1/27/23; 12:50pm CST
I normally like to read a book before its film or TV adaptation, but I watched the first couple of episodes of the Prime series first, then stopped to read William Gibson's The Peripheral, which I liked but also have some reservations about.
1/22/23; 12:30pm CST
Annalee Newitz'a third novel, The Terraformers, comes out at the end of the month, but I received an advance ebook from Edelweiss. It is a good example of the necessity of employing the "suspension of disbelief." Many of the events and characters may seem preposterous, but considering the timeframe involved the reader should be able to understand and accept them.
The Hallowed Hunt
1/15/23; 4:30pm CST
The Hallowed Hunt is the third novel in Lois McMaster Bujold's World of the Five Gods series, or the first since it is a prequel to the other two. At this time I'm thinking I like it best, but a re-read might change that opinion, but who knows when that might happen.
Beauty by Robin McKinley
1/6/23; 1:50pm CST
Robin McKinley is the most recent honoree for SFWA's Grand Master Award. I'm sure I had not read her before, so decided to start with her first novel, Beauty, which is also the first of three Folktales.
More Wayward Children
1/1/23; 6:10pm CST
New Year, new review. This time I talk about four different stories, two novellas, one novelette, one short story, all the latest in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series, the last of which may be my favorite among all ten so far.
Happy New Year
1/1/23; 6:00pm CST
The best of wishes for a better new year. My review count went down last year, but I'm still satisfied since I enjoyed most of the books and the shows and movies I saw. Again I'm not setting any goals for 2023, that way I won't be disappointed if I don't fulfill them. I'll leave last year's updates here for a while, but will eventually move them to the Archives page. First review of the year coming up soon.
One Book, One TV Show, Same Story
12/27/22; 6:10pm CST
Today's update includes two different reviews, but the same story; Octavia E. Butler's novel Kindred, and the first season of its TV adaptation, which is an FX on Hulu exclusive.
The Urth of the New Sun
12/21/22; 10:00am CST
Five years after New Sun concluded Wolfe wrote an afterword, or in essence the point of the entire series. The final book is The Urth of the New Sun. Even if you've read the previous sections of the review you might want to scroll up to the top of the page and read it all again, since I have made some edits. And I wouldn't doubt I'll edit it again in the future.
The Citadel of the Autarch
12/11/22; 4:00pm CST
The Book of the New Sun ends (but not really) with The Citadel of the Autarch. Severian talks about a task ahead of him, but it took another five years for Wolfe to complete that book, which I am re-reading now.
The Sword of the Lictor
12/4/22; 3:30pm CST
Continuing with Gene Wolfe's New Sun series, the third novel is The Sword of the Lictor. Still fascinating, but also still puzzling about a number of things.
The Claw of the Conciliator + The Castle of the Otter
11/30/22; 4:15pm CST
The second book in the New Sun series is The Claw of the Conciliator, but the update today starts with discussion of the essay collection The Castle of the Otter.
The Shadow of the Torturer
11/25/22; 2:20pm CST
Among the first pages when the site went live in 2000 was a profile article on Gene Wolfe. In it I devoted several paragraphs to The Book of the New Sun, but now I've started a re-read, and created a new page - New Sun - with comments only for the first book so far. I will update that page as I finish each book.
11/19/22; 12:20pm CST
Some scholars consider Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to be the first true SF novel. Not sure I agree with that, but it is a seminal work worthy of study. Just not one most modern readers would enjoy.
The World We Make
11/15/22; 1:10pm CST
What I thought was going to be a trilogy turned out just a duology. N. K. Jemisin's The World We Make completes the Great Cities series in dynamic fashion. Highly recommended.
Even Though I Knew The End
11/11/22; 1:10pm CST
Even Though I Knew The End by C. L. Polk is a detective noir set in 1941 Chicago, with supernatural elements, and a beautiful romance. I hope they write more stories about these remarkable characters. Highly recommended.
Into the Riverlands
11/10/22; 12:10pm CST
The third entry in Nghi Vo's Singing Hills series is the shortest, but it is still full of insight as to this world's customs and traditions. Into the Riverlands sees Cleric Chih traveling along the Huan River, where they meet several colorful characters, and get into, and out of, some dangerous trouble.
11/9/22; 4:20pm CST
Totalitopia by John Crowley is another in the Outspoken Author series from PM Press. Short, but oh so fruitful in ideas and speculation, both the fiction and non-fiction. Recommended.
11/6/22; 5:00pm CST
Red Unicorn by Weston Ochse shares a few plot elements with his previous Bone Chase, but they are not directly connected. It's a fast-paced combo of action/adventure with a supernatural horror overtone. Violent at times, even occasionally repellent, but exciting from beginning to end.
11/1/22; 12:35pm CDT
John Crowley's fourth novel won World Fantasy and Mythopoeic awards, and was finalist for many others. Little, Big is a beautiful, lyrically told tale of magic and wonder among multiple generations of an eccentric family. It's not all neat and tidy, there are many diversions and frustrations within, but I still recommend it.
Otherwise, the first three novels by John Crowley
10/21/22; 6:35pm CDT
John Crowley's first three novels were published separately, later collected in the omnibus Otherwise. It is not a trilogy, each are standalones. The individual titles are The Deep, Beasts, and Engine Summer. All are short, all are good, with Beasts probably the most accessible for most readers.
10/12/22; 4:00pm CDT
A few brief words about Memory's Legion, the collection of short fiction in The Expanse book series. I had mentioned it before, but this update is serving two purposes. There has been an upgrade in the PHP file the site uses, supposedly controlled by the hosting service, but they said problems might arise, and if so I'd have to drop back down to the previous version. Updating regularly is supposed to be best to see if it sticks, and it was going to be several days before my next review would be ready. We'll see how it goes.
It took a very long time to read Ken Liu's Speaking Bones, the conclusion of the Dandelion Dynasty, but since I couldn't think of much to say about it without spoilers the review is very brief. Bottom line: Lots of it is good, some parts are superfluous and rambling, even tedious.
The Spare Man
I believe that Mary Robinette Kowal's new novel is a standalone, but even if it's the beginning of a series The Spare Man is a complete and satisfying story on its own. A locked spaceship mystery set aboard a cruise vessel heading to Mars. Recommended.
Signal To Noise
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal To Noise, has been reissued with some content edits, so I had to read it again. For the fourth time. Yes, it's that good. Music and mayhem in Mexico, as Meche and her friends try to control their life through magic. Highly recommended.
The Legacy of Molly Southbourne
I assume Tade Thompson's The Legacy of Molly Southbourne is the conclusion of the story, although a few minor plot threads are left dangling, or else I missed the clues while reading. Recommended.
Babel: An Arcane History
R. F. Kuang's fourth novel, Babel, is the best I've read this year, and perhaps for several years. A multi-faceted plot, great characters, a fascinating look at academia and the joy of learning, but also an indictment against colonialism. I say, without hyperbole, it is a staggering work of genius.
2022 Hugo Awards
9/5/22; 9:40am CDT
The winners of the 2022 Hugo Awards were announced last night at Chicon 8. I've just updated our Awards Page, but since that doesn't include every category, you should also check the full list at Locus Online.
The Genesis of Misery
9/4/22; 1:00pm CDT
Unfortunately, I can not recommend my latest read, Neon Yang's The Genesis of Misery.
Dragons and Blades
9/3/22; 5:50pm CDT
Two years ago I reviewed a novella by Aliette de Bodard. It was a spin-off from one of her novel series. Now there is a sequel so I have combined them on one page with a different URL. The collective title is Dragons and Blades. They are recommended, and I hope there are more in the sequence one of these days.
Good Omens, the Amazon Prime series
9/3/22; 2:10pm CDT
After finally reading the book I rewatched Good Omens on Amazon Prime, since I'm canceling at the end of the month. There will be another season, but I have no idea what will happen in it since the first season completed the novel's story. It is recommended, and I'm sure I will eventually see Season 2 if it's available anywhere other than Prime.
A Mirror Mended
8/26/22; 2:20pm CDT
I remember reading somewhere that Alix E. Harrow said her Fractured Fables series would be just a duology. I can't find that source now, but the second novella, A Mirror Mended has a satisfactory ending, if not a definitive one.
8/24/22; 2:00pm CDT
Thirty-two years after publication, and at least fifteen since I bought it, I finally got around to Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I liked it quite a bit, but maybe not as much as its reputation led me to expect. Still recommended, and a review of the Amazon Prime show might be just over the horizon.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
8/20/22; 11:55am CDT
The second book in Becky Chambers' Monk & Robot series, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, is every bit as good as the first one. I give it the highest of recommendations, and hope there are many more stories in the future about Sibling Dex and Splending Speckled Mosscap.
Children of God
8/17/22; 11:30am CDT
Those who read and enjoyed The Sparrow will want to read it's sequel, Children of God. I didn't like it as much, others might like it more. It was worth reading for insightful comments about religious and secular matters. Your enjoyment might hinge on your level of faith, or your lack of it.
8/9/22; 1:45pm CDT
Probably intended to be a theatrical film in the beginning, for some reason it wound up a Hulu "Original." If you have Hulu it's a must see, if not a good reason to check out at least a free trial. Prey is another film in the Predator franchise, this time a prequel set about 300 years ago in the land of the Comanche. Naru (Amber Midthunder) proves to be as formidable a foe as Schwarzenegger ever hoped to be. Highly recommended.
8/8/22; 4:20pm CDT
Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is an example of the best of literature, regardless of genre. Insightful examinations of human nature, realistic and believable characters, even when they are not sympathetic, spiritual and secular contemplations. Highly recommended.
The Devil Takes You Home
7/26/22; 1:00pm CDT
For at least the first half of the book I was thinking the review would go in the Non-SF section, but then a few supernatural elements were introduced. Those elements didn't necessarily make Gabino Iglesias's The Devil Takes You Home any more brutal, but they definitely made it weirder. Strong stuff, very violent, not to everyone's taste I'm sure, not even my usual taste. I'm still recommending it.
Two TV Series Reviews
7/25/22; 4:00pm CDT
It's been a while since I reviewed some TV. The first season of one of them, Undone on Amazon Prime, was three years ago, the second season now three months gone. It's very good and recommended. Next up is on DisneyPlus, Ms. Marvel, which I liked a lot too, even though I was disappointed about a few things. Not enough to not recommended it though.
Three Miles Down
7/21/22; 10:00am CDT
Some might find it hard to believe this is the first Harry Turtledove novel I've read. I would have enjoyed Three Miles Down more if he had wrapped up the story in this volume, but it is the beginning of a new series, with a huge cliffhanger at the end. If the second book was ready now I'd read it, but my interest will probably fade over time.
Drunk On All Your Strange New Words
7/18/22; 11:50am CDT
I'm not giving this a strong recommendation, but I'm not saying it won't appeal to some. Eddie Robson's third novel, Drunk On All Your Strange New Words is a mystery with SF trappings. I'm not sure which type of reader it will appeal to most, but it's short and not boring, but also not without a few faults.
The Album of Dr. Moreau
7/12/22; 4:50pm CDT
Another Moreau inspired story, this one quite a bit different than the one reviewed yesterday. Daryl Gregory's novella, The Album of Dr. Moreau, is a finalist for a Sturgeon Award (short speculative fiction) and an Edgar (mystery). The hybrids here are members of The WyldBoyZ, the second most popular boy band in the world, whose manager is murdered.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau
7/12/22; 4:20pm CDT
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is in grand form in her latest novel, an alternate version of a H. G. Wells book. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau has a different setting, Silvia's native Mexico, and includes a few historical people and events. But the true star is Carlota, another in a long line of strong-willed women Silvia always includes. Highly recommended.
7/7/22; 5:15pm CDT
Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood began as a novelette in 1981, then expanded to novel length three years later. Many printings over the years, including a new one from Tor Essentials coming out next week. It's very good. Highly recommended.
6/27/22; 10:50am CDT
Robert Jackson Bennett's Founders Trilogy comes to a (somewhat) satisfactory conclusion with Locklands. I'm pleased with some things, frustrated about others. The trilogy as a whole is still recommended.
6/18/22; 12:40pm CDT
The opening chapters of Michael Bishop's 1979 novel Transfigurations are from a previously published novella, although I'm not sure if they were edited or revised. It's anthropological SF, with aliens that are truly alien, as repellant as they are fascinating. Recommended.
Mammoths of the Great Plains
6/8/22; 1:35pm CDT
Mammoths of the Great Plains is a novella by Eleanor Arnason, a finalist for several awards, included in a short book in the PM Press Outspoken Author series. Along with the novella, I mention an essay she wrote, along with an interview by series editor Terry Bisson. The story is very good, the other commentary interesting, even if I might not agree with several things.
A Woman of the Iron People
6/7/22; 12:30pm CDT
Eleanor Arnason's A Woman of the Iron People is an exciting first contact story, in which the aliens probably have as much to teach the humans as the other way around. Highly recommended.
The City Inside
5/30/22; 3:00pm CDT
Samit Basu's The City Inside is not a new novel. It was published two years ago in India under the title Chosen Spirits. Since it is several years old, and I can't find any info on a potential sequel, my frustration with the book is strong. Interesting characters, all too believable scenarios, but hardly any resolution to multiple story lines.
Up Against It
5/24/22; 12:55pm CDT
Up Against It was published in 2011 under the pseudonym M. J. Locke, but has recently been reissued under the author's real name, Laura J. Mixon. I read the original, which is very good and recommended, but I don't know how many revisions the new edition might have had.
The Nebula Awards
5/22/22; 6:00am CDT
This year's Nebula Awards were announced last night in a virtual ceremony. Click that link to check out all the winners and the other finalists.
The Void Ascendant
5/12/22; 1:15pm CDT
The concluding volume of Premee Mohamed's series that began with Beneath the Rising is in some ways better than what came before, although the ending of The Void Ascendant was not what I expected. Still highly recommended, which applies to the whole series, and I can't wait to see what Premee creates next.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
5/5/22; 6:25pm CDT
What would you do if you got a glimpse of how your life might be if you had made different choices? Embrace the chance for redemption, or cower away in fear of causing even more havoc? Michelle Yeoh is faced with that dilemma in Everything Everywhere All At Once, which is highly recommended. I doubt it will be in theaters much longer, but hopefully a video release is not far away. Catch it when and however you can.
Two Book Reviews
4/26/22; 6:25pm CDT
Two reviews today, one non-fiction, one fantasy. The first is by someone who has written two SF novels in addition to their other journalistic work. Four Lost Cities by Annalee Newitz concerns four ancient cities that were either abandoned (for the most part) or destroyed. Great for history buffs, or anyone interested in archaeolgy and anthropology. Next up is a brilliant new fantasy by Nghi Vo, Siren Queen, about a Chinese-American girl who stumbles onto a movie set and eventually becomes a star. But she had to pay a high price, some of which came in the form of magic.
4/10/22; 6:15pm CDT
It's difficult to know where and when the myths of King Arthur began. Each version has cribbed notes from earlier ones, sometimes names and events are slightly different. I haven't read that many of them, but I'm assuming some of Nicola Griffith's new novel, Spear, comes from research for this story, as well as her earlier novel Hild, and its upcoming sequel. I think it's safe to say the main character here is her own invention. Beautifully lyrical prose, intricately described action, a strong and resilient protagonist. Excellent all around.
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
4/5/22; 3:45pm CDT
I've created another category for reviews, although I don't know how many there will be, or how frequently I'll add to the Non-Fiction Book section. First up is Katie Mack's The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), an excellent exploration of the various current theories as to the possible fate of the universe(s). But before contemplating the end, the beginning is considered as well.
Until the Last of Me
3/29/22; 6:00pm CDT
The second book in Sylvain Neuvel's Take Them To The Stars series is better than the first. Until the Last of Me was published today, but I finished it last night, thanks to an ARC from Edelweiss.
The Sins of Our Fathers
3/17/22; 3:50pm CDT
The Expanse book series is complete. The final novella, The Sins of Our Fathers, is set immediately after the main action from the previous novel, but long before its epilogue. The entire series is still highly recommended.
The Atheist in the Attic
3/13/22; 7:45am CDT
Delany's The Atheist in the Attic is non-SF, although one part of it relates to the genre. Short but powerful, and recommended.
The Fall of the Towers
2/28/22; 7:45am CST
Samuel R. Delany's The Fall of the Towers trilogy has a long history, with multiple revisions through many editions. It comprises the second-fourth of his books ever published. Beginning in 1963 with a short novel (or novella) that was later expanded and retitled. Each has been published separately, but the trilogy is still short by most standards. It has some interesting parts, but is ultimately disappointing.
Reclaim the Stars
2/13/22; 6:55pm CST
Reclaim the Stars is an orignal anthology edited by Zoraida Córdova, who also contributes a story. All the authors are Latin American, either still living in their native countries, or part of the diaspora. Zoraida was born in Ecuador but currently lives in Queens, New York. I was not familiar with most of them, but their work is recommended.
The Devil in a Forest
1/31/22; 3:15pm CST
Gene Wolfe's third novel, The Devil in a Forest, would be a good introduction for most readers. It has minimal fantastic elements, and is basically a juvenile tale set in medieval Europe, although some of the characters may be based on English stories.
1/28/22; 5:00pm CST
Tochi Onyebuchi's first adult novel is good, but also confusing, and also brutal and traumatic at times. Goliath came out this past Tuesday, although I started it before then since I got an ARC from Edelweiss. Recommended, but with caveats.
1/22/22; 4:50pm CST
Gene Wolfe's second novel, Peace, is exceptionally better than his first. It has more in common with Cerberus, but only in style, not content. It can be read as a straight memoir, or if you look hard enough you can see a bit of fantasy, possibly horror. Still confusing on the third reading, but still highly recommended.
The Expanse, Season 6
1/14/22; 3:35pm CST
Sad now. The very short sixth season of The Expanse is over. Hopefully not the last, and I won't give up until the creators say there is no hope. My comments are brief, and hopefully spoiler free.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus
1/13/22; 5:15pm CST
Compared to Operation ARES, the three linked novellas in Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus read as if by a completely different writer. Still one of my favorites, and very highly recommended.
1/9/22; 12:45pm CST
To put it bluntly, Gene Wolfe's first novel, Operation ARES, is not recommended.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate
1/3/22; 1:40pm CST
Becky Chambers' To Be Taught, If Fortunate is a mix of the best of old style Hard-SF, blended with the compassion of new sensibilities. Plenty of scientific rigor, but more character development than what most Golden Age authors gave us. Highly recommended.
1/1/22; 4:10pm CST
The first review of the new year is another by Nicola Griffith. Hild was a finalist for a Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, but it is not fantasy, and certainly not science fiction. It is speculative fiction though, since almost all of the events in the life of Hild was a fabrication of the author. It's very good.
Happy New Year!
1/1/22; 4:00pm CST
At least I hope it's happier than last year. I'll be back shortly with the first review of the year, and sometime in the near future I will move all of last year's updates to the Archives page.
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