Empire of Sand: A powerful first novel


Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri Empire of Sand is one of those rare debut novels that doesn’t read at all like a first effort; Tasha Suri’s prose is strong and assured, her...

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Between Light and Shadow: A prodigious study of SFF’s most elusive writer


Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini Last year I tried twice (unsuccessfully) to finish The Best of Gene Wolfe: A...

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest: A beautiful book to read with a child


The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint From its charming dustcover to the muted two-page illustration at the end, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a beautiful book that I...

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Instructions: Safely traverse enchanted lands


Instructions by Neil Gaiman As one might expect from Neil Gaiman, Instructions is an unusual little book, and despite technically being a picture book, isn’t necessarily...

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Recent Posts

Stan Lee: A Life

Stan Lee: A Life (Centennial Edition) by Bob Batchelor

Bob Batchelor’s biography of Stan Lee, titled unsurprisingly Stan Lee, is a solid if somewhat stylistically flat look at the life of a man who has had a huge cultural impact. People who pay attention to this sort of thing won’t find a lot new here, and may even find the book’s gloss over things a bit frustrating, but for casual fans of Marvel movies who have a first-time interest in where this behemoth began, the book suffices.

We pick up with a young Stanley Lieber growing up in NYC in the 30s, important because of how, as Batchelor makes clear throughout the book, the problems Lee’s father had in finding/keeping a steady job had a major impact on Lee, creating not only a strong work ethic but also making it nigh on impossible for him to quit a job that he wasn’t sure he wanted or enjoyed. Luckily for many of us, that belief in keeping the ... Read More

WWWednesday: September 28, 2022

File770 discusses how the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund extended memberships and increased inclusion for people who would otherwise have been unable to participate.

Teen writers in the Los Angeles area can submit their short fiction to the Tomorrow Prize science fiction contest. Details are in File 770’s article.

Charles Payseur takes up the debate of “Who Should Really Win a Fan Hugo?”

David Levithan wrote an Read More

The Yellow Mistletoe: “I Say, This Is Top-Hole”

The Yellow Mistletoe by Walter S. Masterman

A wholly intriguing blend of murder mystery, detective thriller, lost world/lost race adventure, and horror novel, The Yellow Mistletoe, by British author Walter S. Masterman, impressively manages to triumph in all four of those literary departments. Like another book that I recently experienced, H.B. Gregory’s Dark Sanctuary (1940, and only available today via Ramble House), The Yellow Mistletoe was also tapped by editor/author Karl Edward Wagner for inclusion in his widely-referred-to list of The 13 Best Supernatural Horror Books. And while I do have a small problem with that inclusion (more on ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: September 25, 2022

Marion: I finished Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. It’s an optimistic delight of a book with a great octopus character.  Currently, I’m reading a debut mystery novel by Tracee de Hahn called The Swiss Vendetta. The interiors and descriptions are gorgeous.

Bill:  Since my last update, I’ve read:

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez: going on my Best of 22 list
Neom by Lavie Tidhar: linked stories in the same universe as his great Read More

The Spear Cuts through Water: One of the best of 2022

The Spear Cuts through Water by Simon Jimenez

Simon Jiminez’s The Spear Cuts through Water (2022) is one of the most vibrantly original novels I’ve read in some time, an enthralling work of creativity that even as it makes use of some familiar tropes arrives absolutely as its own unique self: richly mythic and startlingly inventive. It will absolutely land on my Best of 2022 list, even it may not be for everyone (though everyone should attempt it).

At its core, The Spear Cuts through Water is a simple quest story told unsimply. Ages ago the Moon Goddess fell from the sky and eventually became captive in the deep dungeons of the Empire. The current Emperor, aged and fearing death, is about to embark on a grand procession, but when the Goddess escapes two young men — Jun and Keema — foes at first and then allies, must escort her through a series of dangers to the coast to p... Read More

WWWednesday: September 21, 2022

Fiyah’s Ignyte awards were announced on Saturday. P.Djeli Clark took home Best Adult Novel for Master of Djinn; Best Young Adult Novel went to Darcie Littlebadger for A Snake Falls to Earth; Best Novella was awarded to Shingai Ngeri Kagunda for This is How to Stay Alive. View all the award winners here.

(You can hear Shingai Ngeri Kagunda read another story here.)

Charlie Jane Anders is now reviewing for the Washington ... Read More

The Shadow on the House: Strange days

The Shadow on the House by Mark Hansom

For the past 35 years or so, I have been so busy trying to experience all the 200 books described in Stephen Jones’ and Kim Newman’s two excellent overview volumes – Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books – that I was completely unaware, until recently, that there is yet another trusted resource that horror buffs in the know have been using for recommended reading; namely, the Wagner 39 List. It seems that back in 1983, in the June and August issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, editor/author Karl Edward Wagner provided a list of the 39 books in the horror arena that he felt were of the highest calibre, or most in need of being discovered by a new audience. The 39 books were broken down into three categories: The 13 Best Supernatural Horror Novels, The 13 Best Sci-Fi Horror Novels, and The 13 Be... Read More

Fantastic Four: Full Circle: A psychedelic journey into the Negative Zone

Fantastic Four: Full Circle by Alex Ross (writing, art, and coloring), Josh Johnson (coloring), and Ariana Maher (lettering)

I just finished reading the recently released Fantastic Four: Full Circle, and though the story itself is not riveting, it is a perfect vehicle for the true point of the graphic novel — the art. And the story is an interesting sequel to the previous Stan Lee-Jack Kirby production, “This Man . . . This Monster,” Issue #51 of the original run on the Fantastic Four (which is available via Amazon’s Comixology services).

In Stan Lee’s Issue #51, with excellent art by Jack Kirby, the Thing is taken in by a kindly stranger who turns out to be a mad scientist who wishes to harm him and ultimately Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four. After putting knock-out drops in the Thing’s coffee, the stranger-scientist uses an invention of his to transform into the Thing (and at... Read More

The Witch and the Tsar: Solid, but a bit flat

The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

“Solid” is the best description I can give for The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore, a debut novel that shows flashes of hitting its potential, particularly in its folkloric elements, but overall feels a bit flat and overlong.

A retelling of the Baba Yaga mythos, the story mostly takes place during the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1500s), though there are flashbacks to earlier times, thanks to the fact that the main character (who prefers Yaga to Baba Yaga) is immortal, daughter of a human and the Earth goddess Mokosh, dead now for some years. Since then Yaga has been alone, save for her wolf and owl, and quietly helping the people nearby, especially the women. What precipitates her re-entry into the world is a visit from Anastasia, whom Yaga had helped long ago and set her on the path to her current role as Tsarina (Ivan’s wife).
... Read More

Dark Sanctuary: Thanks, Karl!

Dark Sanctuary by H.B. Gregory

A very happy day it was for me – but a very unfortunate day for my bank account – when I first discovered the website for Ramble House books. Specializing in impossibly obscure sci-fi, horror, mystery and “weird menace” titles from the first half of the 20th century, the publisher has an overwhelming catalog of reasonably priced volumes that will surely make any fan of those genres salivate; books, for the most part, that are available nowhere else. I have already written here of Greye La Spina’s wonderful horror novel Invaders From the Dark (1925), only available from Ramble House, and now would like to tell you of a book that I recently read from the company’s Dancing Tuatara Press imprint that is even more of a rarity. The b... Read More