“Out of This World,” or, “it’s like Fifty Shades and the Chronicles of Narnia had a child”

Catherine Lundoff
The last of my string of anthologies; I’ve run out of them for the moment, and I’ll be going back to reading and reviewing novels for a while, at least.

“Great Reckonings, Little Rooms”

A Shakespearean tragedy, though not in the normal way.

“Medium Méchanique”

And this, folks, is why we leave the dead alone.

“The Egyptian Cat”

There’s something really fun about a staggeringly normal person getting caught up as a side character in an epic story.

“At the Roots of the World Tree”

I wanted this to be a bit happier than it actually was, but I liked it regardless.

“A Scent of Roses”

A happier ending to the Tam Lane story than I really expected it to have.

“At Mother Laurie’s House of Bliss”

Now I want to watch a police procedural that takes place in a medieval kingdom full of knights and magic.

“Spell, Book and Candle”

If I were a TV witch, this would be the point where my chatty familiar would give me sound advice, which I would then ignore. But then, if I were a TV witch, I wouldn’t be a dyke with the hots for her old college sweetie.

“Beauty”

The fact that this whole thing was leading up to a “Beauty and the Beast” joke is just spectacular.

“Red Scare”

An odd twist on the noir detective trope.

“A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace”

I kinda hate body-swap stories, it’s just difficult to keep track of who’s who.

“Vadija”

The city of sorrows has a Diablo sort of feel to it – ancient curses and all that.

All in all, a good collection of stories to end on. Give it a read.

“The Best of Penny Dread Tales,” or, “why is there never a nuclear boiler in the steampunk airship“

Yet another anthology! I’m on a roll.

“Iron Angel”

Cayleigh Hickey
Oh, we’re off to a good start here. I wasn’t expecting to leap into the land of the fae, but here we are.

“The Dirges of Percival Lewand”

Aaron Michael Ritchey
Okay well, this belonged more in the last anthology I read than here, but oh well.

“The Tunnel Rat’s Journey”

J. M. Franklin
Futuristic steampunk! An interesting twist, and one of the more hopeful bits of post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve ever read. I like it.

“The Cutpurse from Mulberry Bend”

Gerry Huntman
Short and sad.

“The Great Dinosaur Roundup of 1903”

Laura Givens

Traveling through time turns out to be loud and flashy but not as uncomfortable as you might think.

Told as a letter from, basically, a background character in an Atomic Robo flashback sequence.

“American Vampire”

Keith Good
Well that’s a rough life, my guy.

“Lasater’s Lucky Left”

Quincy J. Allen
I’m gonna be honest, I was kinda hoping this would turn into a horrid romance noel halfway through. The sequel’s still got room for that, though, so I’ll hold out hope.

“Sinking to the Level of Demons”

David Boop
Well, that got dark.

“Vengeance”

J.R. Boyett & Peter J. Wacks
Oh, that was cool. A variant on vampires, and a retired hunter? Very cool.

“The Noonday Sun”

Vivian Caethe
An exoskeleton-wearing monster hunter, clearing out the Wild West.

“Industrial Melanism”

Aaron Spriggs
If you’re claustrophobic, don’t read this one.

“Today, the Sun Sets in the East”

Peter J. Wacks
Another good story that I’d like to read more of. Tiger is an interesting character, as is Hummingbird.

“The Weather God”

David W. Landrum
Well that war went a bit differently than the British expected, I’d say.

“The Spirit of the Grift”

Sam Knight
A portable X-ray, I think? I wish we had more stories of grifters using some sort of advanced technology to pull it off.

“The Heart of Appricotta”

Mike Cervantes

With a salute, punctuated by a word that sounded like a punch to the stomach in Yiddish, the assembled tossed the raft in the river.

It’s a comedy in a style I’d describe as “British Imperial Braggadocio,” which isn’t exactly to my taste, but a couple lines (the one above, for example) got a laugh out of me.1

“Budapest Will Burn”

Jonathan D. Beer
Why do anthologies end on such weird notes? I’d rather have them end on something happy, which this could be if you squint, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Nonetheless, this was another good collection of stories that I’m comfortable recommending. Give it a read.


  1. Another good one:

    In my panic I struggled to remember precisely what the five stages of grief were supposed to be, so I experienced denial, anger, gassiness, and that strange confusion you get when you feel you’ve left a door unlocked before finally achieving acceptance.

“Ghost in the Cogs,” or, “a neutron bomb, but it makes angry zombies, too“

I’m continuing on my anthology kick, I suppose.

“Asmodeus Flight”

Siobhan Carroll

The Great Exhibition had attracted a seething mixture of nationalities—scar-faced Americans, queue-sporting Chinese, green-scaled Inner Earthers—even an odd Frenchman, the latter drawing suspicious glances from John Bull and continental exiles alike.

Ah, Britain.

“Hiss”

Folly Blaine & Randy Henderson
“Imagine that with power.”

“The Misplaced Body of Fitzhugh Alvey”

Jessica Corra
I do enjoy a story where the women are smarter and the men don’t reject that fact.

“The Ghost Pearl”

Howard Andrew Jones
A slight Pirates of the Caribbean vibe to this one, even though the whole thing takes place in London.1

“Frænka Askja’s Silly Old Story”

Emily C. Skaftun
This is the saddest one so far, somehow.

“Edge of the Unknown”

Elsa S. Henry
There’s a slight Pratchett feel here, and it works really well.2

“The Blood on the Walls”

Eddy Webb
Sherlock Holmes investigating actual hauntings, basically; I wish this was a series I could read more of.

“Tipping Point”

Nayad Monroe
Gotta love good old Victorian capitalism.

“T-Hex”

Jonah Buck
While that was a pretty obvious outcome, I’m still annoyed about it.

“The Monster”

Erika Holt
Man, I’m with the narrator, I hope he didn’t actually succeed.

“The Book of Futures”

Wendy Nikel
A locked-room mystery! Oh, I do like those.

“Death Wish”

Parker Goodreau
Another one that I want more of – I’d quite enjoy reading this weird love story.

“City of Spirits”

Christopher Paul Carey
Well, that could’ve gone better. I’m a bit curious as to how a cold-burning fire can be used to generate electricity, although I suppose it’s possible…

“Team 17”

T. Mike McCurley
I think I’m gonna go ahead and call this my favorite from the book, without even reading the rest: it’s set post-WWII, during the cleanup from a war where Germany weaponized life-force and the Blitz was done with something like a neutron bomb. The entire city wiped out… and an army of angry ghosts left behind.

“The Litany of Waking”

Scott Fitzgerald Gray
Another excellent one – feels like a post-apocalyptic version of Girl Genius.

“Labor Costs”

Richard Dansky
And this is why we need unions, folks.

“The Twentieth-Century Man”

Nick Mamatas
A sequel to an earlier story in this anthology, actually, which made it even more interesting.

“Clockwork of Sorrow”

Spencer Ellsworth
I suppose the title should’ve warned me that this one would be a tragedy.

“The Lady in the Ghastlight”

Liane Merciel
Oh, the wick was a nice touch, I didn’t expect that part.

“Cuckoo”

Richard Pett
Forget about the cuckoo, I want to know what happens to the engine.

“The Shadow and the Eye”

James Lowder

Like everyone who had read a newspaper in the past twenty years, I was familiar with Professor Thaxton’s temper. He’d been at the heart of brawls at scientific conferences on six of the seven continents; only Australia has, so far, been spared.

I can only assume he just hasn’t been to a scientific conference in Australia yet, that seems like the most likely place for a brawl at a conference.
That said, we’re also throwing this in the category of “I desperately want a whole series of this.”

“Golden Wing, Silver Eye”

Cat Hellisen
Oh, we’re ending on another sad one.

Quite a few very good reads in here, I definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for some bite-sized works. Have a read.


  1. Well, I assume it’s London, these things usually happen there. 
  2. Or possibly Diana Wynne Jones. Either way, I strongly recommend it. 

“The SEA is Ours,” or, “is the proper term ‘biopunk’ or ‘genopunk’?”

That’s actually a nice little wordplay in the title there – it’s a steampunk anthology centered around Southeast Asia. From the introduction:

… if in the larger English-language science fiction world straight white men call the shots, then our anthology presents a range of authors and characters that is predominantly women, and hella queer.

“On the Consequence of Sound”

Timothy Dimacali
Man, I’d have been more attentive in violin lessons if being able to play well was going to enable me to fly, dang.

“Chasing Volcanoes”

Marilag Angway
Post-apocalyptic landscapes are usually made that way by nuclear weapons, but this time it was just a ton of volcanoes. Still unclear on what, exactly, they’re trying to extract from the volcanoes, though.

“Ordained”

L.L. Hill
Something about clockwork and holy places just doesn’t mesh in my head; I blame the Luddites.

“The Last Aswang”

Alessa Hinlo
Oh, now that is a story. I like it, and I might have to do a bit more research on the myths behind it, they seem interesting.

“Life Under Glass”

Nghi Vo
I was expecting a very different ending, but I guess that works.

“Between Severed Souls”

Paolo Chikiamco
There’s a trend through all of these – more respect and acknowledgement of ancient things than you get in the mainstream of steampunk. It’s different, and it’s a good contrast.

“The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso”

Kate Osias
A tragedy, and a tale of revenge. Sad and sweet and wonderful.

“Working Woman”

Olivia Ho
I wasn’t really expecting to laugh at a story this grim, but dang was it ever funny towards the end.

“Spider Here”

Robert Liow
Less ‘steampunk’ than it is ‘biopunk,’ and it’s cool.

“The Chamber of Souls”

z.m. quỳnh
There’s a lot going on in this one, and I’m a bit at sea. Which apparently doesn’t exist here?

“Petrified”

Ivanna Mendels
It’s like a superhero team, I’m digging it.

“The Insects and Women Sing Together”

Pear Nuallak
A strong ending to the anthology.

I liked the whole thing- a lot of good stories, and authors that are well worth supporting. Give it a read.

“Black Ocean Mission Pack 1,” or, “the wizard is roughly equivalent to an orbital strike”

J.S. Morin

1: “Salvage Trouble”

Oh, I am absolutely sold on this setting – I was expecting medieval or renaissance level technology paired with magic, and it turns out I got, like, 30th century, space colonies and holograms… paired with magic. And man is it a fun cast of characters, I’m so down for the other novellas in here.

2: “A Smuggler’s Conscience”

This might be the first time I’ve hoped for a government to have a policy for civil forfeiture, but if somebody is gonna pour a couple billion dollars into building a Bond-villain-esque mountain base, they may as well repurpose it after the bad guys are gone.

3: “Poets and Piracy”

I like a good heist, but in all honesty, I’m still not entirely clear on what happened. I may have missed it while I was busy being annoyed that the future’s equivalent to the DEA is apparently named “EIEIO.”

4: “To Err is Azrin”

It took this long to learn that ARGO, the Federation/Empire/Alliance sort of thing that runs the human-control areas, stands for Allied Races of the Galactic Ocean.
Probably my favorite story so far – there was more character development evident than any of the others have had, it was nice.

4.5: “Guardian of the Plundered Tomes”

And a little prequel at the end, showing how the gang got together. I wish there’d been more explanation of the actual contents of the Plundered Tome, though, it was still annoyingly vague.

All in all, a nice little collection of stories that I enjoyed reading. Your turn. 

“Altered America: Steampunk Stories,” or, “one or two good ones and a whole lot of depressing”

Cat Rambo
An anthology, but all the stories are written by one author, so just the one name at the top here. And just the one link, as well, if you’d like to read it. 

“Clockwork Fairies”

The protagonist here, though I feel that may not be the right word, is as if someone heard a quote about “the small-minded man” and wanted to write a character who was the epitome of that epithet. Ugh.

“Rare Pears and Greengages”

I came to London, where the air smells like smoke and despair.

And really that sums this story, and the feel of the book so far, up: smoke and despair.

“Memphis BBQ”

This story was pretty fun, but it’s the second time we’ve had a protagonist I’d describe as some sort of terrible. The lady isn’t interested, dude, leave her alone.

“Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?”

Abraham Lincoln isn’t above necromancy, it seems, which made the civil war a rather short affair.
That said, I desperately want more of the main character of this one – she deserves a whole novel to herself.

“Snakes on a Train”

Oh, now that’s a neat pairing for a detective movie: a telepath and a robot.

“Rappacini’s Crow”

And we’re back to everything being depressing forever. Cool.

“Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart”

I’m reminded of Castle Heterodyne, which can only be a good thing.

“Web of Blood and Iron”

Now I’m disappointed that I’ve never seen a conspiracy theory claiming vampires own the global transportation network.

“Ticktock Girl”

I’m slightly confused by how the ‘moments’ work – are they just an arbitrary segmentation of time? I mean, probably, since they worked well for the structure of the story, but still, I want to know more. I enjoyed this one.

“Seven Clockwork Angels, All Dancing on a Pin”

There’s some serious hand-waving of science going on in here, but I do like the resulting riff on the core concept. I just wish it was all a bit better-explained.

CQP Posters

This month I’m working with the Castleman Quartet Program as their intern and liaison to Linfield College. Part of what they’ve got me doing is publicity, including designing posters to advertise their upcoming concerts.

Which, as it turns out, was a bit of a fun challenge, as we don’t have a color printer, so the design had to be in grayscale only. We’ve also got two concert series – one of chamber music, and one of solo music – and while I wanted the two posters to be clearly related, I didn’t want them to be identical, because that would lead to people glossing over one or the other, assuming it was just another copy of whichever one they’d seen first.

Here’s the result:

Oh and, of course, the concerts are open to the public, free of charge, so if you’re in the area, feel free to come by!

Playlist of the Month: July 2017

I actually remembered to do this on time so it would post on time! That’s a rare thing, you’d think I’d have a repeating reminder in Things by now or something.
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Killer Queen – FIL BO RIVA
22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver
Real – Majik
Haze – Amber Run
Wastelands – Amber Run
Go (feat. Ed Droste) – Woodkid
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
Battle Symphony – LINKIN PARK
Changed – JP Saxe
One More Light – LINKIN PARK1
Dreams – Sunday
Hope For Something – Panama
Hold Up, Rewind – Close Talker
48 Hours – Triangle Park
High On Humans – Oh Wonder
Parties – Jake Miller
Goodpain – YOKE LORE
VPN ft Palmistry – Mr. Mitch
All We Need – Fyfe
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth
Better Man (Feat. Peter Gregson & Iskra String Quartet) – Fyfe2
Zero Summer – Dirty Nice
Make a Move – St. Humain
Animals – Tamu Massif
The Roman Call – Beshken
Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Holding On – GHOST LOFT
The Ends and the Means – Robby Hecht3
Leave Out All the Rest – LINKIN PARK4


  1. This song is even sadder now than it used to be. 
  2. Fyfe’s new album inspired me to bring back the first Fyfe I listened to. Good stuff. 
  3. Found courtesy of Welcome to Night Vale, a fun little podcast for when you’ve got… y’know, four days to kill, if you want to go through the whole backlog. 
  4. There were a few of their songs that seemed appropriate for the occasion, but this was the one that I finally went with. 

“Vintage: A Ghost Story,” or, “I don’t think this book was intended to be hilarious but IT IS”

Steve Berman
I’ll begin by saying that, just before I read this book, I tried reading one that was about lesbian werewolves,1 and it was bad.2 So it’s not getting reviewed here; instead, I switched to this one, and it was so much better. Like, not only was it better-written, it was also just one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. Strong vibes of Sixth Sense or Ghost Whisperer, depending on which you used to watch.34
It also gets a strong plus from me for being what I refer to as “queer propaganda” – namely, any book that includes queer characters for purposes other than the “Bury Your Gays” trope. Representation is important, y’all.
That said, the title of this post comes from the fact that I switched to my normal ‘scary movie’ tactic, namely sarcastically commentating all the way through. Which turned it into an oddly hilarious experience, because the main character did a good deal of the scary movie tradition of “making horrible, horrible decisions.” The biggest one goes to “falling in love at first sight,” with the notable kicker being “falling in love with a ghost.” C’mon, man, that’s all sorts of bad choices right there.
And it just goes from there. It’s actually pretty fun, and as I already said, probably my favorite ghost story experience. As is my traditional link for books I like: have a read.


  1. This combination wasn’t a coincidence; I think, in this book, being a lesbian came with being a werewolf? I didn’t actually read far enough to find out for sure. 
  2. Like, I made it about three pages in and I’m betting I could tell you the plot of whole first half of the book with pinpoint accuracy, and the I could call the generalities of the second half. Also, the writing was on the ‘trying to hard’ side of the scale. 
  3. I was a Ghost Whisperer fan, but I also distinctly remember reading the first book of a series based on Sixth Sense and being terrified by the concept of being able to see all those ghosts. 
  4. Additional note to that one: I just found out the author of that book also wrote Boy Meets Boy and I’m having a “small world” moment about an author, this is weird. More entertaining: his Wikipedia page doesn’t mention the Sixth Sense books at all. 

“City of the Saints,” or, “stop what you’re doing and go read this book”

DJ Butler
Alright, who remembers Wild Wild West? It was this weird steampunk western movie that Will Smith was in, came out in the 90s at some point, and was just a strange experience all around. But it was also cool, because steampunk is great and adding it to a western isn’t a twist that you see often enough, so I enjoyed it.
This book? This is what that movie wishes it could’ve been. Not only is it all sorts of steampunk craziness, it’s also set in an alternate history world where the Utah Territory became the Kingdom of Deseret,1 an independent nation led by Brigham Young, the independent Republic of California is issuing their own currency, and after clockwork machinery made slavery irrelevant, Harriet Tubman wound up as the President of the Reunited States of Mexico. A big world with a lot of things going on, for sure.
The story also has a lot going on – the first few chapters gave me a vibe along the lines of Oceans Eleven, somehow – I think it was the “ensemble cast” thing going on. You’re bounced from character to character, but they’re all in the same room together, and trying to get a grasp of their varying motivations and goals is a heady rush. The Civil War is coming up fast, and everybody knows it… but with strong nations sharing an actual border wit the United States, there’s some political maneuvering to be done. Deseret has a military tech lead over everyone else and would be a strong ally on either side, and the favor of Young is not something to be trifled with.
I’m not going to give much more away here, but I’ll say it again: I loved this book, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It was a delight to read, and I’m hoping there’s more by this author that I can dive into later on. Give it a read.


  1. Based on what almost happened – the Mormon settlers wanted to name the state “Deseret” originally. 

“Eternal Voyager,” or, “hedonism is a fairly natural result of a post-scarcity, post-death world”

Conor Kostick
I don’t think I’ve reviewed anything by Kostick before, but I’ve definitely read some of his work – his Epic series was delightful, and shares something in common with this collection of novellas: a lot of playing around with virtual worlds.

“Kudos”

Slightly on-the-nose about it, but as a card-carrying millennial I am contractually obliged to like a story about the evils of capitalism.
The nice thing is that, in the setting of a post-scarcity and apparently post-death virtual utopia, the whole thing becomes aggressively about the service economy, and also makes the whole thing low-stakes enough that it’s just a nice story.

“Aliens”

Again, a very cool concept thanks to the interesting setting. I’m enjoying the little references to Epic, as well – there are both name-drops and references to the actual storyline.

“Revenge Upon the Vampyres”

In a world where people can’t die, thanks to the ability to restore themselves from backups,1 finding a way to make the stakes high can be a bit difficult. It’s played nicely in this one.

“Dancers Beyond the Whorl of Time”

A nice prologue story, answering a few questions I’ve had building up from little references in the other stories.

“The Siege of Mettleburg”

I’m feeling like I should check the publish dates of these stories and Epic, because this one really felt like a precursor to the larger novel.

“The Murder Mystery”

A nice follow-up to the previous story, and a bit of interesting discussion of the relationship between the virtual world in which the stories take place and the physical reality in which it’s anchored.2

All in all, it’s a nice little box set of books, and it’s not too pricey, either. Have a read.


  1. And, I must say, this is one of my most-wanted science fiction technologies. 
  2. You can’t have a digital world without a pile of servers somewhere. 

“The Alchemy of Stone,” or, “I’m fine with clockwork AI but apparently compact videotape is where I draw the line“

Ekaterina Sedia
This was a very… interesting book. And I say this because, beyond that, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I didn’t really enjoy the plot, but I found everything else fascinating – the world in which it takes place has a weird set of rules unlike any I’ve seen before, and it fits well with the unique main character.
And it’s interesting that, despite my interest in this sort of thing, I haven’t actually read many books where the narrator is a machine. That’s the real twist to this book – and no, it’s not a spoiler, because they’re clear about what they are – and it plays remarkably well. It’s done remarkably well, too – the perspective is slightly off of what you’d get with a human narrator, and I think the author did a wonderful job of using that difference to tell the story they wanted to tell.
So I suppose I’m comfortable recommending it – as I said, I didn’t actually like what all happened with the plot, but the storytelling was interesting enough that it held my interest the whole time, and I do think reading it was a good use of my time. Have a read.

“War Hawk,” or, “whoops guess I’ve got ten more new books to read again”

James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
I’m not kidding about that title, by the way; I’ve mentioned that I enjoy this genre of action novel, and Cussler takes a firm second to Rollins in terms of writing quality.1 And apparently Rollins has been writing at a prodigious rate – there’s something like eight new books in his Sigma Force series that I still haven’t read, so that’s all exciting.2
“War Hawk” actually is a Sigma Force novel – or at least, tangentially related. Sticking to my Cussler comparisons, it’s like how the Dirk Pitt and the Oregon Files series take place in a shared universe, and occasionally overlap – the main character in “War Hawk” showed up as a supporting character in some of the earlier Sigma Force books3 and some of the cast of the Sigma Force books are supporting characters in this one. It’s a nice touch, and I think it works well, although the reasons for not involving them more were a bit contrived at times.
Like I said already, Rollins writes higher quality books than Cussler; in the above-linked Cussler review, I make a complaint about a pretty elementary mistake in some of the book’s usage of the Spanish language.4 Meanwhile, in this book, which involves a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (something I know a wee bit about), had only one or two little things for me to pick nits with.5
The moral of the story is, I quite liked the book – more than Piranha, for sure, and enough that I just went downstairs and grabbed one of the other Rollins novels that I own to give it a quick re-read. And hey, how could I not recommend a book where the narration is occasionally from the POV of a dog? Give it a read.6


  1. Now, quantity, it’s hard to beat Cussler on quantity, he’s one of those factory authors like James Patterson. 
  2. Well, exciting until I remember that I have homework and responsibilities to get to, at which point it becomes something between annoying and saddening. 
  3. Ones that I hadn’t read, apparently, so I’m out of order now, which is annoying. 
  4. It’s gotta be pretty elementary if I, with my whopping high school class-level knowledge of Spanish caught it. 
  5. When I get to those moments I try to pay less attention so it doesn’t ruin the rest of the book for me, but with the small amount of attention I was paying, the inaccuracies could still be written off as “an expert on the subject making an inaccurate comparison while explaining to the layperson narrator” so it actually could still work. Nicely done. 
  6. Fun story: this is a different edition of the book than the one I have; I suspect it’s because I’m on American Amazon, and seeing the US edition first; the version I have, I bought at a used-books sale while studying abroad, so it’s still got a €3 price tag on the back. 

“All the Paths of Shadow,” or, “magic that requires an engineering degree is my aesthetic”

Frank Tuttle
This book was so satisfying to read. Like, pretty much everything I predicted was going to happen, I was right about, but it managed to do that in a way that didn’t make me go “ugh this is so predictable” as much as it did “yes I was right!” Things were a wee bit different than I expected in places, which helped, but overall I just had a lot of fun with the book. Probably my favorite of the books I’ve read in the past week or so.
So, your basic summary: it’s in a London-patterned city, which is about to host the Accords, a once-every-five-years meeting of the heads of the various kingdoms that make up the Islands. For a while I was trying to map the Islands to the British Isles, but eventually I realized that it’s more of an amalgamated British Isles and Europe – there’s a very clear Germany in there, and somebody that I think was supposed to be a vaguely Slavic nation? Of course, you’ve got the England that’s the main setting, and the Scots make a great appearance.
The timeline was a bit interesting, too – it was set in the 19th century, I believe, but since the setting is so far off of the real world, it sorta makes sense that their history was also way different. Add in the fact that you’ve got magic everywhere, and it’s pretty dang interesting.
And oh, the magic in this one, it was wonderful. I love magic systems where you can tell there’s a clear sense of the order underlying it, like the author has sat down and worked out how it all works. And this one is done so well, and integrated with the engineering capabilities of that era, to the point that I honestly thought there was going to be a bit of a twist early on that revealed that magic was actually just engineering with some serious flair to it. The first spell that’s worked is basically using an enchanted chain to find the angle between two points… and then the caster goes and does a bunch of trigonometry to figure out exactly where the big spell they’re planning needs to be cast. It’s wonderful.
And my, I’ve gone quite a ways without touching on the characters or the plot at all, which were also both wonderful. The protagonist is a delight, the first female Royal Thaumaturge, and she’s exactly as done with the geopolitics of the Accords as I would be in her place. And man, is the supporting cast fun – Mug, her familiar, is a delight, and her mentors are also off in the corner being the peanut gallery. It’s seriously fun.
I’m hoping I’ve done a good enough job of convincing you you should read this joke. If I have, here’s the link.

“The Somniscient,” or, “how has nobody here ever heard of a union?”

Richard Levesque
This book was a wild ride, and it was awesome. There were twists and turns everywhere, but at the end I was like “okay, yeah, that all made sense” – it never hit the “what is even happening” level, y’know?1
It’s set a bit less than 200 years in the future, and I do quite enjoy the way that changes in technology are integrated. Basically, someone went ahead and finished up Elon Musk’s Neuralink technology. It’s a mix of augmented reality interfaces for doing things and the ability to record and replay dreams, with direct control of the body’s sleep cycle built in. Which sounds handy, except it was made in a realistic world, which means it was funded by venture capitalists, which means it was turned into the most horrifyingly capitalist version of the technology possible. After the technology made it possible for people to cheaply entertain themselves, the world’s economy started slowing way down… so the company, with some backing by the government,2 set it up so it costs money to sleep.3
And, as I pointed out in the title of this post, apparently nobody has ever heard of forming a union, because the workplace environment is pretty abusive. The main character starts off in his Cube, which is roughly a dorm room with the aesthetics if a cubicle, where he pays extortionate rates in order to… not die. As a fun bonus, the Cube is owned by, and in the headquarters of, the company he works for – the same company that controls the technology that’s in everybody’s heads. It’s basically straight out of the nightmares of the people who pushed through the first worker’s rights laws.
And… I’m going to leave it there, actually. That’s a good amount of background, and anything else I can say would spoil some of the fascinating plot. I definitely recommend giving it a read, though – I’ve read a couple short stories that Levesque wrote, and I think I liked this one better than either of those, to be honest. Either way, though, go have a read.


  1. that was a terrible sentence, Grey, why are you trying to write a book review after having gotten up at 3 am, Grey 
  2. The book only ever specifies that the US government was involved, but I assume the rest of the world would’ve done something similar, otherwise the geopolitics of the situation would be different. 
  3. The relationship is a bit different, of course – after a while the company realized they could cut out the middleman and wound up replacing all the currencies with ‘Z’s, their own currency that’s just a measure of how many hours of sleep you can get. 

“Wonder City Stories,” or, “it’s like Oprah ran around handing out queerness to everyone”

Jude McLaughlin
I’m going to start off with a quote from the teaser for the sequel that’s in the end of the book:

“How did your mom keep hold of a device like that anyway?” Megan said, tossing the end of her rainbow-patterned scarf – knotted for her by her gay vampire landlord Zoltan – over her shoulder. He told her that vampires have a lot of free time at night, and knitting was one way he used it. I’m not sure I believe that.

This book was delightful. I read it in one day, and I’m genuinely sad that I finished it because I want there to keep being more.1 It’s basically my entire aesthetic rolled into one thing, and I can summarize it with two words: queer superheroes!
Expanding a bit, though, because it’s actually mostly about people other than superheroes. The cast of main characters includes the vehemently-not-a-superhero daughter of an infamous heroine, a retired WWII-era superhero, the (unpowered and) almost-divorced-wife of a comatose current hero, and quite a few other folks around the edges. It’s a delightfully diverse cast, and it does a really fun job of playing around with some of the ways that superheroes interact with a society that isn’t too unlike our own.2
Plus, y’know, it’s Hella Gay. And, as a nice bonus that takes it away from the annoying majority of LGBTQ-inclusive media, the LGBTQ characters get to do things other than be in the background or die!3
So yes, I absolutely recommend it, go have a read.4


  1. There’s some good news, though – evidently it’s the first volume of an ongoing web serial, so I’ll just go ahead and keep reading once I’m done with this review. 
  2. Really, those sorts of interactions are what I want from my superhero media; it’s unrealistic to expect things to be entirely the same, with a layer of cool battle scenes on top, because there’s so many implications in all that- just think of the economics of car insurance in a world where “yeah a villain threw my car at a hero” is a normal occurrence
  3. No, I’m not bitter at all, why do you ask? 
  4. A final note, here because I can’t attach footnotes to the actual title: having a whole group of queer people like this isn’t ‘unrealistic, considering the percentage of the population that’s queer,’ Twitter Rando: we group together. Safety in numbers, and all that – to be honest, the ‘token gay friend’ thing is more unrealistic, especially in a metropolitan area. 

“Bartleby and James,” or, “is… is the Queen a zombie?“

Michael Coorlim

“I may be able to calibrate my Forensic Viewers and attune them to his particular N-Ray signature.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“My science goggles can track him.”
“Brilliant!”

I own a lot of books that are basically riffs on the concept of Sherlock Holmes, and this is another one. But it’s also one of the most fun that I’ve read – the characters interact well with one another, and I rather identify with the narrator-protagonist.

“All we are is meat, Bartleby. Flesh and bone.”
“What of the soul?” Bartleby poured his own cup.
“Oh, do grow up.”
“I’m serious. There’s something indefinable that separates man from the animals.”
I spoke with a slight singsong while pouring a dollop of cream into my cup. “A sense of pretension about it, perhaps. Delusions of gods, of spirits, of magic, and other humbug.”

Beyond that, the story is pretty interesting – it’s written in a sort of anthology style, so it’s more a collection of short stories than anything else, but they’re put together in chronological order, and good lord do they have some fun stuff going on with the background. I spent the whole second story entirely wrong about who did it, muttering “realpolitik” to myself.1
In looking up the link to put here, I see that it’s an ongoing series, and boy am I ever tempted to get the rest of them. I’ll wait until I’ve finished the rest of my bits of reading that I need to do, but oh, these are going on the wish list. I definitely recommend this one.


  1. To be fair, I wasn’t too far off the mark, but still, I was wrong. 

Playlist of the Month: June 2017

I’m posting this a bit later in the day than usual, but I had to get up at 4:30 to drive people to the airport, so I went back to bed when I got home and I’m just now getting up and being functional again.
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako1
Killer Queen – FIL BO RIVA
22 (OVER S∞∞N) – Bon Iver
Real – Majik
Technicolour Beat – Oh Wonder
Haze – Amber Run
Alps – Novo Amor & Ed Tullett
Wastelands – Amber Run2
Go (feat. Ed Droste) – Woodkid
Young – The Chainsmokers
Cruise (Feat. Andrew Jackson) – Kygo
Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
Ultralife (Acoustic) – Oh Wonder
Battle Symphony – Linkin Park3
Heavy – Oh Wonder
Changed – JP Saxe
Float – Will Morgan
One More Light – Linkin Park4
Dreams – Sunday5
Invisible – Linkin Park
Talking to Myself – Linkin Park
Only You – YOKE LORE6
Hope For Something – Panama
Hold Up, Rewind – Close Talker7
48 Hours – Triangle Park
Seasonal Friends – Close Talker
Heavy (feat. Kiiara) – Linkin Park
Talk – Kodaline8
High On Humans – Oh Wonder9
Parties – Jake Miller
Goodpain – YOKE LORE
slooow down – Mac Ayres
U – Slowes
VPN ft Palmistry – Mr. Mitch10
I’m Just Snacking – Gus Dapperton
All We Need – Fyfe11
Take Five – Patrik Almkvisth12
Relax – Fyfe
Cold Air – Fyfe
Better Man (Feat. Peter Gregson & Iskra String Quartet) – Fyfe13
Rise Up – Imagine Dragons
Rosa – Fyfe
Closing Time – Fyfe14
I Don’t Know Why – Imagine Dragons
Twin Peaks – Flyinglotus
Back to the Start – Jake Miller
Zero Summer – Dirty Nice15
Whatever It Takes – Imagine Dragons
Make a Move – St. Humain
The Endless Summer – Los Porcos
Animals – Tamu Massif16
Halfway – Jake Miller
The Roman Call – Beshken
Thunder – Imagine Dragons


  1. I sent this as a song recommendation to someone on Instagram the other day and they wound up doing a quick guitar version on their Story, so that was cool. 
  2. Again, probably my favorite song of the year. 
  3. My mom and I sing this one together in the car and it’s a great Family Experience 
  4. Probably my favorite song off the new album, and it’s one of those songs that makes me want to know what happened in the songwriter’s life that inspired the song. 
  5. Apparently this is a cover of a song? I didn’t actually know and my mind was slightly blown 
  6. Hey, remember Yoke Lore? They were in some of my earlier playlists 
  7. The chorus on this is so catchy, you’ve been warned 
  8. It’s back! This song is on my list of songs that makes me think of home – probably because it first showed up in my playlists right as we were moving to the new house. 
  9. There’s some good robo-voice in this, I appreciate it 
  10. I’m going to call this my favorite new addition that I got as a single song and not part of an album, it just sounds good, and the computer nerd in me enjoys the lyrics. 
  11. Best song off the new album, so far; I wound up throwing it in here for the “gloria in excelsis” bit, because I’m a big ol’ music nerd. 
  12. I’m ashamed to admit that this is actually a youtube rip in my iTunes library, I couldn’t find somewhere to legitimately buy this song. 
  13. The new album made me want to bring back the first Fyfe song I’d heard. It’s still great. 
  14. I’m gonna be honest I was kinda disappointed that this wasn’t a cover of the “Closing Time” that you’re thinking of. 
  15. This kinda reminds of Binaerpilot? Weird mental connection to make, I guess, but still. 
  16. Another really catchy chorus song. 

“All These Shiny Worlds II”

I’ve read the first anthology in this now-series, and I’m finally getting around to the second one. As I usually do with anthologies, I’ll be splitting it up so that each short story gets its own short review. And, before we launch into that, I’ll give a quick review here: it’s worth getting. Here’s your link.

Out in the Dark

Meryl Stenhouse
Oh, I’m already enjoying the focus on science fiction in this anthology. And these days, I’m also a big fan of stuff being realistically concerned about the impact of climate change – like the ever-increasing importance of naval superiority as the seas rise, and the sorts of defenses you’d need to keep a city from drowning.

Alter Ego

Russ Linton
See, I kinda get where the whole “fourth person perspective” thing was going… but I’m not sure if it worked for me. I mean, superheroes, so a plus in my book, but still, told a bit oddly.

The Silk of Yesterday’s Gown

Misha Burnett
Oh, that was darker than I was expecting, and the opening paragraph makes it pretty clear that it’s going to be fairly dark. Yikes.

A Rough Spirit

Dave Higgins
For a bit of a ghost story, I do enjoy that I had to stop to laugh at the main character’s obliviousness at one point:

“If it pleases Hiroto-sama, I am called Anew. I have some skill in massage if the noble lord has woken with any stiffness?”
He tried to keep his gaze on the small bowl and not the scrubbed skin beyond it. “A little rice and a sip of water will suffice.”
“My brother has strong fingers if-“
She’d noticed something was wrong too. He needed to distract her. He slid the tray closer. “Tell me of Hayabiro while I eat.”

Other than that, I’ve gotta say, this whole thing is “stuff happens to this guy and he overthinks it,” but it was surprisingly entertaining the whole way through.

The Apprentice Appears

Bryce Anderson

Elsie pressed the trigger, sending a taxidermied squirrel flying through the air.

Need I say more? It’s hilarious, as is everything of Anderson’s that I’ve read. On this one alone, it’s worth reading the entire book.

Merge

Simon Cantan
This is the short story version of this comic, and I think it works even better than the actual comic did. To be fair, it’s a bit more hopeful than the comic – there’s robots outside the simulation, so things are still getting done, but still.

Without a Care in the World

Richard Levesque

Then he cleared his throat and said, “I am now officially invoking the Asimov Act – uh, I mean the Sentient Technology Emancipation Act, under the conditions of which you are obligated to release this independent being from servitude immediately.”

The Lancer

David Kristoph
Okay, remember when I said Merge was dark? This was darker. Yikes.

Bodies of Evidence

Jefferson Smith

“Okay Lou, I can squeeze you in. And how will you be paying?”
“On account. Maladein Industries.”
“One moment, please.” She was gone for over a minute. “Hello, Lou? I’m not showing any accounts under that name. The closest match I have is for SKULL International Consortium of Evil, Local Rep: Sheldon Maladein.”
“Damn, I forgot about the merger. That’s us. Sorry.”

I’m a big fan of “daily life in a world with superheroes” kind of things, and this definitely delivered on that.

Borrowed Lives

I.A. Watson
The editor’s note did a good job of covering it: it’s an exploration of how a new technology would fit into everyday lives. (The actual plot contains a bit more intrigue than that, but still.)

“The law hasn’t caught up with this, Mik. Why would there be a law against something nobody knows is possible?”

The Earth Ship

Graham Storrs
Imperialism is always the same, isn’t it?

Digital Commander

J.S. Morin
Oh, I liked this. It’s a pretty possible future, and the way the world-changing advances in technology were being handled as they were being developed? Downright responsible.

The Traveller

Christopher Ruz
Oh, this is not what they should’ve ended on, my heart can’t take it.

“Piranha,” or, “that’s not actually how the Spanish language works”

I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for Clive Cussler for a long time. I started reading his books pretty young – distinctly younger than you’re really supposed to be reading his books, I’m sure, but oh well. It’s not like waiting until I was an actual adult was going to make me find the stilted romance subplots less awkward.1 Of his series, the Oregon Files have always been my favorite – at first it was just because it mentioned my home state, and I like when things do that, but after that it’s just because I enjoy the concept more.23
Piranha delivers on what I want from a book in the series; a touch of history, a baddie with a high-tech schtick, and a whole lot of cool fight scenes. Plot-wise, I didn’t really have any problems with it; everything tied together pretty well, I thought, and I had fun trying to figure out what the aforementioned high-tech schtick was before the book revealed it.4
To be honest, I don’t really have a whole lot to say; Cussler books are somewhat formulaic. But so is, say, cooking; it’s the little variations that make it interesting. I enjoyed reading it, and I’m comfortable recommending it to people if you want an airport-bookstore novel.5 Go have a read.6


  1. Seriously why does there have to be a heterosexual romance in everything, it’s ridiculous 
  2. I still occasionally devote some time to mapping out how I’d build it if I were to create my own version of the Oregon
  3. There’s also a good bit of devotion to the series just because it’s how I found one of my favorite authors. ANECDOTE TIME: when the Kindle first came out, I was in the middle of reading Cussler’s Dark Watch. A family friend had a Kindle and offered to let me try it out; rather than dig around in their books, I pulled up the Kindle Store and tried to download the sample of the book I was reading at the time. I misremembered the name, though, and wound up downloading the sample of Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. I read the whole sample and, the next time I went to the library, checked out the book so I could finish reading it. Since then, I’ve read almost every novel Pratchett ever wrote. (I also wound up buying one of those original Kindles; I’m still sad that it broke, the PaperWhite is nice but just isn’t as good as the original was.) 
  4. I also really appreciated the lack of a stilted romance subplot; the book thought about doing it, at one point, but only made it as far as “he thought she looked good in her outfit” and then dropped that whole thing, which was nice. 
  5. That’s not intended as an insult; I think it’s a pretty valid description of the category of books that Cussler writes. 
  6. I just realized I didn’t actually explain the title of this post; long story short, there’s a scene in the book where the difference between “he said” and “she said” is used to move the plot along… except the characters are speaking Spanish, a gendered language, so that kind of slip-up wouldn’t actually happen. It irritated me disproportionately.