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August 8, 2019

One of the most interesting things about Marvel's narrative podcast Wolverine: The Long Night is that Wolverine is barely in it.
 

The story is set in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, taking place before Logan (aka Wolverine) joins the X-Men but after he's escaped the Weapon X program that lined his bones and retractable claws with adamantium, a nearly unbreakable metal alloy. Instead of following the gruff anti-hero as he struggles to find a new purpose, however, The Long Night is...

July 13, 2019

Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem is the type of epic science-fiction novel that’s carried more by its science than its fiction. I don’t mean that uncharitably. The fiction in The Three-Body Problem is interesting—I just found it hard to get into.
 

The story starts during the mass madness of China’s Cultural Revolution. We see one faction of Red Guards using the young soldier of another faction for target practice, and a professor being sentenced to die because he taught “reactionary”...

May 1, 2018

Steal the Stars is one of the best stories I’ve listened to in a long time.
 

I say listened to because Steal the Stars is a dramatic podcast written by Mac Rogers and directed by Jordana Williams. There are eBook and paperback versions, but the podcast came first, and it was written to be heard. Steal the Stars has a full voice cast, crackling dialogue, and top-notch sound effects. This is a radio play, not an audio book.
 

The premise mixes sci-fi and romance. Dakota Prentiss, the secu...

March 14, 2018

And so at last we come to the The Dark Tower, the final book in Stephen King’s series of the same name (the long tale he’s said is his Lord of the Rings).
 

The first act is fast-paced—more so than anything else in this saga of Roland the gunslinger and his “ka-tet” of misfit warriors. After the birth of Mordred, his horrifying son by a demon mother, Roland and his companions are reunited and set about trying to save the remaining Beams that support the multiverse. Doing so involves def...

November 6, 2017

Song of Susannah is my favorite of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books so far.
 

There are several reasons. For one thing, King picks up right where the last book, Wolves of the Calla, left off, with Roland’s companion Susannah partially possessed by Mia, a former demon determined to have her baby in Susannah’s body. And unlike some of the earlier subplots in the series, this one ties directly to the main story: Mia’s child will be no ordinary boy—he’s foretold to be Roland’s doom and the B...

August 12, 2017

John Scalzi’s Redshirts starts as a Star Trek parody and ends as something deeper.
 

His protagonists are five new crew members of the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union. As they get oriented, they quickly discover that a) the ship often solves crises with solutions that don’t make scientific sense, b) certain officers tend to get their subordinates killed, and c) the surviving subordinates have developed elaborate systems for avoiding those officers. Andrew Dahl, one of the...

July 28, 2017

At this point, I have a good idea what I’m getting into when I pick up one of Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. The story will wander. It will take longer than it needs to. But it will also be chock full of originality. And in places, it will be nearly impossible to put down.
 

Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book in the series, lives up to all these expectations—and then some.
 

The opening chapter sets up a confrontation with the Wolves referenced in the book’s title, fearsome raiders w...

June 18, 2017

Self-publishing still gets a bad rap. Sometimes it’s justified: with a lower barrier to entry, platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing allow anyone to publish anything, even if it’s a stream-of-consciousness first draft riddled with typos. But there are plenty of brilliant, professional “indie” authors out there. And Hugh Howey is one of them.
 

Wool: Omnibus Edition is a collection of his first five novellas in the Wool series. The stories are set in a post-apocalyptic future in which...

April 12, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is a masterclass in worldbuilding.
 

Most authors would have detailed the story’s premise—or at least painted the broad strokes—within the first few pages, or even the first paragraphs: that in the late 20th century, after disease and pollution rendered many women infertile, Christian extremists overthrew the U.S. government and established the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy. Women who can still bear children are now breeding concubines for high...

March 14, 2017

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is (far) more than just A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court plus Scots and sex. But there’s some truth to the comparison.
 

Both books are genre mashups: they share historical, fantasy, and science fiction elements, while adding satire and comedy (in A Connecticut Yankee) and romance (in Outlander). And like Mark Twain’s protagonist Hank Morgan, Gabaldon’s Claire Randall is suddenly transported back in time to a place she doesn’t belong—in her case,...

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I write mostly speculative fiction. Usually fantasy, with historical elements mixed in. Sometimes there's a bit of mystery too, or (shhh!) even a little romance.

 

But it's weird—it's always weird. Consider yourself warned.

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