SFF Reviews

Our most recent reviews are listed first. Use the tags to search for reviews of similar books.

Smash written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel

Readers’ average rating: 

Smash written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel

Smash, written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel, is a clear and concise explanation for young people of the standard model of physics (including the newly discovered Higgs Boson) and in particular of how the giant CERN supercollider contributes to furthering the model’s accuracy/completeness. Saying the book is aimed at the young, however, does it a bit of a disservice, as it works just as well for adults looking for that same clarity and concision.


In tried and true format, Latta has much of the explanation take the form of a dialogue between one knowledgeable person (Sophie, whose parents work at CERN) explaining a difficult concept to one struggling to understand it (her cousin Nick, visiting CERN in hope of finding inspiration for a superhero comic he’s drawing for a contest).... 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:

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 middle of WWII was intriguing. While the novel isn’t perfect, it’s ... Read More

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

Readers’ average rating:

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 Jedao is utterly, completely insane?

Jedao’s condi... 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

Amberlough: A rich, well-written romance and instant classic

Readers’ average rating:

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

While Lara Elena Donnelly’s debut novel Amberlough (2017) isn’t quite the Fleming-esque spy thriller it purports to be, Amberlough certainly doesn’t disappoint. Set in Amberlough City, a decadent, Industrial-era locale reminiscent of Paris in the early 1900s, Amberlough tells the story of Cyril DePaul and his lover Aristide Makricosta, who also happens to be the city’s greatest crime lord. Cyril, a former field operative in Amberlough’s Federal Office of Central Intelligence Services who landed a cushy desk job after an assignment went awry, is supposed to be keeping tabs on Aristide by seducing him but instead finds himself truly falling for Aristide instead. At the same time, a fascist movement is coming to power in Amberlough’s vibrant democracy, so life in the ... Read More

Crossroads of Canopy: This new fantasy series is one to watch

Readers’ average rating:

Crossroads of Canopy
by Thoraiya Dyer

The thing I loved most about Crossroads of Canopy, by Thoraiya Dyer, was the elaborate and coherent world she’s created in this new fantasy, Book One in the TITAN’S FOREST trilogy. Published in 2017, Crossroads of Canopy introduces us to a society that lives in a forest, at all elevations, from the Floorians to the Canopians, who are called “Warmed Ones” because they are the only ones to feel the sun directly on their skin. With a complex theology filled with gods who incarnate as humans, a political structure that has secular rulers as well as gods, and a detailed hierarchy that is literal as well as a metaphor, Dyer brings us right into the forest and sets up a convincing adventure for our main character, Unar.

The book is not marketed as Young Adult, but t... Read More

The Heart of What Was Lost: Tad Williams returns to Osten Ard

Readers’ average rating: 

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for Tad Williams’ MEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, but please note that it is not necessary to have read MST and, in fact, this novel can stand alone.

There was great rejoicing heard around the world when Tad Williams announced he was returning to Osten Ard. His original OSTEN ARD trilogy, MEMORY, SORROW & THORN, has been popular with epic fantasy fans since the late 1980s. I’m one of those totally devoted fans who read it way back then when I was a young adult. Since then, I’ve been recommending the trilogy to every new fantasy reader I meet (along with ... Read More

The Tiger and the Wolf: Compelling fusion of shapeshifter lore in a Bronze Age world

Readers’ average rating: 

The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Tiger and the Wolf (2016), just issued in trade paperback format, immerses you a Bronze Age/early Iron Age world, where every human is a shapeshifter. People divide into clans according to the animal they change into, which happens instantly and, for the most part, at will. Their shapeshifting animal informs their clan’s physical appearance as well as the nature of their society. It's a brutal life, with the stronger tribes like Tigers and Wolves fighting for supremacy. Groups like these dominate the weaker clans like the Deer and Boars, using them as subject people, servants and thralls, and even human/animal sacrifices.

In this harsh world, Maniye, a girl of the Winter Runner Wolf tribe in the northern area known as the Crown of the World, grows up isolated and friendless. Though her father is chieftain of the... Read More

Lost Souls: A novella for CAINSVILLE completists

Readers’ average rating: 

Lost Souls by Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong’s Lost Souls is that quintessential three-star book. There’s nothing wrong with it, but at the same time, it didn’t blow me away.

It’s a CAINSVILLE novella that falls between book three, Deceptions, and book four, Betrayals. If you haven’t gotten that far, you’re in for a slew of spoilers, so I would recommend waiting and reading it in sequence. At the end of Deceptions, Gabriel said something cruel to Liv, and now their friendship is on shaky ground.

That’s when Gabriel encounters a new, weird case. In an echo of an old urban legend, a spectral woman in white hitches a ride with a businessman. He i... Read More

SFM: Shepard, de Bodard, Bear, Jemisin, Parker, Holland

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free short fiction available on the internet. This week's theme, just for fun, is stories dealing with dragons. 

The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard (1984, free online at Baen.com (sample from the Bestiary anthology), originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, also collected in The Dragon Griaule). 1985 Hugo and 1984 Nebula nominee (novelette), 1985 World Fantasy Award nominee (novella)

In ... 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 Guild Conspiracy: A good YA steampunk adventure

Readers’ average rating:

The Guild Conspiracy by Brooke JohnsonPublished in 2016, The Guild Conspiracy, by Brooke Johnson, is the second book in the CHRONIKER CITY STORIES series. It begins about six months after the events of Book One, The Brass Giant. Petra Wade, a young woman fighting to be accepted as an equal in the Engineers Guild, continues her struggle while also waging an asymmetrical battle against Julian Goss, an engineer who has a terrifying view of a mechanistic future world and is willing to orchestrate a war to get it.

I liked The Guild Conspiracy much better than I liked The Brass Giant, mainly because any romance is in the backgr... Read More

Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur by Frederic Brremaud & Frederico Bertolucci

Readers’ average rating:

Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur written by Frederic Brremaud and illustrated by Frederico Bertolucci

Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur (2017) is the newest in a series of wordless graphic novels written by Frederic Brremaud and illustrated by Frederico Bertolucci, each of them following an animal type (a tiger, a lion) through their days. Dinosaurs, thanks to their massive popularity would seem an obvious choice in the series, and they get prime treatment in a gritty, vividly illustrated adventure tale.

Interestingly enough, the story starts small, focusing on an insect and a small shrew-like mammal. They’re quickly disturbed though by the massive foot of a sauropod crashing down as it wanders by while munching the foliage. Just a few panels later, a smaller dinosaur (a bambiraptor I believe, though I’m not sure) enters the picture, an... Read More

I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

Readers’ average rating:

I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère

Anyone familiar with the SF novels of Philip K. Dick and the many films inspired by his works knows that he was one strange and visionary guy. Certainly the SF genre is filled with works of bizarre worlds, aliens, characters, and slippery reality. But it’s generally accepted by authors and readers alike that these fictional creations are just that — works of the imagination by writers who are generally considered sane and share the consensus view of reality. In the case of PKD, however, the line between reality and fiction, sanity and madness, redemption and damnation, revelation and delusion is very blurred indeed. In fact, the pers... Read More

Time Is the Simplest Thing: Fast-paced and imaginative, with an important message

Readers’ average rating:

Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak

Written s(i)mack-dab in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement, Clifford D. Simak’s Time Is the Simplest Thing utilizes the tools of science fiction to make poignant comments on the issues of the day. The novel, the author’s sixth out of an eventual 29, was initially serialized in the May - July 1961 issues of Analog magazine with the equally appropriate title The Fisherman, and went on to be nominated for that year’s Hugo Award. (It lost, to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land Read More

Central Station: A snapshot of a strangely familiar time

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Central Station is a thoughtful, poignant, human take on a possible future. For the most part Central Station occurs at the titular port on planet earth. This space resides in what we know today as Tel Aviv, but in the distant future it has gone through many names and many people. Everything seems to begin in earnest when Boris Chong arrives in Central Station after spending a great deal of time away — some of which on Mars. Central Station, the place, is a half-thought meeting of a variety of worlds. Central Station the book is more thoughtful than I think I know how to express, but I’ll give it a try.

Central Station occurs in the very spot where humans expanded from our first planet th... Read More

Infernal Parade: Only for the most passionate Barker fans

Readers’ average rating:

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

This is an unfortunately disappointing collection of microstories from Clive Barker, an author who helped define my reading experience in mid-1980’s junior and high school. The six very loosely connected stories that make up the 88 pages of Infernal Parade (2017) were originally provided as exclusive companions to collectables made by McFarlane Toys in 2004. I believe these are part of a larger macroverse of characters published in Barker’s 2014 novella, Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordial.

Weaveworld and Books of Blood, the “Hellraiser" movies based on The Hellbound Heart, and Read More

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: In search of lost things, including a cat

Readers’ average rating:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

At first glance, Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is about Toru Okada, a legal assistant who has given up his job in the hope of finding a more fulfilling purpose. Though happily married, his cat, Noboru Wataya, has gone missing. If a missing cat sounds too straightforward for a novel often described as the masterpiece of a man who is often mentioned as a dark horse to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, well, there’s a lot to unpack in this summary. Also, Toru is about to learn that his brother-in-law defiles women and his own marriage with Kumiko is in serious trouble.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle can be interpreted along several lines, but perhaps our struggle to form meaningful rel... Read More

Behind Her Eyes: Twisty thriller with cross-genre appeal

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

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Louise is an insecure single mom who, one night, meets and kisses a dashing stranger. She’s mortified the next morning to find that the stranger, David, is now her boss. Her married boss. Then she (literally) bumps into David’s wife, Adele, and the two of them hit it off.

Despite her best friend’s warnings that all of this is a bad idea, Louise falls in deeper: into a full-blown affair with David, and into a close friendship with Adele. In particular, Louise and Adele bond over their shared experience with night terrors.

This triangle is a freight train barreling toward trouble, and Louise soon learns that the stakes might be deadlier, as questions and mysteries lurk beneath the surface of Adele and David’s lives: Who, if anyone, killed Adele’s parents? Who, if an... 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

Wonders of the Invisible World: Intoxicatingly beautiful fragments

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip

I love Patricia McKillip’s writing, and was excited to hear she had a short story collection coming out. I really enjoy reading short stories because I think it’s a good measure of what a writer can do – distill down the essential elements of story to a concentrated core of who they are as a writer.

Upon opening the collection I was slightly disappointed to realize that these were all stories that had been previously published, many of which I had read before. However, it was an interesting experience for me to rediscover some of these stories for a second time, and to compare the effect of the stories I had read before to the ones I was reading for the first time.

I thought the first story, “Wonders of the Invisible World,” was t... Read More

Miranda and Caliban: A beautiful melancholy tale

Readers’ average rating: 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and Caliban is a twist on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, ringing one major change on the play: what if Miranda and Caliban were in love?

Our tale begins years before the events of the play; we first meet Miranda as a child, assisting her father Prospero in the ceremonial magic that will bind the “wild boy,” Caliban, and the spirit Ariel to his will. From there, Jacqueline Carey alternates between Miranda’s point of view and Caliban’s, following them as they grow up together. At first, Miranda helps Caliban learn to speak and read; later, when she is stricken by an illness, Caliban helps her. And then when adolescence strikes, the two begin to have forbidden feelings for each other.

Looming o... Read More

Gilded Cage: The abuse of power by the super-powered

Readers’ average rating: 

Gilded Cage by Vic James

In the world of Gilded Cage (2017), there are those who are called Equals ― but there’s a deep divide between Equals, who have magical Skills, and the commoners, the Skilless, and they are decisively not equal. In England the Equals are both the aristocrats and the sole parliament, and they hold all the power, with the magical ability to enforce it.

One of the ways the Equals use their power is to require all commoners to spend ten years of their lives as slaves, known as slavedays. There are some interesting rules associated with this 10-year slavery law: there are advantages to doing it early in your life (such as the right to own a home, travel abroad, and hold certain jobs), you are required to begin them no later than age 55, and those under age 18 are to serve in the same place with their parents.

When 18-year-ol... Read More

SFM: Lee, Jones, Pratt, Skillingstead & Courtier

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly sampling of free short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories that caught our attention this week. 



“The Pirate Captain’s Daughter” by Yoon Ha Lee (2009, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

A female pirate captain sails the Unwritten Sea on her ship, the Improbable Dragon. Her crew includes her daughter, who is still unnamed despite growing into a young woman, for the Unwritten Sea has its laws and traditions, and a pirate must have the soul of a poet, and write a poem to the sea with enough power in it to move a ship. But the pirate’s daughter knows that she is no poet, and despite assiduous practicing and countless tries, nothing she writes can even move a toy boat acros... Read More