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The Big Jump: Another Gem From The Queen Of Space Opera

The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett

Toward the end of 2015, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the so-called “Queen of Space Opera,” Leigh Brackett, I decided to read (and, in several cases, reread) 10 of this great author’s works, both novels and short-story collections. One of Brackett’s books that I did not read at the time, for the simple reason that a reader’s copy was not then in my possession, was her fourth novel out of an eventual 10, an oversight that I was happy to rectify just this week. And I am so glad that I did, as the book in question, The Big Jump, has just revealed itself to me to be still another wonderful creation from this beloved writer.

The Big Jump initially appeared in the February 1953 issue of Space Stories, a short-lived, ... Read More

Fugitive Telemetry: Pitch-perfect narrative voice

Reposting to include new reviews by Skye and Bill.

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Martha Wells continues her popular and highly-acclaimed MURDERBOT DIARIES series with another novella, Fugitive Telemetry (2021), which actually takes place before the only novel in the series so far, Network Effect. (So you could read this one before that novel, but you do need to read books 1-4 first.) At this point in time Murderbot, the introverted and snarky cyborg who is the narrator and the heart of this series, is a fairly new resident on Preservation, a planet outside of the callously capitalistic Corporate Rim. Murderbot is a companion to and protector of Dr. Mensah, one of the few humans Murderbot has gradually learned to... Read More

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction: Of Stark and Crag and Court and Cord

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction edited by Oscar J. Friend & Leo Margulies

For the past five years, all the books that I have read, be they novels or short-story collections, and whether in the field of sci-fi, fantasy or horror, have had one thing in common: The were all written during the period 1900 – 1950; a little self-imposed reading assignment that I have often referred to as Project Pulp. But all good things must come to an end, and to bring this lengthy series of early 20th century genre lit to a close, I have chosen a most fitting anthology, incorporating as it does no fewer than 10 of the greatest authors of that period. The collection is entitled The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction, an apt name considering the hardcover volume’s near-600-page length, and was released in 1954. Compiled by editor and anthologist Leo Margulies and pulp author, anthologist and literary ... Read More

Conan: Blood of the Serpent: Conan is back, Baby!!!

Conan: Blood of the Serpent by S.M. Stirling

To say I was thrilled to discover a new Conan novel is the understatement of my year or maybe even decade. Conan of Cimmeria, barbarian, thief, warrior, outlaw, mercenary, reaver, king, Robert E. Howard’s legendary hero, the one who made him the father of Sword and Sorcery has returned. Conan is back, Baby!

Conan, and REH, not to mention ERB’s Tarzan, are not only what made me into a bookworm, but transformed me into the total fantasy geek I am today. I literally get chills when I read the line “Know ye O’ Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis....”

So, Blood of the Serpent (2022) is a struggle for me to review objectively but, seeing as how Conan s... Read More

House of the Restless Dead and Other Stories: Spelunking

House of the Restless Dead and Other Stories by Hugh B. Cave

In my ongoing quest to read every one of the selections spotlighted in Jones & Newman’s excellent overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books, I have come to the realization that some of those books are a lot harder to obtain than others. Oh, sure, with the search tools available on the Interwebs, pretty much any title is easy to find today, but getting it at a decent price … ah, that can be more problematic. For example, I despair of ever being able to find E. H. Visiak’s Medusa (1929) at a price that I can afford, and ditto for Marjorie Bowen’s The Last Bouquet (1933). All of which brings me to Hugh B. Cave’s  Murgunstrumm and Others, chosen for inclusion by British horro... Read More

Network Effect: Complex connections

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ Murderbot has been gathering enthusiastic fans (which would be certain to have Murderbot hiding behind its opaque armored faceplate), along with multiple Nebula, Hugo and other awards and nominations, as each of the first four novellas in the MURDERBOT DIARIES series has been published over the last three years. In Network Effect (2020), the first full-length novel in this series, Wells is able to explore a more complex plot and to more fully develop Murderbot’s character and its relationships with others.

Murderbot is now with Dr. Mensah and the other Preservation Station characters who Murderbot was protecting in the first book, Read More

The Hourglass Throne: Rune creates his court

The Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards

The Hourglass Throne, published in 2022, is the third book in K.D. Edwards’s THE TAROT SEQUENCE, following the adventures of Atlanteans transplanted to Nantucket Island. This review may contain spoilers for The Last Sun and The Hanged Man, the two previous books. I recommend reading both earlier books; at least read The Last Sun to better understand what is happening here.

Rune St. John was the sole survivor of the raid on Lord Sun’s court more than twenty years ago. His father, Lord Sun, was murdered. Rune was raped, tortured, impoverished, and left bereft of magic due to the loss of his family’s sigils, the items Atlanteans use to store... Read More

The Killing God: Concluding novel is a huge leap up in quality

The Killing God by Stephen R. Donaldson

I was not, to put it mildly, a fan of Seventh Decimate, the opening book of Stephen R. Donaldson’s GREAT GODS WAR trilogy. Book two, The War Within (2022), was an improvement, but marginally. The good news is that book three, The Killing God, is a big jump up, though the obvious bad news is one has to get through the first two to arrive here, begging the question of is it worth the journey? Warning: spoilers for the first two books to follow as I try to answer that question.

The long-awaited invasion of Belleger by the Great God Rile is about to commence. At the point of invasion, Kin... Read More

The Inheritance of Orquídea: A book filled with secrets, magic, and heart

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

2021’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina was practically a perfect book for me. It’s filled with fantastical magic that baffled me and thrilled me, and it brought to mind the early books of Isabel Allende. The Montoya family were complicated and realistic, in a real-world setting that simmers with magic and strangeness. While much of the story takes place in an undesignated “present” that seems very much like now (without pandemics), the history of Orquídea Divina’s life takes us to Ecuador in the late 1950s and early sixties.

Orquídea Divina Montoya appeared in the dried-up town of Four Rivers (the rivers are gone, it seems), with a husband in tow, and magicked up a beautiful house. Over the years, she coaxed the dry valley into lushness, both gardens and orchards, buried four husbands, and raised a bunch of kids and grandkids. Now the... Read More

Echo of a Curse: “A Very Long and Very Strange Story”

Echo of a Curse by R.R. Ryan

xIn several of my earlier musings here on FanLit, I made reference to the list that editor/author Karl Edward Wagner released in the pages of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine back in the summer of ’83; the so-called Wagner 39 List. This overview of KEW’s favorite horror novels, and those that he felt were most in need of being brought to the public’s attention, was divided into three categories: The 13 Best Supernatural Horror Novels, The 13 Best Science-Fiction Horror Novels, and The 13 Best Non-Supernatural Horror Novels. But of all the author names on those lists, both famous (Mary Shelley, Abraham Merritt, John Wyndham, Read More

The October Faction: Volume 2: A Halloween Story

The October Faction: Volume 2 by Steve Niles (writer) and Damien Worm (artist)

The October Faction volume two picks up right where volume one ended, and though there is a third volume in the initial run, there is good closure at the end of volume two compared to volume one, which left us wondering  what happened to Merl Cope, who was killed by Frederick Allan, was buried in their expansive back yard, and rose from the dead to join his sister and mother in their plotting against the Allan family.

The Allan family includes in addition to Frederick, the patriarch of the family: Dolores, the wife and mother; Geoff, the college aged son who is an expert at spells; and Vivian, the daughter who just graduated from high school. Vivian has the ability to see people's futures, and she discovers a new ability at the end of volume two. Dante, who has a robot face, has recently been adopted into the family, and he assists Geoff and Vivian. Finally, Lucas is a werewolf... Read More

The Nectar of Nightmares: Long may Gidney write!

The Nectar of Nightmares by Craig Laurance Gidney

It’s horror season for me, the time of year where I usually settle in with a cozy haunted house story, but sometimes branch out into the region of the genuinely horrifying or the truly weird. Craig Laurance Gidney’s short story collection The Nectar of Nightmares, published in 2022, fits that bill. As with most collections, I loved several, and a few were misses for me. This is even more likely to happen with a horror collection than, say, a fantasy collection. Even when I wasn’t the audience for a tale, though, I admired all of these. When it comes to shaping the weird and the uncanny, few are doing it as well as Gidney does.

Nectar of Nightmares has 14 stories that range from body horror, American gothic (or Lovecraftian), weird tales, erotic h... Read More

The Ink Black Heart: A compelling addition to the series

The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Detective duo, Strike and Robin, are back for the sixth instalment of the CORMORAN STRIKE series, and they've got their work cut out for them. They're presented with a case unlike any they've come across before and what ensues is a twisting mystery that might just be the best book of the series so far.

When Edie Ledwell enters the office of the detective agency, Robin Ellacott doesn't know what to make of her. She's disheveled, panicked and, when she asks the agency to investigate the online abuse she's been receiving, Robin has to turn her down: the don't have the resources to solve a case like this and they've never taken on anything like it before.

But days later Edie is found dead. She is the co-creator of a YouTube phenomenon, the eponymous Ink Black Heart, which fans created a corresponding computer game for, and Strike and Robin must try ... Read More

What Lives in the Woods: A mysterious MG haunted house story

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Ginny — or Gin — Anderson is looking forward to the summer writing workshop she’s going to attend with her best friend Erica, in their hometown of Chicago, until Dad upends the family’s plans because of a job. He’d going to restore a century-old house-turned-hotel, The Woodmoor Manor, in Michigan. The family will live there while he works.

This sounds terrible to Gin and her older brother Leo. While Leo is soon appeased by the news that Saugatuck, the nearby small town, has a public basketball court, Gin will not give in so easily. Her resentment turns to dread as soon as they enter the neglected old manor, triggered by the quiet ticking of a clock somewhere in the house. Except, no one else hears it, and Gin doesn’t find a clock anywhere in the place. Her room is lovely, but she is immediately spooked by a voice coming out of the air, whispering her name. That turns o... Read More

The October Faction (Volume one): A horror comic about a monster-hunting family

The October Faction (Volume one) by by Steve Niles (writer) and Damien Worm (art)

The October Faction is a family affair. Meet the Allans: goth girl and daughter Vivian who has just graduated from high school; Geoff, the son who is college-age but not in college; Frederick, the professor-husband and father and former monster hunter; and Deloris, the absentee and seemingly unfaithful wife and mother who used to assist her husband. Frederick ends his lecture on monsters and meets with an old friend, Lucas, with whom he used to fight monsters, and he warns Frederick that Deloris seems to be up to something suspicious, and from what we can tell at the end of issue one, he is correct. Meanwhile, Geoff surprises Vivian with news of a successful occult experiment. Issue one also introduces us to one of the real strengths of the series: The art. Damien Worm’s art is sketchy and distorted with dark colors. It’s often difficult to make out backgrounds and the art is mysterious... Read More

Abe Sapien (Volume 4): The Shape of Things to Come: Abe Sapien continues his journey across the United States

Abe Sapien (volume 4): The Shape of Things to Come by Mike Mignola (writer), Scott Allie (writer), Sebastian Fiumara (art), and Max Fiumara (art), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

This volume consists of two stories: “The Shape of Things to Come” and “To the Last Man.” In the first story, we find ourselves in Arizona, outside of a militia-run Phoenix. Abe meets another group of people and is surprised to find himself welcomed and fed by them. They discuss old stories and myths and contemplate what role Abe may play in the continuing apocalyptic events. Though nothing is decided, we do get to hear old tales of magic, monsters, and changes that come to the world throughout time. Some of the stories are those of the Aztecs. They are good stories, and that’s key to this first comic since it’s low on action and based on dialogue, though we do get one action scene with monsters at the very end. Meanwhile, one of the former ... Read More

Dark Sanctuary: Thanks, Karl!

Dark Sanctuary by H.B. Gregory

A very happy day it was for me – but a very unfortunate day for my bank account – when I first discovered the website for Ramble House books. Specializing in impossibly obscure sci-fi, horror, mystery and “weird menace” titles from the first half of the 20th century, the publisher has an overwhelming catalog of reasonably priced volumes that will surely make any fan of those genres salivate; books, for the most part, that are available nowhere else. I have already written here of Greye La Spina’s wonderful horror novel Invaders From the Dark (1925), only available from Ramble House, and now would like to tell you of a book that I recently read from the company’s Dancing Tuatara Press imprint that is even more of a rarity. The b... Read More

Ithaca: An engrossing story

Ithaca by Claire North

Ithaca (2022), by Claire North, is another in a recent spate line of Greek myth retellings, with the source material here being The Odyssey and the House of Atreus storyline (Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Electra, Orestes). North greatly narrows the focus here in setting, time, and plot, lasering in what was happening at the periphery or in the gaps of those epic tales, giving voice especially though not solely to the women on the edges of those stories. It’s a wonderfully voiced, thoughtful reimagining story and a strong entry point into a new series.

That fantastically wry and sharp voice belongs to Hera, who narrates the book from her godly perch, able to see all and transport herself wherever necessary. The bite in her voice makes itself known immediately, as when she describes Ithaca as “a thoroughly backwards wretched place” and labels Athena a “priggish little mad... Read More

Turnabout: The ol’ switcheroo

Turnabout by Thorne Smith 

It has been a good number of years since I last read Thorne Smith’s ribald fantasy classic entitled The Night Life of the Gods (1931), but I can still recall how thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious the book was for me. In this wonderful romp, a NYC-based scientist, Hunter Hawk, invents a device that can turn people to stone. He soon meets Megaera, one of the Little People, who has the converse ability to turn statues into living people, and the two later manage to bring all the stone effigies of the ancient Roman gods at the Metropolitan Museum to life, with increasingly madcap results. The book was chosen for inclusion in Cawthorn & Moorcock’s excellent overview volume Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and deserve...

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

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

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 sh... Read More

The Liminal War: Why isn’t this series adapted for streaming already?

The Liminal War by Ayize Jama-Everett

The third book in Ayize Jama-Everett’s LIMINAL PEOPLE series, 2015’s The Liminal War returns us to the near future and the world of Liminal healer Taggert, his daughter Tamara and the daughter of his heart, Prentis. Prentis is the orphaned Liminal young woman who communicates with animals. We met her in the Book One; as Book Three opens, Tamara, a powerful telepath and telekinetic, starts a firestorm of fear and anger with her realization that Prentis has been kidnapped and is nowhere on their earth.

At least, nowhere in their now. In practically no time, Taggert is reluctantly talking with the enigmatic Alter Nayarana and a weird DJ who goes by Jah Puba, but also Mico, and planning a trip back in time to 1971, where there may be a trace of Prentis. Taggert is al... Read More

Leviathan Wakes: Action-packed space opera that transcends the genre

Reposting to include Justin's new review.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

FORMAT/INFO: Leviathan Wakes is 592 pages long divided over a Prologue, 55 chapters and an Epilogue. Extras include an interview with the author and an extract from Caliban’s War, the second book in The Expanse series. Narration is in the third person, alternating between Executive Officer James Holden and Detective Miller, except for the Prologue (Julie) and Epilogue (Fred). Leviathan Wakes is mostly self-contained, coming to a satisfying stopping point, but the book is the opening volume in The Expanse series. June 2, 2011/June 15, 2011 marks the UK/North American Trade P... Read More

The Entropy of Bones: The extraordinary origin of an extraordinary Liminal

The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett

When we meet Chabi, the protagonist of 2015’s The Entropy of Bones, she is running the sixty miles from Sausalito, CA, to Napa, CA. She plans to grab a meal and run back. This is our first clue that Chabi isn’t average… and it’s not our last. Chabi doesn’t speak, although she certainly has a voice. Her physical abilities are astounding. Her martial arts teacher is a strange, dangerous man, Narayana, who lives on a ship near Chabi’s mother’s houseboat.

On her semi-regular run this day, she stumbles into a marijuana grow and makes the uncomfortable acquaintance of a pair of brothers and the adult son of one of them. The family originally grew grapes, but a strange fungus is overtaking the vines, so they switched to premium marijuana. Chabi, who finds an odd peace when she’s around the fungus-swamped vines, agrees to provide some patch security for t... Read More

Locklands: Concludes one of the best series of the last decade

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett

In Locklands, Robert Jackson Bennett closes out his FOUNDERS TRILOGY in epic style, raising the stakes to literally “all of creation” and upping his characters’ (some of them) power levels to god-like heights, all while managing to keep the story grounded in the personal thanks to Jackson’s typically sharp characterization. Being the concluding novel, two things should be obvious: one, you need to have read the prior ones and two, there will be inevitable spoilers for those prior books.

Eight years have passed since the events of Shorefall, and they haven’t been good ones for our characters. The sort of collective-AI intelligence Tevanne, thanks to its forcible “twinning... Read More

Into the Narrowdark: Wonderfully immersive and rewarding

Into the Narrowdark by Tad Williams

Into the Narrowdark is the concluding volume to Tad Williams’ epic THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD series, and it … Hold on. Scratch that. Apparently, Williams and his publishers have decided to split the concluding work into two books. So readers will have to wait a bit longer for that conclusion, though at least they’ll have a short novel to read instead of … Wait a minute. OK, never mind on the brevity. Turns out Into the Narrowdark is still 600+ pages, despite only being half of a final book. Thankfully, though, splitting the book means a streamlined plot and far fewer character, making it … One moment here. All right, actually the plot remains a complicated tapestry, and the list of characters at the back runs for nearly two dozen pages. But Into the Narrowdark Read More