“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor, 2016)


Charlie Jane Anders is someone who has been very much a mainstay of the science fiction and fantasy world, is a co-editor of the science fiction blog iO9, and Emcees a monthly reading series Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. So it’s not surprising that she should write an interesting novel the blends the worlds of fantasy and science fiction in a delicious way.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are an unusual couple of kids who never really fit in with school and life and form a union because of this. But they are of different worlds: Patricia develops magical powers while Laurence has an incredible scientific mind and becomes one of the few people to develop a two-second time machine. Their worlds diverge and they go their separate ways.

Now they’re adults and living in the hipster mecca San Francisco and yet things are not going well with the rest of the planet, as the world brings itself to the brink of annihilation. Now an engineering wiz, Lawrence is working for a company that is trying help the world and those suffering through breakthrough inventions and technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of the Eltisley Maze, a secret academy for those magically gifted, where she has learned much, but also made at least one terrible mistake that cost people their lives. She works with a group of magicians also looking to help those in need by using their magical talents. But there is a prophecy, spoken of years ago, that the two would come together in a final battle and cause the end of it all.

All the Birds in the Sky has a lot going for it, with its complex and interesting characters and whirlwind plot. Plus for anyone familiar with San Francisco, Anders has fun taking readers around the scenic city. But at times the book has too much going on that loses the reader. There is a lot of jumping back and forth and around, to different characters and times, which at first is interesting, but as it goes on, also loses the reader and is at times confusing. The novel feels like it could’ve used another round of editing to make the ideas and points more coherent and fluid. Nevertheless, All the Birds in the Sky does some things no book of either genre has before, and is its own unique tale that won’t be found anywhere else.

Originally written on March 25, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Warriors of the Storm” by Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, 2016)


The ninth installment of the Saxon Tales doles more riveting historical fiction that gives Martin’s Game of Thrones a run for its money, plus a lot of the events in this series actually occurred.

King Alfred’s dying wish was to unite the kingdoms of his lands into a single nation that would one day be known as England, but things seem more dire then ever as the Norsemen continue to chip away and gain more ground. One important man stands in their way: Uhtred of Bebbanburg controlling the fortified city of Chester in the great kingdom of Mercia. He has fought long and hard to help and protect Alfred’s children, Edward and Athelflaed, and keep their lands intact. Kidnapped at a young age by Norsemen, he is seen as a traitor by them and a heathen by the Christian Britons, but without him Alfred’s children wouldn’t be alive.

Now he must turn his sights to Ragnall Ivarson, a formidable Norseman who possesses a mighty army, soon joined by the Northumbrians to bolster their numbers, as well as being allied with the Irish. There is also the detail that makes it a lot more personal for Uhtred: his daughter is married to Ivarson’s brother. Uhtred will have to do what he does best – made the hard decisions and ignore what everyone else wants – if he is to make it through alive and unscathed.

Originally written on March 4, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Written in Fire” by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, 2016)


Tensions in the United States are at the brink in Written in Fire, Marcus Sakey’s concluding volume to the Brilliance Trilogy. And like any addictive thriller, be it science fiction or not, it’s all essentially up to one man.

The White House is now a smoking pile of ashes due to what is called a terrorist attack, but was in fact conducted at the instigation of a brilliant whose self-created town was threatened and under attack. Madison Square Garden has become an interment camp for brilliants. The government would like them all tagged and controlled. The irony is not missed here.

Meanwhile there’s the town of Tesla, one that is separate from the United States, under the control and jurisdiction of a very rich and successful brilliant who caused the stock markets to crash. This town is about to be attacked by a self-appointed militia of thousands looking to take over a good portion of brilliants and bring these “abnorms” to their knees and take back their country. The town of Tesla has an impressive defensive structure in place: a microwave magnetic field that will slowly cook a person who strays too far. But the militia have captured all the brilliant children and are using them as human shields.

Like the other two books, Sakey has a talent for building the tension one block on top of another, keeping the reader addicted to the page. Our protagonist Nick Cooper seems to get all the ladies and find just the right way of resolving everything and coming out a little battered and bruised but still alive and well. Nevertheless, Written in Fire is the epitome of a thrilling read that still leaves the reader wondering until the very end how it will all play out.

Originally written on March 26, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Written in Fire from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Legion: Skin Deep” by Brandon Sanderson (Subterranean Press, 2015)


As bestselling author Brandon Sanderson takes a break from writing his epic fantasy novels, he turns to his ongoing novellas. Readers first learned of Stephen Leeds in Legion, a man who has the unique ability to create hallucinatory manifestations that only he can see who aid him in life and answer the questions he has. When he is done with them, they do not disappear but remain to aid him in his freelance work in solving mysteries and the occasional police case.

In Legion: Skin Deep Leeds is hired by Innovative Information Incorporated to recover a stolen corpse whose very DNA contains new technology and information that will change the world; whether for better or worse depends on how quickly he finds that body. In return he will be made far richer than he already is and will no longer have to worry financially.

The second installment into Legion brings a great story and more insight into this enigmatic character, as well as laying some important groundwork for where Sanderson wants to go next with his character, and revealing there is plenty more story to tell.

Originally written on November 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Rolling in the Deep” by Mira Grant (Subterranean Press, 2015)


Mira Grant, of Feed and Parasite, is back with a great novella about mermaids, except these aren’t the beautiful sirens of the sea, but more the demons of the deep type.

The Imagine Network is known for producing quasi-documentary shows that are more a blend of fact and fiction, with some impressive special effects that viewers have come to expect and enjoy. And now they’re going to start filming their biggest and most expensive project yet: to find a real mermaid. Along with the standard film crew, there are a number of scientists, a full crew to pilot the mighty ship Atargatis, and a group of professional mermaids who pretend to be these fabled creatures. The Imagine Network isn’t going to stint on any facet of this production, and the entire group will be heading to the Mariana Trench, located in the extreme emptiness of the Pacific Ocean, at the deepest hole on the planet.

It is here each of the scientists will be conducting their studies and research, while the group of fake mermaids frollick in the waters, and the film crew does their thing. Only no one is really sure what that green light is deep in the water and when something comes up to say hi with all its teeth, everyone starts to become a believer.

Rolling in the Deep is Mira Grant at her best, turning a conventional story completely on its head and giving you some great horror to boot, along with some fun scientific research that will make the reader think. While Grant seems a little fancy free with some of the nautical research, overall the story is just a lot of fun with great characters and a plot that will keep your interest piqued until the last bloody page.

Originally written on January 1, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Rolling in the Deep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 8: Cover the Silence” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the eighth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

The episode features an unexpected meeting between two unlikely characters: Sasha Komyetski, a high level operative in the KGB, and Zerena Pulnoc, wife to the Soviet ambassador, as they discuss the special radio that Sasha confiscated from Tatiana Morozova. As the reader and listener wonders what these two might be up, the next scene opens up with Jordan Rhemes once again having to deal with a couple of Flame operatives who would really like to take over everything at the Bar Vodnar. And then we get our first outright magical dueling scene, as the operatives work together casting spells, while Jordan uses charms and has her own tricks to combat them.

Meanwhile, Zerena is holding a mighty gala where every who’s who is there, including plenty of members of the KGB and CIA, as well as various other clandestine groups, all watching each other’s every move. The reader and listener gets to see all this through the ambassador’s wife’s eyes, as she pays a visit to the important members on each side, as well as a new arrival from the States, one Dominic Alvarez. We see all the facial expressions and nervous ticks that tell Zerena all she needs to know. The episode ends with the ambassador’s wife paying her own visit to Jordan for a specific item and an important fact is revealed about her.

What makes this episode so interesting is that it is a digression from the series so far, as readers and listeners get to see everything through secondary characters. The main characters who have been showing up in every episode so far may be seen in this episode but we don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s all about what the background people see and think. We also learn that this is important, for they have just as important a stake in the whole operation as do our lead protagonists and antagonists.

Originally written on March 5, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 8: Cover the Silence from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.