August 2021

Collects four Elseworlds stories in one volume.

Writers: Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid, Jon Bogdanove, Judith Kurzer Bogdanove, John Byrne, Chuck Dixon

Artists: Alcatena, John Byrne, Humberto Ramos, Jon Staton

Publisher: DC

These were fun stories taking our heroes to alternate times and places.

First is the ballad of Leatherwing the pirate. He sails on the Spanish Main, a masked man who robs the Spanish galleons for the English King James. He needs to keep his identity a secret. But the Laughing Man, another pirate captain, has found a way to steal all of Leatherwing’s riches. He requires help from the beautiful Capitana Felina who was once a countess but now a pirate.

The second is Byrne’s alternate Superman story. This time, Gar-El a power-hungry Kryptonian, ends on Earth, in England in 1768. At first, he agrees to serve George III. A couple of years later, certain colonists are trying to get independence, but Gar-El prevents that. Then the story moves to Gar-El’s great-great-great etc. grandson Kal-El. By that time, Gar-El has made himself the sovereign of all Earth. A peaceful empire where he and his army ruthlessly crackdown on everyone who even speaks against him. Kal-El doesn’t care for that and tries to find a way to help the humans.

The third is the best of the bunch, set on a slave plantation during the Civil War. John Henry is the childhood friend of his master’s son, Arthur. While John Henry would like to study, Arthur hates it and blames John Henry for the little misfortunes in his life. Arthur lives up to become a cruel master who tries to break John Henry’s independent spirit.

The last one is ”Citizen Wayne”. It starts when the lifeless bodies of district attorney Harvey Dent and newspaper owner Bruce Wayne are found. Both wearing strange costumes. A young assistant DA investigates both Dent, who was passionate about the law and ridding Gotham of crime boss Maroni, and Wayne who owned a lot of businesses but chose to crusade against criminals on the pages of his newspaper. The DA questions aged Martha Wayne and a couple of more familiar people such as the former commissioner Gordon who is now in a wheelchair because of a crippling incident.

I tend to enjoy alternate universes and these were all good.

Uncanny Magazine is doing a subscribtion drive through Kickstarter. It’s already funded and has about 50 hours to go.

“We promised to bring you stunning cover art, passionate science fiction and fantasy fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, and provocative nonfiction by writers from every conceivable background. Not to mention a fantastic award-winning podcast featuring exclusive content.

Through the hard work of our exceptional staff and contributors, Uncanny Magazine delivered on that promise every single year. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards!”

For writers backing the project, it still has manuscript critiques left. It also has “fabulous backer levels left including manuscript critiques, signed books, ZOOMING with authors, gaming with authors, and unique microfiction, plus cool add-ons like physical copies of Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction and Space Unicorn Face Masks!”

A stand-alone steampunk book.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours 45 minutes
Narrator: David Giuntoli, Claire Coffee

When June Stefanov was a young girl, her grandfather told her a story about an angel helping the Russians during WWII. Her grandfather leaves behind to her a keepsake, a mechanical part that the ”angel” gave her. Now, June is an anthropologist specializing in ancient tech. She travels around the world to find mechanical, human-sized dolls hundreds of years old. Now, she has found a female doll in Oregon. It is about three hundred years old. June fixes it so that it writes down the message it has been waiting to write. But others don’t want humans to know anything about the mechanicals, so June is in grave danger.

Russia, 1725. Peter awakes in the Kremlin. The tsar’s (Peter the Great, after whom the mechanical Peter is named) mechanician has just built him a body. Peter’s anima, his spirit, is older but he doesn’t remember anything before awakening in Russia. Soon, the mechanician awakens another mechanical being Elana, whom Peter thinks of as his sister. Peter has feelings and thoughts and is conscious of himself, but he’s bound to a word, Pravda which means justice. Each mechanical being has such a word and is internally driven to behave in such a way as to fulfill that word.

The mechanical beings fascinate the tsar, but the queen of Russia hates them. Still, Peter does his best to serve the tsar. But when Peter the Great dies, his wife Catherine banished Peter and Elena from Russia. They flee across the country and continue to hide from humans for centuries. They also try to find clues about who made them. Before they leave Russia, they meet another mechanical being who threatens them.

Every other chapter of the book is set in the current day and the next chapter is set in the past. June is a first-person narrator while Peter is a third-person narrator. This worked surprisingly well for me. The historical aspects were fascinating, and June was an interesting POV character in the modern chapters. Both sides of the story have a lot of fight scenes, but in contrast, Peter and Elena ponder about their own existence and June is uncovering the mystery of the mechanical beings.

Elena is a fascinating character. She’s in the body of a 12-year-old mechanical girl and she soon grows tired of being treated as a child. Peter is also very protective of her. She yearns to find out more about herself and the other possible mechanical beings, while Peter considers them a threat. I did wonder why they didn’t try to build her another body.

Overall, this was a very entertaining story.

Collects The Flash: Rebirth #1 and The Flash #1-8.


Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artists: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neil Googe, Felipe Watanabe

Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, but he’s always late for work and running off in the middle of a date. If you’re familiar with Barry and his problems, this collection doesn’t bring anything new, but for me, it rehashes familiar material pretty well. However, it’s a good introduction for people who haven’t read the Flash before.

First off, Wally West is back and he brings news to Barry that someone has changed the world and the memories of the people. Barry talks with Batman who has already noticed it. They agree to investigate, but secretly. Wally’s storyline continued in Teen Titans comic and the other storyline continues in the miniseries Button.

Issues 1-8 have a story arc that focuses on multiple speedsters and brings a new villain to mess with Barry. These issues also have a different Wally.

Barry has a new best friend, Detective August Heart. He also has a new romantic interest, a scientist at S.T.A.R. labs. He feels that he’s not fast enough to protect everyone… and then a Speed Force Storm appears over the city and strikes several people. They all now have speed powers, but don’t know how to use them.

It was fun to see Barry training the new speedsters and he enjoys his new role, too. Of course, not all of the new speedsters are good and some don’t even want them. And of course one of them is the new villain.

I mostly enjoyed this new beginning but I still prefer the Flash TV show. Barry himself is pretty much the same heroic character but his supporting cast here is much smaller. While the mystery of the new villain was interesting, his motivations were quite a cliche. Also, there’s a twist with the new speedsters, but unfortunately it only came up when convenient for the story and was ignored at other times.

The first book in the Themis SF thriller trilogy.

Publication year: 2016
Finnish publisher: Like
Format: print
Finnish translator: Juha Ahokas

Page count: 351 plus a sample of the next book

The book has an unusual structure: every chapter is either a dialog between two people with no descriptions, just the dialog, or a report. This gives the reader a lot of freedom to imagine the characters and the setting, but it can be tough to read because it is so different. We also never get the name of the person doing the interviews. He seems to have a lot of power and money, but only because he can tap into a vast network of knowledge and can manipulate others well.

Rose was 11 years old when she falls from her new bike into a giant, mechanical hand that glows without an apparent energy source. Nobody knows what to make of the hand. Rose grows up to be a physicist. Years later, she heads a secret project which studies the hand. She realizes that it’s a part of a body and finds a way to locate the other parts. This is the start of the story.

The nameless interviewer picks two US military pilots for the project. The way to find the other parts of the mysterious giant body is to spread radioactive material in the atmosphere so the project needs pilots. Unfortunately, not all of the parts are in uninhabited areas.

Rose and a couple of other people continue to research the parts which start to form a body. But the robot is thousands of years old. How is that possible?

This was a fascinating concept and I enjoyed the novel way it was written, too. Of course, the structure distances the reader from the characters. So, this is a book where the concept and the plot are far more interesting and appealing than the characters. If you can stomach the writing style, try it.

The ending doesn’t give us closure, and the last chapter ends in a huge cliffhanger which raises even more questions.

Small independent press Zombies Need Brains has again a Kickstarter project to fund three new SFF short story collections: Noir, Shattering the Glass Slipper, and Brave New Worlds. It’s 70% funded and has 25 days to go.

Each collections has about fourteen stories. Half of them are by established writers and half from open submission call, if the Kickstarter is successful.

I’ve enjoyed their previous collections and these sound great, too.

A stand-alone humorous fantasy adventure/romance book.


Publication year: 2018
Format: Audio
Running time: 14 hours 32 minutes
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky

I’m not a romance reader. I usually must tolerate them in most books, but rarely is it the most enjoyable thing in a book. This was very close to being a romance I actually enjoy reading. Unfortunately, it did have far too many jealousy moments, especially near the end. I loath jealousy, especially in a will they or won’t they couple who haven’t even told each other about their feelings. But otherwise, this is a near-perfect romance for me.

Halla is a respectable widow of 36. She’s the housekeeper to her wealthy great-uncle (from her late husband’s side). Said great-uncle was elderly and she took care of him. But when he dies, it is still sudden. Halla is very surprised to find out that the moody old man left everything to her. His relatives are furious. The old man isn’t buried yet when Halla’s aunt Malva (from her late husband’s side) declares that Halla must marry Malva’s clammy-handed son. Halla detests him and refuses. So Malva imprisons Halla in her own room.

Halla is desperate to find a way out. The only thing she can think of is to kill herself. There is a large sword in her room and she draws it. But to her astonishment, the Spirit of the Sword manifests, scandalized by her lack of clothing.

Sarkis was a mercenary before his spirit was bound to the enchanted sword. Most of his owners know his story and think he’s a traitor who deserves to be used as a tool, nothing more. And Sarkis agrees. But now he’s somewhere in the decadent Southern lands, among strange people who have even stranger customs. And his wielder isn’t a warrior, but a middle-aged housekeeper trying to kill herself. Instead, Sarkis convinces her to go to the servants of the White Rat who can help her. Provided that they can get out of the house and survive a several days journey without any supplies to the Temple.

Halla and Sarkis play off each other very well. Sarkis is a stranger to the decadent Southern lands and is learning the local customs. All of his wielders have died, sometimes despite his best efforts. He’s used to being a tool instead of a person. But he still does his best to protect his wielder. He’s jaded and battle-weary. Halla is very curious about him… and about everything really. She’s bright and loyal but she’s also used to pretending to be stupider than she is, because that’s safer. Her marriage wasn’t exactly an unhappy one, but her husband died several years ago and she doesn’t miss him. Her life has been a pretty sheltered one.

The book has also other enjoyable characters, including a gender-neutral priest. Initially, I didn’t really think that Malva and her son were a big threat but in the end, I was proven wrong.

The dialog is hilarious, playing the differences to the hilt. Yes, there are a couple of terrible romance tropes, such as misunderstandings which lead to very stupid decisions, but otherwise I really enjoyed the book.

My biggest problem is that I want the second book. I want a series of Halla and Sarkis bantering happily and working together to solve… any problem, really. The ending hints at a possible continuation and I really, really hope we’ll get it.

The narrator, Jess Vilinsky gave Sarkis a Scottish accent which I adored. I really enjoyed their narration.

The Pulphouse Fiction Magazine’s Subscription drive has about 35 hours to go.

Pulphouse Fiction Magazine is like no other magazine publishing today. It is not a genre magazine for starters. In fact, most of the stories tend to split genres or play with a genre like it is small rodent in the paws of a very large tom cat.”

It has funded and seven stretch goals have already been met, so backers will get five short story collections and issue zero, in addition to the pledge. Writers will get four new Pop-Up classes.

Another fun Kickstarter project is Sherlock Holmes: New Adventures in the Realms of H.G. Wells. It’s already funded and has 28 days to go.

The two volumes of short stories “feature traditional Sherlock Holmes stories blended with one or more tales from H.G. Wells”. However, in the pledges you can get previous Holmes in Wells’ worlds books.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today, the topic is Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love.

I tend to love secondary characters, so it was hard to name just ten. Some writers also write such interesting characters that I had to name just one character per writer. Otherwise, the list would be just full of Bujold, Brust, and McGuire’s characters. Of course, many of the series I read have multiple POV characters. I feel that in those series most of the interesting characters have their POVs. But not all, of course.

I’ve also included characters from myths and legends. Especially women characters have starred in their own books in recent years. For example, there are several series from the POV of Guinevere, Morgan Le Fay, and Maid Marion/Marian. But some minor characters, whom I’ve enjoyed a lot, haven’t been reimagined much or at all.

1, Sethra Lavode by Steven Brust

In the Vlad Taltos series, the Dragaerans live a long time but Sethra is an immortal vampire so she has witness most of the Dragaeran Empire’s history. Yes, there is a book named ”Sethra Lavode” but she wasn’t the main character. (And now I want to reread the series…)

2, Learned Hallana from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Hallowed Hunt

Bujold has many interesting minor and secondary characters. Miles’ cousin Ivan already has his own book and so has Ista who as a minor character in Curse of Chalion and then the main character in Paladin of Souls. Hallana seems anothere fascinating character. She’s a physician, a sorceress, and a divine. She’s also happily married and has three children.

3, Luidaeg, the Sea With by Seanan McGuire

McGuire is another writer who creates fascinating minor characters. I’d love to read about Tybalt the Cat King (who actually has a short story) or about Toby’s ”twin sister” May and what it was like to be a night-haunt. But the character who I really want to read about is the Sea Witch. Another immortal character who has witnessed a lot of history. She must have fascinating tales to tell.

4, Catherine Harcourt by Naomi Novik in the Temeraire series

One of the few female captains who command giant fighting dragons, Harcourt was promoted to admiral and the old boys’ club didn’t know how to deal with that. No doubt her life hasn’t been easy but I’d love to read more about her.

5, Paloma by Kristine Kathryn Rusch in the Retrieval Artist science fiction -series

This series has multiple POV characters. But I wanted a POV from Paloma, the Retrieval Artist who trained the main character Miles Flint. She an elderly woman and a sort of private detective.

6, A fae character in Genevive Cogman’s Invisible Library series

In this series, dragons are creatures of order while the fae are creatures of chaos and each fae is an impersonation of an archtype. I think it would be fascianting to see the world through the eyes of a fae.

7, Lord Vetinari by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett was also very good at giving interesting side characters their own books. But Ankh-Morpokh’s Patrican Vetinari remained on the sidelines. I supposed his own story would have involved lots of sighing and headshaking while the other characters were messing things up.

8, Circe by Homer in the Odyssey

She’s not described kindly, as is usual for the times. She’s a minor goddess and a sorceress. She was also independent in a time when women were supposed to be under the rule of her father or husband so so many writers use her as an example of the bad things that happen when women are given power. Madeleine Miller has written a book about her but I haven’t read it yet. I enjoyed Miller’s Song of Achilles, so I’m hoping to get my hands on ”Circe”.

9, Little John in the Robin Hood mythos

Robin, Marian, and Will Scarlet have starred in several books in recent years. But I haven’t seen any story from the POV of Robin’s loyal second hand man.

10, Inspector Lestrade by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It would have been very interesting to see the great detective from the POV of the police.

The first book in a series of murder mysteries set in 15th century Tallinn.


Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2019

Format: print
Page count: 320

Finnish publisher: Into

Finnish translator: Jouko Vanhanen

Melchior Wakenstede is the Apothecary in Tallinn, Estonia. His father was an apothecary before him. Melchior knows the people and the places of Tallinn. In the 15th century, the town is right on the edge of Christian lands. Indeed, the town and the time period take the center stage. The Dominican monastery, the guilds, and the alehouses are described lovingly, and for me, the mystery came second. The characters are fairly typical for the time and for a detective story, but entertaining enough.

When a Teutonic knight, who was the governor of Gotland, is visiting Tallinn, he gets really drunk and is murdered: his head is cut off with a sword and an old coin is shoved into his mouth. Of course, the town’s notable people are in an uproar. The town’s chief of police is used to petty robberies and so he calls on Melchior to help him. The curious and perceptive Melchior is happy to talk to people and deduce what happened and find the killer.

The book starts with the murder. It has quite a few POV characters and a large cast of characters. The female characters are pretty bland, though, especially Melchior’s wife Keterlyn, who seems to be there just so he can explain things to the reader. The ending is very Agatha Christie -style of gathering people together while Melchior explains what happened.

While Melchior is an educated man, he’s also a product of his times. For example, he thinks that only bloodletting can cure diseases, and he’s also quite religious. Also, he has a mysterious curse that will apparently drive him insane in time. Only his wife can ease the symptoms.

The Finnish translation uses older style words, probably for the atmosphere.

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