Two thumbs up for Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation) by Mo Xiang Tongxiu. Fantasy.

This review contains spoilers, but you’ll thank me. Context first: my roommate and I watched The Untamed on Netflix over the course of something like five days. It’s 50 hour-long episodes – my eyes stopped being able to focus and I was learning Mandarin by osmosis by episode 40.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Guiding Nose of Ulfant Banderoz by Dan Simmons. Fantasy.

A novella set in the world of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth; I haven’t read any of that series but it didn’t reduce the pleasure I took in this gleefully purple little gem. Shrue the Diabolist learns of the death of Ulfant Banderoz, proprietor of the Ultimate Library, and sets out on a quest to possess the library’s secrets.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny. Science fiction.

The hallmark of the books I’ve read by Zelazny is that they are almost entirely dialogue, and nothing is explained, so reading them is like doing an enjoyable logic puzzle. As, indeed, was my experience with Roadmarks. However, even one week after reading I discover I retained none of it except for the delightful fact that the characters include two sentient books, Flowers (Les fleurs du mal) and Leaves (…of Grass) which help their human companions interface with their cars.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for An Alien Heat (Dancers at the End of Time #1) by Michael Moorcock. Science fiction.

The end of time is nigh, but the last humans do not care; they are busy being decadent: to wit, creating things out of the air, indulging their hobbies, having sex, and playing pranks on each other. (Satire, yet I’m not sure what else I would hope for the end of humanity?) The crux of the story is when the hero, Jherek Carnelian, decides to do something daring–he intends to fall in love!… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi. Science fiction.

Just as impossible to understand and just as pleasing to read as the previous two in the trilogy.

‘Look, I’m sorry about the Realm,’ she says. ‘The mountain and all that. I can see now that it would have been disorienting for you. We usually try to bring orphans in through Realms, to let them work out their issues: they get the narrative rights to shape their surroundings in the framework we give them.

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Thumbs up for Anglican Women Novelists: From Charlotte Brontë to P.D. James edited by Judith Maltby and Alison Shell. Literary criticism.

At the risk of sounding facetious: it is a book of short biographies and literary analyses of Anglican Women Novelists; and it is excellent. Does the topic interest you? Then read it. You will discover interesting things, your literary conversations will expand, and you will discover even more authors you want to read.… >> Read more

Two thumbs up for Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale by Herman Melville. Literature.

I’m not going to review Moby-Dick; you already know if you are the kind of person who will read Moby-Dick or not. If you are interested, but perhaps a little intimidated, I will recommend the free audio version performed by Stewart Wills on LibriVox. I do not enjoy audio books, but Moby-Dick is secretly poetry rather than prose, so I found that it suited walking home from work, as if some elder were recounting an epic in my ear to speed up a necessary expedition.… >> Read more


Thumbs up for A Curious Beginning, A Perilous Undertaking, A Treacherous Curse, A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell series #1 to #4) by Deanna Raybourn. Historical mysteries.

Escapist literature at its best. A series of mysteries set in Victorian England following the exploits of two natural historians: Veronica Speedwell, sexually-emancipated lepidopterist, and Stoker, black-sheep aristocrat and professional taxidermist. (“They fight crime!”) I don’t know about the quality of the mystery plots, in the sense that I don’t care; I’m just here for the banter and smoldering sexual tension.… >> Read more