Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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The Death of Jane Lawrence: This one just wasn’t for me

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Caitlin Starling’s 2022 novel The Death of Jane Lawrence got enthusiastic critical reviews and was nominated for a Stoker Award, so clearly people loved it. In spite of an interesting premise, the book was a disconnect for me. Your mileage may vary.

Jane Shoringfield is an orphan raised by a kind couple after her parents were killed in a war. She is impoverished, and no longer willing to be a drain on the resources of her guardians, she decides to arrange a marriage.


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The Last Song of Penelope: A powerfully tense and moving conclusion

The Last Song of Penelope by Claire North

Amongst the slew of modern myth retellings the last few years (so many the NY Times recently wrote an article on the number “flooding bookstores”), one of the strongest has been THE SONGS OF PENELOPE by Claire North. The first two, Ithaca and House of Odysseus, were excellent, and North maintains that high standard with the just-released The Last Song of Penelope (2024),


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Camp Damascus: Demonic possession meets summer camp horror

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle 

Camp Damascus (2023) starts off as a demonic thriller and ends up as a plucky-kids-fight-humancentric-evil story, in Chuck Tingle’s first non-erotica novel. The author, who had a large audience on X/Twitter, came to the attention of many of us during the 2016 Hugo awards (all scandals aside, don’t say the Hugos never did anything nice for us). Previously known for men/men (or in some cases, men/dinosaur) erotica online, with Camp Damascus Tingle successfully makes the jump to horror,


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The Land of the Changing Sun: Underground morons

The Land of the Changing Sun by Will N. Harben

Released seven years after English author H. Rider Haggard sensationally jump-started the “lost world” craze in fiction with his seminal novels King Solomon’s Mines (1885), She (1887) and Allan Quatermain (also 1887), American author Will N. Harben’s only contribution to the genre, The Land of the Changing Sun, is a decidedly second-rate affair that yet manages to somehow entertain.


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The Ecolitan Enigma: An entertaining and thoughtful conclusion

The Ecolitan Enigma by L.E. Modesitt Jr

The Ecolitan Enigma (1997) closes out L.E. Modesitt Jr’s four-book ECOLITAN MATTER series. It’s a direct sequel to The Ecologic Envoy which was published in 1986, so you need to read that book first. The other two books in the series, The Ecolitan Operation (1989) and The Ecologic Secession (1990), take place 400 years earlier with different (but related) characters,


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Becoming Earth: How Our Planet Came to Life

Becoming Earth: How Our Planet Came to Life by Ferris Jabr

Ferris Jabr’s Becoming Earth: How Our Planet Came to Life is an excellent work of science journalism that takes a pretty common topic in popular science — the history of our planet — but explores it through a relatively unique prism: how living creatures have been “a formidable geological force,” both shaped by and shaping the planet as we currently know it. Jabr’s clear description of Earth’s transformation over eons would have been enough to make this book worth reading,


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WWWednesday: July 3, 2024

Even the Wall Street Journal is weighing in on “romantasy.” (Thanks to Kat for this link.)

Reactor shared a short story from Nisa Shawl’s Everfair universe.

“Fantasy science for the win.” Judith Tarr writes columns on various topics for Reactor, including movie reviews. Here is her slightly acerbic take on 13th Child.

For Harlan Ellison fans everywhere, File770 has published the Table of Contents for the upcoming anthology The Last Dangerous Visions.

Harry Potter author J.K.


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A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder: Antarctic bizarros

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille

As I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere, British author H. Rider Haggard‘s back-to-back-to-back releases of King Solomon’s Mines, She, and Allan Quatermain from 1885 – 1887 served as a sort of triple shock wave on the worldwide literary community. From that point and for the next half a century, scores of imitators would come out with hundreds of works that attempted to emulate the so-called “Father of the Lost-Word Novel,” and with varying degrees of success.


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My Darling Dreadful Thing: I bought the romance in this gothic horror love story

My Darling Dreadful Thing by Johanna Van Veen

Johanna Van Veen’s My Darling, Dreadful Thing (2024) is a gothic horror love story set in the 1950’s Netherlands. Lush descriptions and an original, creepy take on spirit companions made this story a seductive, engaging read.

Roos Beckman has had a spiritual companion named Ruth since she was a little girl, when she was first pressed into service by the woman she calls Mama to help fake seances. Crouched in a cubby under the floorboards, Roos pulled ropes and pushed levers to create the effects of spiritual visitation.


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Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker (An Oxford College Student Review!)

In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Javier Davis.

Javier Davis is a first-year student at Oxford College and is considering majoring in Business.


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Grail: A creative conclusion

Grail by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s Grail (2011) concludes her JACOB’S LADDER trilogy. You’ll first want to read Dust and Chill which describe the generational ship called Jacob’s Ladder and introduce us to the ship’s strange denizens which include the ruling Conn family, various genetically engineered post-human species, and the ship’s fractured god-like AI.

Jacob’s Ladder has finally reached its destination, the planet they call Grail,


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Nick and the Glimmung: Likeable city!

Nick and the Glimmung by Philip K. Dick

In his 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer, cult author Philip K. Dick introduced his readers to a character named Glimmung: a semidivine being who calls ceramic repairman Joe Fernwright, among others, to Plowman’s Planet (aka Sirius 5) to help raise a sunken cathedral from the oceanic depths. Confusingly described by Dick as weighing 40,000 tons and, later, 80,000 tons, Glimmung was yet a truly fascinating creation. But as it turns out,


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WWWednesday: June 26. 2024

Orphan Black; Echoes premiered last Sunday. The Daily Beast liked it a lotVariety, not so much. My personal observations, from the most superficial to the relatively less superficial, are: 1) Krystin Ritter is so skinny it’s distracting; 2) what the heck is a 4D printer, and 3) can they convince me the woman scientist is who they say she is?

Yahoo news shares some tidbits and interviews about the new clone show.

Neon Hemlock has a cover reveal for their We’re Here 2023 anthology.


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Cunning Folk: Life in the Era of Practical Magic

Cunning Folk: Life in the Era of Practical Magic by Tabitah Stanmore 

Cunning Folk: Life in the Era of Practical Magic by Tabitah Stanmore, is a deeply researched exploration of a particular sort of magic in the medieval/early modern era. Full of illustrative anecdotes mostly from primary sources (particularly court cases), Stanmore does an excellent job in showing how “Our focus on witches and the sensationalism of witch trials makes us forget that there was a whole host of magical practitioners … not every person who practiced magic was a witch.” The specific cases are often fascinating,


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So Bright The Vision: Brownies and milk

So Bright The Vision by Clifford D. Simak

I have been on something of a kick this past year as regards Clifford D. Simak and his shorter fiction of the 1950s. All the Traps of Earth (1962), The Worlds of Clifford Simak (1961) and Other Worlds of Clifford Simak (1962) had all proved to be truly wonderful – or perhaps I should say “wonder-filled” – collections,


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Upgrade: Flip this genome

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

I chose Blake Crouch’s 2022 novel Upgrade out of curiosity because I’d never read anything of his. He is a popular author whose books are everywhere, and he writes thrillers, usually with a speculative-fiction flavor. I’d heard of him years ago when Fox TV made a show based on his WAYWARD trilogy, and the one or two episodes I saw (Season 1) had a nifty, paranoid, who-can-you-trust vibe. Upgrade shares that vibe.

My plot synopsis may contain mild spoilers.


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How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying: If at first you don’t succeed, change sides

How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying by Django Wexler

I’ll admit I got Wexler’s 2024 fantasy novel, first in the DARK LORD DAVI series, mostly because of the title, How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying. I couldn’t help noticing that blurbs and reviews both take delight in describing this book as funny and raunchy. I don’t see “raunchy” as a description that much anymore—in this case it is accurate. Davi, our first-person narrator,


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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: Sandy reviews 23 U.N.C.L.E. novels

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Perhaps you would have to be a baby boomer to fully understand just how big a deal The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was back in the mid to late 1960s. Riding the crest of the spy-wave mania created by the seismic shock that were the James Bond films starting in 1962, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted on NBC TV in September 1964 and ran for four seasons; well, actually, 3 ½, that final season having the plug pulled on it after just 16 episodes.


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The Brides of High Hill: A well-crafted tale

The Brides of High Hill by Nghi Vo

The Brides of High Hill (2024) is the fifth installment in Nghi Vo’s SINGING HILLS series of novellas. I found it a solid enough of a story if a bit slight, though it’s possible that if, unlike me, you’ve read the others you might have a more positive response.

Cleric Chih is accompanying a young bride, Nhung, and her parents to the estate of Lord Guo, where Nhung is to be wed to her wealthy but far older husband-to-be.


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Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (An Oxford College Student Review!)

In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Damien Cavallo.

Damien Cavallo is a first-year student at Oxford College who is currently studying political science.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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