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Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep: A great start to a brand-new trilogy

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve has been one of my favourite authors for a while now, even though most of his stories are slightly outside my preferred genres. I loved Railhead, which was science-fiction, and Mortal Engines, which was dystopian – so imagine the weird squeaky noise of excitement I made on discovering that his latest book was not only in my genre wheelhouse (fantasy, of course) but which bore the captivating title of Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep (2021).


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Starter Villain: You’ll want to get your cat a keyboard

Starter Villain by John Scalzi

“It’s easier to be a villain than a pub owner, I’ll tell you that much.”

I think most people know the plot of John Scalzi’s 2023 novel, Starter Villain. Our protagonist, Charlie, is divorced. He’s been downsized out of his job as a business journalist, and is eking out a living as a substitute math teacher. When the story opens, his best or only friend is his cat Hera. Then Charlie learns that his enigmatic Uncle Jake,


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Convergence Problems: A strong collection

Convergence Problems by Wole Talabi

Convergence Problems by Wole Talabi is a collection of sixteen science fiction stories by the author of Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon (one of my most pleasurable reads lately). As with any story collection, Convergence Problems varies in impact of each individual piece, but if I wasn’t blown away by any of the tales save one, the collection as a whole is nicely consistent along the 3-4 scale,


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The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles: Come for the mystery, stay for the great characters

The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles by Malka Older

On Jupiter, known as Giant, Mossa, an Investigator, and Pleiti, scholar and instructor, are on a new case, involving the disappearance of a student. As Mossa explores, she finds not one, but seventeen university students, faculty and staff have gone missing. What the two sleuths will uncover in 2024’s The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles, by Malka Older, will destabilize Pleiti’s already-shaky faith in the university system, and her life’s work, even further.

These novellas are a pure pleasure to read.


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In Utero: Exploring in an abandoned mall

In Utero by Chris Gooch (writer and artist)

Top Shelf recently published Australian Chris Gooch’s In Utero, a surprising coming-of-age graphic novel, as the title misled me at first (I do like the title ultimately. It makes perfect sense once you read the comic). The book starts with a preliminary event, twelve years before the main story begins. A mysterious explosion, right in the middle of the city, devastates a large section of the downtown area. In the twelve years that have passed, though the hole in the earth remains visible,


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Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are

Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are by Rebecca Boyle

Our Moon (2024), by Rebecca Boyle, is an engrossing tour of our relationship with our closest celestial neighbor, full of the usual (and less familiar) facts, while delving into science, history, and culture as Boyle, as she says, explains “How the moon was made, how the Moon made us, and how we made the Moon in our image.”

Boyle starts off not on the Moon but on Earth three-quarters of a century ago with a 39-year-old marine waiting to begin the Allies’ attack on Tarawa Atoll,


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The Void Ascendant: Cosmic horror that leaves us with a breath of hope

The Void Ascendant by Premee Mohamed

The Void Ascendant (2022) follows Nick Prasad as he tries to reconcile himself to a universe dominated by the Ancient Ones. The book brings to a close Premee Mohamed’s magnificent VOID trilogy.

This review contains spoilers for the two previous books, Beneath the Rising and A Broken Darkness.

Seven years have passed since Earth was destroyed, and Nick escaped into another world, one ruled by the chaotic,


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WWWednesday: February 7, 2024

Marvel’s Squirrel Girl will finally get her due when the comics release special covers of Marvel heroines. It won’t be until March, but still.

Last week the PBS Newshour did a segment on “romantasy,” the stories that feature magic or a fantastical setting but also have a romance story that is nearly as important. Now the U.K. Guardian has an article about it. I think two things; 1) this is not a new phenomenon, but the mainstream as “discovered” it, and 2) regardless of how I feel about it, “romantasy” as a term is sticking around.


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The Reign of Wizardry: Cagey cretans

The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson

Perhaps because Jack Williamson was named the second science fiction Grand Master, in 1976, and managed to cop both the coveted Hugo and Nebula Awards, it is easy to forget that the Arizona Territory-born author did write in other fields than just sci-fi. For example, I have already written here of his marvelously scary novella “Wolves of Darkness” (1932), as well as his now-classic lycanthropy novel Darker Than You Think (1948) … two works that doubtless helped him win the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement,


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The Allure of the Multiverse: Extra Dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes

The Allure of the Multiverse: Extra Dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes by Paul Halpern

The Allure of the Multiverse by Paul Halpern delves into the scientific history of the theory that seems to have taken over pop culture. Admittedly difficult at time thanks to the relatively esoteric nature of some of the theories such as string theory or M-brane theory, and also perhaps a bit mistitled, it remains a mostly clear exploration of 20th and 21st century physics.

The book opens with what might come as a surprise to some readers who have steeped in the multiverse concept via film,


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GIVEAWAY! What’s the best book you read last month?

It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What’s the best book you read in January 2024 and why did you love it? 

It doesn’t have to be a newly published book, or even SFF, or even fiction. We just want to share some great reading material.

Feel free to post a full review of the book here, or a link to the review on your blog, or just write a few sentences about why you thought it was awesome.

And don’t forget that we always have plenty more reading recommendations on our 5-Star SFF page.


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UnDivided: A thrilling finale

UnDivided by Neal Shusterman

With UnDivided (2014), Neal Shusterman rewards fans of his UNWIND DYSTOLOGY with a thrilling and satisfying finale. Readers will need to read the first three novels, (Unwind, UnWholly, and UnSouled) first.

The story picks up where UnSouled left off. Our heroes, Connor, Risa, Lev, Grace, and Cam are desperately trying to fight a batch of newly proposed legislation which gives the government even more power to unwind troublesome teens,


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Labyrinth’s Heart: Can Ren and Grey save a city and find a home?

Labyrinth’s Heart by M.A. Carrick

2023’s Labyrinth’s Heart is the third and final book in the ROOK AND ROSE TRILOGY by M.A. Carrick. It addresses the mysteries unfolded in the previous two books, and ushers in dramatic changes to the lives of our protagonists and the delta city of Nadežra.

This review contains spoilers for this book, The Mask of Mirrors and The Liar’s Knot.

As Book Three opens,


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Robots and the People Who Love Them: An informative and worthy read

Robots and the People Who Love Them by Eve Herold

Robots and the People Who Love Them, by Eve Herold, is a solid look at the potential impact of social robots on our lives, though more timely research and a more focused structure would have improved the book.

Herold’s focus here is not on “robots”, but on social robots, those that we will interact with regularly and often closely. Think robots in the fields of elder care, education, child care, and companion robots (both the platonic sort and the sexbot sort).


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Outside the Universe: Take that, Star Wars!

Outside the Universe by Edmond Hamilton

In my recent review of the 1965 collection Crashing Suns, I mentioned that this Ace paperback gathered together five of the tales from Edmond Hamilton’s INTERSTELLAR PATROL series – a series comprised of seven short stories and one full-length novel – and later expressed a desire to read those three other installments one day. Well, I am here to tell you now MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – at least as far as the novel is concerned.


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WWWednesday: January 24, 2024

The Japanese lunar lander made the most precise lunar landing in history. The craft was experiencing a problem with its solar panels, but the earth crew may be able to correct that.

We seemed so far out of the blast radius of any 2023 Hugo fallout (did I just mix metaphors there?) that I was shocked when the latest one(s) blew up. It might be two scandals, it might be more, it might be none. It’s hard to tell. When the 2023 Hugo nominating data was released last weekend, hours before the mandated deadline, people discovered that the nominating patterns in several categories were,


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Crucible of Chaos: With apologies, as always, to the author

Crucible of Chaos by Sebastien de Castell

Estevar hauled up on his mule as Castle Aramor came into view through the dampening fog. The mule turned back with a baleful look.

“I know, I know. Do you think I’m enjoying this foul weather any more than you are?”

The mule dipped its head and turned it slightly aslant, looking upward at Estevar, as if to note that while they both shared the same weather, only one of them had the other’s weight as additional burden. A substantial weight at that Estevar had to acknowledge.


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Lute: A wonderfully written take on folk horror

Lute by Jennifer Thorne

There are many words I could use to describe Lute by Jennifer Thorne. I could say words like “atmospheric” or “haunting.” I could also say “beautiful” or “terrifying.” Lute is a book that evokes many descriptors, but none really captures the story in its totality. The blurb from Tor Nightfire says “Wickerman meets Final Destination.” That description is about as accurate as it gets. 

Lute is an island off the coast of Scotland,


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Near Death (Volume One): A reformed assassin wrestles with his ethics

Near Death (Volume One) by Jay Faerber (writing), Simon Guglielmini (art), Ron Riley (colors), and Charles Pritchett (letters)

Near Death (Volume One) is a brilliant crime fiction story about an assassin named Markham who decides he must reform. At the beginning of the story, Markham, shot and dying, drives to his only friend’s place of work (which is also where she lives) late at night. Sutton, a veterinarian, seems to be used to sewing up Markham, but this time, she has got to save his life, because he briefly dies on her operating table.


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WWWednesday: January 17, 2024

Effective January 23, Tor.com the website will become Reactor. After Tor.com announced this, there was confusion (even confusion about whether it was tor.com or Tordotcom Publishing. I don’t see how that could have happened, she said sarcastically). Future Reactor addressed those questions.

StokerCon has added Justine Ireland and Nisi Shawl to the Guest of Honor slate in 2024. Thanks to File770.

Atlas Obscura follows the history of forgotten women astronomers at University of Chicago’s Lake Geneva- based observatory.


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