Tag Archives: Xenofiction

Mistimed Meal: A Review of Vampire Fly

Book cover for Vampire Fly: A Samantha Moon Story by J.R. Rain. Image on cover is a closeup photo of a large, green fly sitting on a white surface. Title: Vampire Fly – A Samantha Moon Story

Author: J.R. Rain

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 4, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 28 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars


She’s a horsefly who bit the wrong person—and now something very strange is happening to her.

Something very, very strange.

Not only can she fly faster and see further than ever before, but she has a weird craving for blood.

Her crazy new life has just begun.

That is, until she gets caught in a sticky web and stalked by a massive spider… a spider that’s about to get the surprise of its life…


Content Warning: A vampiric horsefly, insects eating each other, and an insect pregnancy and birth.

Flies have feelings, too.

Mr. Rain did an excellent job of exploring the logical conclusions of a horsefly accidentally becoming a vampire. Not only was this an imaginative story, it spent a lot of time digging into what horseflies might think and feel as they go about their usual business looking for food and, in this case, a safe place to lay their eggs. The vampiric twist to what should have been a pretty ordinary day only made everything even more interesting as the ecosystem is not exactly set up for a horsefly that is much stronger, faster, and more resilient than any other member of its species has ever been before. This opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind of a creature so unlike humans is one of the many reasons why I adore xenofiction, and this was a very good example of what that micro-genre can do.

I found myself wishing for more details about what happened to the horsefly’s babies. For example, did they inherit her supernatural abilities? Would future generations of this family be little vampires as well, or were her babies sterile like most human versions of this monster are? There was so much more the narrator could have done with this subplot, and I would have gone with a full five-star rating if a few additional paragraphs had been included that explained what their fates might have been.

With that being said, I did enjoy the ending quite a bit. The main character had been hurt by a spider in a previous scene, but many of the assumptions I’d made about what might happen next were turned on their heads in the most marvellous manner.  I must tip my cap to the author for pulling this piece in the direction he did. It has piqued my interest in what else might be going on in this universe and made me wonder if this is only the tip of the creative iceberg. As much as I wish I could go into more detail about the last few scenes, I don’t want to spoil anything for other readers as it was a great deal of fun to be surprised by what happened.

This is part of a series, but no prior knowledge of that world is necessary in order to understand what is happening here.

Vampire Fly was a memorable tale that made me curious to read more.

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A Review of Tucker vs. The Apocalypse

Book cover for Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse by Jay Allen Storey. Image on cover shows a photorealistic painting of a golden retriever standing alone on a wet street in the evening sun with city skyscrapers behind him. Title: Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse

Author: Jay Allan Storey

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 1, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 125 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars


Lost and alone amid the ashes of a dead civilization

Household pet Tucker is thrust into an apocalyptic world when not only his own ‘master’, but all of humanity, are stricken with a deadly plague. The disease is fatal in almost one hundred percent of cases, but affects only humans, leaving empty cities and towns that are quickly being repopulated with domestic animals and wildlife.

Tucker eventually connects with a group of other former pets. Deprived of their human caretakers, and guided by the mysterious Web of Life, Tucker and his ‘pack’ must learn to fend for themselves, confronting cold and blinding snow, blistering heat, the threat of starvation, ferocious predators, and the violent remnants of humanity as they search for a new home.


Content Warning: pandemic, robbery, human and animal deaths from both natural and violent causes, murder, animal attacks, plane crash, car crash, (animal) pregnancy and (animal) birth. I will not talk about any of these topics in my review.

Beloved pets generally aren’t taught many survival skills, and that’s a big problem in an apocalypse.

Tucker was an intelligent and sweet dog who I enjoyed getting to know. Mr. Storey did an excellent job of showing the world through canine eyes. Some things that utterly ordinary to humans can be mystifying to dogs and vice versa, so it was amusing to compare those two perspectives as Tucker either puzzled over the weird stuff humans do or assumed the audience was already aware of certain canine behaviours were honestly so obvious to him he barely felt the urge to explain them to the audience at all.

I was surprised by how many of the adult dogs in this story had not been spayed or neutered before the first scene began. It’s rare for that to happen in my social circles, so I was caught off-guard by later scenes that referenced what can happen when humans are no longer around to keep an eye on what their dogs are doing. It would have been nice to have even a brief explanation of how so many fertile pets were running around during an apocalypse.

The world building was excellent, especially considering the fact that it was filtered through the perspective of a dog who, as I stated earlier, had a wildly different opinion on what was most important to share than a human narrator would have mentioned. There was always enough information to know what was going on here, and I enjoyed the challenge of putting together the pieces of scenes that were intentionally written a little mysteriously as Tucker trotted off to sniff interesting scents or find reliable sources of food and water.

Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse was a wild ride.


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Out of the Shadows: A Review of Apparition

Book cover for Apparition By Jacob Clawson. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a 1940s-style car sitting in an alleyway. Title: Apparition

Author: Jacob Clawson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 8, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 18 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars


Creaks and cracks clattered, shattering the air. Breaking through the darkness; they were trying to say something. Were they a code? Perhaps a message to somewhere or something? If it was a warning, what did it mean?
The city of London danced in laughter, sounds flourished; how alive it was. Though obviously unaware of what lay beyond in the harbor; creeping slowly, a rusty ship waited. Gliding through the murky water it made no waves, no sound. Yellow lights flickered inside with no life.
Three smokestacks rose from a deck of darkness, two broken in half. Shattered glass shimmered inside abandoned dining rooms and hallways in the moonlight. Old collapsed beds slept quietly inside passenger rooms. The ship cried out as it passed under a bridge, lights from the cars and lamps a-top flared as it crawled. The air grew thin and cold around the ship, freezing the top of the water behind it, crunching and popping as it moved.


Content Warning: Murder, Death

Decay is a necessary stage in the life cycle, but it can also be incredibly dangerous.

Xenofiction is one of my favourite little corners of the speculative fiction universe, so this tale caught my attention quickly. It takes imagination and courage to write non-human characters that do not think or behave anything like a person would under the same circumstances. I’d like to tip my cap to the author for taking risks with is writing and imagining what it might be like to be the city of London, a rotting ship in a pier, and a mysterious creature that stumbled out of the ship to see what it could find in the wider world. All three of these characters were creative and compelling.

The author warned that this was his first short story and that readers might find this story confusing in his preface. I agree that this was a confusing read, and I did find myself wishing that the paranormal themes had been explained better. For example, was the creature a ghost who suddenly found him or herself feeling restless and wanting revenge for being forgotten? Or maybe it was created out of the raw loneliness and decay of the abandoned ship? There were so many possibilities here, and I wish Mr. Clawson had spent more time giving his readers hints about how he’d interpret it.

With that being said, I really liked this tale’s message about the danger of possessing one small sliver of the truth but believing you know it all. None of the characters were aware of everything that was going on, and that put all of them in danger of either being harmed or of harming someone else. Humility isn’t something that’s explored as often in modern fiction as it was at certain points of the past, but it’s just as important now as it ever was. No one is omniscient (unless some gods happen to read this review), and everyone has blind spots that could make their lives difficult under the right circumstances.

Apparition made me curious to read more from this author. I’d like to welcome him to the experience of being an author and hope he’ll keep honing his skills for many years to come!

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The Best of Intentions: A Review of Abductors

Book cover for Abductors by Joe Vasicek. Image on cover shows a flying saucer flying in the evening sky above a rocky landscape. Title: Abductors

Author: Joe Vasicek

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 16 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars


Ever wonder what an alien abduction looks like from the aliens’ point of view?

The human was never supposed to see the space ship, let alone be brought on board. But when the crew’s bumbling incompetence gets the human caught up in the engines’ back-blast, and no one knows how to revive him, the ship’s engineer has to take matters into his own… appendages.

Includes a bonus story written with ChatGPT!


Content Warning: an alien abduction and a rectal probing (for medical reasons).

Too much curiosity can be dangerous.

The dialogue was pretty funny. None of the characters were expecting a human to be around when they turned on their spaceship, much less to become accidentally injured when the engine fired up. Their panic was totally understandable, and their wildly different ideas about how to treat the injuries were as touching as they were amusing. They only had a limited amount of time to make a difference, so every single moment counted as they quickly flipped through their options and picked what they thought would be the most helpful one.

There was so much more the author could have done with this premise. I found myself wishing he had dove more deeply into the alien crew, their relationships with each other, and why they were studying a species that they seemed to be so disgusted by. This could have easily been a novella at least, and it would have been stronger for it given how much information Mr. Vasicek had to lightly touch on or skip over until order to get to his punchline. If he ever decides to expand on this universe, I’d be excited to read more about it.

Some of the best scenes in my opinion were the ones that explored the vast cultural and physiological differences between humans and aliens. Of course it would be almost impossible to take care of a creature who physiology is wildly different from yours and who has no idea what you’re trying to do to him. It reminded me of how hard it can be to convince a pet like a cat, dog, or rabbit to take medication when they’re ill, but multiply that by a thousand and erase every ounce of information you have about how this other creature’s body works, which parts of their anatomy are sensitive, and how they might react to standard medical treatments.

I did not enjoy the bonus story that was included about a man who met a stranger in a dream and was convinced she was a real person from somewhere. It felt dry to me, and I struggled to connect with the characters. I hope that Mr. Vasicek will not continue to play around with ChatGPT or other artificial means of creating stories in the future. He has plenty of his own talent to put to use!

Abductors was a humorous take on the subject of alien abductions.


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A Review of Literally Life

Title: Literally Book cover for Literally Life - Solara and the Talking Tree by Hiago Furtado. Image on the cover shows a young, white woman with straight hair twirling around in a tutu in front of a blindingly white light. She looks as thought she may be performing on stage due to her dancing en pointe in ballet slippers and with her arms outstretched in a ballerina pose. Life – Solara and the Talking Tree

Author: Hiago Furtado

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: July 23, 2023

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Length: 54 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars



In a farm, far from the kingdom’s eyes, Solara, a lonely little girl who proclaims herself an enchanted princess, brings a nearby tree to life, even though her mother had previously forbidden her from using her powers, fearing they would label her as a witch. The tree, nicknamed by the girl as Mr. Tree, will have to discover its role in the world while maintaining a secret friendship with the little girl. Despite having enchanting powers, its disturbing origin and lack of control over them will bring forth various challenges.

And Solara, embittered by her mother’s disappearance, will try to have fun with Mr. Tree, telling him both epic and mind-bending stories, as well as tragic and macabre ones, in order to help him and teach him about his magical nature. In this chaotic journey, where unknown entities control nature and magical beings are persecuted by prejudice, the two will seek to discover if there is truly a place for fantasy in a world where their mere existence is considered a crime.

Content Warning: Death.

Magic isn’t a toy.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that compared Solara’s and Mr. Tree’s innocent wonder. They had far more in common with each other than one might originally think, and it was fun to take note of the myriad of ways in which a roughly ten-year-old human child and a tree that has only recently become sentient will have the same reaction when confronted with something new. I love picking out the commonalities between character who are otherwise quite different from each other, and I had plenty of opportunities to do that here.

The world building was confusing to me. Since Mr. Tree had a limited perspective on things due to him being a tree who couldn’t physically move around and who didn’t always understand human culture, his understanding of how magic worked in this world didn’t always translate well for me as a reader. I sometimes struggled to understand the logic of his thought processes or why certain scenes played out the way they did. As much as I wanted to give this a higher rating, I couldn’t due to how many times I had to stop and try to figure out what this character was describing.

With that being said, I enjoyed the creative risk Mr. Furtado took by making his main character a plant whose mind was quite different from the mind of the average person. It gave this tale a memorable twist and made me look at everything from chickens to fences to dreaming in new ways. This was my second time reading his work, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for what he might come up with next due to how much effort he puts into writing imaginative stories.

Literally Life – Solara and the Talking Tree made me smile.


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Whimsical Winter: A Review of Memoirs of a Snowflake

Book cover for Memoirs of a Snowflake by Joe Vasicek. The cover is a pretty light purple colour, and it has four large snowflakes, four medium sized snowflakes, and dozens of tiny little snowflakes falling down on what I presume is a night sky on it. It gives the feeling of standing outside and feeling the snow fall onto your face and hands during an early morning or sunset snowstorm. Title: Memoirs of a Snowflake

Author: Joe Vasicek

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 22, 2011

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars


The life and times of a December snowflake.

Every death is a rebirth. Every end is a new beginning. Though I do not know what awaits me as I leave my cloud-mother, I am not afraid.


Snowflakes have feelings, too!

This was such a creative take on sentient snowflakes and what might really go on in a snowstorm if it were comprised of millions of individuals who all have strong feelings about where they end up as they fall from the clouds above. I found myself smiling and nodding along as I followed the main character’s journey from their cloud-mother to their destination on the land below. There’s not much else I can say without giving away spoilers, but I enjoyed the plot twist once it arrived.

I found myself wishing that a bit more time had been spent explaining snowflake society. For example, do snowflakes get to be reborn as water droplets during the warm months of the year? How are they born already knowing so much about their short lives and what awaits them once they melt? A few more pages of exposition would have convinced me to go for a full five-star rating as I loved everything else about this tale.

The metaphysical portions of the plot played a big role in making this such an unforgettable read. The cycle of life and death and how we should all respond to it weren’t topics I would expect a snowflake in the fantasy genre to think about, much less use to guide them during their brief life. The juxtaposition of xenofiction and philosophy here was delightful, and it has encouraged me to keep an eye out for more of Mr. Vasicek’s work in the future.

Be sure to read the author’s notes about how he came up with the idea for this story as well. They were included after the final scene and provided yet another layer of meaning to the plot.

Memoirs of a Snowflake was a peaceful metaphysical adventure.


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Saturday Seven: Non-Human Protagonists

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.


Raise your hand if you love xenofiction! There’s something about experiencing the world through non-human eyes that makes just about any plot more exciting to me.

I ended up coming up with so many books for this list that I’m going to have to revisit this topic on a future Saturday Seven post so I can include everything I had to leave out of this week’s list. I need to read a few books before I share part two, though, so it might be a while before I publish it.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

I was so young when I first read this book that I didn’t pick up on the satirical or allegorical messages in the plot at all. What I knew was that I was fascinated by the idea of animals revolting and running their own farm, and I only enjoyed the storyline more once I learned enough about world history to understand it on a deeper level.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

There are a lot of stories out there written from the perspective of dog narrators, but this is my favourite one because of how differently Enzo saw the world when compared to how a human would describe the same event. He behaved exactly how a dog would behave, and his explanations for why he did certain silly things made total sense from that point of view.

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

It’s been so long since I read this book that the only things I can tell you about it for sure is that the main character is incredibly brave and that I loved the plot twists in it. It was like nothing I’ve ever read before or since.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Fair warning: this one’s a tearjerker. One of my uncles has owned at least one horse for as long as I can recall, and I remember paying closer attention to his horses after reading Black Beauty. (Don’t worry!  All of my uncle’s horses have always been looked after nicely).

The Inheritors by William Golding

This is one of those stories that made me want to jump into the plot about twenty pages into it and change how things were going. I adored the Neanderthal characters and wanted to do everything I could to help them. That’s all I can say about them without giving away spoilers.

Grendel by John Gardner

Beowulf was by far my favourite assigned read in college. Grendel told the same story as the original, but it explored this universe from the perspective of the monster instead of the hero. I loved it every bit as much as I expected to when I first found it at my local library.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Did my mom read this book to us a chapter at a time before bed, or am I mixing it up with other children’s adventure stories she read to us? I hope she’ll remember!

What is your favourite book that features a non-human main character?


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