Greg Ketter: Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores

Greg Ketter, owner of Minneapolis’ DreamHaven books describes this volume as a labor of love, and that’s evident. But its thematic focus is so narrow that it’s probably better dipped into than read straight-through: it’s a bit too easy to play spot-the-trope (haunted bookstore, haunted books, store-of-books-never-written, store-of-books-that-warp-reality), and I found the quality uneven. IContinue reading “Greg Ketter: Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores”

Christopher L. Bennett: Only Superhuman

I had very ambivalent reactions to Only Superhuman. I really liked the central concept. Bennett starts with a fairly optimistic future in which, a century hence, there are hundreds of space habitats in the inner- and mid-solar system. The environment is rife with social schisms and empire/colony-ish tensions. The novelty is in Bennett postulating thatContinue reading “Christopher L. Bennett: Only Superhuman”

Johan Harstad: 172 Hours on the Moon

I think I stumbled on Johan Harstad’s 172 Hours on the Moon when I was looking for John Barnes’ Losers in Space; both novels share the plot element of young people trying to get off of Earth to boost their social standing. Aside from that, they could scarcely be more different. In the alternate historyContinue reading “Johan Harstad: 172 Hours on the Moon”

John Barnes: Losers in Space

In the post-scarcity 22nd century of Losers in Space, notoriety is worth more than any currency. A loose-knit group of the underachieving kids of famous folks aim to increase their profiles by stowing away on a spaceship bound for Mars. But the plan’s architect might be a genuine sociopath. And there are a lot ofContinue reading “John Barnes: Losers in Space”

Jonathan L. Howard: Katya’s World

Katya’s World is Russalka, a Russian-settled colony still reeling from a pyrrhic conflict with Mother Earth. Russalka has no land masses, and part of the novel’s fun derives from the relative novelty of incorporating the claustrophobia and blindfoldedness of Das Boot or The Hunt for Red October-style submarine hide-and-seek games into a far-future/alien planet setting.Continue reading “Jonathan L. Howard: Katya’s World”

Victor Gischler: Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse may have been partly the victim of excessive expectations from me: I love the title, and it had extravagant blurbs from authors I admire. But it left me cold. Aside from the conceit hinted at in the title — that a strip-club franchise could become the nucleus of a newContinue reading “Victor Gischler: Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse”

Jane Palmer: The Watcher

The Watcher is a little slippery. If I described the bones of its plot or its characters (which include a planet threatened with destruction from an energy-being, time travel, sea monsters, and a conveniently bulletproof resident of Earth) it would sound either like a pulp-era space opera, or a consciously zany send-up of same (perhapsContinue reading “Jane Palmer: The Watcher”

Robert Jeschonek: Heaven Bent

Heaven Bent was published as a weekly serial ebook, a format which intrigued, but ultimately disappointed me. Perhaps I’m being unfair and it was tightly plotted from the get-go. But it felt like it could actually have been written week-by-week, with many plot threads introduced and then discarded, ill-supported twists late in the game, andContinue reading “Robert Jeschonek: Heaven Bent”

Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Mars Trilogy

I saw the John Carter movie (1/3 awesome, 2/3 slow,sappy,dumb/hard-to-follow) and wanted to revisit the original novel, mostly to see if there was quite as much time spent on the Earth backstory (answer: not by a long shot). But after reading A Princess of Mars I realized the John Carter film incorporated several major plotContinue reading “Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Mars Trilogy”

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

I struggle with how useful it is for me to comment on popular works. A lot of people obviously love this book. I’m statistically quite unlikely to ever write anything as many people pay attention to, what gives me the right to judge it? But maybe it’s useful for me to explore whether this isContinue reading “Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games”