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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

The Light in the Sky: Aztec Two-Step

The Light in the Sky by Herbert Clock & Eric Boetzel

In H. Rider Haggard’s 16th novel, the epic blockbuster Montezuma’s Daughter (1893), the reader is introduced to a young man named Thomas Wingfield, a European (half English, half Spanish) who is captured by the ancient Aztecs in the New World of the 16th century. Wingfield eventually becomes something of a living god among them, marries the titular Otomie, and witnesses the arrival and eventual conquest of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. It is a truly wonderful piece of historical fiction, with minimal fantastic content. But 36 years later, another book would be released with many of the same plot points mentioned above, but updated to a modern setting, and with the fantasy elements very much in the fore... 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

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 first.

The stories are:
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The Candy House: A not-so-futuristic future

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

What is most frightening about the imagined conscious-sharing technology in The Candy House (2022) is that it's not so far off from our own reality. 'Own Your Unconscious' is a futuristic cube that allows users to access and share every memory they've ever had, alongside the thoughts and feelings that go with them. Parents can access the minds of their children, lovers, their partners' – siblings, students, colleagues – you name it. And because it's possible to upload your memories for public access, it's also possible to locate people through others' memories. That person you met at a bar for one night in your twenties? Through the collective memory of 'Own Your Unconscious,' you can trace them. This is the heady premise on which Jennifer Egan's companion novel to the Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) is based.
... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 7): A Cold Day In Hell: The apocalypse is here

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (volume 7): A Cold Day in Hell by by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Peter Snejbjerg (art), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

In this seventh volume, Kraus leads a B.P.R.D. crew to Chicago. Unfortunately, on the way there, their air transport is taken down when they are attacked by a giant monster. Once they are grounded, they are attacked by smaller monsters that we’ve seen in previous volumes. These monsters are smaller than the giant monster that attacked them in the helicopter, but these are still large, several sizes larger than an elephant even. They defend themselves, killing a few creatures, but then they have to head out on foot the rest of the way to Chicago. Not far into their journey, they find horses and continue on horseback. Kraus narrates the journey for us, but they don’t reach their destination until the third issue in the collection.
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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

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

The City of Wonder: Location, location, location?

The City of Wonder by E. Charles Vivian

Just recently, this reader had some words to say about a lost-race novel written by an Englishman; no, not H. Rider Haggard, the Norfolk-born writer who would go on to become “The Father of the Lost-Race Novel,” but rather Victor Rousseau, who had impressed me with his 1916 offering The Sea Demons. Well, now I am here to tell you of another lost-race affair, written some six years later by still another Englishman. The book in question this time is called The City of Wonder and was written by one E. Charles Vivian. A more impressively penned novel than Rousseau’s, the book combines the standard lost-world/... 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

The House on Stilts: Of Hazard and Haggard

The House on Stilts by R.H. Hazard

Good news for all fans of Haggardian-type fiction is the recent release of 12 more obscure titles, resurrected from oblivion by those fine folks at Armchair Fiction for their ongoing Lost World/Lost Race series, which now stands at 42 volumes. Spanning the period 1898 - 1951, these dozen books should surely be of interest to all enthusiasts of this wonderful genre, especially since most of them have been out of print for many decades. First up for this reader was the curiously titled affair The House on Stilts, by an author named R.H. Hazard. And if you have not yet run across the name of either this novel or its author, that is to be well understood and even expected, as will be seen.

The House on Stilts was originally released as a five-part serial in the April - August 1910 issues of People’s Ideal Fiction Magazine... Read More

This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey Into Reality

This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey Into Reality by Michael Dine 

This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey Into Reality (2022) is Michael Dine’s worthy contribution to the popular physics/cosmology bookshelf, though readers may have to work a little harder at this one than similar books. That extra work is worth it, though, for this up-to-date and engaging exploration of modern science.

Dine moves between the very large and very small, covering particle theory, quantum theory, the Standard Model, dark energy and dark matter, gravity waves, the expansion of the universe, time’s arrow, Einstein’s various theories, the Big Bang, black holes, the Higgs Boson, string theory, and more. It’s about as comprehensive a book as one could want. And for the most part as lucid as one would want, as well. Though, as noted, not quite as eas... Read More

Dark and Magical Places: The Neuroscience of Navigation: You won’t get lost

Dark and Magical Places: The Neuroscience of Navigation by Christopher Kemp

Once, driving with a friend from Rochester to New Orleans, I woke for my turn at the wheel to have my friend excitedly tell me we’d been making great time, as we were “less than an hour from Philadelphia.” Considering when we had left home, it was indeed “great time,” I told him. Unfortunately, I also had to tell him that Philadelphia was not even close to on the way to New Orleans, and that he’d been speeding in the wrong direction for the last few hours. Similarly, on another trip down south, I woke up to my wife very proudly informing me we were just coming into the city limits. Which would have been wonderful news, save for the minor detail that the city was Louisville, and we were going to Lexington.

I learned two things from these (and multiple other similar situations either driving or hiking). One, don’t ever... Read More

Cytonic: A detour into an unknown dimension

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Humanity has been on the losing end of a centuries-long war with the Superiority, the main organization of galactic races, for decades, trapped on a desolate planet called Detritus and fighting an ongoing war using outdated, small spacecraft to keep from being exterminated. In the second book in this series, Starsight, Spensa Nightshade, a young spaceship pilot who first distinguished herself in Skyward, found a way to leave Detritus and travel to Starsight, a massive alien space station where the galactic government is located. Spensa joined the alien space pilot training program at Starsight while spying on the Superiority to try to find a way for humanity to better fight their captors. She also discovered the hyperjumping capabilities of her... Read More

The Hidden Palace: Double the golems and jinnis

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

In The Hidden Palace (2021) Helene Wecker returns to the richly-imagined world of The Golem and the Jinni, fin de siècle New York City, focusing on the Jewish and Syrian immigrant communities. Chava, an intelligent golem created by an evil-hearted genius, was set free by the unexpected death of her intended husband and master, left with the ability to hear the thoughts of all humans instead of just her master. The jinni Ahmad is released from the bottle that imprisoned him, but he is bound to tangible human form with no discernable way to remove the curse. Despite their opposite natures of earth and fire, golem and jinni are drawn together in a world where neither fits in, and both are hiding their true natures from t... 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

Tales of the Greatcoats Vol. 1: A fond return to a warmly remembered world

Tales of the Greatcoats Volume 1 by Sebastian De Castell

“So I’m only in one of these nine Greatcoats stories?” Brasti asked, pausing his work.

“Yes,” De Castell replied. “Though to—”

“But Kest gets two?”

“The man knows talent when he sees it,” Kest said, skimming through the pages of Tales of the Greatcoats. “I especially like how you have me win a duel without actually fighting the duel. And … Hold on, I’m in only two?”

Brasti snorted. “The man knows talent.” He sighed. “I suppose Falcio is in all of ‘em.”

Falcio looked up from staring at the newborn daughter he cradled in his arms. “And deservedly so, given that—”

“Actually,” De Castell interrupted gently. “Falcio is also just in ... Read More

Foundation: Season One: A mixed bag, but generally good

Foundation: Season One on Apple TV+

In my first review of Apple TV’s Foundation series, written after the first two shows, I said it wasn’t “great” TV (at least not yet) but ranged consistently between good and very good. Having just finished all ten episodes of season one, I’d broaden that range from “occasionally annoying to occasionally great.” In other words, it’s a mixed bag, which I suppose shouldn’t be much of a surprise for a series that mostly follows three plot strands, has multi-decade time jumps, and is itself based on a series of loosely connected short stories that were later retconned into a larger universal narrative. I’ll send you to my earlier review for the plot summation. Here, I’ll assume you know the basic plot. I will look at the three narrative strands separately, then consider the series as a whole. Some spoilers for various episodes to fo... Read More

Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Roar of Sky by Beth Cato

Beth Cato concludes her BLOOD OF EARTH trilogy with Roar of Sky (2018), bringing the story of clandestine geomancer Ingrid Carmichael, which began in Breath of Earth and continued in Call of Fire, to an action-packed close. This review will contain some spoilers for events in previous books, so proceed with caution.

Badly wounded and permanently debilitated after her desperate fight in Seattle against Ambassador Blum, Ingrid and her friends Cy Jennings and Fenris Braun flee to Hawaii aboard the Palmetto Bug, a small airshi... Read More

Absynthe: Read it with the titular drink in hand for some extra fun

Absynthe by Brendan P. Bellecourt

Absynthe (2021) is the new novel by Brendan P. Bellecourt, the pen name of Bradley Beaulieu, author of the excellent SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS series. Talk about a change. Beaulieu leaves the desert far behind to head for the big noisy city in a complex Jazz Age/Psi-powers tale set in an alt-history US.

A decade ago America fought the Great War with the St. Lawrence Pact made up of Great Britain, Canada, France, and Germany. Liam Mulcahey is a veteran of that war, now working as a mechanic in Chicago, hanging out with his best friend and employer’s son Morgan, and taking care of his grandmother Nana. When he and Morgan attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a new train and overseen by the current President, Leland De Pere (Liam’s former commander), violence ... Read More

First He Died: No Excedrin needed

First He Died by Clifford D. Simak

As I think I may have mentioned elsewhere, stories about time travel can sometimes give me a headache right between the eyes. And really, who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, come close to getting a major-league migraine when trying to suss out the temporal conundrums inherent in many of these tales? Fortunately for me — and my head — the novel that I have just experienced is one that does indeed feature time travel in its story line, but that lays out its complexities in a manner that leaves the reader blissfully headache free. The book in question is Clifford D. Simak’s second novel, First He Died; an early and surprisingly superior outing from the beloved future Grand Master.

First He Died has a somewha... 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

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others: Three stories of regular B.R.P.D. agents facing the supernatural

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (Volume 5): The Pickens County Horror and Others by Mike Mignola (writer), Scott Allie (writer), Jason Latour (art), Max Fiumara (art), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)

This volume collects three stories: “The Pickens County Horror,” “The Transformation of J. H. O’Donnell,” and “The Abyss of Time.” Liz is still missing and Abe Sapien is near death, so there are more regular B.P.R.D. recruits being sent out alone to deal with reports of the unnatural. That’s when two agents get called to Pickens County, a place that seems to be inhabited by vampires and perhaps other creatures. One of the agents, Vaughan, tells his partner about the time he went out on a mission with Hellboy and nothing happened. They are beginning to think this is another case with nothing to show. As they explore the countryside they discuss the tragedies occurring throughout the world as hell on earth seems... Read More

The Green Man Returns: Numar gets serious

The Green Man Returns by Harold M. Sherman

Near the conclusion of Harold M. Sherman’s 1946 novel The Green Man, the eponymous Numar, visitor to Earth from the far-distant planet Talamaya, makes some startling predictions in a speech to the world from Chicago’s Soldier Field. Among other things, the green-skinned space wanderer tells mankind that a Great Light that will one day arise in the East will usher in a new age of spiritual enlightenment and “a new harmony of being with all things.” He also tells the book’s scatterbrained leading lady, Betty Bracken, immediately before his departure, “Perhaps we shall all meet again, somewhere.” Well, although the passage of several decades would be required, Numar, as it turns out, is as good as his word, as ... Read More