Bill Capossere

BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts by Sylvia Ferrara, translated by Todd Portnowitz

Sylvia Ferrara is an Italian scholar/researcher/professor who has devoted much of her life, both in solo work and (more importantly and effectively to her) in collaboration, to learning how writing developed/develops and to deciphering a number of scripts that have stubbornly resisted translation. In The Greatest Invention she offers the fruits of that research in often fascinating, sometimes dizzying, sometimes frustrating, always exuberant fashion.

The dizzying part comes partly from the way Ferrara flies all over the place in space and time, hitting regions such as China, Crete, Easter Island, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, Central and South America, and the United States, among others, all of them at various stages of mostly ancient but sometimes recent history. The fascina... Read More

The Extractionist: Enjoyable, left me wanting more

The Extractionist by Kimberly Unger

With The Extractionist, Kimberly Unger presents a pretty typical futuristic-internet-cybersetting-with-a-name background (in this case the cyberverse is called “the Swim”), but enhances the familiar setting with an original spin — a class of workers called Extractionists whose job it is to rescue people who get “stuck” in the Swim by reconnecting their Swim persona and their real-world body.

I loved the idea, and mostly loved its embodiment in Eliza McKay, the book’s protagonist, but felt the story could have been executed better.

McKay’s job is actually a fall-back position she takes on after she was banned from the high-level nanotech research she really wants to do (the reason for her being “burned” is gradually revealed).

Extracting is part engineering / tech know-how and part art, and McKay is good at both aspects, he... 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

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

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

Last Exit: Complex, compelling, and intense

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Here is Max Gladstone’s recipe for a Last Exit (2022) cocktail:

One part fervent, confident intensity of young adulthood
One part fever dream (or nightmare) of magic and alternate worlds
Add bitters in the form of mid-life fears, regrets, and resignations born out of both trauma and simple aging
Splash of Mad Max
Zest of Zelazny
Stir with a rusty spoon of entropy
Pour slowly into a clear (eyed) glass filled one-quarter with the crushed ice-dreams of Americana myth and rimmed with sugar for a little bit of innocent sweetness
Serve with a shot of hope (the kind that burns on the wa... Read More

The Origin of Storms: Wraps up a good trilogy in mostly strong fashion

The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms (2022) is Elizabeth Bear’s mostly satisfying conclusion to her generally excellent LOTUS KINGDOM’s trilogy, continuing the prior books’ strengths of strong characterization and sharp social commentary. Spoilers to follow for books one (The Stone in the Skull)  and two (The Red-Stained Wings).

After the events of the first two books, Rajni Mrithuri is now the Dowager Empress, ruler of conjoined kingdoms and the person with the strongest claim to the Alchemical Throne (though she has yet to risk sitting on it). That said, she has no gu... Read More

The World According to Color: A Cultural History

The World According to Color: A Cultural History by James Fox

Most people wouldn’t think of a squashed fly as the gateway to a world of beauty and art, but that was exactly the path art historian James Fox took, describing in the opening pages of The World According to Color (2022), how when he “first started seeing color at the age of six,” after his mother swatted a fly and James:
leaned in to examine the carcass … [It] looked like a precious jewel. Its eye blushed with the deep burgundy of ripe cherries, its wigs shimmered like miniature rainbows, and the emerald greens and sapphire blues on its abdomen exploded into copper and gold. I had never seen anything so beautiful.
From the wonderfully vivid opening, and after a relatively brief foray into the physics, biology, and evolution of color perception, Fox takes his readers on a journey through seven colors (black, red, yellow,... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: 15 years of FanLit! (Giveaway)

Dear faithful FanLit readers,

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, 15 years and the Milky Way, to be more precise), a band of plucky underdogs who believed life’s too short to read bad books started a website under the able leadership of Princess, err, Dr Kat Hooper.

June 1 will mark our 15th birthday, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers who have joined us on this epic journey, whether you found us a decade and a half ago or just today.

If it weren’t for you we’d have given this up long ago and just be ranting with our friends over beers about waiting for the next GAME OF THRONES book, moaning with our friends over beers about how Brandon Sanderson just wrote anot... Read More

Phasers on Stun: A fun and informative tour of the ever-expanding Trek universe

Phasers on Stun! by Ryan Britt

Phasers on Stun!,
by Ryan Britt, is a breezily informative and fun look at the many (and I mean many) incarnations of Star Trek over the decades since it first appeared on television in the late 60s. While it’s true there isn’t a lot new to say about the original series, and to a lesser extent The Next Generation, Britt still manages for find a few nuggets to offer something fresh to fans, while the later materials covers ground that is far less trodden.

Moving chronologically, Britt begins with several chapters on the original series — its creation, the writing, its politics, and finally its cancelation and the “birth of Star Trek fandom.” From there he moves between the creative output of the franchise and its relation to American society (each being shaped by the other). Included in the discussion are ... Read More

The Stardust Thief: An impressive debut

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

The Stardust Thief (2022), by Chelsea Abdullah, is one of the more impressive debut novels I’ve read lately, offering up a bevy of strong narrative elements with barely a weakness to be found and using a well-known tale (1001 Nights) not as a basis for a retelling but as the germ of something that is its own lushly original story. It wasn’t until I neared the end that I had the happy realization this wasn’t a stand-alone novel but would give me two more chances to spend time in this world.

As a child, Loulie (AKA the Midnight Merchant) was the sole survivor when her tribe was massacred, rescued from the desert by Qadir, who now serves as her bodyguard as she plies her trade of finding and selling magical jinn relics. Her unique success in that area has caugh... Read More

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses by Jackie Higgins

In Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses, Jackie Higgins smoothly and successfully merges what could have been two popular science books — one on animal senses and one on human perception. Instead of separating the two subjects, here Higgins uses one as a vehicle for exploring the other.

More precisely, by examining a dozen animal species and focusing on a single sensory trait they possess, Higgins casts a clarifying light on our own sensory abilities, including those we may not even be aware of.

Each chapter focuses on a single creature and sense, as follows:

Peacock Mantis Shrimp: color vision
Great Gray Owl: hearing
Star-Nosed Mole: touch
Common Vampire Bat: pleasure/pain
Goliath Catfish: taste
Bloodhound: sme... Read More

Fevered Star: A somewhat slower pace through a richly constructed world

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse 

Fevered Star (2022) is the follow-up to Rebecca Roanhorse’s enjoyably original Black Sun, set in a fantastical Mesoamerica (with a few other cultures mixed in as well). As the second book, it does suffer somewhat from that dreaded middle book curse, but Roanhorse offers enough original worldbuilding here to compensate for the book’s weaker aspects, leaving the reader eager to see the trilogy’s conclusion.

As with Black Sun, Roanhorse employs multiple points of view to tell the story, including the Crow God’s avatar Serapio, the Sun God’s priest Naranpa, the Teek ship’s captain Xiala, the Carrion Crow captain Okoa, and Cuecola m... Read More

How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps

How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps by Pamela S. Turner and illustrated by John Gurche

I often tell my first-year college students that when they start out doing research, they should begin not with the academic journals, which so many of them do, and not with the newspaper or magazine articles, but with books written for young readers. Because what they want is something that is brief, broad, shallow but informative, easy to understand. Something that strips out the overwhelming details and provides them a strong foundational understanding of the major points so that when they do eventually research more deeply, the details will make a lot more sense to them, will be “fitted into” an intellectual framework they’ve constructed for themselves. I add as well that they are lucky in that they’re currently living in a golden age of non-fiction for young readers, not only in terms of quantity but quality as well.

E... Read More

All the Seas of the World: A master working at the top of his craft

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

As I write this, it’s early spring in Rochester, and those who live in the Northeast know what that means. Cold. Clouds. Wind. The false promise of warmth. The precipitation that no longer falls in feet and inches but instead has become a more annoying (and far less pretty) alternation of rain and sleet and hail that you know has to stop soon, will stop soon, but still Just. Keeps. On. Happening. Bleak, yes. But then here it is: a new Guy Gavriel Kay book arriving like an early harbinger of spring — a shaft of sun through the cloud cover, a cardinal’s trill cutting through the wind in the bushes, a sudden spike into the sixties. And suddenly you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

At least, not for a few hours, which is how long it took me to read All the Seas of the World, because when you start a Kay novel, you don’t want to put it down. Let the worl... Read More

The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World

The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World by Oliver Milman

I’ve spent the past 27 summers minus two driving from New York out west to hike/camp with my family for 4-6 weeks. That’s 25 cross-country trips (including twice to Alaska but not counting the two I took before meeting my wife) and lots of driving during those trips as well. So much so that I often end up driving as many miles in June and July as I do the other ten months out of the year. Because most of those years I was driving a Prius, I didn’t have to stop a lot for gas. But I still frequently pulled into gas stations. Why? To clear my windshield and headlights of the mass of splattered bugs that were obscuring my sight and dimming my beams.

But I’ve noticed something disquieting the last 10 or 12 years — I no longer need to do that. Sure, I clean my windshield when I fill up the tank, but I no longer have to stop just to do ... Read More

The Adam Project: A fun family film

The Adam Project

A few things to know up front about The Adam Project. If you don’t like time travel movies, especially ones that don’t delve much into details or deal with paradoxes with more than a throwaway line here or there, it’s not the movie for you. If you don’t like Ryan Reynolds being, well, Ryan Reynolds, it’s not the movie for you. And if you prefer movies to break new ground, turn down startling paths, subvert tropes, you won’t find that here. On the other hand, if those aren’t deal-breakers, and you enjoy fast, quippy dialogue broken up every 15 minutes or so with some popcorn action scenes and every now and then with some quietly sincere emotional moments, Netflix’s film should hit all the sweet spots.

The film opens with a bang, with Adam Reed (Reynolds) being pursued in near-space after stealing a “time-j... Read More

Destiny of the Dead: Engaging enough

Destiny of the Dead by Kel Kade

My review of Kel Kade’s Fate of the Fallen, first in their SHROUD OF PROPHECY series, called the novel “an enjoyable if meandering invitation despite some issues.” Kade is back now with book two, Destiny of the Dead, which is similarly meandering and, honestly, a little less enjoyable, though enough of the stronger aspects remain so that I’ll still continue on to the third book. Possible spoilers for book one to follow.

The conflict among the gods continues to play out in the world of our characters, with some of the gods, particularly Axus, God of Death, eager to cleanse the world of humanity, others trying to stop it, and other either not yet sure or keeping their cards close to their... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Looking for hope (giveaway)

I confess it’s been hard for me to escape from the world lately, whether via reading, my own writing, work, or just the mundanity of everyday life (hard, for instance, to read social media from people in my town upset about lacking power for two days after a recent windstorm, given events elsewhere). So when it came time to come up with another St. Patrick’s Day post and prompt, the usual lightheartedness (PubsShamrocks! Snakes!) of prior posts felt a little off-tune.

One of my earlier posts noted how I often think of one of...

Read More

Turning Red: Fantastic for nearly the entire time

Turning Red

For 80-85% of its length, Pixar’s Turning Red is an absolutely delightful coming-of-age story, brightly colored in both its palette and its characters. If it goes off the rails at the very end, and I’d argue it does that a-plenty, it’s still well worth viewing.

The film centers on 13-year-old Meilin (Mei) Lee, a Canadian-Chinese girl living with her family in the temple they take care of in Toronto’s Chinatown. Mei is seemingly the perfect daughter: she gets straight As in all her classes, plays the flute, and sacrifices after-school fun with her three “besties” to rush home and help her mother (Ming) clean the temple and give tours. But as that “13-year-old” foretells, trouble looms on the horizon. She and her best friends are obsessed with a boy band called 4-Town (despite having five members), the local boys are also suddenly of interest with one in particular the subject of... Read More

The Kaiju Preservation Society: A fun read for most of it before taking a bit of a dip

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

In his Afterword, John Scalzi explains that his newest book, The Kaiju Preservation Society (2022), took the place of another he struggled to finish during these awful times we’ve lived through these past few years. This one, he says, is not “with absolutely no slight intended, a brooding symphony … [but] a pop song … light and catchy … for you to sing along with, and then you’re done, and you go on with your day.” And he’s mostly not wrong, though I might quibble a bit if I continue the metaphor, noting on the good side, for instance, that while it doesn’t brood, it does occasionally bite. And adding on the not-so-good side that one “sings along” because the pop song has lodged in one’s memory, and I’m pretty sure this book won’t do that.

I migh... Read More

Dionysos: The (sadly) final installment in a brilliant series

Dionysos by George O’Connor

With Dionysos, writer/illustrator George O’Connor’s OLYMPIANS series comes to an end after 12 titles and at this point, having reviewed a third of them and read more, all’s that need be said is either now you can complete your collection or, if you haven’t yet purchased any — and really, why haven’t you? —, now you can go out and get the whole thing. Because it’s simply great, start to finish. We've reviewed these previous installments: Zeus, Ares, Artemis, Hermes.

Every book i... Read More

Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds

Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds by Thomas Halliday

I’m going to say something I don’t think I’ve ever said in my reviews of non-fiction works. One of the best things about Thomas Halliday’s science book Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds (2022) is the lack of science in Thomas Halliday’s science book Otherlands: A Journey Through Earth’s Extinct Worlds. Let me ‘splain.

What I mean by “lack of science” is a near-absence of the oft-used popular science go-tos, such as: “In fill-in-the-date, researcher X found that …” or, “A recent study published in fill-in-the-date revealed that …” Now, given that this is a popular science book, and Halliday himself is a scientist (a paleontologist), clearly there is science here. And up-to-date science as well, with a slew of citations from 2019 and... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: SFF TV Series: Stay or Go? (Giveaway!)

Once upon a time, I finished every book I started whether it gave me pleasure or not. It took me years to break myself of that, but I did eventually grow older and wiser (in that order and with a pretty big lag time between the two).

Also once upon a time (as in all the way back to “up to last week”), I’d sit through anything to watch my beloved science fiction/fantasy on TV. Originally, this was less a stupid obsession and simply a fact of scarcity; with three networks, and then later a mere handful of cable stations, there just weren’t a lot of genre shows on. So good, bad — it didn’t matter; you took what you got when you got it. And even though we’ve long been in a golden age of genre television, with sci-fi/fantasy all over the screen nowadays (there’s even a sci-fi channel! Kind of. Sort of. Well, not so much), it’s taken me a while to break an old habit (there’s that lag time I mentioned).

But epiphany has finally struck... Read More

The Thousand Eyes: A good continuation of the SERPENT GATES series

The Thousand Eyes by A.K. Larkwood

In The Thousand Eyes (2022), A.K. Larkwood keeps all the good parts of The Unspoken Name — the first book in THE SERPENT GATES series — brings back most of the characters, and adds a few new ones into the mix while improving on some of the prior novel’s weaker areas, crafting a successful sequel that avoids the dreaded “second book” syndrome. Some inevitable spoilers for The Unspoken Name ahead.

At the start, Shuthmilli, Csorwe, and Tal are working to make themselves some money since the latter two left the services of immortal wizard Belthandros, but events quickly conspire to embroil them in major events, leading to some odd and someti... Read More

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