It’s light on the science (it doesn’t even try, in fact) and heavy on the relationship drama. For me, the best aspect of the story is the mystery. Our protagonist, Devi Morris, has gotten herself into a strange and dangerous situation and though I don’t care about her romance — as I explained in my review of Fortune’s Pawn, the “love” doesn’t feel real to me — I am interested in where the story is going.
Read More

Sand: A tender novel

Sand by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey has a gift for creating elaborate dystopian worlds that readers love to visit despite the fact that they’d never want to actually live there. In Sand, his unfortunate characters abide in a desert world that is gradually being buried by sand which constantly blows in from the east. Over the years its relentless intrusion has overcome so many towns that new generations keep building on top of the ruins of their predecessors. Nobody knows where the sand comes from or why. Nobody knows if there’s anything better over the horizon because when people leave to find out, they never return.

The heroes of the story are the wife and four children of a man who left them years ago. They are a bitter bunch, left to try to hold their family together in a hopeless situation. The mother has resorted to prostitution, the oldest daughter is plagued by painful memories, the oldest son has disappeared. The younger s... Read More

Sons of Destiny: Disappointing finale

Sons of Destiny by Darren Shan

Sons of Destiny is the twelfth and final (finally!) book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK horror series for children. If you haven’t read the previous volumes, but you intend to, you have no business being here. Go away. If you have read them, you probably don’t care at all what I think about Sons of Destiny. It’s not like you’re NOT going to read it, right? But, since I’ve reviewed all the novels so far, I’ll talk about this one a bit, just for a sense of closure.

We know what needs to happen in this final volume: Darren must kill Steve, his former best friend but current archnemesis. One of them must die. The other will become the dreaded Lord of the Shadows who will bring chaos to the world and destroy it. Why must it be this way? Because that’s what Mr. Des Tiny (get it?) says.

At first, the plot begins to fall out like anyone would expect it ... Read More

The Gods Themselves: Asimov’s favorite of his SF novels

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

“Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves earned the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. About 15 years ago it was put on the Locus list of All Time Best Science Fiction Novels.

If you’re anything like me, that’s enough to put The Gods Themselves on your To Be Read List and, indeed, it has been on mine for years because I aim to read all those award winners sometime before I die. What moved The Gods Themselves to the top of the list was that Random House Audio recently produced it in audio format and it’s read by one of my favorite classic SF readers, Scott Brick. (I love Scott Brick!)

The Gods Themselves has a strange structure. The story is told non-line... Read More

The Walk up Nameless Ridge: Engrossing short story

The Walk up Nameless Ridge by Hugh Howey

The Walk up Nameless Ridge is a short story (18 pages, 39 minutes on audio) written by indie writer Hugh Howey of recent WOOL fame. You can order it for less than $2 at Audible or purchase it for 99c as a Kindle Single and then add the professional narration (Jonathan Davis!!!) for 99c more.

The story is about a mountain climber who hopes to be the first person to summit the famous 60,000 foot peak on the planet Eno, even if it kills him. What he wants more than anything is to leave a legacy, even if it means he has to leave other people, including his family, behind. There are others on the mountain who, presumably, have the same goal. What price are these climbers willing to pay in order to be remembered? After all, nobody cares who got there second. Our climber must grapple with these ethical issues and must live (or die) with the choices he makes.

I was completel... Read More

Matter: An excellent introduction to The Culture

Matter by Iain M. Banks

Matter is the eight book in Iain M. Bank’s popular CULTURE series about a utopian society run by a beneficent artificial intelligence organization called The Culture. I haven’t read any of the previous CULTURE novels which, I think, gives me a unique take on Matter. Reading through some of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I see that many CULTURE fans felt like the 620-page Matter was a drastic change in pace and tone. I can’t say if that’s true, but I can say that I loved Matter and can’t wait to read the rest of the CULTURE series. In short, the setting was fascinating, the characters were interesting and fully developed, and the scope of the story was epic.

Most of the plot of Matter takes place on a backward Shellworld called Sursamen. Actually, it’s more correct to say that the story takes place in Read More

Fortune’s Pawn: Romantic space opera

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Devianna Morris is the most ambitious mercenary you’ll ever meet. Her life’s goal is to join the Devastators (the super-elite king’s guard) and the only way to get there fast is to sign on to the security team of the merchant ship called The Glorious Fool. Devi doesn’t know why The Glorious Fool is so dangerous, but she knows that it manages to kill just about every member of its crew, so just surviving for a year should be enough to bring Devi to the attention of the Devastators.

At first Devi is not too impressed with her new job. Her security partner is brave and competent, but he’s a jerk. The captain’s strange chess-playing daughter is aloof and unfriendly. Devi’s roommate is a loony hippie. The ship’s cook is totally hot, but he is not responding to Devi’s advances in the normal way, which is annoying, not to mention embarrassing.

Things get more interesting ... Read More

Lord of the Shadows: Continues to thrill

Lord of the Shadows by Darren Shan

Lord of the Shadows is the penultimate book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series. If you haven’t read the previous books, but plan to, I recommend that you don’t read this review until you’ve read them, for I will certainly spoil the plot for you.

Darren Shan’s adventures in the vampire world began when he made a series of bad mistakes. First he stole money from his parents and snuck out of the house to visit the Cirque du Freak, an illegal traveling circus. Then he stole a poisonous spider from the show and kept it in his bedroom. Then the spider bit Steve, Darren’s best friend. Then, while Steve lay dying in the hospital, instead of ‘fessing up and telling the adults what happened to Steve, so that perhaps they could have found an antidote, Darren made a deal with Mr. Crepsley, the vampire who owned the spider: Darren had to become a half-vampire to get the antidote fr... Read More

Annihilation: Discussed by Bill, Kat, and Terry

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

So yeah. That was strange. You should read it.
Here endeth the review.

 Uh.... Seriously? Try again, please, Bill.

What? It’s Kat, our managing editor, sticking her bold red italic text into my review! Oh, alright. Start over:

Loren Eiseley, Charlotte Perking Gilman, Sigmund Freud, and Franz Kafka have a literary baby. And it’s adoooorable!

C’mon, Bill....

A biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist walk into a bio zone. And the creepy bartender says . . .

Bill. This is getting annoying. Am I going to have to get out the electric cattle prod? It seems like sometimes that’s the only way to keep you in line.
Wait, don’t you want to at leas... Read More

Have Space Suit — Will Travel: Appealing space adventure for kids

Have Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

More than anything, Kip Russell wants to go to the moon, and that means he needs to go to college first — the best college he can manage to get into and pay for. So, with the encouragement of his father, who has (gleefully) pointed out the deficiencies in Kip’s public education (and complained extensively about taxes), Kip educates himself and works hard to earn money. When he enters a slogan contest for a national soap company, he hopes to win the money he needs for tuition, but instead he wins an old space suit which he engineers into a functional suit.

During a trial run in his new decked-out suit, Kip gets picked up by ugly evil aliens. On their spaceship he meets an eleven year old American girl named PeeWee and a cute cuddly alien they call The Mother Thing. Kip, PeeWee and The Mother Thing must foil the plans of the evil aliens. In the process Kip, who thought all he ever wanted... Read More

The Well’s End: Inspired by Baby Jessica

The Well’s End by Seth Fishman

Mia Kish held the attention of the country when she got stuck in a well when she was four years old. Everybody knows about Baby Mia. Now, at age sixteen, Mia is a scholarship student at the elite Westbrook Academy. She’s one of the world’s best teenage swimmers, which is why she’s hated by some of her peers. When there’s a deadly virus outbreak at Westbrook and the teachers and students start rapidly aging, it’s Mia who may be able to protect her classmates. First they have to get past the quarantine guards to escape the school. Then they have to trek through a harsh winter landscape to get to the cave where Mia’s father works. Mia doesn’t know exactly what her father does at the cave, but she thinks he’s the only person who can save their town from the virus.

Although Seth Fishman’s The Well’s End contains many of the YA tropes that I’ve come to despise, I have to admit tha... Read More

The Lake of Souls: A side-quest

The Lake of Souls by Darren Shan

In The Lake of Souls, the tenth book in Darren Shan’s CIRQUE DU FREAK series, we take a little breather after the horrid events at the end of the previous novel, Killers of the Dawn. Darren has just lost someone who’s really important to him and he’s grieving. So, when Mr. Tiny shows up and tells Harkat it’s time to find out who Harkat really is, Darren wants to go with him. They embark on a quest where they cross weird landscapes, meet weird people, and complete weird tasks. Some of it is like a scavenger hunt.

We do, indeed find out who Harkat is, and the answer will almost certainly surprise you. It shows that author Darren Shan has been careful with his plotting so far and it will be interesting to see what role Harkat plays in the future. The little guy is growing on me and I appreciate his developing sense of humor.

Personally, I don’t particula... Read More

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