Category Archives: Science Fiction and Fantasy

In Pursuit of Justice: A Review of The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Book cover for The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale by T J Therien. Image on cover is of an arrow with a green background. Title:The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Author: T J Therien

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 30, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical

Length: 83 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

The story as you know it is a lie. Discover the true origins of the Robin Hood legend in this fast paced Novella that takes our titular character back to the roots of the early ballads.

Review:

Content warning: violence, murder, and attempted rape. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Everyone deserves justice.

I appreciated how courageous many of the characters were, especially when it came to fourteen-year-old Robyn and Wilma, the woman who saved her from a pretty dangerous situation in one of the earliest chapters. The era they lived in definitely wasn’t a kind one for women or anyone living on the margins of society for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to discover for themselves. It was cool to see them look out for one another in an environment where drawing attention to oneself could have so many negative repercussions.

This story had a large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping track of. There simply wasn’t enough room for me to get to know everyone well enough to immediately know who they were and how they were connected to everyone else when they popped up again after not being part of the plot for a while. It would have been nice to focus on a smaller number of folks and maybe save the rest for a sequel, if such a thing is in the works.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones showing how Robyn, Wilma, and the other people who met up with them worked together to solve problems that seemed insurmountable. These weren’t the types of folks who the money or social connections to pull strings behind the scenes. Every bit of justice they hoped to seek would only come about through cooperation, a ton of hard work, and maybe a little luck as well. Those are exactly the sort of heroes I enjoy reading about.

Anyone who loves the original Robin Hood tales should check out The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale.

Why I Bounce Between Soft Sci-Fi and Hard Sci-Fi

This is a response post to Louise’s Why I Prefer Soft Sci-Fi

photo of galassia star. Let’s start this conversation off with some quick definitions.

Hard sci-fi is a sub-genre of science fiction that focuses on hard sciences like physics, math, chemistry, or astronomy that ask and answer objective questions.

That is to say, there is only one correct answer if someone asks you what the square root of nine is.

Soft sci-fi is a sub-genre of science fiction that focuses on soft sciences like sociology, anthropology, or psychology. They include a mixture of objective and subjective questions.

For example,

Some science fiction fans have a strong preference for one of these sub-genres over the other. I prefer to bounce around between them and nearly every other type of science fiction that doesn’t include romance for the following reasons:

The Lines Between Them Are Blurry

Many sci-fi stories include elements of both hard and soft science fiction. They might start out describing how scientists in that universe discovered a safe, fast, and effective way to travel between solar systems only to switch over to describing how that technology changed every facet of human culture over the next few millennia.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having strong preferences on either side of the spectrum, but I’ve discovered so many amazing books and authors that I would have otherwise overlooked if I’d been strict about only wanting to read hard or soft science fiction.

I Need Variety

While sci-fi is the genre where I spend most of my reading time, I also enjoy reading fantasy, horror, mysteries, historical fiction, non-fiction, and many other genres.

I’m happiest when I can bounce around between different types of storytelling no matter which genre I’m currently reading. After finishing a hard science fiction adventure, I might be in the mood for a memoir, a light fantasy adventure, or a book of poetry next.

It’s even better when the same book can smoothly move between different genres and maybe even mash up some themes that aren’t normally woven together.

Each Story Has Unique Needs

Some sci-fi stories really do need to have the science behind them explained in detail in order for anything else that follows to make sense to readers who aren’t already well-versed in the branch or branches of science that are being explored there.

Other sci-fi stories use spaceships, aliens, or new inventions as a backdrop but can share the meat of their plot with the audience even if no one knows the details of how alien physiology is different from human physiology or how that new invention came into being.

I definitely do agree with Louise’s point about hard science fiction being something that often works better in film or TV show form. While I enjoy reading about new technologies or inventions, it’s amazing to see them come to life in a scene.

Do all of you have preferences for hard versus soft science fiction? If so, what are they?

 

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Book cover for Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel by Seth Tucker. Black and white image on cover is of a large house on an overcast, winter day. Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 25, 2013

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 27 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone more adept at unusual crime than Scotland Yard. Richard Rex, agent of the Queen, must track down this supernatural killer. Can he find it before it claims more victims?

Review:

How would you fight a monster whose speciality was hunting down folks just like you?

The world building was so well done in this story that after a few scenes I assumed I’d accidentally wandered into the middle of a series. While this didn’t seem to be the case after all, I was still impressed with how much detail the author packed into what this supernatural version of London was like as well as what his characters had been up to months and even years before the first scene began. It was thrilling to learn about this world. At times I forgot I was reading altogether because of how absorbed I was in what might happen next!

My first impression of Richard also turned out to be incorrect.  He felt a little too good to be true when I first met him, and I briefly wondered if he was exaggerating his kind deeds to the audience a bit to win us over. I soon realized that his wholesome image was legitimate. While he was a certainly a man of his time, especially when it came to how he interacted with people who didn’t share his station in life, those scenes only endeared me to him more. He wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but he was an admirable one.

The ending was everything I hoped it would be and more. I enjoyed the way Mr. Tucker tied up all of the important loose ends in this case while also leaving room for a sequel. Based on how much work he put into creating Richard and the other characters, my fingers are crossed that someday I’ll get to read more about them. There certainly seemed to be plenty of material to work with when it came to the lives they’d built so far as well as the hopefully wonderful things that might await them in the future.

Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel was a rollocking good time. If anything in this review tickled your fancy, do give it a try!

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Book cover for The House on Abigail Lane by Kealan Patrick Burke. Image on cover is of a house that has all of its windows illuminated by light on a dark night. It is sitting next to a garden filled with sunflowers, one of which has a human-like eye in the centre of it staring straight ahead at the reader. Title: The House on Abigail Lane

Author: Kealan Patrick Burke

Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: June 17, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 68 pages

Source: I bought it.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people have vanished as soon as they go upstairs, the only clues the things they leave behind: a wedding ring, a phone…an eye.

In its sixty-year history, a record number of strange events have been attributed to the house, from the neighbors waking up to find themselves standing in the yard outside, to the grieving man who vanished before a police officer’s eyes. The animals gathering in the yard as if summoned. The people who speak in reverse. The lights and sounds. The music. The grass dying overnight…and the ten-foot clown on the second floor.

And as long as there are mysteries, people will be compelled to solve them.

Here, then, is the most comprehensive account of the Abigail House phenomenon, the result of sixty years of eyewitness accounts, news reports, scientific research, and parapsychological investigations, all in an attempt to decode the enduring mystery that is…

…THE HOUSE ON ABIGAIL LANE.

Review:

Evil comes in many forms.

This short story was heavily plot driven. The mystery of why people from many different walks of life kept disappearing at Abigail House permeated every scene, and it didn’t give away any hints about what the answer may be at first. I liked the fact that the audience was left in the dark in the beginning. It made the last few scenes even more exciting.

While I definitely wasn’t expecting the characters to have quiet, introspective moments, I do wish I’d gotten to know them better. There were times when it was hard for me to emotionally connect with the latest poor soul who found themselves working, visiting, or living at this location because of how quickly the house cycled through its victims. No sooner were they introduced than many of them met their fates.

I’m saying that as someone who was deliciously terrified of this setting. Few things are more frightening to me than a place where horrible things happen for reasons that none of the characters have yet to figure out nd therefore have no way to predict or prevent. Had I been able to bond with at least some of the victims, this would have been the perfect read for this horror fan.

If there’s anything about the suburbs that gives you a gnawing sense of discomfort, The House on Abigail Lane might help to explain why.

5 Reasons to Read Short Stories

A close up photo of an opened book being illuminated by warm, yellow light.One of the most consistent aspects of my reading preferences since childhood is that I’ve always preferred short stories to full-length novels.

Anyone who has paid close attention to what I review here may have already noticed that. For every 200-page novel that makes an appearance in my Thursday review slot, there are probably half a dozen short stories and novellas sprinkled between it and the next full-length work I finish.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some amazing books out there that convince me to commit my reading time for a few hundred pages, but short stories have plenty of advantages, too.

5 Reasons to Read Short Stories

They Require Minimal Investments of Time

A closeup of pink sand in a glass hourglass I often finish short stories in fifteen minutes. Sometimes I finish the shortest ones in less than five!

There’s something appealing about finishing a story in such a brief period of time.

If you end up with a story that you either don’t particularly like or find simply okay, you can keep reading with the knowledge that it will end soon.

On the flip side, adoring a character or storyline can be a big hint that you might love the rest of that author’s catalogue.

Sometimes writers even revisit the same characters and settings across multiple short stories in the form of serials or simply by revisiting fan favourites over and over again.

They’re Often Free or Inexpensive

Rabbit wearing spectacles and sitting next to an opened bookIf your book buying budget is small or if you prefer to try new authors before buying their work, short stories can be a fantastic way to expand your reading horizons.

Many sites have been specifically created for reading, sharing, and discussing short stories. I’m most familiar with the ones that focus on the science fiction and fantasy genres, but this sort of things exists for every genre.

I’ve also started sharing a list of free science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction books every Thursday on Twitter.

Last week’s list included the following stories, all of which were still free to the best of my knowledge when this post went live:

They Can Help End Reading Slumps

When I’m in a reading slump, the last thing I want to do is commit to several hundred pages of reading.

It feels so much more realistic to say let’s see what happens over the course of five or ten pages while I’m still getting to read the beginning, middle, and end of a tale.

They’re Palate Cleansers

Woman reading a book in a dark library. There is a bright light emanating from the book.Sometimes full-length books weigh on my mind long after I finish their final pages, especially if they have excellent world building and character development.

It can feel a little odd to jump from one immersive reading experience to the next. Short stories can help to bridge that gap by introducing new characters and settings that you already know will only be around for a short period of time.

This isn’t to say that short stories can’t have intricate world building and character development, of course, only that they have a smaller number of pages to do so.

They Offer a Low-Pressure Way to Try New Genres and Authors

Man using binoculars while sitting between two stacks of thick, dusty books at a large wooden table
For example, I used to think I wasn’t into the mystery genre because of some bland experiences I’d had reading full-length mysteries.

It was only when I tried a few short stories in this genre that I realized it does appeal to me after all. I never would have given it another shot by picking up a two-hundred page book, but I was willing to sit through a half dozen pages to see if my opinions had shifted.

This a pattern that has repeated multiple times in my reading history. Of course I don’t always enjoy the new authors or genres I try, but I have discovered some stuff I would have otherwise overlooked thanks to the low-pressure environment of short stories.

If you read short stories, what do you like most about them?

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review. The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease. While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more… Read More

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention. Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch Author: Jason H. Abbott Publisher: Blue Boar Press Publication Date: October 7, 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the… Read More

Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us

Content warning: mental illness, blood, violence, and trauma. Us is a 2019 American horror film about a family who was terrorized by their doppelgängers while they were on what was supposed to be a peaceful beach vacation. It was directed by Jordan Peele, the same director who released Get Out in 2017. This is one… Read More

Love and Regret: A Review of The Curse of La Llorona

Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review.  The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself. La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is… Read More

6 Toronto Urban Legends for Halloween

Since most of the people who read this site don’t live in Toronto and Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year by far, this seemed like the perfect time to share some of our spooky local urban legends. The Lady in Red Lower Bay subway station was built in 1966 and shut down six… Read More