RogerBW's Blog

Mysterium 23 August 2017 - 2 comments

Mysterium, designed by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko, is a co-operative game of deduction for 2-7 players.

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The Private Wife of Sherlock Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas 22 August 2017

2012 historical mystery novelette, part of Douglas's series about Irene Adler. Irene visits London and enlists the help of Sherlock Holmes to save an old friend from a complex blackmail plot.

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Singing in the Shrouds, Ngaio Marsh 20 August 2017

1958 classic English detective fiction; twentieth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The passengers aboard the Cape Farewell are travelling to South Africa; but it seems that the Flower Murderer who's been plaguing London is among their number.

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GURPS Vehicles: Steampunk Conveyances 17 August 2017

Vehicles aren't the defining image of steampunk, but they're certainly one of the important aspects of it, whether it's personal carriages or massive airships. This book lists a number of historical, speculative and fantastic vehicle designs, with stats for use in GURPS.

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Armada, Ernest Cline 16 August 2017

2015 science fiction. Zack Lightman is a dreamer and geek with anger management problems. But his video gaming skills are going to be needed to fight off a real alien invasion. Spoilers.

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Colony 15 August 2017

Colony, designed by Ted Alspach, Toryo Hojo and Yoshihisa Nakatsu, is a dice-based resource-building game of post-apocalyptic survival for 2-4 players.

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Spider Dance, Carole Nelson Douglas 14 August 2017

2004 historical mystery, eighth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Still in New York, Irene Adler looks into the last days of the woman who might have been her mother, and finds that other people are taking a violent interest in the matter.

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Gateway, Frederik Pohl 12 August 2017 - 2 comments

1977 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction (and the Locus and Campbell too). The mysterious and vanished aliens known as Heechee left behind a space station in solar orbit, and lots of small FTL spacecraft attached to it. But humans haven't really worked out how to navigate them yet.

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The Good Place season 1 10 August 2017

2016 fantasy comedy, 14 episodes. Eleanor dies, and goes to the afterlife. Not Heaven, exactly, but… The Good Place. Only problem is, she's pretty sure she's not meant to be there, but admitting it would surely make things worse.

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Help Fund My Robot Army, John Joseph Adams 09 August 2017 - 1 comment

2014 SF anthology consisting of short stories in the form of crowdfunding pitches and site updates.

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July-August 2017 Trailers 07 August 2017 - 1 comment

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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Hide My Eyes, Margery Allingham 05 August 2017

1958 classic English detective fiction; sixteenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Several crimes seem to be vaguely related to a shabby-respectable area in west London, but how can it all be put together? US vtt Tether's End and Ten Were Missing.

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Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw 02 August 2017

2012 horror comedy. Travis wakes up one morning to find that Brisbane has been flooded with carnivorous strawberry jam.

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Off With His Head, Ngaio Marsh 31 July 2017

1957 classic English detective fiction; nineteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In the village of South Mardian, the Dance of the Five Sons is still performed at midwinter; but this year one of the dancers will be decapitated in truth as well as in jest. US vt Death of a Fool.

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The Library Paradox, Catherine Shaw 26 July 2017

2006 historical mystery, third of Shaw's series. In 1896, Vanessa Weatherburn (now a mother of twins) investigates the murder of a professor of history at King's College.

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Pyramid 105: Cinematic Magic 25 July 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's magic inspired by large-scale filmic stories. Is it just going to be a rerun of #102 Epic? Not quite.

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The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge 23 July 2017

2015 fantasy. In Victorian England, Faith Sunderly has gone with her family to the Isle of Vane as her father the famous naturalist supervises the excavation of fossils, though it gradually becomes apparent that he is under some sort of cloud. Still, there is science to be done… by the men.

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Dying on Principle, Judith Cutler 21 July 2017 - 3 comments

1997 mystery; third of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, a teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham. Seconded to a new college for a project, Sophie finds the proximity to her home and the high equipment budget don't compensate for a strange managerial attitude… or for murder.

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Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge 19 July 2017

2014 fantasy. Triss has survived a fall in the river, but she doesn't feel quite right: she's permanently hungry, her memories are fuzzy, and her sister refuses to talk to her.

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Scream Queens season 2 18 July 2017

2016, 10 episodes. Horror comedy by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan: the survivors of the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house massacre are now running a hospital, but they haven't got away from masked killers.

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Scales of Justice, Ngaio Marsh 17 July 2017

1955 classic English detective fiction; eighteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The quiet village of Swevenings has seen two deaths recently: Sir Harold Lacklander of the Foreign Service died of old age and heart failure, leaving his memoirs to his good friend and neighbour Colonel Cartarette to edit and publish. But now someone's stove the Colonel's head in.

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A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge 15 July 2017 - 2 comments

2012 fantasy. In the underground city of Caverna, Neverfell was found with no memories, aged five, in a cheese-vat. Seven years later, she sets out to catch an escaped rabbit, and ends up finding her place in the world.

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June-July 2017 Trailers 14 July 2017 - 1 comment

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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The Forever War, Joe Haldeman 13 July 2017 - 1 comment

1974 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning military science fiction. William Mandella is a conscript in Earth's first interstellar war; it starts off looking an awful lot like Vietnam.

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Fune wo Amu 12 July 2017

2016 slice of life, novel adaptation in 11 episodes: AniDB, vt "The Great Passage". Introverted Majime is a useless salesman for Genbu Publishing, but finds his true calling working in the Dictionary Editorial Department.

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Hugo 2017: Campbell Award 11 July 2017

These are my thoughts on the Campbell Award-nominated authors (yes, I know it's not a Hugo) based on the material provided in the voter pack. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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Hugo 2017: Novel 09 July 2017

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novels. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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Hugo 2017: Series 07 July 2017

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated series. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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Hugo 2017: Short Story 05 July 2017

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated short stories. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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The Catch season 1 04 July 2017 - 2 comments

2016 caper show, 10 episodes. Alice Vaughan, private investigator, discovers her fiancé was a con artist stealing from her firm. But in spite of all that, neither of them is quite ready to break things off.

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Hugo 2017: Novelette 03 July 2017 - 5 comments

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novelettes. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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Hugo 2017: Novella 01 July 2017 - 2 comments

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novellas. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

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Tour de Force, Christianna Brand 29 June 2017

1955 detective fiction; sixth and last of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. On a Conducted Tour (an early package holiday) in Italy, one of the group is murdered. Nobody has a strong motive, and everyone seems to have an alibi. But the local Grand Duke is determined to execute someone

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Pyramid 104: Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game 28 June 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's one of the three issues promised during the Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter.

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Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold 27 June 2017

2016 fantasy novella in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion), second in the Penric sub-series. Now a trained sorcerer, Penric is lent to a detective chasing the murderer of a young nobleman; of course it's more complicated than that.

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Lethal Weapon season 1 26 June 2017 - 1 comment

2016-2017, 18 episodes: Murtaugh is a straight-arrow cop, Riggs is his ker-razy partner.

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Airs Above the Ground, Mary Stewart 25 June 2017

1965 mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Vanessa March, married two years, had a fight with her husband Lewis just before he left on a business trip to Stockholm. But then he shows up on a newsreel about a circus fire in Austria… with his arm round a blonde.

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High Island Blues, Ann Cleeves 23 June 2017

1996 detective fiction; eighth and apparently last of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. George is commissioned to look into a possible charity fraud, then whipped off to Texas to assist an old birdwatching friend who's being accused of murder.

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The Beckoning Lady, Margery Allingham 20 June 2017

1955 classic English detective fiction; fifteenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Campion's friends and country neighbours the Cassands are having their annual party; but three corpses will go some way towards spoiling the fun.

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Westworld season 1 19 June 2017

2016 science fiction, 10 episodes. At the Westworld holiday resort, the android "hosts" exist to be shot, slept with, and generally taken advantage of. But some of them are starting to remember.

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Femme Fatale, Carole Nelson Douglas 18 June 2017

2003 historical mystery, seventh of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Goaded by the scandal-mongering reporter Nellie Bly, Irene travels back to New York to look into a past of which she has little memory… but someone seems to be killing people who figured in it.

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May-June 2017 Trailers 17 June 2017

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin 16 June 2017

1974 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. Shevek is a physicist working on a new theory of time, but he finds political obstruction even in an anarchist utopia. He travels to the mother world to continue his work.

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Murder of Crows, Annie Bellet 13 June 2017

2014 modern fantasy, second in the series. Jade Crow is training to fight against the big nasty magician, but her father calls for help. You really shouldn't go home again.

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Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer 11 June 2017

2016 Hugo-nominated science fiction, first book of Terra Ignota. Even in a techno-utopia, there are people who are unhappy with the rules.

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Van Helsing season 1 10 June 2017 - 2 comments

2016 post-apocalyptic horror, 13 episodes. Vampires have always walked the earth, and after a Yellowstone-eruption-induced loss of sunlight they've taken over. Three years later, a descendent of Abraham van Helsing helps to fight against them.

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Spinsters in Jeopardy, Ngaio Marsh 09 June 2017

1954 classic English detective fiction; seventeenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Alleyn is combining work for the Sûreté with a family holiday in the South of France, but sees a possible murder from the train, and then things get even more complicated. US vt The Bride of Death.

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The Obelisk Gate, N K Jemisin 07 June 2017

2016 Hugo-nominated science-fantasy. As the world ends, two orogenes try to protect their little patches of it. Definitely don't try to start the series here.

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The Shape of Dread, Marcia Muller 05 June 2017

1990 mystery; ninth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Tracy Kostakos, rising comedian, disappeared two years ago; Bobby Foster confessed to kidnapping and killing her. But there's no body, he's recanted the confession, and All Souls Legal Cooperative is handling his appeal.

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GURPS Hot Spots: The Silk Road, Matt Riggsby 04 June 2017

This historical GURPS supplement looks at the Silk Road during the peak years of its importance, between roughly the second and tenth centuries AD.

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Death on the Air and Other Stories, Ngaio Marsh 03 June 2017

1989 collection of short mystery stories, some featuring Roderick Alleyn.

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London Particular, Christianna Brand 01 June 2017

1952 detective fiction; fifth of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. Raoul Vernet, fading roué, had his head bashed in on a foggy night – in a nearly empty house. But everyone's got something to hide. US vt Fog of Doubt.

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar 31 May 2017

2016 fantasy, light novel adaptation in 12½ episodes: AniDB. Six people find themselves in a monster-bashing fantasy world, without memories or resources. vt Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.

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C.R.O.W., Phillip Richards 30 May 2017

2012 military science fiction, first of a planned five-book series. Private Andy Moralee has passed Dropship Infantry training, but it didn't prepare him for a unit posting and battle itself.

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Incorporated season 1 29 May 2017 - 4 comments

2016 cyberpunk drama, 10 episodes. Ben Larson, corporate climber, is secretly a climate-change refugee under a false identity, trying to find and save the woman he grew up with and lost.

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The Tiger in the Smoke, Margery Allingham 28 May 2017

1952 classic English detective fiction; fourteenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Meg Elginbrodde thought she was widowed in the war, and now plans to marry again; but someone is sending her recent photographs of a man who might be her late husband. Can it really be as simple as blackmail?

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Keeping Bad Company, Ann Granger 26 May 2017

1997 mystery; second of Granger's novels of Fran Varady, would-be actress and amateur sleuth. Fran's waiting at a station and feels sorry for a homeless man, so gives him a cup of coffee. Soon she's hearing his life story… and all about the young woman he saw being kidnapped a few days ago.

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May 2017 Trailers 25 May 2017

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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Pyramid 103: Setbacks 24 May 2017 - 2 comments

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's things that go wrong for player characters.

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Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee 22 May 2017

2016 Hugo-nominated science fiction. In a world defined by belief, Kel Cheris won a battle against heretics… by using a heretical technique. That makes her the perfect leader for a really important mission.

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Flying Witch 21 May 2017

2016 modern fantasy, shounen manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB. Makoto the trainee witch moves to a rural town in Aomori prefecture to live with her (non-magical) relatives.

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White Rabbit Project season 1 20 May 2017

2016 popular science/history, 10 episodes. The team does practical investigation of various historical events and other claims.

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Opening Night, Ngaio Marsh 18 May 2017

1951 classic English detective fiction; sixteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Towards the end of the opening night of a new play, one of the cast kills himself. Or does he? US vt Night at the Vulcan.

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Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke 16 May 2017 - 1 comment

1973 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. In 2131, an object falls into the inner Solar System at high speed: it turns out to be an alien artefact, and only one ship is in a position to take a look before it falls out again.

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Past Caring, Robert Goddard 14 May 2017

1987 partly-historical mystery. In 1910, Edwin Strafford was Home Secretary under Asquith, and engaged to be married; then, suddenly, his intended refused to speak to him, his political career collapsed, and he ended up as a consular official in Madeira. In 1977, unemployed history teacher Martin Radford is employed by an eccentric South African to find out why, but the past is not as dead as he might have hoped.

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Kuromukuro 13 May 2017

2016 mecha science fiction, 26 episodes: AniDB, vt Black Relic. In the near future, a UN research station at the Kurobe Dam is looking into some ancient artefacts… and enigmatic aliens start to invade Earth.

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Frequency season 1 12 May 2017

2016-2017 detection, 13 episodes. Frank Sullivan the homicide detective was shot and killed in 1996; in 2016, his daughter Raimy, also a homicide detective, finds that she can talk to Frank of twenty years ago via an old ham radio.

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April-May 2017 Trailers 11 May 2017 - 3 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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Going Grey, Karen Traviss 09 May 2017

2014 military SF, first of a series. Ian Dunlop thinks he might be going mad, but he's the product of an illegal experiment. That secret has been well kept for years, but now it's getting out.

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Chance season 1 08 May 2017 - 2 comments

2016 noir thriller, 10 episodes. A forensic neuropsychiatrist finds himself getting in way, way over his head.

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Pyramid 102: Epic 07 May 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's things to make the players say "that's amazing".

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Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective, Leslie Thomas 06 May 2017

1976 comedic detective fiction; first of Thomas's novels of "Dangerous" Davies, barely-competent and perenially unlucky detective constable in Willesden. Set to look for a local criminal who might have returned to the area, Davies turns this into an investigation of a twenty-five-year-old disappearance.

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Shokugeki no Soma season 2 05 May 2017

2016 cooking story, shounen manga adaptation in 13 episodes: AniDB, vt "Food Wars: The Second Plate". Yukihira Sōma continues to fight cooking duels on his way up the élite Totsuki cooking school.

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Most Secret, Nevil Shute 04 May 2017

1945 war story (written in 1942 but held back by the censor). Four mismatched officers come together on a project to build up French morale by deploying a flamethrower against German coastal forces.

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The Exorcist season 1 02 May 2017

2016 horror, 10 episodes. Suburban family's daughter is demonically possessed; two priests try to do something about it.

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Swing Brother Swing, Ngaio Marsh 01 May 2017

1949 classic English detective fiction; fifteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Lord Pastern and Bagott, sitting in on the drums in a jazz band, has set up a bit of business where he "shoots" the piano-accordionist, Carlos Rivera, who falls down and is carried off stage. But Rivera's made himself offensive to everyone, and he's not going to be getting up again. US vt A Wreath for Rivera.

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Dark Matter season 2 30 April 2017

2016 science fiction, 13 episodes. The motley crew of the Raza continues to try to stay alive, and maybe even do something worthwhile.

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The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata 29 April 2017

2013 military SF, first of a trilogy. In the near future, Lieutenant James Shelley commands a Linked Combat Squad of tech-enhanced soldiers in a desert war everyone knows is pointless, but profitable to the right people. Lately he seems to have developed a reliable sense of imminent danger. (vt The Red in 2015 revised release.)

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Kyoukai no Rinne season 2 27 April 2017

2016 modern fantasy, shounen manga adaptation in 25 episodes: AniDB, vt "Circle of Reincarnation". High school student Mamiya Sakura, and Rokudō Rinne the shinigami, continue to have wacky adventures dealing with the spirit world.

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Death of Jezebel, Christianna Brand 26 April 2017

1949 detective fiction; fourth of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. Isabel Drew is domineering, vain, and thoughtless, but beautiful enough to get away with it. Today her chickens will be coming home to roost.

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Braindead 25 April 2017 - 1 comment

2016 political science fiction, 13 episodes. Alien insects are taking over American politicians. This causes surprisingly little disruption.

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March-April 2017 Trailers 23 April 2017

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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The Sacred Art of Stealing, Christopher Brookmyre 22 April 2017

2002 tartan noir. Angelique de Xavia, police detective burning out after the events of A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, comes up against a gang of Situationist bank robbers.

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Death by Water, Kerry Greenwood 20 April 2017

2005 historical detection, fifteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). After a series of jewel thefts aboard the SS Hinemoa, Phryne is employed by P&O as both detective and bait.

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Pyramid 101: Humor 18 April 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's humour, something I've always found tricky in RPGs.

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The Last Ship season 3 17 April 2017

2016 science fiction, 13 episodes. As the world starts to rebuild after the megaplague, some people decide they prefer it the way it is.

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Flowers Stained With Moonlight, Catherine Shaw 16 April 2017 - 2 comments

2005 historical epistolary mystery, second of Shaw's series. In 1892, a young woman's much older husband has been murdered; her mother brings in Vanessa Duncan to try to get the answers and avoid scandal before the police arrest the widow.

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New Game! 15 April 2017

2016 slice of life, 4-koma manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB. Suzukaze Aoba joins the studio that's making the third game in a series she loved growing up.

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South by Java Head, Alistair MacLean 14 April 2017

1958 thriller/war story. In February 1942, Singapore is about to fall to the Japanese; one last ship makes it out, but those who made it aboard won't have an easy trip to safety.

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A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, Christopher Brookmyre 12 April 2017

2001 tartan noir. What's the connection between new teacher and new father Ray Ash, and international terrorist-for-hire The Black Spirit? Rather more than one might suspect.

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Rizzoli & Isles season 7 11 April 2017

2016, 13 episodes: the final season of odd-couple crimefighting from Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles.

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Dagashi Kashi 10 April 2017

2016 contemporary comedy, 12 episodes, manga adaptation: AniDB. Kokonotsu works at his father's old-fashioned sweet shop, but wants to draw manga. A strange girl appears to try to recruit his father, but first she needs to persuade Kokonotsu to take over the shop.

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More Work for the Undertaker, Margery Allingham 09 April 2017

1948 classic English detective fiction; thirteenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The decaying Palinodes are lodging in what used to be the family house, but one of them seems to have been poisoned; what is the neighbouring undertaker up to; and why is a delirious crook terrified of "going up Apron Street"?

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Wynonna Earp season 1 08 April 2017

2016 urban fantasy/horror, 13 episodes. Wynonna Earp, distant descendant of Wyatt, comes back to her home town to learn that her job in life is to send back to hell the revenants of the men who died by Earp's gun "Peacemaker".

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The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov 07 April 2017 - 3 comments

1972 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. The Electron Pump has brought limitless free energy to Earth, by exchanging matter with a parallel universe where the physical laws differ. But one or two people think there might be a worm in this apple.

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The Book of the Dead, Elizabeth Daly 05 April 2017

1944 mystery; eighth of Daly's books of Henry Gamadge, book expert and amateur investigator. Mr Crenshaw arrived in New York, settled his affairs and died of leukemia, with no relatives to be informed; but a casual acquaintance didn't like the look of his servant, and asks Gamadge to dig into the matter.

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Killjoys season 2 04 April 2017

2016, 10 episodes. Space bounty hunters fight what looks at first like political oppression, but which turns out to have more behind it.

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Into the Storm, Taylor Anderson 02 April 2017 - 3 comments

2008 alternate-history science fiction war story. During the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942, two antiquated four-stacker destroyers sail into a squall… and come out somewhere else.

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Arslan Senki (2015) season 2 01 April 2017

2016 pseudo-historical fantasy, novel series adaptation in 8 episodes: AniDB, vtt "Arslan Senki Fuujin Ranbu" and "Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance".

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Final Curtain, Ngaio Marsh 31 March 2017

1947 classic English detective fiction; fourteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Agatha Troy is commissioned to paint a portrait of Sir Henry Ancred, famed Shakespearian actor; the house is full of his variously ghastly family, including the chorus-girl he's taken up with.

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Angie Tribeca, season 2 30 March 2017

2016 police parody, 10 episodes. Detective Angie Tribeca solves crimes in the RHCU, the Really Heinous Crimes Unit.

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The Guns of Navarone, Alistair MacLean 29 March 2017

1957 thriller/war story. The island of Navarone, off the Turkish coast, contains a set of naval guns in a rock fortress that can't be effectively bombed, surrounded by a massive occupation force. Two sabotage missions have failed, one by boat, one by parachute. It's time for the third.

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March 2017 Trailers 28 March 2017 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks, James Anderson 27 March 2017

2003 somewhat parodic cosy detective fiction; third and last of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. The last two house parties at Alderley ended in murder, but surely there can't be any harm in having people down for Great-Aunt Flossie's funeral and the reading of her will?

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HMS Ulysses, Alistair MacLean 25 March 2017

1955 thriller/war story, MacLean's first novel. Ulysses, a heavily-modified Dido-class cruiser, has been worked nearly to death on the Arctic convoys, but in spite of that, and of an arguable mutiny among the men, she's sent out for one more run.

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Pyramid 100: Pyramid Secrets 23 March 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a celebration of 100 issues of Pyramid, and various articles that wouldn't fit well elsewhere.

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Ringworld, Larry Niven 22 March 2017

1970 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. A motley crew of explorers travels to an immense, star-girdling ring.

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Bones season 11 21 March 2017

2015-2016, 22 episodes. Police procedural in the CSI mould: a team of forensic experts at the "Jeffersonian" consults for the FBI.

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Asking for Trouble, Ann Granger 20 March 2017

1997 mystery; first of Granger's novels of Fran Varady. Fran is unemployed, broke, and about to be turfed out of her London squat along with her three housemates. But one of those housemates is soon going to turn up dead.

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Henry Martyn, L. Neil Smith 18 March 2017

1989 swashbuckling science fiction. Against the background of the thousand-years' war between the Hanoverian Monopolity and the Jendyne Empery-Cirot, Arran Islay fights for freedom and revenge.

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Koutetsujou no Kabaneri 17 March 2017

2016 steampunk action, 12 episodes, anime original: AniDB, vt "Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress". With the shogunate ravaged by zombies (kabane), civilisation survives in great walled "stations" and the armoured steam "fortresses" that travel between them.

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This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart 16 March 2017

1964 mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. After the play that was to be her Big Break closed in disgrace, Lucy Waring goes to visit her married sister in Corfu. But why would anyone shoot at the dolphin that comes into their bay?

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They Found Him Dead, Georgette Heyer 14 March 2017

1937 detective fiction; third of Heyer's novels of Detective Inspector, later Superintendent, Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway. Silas Kane is found at the foot of a cliff on the morning after his sixtieth birthday party; obviously he slipped. But then his heir is quite blatantly shot, and attempts are made on the life of the next heir.

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February-March 2017 Trailers 13 March 2017

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

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12 Monkeys season 2 12 March 2017

2016 SF, 13 episodes. The plague that wiped out human civilisation is still a problem for the post-apocalyptic time travellers to solve, but other time travellers are a greater threat.

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A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers 09 March 2017

2016 science fiction, stand-alone sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. A new AI in an illegal human-shaped body, and the human who's getting it out of a bad situation, work together to build new lives.

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Suddenly at His Residence, Christianna Brand 07 March 2017

1946 detective fiction; third of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. Sir Richard's grandchildren visit his country house in the summer of 1944 as flying-bombs descend on London; he decides to disinherit them all, goes to spend the night in the lodge dedicated to the memory of his deceased first wife, and is found dead in the morning. US vt The Crooked Wreath.

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Pyramid 99: Death and Beyond 06 March 2017 - 3 comments

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's death, and what might follow.

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Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood 05 March 2017

2004 historical detection, fourteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a disappeared "fast" girl, and one of her adopted daughters tries to find her original father. But will Phryne manage to appear as Queen of the Flowers at the St Kilda Festival? Of course she will.

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Firefly Crime and Punishment: unboxing and first look 04 March 2017

My copy of the Crime and Punishment expansion for Firefly arrived on Thursday.

[more]
Top Gear season 2.23 and The Grand Tour season 1 02 March 2017

Top Gear: 2015, 6 episodes; The Grand Tour: 2015-2016, 13 episodes. In both cases, these are comedy shows lightly disguised as motoring programmes.

[more]
Sakamoto Desu ga 01 March 2017

2016 contemporary comedy, 12 episodes, manga adaptation: AniDB, vt "Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto". Sakamoto is the coolest student in the high school, perfect at everything.

[more]
The Weight Of The Evidence, Michael Innes 28 February 2017

1943 mystery, ninth in Innes' John Appleby series. At Nestfield University, Professor Pluckrose is found dead in his deck-chair on the Green, crushed by a meteorite; surely not an accident, and Appleby investigates.

[more]
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin 27 February 2017

1969 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. Genly Ai is a human emissary to the world of Winter, sent to bring it into star-travelling civilisation. The natives change gender as part of their life cycle. And this is a problem for him.

[more]
Castle Rouge, Carole Nelson Douglas 26 February 2017

2002 historical mystery, sixth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Following the events of Chapel Noir, our protagonists variously head east to put an end to the Ripper mystery.

[more]
February 2017 Trailers 25 February 2017

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal. These trailer posts are now not on a strict monthly rotation any more, but are being mixed into the automatic post scheduler that runs the rest of the blog.)

[more]
Weapons of Choice, John Birmingham 23 February 2017 - 1 comment

2004 alternate-history science fiction war story. In the near future, an American-led multinational naval force is approaching an Indonesia turned muslim-fundamentalist, when it finds itself hurled through time to 1942, just before the Battle of Midway.

[more]
Stitchers season 2 21 February 2017

2016 science fiction, 10 episodes. Kirsten Clark continues to have her consciousness inserted into the minds of the recently-dead, while hunting for more information about her father.

[more]
Died in the Wool, Ngaio Marsh 20 February 2017

1945 classic English detective fiction; thirteenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Florence Rubrick, sheep station owner and local MP, vanished one night from her home; her body was found some weeks later, packed into a bale of wool. Eighteen months later, Alleyn is hunting for spies in New Zealand, and informally takes on the case.

[more]
Pyramid 98: Welcome to Dungeon Fantasy 18 February 2017 - 2 comments

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time, to support the forthcoming Dungeon Fantasy RPG, it's all about dungeon-bashing.

[more]
The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan 17 February 2017

1915 thriller; first of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay. Bored in London, Hannay invites his worried neighbour into his flat, and soon finds both the authorities and a cunning group of terrorists against him.

[more]
Joker Game 15 February 2017

2016 historical espionage, adaptation of a novel series, 12 episodes: AniDB. In the years just before the Second World War, a maverick Japanese spymaster establishes a new intelligence agency.

[more]
Elementary season 4 13 February 2017

2015-2016, 24 episodes. In modern New York, (a completely different) Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson continue to consult for the police.

[more]
The Three Body Problem, Catherine Shaw 11 February 2017

2004 historical epistolary mystery. In Cambridge in 1888, a young schoolmistress tries to solve the murders of three mathematicians before her beau is convicted of them.

[more]
Chapel Noir, Carole Nelson Douglas 07 February 2017

2001 historical mystery, fifth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. In Paris in 1889, the Exposition Universelle is in full swing… but a notorious killer seems to have come over from London.

[more]
Borderline, Nevada Barr 05 February 2017

2009 mystery, fifteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the events of the last book, Anna's on administrative leave; she travels with her husband to the Rio Grande for a rafting trip. They come across a nearly-dead, very pregnant woman; and apparently someone wants to finish the job.

[more]
DanMachi 04 February 2017

2015 fantasy, adaptation of a light novel series, 12 episodes: AniDB. In a world where gods dwell among humans, Bell Cranel is a novice adventurer. Full title: Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darouka: Familia Myth, or Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?.

[more]
Justice Calling, Annie Bellet 02 February 2017

2014 modern fantasy/romance. Jade Crow runs a comics-and-games shop in Wylde, Idaho, where lots of magical creatures congregate. She's hiding from someone. But she isn't going to be able to stay hidden.

[more]
January 2017 Trailers 01 February 2017 - 4 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
Coroner's Pidgin, Margery Allingham 30 January 2017

1945 classic English detective fiction; twelfth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Back in London after three years overseas on mysterious war work, Campion just wants to catch a train; but Lugg and an unknown lady turn up in his flat with a corpse. US vt Pearls Before Swine.

[more]
Limitless season 1 29 January 2017

2015-2016, 22 episodes. Brian Finch is an unemployed slacker, until he's introduced to a brain-boosting drug. Naturally he goes to work for the FBI to catch crooks.

[more]
Dune, Frank Herbert 28 January 2017

1965 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. In the distant future, plots whirl within plots, and the control of the most valuable planet in the universe is a poisoned chalice.

[more]
Limitless 27 January 2017

2011 science fiction, dir. Neil Burger, Bradley Cooper, Robert de Niro: IMDb / allmovie

Eddie Morra is a struggling writer, until his ex-brother-in-law offers him a new drug that makes him smarter.

[more]
Be My Enemy, Christopher Brookmyre 26 January 2017

2004 tartan noir. Jack Parlabane is invited to the junket weekend of a new firm that plans to run team-building retreats with a twist. But that twist is going to turn out to be rather more twisted than anyone expects.

[more]
Mike, P. G. Wodehouse 24 January 2017

1909 school stories, compilation from magazine publication in 1907-1908: Mike Jackson, youngest of five cricketing brothers, goes first to Wrykin and then to Sedleigh. Also republished in separate parts later, as Mike at Wrykin and Mike and Psmith; the latter also as Enter Psmith.

[more]
Night Without End, Alistair MacLean 22 January 2017 - 2 comments

1959 thriller. An airliner makes a forced rough landing near a weather observation post in the highlands of Greenland. What was it doing that far north, what foul play was involved, and who is responsible?

[more]
Schwarzesmarken 21 January 2017

2016 alternate history mecha science fiction, adaptation of a manga spinoff of a visual novel, 12 episodes: AniDB. In 1983, the 666th Tactical Surface Fighter Squadron of the East German Army is the only force between the invading alien hordes and the rest of Germany.

[more]
Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein 20 January 2017

2011 non-fiction. Orenstein breaks down various elements of the pink-princess culture as marketed to young girls.

[more]
The Last Frontier, Alistair MacLean 18 January 2017

1959 thriller. British agent Michael Reynolds travels to Budapest to retrieve a British scientist kidnapped by the Russians and due to be shown off at a conference. US vt The Secret Ways.

[more]
Colour Scheme, Ngaio Marsh 17 January 2017

1943 classic English detective fiction; twelfth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At a run-down hot-springs resort in the back country of New Zealand, one guest seems to be going out of his way to offend everyone; then he vanishes.

[more]
Castle season 8 16 January 2017

2015-2016, 22 episodes. Famous writer Richard Castle continues to work with NYPD homicide detective (now Captain) Kate Beckett, in the final season of this police procedural.

[more]
Psycho, Robert Bloch 15 January 2017

1959 horror. Mary Crane has stolen $40,000 from her employer and is running away to get married. Unfortunately she's chosen to stay at the wrong motel.

[more]
Twilight Robbery, Frances Hardinge 13 January 2017

2011 non-historical fiction, sequel to Fly By Night. Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent are still in trouble, and attempting to flee through Toll, the town that controls the only bridge across the big river. But both entering and leaving have their price. US vt Fly Trap.

[more]
Pyramid 97: Strange Powers 12 January 2017

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's the loose idea of bizarre phenomena and, well, strange powers.

[more]
One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, Christopher Brookmyre 11 January 2017 - 1 comment

1999 tartan noir. Gavin Hutchison has a brilliant idea: convert an oil rig to an offshore resort hotel for xenophobic tourists, with all the comforts of home but warmer weather since it'll be moored off the African coast. What better way to show it off than by hosting a school reunion there?

[more]
Death and the Dancing Footman, Ngaio Marsh 08 January 2017

1941 (some sources say 1942) classic English detective fiction; eleventh of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. For his own amusement, Jonathan Royal invites six mortal enemies to a party at his house in Dorset. Really, the first surprise is that he isn't murdered.

[more]
Musaigen no Phantom World 07 January 2017

2016 contemporary fantasy novel adaptation in 13 episodes: Anidb, vt "Myriad Colors Phantom World". Phantoms, weird magical creatures created by the human subconscious, are everywhere; Haruhiko and his school friends seal them away when they cause trouble.

[more]
Lost Things, Melissa Scott and Jo Graham 06 January 2017

2012 historical fantasy, first in the Order of the Air series. In 1929, as Lake Nemi is drained in search of its archaeological treasures, an ancient evil is loosed. Only four heroic aviator-magicians will be able to fight it.

[more]
Royal Navy School 05 January 2017

2016 reality television, 7 episodes. The series follows recruits through the ten weeks of selection for the Royal Navy at HMS Raleigh.

[more]
Surfeit of Lampreys, Ngaio Marsh 04 January 2017

1940 classic English detective fiction; tenth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The Lampreys are an impoverished aristocratic family; after Lord Charles's rich brother refused to give them yet another handout, he was found stabbed to death. Mad wife? Annoyed brother? Random stranger? Well, it'll never be that last in a classic mystery. US vt Death of a Peer.

[more]
Planetfall, Emma Newman 02 January 2017

2015 science fiction. Ren works as the 3D printer engineer in a colony on an extrasolar planet, right next to the alien biotech artefact known as God's City. Then a stranger shows up, a descendant of the people thought to have been lost in an accident during planetfall.

[more]
December 2016 Trailers 01 January 2017 - 3 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
2016 in Books 30 December 2016 - 2 comments

In 2016 I've read 133 books, down a little from recent years.

[more]
Akagami no Shirayukihime season 2 27 December 2016

2016 fantasy romance, shoujo manga continuation in 12 episodes as well as an OVA that bridges the two series: AniDB, vt "Snow White with the Red Hair". Shirayuki the herbalist continues to develop her low-key romance with Prince Zen.

[more]
Dying to Write, Judith Cutler 26 December 2016

1996 mystery; second of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham and part-time chorister. Sophie goes on a residential writing course; one of her fellow students dies, and a tutor goes missing.

[more]
Must Love Board Games 24 December 2016 - 1 comment

2016 short romantic comedy, dir. Travis Hedges Williams, Kacie Barnes, Tyler Grezaffi: IMDb

When Quinn meets David, she has to decide whether he is a worthy suitor: she knows the rules, just as she knows the rules of her favourite games. But he doesn't seem to be following them.

[more]
Heads You Lose, Christianna Brand 22 December 2016

1941 detective fiction; second of Brand's novels, and first to feature Inspector Cockrill. A visitor to a country house says "I wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch in a [hat] like that"… and is soon proved wrong. The next night another woman is murdered.

[more]
Dimension W 21 December 2016

2016 science fiction, 12 episodes: AniDB. In a world where all power is provided by "coils" that draw from a parallel dimension, Mabuchi Kyouma is a "collector" who gets hold of the illegal ones.

[more]
Rizzoli & Isles season 6 20 December 2016

2015-2016, 18 episodes. Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles continue in their odd-couple crimefighting.

[more]
The Mill on the Shore, Ann Cleeves 19 December 2016

1994 detective fiction; seventh of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Jimmy Morrissey was the public voice of environmentalism and conservation, but killed himself with an overdose of antidepressants. Or did he?

[more]
Pyramid 96: Tech and Toys IV 18 December 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's high technology and the things one can do with it.

[more]
God Emperor of Didcot, Toby Frost 17 December 2016 - 2 comments

2008 humorous science fiction, second in the series. Captain Isambard Smith of the British Empire in space is sent to the Didcot system, where a revolutionary movement threatens the Empire's supply of tea.

[more]
Death in High Heels, Christianna Brand 15 December 2016 - 2 comments

1941 detective fiction; first of Brand's novels, and first to feature Inspector Charlesworth. One of the senior staff of a London dress-shop dies of poison; her co-workers are the only plausible suspects.

[more]
Bubuki Buranki 1 14 December 2016

2016 mecha science fiction, 12 episodes: AniDB. In a very changed world, Kazuki Azuma leaves an island in the sky to return to Japan, and gets involved with power struggles and giant robots.

[more]
Spin and Die, Stella Whitelaw 13 December 2016

2000 mystery, third in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series. Jordan takes on a job following a woman suspected of compensation fraud against the local department store, and then tries to track down vanishing stock in the run-up to Christmas. And of course there's also a murder.

[more]
Traitor's Purse, Margery Allingham 11 December 2016

1940 classic English detective fiction; eleventh of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. An amnesiac Campion knows he was in the middle of dealing with a truly serious plot… but what is it all about, and whom can he trust? US vt The Sabotage Murder Mystery.

[more]
There's Something In a Sunday, Marcia Muller 09 December 2016

1989 mystery; eighth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's assigned to follow Frank Wilkinson as he spends his Sunday going round the horticultural high spots of San Francisco. But her client's obviously lying about why he wants the job done, and soon he ends up dead.

[more]
Ojisan to Marshmallow 08 December 2016

2016 contemporary comedy, 12 short episodes: AniDB, vt "Middle-Aged Man and Marshmallow". Hige is an overweight middle-aged man working at Web Related Company (sic); he loves marshmallows. Several of the office ladies are in love with him, for no obvious reason.

[more]
Death at the Bar, Ngaio Marsh 07 December 2016

1940 classic English detective fiction; ninth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In an isolated village in Devon, a game of darts at the pub ends in death. Accidental? Surely not.

[more]
Leaving Earth 06 December 2016

Leaving Earth, designed by Joe Fatula, is a game of the exploration of the solar system for 1-5 players.

[more]
The Praxis, Walter Jon Williams 04 December 2016 - 2 comments

2003 space opera, first book of Dread Empire's Fall. The Shaa subjugated the galaxy, binding all the races they met – including humanity – under their universal philosophy, the Praxis. But ten thousand years later, the last Shaa has chosen to die.

[more]
Boku dake ga Inai Machi 03 December 2016

2016 seinen manga adaptation, 12 episodes: AniDB, vtt "Erased" and "The Town Without Me". Fujinuma Satoru sometimes slips back in time to just before a life-threatening accident, which lets him try to correct it. When his mother is murdered, he finds himself thrown back to eighteen years earlier, when he was in elementary school and someone was killing his classmates.

[more]
Thus Was Adonis Murdered, Sarah Caudwell 02 December 2016

1981 mystery, first of Caudwell's Hilary Tamar series. A young barrister, Julia, is taking a tour in Venice; she gets a gorgeous young man to bed, and a few hours later he's found dead, stabbed, with her copy of the Finance Act next to the body.

[more]
November 2016 Trailers 01 December 2016 - 1 comment

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
Rivethead, Ben Hamper 30 November 2016 - 1 comment

1991 autobiography. Hamper writes about his life working on the GM factory floor in Flint, Michigan.

[more]
Blindspot, season 1 29 November 2016 - 3 comments

2015-2016 police procedural, 23 episodes. A woman is found in a bag in Times Square: she's alive, naked, totally amnesiac, and covered with tattoos. The FBI investigates.

[more]
Overture to Death, Ngaio Marsh 28 November 2016

1939 classic English detective fiction; eighth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Miss Campanula was killed by a booby-trapped piano, but was she really the intended victim?

[more]
Pyramid 95: Overland Adventures 27 November 2016 - 4 comments

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's wilderness adventures and travel in a fantasy, or at least low-tech, setting.

[more]
A Case of Spirits, Peter Lovesey 26 November 2016

1975 historical detective fiction; sixth of Lovesey's novels of Sergeant Cribb, policeman in Victorian London. Two thefts during séances conducted by the latest fashionable medium attract the attention of the police, but when the next séance ends in a death, mere spiritualism is clearly not the only deception going on.

[more]
Project Orion, George Dyson 24 November 2016

2002 non-fiction: George Dyson, son of Freeman, recounts what can be told of the history of Project Orion, a plan to propel spacecraft with nuclear explosions.

[more]
The Longest Day 23 November 2016 - 5 comments

1962 war, dir. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki and others: IMDb / allmovie

The tale of the D-Day invasion in 1944, with a literal cast of thousands.

[more]
Slight Mourning, Catherine Aird 22 November 2016

1975 detective fiction; sixth of Aird's novels of Inspector Sloan and Constable Crosby. Bill Fent, local landowner, died when his car hit another at a notorious corner… but he'd have been dead before morning anyway, from the poison in his system.

[more]
Steampunk Rally 21 November 2016

Steampunk Rally, designed by Orin Bishop, is a game of racing bizarre inventions… or a card-drafting, engine-building game that uses a racetrack merely as a way of keeping score.

[more]
Mr Campion and Others, Margery Allingham 20 November 2016

1939/1950 collection of short mystery stories featuring Albert Campion.

[more]
MythBusters 2016 season 19 November 2016

2016, 10+2 episodes. If you're reading this you probably know what MythBusters was about, or you can go and find out.

[more]
Last Bus to Woodstock, Colin Dexter 18 November 2016 - 3 comments

1975 detective fiction; first of Dexter's novels of Inspector Morse. Two young women wait for the bus out of Oxford one night; one goes to hitch a ride, and her dead body is found the next day.

[more]
Grifters 17 November 2016

Grifters, designed by Jake Tlapek and David Fulton, is a hand-building game of crime syndicates for 2-4 players.

[more]
Dying Fall, Judith Cutler 16 November 2016 - 2 comments

1995 mystery; first of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, a teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham. Finding one of her students stabbed to death in the lift is bad enough; when her best friend dies in a way that seems plausibly accidental except to people who knew him well, Sophie knows she'll have to look into the situation herself.

[more]
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku o 15 November 2016

2016 fantasy manga adaptation in 10 episodes: Anidb, vt "Konosuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!". Kazuma the shut-in dies in a traffic accident, but a goddess allows him to return to life in another world.

[more]
Enter the Saint, Leslie Charteris 14 November 2016

1930 thriller, second of the Saint series. In three loosely-linked novellas, the Saint takes on a succession of criminals.

[more]
GURPS Steampunk 1: Settings and Style, Phil Masters 13 November 2016 - 2 comments

The original GURPS Steampunk was published in 2000: both GURPS and steampunk have moved on since then. This first of what's planned to be a new series of PDF supplements does not replace that book, but "updates and extends" the GURPS treatment of this genre.

[more]
Cast in Order of Disappearance, Simon Brett 12 November 2016 - 2 comments

1975 detective fiction; first of Brett's novels of Charles Paris, ageing actor. A friend and occasional lover of Charles's has been dumped by her current sugar daddy, and she asks him to return some compromising photographs. But getting in touch is going to be something of a challenge.

[more]
Earth Flight, Janet Edwards 10 November 2016

2014 young adult science fiction, third in the Earth Girl trilogy. Jarra is Handicapped, unable to leave Earth for any of the colony worlds where most of society now happens, but she's also a famous hero. Which means she's now become a symbol, both for those who want to bring the Handicapped more into society and for those who resist that trend.

[more]
My Drunk Kitchen, Hannah Hart 08 November 2016

2014 non-fiction. Hannah Hart, youtuber, shares recipes and her philosophy of life.

[more]
The X-Files season 10 07 November 2016

2016, 6 episodes. FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully continue to look into strange occurrences.

[more]
Death in a White Tie, Ngaio Marsh 06 November 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; seventh of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. Someone's blackmailing London's high society as the Season begins, and Alleyn asks a friend who moves in those circles to look into it; murder will be done.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic, Peter dell'Orto 05 November 2016 - 7 comments

This third Dungeon Fantasy Monsters book deal with monsters of known mythic origins, and expands on the popular "magical mistakes" category of monster.

[more]
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Alan Bradley 04 November 2016

2011 historical mystery; fourth in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. As Christmas approaches, Buckshaw is let to a film crew who'll be making The Cry of the Raven, starring the famous Phyllis Wyvern. But not all of the company will be leaving again.

[more]
The Collapse of Western Civilization, Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes 02 November 2016

2014 science fiction. A nameless scholar of the Second Chinese Republic looks back from the year 2393 on the Penumbral Age that brought western civilisation to its close.

[more]
October 2016 Trailers 01 November 2016 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
Artists in Crime, Ngaio Marsh 31 October 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; sixth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At an informal residential art school, the model has been murdered – by a method all the students had talked about some days before.

[more]
A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradley 29 October 2016

2011 historical mystery; third in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. A missing baby, an assault on a Gypsy (sic) fortune-teller, and a murder in Flavia's own home will all turn out to be connected.

[more]
The Mystery of the Yellow Room, Gaston Leroux 27 October 2016

1907 mystery. Mlle Stangerson, daughter of the famous scientist, locked herself into her bedroom… then came the sound of a struggle, shouts of "Murder", and gunfire. When her father broke down the door, she was seriously injured and the only person there – and the window-bars had not been moved.

[more]
The Fashion in Shrouds, Margery Allingham 25 October 2016

1938 classic English detective fiction; tenth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Georgia Wells, actress and femme fatale, attracts men like moths. But somehow, just as they start to get troublesome, they seem to die. Is Georgia less silly, and more dangerous, than she appears?

[more]
The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag, Alan Bradley 24 October 2016 - 4 comments

2010 historical mystery; second in Bradley's series about Flavia de Luce, young amateur sleuth in 1950s Britain. Rupert Porson, the famous puppeteer (at least to those who have televisions), was passing through the village of Bishop's Lacey when his van broke down; since he's stuck there overnight, he might as well put on a show. But it's all going to go horribly wrong.

[more]
New TV series of 2016 23 October 2016 - 4 comments

There aren't many interesting-looking new series coming up this year. Here are a few I've glanced at. (Reviews based on first episodes only.)

[more]
The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, James Anderson 22 October 2016

1981 somewhat parodic cosy detective fiction; second of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. After the last one, the Earl swore off house-parties, but it seems it's all happening again. Including the murder.

[more]
Into the Dark, J. A. Sutherland 21 October 2016 - 6 comments

2014 military SF, first book of the Alexis Carew series. Barred by her sex from inheriting the family estates, Carew signs aboard a ship of the Royal Navy as a midshipman… in space.

[more]
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley 20 October 2016
[more]
Vintage Murder, Ngaio Marsh 19 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. This time he's on holiday in New Zealand, sharing an overnight train with a touring theatrical troupe also from England, when the manager says that someone's tried to murder him. The next day, someone will succeed.

[more]
Greenmantle, John Buchan 17 October 2016

1916 thriller; second of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay. Richard Hannay and Sandy Arbuthnot are convalescing from wounds received at the Battle of Loos when word comes from Sir Walter Bullivant of the Foreign Office: the Germans have some kind of trump-card with which they're planning to set the Moslem world on fire.

[more]
Ask the Cards a Question, Marcia Muller 15 October 2016

1982 mystery; second in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. One of Sharon's neighbours in her apartment building is strangled, and it looks worryingly as if Sharon's house-guest, who's prone to alcoholic amnesia, might have done it.

[more]
Winter Study, Nevada Barr 13 October 2016

2008 mystery, fourteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Anna returns to Isle Royale, this time in winter, to join the wolf/moose wildlife study; it's disrupted by an observer from Homeland Security, who clearly has a brief to shut it down and instead open the park in winter to "beef up security". Then traces of an unexpected large predator show up. Then people start to die.

[more]
Pyramid 94: Spaceships III 12 October 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a third issue on the general theme of Spaceships (the GURPS subsystem as well as the overall concept).

[more]
The Fifth Season, N K Jemisin 11 October 2016

2015 science-fantasy. The world known as the Stillness is wracked by tectonic activity; only the earth-shapers, the orogenes, can hold things together. So naturally they are slaves.

[more]
Edwin of the Iron Shoes, Marcia Muller 10 October 2016

1977 mystery; first in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's been looking into arson and vandalism on a street of junk and antique shops that's in the crosshairs of gentrification. But now one of the shop owners has been fatally stabbed.

[more]
The Case of the Late Pig, Margery Allingham 09 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; ninth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Campion is called to the village of Kepesake as the recent rich incomer has clearly been murdered… but when Campion sees the body, he realises he went to the same man's funeral five months earlier.

[more]
The Killing of Worlds, Scott Westerfeld 08 October 2016

2003 military SF, second book of Succession. Captain Laurent Zai tries to win a space battle; Senator Nara Oxham tries to survive imperial politics.

[more]
Blood and Circuses, Kerry Greenwood 06 October 2016

1994 historical detection, sixth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne goes undercover in a circus to try to find out who's sabotaging it; and a performer who's moved on from it is accused of murder.

[more]
Unsolved London Murders, The 1920s and 1930s, Jonathan Oates 05 October 2016 - 2 comments

2009 non-fiction. Oates recounts the twenty cases in London during these two decades which were treated as murder, but never solved.

[more]
The Risen Empire, Scott Westerfeld 04 October 2016 - 1 comment

2003 military SF, first book of Succession. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial frigate Lynx is attempting to rescue the Child Empress from invading cyborgs. Only that makes it sound dire, and it's actually rather good.

[more]
The Green Mill Murder, Kerry Greenwood 03 October 2016

1993 historical detection, fifth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). During a dance competition at the Green Mill, a figure slumps to the ground. Was he the target of his attacker – or was it Phryne? And why has her partner for the evening bolted?

[more]
Dancers in Mourning, Margery Allingham 02 October 2016

1937 classic English detective fiction; eighth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Someone's playing silly pranks on Jimmy Sutane, star of a successful musical; he invites Campion to look into it. But then one of Sutane's house-guests dies: accident, suicide, murder? Later US vt Who Killed Chloe?.

[more]
September 2016 Trailers 01 October 2016 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
Death at Victoria Dock, Kerry Greenwood 30 September 2016

1992 historical detection, fourth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). As Phryne is driving home one night, someone shoots out her windscreen. As the gunfight moves on, she gets out of the car to find an injured young man, who dies in her arms.

[more]
Spider Light, Sarah Rayne 29 September 2016 - 3 comments

2006 psychological thriller. After a highly public series of tragic incidents, Antonia Weston goes to Cheshire to stay in a cottage near a small market town, hoping for anonymity and peace. But she soon experiences a series of events which seem to be echoing the past she's trying to forget.

[more]
Murder on the Ballarat Train, Kerry Greenwood 28 September 2016

1991 historical detection, third in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Everyone in one of the carriages on the overnight train to Ballarat is chloroformed; Phryne retains just enough consciousness to shoot out the window and let in some air. When everyone recovers, it's found that an elderly passenger has vanished. But why?

[more]
The Empress of Mars, Kage Baker 26 September 2016

2009 SF, loosely connected with the Company series. The British Arean Corporation sponsored the colonisation of Mars… then it turned out that short-term profits weren't possible, and they lost interest. Mary Griffith runs the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge.

[more]
Death in Ecstasy, Ngaio Marsh 25 September 2016

1936 classic English detective fiction; fourth of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At a meeting of the House of the Sacred Flame, a small cult, the Chosen Vessel drinks from the Flaming Cup, gabbles nonsensically, and dies of a dose of sodium cyanide.

[more]
The Expanse season 1 24 September 2016 - 5 comments

2015-2016 science fiction, 10 episodes. When the ice-hauler Canterbury gets destroyed, the Belters blame Mars, Mars blames Earth, and Earth blames the Belters.

[more]
Flying Too High, Kerry Greenwood 23 September 2016

1990 historical detection, second in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne takes on the case of a son whose mother is worried he'll murder his father, and then the father is indeed murdered; and she tracks down a kidnapped child.

[more]
GURPS Adaptations, William H. Stoddard 22 September 2016

This supplement is not about a specific world, or an area of GURPS rules: it's about how to convert a fictional setting for use in a role-playing campaign.

[more]
The Moon-Spinners, Mary Stewart 21 September 2016

1962; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Nicola Ferris, on holiday from her job at the British Embassy in Athens, has been looking forward to getting away from it all in an obscure corner of Crete. But a day of random wandering brings her into contact with two men, one of them badly injured.

[more]
Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood 19 September 2016

1989 historical detection, first in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Intelligent, beautiful, rich, and bored, the Hon. Phryne Fisher travels to Australia in order to find out whether John Andrews is poisoning his wife, her clients' daughter.

[more]
Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers 17 September 2016 - 8 comments

1930 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Sayers's novels of Lord Peter Wimsey. Philip Boyes, writer on atheism, anarchy and free love, died of quite a lot of arsenic; Harriet Vane, who had lived with him without benefit of clergy for nearly a year until they had quarrelled three months earlier, is accused of having poisoned him. Wimsey, seeing the trial, is convinced of her innocence, not to say smitten by her; when the jury cannot agree on a verdict, he makes it his business to save her from the gallows in the month before the new trial.

[more]
Eye of the Storm, Marcia Muller 16 September 2016

1988 mystery; seventh in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Sharon's sister Patsy has a new boyfriend, and a renovation project in the Sacramento Delta. But someone's playing tricks, sabotaging the project and scaring off the workers; Sharon takes a long weekend away from her job to help Patsy out.

[more]
Blood at the Bookies, Simon Brett 14 September 2016

2008 mystery; ninth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude drops into the local betting shop to take shelter from a sudden hailstorm; another customer staggers out, and turns up stabbed in an alley nearby.

[more]
Moonbeam City 13 September 2016

2015 science fiction comedy, 10 episodes. In a corrupt neon future, the Moonbeam City Police Department tries to keep the peace. More or less.

[more]
The Galapagos Incident, Felix R. Savage 12 September 2016 - 2 comments

2014 SF, first of the Solarian War Saga. Elfrida Goto works for the Space Corps, persuading asteroid-dwellers to accept resettlement before their asteroids are dropped into Venus as part of the terraforming project. But her telepresence robot is acting up, and then the space station she's living on comes under attack.

[more]
Pyramid 93: Cops and Lawyers 11 September 2016

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's police and legal systems.

[more]
Death Under the Dryer, Simon Brett 10 September 2016

2007 mystery; eighth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole always has her hair cut at Connie's Clip Joint, "same shape, but shorter". This time, Kyra, one of the juniors, hasn't turned up, and she turns out to have been left dead in the back room, strangled with the cord of a hair-dryer.

[more]
Flowers for the Judge, Margery Allingham 08 September 2016

1936 classic English detective fiction; seventh of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Barnabas family publishing house is used to strangeness; the founder's nephew disappeared in broad daylight while walking between his house and the main road. Now Paul Brande, one of the cousins who run the firm, is found dead inside a locked room. US vt Legacy in Blood.

[more]
The Stabbing in the Stables, Simon Brett 06 September 2016

2006 mystery; seventh in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude's been asked to extend her healing practice to a horse; but she doesn't expect to find the co-owner of the stables stabbed to death. Obviously it was the local "Horse Ripper", caught in the act. Or was it a jealous husband?

[more]
Resolute, Mike Shepherd 04 September 2016 - 2 comments

2006 military SF, fourth of the Kris Longknife books. Kris finally gets an independent command: a single-world "naval district" on the far end of anywhere.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 18: Power Items, Sean Punch 03 September 2016

This Dungeon Fantasy supplement deals with magical items that store spellcasting energy.

[more]
The Witness at the Wedding, Simon Brett 02 September 2016

2005 mystery; sixth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole's son is getting married, but the bride's parents are oddly reluctant to have any announcements made… and then the father is strangled.

[more]
August 2016 Trailers 01 September 2016 - 1 comment

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
The Nursing Home Murder, Ngaio Marsh 30 August 2016

1935 classic English detective fiction; third of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. In a private hospital, the Home Secretary was operated on for appendicitis: shortly afterwards he was dead, poisoned with hyoscine (scopolamine). And all sorts of people seem to have had motives.

[more]
Sleepy Hollow season 3 29 August 2016

2015-2016: Ichabod Crane, survivor from the American Revolutionary War, and Abbie Mills, FBI agent, continue to fight supernatural beasties in the present day. (Spoilers for all seasons.)

[more]
The Hanging in the Hotel, Simon Brett 28 August 2016

2004 mystery; fifth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude is helping out at the Hopwicke Country House Hotel, but the morning after a boozy meeting of the Pillars of Sussex, an organisation of local businessmen, one of them doesn't come down to breakfast… because he's hanging from a beam of his four-poster bed. Obviously a suicide…

…or obviously not, but proving it will be hard work, especially when the Pillars of Sussex close ranks to disassociate themselves from the victim. Everybody's far too willing to talk to Carole and Jude, as usual, but a key player appears for the first time three-quarters of the way through the book, which doesn't help matters.

Most of the investigation is a trudge through local businesses, and Brett's usual cast of horrible people. Everyone has something to hide, of course, and it usually reinforces how ghastly they are.

As in The Torso in the Town, the ultimate villain goes unpunished, which again seems to be a violation of the principles of murder mysteries: the detectives find themselves stymied and essentially give up and go home. But they do that seemingly because there are only a few pages left; if it were half-way through the book they'd go after some alternative source of information, and for their behaviour to be so blatantly affected by a non-diegetic element breaks my suspension of disbelief.

But in this book, the mystery is the bread on which the pâté of human drama is spread: what are these people's secrets, and how do they react as things come out? Also, this marks a significant achievement in the process of Carole's transformation into a human being, as she finds herself become able to talk with her son and his fiancée in a way she certainly wouldn't have been when the series started. (However, I think Brett realised that without having Carole as a pompous prig he loses the contrast she strikes against free-spirited Jude, so her progress from this point on is much slower and sometimes even reversed.)

Followed by The Witness at the Wedding. [more]

Connected 27 August 2016

2015 short science fiction, dir. Luke Gilford, Pamela Anderson, Dree Hemingway: IMDb.

An ageing fitness instructor is dissatisfied with her life, in particular feeling disconnected from the world, and looks for a way to fix it.

[more]
The Castlemaine Murders, Kerry Greenwood 26 August 2016

2003 historical detection, thirteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a mummified corpse found in a carnival attraction.

[more]
Murder in the Museum, Simon Brett 24 August 2016

2003; fourth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Bracketts, an Elizabethan house, is to be turned into a museum celebrating the life and work of the local poet Esmond Chadleigh, its most famous resident. Then a skull is dug up in the garden.

[more]
The Shattered Sphere, Roger MacBride Allen 22 August 2016 - 5 comments

1994 science fiction, sequel to The Ring of Charon. This review contains spoilers for that first book.

[more]
Subete ga F ni Naru 21 August 2016

2015 mystery novel adaptation, 11 episodes: AniDB, vt "Everything Becomes F" or "The Perfect Insider". Shiki Magata killed her parents when she was fourteen, but her mind was clearly disturbed, and she's a brilliant programmer; for the fifteen years since then, she's been confined to a few rooms within a research lab, with extremely restricted communication with the outside world. And yet, someone has managed to murder her.

[more]
The Torso in the Town, Simon Brett 20 August 2016

2002 mystery; third in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). The couple who've just moved into the Big House in Fedborough, inland up the river from Fethering, throw a dinner party to try to get into the local social scene… which is somewhat spoiled when a limbless body is discovered in the cellar.

[more]
Enter a Murderer, Ngaio Marsh 18 August 2016 - 3 comments

1935 classic English detective fiction; second of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. When Arthur Surbonadier is fatally shot on stage during the last act of The Rat and the Beaver, there's no question about who pulled the trigger: the shooting was part of the play. But there wasn't supposed to be live ammunition in the gun.

[more]
Second Chance, season 1 17 August 2016

2016 science fiction crime drama, 11 episodes. Jimmy Pritchard is a 75-year-old, corrupt, disgraced, but unrepentant former sheriff. When he's murdered, secretive tech billionaire twins restore him to life, youth and extreme vitality (as a side effect of their own plans). Formerly known as Frankenstein, The Frankenstein Code and Lookinglass.

[more]
Death on the Downs, Simon Brett 16 August 2016

2001 mystery; second in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). While out exploring the South Downs, Carole stumbles on a human skeleton. Jude thinks she knows who it might have been.

[more]
GURPS Magic: Death Spells, Sean Punch 15 August 2016

This supplement adds to the standard GURPS magic system, with spells designed not just to injure or curse but to kill.

[more]
Ruined City, Nevil Shute 14 August 2016

1938 fiction. Henry Warren, a successful banker, works all his waking hours, travelling across Europe to sort out financial deals, particularly share issues. His digestion is bad, and his wife's having an affair with a foreigner. When all the stress catches up with him, he winds up in the hospital of a northern town, one that's been without significant employment since the shipyard closed, and decides to do something about it. (US vt Kindling.)

[more]
The Body on the Beach, Simon Brett 12 August 2016

2000 mystery; first in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon, conventional, divorced, and retired from the Home Office, moves to the small seaside town of Fethering (inspired by the real Tarring in West Sussex). But her neighbour Jude turns out to be distressingly bohemian, and she finds a dead body while walking her dog on the beach… but by the time the police turn up, it's gone.

[more]
Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding 10 August 2016

2009 steampunk fantasy. Darian Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay and her crew of misfits, as they go about doing small-time jobs for small-time people. But they're all about to play for much higher stakes than they were ever expecting.

[more]
Colony, season 1 09 August 2016

2016 science fiction drama, 10 episodes. Aliens have landed and conquered Earth, ruling through drones and human trusties. But there is, of course, a resistance.

[more]
Viper Strike, Keith Douglass 08 August 2016

1991 military fiction; second in the Carrier series. A complex plot sees Burmese, Thai and Chinese renegades orchestrating a breakup of SEATO for purposes unclear at first. Carrier Battle Group 14 is going to get caught in the middle.

[more]
GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills, Sean Punch 07 August 2016 - 3 comments

This supplement clarifies and gives comprehensive examples of Wildcard Skills, a relatively under-used element of GURPS 4th edition.

[more]
Another Man's Poison, Ann Cleeves 06 August 2016

1993 detective fiction; fifth of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Elderly Ursula Ottway lives in a cottage on an estate in the Cumbrian fell country; when she finds her cats dead from eating poisoned bait, she threatens to expose her landlord, rising politician Marcus Grenville, since he's obviously been illegally poisoning raptors to improve the grouse shooting. The next day she's dead. But she was Molly's aunt, and George and Molly were on their way to visit.

[more]
Carrier, Keith Douglass 04 August 2016

1991 military fiction; first in the Carrier series. An American intelligence ship and her crew vanish on the high seas; the North Koreans admit nothing. Carrier Battle Group 14 is sent in to get them out.

[more]
Agent Carter, season 2 03 August 2016 - 1 comment

2015-2016 superheroic fantasy, 10 episodes. In 1947, Peggy Carter, still working for a secret government agency, travels to Los Angeles to investigate strange goings-on there.

[more]
Brotherhood in Death, J. D. Robb 02 August 2016

2016 SF/mystery; fifty-third (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Dennis Mira went to confront his cousin Edward over plans to sell the family house, but found him tied up in a chair; then someone knocked Dennis on the head. Now Edward's missing. Fortunately Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, police profiler and friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

[more]
July 2016 Trailers 01 August 2016

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
Deep South, Nevada Barr 31 July 2016

2000 mystery, eighth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Newly promoted to District Ranger on the Natchez Trace Parkway, Anna finds herself the object of resentment by her time-serving underlings, then discovers the body of a young woman (who "had accrued a surprising number of reasons to be done to death for a girl of her tender years").

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, Sean Punch 30 July 2016

This Dungeon Fantasy supplement gets away from the cycle of dungeon to generic-town and back again, and moves adventures into the great outdoors.

[more]
The Mad Scientist's Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke 29 July 2016 - 3 comments

2013 science fiction/romance. Finn is a robot who looks and acts human; he arrives in young Cat Novak's life as her tutor, and stays as the years pass.

[more]
Liberty Falling, Nevada Barr 27 July 2016

1999 mystery, seventh in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. With her sister hospitalised in New York, Anna stays on Liberty Island (where the statue is) and explores Ellis Island outside hospital visiting hours. Then a young girl falls to her death from the statue.

[more]
Electra Woman & Dyna Girl 26 July 2016

2016 superhero comedy (miniseries re-presented as film), dir. Chris Marrs Piliero, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart: IMDb

Low-level superheroes Electra Woman and Dyna Girl move to Los Angeles to make the big time. But can they be true to themselves?

[more]
Death of a Ghost, Margery Allingham 25 July 2016

1934 classic English detective fiction; sixth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The great artist John Lafcadio left twelve final paintings, to be shown one per year after his death. At the unveiling of the eighth, a young artist is fatally stabbed with a pair of decorative scissors.

[more]
Blind Descent, Nevada Barr 23 July 2016

1998 mystery, sixth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Lechugilla Cavern is a huge and largely unexplored cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park; whena friend and fellow ranger is injured there, Anna swallows her claustrophobia and goes in to help with the evacuation.

[more]
Endless Blue, Wen Spencer 21 July 2016

2007 science fiction. The starship Fenrir was lost ten years ago to a misjump, but its warp engine has just reappeared in open space… embedded in coral, and accompanied by three dead bodies and a fishing boat. Captain Mikhail Ivanovich Volkov takes the frigate Svoboda to find out where the Fenrir has been.

[more]
Pyramid 92: Zombies 20 July 2016 - 2 comments

Pyramid, edited by Steven Marsh, is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's zombies.

[more]
Endangered Species, Nevada Barr 19 July 2016

1997 mystery, fifth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the events of the previous book, Anna's sent to Cumberland Island Park for "pre-suppression" fire duty, and a bit of a lighter posting. But she and another ranger spot a plume of smoke, which turns out to be the fresh wreckage of the island's drug-interdiction plane.

[more]
Angie Tribeca, season 1 18 July 2016

2016 police parody, 10 episodes. Detective Angie Tribeca solves crimes in the RHCU, the Really Heinous Crimes Unit.

[more]
Sweet Danger, Margery Allingham 17 July 2016 - 3 comments

1933 classic English detective fiction; fifth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Fitton family operate a run-down watermill in Suffolk, but may be the forgotten heirs of Averna, a tiny European principality that may suddenly be terribly important. US vtt Kingdom of Earth and The Fear Sign.

[more]
Firestorm, Nevada Barr 15 July 2016

1996 mystery, fourth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Anna's called in to help fight a wildfire in Lassen Volcanic National Park, but the wind shifts and a firestorm overtakes the team. When they come out of their protective tents, one of them's been stabbed in the back.

[more]
Swastika Night, Katherine Burdekin 13 July 2016 - 1 comment

1937 feminist alternate history. Seven centuries after Nazi victory, women are uneducated cattle, and men have eliminated history, books, and creativity.

[more]
Ill Wind, Nevada Barr 11 July 2016

1995 mystery, third in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Visitors to Mesa Verde Park and the Anasazi cliff dwellings have been coming away with a strange and deadly illness.

[more]
Pyramid 91: Thaumatology IV 10 July 2016

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's magic.

[more]
Police at the Funeral, Margery Allingham 09 July 2016

1931 classic English detective fiction; fourth of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The very elderly Caroline Faraday has a house in Cambridge run on strict Victorian lines; her ageing son, daughters and nephew put up with the lack of freedom for the free bed and board, having variously failed at their own lives. But everyone's fairly horrible, and it seems that one of them is also a murderer.

[more]
Green for Danger, Christianna Brand 07 July 2016 - 19 comments

1944 detective fiction; second of Brand's novels of Inspector Cockrill. At a military hospital during the Blitz, a patient dies under anæsthetic. Later, someone who'd claimed to know who was responsible is stabbed to death. Six suspects are left, and there's not a visible motive among them.

[more]
Gullstruck Island, Frances Hardinge 05 July 2016

2008 fantasy. The isolated towns and villages of the volcanic Gullstruck Island rely on the Lost, who can project their senses at a distance, to keep them in contact with each other. Arilou is one such Lost, and Hathin is her helper. But it's all going to get vastly more complicated. US vt The Lost Conspiracy.

[more]
Pane Vino 04 July 2016 - 1 comment

I went to this small Italian tapas-style restaurant repeatedly while in Manchester over Easter.

[more]
K - Return of Kings 03 July 2016

2015 futuristic fantasy, 13 episodes, sequel to 2012's K: AniDB. The Kings, magical masters who can also empower their clansmen, come together for a final battle.

[more]
A Superior Death, Nevada Barr 02 July 2016

1994 mystery, second in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. In the Isle Royale park off the Michigan coast, one of the dive operators turns up dead in a long-sunken shipwreck.

[more]
June 2016 Trailers 01 July 2016 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube. Opinions are thoroughly personal.)

[more]
The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart 29 June 2016

1961; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Mary Grey has no particular prospects, but she's a dead ringer for Annabel Winslow, the heir to the small farm of Whitescar, who's been missing for eight years. Con Winslow, who's been running the place as Annabel's grandfather gradually declines, sees a chance to pull a Brat Farrar, produce the "missing heir", and get the place whether or not it's willed to him. But Mary has her own plans.

[more]
Track of the Cat, Nevada Barr 27 June 2016

1993 mystery, first in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After the death of her husband, Anna fled from her life in New York to find solitude as a ranger in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, home to a few mountain lions among other species. But when a colleague is found dead, the paw prints round the body and claw marks on the throat seem to point a little too perfectly to a killer animal.

[more]
Thunderbirds Are Go (2016) season 1 26 June 2016 - 4 comments

2015-2016 children's science fiction, 26 episodes: the five Tracy brothers pilot a variety of vehicles to rescue people in trouble.

[more]
Look to the Lady, Margery Allingham 25 June 2016

1931 classic English detective fiction; third of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. The Gyrth Chalice is unique and unsaleable… but it seems that someone is setting up to steal it anyway, for a private collection. US vt The Gyrth Chalice Mystery.

[more]
Training Daze, Mike Shepherd 22 June 2016

2011 military SF novella, a later insertion into the Kris Longknife series. After the triumph of the Battle of Wardhaven, Kris and crew go out to train allied fast patrol boat commanders.

[more]
Pyramid 90: After the End 21 June 2016 - 3 comments

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time, tying in with the After the End series again, it's a grab-bag of articles about the post-apocalypse.

[more]
The Space Barbarians, Tom Godwin 20 June 2016

1964 science fiction, sequel to The Survivors/Space Prison. The survivors of the hell-world Ragnarok have handily won the war against the Gern, but they don't seem to be able to talk sensibly with either Earth or the former Gern-slave colony of Athena. And there's a new threat approaching…

[more]
Mystery Mile, Margery Allingham 18 June 2016

1930 classic English detective fiction; second of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. Multiple attempts have been made to murder an American judge; Campion does his best to keep him safe.

[more]
Community, season 6 17 June 2016

2015 comedy, 13 episodes; most of the same team of misfits continue to try to keep their community college going.

[more]
Defiant, Mike Shepherd 16 June 2016

2005 military SF, third of the Kris Longknife books. As a victim of fallout from a political attack against her family, Kris gets sent on a diplomatic mission, then comes back to a desperate struggle in defence of her homeworld.

[more]
Wave and Die, Stella Whitelaw 14 June 2016

2001 mystery, second in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series (private investigation in a small seaside town). Jordan investigates stolen water-lilies, vandalism, theft of a wedding cake, arson, and an errant husband. Oh, and a Second World War aircraft wreck.

[more]
Aquarion Logos 13 June 2016

2015 science fiction, 26 episodes: AniDB. Mecha pilots fight against the corruption of words.

[more]
The Crime at Black Dudley, Margery Allingham 12 June 2016

1929 classic English detective fiction; first of Allingham's novels of Albert Campion. George Abbershaw, expert pathologist who unexpectedly finds himself in love, goes down for the weekend to the remote country house called "Black Dudley"; but the gathering is afflicted with murder… and then taken over by gangsters. US vt The Black Dudley Murder.

[more]
The Ring of Charon, Roger MacBride Allen 10 June 2016 - 2 comments

1990 science fiction. Larry Chao is a junior scientist at a gravity research station on Pluto, that's about to be shut down. He's just made a remarkable improvement in gravity manipulation, but the chief administrator won't take it seriously, so he fires off an unauthorised experiment to prove to the scientific community that there's real progress being made. At which point something very unexpected happens.

[more]
The Floating Admiral, The Detection Club 09 June 2016

1931 English detective fiction, in fourteen chapters by fourteen authors. The body of retired Admiral Penistone is found in a small boat on the river, stabbed through the heart. Everyone has a story, and everyone has something to hide.

[more]
Wonderment in Death, J. D. Robb 07 June 2016

2015 SF/mystery novella; fifty-second (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series, published as part of Down the Rabbit Hole, a multi-author anthology of stories loosely inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Apparently Darlene Fitzwilliams fatally stabbed her brother, then jumped off his fifty-second floor balcony. But there's no sign that she was the sort of person who'd do that.

[more]
vN, Madeline Ashby 05 June 2016 - 3 comments

2012 science fiction. Amy Peterson is a self-replicating ("von Neumann") humaniform robot, who has been growing up slowly as part of a mixed human/android family. Then her grandmother shows up, and she has to eat her.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 2: Epic Treasures, Matt Riggsby 04 June 2016

This Dungeon Fantasy supplement deals with "special" treasures: not just the big hauls, but something truly unique.

[more]
A Man Lay Dead, Ngaio Marsh 03 June 2016

1934 classic English detective fiction; first of Marsh's novels of Inspector Roderick Alleyn. At Sir Hubert Handesley's country house weekend, five guests play a game of "Murder". But when the lights come up…

[more]
May 2016 Trailers 01 June 2016 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost 31 May 2016 - 1 comment

2008 humorous science fiction; first in its series. In the 25th Century the British Empire will soon be fighting the insectoid Ghast; but Captain Isambard Smith, square-jawed, courageous, and perhaps a bit dim, is called on to take an elderly refitted freighter on a courier mission.

[more]
The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod 29 May 2016

1983, cozy American detective fiction; fourth of MacLeod's novels of Boston Brahmin Sarah Kelling and art investigator Max Bittersohn. Sarah and Max, teetering on the brink of getting engaged, visit Sarah's summer home on Cape Cod. But someone has covertly added a valuable antique mirror to the furnishings; and a nasty old gossip turns up with an axe in her chest.

[more]
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru 28 May 2016

2015 mystery novel adaptation, 12 episodes: AniDB, vt "Beautiful Bones: Sakurako`s Investigation" or "A Corpse is Buried Under Sakurako's Feet". Kujou Sakurako, osteologist and amateur forensic anthropologist, investigates the remarkable number of human bones to be found locally.

[more]
Spiral Hunt, Margaret Ronald 27 May 2016

2009 urban fantasy. Evie Scelan isn't a magician: she just has a knack for tracking things by scent. But staying out of the way of the magical rulers of Boston isn't as easy as simply keeping her head down.

[more]
Childhood's End 26 May 2016 - 1 comment

2015 SF mini-series, adapted by Matthew Graham and directed by Nick Hurran. In 2016, alien ships arrive on Earth, with the aliens saying they're come to bring utopia. But not everyone agrees that that's what they're offering.

[more]
The Strangling on the Stage, Simon Brett 25 May 2016

2014; fifteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing in small-town Sussex). After a rehearsal for a village-hall production of The Devil's Disciple, the lead is found strangled on the "absolutely safe" gallows.

[more]
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers 23 May 2016 - 4 comments

2014 science fiction. The mixed human and alien crew members aboard a wormhole-building ship move from world to world, on their way to the job that'll let them move into the big time.

[more]
Verdigris Deep, Frances Hardinge 21 May 2016

2007 young adult fantasy. Ryan, Chelle and Josh fish some coins out of the old well, to pay for a bus home. Then things get far too complicated, far too fast. US vt Well Witched.

[more]
The Librarians, season 2 19 May 2016

2015 modern fantasy, 10 episodes; the scrappy team of magic-hunting Librarians fights against a resurrected Prospero who's planning to remake the world.

[more]
There's Nothing To Be Afraid Of, Marcia Muller 18 May 2016

1985 mystery; sixth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Someone's causing minor troubles for the inhabitants of a hotel in the Tenderloin, most of them recent Vietnamese immigrants; Sharon's employed by the Refugee Assistance Committee to look into it. Then things turn deadly.

[more]
Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows 17 May 2016

2015 slice of life, four short episodes: AniDB, vt "She and Her Cat: Everything Flows". Miyu's cat contemplates their life together.

[more]
The Chemical History of a Candle, Michael Faraday 16 May 2016

1861 non-fiction, popular science, transcriptions of early Royal Institution Christmas Lectures; Faraday starts from the basics of combustion and goes on to the frontiers of nineteenth-century chemistry.

[more]
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold 14 May 2016 - 6 comments

2016 science fiction, sixteenth novel in the Vorkosigan universe. Three years after the death of Aral Vorkosigan, his widow Cordelia starts to move her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral of Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in unexpected ways.

[more]
The Survivors, Tom Godwin 11 May 2016 - 4 comments

1958 science fiction. When the aliens capture a colony ship, they take the slaves who can work and abandon the rest on an uninhabited world. That's their error. (Also published as Space Prison.)

[more]
Minority Report 10 May 2016

2015 science fiction, ten episodes, sequel of sorts to the 2002 film. After the PreCrime programme is shut down, the three precognitives try to live normal lives. Of course, one of them ends up Fighting Crime.

[more]
Irene's Last Waltz, Carole Nelson Douglas 09 May 2016

1994 mystery, fourth of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler; here she returns to Prague, to solve a problem for the Queen. Espionage, the Golem, femmes fatales, and really nice dresses ensue. (Retitled as Another Scandal in Bohemia in recent reissue.)

[more]
Caliban's War, James S. A. Corey 07 May 2016

2012 science fiction, second in The Expanse series. Ganymede, the main supplier of food to the outer system, is attacked and its fragile artificial ecosystem destroyed; Earth and Mars seem likely to go to war again.

[more]
Pyramid 89: Alternate Dungeons II 05 May 2016

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about alternative framings of the dungeon again.

[more]
Sore ga Seiyuu 04 May 2016

2015 slice of life, 4-koma manga adaptation in 13 episodes: AniDB, vt "Seiyuu's Life". Ichinose Futaba is a novice voice actress; along with her friends, she goes to auditions, gets together in a singing group, and generally tries to advance her career.

[more]
The March North, Graydon Saunders 03 May 2016

2014 military fantasy. The unnamed protagonist leads a unit of The Line in repelling an invasion by the Dark Lord in the next country.

[more]
April 2016 Trailers 01 May 2016

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Devoted in Death, J. D. Robb 29 April 2016

2015 SF/mystery; fifty-first (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Two serial killers have crossed the USA and landed in New York; Lieutenant Eve Dallas tracks them down.

[more]
Lost Girl season 5 28 April 2016

2014-2015 urban fantasy, 16 episodes. The succubus Bo faces her biggest challenges yet, as her father tries to use her to take over the world.

[more]
Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch 27 April 2016

Contemporary fantasy, fourth in the series. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, looks into a number of cases that seem to be tying back to a Brutalist tower block in Southwark.

[more]
More Deaths Than One, Jean Rowden 25 April 2016

2009 mystery, third in the series. Constable "Thorny" Deepbriar goes to the local seaside town while his broken leg finishes healing, but he can't leave detection alone. Not only is someone stealing garden gnomes, but a body found on the beach is someone Deepbriar thought had died when he was a very green copper sixteen years ago during the war.

[more]
The Cabin in the Woods 24 April 2016 - 2 comments

2012 horror, dir. Drew Goddard, Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth: IMDb / allmovie

Five teenagers go for a weekend trip to a remote cabin. It doesn't end well.

[more]
Half a Crown, Jo Walton 23 April 2016

2008 alternate-history suspense/thriller, last in the "Small Change" trilogy. In the fascist Britain of 1960, former Inspector Carmichael still runs the Watch, the secret police charged with rounding up Jews, Communists, and other undesirables; his adopted niece, Elvira, is looking forward to her début.

[more]
Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge 21 April 2016 - 1 comment

2005 non-historical fiction. Mosca lives in a tiny rural village, but her exiled father taught her to read and to love words. She takes her first opportunity to escape, and finds herself (and Saracen the goose) mixed up in matters that will determine the fate of a great city.

[more]
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders 19 April 2016

2016 SF and fantasy. Patricia is a witch who can sometimes talk with animals, and Laurence is a budding mad scientist. Having met and split up during their hellish schooldays, they meet again as the world seems to be winding towards its end.

[more]
The Damage Done, James Oswald 17 April 2016

2016 supernatural mustery, sixth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A police raid following a tip-off about a brothel goes wrong: there's sex being had, but it all seems to have been consenting swingers, except for one registered sex offender. Then people start dying.

[more]
The Science of Everyday Life, Marty Jopson 15 April 2016

2015 non-fiction, popular science; short pieces introduce the scientific explanations for commonplace oddities.

[more]
GURPS Powers: The Weird, William H. Stoddard 14 April 2016

This supplement deals with powers that break the rules, for Lovecraftian aliens, superbeings, and weird lone genius inventors.

[more]
Overlord 13 April 2016

2015 fantasy, light novel adaptation in 13 episodes: AniDB. Momonga stays on-line as his favourite VR MMORPG Yggdrasil is shut down, and finds himself not kicked out but stuck in the game world. And now the NPCs are acting like people…

[more]
Antares Victory, Michael McCollum 12 April 2016

2002 military SF, long-delayed final volume in the Antares trilogy. The combined human fleets are taking on the Ryall menace, to remove it once and for all. But is there any option short of extermination?

[more]
CSI: Immortality 11 April 2016 - 2 comments

2015 crime, series finale; in a double-length episode, most of the original cast of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation return for one last case. Someone is sending suicide bombers into Las Vegas; can that someone really be Lady Heather? No, of course not.

[more]
Murder in Montparnasse, Kerry Greenwood 10 April 2016

2002 historical detection, twelfth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne looks into trouble at a French restaurant, the disappearance of a young woman, and the murder of old soldiers.

[more]
Equoid, Charles Stross 08 April 2016 - 1 comment

2013 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Apocalypse Codex and The Rhesus Chart in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to inspect a livery stables, because they're buying a worrying amount of meat.

[more]
GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders, Jason Levine 07 April 2016 - 4 comments

This initial supplement in a new line deals with dwellers in the world after the end of civilisation.

[more]
Ha'penny, Jo Walton 06 April 2016

2007 alternate-history suspense/thriller, second in the "Small Change" trilogy. Eight years after the "peace with honour" of 1941, as Mark Normanby's new government is cracking down on Jewish communist terrorists, a bomb goes off in a Hampstead suburb. Inspector Carmichael, compromised but useful to his political masters, investigates.

[more]
The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross 04 April 2016 - 2 comments

2012 modern occult secret service, fourth in the Laundry Files series. Bob has been promoted to management, and has to supervise a couple of freelance agents. Seems an American televangelist is getting too much into favour with the Prime Minister…

[more]
Valor's Choice, Tanya Huff 02 April 2016 - 3 comments

2000 military SF, first in the Valor/Confederation series. Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr's platoon of Marines is just back from a hard fight when their liberty is cancelled and they're sent off to escort a group of diplomats as they try to get a recently-discovered world to join the Confederation. Then things get worse.

[more]
March 2016 Trailers 01 April 2016 - 4 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross 31 March 2016 - 4 comments

2010 modern occult secret service, third in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard becomes entangled in a cultist plot to steal the Eater of Souls.

[more]
My Brother Michael, Mary Stewart 29 March 2016

1959; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Camilla Haven, on holiday in Athens, is lamenting that nothing ever happens to her. Then a stranger brings her "the car for Delphi", for "Monsieur Simon", for which someone has apparently already paid the deposit, and tells her that it's a matter of life and death…

[more]
Jitsu wa Watashi wa 28 March 2016

2015 modern humour, shounen manga adaptation in 13 episodes: AniDB, vt "My Monster Secret". Kuromine "Leaky Bucket" Asahi is unable to keep a secret; when he goes to confess his love to the girl of his dreams, she turns out to be a vampire. But she'll be forced to leave school if the secret gets out…

[more]
Overtime, Charles Stross 27 March 2016

2009 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum in the Laundry Files series. The Laundry is down to a skeleton staff for Christmas… so Bob Howard is the one man who might be able to prevent the annihilation of the world.

[more]
The Last Ship season 2 26 March 2016 - 2 comments

2015 science fiction, 13 episodes. The crew of the destroyer USS Nathan James works to distribute the cure for the plague that killed most of the world's population. But not everyone thinks that's a good idea.

[more]
The Sorceress of the Strand, L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace 25 March 2016

Collection of six short mystery stories from 1902-1903. Madame Sara, the best "beautifier" in London, is also a master criminal – one might even say a veritable Napoleon of crime.

[more]
Down on the Farm, Charles Stross 23 March 2016 - 4 comments

2008 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum in the Laundry Files series. Bob visits the asylum where broken Laundry agents go; all, unsurprisingly, is not well.

[more]
Snake Agent, Liz Williams 21 March 2016

2005 futuristic fantasy. Detective Inspector Chen is a cop in the franchised city Singapore Three, in charge of magical and supernatural investigations. When a missing girl's soul turns up demonstrably in Hell, rather than Heaven where it should be, that's the first thread of a long and political investigation.

[more]
The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross 19 March 2016 - 3 comments

2006 modern occult secret service, second in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to a Caribbean island to stop a billionaire from destroying the world with magic.

[more]
Pyramid 88: The End Is Nigh 17 March 2016

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about the end of the world, linked to the upcoming publication of the After the End streamlined rules set.

[more]
Hard Truth, Nevada Barr 16 March 2016 - 4 comments

2005 mystery, thirteenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. In Rocky Mountain, three young girls went missing a few months back, and were never found. But now two of them have walked out of the woods…

[more]
Arslan Senki (2015) season 1 15 March 2016

2015 pseudo-historical fantasy, novel series adaptation in 25 episodes: AniDB, vt "Heroic Legend of Arslan". Prince Arslan of Pars is the weak son of a tough and vicious king. But when the Parsian army is defeated by treachery, he may be the only member of the royal family left…

[more]
The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross 14 March 2016 - 5 comments

2004 modern occult secret service, first in the Laundry Files series; a short novel of the same title coupled with the novella The Concrete Jungle. Bob Howard is a techie working for an extremely secret part of the British intelligence community, trying to suppress knowledge that could destroy the world… and clean up when it gets out.

[more]
MythBusters 2015 season 13 March 2016

2015, 14 episodes. If you're reading this you probably know what MythBusters is about, or you can go and find out.

[more]
Irene at Large, Carole Nelson Douglas 12 March 2016

1992 mystery, third of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. In Paris in 1888, a stranger in Oriental garb falls poisoned at the feet of Irene's narrator, Nell Huxleigh. But why does he claim to know her? (Retitled A Soul of Steel in recent reissue.)

[more]
Pyramid 87: Low-Tech III 10 March 2016 - 2 comments

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a variety of ideas broadly intended for pre-gunpowder campaigns.

[more]
Antares Passage, Michael McCollum 08 March 2016

1987 SF, second in the Antares trilogy. The Altan and Sandarian space navies won't be able to fight the alien menace on their own, but they have a plan for getting back in contact with Earth.

[more]
Shokugeki no Soma season 1 07 March 2016

2015 cooking story, shounen manga adaptation in 24 episodes: AniDB, vt "Food Wars". Yukihira Sōma works at his father's diner, then finds himself sent to an élite cooking school: not only is it tough to get in, but only one in ten graduate.

[more]
Murder in the Museum of Man, Alfred Alcorn 06 March 2016

1997 humorous detective fiction; first of Alcorn's novels of Norman de Ratour, Recording Secretary at the Museum of Man, an anthropological museum somewhere in New England. Dean Fessing goes missing, and most of him turns up expertly cooked. That inevitably starts rumours of cannibalism, but there may be fire to go with this smoke…

[more]
Dark Matter season 1 04 March 2016 - 1 comment

2015, 13 episodes. A motley crew wakes up on a spaceship with skills but no memories. They try to find out who they were and what happened.

[more]
Ore Monogatari 03 March 2016

2015 romantic comedy, shoujo manga adaptation in 24 episodes: AniDB, vt "My Love Story". Gōda Takeo is a huge guy, clueless but with a good heart; when he saves Yamato Rinko from a groper on the train, they fall in love.

[more]
The Wallet of Kai Lung, Ernest Bramah 02 March 2016 - 1 comment

1900 collection of funny and fantastic stories of Imperial China.

[more]
February 2016 Trailers 01 March 2016 - 3 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
All the Way to the Gallows, David Drake 28 February 2016

1996 SF/fantasy short story collection of some of Drake's more humorous short stories.

[more]
Exoplanets 27 February 2016

ExoPlanets, designed by Przemysław Świerczyński, is a tile-placement game of developing life on alien planets for 2-4 players.

[more]
Joukamachi no Dandelion 26 February 2016

2015 modern fantasy, 4-koma manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB, vt "Castle Town Dandelion". The king announces that he'll retire in a year; his children campaign to be elected in his place.

[more]
Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Kim Newman 24 February 2016 - 2 comments

2011 detective fiction parody, collection of seven short stories. Colonel Sebastian Moran, a cad and a bounder, works for Professor Moriarty the consulting criminal.

[more]
Kyoukai no Rinne season 1 23 February 2016

2015 modern fantasy, shounen manga adaptation in 25 episodes: AniDB, vt "Circle of Reincarnation". High school student Mamiya Sakura can see spirits. It turns out that her classmate Rokudō Rinne is also working as a shinigami, helping lost spirits reach the wheel of reincarnation. But she's entered a dangerous world…

[more]
Killjoys season 1 22 February 2016 - 1 comment

2015, 10 episodes. Space bounty hunters discover that being apolitical is really hard work if you have even the vestiges of a conscience.

[more]
Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou 21 February 2016

2015 modern comedic fantasy, manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB, vt "Everyday Life with Monster Girls". Various fantastic species suddenly exist, and some of them live with host families in Japan.

[more]
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey 20 February 2016

2011 science fiction, first in The Expanse series. With the asteroid belt colonised, tensions are rising between Belt, Mars and Earth. When ships start getting destroyed, war is inevitable; but who actually kicked it off, and why?

[more]
Akagami no Shirayukihime season 1 19 February 2016

2015 fantasy romance, shoujo manga adaptation in 12 episodes: AniDB, vt "Snow White with the Red Hair". Shirayuki the herbalist flees the unwelcome attentions of the prince of her country, only to meet Zen, the junior prince of the next realm over.

[more]
Sea Fever, Ann Cleeves 15 February 2016

1993 detective fiction; sixth of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. On a bird-watching boat trip, the sighting of a rare petrel is much more interesting than a birdwatcher who isn't where he should be. But then he turns out to have been murdered...

[more]
Re-Kan 14 February 2016

2015 modern fantasy, manga adaptation, 13 episodes: AniDB. Hibiki, who can see and talk with ghosts, goes to high school.

[more]
Corsair, James L. Cambias 11 February 2016 - 2 comments

2015 science fiction. In the near future, helium-3 mining on the Moon is big business, but the shipments back to Earth are being hijacked.

[more]
Titansgrave season 1 10 February 2016 - 3 comments

2015 fantasy, 10 episodes. In a technomagical world, four heroes will hunt down the resurgent Prophet who was responsible for the last great war.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, extras 08 February 2016 - 5 comments

As always, spoilers abound.

[more]
Team Rodent, Carl Hiaasen 07 February 2016

1998, short pieces on the effects of Disney on Florida and other places.

[more]
Star Realms: Colony Wars 05 February 2016 - 2 comments

Star Realms: Colony Wars, designed (like the original) by Darwin Kastle, is the first "big" expansion for Star Realms. On its own, it's for 2 players.

[more]
Pyramid 86: Organizations 04 February 2016

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about organisations, following this year's releases of Boardroom and Curia and Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds.

[more]
The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy, James Anderson 03 February 2016

1975 cosy detective fiction; first of Anderson's novels of the Earl of Burford and Inspector Wilkins. Some time in the 1930s, there's a house party at Alderley, including the Earl's political brother and the foreign dignitaries he's negotiating with, an American millionaire called Hiram, and various others. Nobody is quite what they seem, and that's even before jewels start going missing and guests start turning up dead.

[more]
Stitchers season 1 02 February 2016

2015 science fiction, 11 episodes. Kirsten Clark suffers from "temporal dysplasia" and can't feel the passage of time, but that makes her the ideal subject to be inserted into the memories of the recently dead.

[more]
January 2016 Trailers 01 February 2016 - 5 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Nisekoi 2 31 January 2016

2015, comedy, manga adaptation, 12 episodes: AniDB.

Continuation of the high school harem comedy. Hero is a yakuza heir, who to stop a gang fight has to pretend to be going out with tsundere heroine #1 (rival yakuza heiress), but really wants to be involved with kind sweet ordinary heroine #2.

[more]
Abducticon, Alma Alexander 29 January 2016

2015 science fiction. At a regional American SF convention, things are going with the usual level of chaos… until the entire con hotel gets kidnapped by time-travelling androids.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds, Matt Riggsby 28 January 2016

This Dungeon Fantasy supplement deals not just with guilds but with organisations that interact with adventurers: the congregation, the cabal, organised crime, nobles, and the like.

[more]
Earth Star, Janet Edwards 25 January 2016

2013 young adult science fiction, sequel to Earth Girl. Jarra is Handicapped, unable to leave Earth for any of the colony worlds where most of society now happens, but after a daring rescue she's a hero. Now her archaeological and historical skills will be tested in an entirely new field.

[more]
Scream Queens season 1 24 January 2016

2015, 13 episodes. Horror comedy by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan: a masked killer is murdering members of the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house.

[more]
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco 22 January 2016 - 2 comments

1980 historical mystery. In 1327, Friar William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melk try to solve a series of murders at a monastery in northern Italy.

[more]
Skeleton Hill, Peter Lovesey 20 January 2016

2009 mystery, the tenth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. After a Civil War battle re-enactment on Lansdown Hill near Bath, one of the soldiers disappears. Later the police find a headless skeleton in the same area. Later still, a homeless man is found dead with a major head wound. Are the cases connected? DI Peter Diamond is determined that they are.

[more]
Melee 19 January 2016

Melee, by Rikki Tahta, is the third of the games I was showing off at Essen 2015; it's an area-control wargame for 2-4 players.

[more]
Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear 18 January 2016

2015 vaguely steampunk science fiction. In Rapid City on the Pacific Northwest coast, Karen Memery is one of the "seamstresses" at Hôtel Mon Cherie (sic). It's not a bad life, but she's about to get in the way of a powerful man on his way up even higher.

[more]
Penric's Demon, Lois McMaster Bujold 16 January 2016

2015 fantasy novella in the World of the Five Gods (formerly known as Chalion). Lord Penric, an impoverished nobleman, is on his way to his betrothal when he comes upon a riding accident. Before he knows what's happened, he's inherited a demon, and everyone's looking at him as though he might explode at any moment.

[more]
Farthing, Jo Walton 14 January 2016

2006 alternate-history mystery, first in the "Small Change" trilogy. In 1949, Britain is at peace with the Reich, which is still fighting in Russia. At Farthing, a country house in Hampshire, one of the architects of that peace is murdered. Jews and Bolshevists are immediately blamed, but Inspector Carmichael thinks it's more complicated than that.

[more]
GURPS Aliens: Sparrials, Elizabeth McCoy 13 January 2016 - 2 comments

This supplement updates and expands the Sparrial race, from the original GURPS Aliens, to fourth edition.

[more]
Guns of the Dawn, Adrian Tchaikovsky 12 January 2016 - 2 comments

2015 military fantasy. As the war between Lascanne and Denland drags on, the gentlewoman Emily Marshwic finds herself fighting on the front.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 26 11 January 2016 - 9 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
Ace - Sophie Aldred

The show stayed on Wednesday evenings against Coronation Street, and the first episode of this series got the lowest ratings of any Who episode ever.

[more]
Good Morning Irene, Carole Nelson Douglas 10 January 2016

1991 mystery, second of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler. Bored in Paris, Irene takes on the mystery of a series of tattooed suicides. (Retitled The Adventuress in recent reissue.)

[more]
Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace 07 January 2016

2015 fantasy. Wasp is an Archivist, hunting, studying and binding ghosts for the goddess Catchkeep and Her priest in a world that has suffered some great catastrophe in the distant past.

[more]
Mr. Robot season 1 06 January 2016 - 4 comments

2015, 10 episodes. Elliot Anderson suffers from crippling depression, paranoia and social anxiety, but still manages to hold down a cybersecurity job. Except now he's being recruited by an activist cracking group.

[more]
Deserter, Mike Shepherd 05 January 2016

2004 military SF, second of the Kris Longknife books. Thanks to deft political manoeuvres, Kris is now a princess as well as a naval lieutenant. But when a friend goes missing while they're both on leave, she can't really do anything else but go and look for him.

[more]
Ghost in the Shell Arise 04 January 2016

2013-2015 science fiction, manga adaptation, 4 or 10 episodes: AniDB and here.

In a world of cyborgs and poor data security, Major Motoko Kusanagi tries to catch the bad guys. A prequel of sorts to Ghost in the Shell.

[more]
If Then, Matthew de Abaitua 03 January 2016 - 1 comment

2015 science fiction. The people of a small English town cling on to life after an economic collapse, under the protection of the Process, an ultimate allocating algorithm. But the Process seems to be spending scarce resources on recreating a battlefield of the First World War…

[more]
December 2015 Trailers 01 January 2016 - 8 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
2015 in Books 30 December 2015 - 4 comments

In 2015 I read 132 books, on a par with recent years but lower than I really like.

[more]
Wrack and Rune, Charlotte MacLeod 27 December 2015

1982 cosy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy, set at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. Hilda Horsefall is 105 years old and still keeping the family farm going, until her farmhand is horribly murdered. But is it just part of a land-grab, and if so who's trying to do it? And how is the Viking runestone on her land connected to everything?

[more]
Pyramid 85: Cutting Edge 26 December 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's the near now, things that are just barely possible or not quite possible yet.

[more]
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho 24 December 2015

2015 Regency fantasy, first of a planned trilogy. "Zacharias Wythe, England's first African Sorcerer Royal, is contending with attempts to depose him, rumours that he murdered his predecessor, and an alarming decline in England's magical stocks. But his troubles are multiplied when he encounters runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman, who has just stumbled upon English magic's greatest discovery in centuries."

[more]
Despicable Me 2 23 December 2015

2013, dir. Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud; IMDb / allmovie

The former supervillain Gru is trying to be a good father. But supervillainous schemes are still afoot.

[more]
The Corpse on the Court, Simon Brett 22 December 2015

2011; fourteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude's new lover Piers is a tennis fanatic – real tennis – but when she turns up for a lesson one of the other club members is found dead. Heart attack, clearly, but why is everyone acting so cagey? Meanwhile Jude's friend Carole conducts a separate investigation.

[more]
Kick Ass, Carl Hiaasen 19 December 2015

1999 collected newspaper columns, written from 1985 onwards. Hiaasen gets his teeth into issues of local politics, corruption, finance and wildlife preservation, often all at once.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes, Matt Riggsby 18 December 2015

This Dungeon Fantasy supplement deals with the thing closest to a dungeon-delver's heart: money.

[more]
Bones season 10 17 December 2015

2014-2015, 22 episodes. Police procedural in the CSI mould: a team of forensic experts at the "Jeffersonian" consults for the FBI.

[more]
High Country, Nevada Barr 16 December 2015

2004 mystery, twelfth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. After four seasonal park employees disappear on the same day in Yosemite, Anna Pigeon goes undercover to try to find out what happened.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 25 15 December 2015 - 5 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
Ace - Sophie Aldred

[more]
Prayer for the Dead, James Oswald 14 December 2015

2015 supernatural mystery, fifth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. In a network of man-made caves under Edinburgh, a journalist turns up with his throat cut. Why there, why then, and why him?

[more]
Danna ga Nani o Itteiruka Wakaranai Ken series 2 13 December 2015

2015, 13 episodes: AniDB.

Also known as I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying. Continuation of the slice of life comedy dealing with the daily routine of a busy office lady and her otaku husband.

[more]
Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 12 December 2015 - 2 comments

1981 science fiction. In the Todos Santos arcology, life is much safer than outside in Los Angeles, if somewhat sanitised: but it's still right next door.

[more]
Antares Dawn, Michael McCollum 10 December 2015

1986 SF, first in the Antares trilogy. The colony world of Alta has been cut off from other planets for more than a century, since Antares exploded into a supernova. Now a ship has come through where there wasn't supposed to be a jump point…

[more]
The Palace Guard, Charlotte MacLeod 08 December 2015

1982, cozy American detective fiction; third of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. At a private art museum, a guard falls to his death, having been complaining that his favourite Rubens is different these days.

[more]
GURPS Transhuman Space: Bio-Tech 2100, Phil Masters 07 December 2015 - 3 comments

This GURPS Transhuman Space supplement gives an overview of biotech, dealing with all the fiddly bits that aren't bioroids or smart uplifted animals (which were in Bioroid Bazaar).

[more]
Dark Orbit, Carolyn Ives Gilman 06 December 2015 - 1 comment

2015 science fiction; a team of scientists is assembled to explore a newly-discovered planet. Saraswati Callicot is an exoethnologist, and the planet's uninhabited, but she's sent along to keep an eye on Thora Lassiter, the daughter of one of the powerful families who went a bit mad on her previous mission; she's been cured, but she might still be an embarrassment. Then things start to go bizarrely wrong.

[more]
Night of Masks, Andre Norton 03 December 2015

1964 children's SF. Nik Colherne's face was badly burned in an accident, and as a resident of the Dipple he can't afford the advanced surgery that might fix it. The Thieves' Guild offers him a new face, if he impersonates a boy's fantasised hero. But it's all rather more complex than that.

[more]
November 2015 Trailers 01 December 2015 - 4 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Falling Upwards, Richard Holmes 29 November 2015 - 1 comment

2013 non-fiction, an informal history of the rise and fall (sorry) of the man-carrying balloon.

[more]
Plastic Memories 28 November 2015 - 2 comments

2015 science fiction, manga adaptation, 13 episodes: AniDB.

The Giftia androids look and act like humans, but they have a limited lifespan: 81,920 hours. After that, they need to be retrieved and shut down before bad things happen. Mizugaki Tsukasa goes to work for Terminal Services, and is partnered with the Giftia called Isla…

[more]
Judgment on Janus, Andre Norton 27 November 2015 - 3 comments

1963 children's SF. Naill Renfro sells himself into servitude to get drugs to make his mother's dying easier. After that, things improve slightly. Well, they'd have to, wouldn't they?

[more]
Double, Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini 25 November 2015

1984 mystery; sixth-ish in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco, and at the same time fourteenth in Pronzini's "Nameless Detective" private eye series. Both detectives are at a convention of private eyes in San Diego, McCone also visiting her family and an old friend who's now head of hotel security. But then the dying starts.

[more]
One Night Revolution 24 November 2015

One Night Revolution, by Ted Alspach after Akihisa Okui, is a game of hidden identities, deduction and deception for 3-10 players.

[more]
Catseye, Andre Norton 23 November 2015

1961 children's SF. Troy Horan was thrown off his planet during the big war. Now he lives hand-to-mouth in the Dipple. But a casual job with an importer of exotic pets leads to unexpected intrigue and danger.

[more]
Pyramid 84: Perspectives 22 November 2015 - 3 comments

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a collection of unusual ways of looking at things.

[more]
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie 21 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. Fleet Captain Breq is still on Athoek Station, but there are plenty of problems even without the civil war coming closer.

[more]
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku - My Teenage RomCom SNAFU TOO 20 November 2015

2015 contemporary romance, light novel adaptation, 12 episodes: AniDB. Sequel to 2013's Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru - My Teenage RomCom SNAFU. Cynical loner high school kid and the rest of the Volunteer Club continue to try to help other people and work out their own problems.

[more]
Deadlier than the Sword, Jean Rowden 19 November 2015

2008 mystery, second of the "Thorny" Deepbriar series. In rural Yorkshire in 1957, Thorny the village bobby is still trying to get into the CID. But his superiors want him walking the beat where he is. He'll need to pull off an impressive feat of detection, but how can he do that in a village where nothing much happens?

[more]
The Box, Marc Levinson 17 November 2015 - 4 comments

2008 non-fiction, an informal history of the shipping container. Until the Second World War, almost all non-bulk freight was breakbulk, loaded one piece at a time into a ship's hold. Fifty years later, pretty much everything long-distance was going in containers. How did the change come about?

[more]
Elementary season 3 16 November 2015 - 3 comments

2014-2015, 24 episodes. In modern New York, (a completely different) Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson consult for the police.

[more]
Angles of Attack, Marko Kloos 15 November 2015

2015 SF, sequel to Lines of Departure. The alien Lankies have moved into the solar system, and a random assortment of ship crews from the two previously-warring powers must decide what to do next.

[more]
Festive in Death, J. D. Robb 13 November 2015

2014 SF/mystery; forty-ninth (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. Just before Christmas, a personal trainer is found in his home, with a nasty head wound and a knife in his chest. He seems to have been a thoroughly nasty person, but for Eve Dallas the homicide cop's job is still the job.

[more]
Flex, Ferrett Steinmetz 11 November 2015

2015 modern fantasy. Magic is in the world, but "'mancers" only use it to cause chaos – and it's still true that nothing is free. Flex is a drug, distilled magic, but the mundanes who take it are even less able to deal with the backlash than the 'mancers are. Paul Tsabo, ex-cop and once known as the only mundane to have killed a 'mancer, tries to track down the terrorist who's filling people with Flex and sending them out to destroy themselves and others.

[more]
GURPS Action 4: Specialists, Sean Punch 10 November 2015

This GURPS Action supplement expands character creation with greater flexibility in power level and skills, while keeping much of the simplictiy of the Action series.

[more]
The Bone Key, Sarah Monette 09 November 2015 - 1 comment

2007 collection of short horror stories in the style of H. P. Lovecraft and M. R. James. Kyle Murchison Booth just wants to be left alone to work on his antique books and letters. But supernatural events keep happening to him.

[more]
Earth Girl, Janet Edwards 07 November 2015 - 2 comments

2012 young adult science fiction. Jarra is Handicapped; something in her immune system revolts at alien worlds, so she's limited to living on Earth with the other people who can't go to the stars and be part of proper civilisation. What's worse, all the offworlders look down on "apes". But that's not going to stop her doing her best to have a good life.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 24 05 November 2015 - 9 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
Mel Bush - Bonnie Langford
Ace - Sophie Aldred

[more]
The Star Beast, Robert A. Heinlein 04 November 2015 - 3 comments

1954 science fiction juvenile. Lummox is the Stuart family pet, brought back a hundred years ago from who-knows-where by great-grandfather the space explorer. He's large, and occasionally hazardous to property, but basically docile. But now he's gone on a rampage, and the forces of law and order want him put down…

[more]
View from the Imperium, Jody Lynn Nye 02 November 2015 - 2 comments

2011 humorous science fiction. Lord Thomas Kinago, foppish distant cousin of the Emperor and son of the First Space Lord, is sent on his obligatory short tour of military service. Meanwhile, a cluster of worlds on the edge of the Imperium is being taken over…

[more]
October 2015 Trailers 01 November 2015 - 5 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Pyramid 83: Alternate GURPS IV 31 October 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's a grab-bag of alternative and house rules for GURPS.

[more]
Away with the Fairies, Kerry Greenwood 30 October 2015

2001 historical detection, eleventh in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Miss Lavender, an author and illustrator of overly-twee fairy stories, has died after receiving threatening letters. Phryne is called in by the police as someone who might be able to spot something amiss in the sea of cuteness that is Miss Lavender's home, and finds rather more motives than anyone could reasonably have expected.

[more]
Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan 28 October 2015 - 2 comments

2015 fantasy of sorts: third volume of the memoirs of Lady Trent, alternate-Victorian naturalist specialising in dragons. Aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, Lady Trent travels round the world to study dragons wherever they may be found.

[more]
Coup: Rebellion G54 27 October 2015

Coup: Rebellion G54, by Rikka Tahta, is a game of hidden identities, deduction and bluffing for 3-6 players.

[more]
Superposition, David Walton 26 October 2015

2015 science fiction. Jacob Kelley's old friend shows up at his house, babbling about artificial intelligences in the quantum computer that is the universe. Later, the old friend is found dead – having apparently been murdered the night before he turned up – and Kelley is put on trial for his murder.

[more]
Afterburn, Keith Douglass 24 October 2015 - 4 comments

1996 alternate-world military fiction; seventh in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is still CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, which is sent to the Black Sea for peacekeeping operations in the context of the ongoing Russian civil war.

[more]
Castle season 7 23 October 2015

2014-2015, 23 episodes. Famous writer Richard Castle continues to work with NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett, though by this point it's fairly clear that he didn't come here for the hunting.

[more]
The Withdrawing Room, Charlotte MacLeod 22 October 2015

1981, cozy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. While the family affairs get straightened out, the recently-widowed Sarah needs an income; she remodels her house to take in boarders. But one of them falls under a subway train, or maybe he was pushed…

[more]
Gravity, Tess Gerritsen 20 October 2015

1999 thriller. On board the International Space Station, a microbiological experiment has gone wrong. Dr Emma Watson tries to keep the rest of the crew, and herself, alive in an increasingly challenging environment. (Nothing to do with the 2013 film of the same name.)

[more]
Red Equinox, Douglas Wynne 18 October 2015

2015 modern Lovecraftian horror. Becca Philips, photographer and urban explorer in post-hurricane Boston, was mostly raised by her crazy occultist grandmother. But now things are showing up in her photographs that really shouldn't be there.

[more]
Pray and Die, Stella Whitelaw 16 October 2015

2000 mystery, first in Whitelaw's Jordan Lacey series. Asthmatic ex-policewoman Jordan Lacey starts a private investigation business in the seaside town of Latching, West Sussex. Will there be enough work to pay the bills? Surprisingly, yes.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens 1: Barbarians, Peter dell'Orto 15 October 2015

This GURPS Dungeon Fantasy supplement expands the Barbarian archetype with new options and powers.

[more]
Good Night Mr. Holmes, Carole Nelson Douglas 14 October 2015

1990, first of Douglas's novels about Irene Adler, opera singer, adventuress, and foil to Sherlock Holmes.

[more]
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt 12 October 2015 - 2 comments

2014 science fiction, seventh in the Alex Benedict series that began with A Talent for War. Alex Benedict the relic-dealer and Chase Kolpath the pilot go hunting for the last cache of artefacts from Earth's early space age.

[more]
Pyramid 82: Magical Creations 11 October 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about items one can make with magic.

[more]
Darkest Hour, James Holland 10 October 2015

2009 war story, second in Holland's Sergeant Jack Tanner series. In May of 1940, Tanner is in a training company on the south coast, but will soon be going to France with the BEF. But an old nemesis from his days in India has shown up again.

[more]
Flashback, Nevada Barr 08 October 2015

2003 mystery, eleventh in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. At Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, seventy miles off the end of Florida, Anna replaces a chief ranger who went mad. A boat explosion and anonymous body parts are troubling enough; but then Anna starts to see ghosts…

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 23 07 October 2015 - 2 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Colin Baker
Peri Brown - Nicola Bryant
Mel Bush - Bonnie Langford

[more]
They Also Serve, Mike Moscoe 06 October 2015

2001 military SF, third in the Jump Universe series. At the same time as the events of The Price of Peace, Ray Longknife's exploration ship has comprehensively misjumped to where a much earlier lost ship founded a colony. But they aren't the only things on the planet.

[more]
GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery, Jason Levine 05 October 2015 - 6 comments

This GURPS supplement explains how to convert spells from the standard GURPS magic system into power effects.

[more]
The Headhunters, Peter Lovesey 04 October 2015

2008 mystery. A woman is found on the beach at Selsey, drowned – forcibly. But she isn't going to be the only victim.

[more]
Firefly Kalidasa: unboxing and first look 03 October 2015

My copy of the Kalidasa expansion to Firefly arrived yesterday. What's inside?

[more]
Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart 02 October 2015

1958; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Linda Martin gets a job as governess to the young Comte de Valmy, at his château in the French Alps. But why did her employer seem so keen that she not be able to speak any French?

[more]
September 2015 Trailers 01 October 2015 - 1 comment

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
The Price of Peace, Mike Moscoe 30 September 2015

2000 military SF, second in the Jump Universe series. The Unity War is over, but that doesn't mean things are peaceful; Commander Izzy Umboto of the cruiser Patton is chasing down pirates, and worse.

[more]
The Great Martian War, 1913-1917 27 September 2015 - 2 comments

2013, dir. Mike Slee, Mark Strong, Jock McLeod; IMDb / Wikipedia

A brief history of the Great Martian War, combining interviews with veterans and archive footage.

[more]
The Luck Runs Out, Charlotte MacLeod 26 September 2015

1981, cosy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy, set at an agricultural college in Massachussetts. A few days before the Annual Competition of the Balaclava County Draft Horse Association, the college's farrier has been murdered. And the prize pig has gone missing. Is it a school prank gone horribly wrong, or something more sinister?

[more]
The Annihilation Score, Charles Stross 24 September 2015 - 11 comments

2015 modern occult secret service, sixth in the Laundry Files series. As CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continues, more and more people are developing occult powers, and they envision them according to their own mythologies. Which means superheroes. Mo O'Brien, combat epistemologist and wielder of the last Zahn violin, now has to run a super-crime-fighting squad.

[more]
The First Casualty, Mike Moscoe 22 September 2015

1999 military SF, first of a series that comes both chronologically and in publication date before the Kris Longknife books. Four soldiers on opposite sides of the war between the Society of Humanity and the Unity do their best to stay alive in the face of enemies both of the conventional kind and in their own ranks.

[more]
Suburbia Five Star first look 21 September 2015

Suburbia Five Star (or 5★ if you follow the cover style) is the second expansion to Suburbia.

[more]
Dead Men's Bones, James Oswald 18 September 2015

2014 supernatural mystery, fourth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A body is found in the North Esk, dead of a fall, and tattooed all over. A prominent politician shoots his wife and children, then himself. Tony McLean is more interested in the former, but gets the latter on his plate as well.

[more]
Forever season 1 17 September 2015

2014-2015, 22 episodes: the immortal Henry Morgan works as a medical examiner in modern New York to fund his research on ending his own life. Wikipedia

[more]
Mutineer, Mike Shepherd 16 September 2015 - 3 comments

2004 military SF, first of a series of twelve books so far with at least two more planned. Kris Longknife, daughter of the Prime Minister of the long-settled world of Wardhaven, joined the Navy to get away from politics. But as the old alliance of humanity falls apart, it's not going to be that easy.

[more]
Pyramid 81: Horrific Creations 14 September 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about created, and creative, creatures in a horror context.

[more]
The Secret Hangman, Peter Lovesey 13 September 2015

2007 mystery, the ninth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. A woman is found hanged in a park in Bath; a few days later her partner turns up in the same state. A suicide pact?

[more]
Dark Intruder 12 September 2015

1965, dir. Harvey Hart, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Mark Richman; IMDb / allmovie

San Francisco, 1891. Playboy Brett Kingsford is secretly an occult detective. When his best friend's fiancée comes to him describing her husband-to-be's strange mental state, he starts to look into it.

[more]
The Grub-and-Stakers Move a Mountain, Charlotte MacLeod 11 September 2015

1981, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Dittany Henbit and the Lobelia Falls Grub-and-Stakers Gardening & Roving Club. In a small town in Ontario, the local villain has a plan to build houses on a wilderness area. But one of his patsies ends up shot.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 22 10 September 2015 - 9 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Colin Baker
Peri Brown - Nicola Bryant

[more]
Victory Conditions, Elizabeth Moon 09 September 2015

2009 military SF, last in a five-book series. Ky Vatta has her fleet, and is ready to move against the pirates as soon as they attack. But she doesn't know all their plans.

[more]
Hyperdog 4-ball launcher 08 September 2015 - 4 comments

I recently bought a tennis-ball catapult, for the benefit of a visiting dog. It's not as good as I'd hoped.

[more]
Jaggy Splinters, Chris Brookmyre 07 September 2015

2012 collection of six short stories.

[more]
God's War, Kameron Hurley 05 September 2015 - 2 comments

2011 SF. Nyx is a bel dame, an assassin tracking down and killing deserters for the government of Nasheen. Then things go wrong. Now she's being employed for a covert recovery mission, but everyone's hand is against her.

[more]
GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School, William H. Stoddard 04 September 2015 - 2 comments

This GURPS supplement deals with teaching, learning, and games based on either or both.

[more]
The End is Nigh, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey 03 September 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF anthology about the run-up to the end of the world.

[more]
August 2015 Trailers 01 September 2015 - 2 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Murder Goes Mumming, Charlotte MacLeod 31 August 2015 - 1 comment

1981, cosy American detective fiction; second of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. In a remote country house in Canada, old Granny Condrycke has died peacefully in her sleep. With the house cut off, the family decides to go ahead with Christmas festivities. But Madoc Rhys, a Mountie who's there accidentally undercover with his fiancée Janet, reckons there was more to it.

[more]
Despicable Me 30 August 2015 - 1 comment

2010, dir. Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud; IMDb / allmovie

The supervillain Gru finds that he needs three little girls for his latest nefarious scheme: to steal the Moon. But he's not as much of a hard case as he thinks he is.

[more]
Command Decision, Elizabeth Moon 29 August 2015

2007 military SF, fourth in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta is putting together an anti-pirate navy while her cousin Stella is rebuilding the family firm.

[more]
Tabletop season 3 28 August 2015

2014-2015, 21 episodes: Wil Wheaton and other minor celebrities play boardgames.

[more]
Flesh Wounds, Chris Brookmyre 27 August 2015

2013 thriller, third in Brookmyre's Glasgow crime series. Jasmine Sharp's protector, the vanished and reappeared gang enforcer Glen Fallan, is arrested for the murder of his old enemy Stevie Fullerton; DS Catherine McLeod is happy to see Fallan put away, but wants to do this by the book, and there are disturbing inconsistencies.

[more]
Radiance, Alicorn 25 August 2015 - 2 comments

2011 contemporary fantasy, a "re-imagining" of the Twilight series. Five years after Luminosity, Elspeth Cullen, daughter of Bella and Edward, tries to stay alive.

[more]
Log Horizon 2 22 August 2015

2014-2015 fantasy, light novel adaptation, 25 episodes: AniDB. Sequel to 2013-2014's Log Horizon. The players of a virtual-reality fantasy game are trapped inside it, and have to learn to live in their new world.

[more]
Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos 21 August 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF, sequel to Terms of Enlistment. Humanity is losing the war against the aliens, but Andrew Grayson might as well re-enlist: there's nothing else for him to do.

[more]
Pyramid 80: Fantasy Threats 20 August 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about things that threaten adventurers in a fantasy game: some monsters, but also societal menaces.

[more]
The Magic City, E. Nesbit 19 August 2015

1910 children's fantasy. Philip, feeling abandoned after his older sister and sole family member marries, builds a model city from things around the house, then finds he has been sucked into it.

[more]
Kung Fury 18 August 2015 - 1 comment

2015 action comedy, dir. and starring David Sandberg: IMDb / allmovie

The toughest martial arts cop in Miami goes back in time to kill kung fu Hitler.

[more]
Don't Point That Thing At Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli 17 August 2015

1972 comedy, first in the Mortdecai Trilogy. Charlie Mortdecai is a cheerfully corrupt, vaguely aristocratic and thoroughly cowardly art dealer, who finds himself called on to act as an unwilling assassin.

[more]
A Place of Confinement, Anna Dean 15 August 2015

2012 historical detection, fourth in Dean's Dido Kent series. Dido is forced to act as companion to her elderly and wealthy aunt, but the house they visit has its own problems: a young lady has disappeared, perhaps to Gretna Green, but her guardian is curiously unconcerned about her.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 21 14 August 2015 - 4 comments

I haven't given up!

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Peter Davison
The Doctor - Colin Baker
Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding
Vislor Turlough - Mark Strickson
Kamelion - Gerald Flood and Dallas Adams
Peri Brown - Nicola Bryant

[more]
The Blue Place, Nicola Griffith 13 August 2015

1998 lesbian noir mystery/romance; first in Griffith's series about Aud Torvingen, bodyguard and borderline psychopath in Atlanta. An art historian's house is burned to the ground, with him in it; six kilos of cocaine are found in the garage. A drug-related execution, or something odder?

[more]
Leave a Message for Willie, Marcia Muller 11 August 2015

1984 mystery; fifth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. A major player in the flea-markets wants help dealing with a stalker, but his business is not as honest as it could be, and soon people start turning up dead.

[more]
Gotham season 1 09 August 2015

2014-2015, 22 episodes: in the years before Batman, Gotham City is a cesspit of crime. But one cop is trying to make a difference.

[more]
The Odin Mission, James Holland 08 August 2015 - 2 comments

2008 war story, first in Holland's Sergeant Jack Tanner series. In April of 1940, British forces in Norway make a fighting retreat in the face of the oncoming German invasion. Jack Tanner, of the King's Own Yorkshire Rangers, must also deal with poor officers, being cut off from friendly troops, and a civilian who has to be smuggled out of the country.

[more]
Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone 06 August 2015 - 2 comments

2014 technological fantasy. On the island of Kavekana, the main business is idols: all the convenience of a god, but none of the commitment or free will of the real thing. One of them has died thanks to a bad financial deal, but the priestess Kai tried to save her, and heard something odd as she did.

[more]
A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias 03 August 2015

2013 science fiction. Six months' hyperspace travel from Earth, a small scientific team explores the lightless under-ice ocean of the planet Ilmatar.

[more]
July 2015 Trailers 01 August 2015 - 4 comments

Some trailers I've seen recently, and my thoughts on them. (Links are to youtube.)

[more]
Shadow Ops: Control Point, Myke Cole 30 July 2015 - 3 comments

2012 modern fantasy. For a few years, people have been manifesting magical powers; in the US, the military has taken control of it all. Some powers are allowed, some aren't. Oscar Britton, Army helicopter pilot, is about to develop one of the ones that isn't.

[more]
Garment of Shadows, Laurie R. King 27 July 2015 - 2 comments

2012 mystery, twelfth in King's series about Mary Russell, wife of Sherlock Holmes. In Morocco in 1924, rebellion is in the air, and fell plots with international ramifications are being prepared.

[more]
Clockwork Heart, Dru Pagliassotti 25 July 2015

2008 steampunk fantasy romance. Taya is an icarus, one of the couriers who strap on wings and buoyant metal to carry messages and small packages across the mountainside city of Ondinium. But a mid-air rescue brings her to the attention of the city's leaders.

[more]
The Hangman's Song, James Oswald 23 July 2015

2014 mystery, third in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. Bodies are found hanging in their homes in Edinburgh, apparently suicides. But how did they all come to do it in just the same way at the same time?

[more]
Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos 21 July 2015 - 8 comments

2013 SF. Andrew Grayson is a long-term welfare recipient, and there are only two ways out: hope to win a lottery for the colony worlds, or sign up with the military. He's going for option B.

[more]
Firefly Jetwash and Esmeralda: unboxing and first look 20 July 2015

My copies of the Jetwash and Esmeralda ship boosters for Firefly arrived on Friday. What's inside?

[more]
Luminosity, Alicorn 19 July 2015 - 2 comments

2010 contemporary fantasy, a "re-imagining" of the Twilight series. Bella Swan is a "rational self-knowledge junkie", so when she meets vampires, she starts thinking about them rather than blindly falling in love.

[more]
A Woman of Consequence, Anna Dean 17 July 2015

2010 historical detection, third in Dean's Dido Kent series. On a visit to a supposedly-haunted ruined abbey, a young lady slips and falls, saying in her delirium only "I saw her – it was her". Was it the Grey Nun of legend?

[more]
The Nelson Touch, Christopher Nuttall 14 July 2015

2014 military SF, second in the Ark Royal series. The outdated and over-armoured carrier Ark Royal did what the newer ships couldn't, taking the war to the alien invaders and even capturing an enemy starship. Now it's time for a larger raid into alien space.

[more]
Death Before Wicket, Kerry Greenwood 11 July 2015 - 2 comments

1999 historical detection. Tenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne is in Sydney, nominally to watch a cricket match, at the request of two university students, whose friend has been accused of stealing exam-papers: an obvious setup. But it seems that there's more to it than that.

[more]
The Deaths of Tao, Wesley Chu 09 July 2015

2013 SF, by the only non-slate nominee for the Campbell this year. Unaging aliens and their human hosts struggle across the Earth.

[more]
A Night Too Dark, Dana Stabenow 07 July 2015

2010 mystery, seventeenth in the series about Kate Shugak, part-time private investigator in a national park in Alaska. The gold mine has come to the Park, and that's changing everything; but murder is still murder.

[more]
Engaging the Enemy, Elizabeth Moon 04 July 2015

2006 SF, third in a five-book series. With the space pirates moving in earnest to extort protection money from interstellar trading polities, Kylara Vatta starts to build a fleet to take them on.

[more]
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo, Sean Punch 03 July 2015

The first Dungeon Fantasy Monsters book dealt with all sorts of creature one might find while kicking in doors and killing the things behind them. This one is more specialised, dealing specifically with slimes.

[more]
Fly Navy: The View from the Cockpit 1945-2000, Charles Manning 02 July 2015

2000 non-fiction, a collection of anecdotes by officers of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

[more]
Hugo 2015: Graphic Story 30 June 2015 - 2 comments

Four nominees in this category that conform to my criteria. I'm not much of a comics reader as a rule, but there's a pleasing diversity of styles.

[more]
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata 29 June 2015

2015, 13 episodes: AniDB

Parody of contemporary slice-of-life and romance. Aki Tomoya tries to create a computer game (in one of the standard Japanese models, with good art and multiple-choice gameplay) with the assistance of various schoolmates.

[more]
Guns in the Gallery, Simon Brett 28 June 2015

2011; thirteenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Jude and Carole go to a private viewing by a consciously controversial artist at a local gallery, but the evening ends in violent death. The police reckon it's suicide, but…

[more]
Chernobyl Diaries 27 June 2015

2012 horror, dir. Brad Parker, Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski: IMDb / allmovie

A tourist trip into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone goes horribly wrong.

[more]
Hugo 2015: Beneath Ceaseless Skies 157, Scott H. Andrews 26 June 2015

For this year's Hugo awards there are three semiprozines in contention that satisfy my voting criteria. One didn't bother to provide a sample in the Hugo packet. This is one of the other two.

[more]
A Soldier's Duty, Jean Johnson 24 June 2015 - 4 comments

2011 SF, first of a five-book series. Ia is a precognitive who foresees the collapse of human civilisation… unless she takes a specific path, which starts with becoming a space marine.

[more]
Helix season 2 23 June 2015

2015 science fiction. On an island off the Washington coast, there's a disease outbreak, but a religious community living there doesn't seem to be worried about it. And it all has something to do with the immortals.

[more]
Hugo 2015: Lightspeed 44, John Joseph Adams 22 June 2015

For this year's Hugo awards there are three semiprozines in contention that satisfy my voting criteria. One didn't bother to provide a sample in the Hugo packet. This is one of the other two.

[more]
Marque and Reprisal, Elizabeth Moon 19 June 2015

2004 SF, second in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta survived her first solo trading venture, but now someone's taking on the family firm. UK vt Moving Target.

[more]
The Cutout, Francine Mathews 17 June 2015

2001 espionage thriller. Caroline Carmichael, CIA intelligence analyst, thought she'd lost her husband in a plane bombing. Until he showed up in a photo of the people who had just kidnapped the Vice-President of the USA during a terrorist attack in Berlin.

[more]
Hugo 2015: Novelette 15 June 2015

There's only one non-slate novelette on the ballot this year, so that's what I'm reviewing here: The Day The World Turned Upside Down, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

[more]
Pyramid 79: Space Atlas, edited by Steven Marsh 13 June 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. "Space Atlas" covers places to take a campaign… in space.

[more]
Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon 12 June 2015 - 2 comments

2003 SF, first in a five-book series. Kylara Vatta is thrown out of space navy academy, then gets a job taking one of the family firm's oldest ships on its final voyage to the scrapyard. Of course it all gets more complicated than that.

[more]
Speaking from Among the Bones, Alan Bradley 10 June 2015

2013 cosy mystery, fifth in Bradley's series set in the early 1950s about child detective Flavia de Luce. The corpse of the angelic-looking young organist has been hidden in a saint's tomb that hasn't been opened for years. But how and why did he die?

[more]
Koufuku Graffiti 09 June 2015

2015 contemporary slice of life, 12 episodes: AniDB. A middle school girl with a knack for cooking learns that everything tastes better if you share it with someone special. vt Gourmet Girl Graffiti.

[more]
My Friend Mr Leakey, J B S Haldane 08 June 2015 - 2 comments

1937 children's fantasy. Six stories of wonder, three of them dealing with the modern magician Mr Leakey.

[more]
GURPS Monster Hunters 5: Applied Xenology, Jason Levine 07 June 2015 - 2 comments

This supplementary volume in the Monster Hunters series tweaks the game to allow the foes to be aliens rather than supernatural monsters.

[more]
The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell 06 June 2015 - 2 comments

2014 urban fantasy, sequel to London Falling. As protests brew into riots during a hot summer, important people are being murdered in a bizarre and impossible way. Fortunately, the Met has four officers who specialise in the impossible.

[more]
The China Syndrome 05 June 2015

1979 drama, dir. James Bridges, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon: IMDb / allmovie

A TV news reporter uncovers dirty secrets at a nuclear power plant.

[more]
Countdown, Keith Douglass 04 June 2015

1994 alternate-world military fiction; sixth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is still CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, which now gets involved in the Russian civil war of 1994+4.

[more]
Pyramid 78: Unleash Your Soul, edited by Steven Marsh 02 June 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's religion, particularly of the actively supernatural sort. This isn't something that tends to come up much in my games, so the applicability of this issue is relatively low for me.

[more]
Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Effects and Survivability, Charles S. Grace 31 May 2015 - 1 comment

1994 non-fiction, volume 10 of the Brassey's New Battlefield Weapons Systems and Technology series. A practical primer on the design and operation of nuclear weapons, their effects, and their simulation.

[more]
The Rolling Girls 30 May 2015

2015 futuristic fantasy, 12 episodes: AniDB. After the Great Tokyo War, Japan is balkanised; each area is protected by its own vigilante squad. Four girls set out to deal with some of the problems.

[more]
Windscale 1957, Lorna Arnold 29 May 2015

1995 non-fiction. In October 1957, the core of Windscale's Pile 1 caught fire, burned for three days, and spread radioactive contamination across what was then Cumberland. This is the official history of the incident and its aftermath.

[more]
A Gentleman of Fortune, Anna Dean 26 May 2015

2009 historical detection, second in Dean's Dido Kent series. Rich invalid Mrs Lansdale has died, of an overdose of laudanum. Her nephew stands to inherit. But did he do it?

[more]
GURPS Zombies: Day One, Sean Punch 25 May 2015

Eight zombie campaign frames sketched out in moderate detail.

[more]
The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin 23 May 2015

2014 translation of 2006 SF from China. In the long shadow of the Cultural Revolution, various people try to work out why scientists are committing suicide.

[more]
Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 21 May 2015

2015 modern fantasy, 12 episodes: AniDB. Sequel to 2012's Kamisama Hajimemashita; vt "Kamisama Kiss" or "Beginning of Life as a God". Ordinary schoolgirl Nanami has become a shrine deity, and is still trying to learn how to do her job.

[more]
Natural Causes, James Oswald 20 May 2015

2012 mystery, first in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A prominent city elder in Edinburgh is killed, but less than a day later his killer commits a public and messy suicide. Case closed, and the police are happy. But McLean won't let it lie, especially when the same thing happens again.

[more]
12 Monkeys season 1 19 May 2015 - 5 comments

2015 SF, 13 episodes. In the future, humanity has been nearly wiped out by a plague. James Cole is sent back in time to 2015, just before it started, to try to prevent it.

[more]
Thunder on the Right, Mary Stewart 18 May 2015

1957; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. Jennifer Silver goes to the Pyrenées to visit her widowed cousin, who's staying in a convent and thinking about taking orders. But when she arrives, she finds her cousin has suddenly died and been buried. Or has she?

[more]
What We Do in the Shadows 17 May 2015

2014 comedy, dir. and starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi: IMDb / allmovie

Four vampires share a flat in modern New Zealand. Comedy happens.

[more]
The Family Vault, Charlotte MacLeod 16 May 2015

1980, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. In Boston, an old family vault is opened for the first time in thirty years… to reveal the corpse of a well-known burlesque dancer.

[more]
A Small Colonial War, Robert Frezza 14 May 2015 - 1 comment

1990 military SF. In the 22nd century, the Japanese empire which controls Earth and the colony worlds sends a task group to suppress a three-way colonial revolt. It doesn't help that many of the colonists are exiled Boers.

[more]
Fox Five, Zoe Sharp 12 May 2015

2011 thriller: five short stories about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard.

[more]
Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road 11 May 2015

2014, 24 episodes: AniDB

Sports. Onoda Sakamichi, cyclist with huge natural talent, continues his racing career. (Sequel to Yowamushi Pedal.)

[more]
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison 10 May 2015 - 2 comments

2014 fantasy. Maia is the fourth son of the emperor of Elfland, exiled to a rural estate and forgotten about. But now the emperor is dead along with his other sons, and Maia becomes the new emperor, thrown headlong into court politics for which he is unprepared.

[more]
Pyramid 77: Combat, edited by Steven Marsh 09 May 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's combat: fighting of all sorts.

[more]
Souls in the Great Machine, Sean McMullen 08 May 2015

1999 SF. More than a thousand years after Greatwinter destroyed civilisation, new cultures have grown up in what was once Australia. But what is the secret at the heart of the Library?

[more]
Bury in Haste, Jean Rowden 06 May 2015

2007 mystery. In rural Yorkshire in 1956, Constable "Thorny" Deepbriar is a village bobby who's always longed to try his hand at detection. Now he's going to get his chance.

[more]
Anywhere but Here, Jerry Oltion 02 May 2015

2005 SF, sequel to The Getaway Special. With cheap hyperdrive available to the world, things are falling apart; two people try to work out their options.

[more]
Aldnoah.Zero second season 26 April 2015

2015, 12 episodes: AniDB

Mecha series, continuation of last summer's Aldnoah Zero. The Martians are still invading Earth, but things have bogged down.

[more]
The Circle, Peter Lovesey 25 April 2015

2005 mystery. A publisher's house is burned down, with him in it. What's the connection with the local circle of unpublished writers?

[more]
Cross Ange Tenshi: to Ryuu no Rondo 22 April 2015

2014-2015, 25 episodes: AniDB; vt Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon.

In a magical/tech society, the princess is discovered to be a non-magic-user, stripped of her rank, and exiled to the high-casualty, low-empathy defenders of the kingdom.

[more]
A Moment of Silence, Anna Dean 21 April 2015 - 4 comments

2008 historical detection, first in Dean's Dido Kent series. In 1805 at Richard Montague's engagement party, he suddenly puts off his fiancée Catherine and leaves for parts unknown. And a woman's body is found in the shrubbery. Catherine's spinster aunt Dido tries to clear up the mystery. US vt Bellfield Hall.

[more]
Kantai Collection 19 April 2015

2015, 12 episodes: AniDB

Schoolgirls with the spirit of WWII Japanese fighting ships take on an alien navy.

[more]
Constantine season 1 18 April 2015 - 4 comments

2014-2015: John Constantine, broken magician, must protect the innocent from magical threats.

[more]
Sunglasses After Dark, Nancy A. Collins 17 April 2015 - 6 comments

1989 horror, prototypical urban fantasy. Sonja Blue, vampire killer of vampires, is locked up and medicated in a mental hospital. But that isn't going to stop her for long.

[more]
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso 14 April 2015

2014, 22 episodes: AniDB vt Your Lie in April

Modern romantic comedy. Kousei was a child prodigy at the piano, but gave it up. Two years later when he's in high school, he randomly meets Kaori the violinist, who insists that he should be her accompanist in a competition.

[more]
Wolf in Shadow, John Lambshead 13 April 2015 - 2 comments

2013 urban fantasy. Rhian, a young woman from the valleys with some unusual talents, finds herself in east London, where ancient magics are mixing with modern in a distinctly unpleasant way.

[more]
Good Enough for Nelson, John Winton 11 April 2015

1977; ninth of Winton's novels. The Artful Bodger (Commander R. B. Badger, RN) is now in charge of the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.

[more]
Laggies 10 April 2015

2014, dir. Lynn Shelton, Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz; IMDb / allmovie

Megan is approaching thirty, but her career and personality more or less went on hold when she left high school ten years ago. One night, as she's fleeing from an unwanted marriage proposal and other complications, some high-school kids ask her to buy them beer, and she gets on with Annika better than with her own peers. Things move on from there. vt Say When in the UK and Ireland.

[more]
Raisins and Almonds, Kerry Greenwood 09 April 2015

1997 historical detection. Ninth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). A man drops dead of strychnine poisoning in a bookshop; the owner's the obvious suspect. But Phryne is unconvinced.

[more]
GURPS Boardroom and Curia, Matt Riggsby 05 April 2015

This supplement is not called "GURPS Organisations", but it might as well have been.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 20 04 April 2015 - 4 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Peter Davison
Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding
Vislor Turlough - Mark Strickson
Kamelion - Gerald Flood

[more]
Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman 03 April 2015

2003 suspense. Seven years ago, two eleven-year-old girls stole a baby, which died; maybe one of them killed it. Now they're out of juvenile detention… and a young child has gone missing.

[more]
CSI season 15 02 April 2015 - 2 comments

2014-2015: the crew of the Las Vegas Crime Lab continue to use forensic science to solve crimes.

[more]
The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross 01 April 2015 - 4 comments

2014 modern occult secret service, fifth in the Laundry Files series. Everybody in the Laundry knows there's no such thing as vampires. Why are they so very sure?

[more]
The Book of Souls, James Oswald 28 March 2015

2012 mystery, second in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. Twelve years ago Tony McLean caught the Christmas Killer, whose last victim was McLean's fiancée. Now that man's been killed in prison, but another young woman's corpse has just turned up, killed in the same way. A copycat? Or did McLean get the wrong man?

[more]
Obsession in Death, J. D. Robb 26 March 2015

2015 SF/mystery; fiftieth (roughly) of J. D. Robb's In Death series. At the end of 2060, Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas comes up against a new threat: a murderer who's such a fan that he's killing people who've offended Dallas. And there are a lot of them.

[more]
Trinity Seven 24 March 2015

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Modern magic. After the sun turns black and Arata's girlfriend disintegrates before his eyes, he now has to go to magician school.

[more]
The House Sitter, Peter Lovesey 23 March 2015 - 2 comments

2003 mystery, the eighth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. Is a killing on a beach connected with the murder of a celebrity film director?

[more]
GURPS Powers: Enhanced Senses, William H. Stoddard 21 March 2015

This specialised GURPS supplement deals with unusual sensory powers, from the reasonable to the cinematic.

[more]
London Falling, Paul Cornell 18 March 2015 - 3 comments

2012 urban fantasy. The big crime boss is finally arrested, curiously easily, but explodes in a shower of blood while he's being interviewed. In trying to work out what happened, four coppers accidentally step into a much larger world.

[more]
Sleepy Hollow season 2 17 March 2015

2014-2015: Ichabod Crane, survivor from the American Revolutionary War, continues to fight in the modern day against the imminent Apocalypse.

[more]
Redshift Rendezvous, John E. Stith 16 March 2015

1990 SF. On a passenger liner in hyperspace, the speed of light is a mere ten metres per second. But humans are still humans.

[more]
A Pint of Murder, Charlotte MacLeod 14 March 2015

1980, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels (as "Alisa Craig") of Madoc and Janet Rhys. In a small Canadian town, the local old biddy has died of eating her own contaminated preserves. But was she really that careless?

[more]
Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen 12 March 2015

2013 Florida Weird. On Key West, former Miami cop Andrew Yancy has a human arm in his freezer. But there's a reason for that. Yancy thinks the story about the arm's owner dying in a boating accident is full of holes, and sets off on an unofficial investigation.

[more]
Penguins of Madagascar 10 March 2015 - 1 comment

2014, dir. Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith; IMDb / allmovie

In this spin-off from the Madagascar series, four penguin secret agents attempt to foil the plot of the sinister Dr Octavius Brine. Or at least to find Cheesy Dibbles to eat.

[more]
Starhawk, Jack McDevitt 09 March 2015 - 2 comments

2013 SF, seventh in the Academy series and a prequel. Priscilla Hutchins is just completing interstellar pilot training, but already demand for pilots is dropping. And terrorists are threatening the terraforming project. Spoilers.

[more]
Agent Carter, season 1 08 March 2015 - 3 comments

2014-2015 superheroic fantasy. In 1946, after the presumed death of Captain America, his girlfriend Peggy Carter works for a secret government agency.

[more]
Denki-Gai no Honya-San 06 March 2015

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB; also known as "Electric Town Bookstore".

Workplace sitcom based in a manga/DVD/game/etc. shop, poking fun at the fandom and conventions of the genre.

[more]
A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman 05 March 2015 - 2 comments

1978, popular history. Tuchman recounts the history of France and some nearby countries in the latter part of the Fourteenth Century, with particular focus on the nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy.

[more]
Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling 02 March 2015 - 2 comments

1897: the spoiled son of a millionaire, washed overboard from a steamer, is rescued and put to work by the crew of a Grand Banks cod-boat.

[more]
The Librarians, series 1 28 February 2015 - 5 comments

2014-2015; the Library is where all the magical artefacts in the world are stored to keep them (and the world) safe. After three TV movies, the story has been resurrected as a weekly series.

[more]
Maelstrom, Keith Douglass 27 February 2015

1993; fifth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder, CAG aboard USS Thomas Jefferson, continues to fight against the Russian invasion of Norway in 1993+4.

[more]
The Ninth Daughter, Barbara Hamilton 24 February 2015

2009 historical mystery. In Boston in 1773, Abigail Adams (wife of lawyer and future president John Quincy Adams) tries to solve the murder of one woman and the disappearance of another.

[more]
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins 22 February 2015

1868 mystery; often considered the first detective novel in English. The huge diamond, looted from India, goes missing after a birthday party. Who took it? And how was the trick managed?

[more]
Psycho-Pass 2 21 February 2015

2014, 11 episodes: AniDB

The perfect society of 2012-2013's Psycho-Pass encounters a new threat.

[more]
The Warden, Anthony Trollope 17 February 2015

1855 novel, first of Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire. The warden of Hiram's Hospital, an almshouse supported by a charitable bequest, comes under attack for keeping too much of the now-substantial income to himself.

[more]
Wildfire at Midnight, Mary Stewart 14 February 2015

1956; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense. In 1953, the fashion model Gianetta Drury has over-worked herself, and leaves London just before the Coronation to spend some time in a remote hotel on Skye. But it's not the peaceful retreat she'd hoped for.

[more]
Wanderlust, Ann Aguirre 11 February 2015

2008 SF/romance, second in the Grimspace series. In the previous book, Sirantha Jax was instrumental in bringing down the evil corporation that ran everything. But nature abhors a power vacuum.

[more]
Amagi Brilliant Park 10 February 2015

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB.

High school boy is asked to be the acting manager of a failing amusement park populated by fantastic creatures.

[more]
Bones under the Beach Hut, Simon Brett 09 February 2015

2011; twelfth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). Carole Seddon takes over the rental of a beach hut along the shore from Fethering, only for human remains to turn up underneath it.

[more]
Jiro Dreams of Sushi 07 February 2015

2012, dir. David Gelb, Jiro Yoshino: IMDb / allmovie

Ono Jiro is the oldest chef ever to get a third Michelin star; his restaurant in Ginza only seats twelve people.

[more]
I Think You'll Find It's A Bit More Complicated Than That, Ben Goldacre 06 February 2015

2014; a collection of Ben Goldacre's short writing, mostly for the Guardian.

[more]
Ascension 05 February 2015 - 9 comments

2014 SF mini-series. In the 1950s, a project was begun to build an interstellar generation spacecraft as a lifeboat for humanity should the Cold War turn hot. Now they're half-way through the mission and they've just had their first murder. Meanwhile, on Earth, someone's looking into long-buried secrets. Possible spoilers ahead.

[more]
Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey 03 February 2015

1949 mystery. Simon Ashby is about to come of age and inherit the family estate Latchetts (sadly fallen, but still worth a bit). Eight years ago, after the sudden death of their parents, his older twin Patrick committed suicide, or so everyone thought; but now someone claiming to be Patrick has turned up to take over again.

[more]
Personal, Lee Child 31 January 2015

2014; 19th book of Jack Reacher. Some bad man has had a long range shot at the chief man of France, but few men are good enough to have a go, and Jack put one of them in clink some years back. So some spies bring him on board to help catch the bad man, and be bait.

[more]
Danna ga Nani o Itteiruka Wakaranai Ken 30 January 2015

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB Also known as I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying. Slice of life comedy dealing with the daily routine of a busy office lady and her otaku husband.

[more]
Whit, Iain Banks 29 January 2015

1995: Isis Whit is the Elect of God and heir-designate to the small cult of Luskentyrianism, the granddaughter of its founder; she's lived all her life in its holdings near Dunblane. But now one of the members in London has fallen out of contact in an odd way, and it's up to Isis to travel outside and try to get her back.

[more]
The Portable Door, Tom Holt 26 January 2015 - 2 comments

2003 comic fantasy. Paul Carpenter applies for a job as a "junior clerk" at J. W. Wells, not knowing just what it is that they do; but it seems to be something really quite strange. He'd chuck it in if he hadn't fallen for his fellow junior clerk…

[more]
Fifth Victim, Zoe Sharp 24 January 2015

Ninth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. Children of the super-rich are being kidnapped in the Hamptons, and Charlie is hired by the mother of one of the potential victims. But it's all more complex than it looks.

[more]
Terra Formars 23 January 2015

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB Mars was seeded with engineered cockroaches and mould. Five hundred years later, they ate the first manned mission. The second one had only two survivors. Now it's time for the third.

[more]
The Getaway Special, Jerry Oltion 22 January 2015

2001 SF, expansion of 1985 short story. A scientist invents a hyperspace drive that's easy to build and use, and tells the world. Things don't go as smoothly as he expects.

[more]
Sword Art Online II 19 January 2015

2014, 24 episodes: AniDB, follow-up to 2012's Sword Art Online. The survivors of the VR MMO Sword Art Online go on to new adventures.

[more]
Rest You Merry, Charlotte MacLeod 18 January 2015

1979, cosy American detective fiction; first of MacLeod's novels of Professor Peter Shandy. In a New England agricultural college, the local busybody has had an accident, or been murdered. But was it really over the question of Christmas decorations?

[more]
Shipwreck! First Look 13 January 2015

"Modern" (i.e. post-WWII) naval warfare is surprisingly underserved by the wargaming community. There's Harpoon, of course, which I know and love, but it's a bit heavy on detail for many people. Shipwreck!, written by Martin Bourne and published in 1999 by Vandering Publications, is the "other" game, and it takes a much lighter approach.

[more]
Grimspace, Ann Aguirre 12 January 2015

2008 SF/romance. Sirantha Jax is a jumper, one of the rare humans who can navigate FTL ships through grimspace. But her ship crashed, her pilot/lover died (along with everyone else on board), and she may be going mad.

[more]
Hitsugi no Chaika Avenging Battle 11 January 2015

2014, 10 episodes: AniDB. Sequel to last spring's Hitsugi no Chaika.

The daughter of the evil mage-emperor is still collecting his remains in order to give him a proper funeral.

[more]
Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch 10 January 2015 - 1 comment

Contemporary fantasy. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, investigates the death of a man found stabbed on Baker Street station.

[more]
Heaven's Queen, Rachel Bach 08 January 2015 - 2 comments

2014 SF; sequel to Honour's Knight. With most of the powers in the known universe arrayed against her, Devi is still infected with the virus that could solve everything (or bring it all crashing down).

[more]
All Cheerleaders Die 07 January 2015

2013, dir. Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee: IMDb / allmovie

Outcast girl Maddy manages to get onto the cheerleading squad after its leader dies in a bizarre accident. But she has revenge in mind, for what is not yet clear, and that's only the beginning.

[more]
The Cardinal's Mistress, Benito Mussolini 06 January 2015

1910; melodrama. In the middle of the 17th century, Claudia Particelli is mistress to the Cardinal (Prince-Bishop) of Trento, and everybody will come to a Bad End.

[more]
Gold from Crete, C. S. Forester 04 January 2015

1971 collection of earlier fiction; various stories of action during the Second World War.

[more]
Tokyo Ghoul 03 January 2015

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Modern Tokyo is infested by ghouls, who eat humans. Kaneki is about to become their latest victim.

[more]
Unfinished Books of 2014 30 December 2014 - 2 comments

Mostly I finish the books that I start. Sometimes I don't. These are the ones I didn't finish this year.

[more]
Garfunkel and Oates, series 1 29 December 2014 - 2 comments

22-minute comedy loosely based on the real lives of the folk-rock-parody duo of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome.

[more]
Honour's Knight, Rachel Bach 27 December 2014 - 1 comment

2014 SF; sequel to Fortune's Pawn. Devi is now security chief on the tramp space-freighter she signed on with, but clearly something very strange is going on.

[more]
Terror in Resonance 23 December 2014

2014, 11 episodes: AniDB; also known as Zankyou no Terror and Terror in Tokyo.

In an alternate present, terrorist bombs start going off in Tokyo. What is the mysterious Sphinx, and why are they doing it?

[more]
Delete All Suspects, Donna Andrews 22 December 2014 - 2 comments

2005 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, looks into the affairs of a techie who's been hit by a car and is now in intensive care. Was it an accident?

[more]
Kim, Rudyard Kipling 18 December 2014

1901: an orphaned Irish boy, growing up on the streets of Lahore, puts his natural talents to better use.

[more]
Revenge of the Cootie Girls, Sparkle Hayter 16 December 2014

1997; third of Hayter's mysteries about TV journalist Robin Hudson. Robin's just trying to find her intern and other co-workers for a girls' night out, but somehow it doesn't seem to come together.

[more]
Access Denied, Donna Andrews 14 December 2014

2004 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, follows up on a lead to an old enemy.

[more]
Games to Keep the Dark Away, Marcia Muller 12 December 2014

1984; fourth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone investigates the disappearance of a famous photographer's roommate, which leads to secret goings-on in a decaying coastal town.

[more]
Terminator Genisys Trailer 11 December 2014 - 7 comments

Some people may review the new Star Wars trailer. I find this one more interesting.

[more]
Glasslip 09 December 2014

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB

Teenage romance and premonitory powers in contemporary small-town Japan.

[more]
Click Here for Murder, Donna Andrews 08 December 2014

2003 SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, has just lost a friend and employee: he's been murdered. The police reckon it was random drug-related violence; she tries to find out more.

[more]
Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines 06 December 2014

2012: Isaac Vainio used to be a libriomancer, someone who can reach into books and pull out the objects depicted there; but things went bad and now he works at a small town library. Until the vampires show up. Minor spoilers will follow.

[more]
Sliding Doors 05 December 2014 - 1 comment

1998, dir. Peter Howitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah: IMDb / allmovie

A woman just fired from her job does, or does not, catch a particular Underground train, and does, or does not, catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman; her life diverges from that point, and we see both halves.

[more]
Three Men and a Maid, Robert Fraser 04 December 2014

1907; romantic melodrama-cum-mystery story. Who killed Robert Courthope? Why did Philip Warren flee from the scene?

[more]
Whistleblower, Tess Gerritsen 01 December 2014

1992; romantic suspense. Catherine Weaver is a makeup artist for low-budget films who's driving to visit her pregnant friend on a rainy night, when she hits Victor Holland who's just stumbled onto the road having been shot. Then things start moving.

[more]
High Moon 30 November 2014

Some time in the future, two convicts working on the Moon discover something strange: a flower, blooming on the surface. Then things get weird.

[more]
In the Land of Invented Languages, Arika Okrent 29 November 2014 - 5 comments

2009: Okrent examines the history of invented languages, and in particular the rare instances that weren't immediately forgotten.

[more]
Free! Eternal Summer 27 November 2014

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB, sequel to Free! (2013).

High school sports club anime: the sport in this instance is swimming.

[more]
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie 25 November 2014 - 2 comments

Sequel to Ancillary Justice. Breq, now a Fleet Captain, travels to a backwater world to help assure its survival in the civil war.

[more]
Bedlam, Christopher Brookmyre 23 November 2014 - 2 comments

Ross Baker is having a bad day. He'd just lain down for an experimental brain scan, and now he seems to be a cyborg soldier in an endless war. And it's going to get a lot stranger than that. If you plan to read this book, know that I thought it fairly good (I'd rate it with Pandæmonium as minor but worth reading, much better than When the Devil Drives) and stop reading now to avoid the spoilers.

[more]
Meet the Tiger, Leslie Charteris 20 November 2014

In a small village by the Devon coast, a very strange fellow has moved into the old pill-box on the cliff. Excitement ensues.

[more]
Bad Pharma, Ben Goldacre 18 November 2014

Ben Goldacre explains at length how pretty much everything about drug research and selection is rotten.

[more]
Aldnoah.Zero 17 November 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Mecha series. The Martians are invading Earth, and their technology is overpowering. But some Earthlings are able to fight back.

[more]
USS Seawolf, Patrick Robinson 16 November 2014 - 2 comments

In an attempt to get details of the latest Chinese missile submarine, an American attack boat is sent in to shadow her. Spoilers.

[more]
Automata 15 November 2014

2014, dir. Gabe Ibañez, Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen: IMDb / allmovie

After the vast majority of humanity has been killed by solar storms, robots keep the remainder alive in a small numer of cities. But some robots seem to be breaking their rules.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 19 13 November 2014 - 6 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

The Doctor - Peter Davison
Adric - Matthew Waterhouse
Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding

[more]
The Good Soldier Schweik, Jaroslav Hasek 12 November 2014

After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian Empire goes to war. Josef Švejk, a dealer in stolen dogs, does his best to get by.

[more]
Owls Well That Ends Well, Donna Andrews 10 November 2014

Sixth mystery starring Meg Lanslow, contemporary blacksmith. Meg and her boyfriend have bought a huge old house very cheaply, on condition that they clear out and sell the accumulated junk left by the previous owner. But during the sale, a dubious dealer in antiquities turns up dead…

[more]
Hunting Season, Nevada Barr 08 November 2014

Tenth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series, murder mysteries in US National Parks. Back on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, a body's been found in an old plantation house, left in a manner suggestive of sexual homicide.

[more]
Ao Haru Ride 07 November 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB, also known as Blue Spring Ride.

Contemporary school story adapted from shōjo manga. Futaba reinvents herself as she enters high school, only to find that her middle-school crush Kou has also reinvented himself.

[more]
Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson 06 November 2014 - 3 comments

Tove Jansson's second book about the Moomins. Original title Kometjakten.

[more]
Revolution! Anarchy: first look 04 November 2014

Revolution! Anarchy is the new 5-6 player expansion to Revolution!.

[more]
What If?, Randall Munroe 03 November 2014

The author of the webcomic xkcd works out back-of-the-envelope answers to odd scientific questions.

[more]
Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder 31 October 2014

This highly influential book on screenwriting lays out a standard structure to which all saleable scripts should conform.

[more]
Fourth Day, Zoe Sharp 27 October 2014

Eighth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. A man's son joined a cult, and later got killed; he went in to find out what had been so tempting, and decided to stay. Now Charlie's on the team that's getting him out. But it's all rather more complicated than it looks…

[more]
Chickenhawk, Robert Mason 25 October 2014 - 6 comments

Robert Mason flew Hueys for a year in Vietnam. This is his story.

[more]
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 24 October 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB; also known as Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun.

Parody series about young girls' (shōjo) manga. Chiyo has a crush on fellow high school student Nozaki, but through comical misunderstanding discovers he's a manga writer and artist – but this has to be kept a secret from the rest of the school.

[more]
Madam, Will You Talk?, Mary Stewart 23 October 2014

1954; mystery/thriller or romantic suspense; first published novel by Mary Stewart. Charity Selborne is on holiday in Provence, and meets young David Shelley and his stepmother Loraine Bristol. Somewhere in the background is David's father, recently acquitted of the grisly murder of his best friend, and believed by many to be mad…

[more]
Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch 21 October 2014

Contemporary fantasy. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, investigates the sudden deaths of jazz musicians.

[more]
Mushi-Shi The Next Chapter, first half 20 October 2014

2014, 12 episodes plus a special: AniDB; sequel to Mushishi (2005-2006).

Mushi are supernatural creatures which are invisible to most people, but which have an effect in the mundane world. Ginko, a mushi-shi, is someone who can see them, and who solves problems for people who are affected by them.

[more]
Pirate King, Laurie R. King 19 October 2014

Eleventh in King's series about Mary Russell, who… well, this is basically Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, but against all the odds it manages to work. Strange things have been happening around a film crew; Russell joins it to work out what's going on.

[more]
The Cheshire Cat's Eye, Marcia Muller 17 October 2014

Third in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone investigates the murder of a painter and decorator in a rough area that's being gentrified.

[more]
Third Strike, Zoe Sharp 15 October 2014

Seventh thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and current private bodyguard. Charlie's estranged father turns up unexpectedly in the USA, and seems to be bent on professional self-destruction under the eyes of the media. Why?

[more]
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 14 October 2014

2012, dir. Lorene Scafaria, Steve Carell, Keira Knightley: IMDb / allmovie

The world will be hit by an asteroid in three weeks, and there's nothing more that can be done about it. Dodge and his neighbour Penny set out to get him to his high school sweetheart, and her to her family in England.

[more]
Flame-Out, Keith Douglass 13 October 2014

Fourth in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is now deputy CAG aboard a Nimitz-class carrier, and Russia is invading Norway.

[more]
The Sword-Edged Blonde, Alex Bledsoe 11 October 2014

Hard-boiled fantasy. Down the mean streets goes Eddie LaCrosse, a swordsman who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

[more]
Black Bullet 10 October 2014

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB

After civilisation is nearly destroyed by an invasion of virus-controlled creatures, only the children born with a small dose of the virus are an effective weapon against them. So they're paired with adult handlers, and sent off to the fight.

[more]
Nice Girls Finish Last, Sparkle Hayter 09 October 2014

Second of Hayter's mysteries about TV journalist Robin Hudson. This time her new gynæcologist has been found, handcuffed and then shot in the head, and there's no shortage of people who might have wished him ill.

[more]
The Last Ship, series 1 07 October 2014

While the destroyer USS Nathan James is on exercise in the Arctic, a plague has killed over 80% of the world's population. Now her captain must decide how to proceed.

[more]
Choosers of the Slain, James H. Cobb 06 October 2014 - 4 comments

Naval technothriller. Argentine troops invade key locations in Antarctica, and the only force in a position to do anything about it is a new US Navy destroyer.

[more]
The Most Dangerous Game 04 October 2014

1932, dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack, Joel McCrea, Fay Wray: IMDb / allmovie. Also known as The Hounds of Zaroff for its British release.

A famous hunter is shipwrecked, then makes it to the shore of a supposedly deserted island. But his host has plans for him.

[more]
The Most Dangerous Game, Richard Connell 03 October 2014

Short story. An expert hunter, washed overboard from his ship, makes it to an island where his host explains how he makes hunting a real challenge: his prey is human beings.

[more]
Circle of the Moon, Barbara Hambly 01 October 2014

Sequel to Sisters of the Raven. The new female wizards, and the king their patron, have to cope with dream-communications of suffering from abroad, a possible magical assassin, some new kind of plague that is wiping out villages, and the king's re-coronation ordeal (which was easier to fake back when magic was reliable).

[more]
Firefly Blue Sun: unboxing and first look 30 September 2014 - 4 comments

My copy of the Blue Sun expansion to Firefly arrived yesterday. What's inside?

[more]
Bookmonth, August 2014 27 September 2014

Here's what I've read in August.

[more]
The Three Hostages, John Buchan 27 September 2014

Fourth of Buchan's books about Richard Hannay; 1920s thud-and-blunder.

[more]
Whisper to the Blood, Dana Stabenow 25 September 2014

Sixteenth mystery in the series about Kate Shugak, part-time private investigator in a national park in Alaska. Gold's been found on park lands, and that means mining, and that means objections from the locals. The mining company's hired a minor celebrity to be their spokeswoman. But that doesn't solve everything.

[more]
The Girl in the Green Raincoat, Laura Lippman 23 September 2014

Novella; eleventh in Lippman's contemporary mystery series about Tess Monaghan, private investigator in Baltimore. Restricted to bed thanks to difficulties with her pregnancy, Tess passes the time watching people in the park outside, particularly a young woman in a green coat (with a greyhound in a matching one). One day, the greyhound passes by on its own…

[more]
Space Dandy 21 September 2014

2014, 13 episodes: AniDB

A nostalgically strange series about the dandiest man in space.

[more]
Two Serpents Rise, Max Gladstone 20 September 2014 - 2 comments

Technological fantasy. Sixty years after the Aztec-like city-state of Dresediel Lex was "liberated" and its gods killed, someone seems to be trying to break the hold of the company that replaced those gods.

[more]
Parts per Billion 19 September 2014

2014, dir. Brian Horiuchi, Frank Langella, Rosario Dawson: IMDb / allmovie

As a runaway biological weapon devastates the world, three couples consider the meaning of love.

[more]
Second Shot, Zoe Sharp 18 September 2014

Sixth thriller in the series about Charlie (Charlotte) Fox, former soldier and currently private bodyguard. Charlie guards a woman whose ex-boyfriend is causing trouble after a lottery win, but it soon becomes more complicated than that.

[more]
Silent Mercy, Linda Fairstein 16 September 2014

Thirteenth in Fairstein's contemporary mystery series about Alexandra Cooper, sex crimes prosecutor in Manhattan. When a burned, decapitated body is found on the steps of a church that used to be a synagogue, there could be any number of reasons. When a second body is found at another church, things start to come together.

[more]
No Game No Life 15 September 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Two shut-ins, a brother and sister game-playing team, are arbitrarily transplanted into a magical world where all conflict is resolved by games. They take to it well.

[more]
Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch 14 September 2014 - 2 comments

Contemporary fantasy ("urban fantasy" gives the wrong idea now, even if it's much more appropriate to this book than to many published under that banner). New constable Peter Grant is about to be sent off to the paperwork unit, but while he's standing guard over a murder scene in the small hours a ghost starts to talk to him. Then things get stranger.

[more]
Social Deduction Games 13 September 2014

Quite a lot of games have some sort of hidden identity component: for example, Lords of Waterdeep and Discworld: Ankh-Morpork both deal each player a random role which then gives them a secret way of winning the game; Battlestar Galactica and Shadows over Camelot, while nominally cooperative, may assign a traitor role to one or more players; and the UFO faction in Illuminati can even covertly choose which victory condition to aspire to. But some games are entirely about the hidden roles and working out who's got which, and I seem to have been playing a lot of them lately.

[more]
The Sleeping God, Violette Malan 12 September 2014

Lightweight but lengthy fantasy, the first in the Dhulyn and Parno series.

[more]
Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to 11 September 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Situation comedy based on a manga artist, his assistant, and various other workmates.

[more]
You've Got Murder, Donna Andrews 10 September 2014

SF/mystery. Turing Hopper, an AI emergent from research assistant software, is worried about her programmer: he seems to have vanished, and the records she can find aren't helping. So she turns for help to the two humans who are aware of her nature.

[more]
What's A Girl Gotta Do, Sparkle Hayter 08 September 2014 - 2 comments

Robin Hudson had a promising career as a TV journalist, but blew it with some public embarrassment. Now her ex-husband has a younger and prettier fiancée, her job for not-CNN involves investigating a sperm bank, and she's about to be blackmailed. Then the blackmailer turns up dead…

[more]
Antiviral 07 September 2014

2012, dir. Brandon Cronenberg, Caleb Landry Jones: IMDb / allmovie

In a world where the cult of celebrity involves taking on their diseases… pretty much everything that can go wrong with such a setup does.

[more]
Firebrand, Ankaret Wells 06 September 2014

Self-published industrial fantasy romance. The relict of a bishop inherits her mother's great airship, and tries to avoid becoming the mistress of the Emperor.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 18 05 September 2014 - 8 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Doctor Who - Peter Davison (briefly)
Romana - Lalla Ward
K-9 (voice) - John Leeson
Adric - Matthew Waterhouse
Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding

[more]
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza, Lawrence Block 04 September 2014 - 1 comment

Fourth mystery book about Bernard Rhodenbarr, professional burglar in 1970s New York.

[more]
Nobunaga the Fool 03 September 2014

2013-2014, 24 episodes: AniDB

On the Star of the East, Oda Nobunaga fights his local battles against other warlords (with Giant War Armour, of course). But the Star of the West is approaching, and the stakes are about to get vastly higher.

[more]
HMS Unseen, Patrick Robinson 02 September 2014 - 2 comments

Airliners over the Atlantic are being shot down by submarine-launched missiles. How can this be stopped? Spoilers.

[more]
Bookmonth, July 2014 30 August 2014

Here's what I've read in July.

[more]
To Love and Be Wise, Josephine Tey 30 August 2014

Classic detective fiction; fourth, roughly, of Tey's novels of Inspector Alan Grant. An unreasonably beautiful young man visiting from America goes to the country to stay with casual acquaintances in a village that's been Discovered by writers and artists, causes social ructions, then disappears. What happened, and was it murder?

[more]
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch 29 August 2014 - 1 comment

First of a projected seven-book fantasy series. In a decaying imperial city, a thief and con-man just wants to be left alone to get on with his business. But people keep interfering.

[more]
The Shooting in the Shop, Simon Brett 26 August 2014

Eleventh in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series (amateur sleuthing). A local bric-a-brac shop is burned down, but the body found inside it was shot first. Carole Seddon and Jude investigate again.

[more]
Mekakucity Actors 24 August 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

Young people with superpowers in modern Tokyo? Well, that seems to be the premise at first. It soon gets much stranger.

[more]
Gladly Oddly, Paul Jennings 23 August 2014

Sixth (though the order doesn't really matter) of the collections of Paul Jennings' short humorous pieces, mostly from The Observer, published in 1958.

[more]
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou 18 August 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB; also known as The Kawai Complex Guide to Manners and Hostel Behavior.

Romantic comedy; high school boy lives in boarding-house with a variety of Characters, one of whom is a cute female bookworm.

[more]
Kilo Class, Patrick Robinson 17 August 2014

In the mid 2000s, China tries to buy seven Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia. The Americans aim to prevent this. Meanwhile, something odd is going on at Kerguelen Island.

[more]
Contagion 16 August 2014 - 3 comments

2011, dir. Steven Soderbergh, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon: IMDb / allmovie

A contagious disease spreads across the planet; civilisation starts to fall apart.

[more]
With Blood and Iron, Douglas Reeman 15 August 2014

In the latter days of the Second World War, a U-boat group leader tries to maintain morale and keep his crews alive.

[more]
Yowamushi Pedal 14 August 2014 - 1 comment

2013-2014, 38 episodes: AniDB

Weakling anime fan Sakamichi Onoda finds there's nobody else interested in forming an anime club at his new high school, so ends up joining the bicycle racing club instead. Seems he's got a hidden talent for cycling that even he didn't know about.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Victorious, Jack Campbell 13 August 2014

Last of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home. I'm going to deal in spoilers both for this book and for the whole series.

[more]
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, Lawrence Block 09 August 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his third mystery book appearance. This is the one where the formula changes a bit.

[more]
Hitsugi no Chaika 08 August 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

A few years after the big magical war against the evil emperor, a pair of retired soldiers wander the land looking for work. They meet a young sorceress carrying a coffin on her back, and she employs them to help her find the remains of her father so that she can give them a decent burial. Oh, did she mention her father was the evil emperor?

[more]
Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone 07 August 2014

In a city powered by steam heated by a fire-god, that fire-god has suddenly died. An inexperienced mage looks into what happened. Gladstone is nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer.

[more]
Fuuun Ishi Dai Shogun 05 August 2014

2014, 12 episodes: AniDB

In the late Edo period, Perry's black ships were fought off by giant mystical mecha. Twenty years later in Nagasaki, a young yakuza boss has just unified the town under his rule by beating up everyone who objected. But he's got bigger things on the way...

[more]
Nimitz Class, Patrick Robinson 04 August 2014 - 1 comment

In a now-alternate 2002, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier suddenly disappears at sea, apparently in a nuclear accident. What happened?

[more]
The House of the Four Winds, John Buchan 01 August 2014

Third of the "Dickson McCunn" novels: superior thud and blunder. The affairs of Evallonia, the mitteleuropan country that provided motivations in Castle Gay, are now in the foreground, as forces gather round the potential restoration of its monarchy.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Editor, Short Form 30 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the remaining Hugo packet submissions for Best Editor, Short Form. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Fearsome Journeys 28 July 2014

Fantasy anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan. Twelve new stories that "encompass as wide a range of types of fantasy story as possible". Nominated for Best Editor (Short Form).

[more]
The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination 26 July 2014 - 1 comment

SF anthology edited by John Joseph Adams. Twenty-two stories on the general theme of mad scientists. Nominated for Best Editor (Short Form).

[more]
Bookmonth, June 2014 26 July 2014

Here's what I've read in June.

[more]
Waterborne 25 July 2014

2005, dir. Ben Rekhi, Christopher Masterson, Ajay Naidu: IMDb / allmovie

After a presumed terrorist attack pollutes the water supply of Los Angeles, three groups of people do their best to keep going as society collapses.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Novella 24 July 2014 - 1 comment

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novellas. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Hugo 2014: Novelette 22 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novelettes in 2014. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 17 21 July 2014 - 4 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Romana - Lalla Ward
K-9 (voice) - David Brierly

[more]
Hugo 2014: Short Story 20 July 2014

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated short stories in 2014. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so. There will also be spoilers here.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Relentless, Jack Campbell 18 July 2014

Fifth of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home. Spoilers will follow.

[more]
One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson 16 July 2014 - 2 comments

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands; a Royal Navy task group was sent to take them back. This is the memoir of the task group's commander.

[more]
The Lunchbox 15 July 2014 - 2 comments

2013, "Dabba", dir. Ritesh Batra, Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur: IMDb / allmovie

An old-fashioned epistolary romance, conducted via notes passed in a lunchbox. Plot discussion, which may be considered to include spoilers, follows.

[more]
Sisters of the Raven, Barbara Hambly 14 July 2014

As wizards, hitherto exclusively male, gradually lose their magical power, some women discover that they are gaining it.

[more]
Urn Burial, Kerry Greenwood 12 July 2014

Eighth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia); a homage to the novels of Agatha Christie.

[more]
The Burglar in the Closet, Lawrence Block 10 July 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his second book appearance, and the formula sets in: while our hero the burglar is hiding from his victim who's come home unexpectedly, she gets murdered.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Valiant, Jack Campbell 08 July 2014

Fourth of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
Snowpiercer 06 July 2014

2013, dir. Bong Joon-ho, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton IMDb / allmovie

After the world has frozen, all that's left of humanity lives aboard a train eternally circling the planet.

[more]
The Young Lady from Paris, Joan Aiken 05 July 2014

In the late 1850s, Ellen Paget is employed as a governess in Paris.

[more]
Burglars Can't Be Choosers, Lawrence Block 03 July 2014

First in Block's slightly less-well-known series. Bernard Rhodenbarr is a burglar, and a good one. It's bad enough when the cops walk into the apartment where he's doing his latest job. But then one of them discovers a recently-dead body nearby.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Courageous, Jack Campbell 01 July 2014

Third of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
Blood Lure, Nevada Barr 29 June 2014

Ninth in Barr's Anna Pigeon series. In Glacier National Park, a trip to move sampling traps for bear DNA is disrupted by an odd bear attack, and the next morning a woman is found dead and mutilated… by human tools.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 16 28 June 2014 - 2 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Romana I - Mary Tamm
K-9 (voice) - John Leeson

[more]
Red Army, Ralph Peters 27 June 2014 - 1 comment

The invasion of Europe, seen entirely from the Soviet point of view.

[more]
Bookmonth, May 2014 27 June 2014

Here's what I've read in May.

[more]
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 26 June 2014 - 2 comments

2013, dir. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson: IMDb / allmovie

After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is a post-traumatic wreck. The perfect time to send her on a publicity tour! Spoilers for book and film will follow.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Fearless, Jack Campbell 25 June 2014

Second of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain tries to lead his fleet home.

[more]
I Was A Stranger, John Hackett 21 June 2014 - 2 comments

In September 1944, then-Brigadier John Hackett commanded the 4th Parachute Brigade during Operation Market Garden. He was wounded at Arnhem and captured, and spent several months hiding with members of the Dutch underground.

[more]
When the Devil Drives, Chris Brookmyre 19 June 2014

Second in Brookmyre's new literary direction, moving from the tartan insanity of his earlier books to strictly conventional crime writing.

[more]
The Lego Movie 18 June 2014 - 1 comment

2014, dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks: IMDb / allmovie

In a world where… one man must… and it's all made of Lego.

[more]
The Viewer's Complete Tale, Andrew Rilstone 17 June 2014 - 1 comment

Andrew Rilstone recounts his reactions to the 2005 revival of Doctor Who.

[more]
Trinity's Child, William Prochnau 15 June 2014 - 2 comments

The USSR launches a limited nuclear strike against the USA. Things get worse.

[more]
RED 2 14 June 2014 - 2 comments

2013, dir. Dean Parisot, Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker: IMDb / allmovie

Frank Moses, former CIA special operator, is still retired, and trying to be domestic; but once again the past just won't leave him alone.

[more]
The Lost Fleet: Dauntless, Jack Campbell 13 June 2014

First of a six-book series. In the distant future, a long-frozen space-navy captain may tip the balance in a century-long war.

[more]
Private Angelo, Eric Linklater 11 June 2014

In a tale that begins with the Italian armistice of 1943, the reluctant soldier Angelo bounces around war-torn Italy, serially drafted into one army after another. He is a very poor soldier. If only he had the dono di coraggio.

[more]
The Hostile Shore, Douglas Reeman 08 June 2014

Twenty years after the Second World War, a crippled veteran travels to the Pacific to try to find out what happened to his family during the evacuation of Singapore.

[more]
Haywire 07 June 2014

2011, dir. Steven Soderbergh, Gina Carano, Michael Angarano: IMDb / allmovie

An agent betrayed and framed by her boss sets about taking him down.

[more]
The Third World War: The Untold Story, General Sir John Hackett 06 June 2014 - 5 comments

Some time in the 1980s, the USSR invades Europe.

[more]
Bookmonth, April 2014 06 June 2014

Here's what I've read in April. Hmm. I really ought to post the book reviews a bit faster so that I don't get so far behind.

[more]
Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy (and Larry Bond) 30 May 2014 - 2 comments

Some time in the 1980s, a terrorist attack on oil infrastructure leads the USSR to invade Europe.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 15 27 May 2014 - 5 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Leela - Louise Jameson
K-9 (voice) - John Leeson

[more]
Die Wand 25 May 2014

2012, dir. Julian Roman Pölsler, Martina Gedeck: IMDb / allmovie

A woman staying in a remote lodge discovers that an invisible barrier is separating her from the rest of the world. (In German, viewed with subtitles.)

[more]
Diamond Dust, Peter Lovesey 22 May 2014

Diamond Dust is the seventh book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series, and one that makes for a very substantial change in tone.

[more]
Dive in the Sun, Douglas Reeman 16 May 2014

Late in the Second World War, the crew of a midget submarine gets into trouble off the Italian coast.

[more]
Tamara Drewe 15 May 2014

2010, dir. Stephen Frears, Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans: IMDb / allmovie

Tamara Drewe, formerly the ugly duckling and now a glamorous journalist, returns to the village where she grew up… and everything is upended.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 14 13 May 2014 - 3 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen
Leela - Louise Jameson

[more]
Rebuilding the Royal Navy, D. K. Brown and George Moore 10 May 2014

In 1945, Britain had a large and often hastily-constructed fleet which was clearly close to obsolete, and very little money with which to update it. This is the story of what happened next.

[more]
Firefly Pirates and Bounty Hunters: first look 09 May 2014

My hopes for the Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion to Firefly were that it would increase interaction between players and make runaway victories more difficult. My copy arrived yesterday. At first glance, how does it do?

[more]
Frozen 08 May 2014

2013, dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Idina Menzel, Kristin Bell: IMDb / allmovie

The new queen flees from her coronation, plunges the country into winter, and disappears; her sister goes to find her.

[more]
Shattered Trident, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 05 May 2014

In 2016, China and an alliance of South-East Asian nations go to war over the Spratly Islands.

[more]
The Martian, Andy Weir 02 May 2014

Astronaut Mark Watney is on Mars. Alone; the rest of the crew thought he'd died in the dust storm that they were escaping from. Now he's trying to work out how to survive.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 13 30 April 2014 - 3 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

[more]
The Last Days on Mars 29 April 2014

2013, dir. Ruairi Robinson, Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas: IMDb / allmovie

Towards the end of a manned mission to Mars, things start to go wrong.

[more]
Alternate Generals 26 April 2014 - 2 comments

Anthology from 1998 of alternate histories based on different decisions by military leaders; edited by Harry Turtledove, Roland Green and Martin H. Greenberg.

[more]
The Machine 24 April 2014 - 1 comment

2013, dir. Caradog W. James, Caity Lotz, Toby Stephens: IMDb / allmovie

Some time in the nearish future, researchers try to build a self-directed robot soldier/assassin. It doesn't go well.

[more]
Castle Gay, John Buchan 19 April 2014

Second of the Dickson McCunn novels, though he has only a minor part in most of it. Two of the former Gorbals Die-Hards, Dougie and (no longer Wee) Jaikie, go off on a walking holiday, and get involved with a kidnapped press baron and two separate lots of Sinister Foreigners.

[more]
Apollo 18 17 April 2014 - 7 comments

2011, dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego, Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen: IMDb / allmovie

The found-footage story of the secret final Apollo mission in 1974.

[more]
Exit Plan, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 14 April 2014 - 2 comments

Jerry Mitchell, aboard an Ohio SSGN, goes on a mission to extract two Iranians with knowledge of the nuclear weapons programme from that country. Mild spoilers will follow.

[more]
Bookmonth, March 2014 14 April 2014

Here's what I've read in March.

[more]
The Poisoning in the Pub, Simon Brett 11 April 2014

Tenth in Brett's Fethering Mysteries series. Several pubgoers go down with food poisoning, and other events start to make it look like a concerted campaign against the pub. But who's doing it? And why?

[more]
Safety Not Guaranteed 10 April 2014 - 1 comment

2012, dir. Colin Trevorrow, Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass: IMDb / allmovie

A journalist and two interns, trying for a human-interest story, interview a man who's placed an advertisement for a companion in time travel.

[more]
Concealed in Death, J. D. Robb 08 April 2014 - 2 comments

Concealed in Death is the forty-eighth story of J. D. Robb's In Death series, and a huge improvement on its immediate predecessor Thankless in Death. It drops many of the science-fictional trappings of the setting to deliver a powerful and well-told story.

[more]
Armageddon Mode, Keith Douglass 05 April 2014 - 3 comments

Third in the Carrier series. "Tombstone" Magruder is a naval aviator aboard a Nimitz-class carrier, as the USA gets involved in a major conflict with India.

[more]
High Water, Douglas Reeman 02 April 2014 - 2 comments

In the 1950s, retired MTB commander Philip Vivian gets into trouble while struggling to run a small yacht charter business.

[more]
Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 12 01 April 2014 - 4 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Tom Baker
Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

[more]
Cold Choices, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 30 March 2014

Some time after the events of Dangerous Ground, Jerry Mitchell heads north again in USS Seawolf. Mild spoilers will follow.

[more]
Twister 29 March 2014

1996, dir. Jan de Bont, Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton: IMDb / allmovie

A team of atmospheric scientists chases tornadoes. Action ensues.

[more]
Never Go to Sea, John Winton 27 March 2014

Fourth of Winton's novels and in the loosely-connected series. The Artful Bodger (Commander R. B. Badger, RN) takes over public relations for the Royal Navy, and gets involved in running a horse in the Derby.

[more]
Dangerous Ground, Larry Bond and Chris Carlson 24 March 2014

A Los Angeles-class submarine, USS Memphis, goes on an intelligence-gathering mission off Novaya Zemlya.

[more]
SSN, Tom Clancy 21 March 2014 - 4 comments

In 1997, an Improved Los Angeles-class attack submarine, USS Cheyenne, joins the war against China.

[more]
The Last Ship, William Brinkley 18 March 2014 - 3 comments

After the total nuclear war, the captain of a missile destroyer leads his crew through the irradiated world and towards a new life.

I am going to talk about plot details, so if you care about not knowing that sort of thing you probably shouldn't read this review.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 11 16 March 2014 - 2 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

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Fateful Choices, Ian Kershaw 15 March 2014

Kershaw examines ten choices made during the years 1940-1941 that, in his opinion, substantially affected the course of the Second World War.

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A Prayer for the Ship, Douglas Reeman 12 March 2014 - 1 comment

Sub-Lieutenant Clive Royce is assigned to a Motor Torpedo Boat working off the east coast of England during the Second World War.

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Bookmonth, February 2014 12 March 2014

Here's what I've read in February.

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The Same Page Tool 10 March 2014

The Same Page Tool is a series of questions to try to get players and GMs onto the "same page" in terms of the sort of behaviour they expect in a game.

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Ruddy Gore, Kerry Greenwood 09 March 2014

Seventh in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series.

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Ark Royal, Christopher Nuttall 06 March 2014 - 3 comments

Some time in the future, most major countries have space fleets and interstellar colonies. Ark Royal is an outmoded carrier left in a parking orbit, not broken up only because of her famous past, and her captain's a drunken embarrassment. Then the aliens arrive, and blow straight through the more modern fleet…

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 10 05 March 2014 - 2 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant - Katy Manning

[more]
John Macnab, John Buchan 03 March 2014

Three men find themselves successful, but un-challenged, and bored with their lives. They decide to take on a challenge: they will poach from well-defended estates in Scotland, and warn the owners that they're coming, by sending letters over the name "John Macnab".

[more]
Divergent, Veronica Roth 28 February 2014

Young adult novel, read because a film based on it is coming out soon and I want to be able to complain about the film-making separately from the writing. (And because last time I did this I read The Hunger Games, which I quite enjoyed.) Here be spoilers.

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Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre 25 February 2014

This is the story of the well-known deception operation in the Second World War: dropping a dead fake courier into the sea near Spain, in the hope that his deceptive paperwork would be taken seriously by the Germans and misdirect them as to the location of Allied landings in the Mediterranean.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 9 23 February 2014 - 4 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant - Katy Manning

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Steadfast, Mercedes Lackey 22 February 2014

The ninth and so far final book in Lackey's Elemental Masters series. This time our heroine is a circus acrobat fleeing from an abusive husband.

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Home from the Sea, Mercedes Lackey 19 February 2014

The eighth book (or, if you believe the publisher, seventh) in Lackey's Elemental Masters series. This time our heroine is a Welsh fisherman's daughter, and as one might expect from the title and that set-up the main supernatural beings are "selch", a variant of selkies.

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Bookmonth, January 2014 19 February 2014 - 6 comments

Stealing the idea from Vatine, here's what I've read in January.

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Fortune's Pawn, Rachel Bach 16 February 2014

First of a projected trilogy. I learned about it from a half-chapter free sample in the back of Ancillary Justice.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 8 15 February 2014 - 2 comments

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant - Katy Manning

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Too Fat Lardies' Christmas Special 2013 13 February 2014

I'm a recent convert to Too Fat Lardies (in spite of one of their regular contributors being a chap I knew at school), so the only game of theirs I've played so far is Chain of Command. I am hugely impressed with it; at a glance it seems very random, but as I played it I came to realise that I was having to make the same hard decisions as a commander on the scene.

Anyway, since that is the only Lard system I play (doubtless this will change), most of the Christmas Special isn't directly useful to me. So what is? (Ignoring "it might be useful later" or "ooh, that's interesting", at least for now...)

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Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome 12 February 2014 - 2 comments

A classic, of course. But one I hadn't read until now.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 7 11 February 2014 - 3 comments

(First written in January 2014)

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee
Liz Shaw - Caroline John

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Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie 08 February 2014

This first novel marks Leckie as someone to watch.

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Chain of Command: At the Sharp End 06 February 2014

At the Sharp End is the campaign supplement for the excellent Chain of Command platoon-level wargame.

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A Choice of Evils, Elizabeth Ferrars 05 February 2014

Eighth and final book in Ferrars' Andrew Basnett series.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 6 04 February 2014 - 4 comments

(First written in December 2013)

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who - Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Zoe Heriot - Wendy Padbury

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Mirror Mirror, J. D. Robb and others 02 February 2014

I picked up this collection of novellas for the Robb story, as I was clearly intended to. All the stories here are loosely based on, or more properly inspired by, fairy stories (something of a coincidence given the Elemental Masters series I've also been reading).

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 5 31 January 2014 - 3 comments

(First written in June 2013)

As always, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who (sic) - Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Victoria Waterfield - Deborah Watling
Zoe Heriot - Wendy Padbury

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Unnatural Issue, Mercedes Lackey 30 January 2014 - 3 comments

The seventh book (or, if you believe the publisher, sixth) in Lackey's Elemental Masters series; for a change, it's not just more of the same.

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A Sea of Troubles, Donna Leon 28 January 2014 - 1 comment

The tenth book in Leon's Commissario Brunetti series, as with other series entries I've been reading lately, offers more of the same: descriptions of the seamy underside of Venice interspersed with lightweight police work.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 4 27 January 2014 - 3 comments

(First written in November 2012)

As before, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who (sic) - William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton
Ben Jackson - Michael Craze
Polly - Anneke Wills
Jamie McCrimmon - Frazer Hines
Victoria Waterfield - Deborah Watling

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Operation Crossbow 26 January 2014

1965, dir. Michael Anderson, George Peppard, Sophia Loren: IMDb / allmovie

This is a highly-fictionalised account, a triple-stranded story of the German V-weapon development programme, the British efforts (the actual Crossbow) to work out what was going on and develop countermeasures, and as part of that a mission to insert agents into the rocket development and construction programmes.

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Ready Player One, Ernest Cline 25 January 2014 - 1 comment

Ready Player One is a young adult SF novel, the first by this author. Set in the future, it deals with its protagonist's efforts in a pervasive virtual world to win a contest based in the videogaming and related culture of the 1980s.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 3 23 January 2014 - 11 comments

(First written in April 2012)

As before, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who (sic) - William Hartnell
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien
Steven Taylor - Peter Purves
Katarina - Adrienne Hill
Sara Kingdom - Jean Marsh
Dodo Chaplet - Jackie Lane
Ben Jackson - Michael Craze
Polly - Anneke Wills

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The Vault, Peter Lovesey 21 January 2014

The Vault is the sixth book in Lovesey's Peter Diamond series. I'm definitely liking Lovesey: like any good author of detective fiction, he plays fair with the reader, giving all the necessary clues while hiding them under a chaff-screen of red herrings and misdirection.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 2 19 January 2014 - 4 comments

(First written in February 2012)

As before, spoilers abound. See Wikipedia for production details

Doctor Who (sic) - William Hartnell
Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford
Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton - William Russell
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien

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Thankless in Death, J. D. Robb 17 January 2014 - 2 comments

Thankless in Death is the forty-sixth of J. D. Robb's In Death series. It's also, for me, the first disappointment.

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Doctor Who Re-Watch, series 1 16 January 2014

(First written in December 2011)

I've recently started watching Doctor Who from the beginning. I've seen occasional episodes and stories here and there (e.g. back when I had a television and the BBC would do anniversary specials), but my experience as a regular viewer starts towards the end of the Sarah Jane Smith era.

I'm not going to worry about listing alternative titles or any of that guff. See Wikipedia for that. I am interested primarily in the progress and development of the show as a show rather than in constructing complex fanwank explanations for why decisions that were made differently the second time they came up, or dodgy effects shots, aren't really mistakes.

So here are my thoughts on re-watching the first series... spoilers abound, obviously.

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Notorious Nineteen, Janet Evanovich 14 January 2014

As one can see from the title, this is the nineteenth full novel in Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. And, well, it feels like a nineteenth novel: it's tired.

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Mrs Miniver, Jan Struther 12 January 2014 - 2 comments

Yes, I'm talking about the book, or more accurately the collection of newspaper columns, not the film. The film is a wartime story, made as part of the Allied propaganda effort. The columns are earlier and more interesting:

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Firefly the game 11 January 2014

Firefly is a 1-5 player boardgame of travelling through space, taking jobs, trying to make enough money to keep flying. I played it on the Sunday of Stabcon and bought a copy before the game was over. What's good about it?

[more]
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