How Great Science Fiction Works: A college course for science-fiction fans


How Great Science Fiction Works by Gary K. Wolfe For years I’ve been a fan of the GREAT COURSES audiobooks, which I usually pick up at my library or at Audible. These are a...

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A Storm of Swords: Might be the best in the series


A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin When George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords (2000) begins, the War of the Five Kings has just ended, and it looks like the Lannisters have...

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To Live Forever: Vance writes about things that fascinate me


To Live Forever by Jack Vance Note: You may also find this book published with the name Clarges. In Clarges, a city in the far future, humans have conquered death. Unfortunately,...

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The Killing Moon: A challenging and excellently-crafted work


The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin We’ve all read zillions of fantasies set in medieval Europe, or the equivalent thereof. But lately we’re being treated to fantasies set in...

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WWWednesday: June 29, 2022

2022’s Locus Awards winners include A Desolation Called Peace (Arkady Martine) for Best Science Fiction Novel, My Heart is a Chainsaw (Stephen Graham Jones) for Best Horror Novel; Jade Legacy (Fonda Lee) for best fantasy novel; Victories Greater Than Death Read More

Spear: Go read it. Now.

Spear by Nicola Griffith

Nicola Griffith’s Spear glides effortlessly and confidently into the Arthurian cycle, while giving us a completely new character and an outsider’s perspective of Arthur, his court, Merlin, and the Holy Grail.

Published in 2022, this novella starts with the account of a young girl who lives in a cave in the woods with her mother. Their one item of value is a large cauldron in which the mother cooks their food and heats water. The girl roams the woods, learning the language of the animals, knowing how to read the plants and the seasons. She grows stronger. The girl has two names, depending on her mother’s mood. Sometimes she is a word for “gift.” Sometimes, when her mother is raving in nightmares, the girl’s name is “price.” Always, her mother is filled with fear that someone will come seeking... Read More

The Girl in the Golden Atom: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…”

The Girl in the Golden Atom by Ray Cummings

In Irish author Fitz James O’Brien’s classic novella of 1858, entitled “The Diamond Lens,” a scientist, employing his newly invented supermicroscope, is able to observe a beautiful young woman who lives in the impossibly small world of a droplet of water. Flash forward 77 years, and we find British author Festus Pragnell, in the novel The Green Man of Graypec (1935), giving us the tale of a man who is accidentally sucked, via his scientist brother’s new supermicroscope, into the subatomic world of Kilsona, where he is forced to abide for some time. Sandwiched between these two works, however, is a book that has, over the decades, managed to achieve for itself pride of place in these kind of microverse affairs, in... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 11): Flesh and Stone: Monsters and a magic sword

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 11): Flesh and Stone by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

There are multiple stories going on in this volume: Johann and Howards are on a clean-up mission for the air force, Iosif has a new suit made for him as his health is stabilized, and we get some background on Howards’s sword in the distant past, including one hunting scene with the ancient warrior who once had the sword. Back at headquarters, Liz is starting a garden with a little advice from Fenix. Zinco continues with its inhumane testing back in New York with the new Black Flame as ruler.

With Winter comes harsher conditions, and the battles against the monsters continue. Iosif and his associates work together to take down large monsters with massive explosives. Meanwhile, Enos, Howards, and his team go deep in the snow to seek out one particular monster that proves... Read More

Walk the Vanished Earth: A debut with great potential

Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan

Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan is a debut novel with great potential in its underlying premise, structure, and characters, but while the story does at times rise to meet that potential, it does so unevenly and by the end, for me at least, unsatisfactorily.

The story opens at the close of a buffalo hunt in the Kansas prairie in 1873, with a young Irishman named Samson doing the last bit of work amidst the bloody carnage and recalling the harsh life that led them here and making plans for the better one he hopes to forge for himself: “In this New World, he told himself, he would be a new man.”

From there, the narrative leaps forward in time to 2073 and outward in space to Mars and a young girl named Moon who has spent much of her remembered life traversing the Marscape with Uncle One and Uncle Two, a pair of beings that are clear... Read More

WWWednesday: June 22, 2022

Nerds of a Feather review K.J. Parker’s How to Rule An Empire and Get Away With It.

Over at Tor.com, they introduce us to the possibility of Count Dracula Daily, as a Substack blogger is emailing out Dracula in serial format every day.

Fantasy writer Faith Hunter has publicly apologized for harassing behavior, and withdrawn from conventions for the rest of the year, after several incidents at JordanCon this year. File 770 has two long articles on this for those who want the details.

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Payback’s a Witch: A fizzy paranormal rom-com

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

In 2021’s effervescent Payback’s a Witch, the stakes are low, hearts are worn on people’s sleeves, and love is the answer. (Note: No hearts are literally outside the body in this book.) Lana Harper, who writes YA fantasy as Lana Popovic, enters the world of adult paranormal romantic comedy with a story of two modern witches who plot to win a magical tournament while navigating the rocky path of their increasing mutual attraction.

A few hundred years ago, four magicians founded the town of Thistle Grove. Three of them, Avramov, Blackmoore, and Thorn, had powerful magic. The fourth, the actual founder of the town, Elias Harlow, was a far weaker magician. Since the founding, the four families have presided over the magical town. Every fifty years they hold an event called the Gauntlet, and the sci... Read More

The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: Planet Earth’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley Black

As just about any child can tell you, roughly 65 million years ago a nearly ten-mile-wide asteroid crashed into the earth in the Yucatan, unleashing planet-wide firestorms, geography-changing tsunamis, and years of acid-rain and dark days. In short, it was not a good day for Planet Earth. Or for the more than 75% of animal species wiped out by the impact, including, of course, its most famous victims, the dinosaurs. In The Last Days of the Dinosaurs (2022), Riley Black gives a wonderfully evocative and vivid accounting not just of those horrible days following the asteroid’s impact, but of life’s slow recovery during the following million years, making the book, in Black’s words, not a “monument to loss [but] an ode to resilience.”

Her particular focus is on the Hell Creek area of the western US as it is one of the most explored site... Read More

Sunday Status Update: June 19, 2022

Marion: The Select Committee on the January 6 events took up a lot of my time this week, but I managed to finish Nicola Griffiths’s luminous novella Spear, and The Extraordinaries, a fun YA superhero-rom-com by T.J. Klune. Now I’m at the nail-biter ending of Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six ... Read More

The Grief of Stones: An immersive story that draws you in

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison 

The Grief of Stones (2022) is Katherine Addison’s newest work focusing on Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and, more importantly, a Witness for the Dead — someone who can communicate (albeit it in very limited fashion) with the recently deceased. In the prior novel, titled aptly enough The Witness for the Dead, Celehar uses that gift to help solve several murders.

They also, much to their dismay, end up the go-to-person (or the hapless person in the wrong place at the wrong time) for dealing with various types of undead, such as ghouls. Both elements — murder and undead — crop up here as well. Which, along with other reasons, makes Read More