There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

Clan Rathskeller by Kevin Hearne “Clan Rathskeller” by Kevin Hearne short fiction book reviews“Clan Rathskeller” by Kevin Hearne (2010, available at Kevin Hearne’s blog, audio available)

“Clan Rathskeller” is one of Kevin Hearne’s short stories set in his IRON DRUID CHRONICLES world. This one takes place before the events of the first book, Hounded. Atticus, the last druid, and his Irish Wolfhound Oberon, are in Tempe Arizona, trying to lay low and avoid the attention of any ancient gods. But then they notice some gnomes disguised as Santa’s elves and they end up getting involved in their fight against an evil creature who stole something from them.

All of Hearne’s IRON DRUID stories are entertaining. Atticus and Oberon make a great team. Oberon, the bacon-loving movie-watching wolfhound, is surely one of the best sidekicks in all of fantasy literature. I always pick up these stories in audio format because Luke Daniels, who narrates the series, is spectacular.

“Clan Rathskeller” makes a great introduction to the series. You can find it in print format at Kevin Hearne’s website (this link downloads a free pdf). I got a free promotional audio version from Penguin Random House a couple years ago and it’s no longer available there. Sorry about that. ~Kat Hooper

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews“Firstborn” Brandon Sanderson short fiction reviews“Firstborn” by Brandon Sanderson (2008, available free at

This Brandon Sanderson novelette is a space opera tale, full of spaceship battles and imperial galactic empires. Dennison, the younger son of a nobleman, feels completely overshadowed by his older brother, High Admiral Varion, the greatest military genius the empire has ever known. Dennison, unlike his older brother, is a complete failure at military command. Dennison really doesn’t want to keep trying to overcome his ineptness and the shadow of his brother’s greatness any longer, and he’s fighting against his father’s and the emperor’s insistence that he continue striving to become a capable military commander. He simply cannot understand why they are so stubborn about not letting him try a different profession.

I’m a fan of Sanderson’s work, but “Firstborn” is his first published story, and it shows. My biggest complaint with it is that Dennison and Varion are both drawn too much in shades of black and white: Dennison simply can’t win and Varion can’t lose. But the whole story is built on this premise, and because of its flimsiness, the ending seems a little amateurish and facile. However, it’s still an enjoyable read, especially if you like space opera SF, and there are more than a few glimpses of Sanderson’s future greatness as an author. ~Tadiana Jones

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews“In the Vault” H.P. Lovecraft“In the Vault” by H.P. Lovecraft (1925, available free online)

Set in the year 1881, this short story by H.P. Lovecraft tells of a terrible night spent by George Birch, an undertaker and gravedigger in a small Yankee village, with little sense of imagination and less sense of morals. The coffins he builds for the village dead tend to be flimsy, carelessly built affairs. It had been a bitterly cold winter, and by the time spring rolls around and they are able to dig graves again, there are eight flimsy coffins waiting in the receiving tomb of the local cemetery. Birch goes into the tomb, the door blows shut, and he finds he has been accidentally locked in the tomb, far from anyone who might overhear him. The door is too solid to break through, but over the door is a transom with some bricks that look like they could be loosened to make a hole big enough to crawl through – if he can just get up there. And there are the eight rickety coffins containing long-dead villagers. What’s a guy to do?

Maybe — just maybe — he should have had a little more respect for the dead.

I’m not much of a fan of the horror genre (it tends to freak me out a little) but I am a fan of short stories. I’m also no connoisseur of Lovecraft, but “In the Vault” didn’t seem like a very Lovecraftian story, even though it’s definitely in the horror genre. It’s a little more down to earth than his other works that I’ve read, and has a morbid sense of humor. If you enjoy dark humor with a supernatural bent, this story is worth your time. ~Tadiana Jones


  • 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.

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  • Tadiana Jones

    TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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