Kat Hooper

KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

The Ecologic Envoy: A new generation of Ecolitans

The Ecologic Envoy by L.E. Modesitt Jr

The Ecologic Envoy (1986) was the first novel published in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s THE ECOLITAN MATTER quartet but, according to the series’ internal chronology, it comes third, after The Ecolitan Operation (1989) and The Ecologic Secession (1990). You don’t need to read those two novels first because The Ecologic Envoy and its sequel, The Ecolitan Enigma, are set a few hundred years later and feature a completely different set of characters.

Our hero, though, is a direct descendant of JimJoy Earle Wright, the protagonist of t... Read More

The Ecologic Secession: JimJoy takes on the Empire

The Ecologic Secession by L.E. Modesitt Jr

The Ecologic Secession (1990) is the second novel (according to internal chronology) in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s THE ECOLITAN MATTER quartet. In the first book, The Ecolitan Operation (for which there will be a few spoilers in this review), we met Major JimJoy Wright. He used to be the Empire’s best secret agent, but after they tried to assassinate him, he switched sides.

Now, after faking his death and being given a new identity, he’s a professor at the Ecolitan Institute, a think-tank on the planet Accord that opposes the Empire and is plotting a revolution.

The Ecolitans are glad to have JimJoy’s allegiance and service, though they’re not sure what to m... Read More

The Ecolitan Operation: I’d like to see where this is going

The Ecolitan Operation by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Major Jimjoy Wright is the Empire’s most successful secret agent. That’s because he’s strong, brave, clever, deceptive, ruthless, and totally goal-oriented. Once he accepts a mission from his government, nothing gets in his way. He always gets the job done.

Though JimJoy thinks he’s highly ethical, most people would find his consequentialism to be psychopathic. For example, JimJoy is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. This doesn’t bother him because if he hadn’t destroyed them, millions of other innocent people probably would have died (it’s like an extreme version of the Trolley Problem).

The fall-out from JimJoy’s actions are causing problems f... Read More

The Fall of Babel: A satisfying and emotional ending

The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

Thomas Senlin’s bizarre, chaotic, and perilous adventure in the Tower of Babel finally ends in the fourth book of Josiah Bancroft’s BOOKS OF BABEL series: The Fall of Babel. If you haven’t read the first three books, Senlin Ascends, Arm of the Sphinx, and The Hod King, stop now and get those under your belt before reading this review. I don’t want to spoil them for you. I recommend picking up Hachette Audio’s editions read by John Banks. They are so entertaining.

The Fall of Babe... Read More

Night Shift Dragons: An entertaining finale

Night Shift Dragons by Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron’s DFZ (DETROIT FREE ZONE) series comes to a conclusion with the third novel, published in 2020, Night Shift Dragons. For this review, I’ll assume you’ve already read its predecessors, Minimum Wage Magic and Part-Time Gods. (There will be spoilers for those books in this review.)

The story begins right where Part-Time Gods left off. In that novel, we watched Opal suffering under the authoritarian maneuvers of her father, the powerful Dragon of Korea. He put a bad-luck curse on Opal to try to force her to leave the DFZ and return to No... Read More

Out of Time’s Abyss: Quite the action-heavy affair

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Out of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs

In Out of Time’s Abyss, the last volume of Edgar Rice Burrough’s CASPAK trilogy, we learn what happened to Bradley, one of the adventurers we met in the first novel, The Land that Time Forgot. As we expected, Bradley has frightening adventures on Caspak, is nearly killed by lions, bears, tigers, dinosaurs, etc, and he saves and falls in love with a beautiful young damsel in distress.

In this installment, we meet the Wieroo, the most highly evolved species on Caspak. Their form and society isn’t at all what the American and European adventurers would have expected. We also learn the rest of the mystery of the strange evolution that has happened on Caspak. Since this is Earth instead of a fantasy world, it’s all too... Read More

The People that Time Forgot: Adventure and romance

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The People that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The People that Time Forgot (1918) is the second novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ CASPAK trilogy. In the first installment, The Land that Time Forgot, Bowen Tyler gets stranded on Caspak, a lost world where prehistoric animals and subhuman people exist. The story picks up in The People that Time Forgot as Bowen’s friend Tom Billings decides to go looking for him. When Tom lands on Caspak, he doesn’t have much time to search for his friend because it takes all his effort just to survive.

The People that Time Forgot offers all of the pulpy masculine adventure found in The Land that Time Forgot. There’s a constant stream of bears, dinosaurs, sabertooth tigers, barbarian warriors, and other creatures to fight, so Tom gets to prove his manliness as he... Read More

Part-Time Gods: Another adventure in the DFZ

Part-Time Gods by Rachel Aaron

Part-Time Gods (2019) is the second book in Rachel Aaron’s DFZ (DETROIT FREE ZONE) series which is a spin-off of her HEARTSTRIKERS saga. You don’t need to read HEARTSTRIKERS first, but you’ll want to read the first book in the DFZ series, Minimum Wage Magic, before picking up Part-Time Gods.

After successfully solving a mystery and surviving the danger in Minimum Wage Magic, Opal and Nik have decided they work well together, so they’ve teamed up on their cleaning efforts. Each of them is so skillful that, under normal circumstances, they’d be raking it in.
... Read More

The Land that Time Forgot: Fun pulpy adventure

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Land that Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

You gotta love Edgar Rice Burroughs. He underperformed in life until, as a pencil sharpener salesman who spent his free time reading pulp magazines, he figured he could be paid to write “rot” at least as good as the “rot” he read in the pulps. And thus started the illustrious career of the man who brought us Tarzan, John Carter, and David Innes... And who inspired a generation of fantasy and science fiction writers.

The Land that Time Forgot, a lost world story set during World War I, is the first in Burroughs’ CASPAK trilogy. It was originally serialized in Blue Book Magazine in the fall of 1918 and then published as a novel in 1924.

Bowen Tyler is on a boat that’s torpedoed and sunk by the Germans. He saves a beautiful drowning young wom... Read More

Minimum Wage Magic: A new DFZ series

Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron

My teenage daughter (Tali) and I enjoyed listening together to the audiobook editions of Rachel Aaron’s HEARTSTRIKERS series, so we were pleased to learn that Aaron wrote (and self-published) a spin-off series also set in the Detroit Free Zone (DFZ), which takes place a couple of decades after the end of Last Dragon Standing.

But you don’t need to read the HEARTSTRIKERS books first, so feel free to jump in right here with Minimum Wage Magic (2018).

The DFZ series, beginning with Minimum Wage Magic, stars Opal Yong-ae, a young mage who ekes out a living in the DFZ by working as a “Cleaner.” This nasty, bu... Read More

The Best of Walter Jon Williams: 12 smart stories

The Best of Walter Jon Williams by Walter Jon Williams

The Best of Walter Jon Williams (2021) is a 663-page tome containing, as its name implies, twelve of Walter Jon Williams’ best stories spanning four decades of his writing career. Fans will appreciate Subterranean Press’s beautiful hardcover edition of this collection (there’s also an audio edition). And for readers who aren’t familiar with this prolific writer, The Best of Walter Jon Williams is a good place to start getting to know him.

The book begins with an endearing introduction by fellow author Daniel Abraham who credits Williams with teaching him more about writing than “any other single source” in his career. After describing the breadth of Walter Jon W... Read More

The Boat of a Million Years: A millennia-spanning epic

The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s millennia-spanning epic The Boat of a Million Years (1989) follows the lives of several unusual human beings starting from a few hundred years before the birth of Christ and ending sometime in the far future.

For some unknown reason, these folks are essentially immortal, not appearing to age past 25 years old and remaining fertile forever. They heal quickly and are immune to disease, though they can be killed by accident or murder.

The problem is that these few immortal people, who are born at different times in different parts of the world, do not know each other and each assumes he or she is the only immortal person alive. Living forever is not a lot of fun when everyone around you eventually dies, including your friends, lovers, and children. When this goes on for hundreds of years, it gets pretty depressing. Besides that, if... Read More

Stars Above: Backstories and an epilogue for the LUNAR CHRONICLES

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Readers who didn’t get enough of Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES will be pleased to find Stars Above (2016), a collection of nine stories that give fans more backstory on their favorite characters as well as a romantic epilogue.

Some of these stories can stand alone, giving you a taste of what to expect in the LUNAR CHRONICLES series, but it’d be most meaningful and enjoyable to read Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter Read More

Winter: A satisfying ending to this enjoyable series

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter (2015) is the fourth and final novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES series for young adults. You need to read the first three novels, Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress first. There will be some spoilers for those previous stories in this review.

Winter, which is loosely based on the Snow White fairytale, begins in Queen Levana’s court. The evil queen thought she’d be empress of the galaxy by this point but, so far, her plans have been thwarted. She’s taking out her anger on her own citizens and requi... Read More

Cress: Full of action, humor, and romance

Cress by Marissa Meyer

My teenage daughter and I have been enjoying the audio versions of Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. The third one is Cress (2014) and it follows Cinder and Scarlet, which you’ll need to read first. (There are bound to be some spoilers for those novels in this review of Cress.)

Each of the LUNAR CHRONICLES stories is a fresh and loose retelling of a classic fairy tale: Cinder = Cinderella, Scarlet = Red Riding Hood, and Cress = Rapunzel.

Cress begins with a helpful summary of events so far in which we are ... Read More

Scarlet: A totally fresh take on Red Riding Hood

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (2013) is the second novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. You’ll want to read Cinder first. There will be some spoilers for that novel in this review.

In Cinder we met the titular cyborg, an orphan who lives with her hateful stepmother and two stepsisters in New Beijing. Cinder is the best mechanic in town, which is how she meets the young and handsome Prince Kai. He needs his personal robot fixed because, unbeknownst to Cinder, it may contain information about the whereabouts of Princess Selene, the rightful ruler of Luna, the human colony on the moon. Nobody knows if Princess Selene is alive but, if she is, Kai may be able to avoid a marriage all... Read More

Last Dragon Standing: The epic finale

Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron

Last Dragon Standing (2018) is the epic finale of Rachel Aaron’s self-published HEARTSTRIKERS series. I’ve been listening to the audio edition of the HEARTSTRIKERS novels and can recommend them without reservation to readers interested in this fun and heart-warming saga. I listened to them with my 19-year-old daughter and we loved the narration by Vikas Adam. If you haven’t read the previous four books, Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, No Good D... Read More

A Dragon of a Different Color: Not the best, but an essential, installment

A Dragon of a Different Color by Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron’s HEARTSTRIKERS series continues with the fourth novel, A Dragon of a Different Color (2017). It’s really no use to start this story here – you should first read Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. At this point in the story, it’s hard to avoid a few spoilers for the previous books, but I’ll do my best.

In the prologue of A Dragon of a Different Color, we finally learn the history of the Detroit Free Zone (the DFZ), ... Read More

Dare to Go A-Hunting: You can safely skip it

Dare to Go A-Hunting by Andre Norton

The final novel in Andre Norton’s MOONSINGER series is Dare to Go A-Hunting (1989), which is packaged with the previous novel, Flight in Yiktor, in the Baen omnibus edition called Moonsinger’s Quest (2013). I’ve been listening to the excellent audiobook editions narrated by Chris Abernathy and published in 2021 by Tantor Media. Dare to Go A-Hunting is a direct sequel to Flight in Yiktor, so you’ll want to read it first (there will be some spoilers for that novel in this review).

At the end of Flight in Yiktor, Farree learned that he (and here’s the spoiler fo... Read More

Flight in Yiktor: Introduces a compelling new protagonist

Flight in Yiktor by Andre Norton

Flight in Yiktor (1986) is the third novel in Andre Norton’s MOONSINGER series. It’s bundled with the fourth novel, Dare to Go A-Hunting, in an omnibus edition titled Moonsinger’s Quest which was published by Baen in 2013 and, in audio format, by Tantor Media in 2021. It’s not necessary to read the first two novels, Moon of Three Rings and Exiles of the Stars, which you can find in the Moonsinger omnibus, also published by Baen and Tantor, but it would be helpful. I’m enjoying Tantor’s audiobook editi... Read More

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished: Another fun Heartstriker story

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (2016) is another fun installment in Rachel Aaron’s HEARTSTRIKERS series about a race of shapeshifters who can take on both human and dragon forms. The main character, Julius, is the youngest member of the powerful Heartstriker dragon clan, which is led by his ruthless mother. Unlike the rest of his family, Julius is a nice guy who, for most of his life, has felt like he doesn’t fit in. His mother, his siblings, and the members of the other dragon clans think Julius is a weakling. He gets absolutely no respect… until recently, when everything has turned around for Julius.

If you haven’t read the first two books, Nice Dragons Finish Last Read More

One Good Dragon Deserves Another: Nice dragon saves the day again

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron

One Good Dragon Deserves Another (2015) is the second book in Rachel Aaron’s self-published HEARTSTRIKERS series. I listened to Audible Studio’s editions of these books with my 19-year-old daughter. We love the story and the performance of Vikas Adam, the narrator. This review will have some spoilers for the previous book, Nice Dragons Finish Last. If you haven’t read it, you should probably stop here and go do that first. Make sure to choose the audio edition!

Julius and Marcy are now business partners in the Detroit Free Zone where, thanks to one of Julius’ siblings, they’ve got a house to live in. They spend their time ridding the city of magical pests.

But the dragon clan drama never stops and soon enough Julius’ ... Read More

Nice Dragons Finish Last: Great setting and characters, impressive plotting

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

Julius Heartstriker is the youngest son of Bethesda Heartstriker, the ambitious, aggressive, and ruthless matriarch of the powerful Heartstriker dragon clan. Bethesda is disappointed in her youngest son. He’s small, weak, nonthreatening and, worst of all, he actually likes humans. He’s just too nice.

To express her displeasure, and to put a fire in Julius’s belly, Bethesda banishes him to the Detroit Free Zone, a place ruled by an ancient spirit named Algonquin. Pretty much anything goes in the DFZ, but one thing that Algonquin won’t tolerate in her realm is dragons. For that reason, Julius is forced to remain in his human form, which is exactly how his mother intends to punish him. She’s giving him one month to prove his worth to his clan. The task he’s been given is to find the missing daughter of a rival dragon clan. If he doesn’t succeed, Bethesda will probably ea... Read More

Exiles of the Stars: Krip and Maelen meet some body snatchers

Exiles of the Stars by Andre Norton

Exiles of the Stars (1971) is the second novel in Andre Norton’s MOONSINGER or MOON MAGIC series and a direct sequel to the first book, Moon of Three Rings (1966). These two novels have been combined into an omnibus edition called Moonsinger which was published in print in 2013 by Baen books and in audio format this year by Tantor Audio. The narrators of the audio edition, Chris Abernathy and Chelsea Stephens, are well-cast. They give an excellent performance. I recommend this edition but, in whatever format you read them, make sure to read Moon of Three Rings first. There will be some spoilers for that novel in this review.
... Read More

Moon of Three Rings: A promising start to the MOONSINGER saga

Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton

Krip Vorlund, an assistant cargo master on a trade ship, is visiting a beast show with some of his crewmates on a frontier planet called Yiktor. There he meets a woman named Maelen who takes care of the little furry creatures that perform in the show. It’s obvious that she controls them, yet they seem more like children than slaves. In fact, when a messenger arrives and tells her that a man is abusing a creature somewhere in the town, she gets angry and goes to intervene.

Krip, concerned about the beautiful young woman’s safety, accompanies Maelen and promptly gets in trouble when he uses an illegal weapon to protect her. Then he finds out that he had actually been unknowingly lured to the beast show by a political faction on Yiktor that wants to get their hands on his off-world weapons. They were forcing Maelen to entice Krip, threatening to out her as a moonsinger if she doesn’t comply. ... Read More

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