Share a Nightcap at the Cabaret with Excerpts from Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough

Everyday life is political. Art is political. The relevancy of these two statements will hit home to a lot of people. At the same time, I love stories for their capability of producing compelling characters and asking nuanced questions that don’t fit neatly into any political category. And that’s why I adore Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough, her debut novel about tumultuous times and complicated people who are far from perfect but feel nonetheless real.

But beyond that, Amberlough is stylish, evocative and provocative.  And yes, you might feel a bit naughty reading it. The book follows master spy Cyril DePaul, who is forced to be a double-agent serving a fascist movement on the rise while trying to save his lover Aristide Makricosta. In the process, the street-wise dancer / drug runner Cordelia Lahane gets caught in mix. Though labeled as fantasy, Amberlough’s pitch-perfect aesthetics feels like the book takes place in an alternate pre-WWII Europe. will be posting new preview chapters every Wednesday before the book goes on-sale on February 7th, and you can get started right away with Chapters 1 and 2! After giving them a read, may you too be seduced by the allure of Amberlough

Amberlough: Chapters 1 and 2

Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.

Cyril participates on a mission that leads to disastrous results, leaving smoke from various political fires smoldering throughout the city. Shielding Aristide from the expected fallout isn’t easy, though, for he refuses to let anything—not the crooked city police or the mounting rage from radical conservatives—dictate his life.

Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, a top dancer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Aristide’s runner, who could be the key to Cyril’s plans—if she can be trusted. As the twinkling lights of nightclub marquees yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means—and people—necessary. Including each other.

Debut author Lara Elena Donnelly’s spy thriller Amberlough is available February 7th from Tor Books. Come back every Wednesday from now until the release date for additional chapters!

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Can Anything Save the DC Extended Universe From Itself?

“Hate” is probably not the best word for what I feel toward the DC Extended Universe, but it’s close. I’d say I’m really somewhere between searing disdain, deep frustration, and weary resignation, none of which are emotions any studio would want associated with their tentpole brand.

The problems with the DCEU are bigger than just three crappy movies. What failed in Man of Steel was repeated in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad and will likely continue to fail in Wonder Woman and beyond. Warner Bros. knows they need to retool their format, but whether they can, and what shape it will take if they do, depends entirely on how much course-correcting new DC division co-runners Geoff Johns and Jon Berg can do between now and Diana’s solo film. They have an uphill battle, that’s for sure.

So let’s dig in to see where the DCEU went wrong and what, if anything, can be done to salvage it. Obviously, spoilers ahoy.

[“Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman.”]

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Assail, Chapter Fourteen (Part Two)

Welcome back to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda, and finally comments from readers. Today we’re continuing Ian Cameron Esslemont’s Assail, covering part two of chapter fourteen.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, but the summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

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Series: Malazan Reread of the Fallen

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Shadow and Bone, Part Two

Hello and welcome back to the second half our our reread of Shadow and Bone, the first book of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Today we’re going to pick up where I left off last week with Chapter 14 and go right on to the epilogue.

Looking back on last week’s reread, I was thinking about the characters that didn’t get much or any of my attention; characters like Zoya and David and Ivan, who are important to the book, but moreso to the series in general than in Book 1. All three of those characters come up in this week’s reread, but they still don’t seem as important to the themes of the book and Alina’s journey as they could be. Or maybe I’m just too busy fawning over the parallels between Alina and Genya’s circumstances and trying to decide how much sincerity lurks beneath the Darkling’s lies and sultry ways.

[Now, let’s go hunt a mythical stag, shall we?]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread

A Metropolis for the Recently Deceased: Revealing Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

To say The Quantum Thief made waves would be to gravely underplay the arrival of one of the most promising new authors speculative fiction has seen this century. Born in Finland but based in bonnie Scotland, Hannu Rajaniemi has been hailed as a herald of all that the genre has to offer. His books have been brilliantly original and quite marvellously imaginative, albeit so cerebral that they’ve been a struggle for some. Me, even. But like a lot of things, reading, I’ve realised, doesn’t need to be easy. In fact, some of the best experiences I’ve ever had, in literature and in life, have been the hardest.

In any event, as I concluded in my review of The Casual Angel, which fulfilling (if fearsome) finale closed out The Quantum Thief series, “Rajaniemi is without question one of the smartest and most exciting writers working in science fiction as we speak, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.” Well, it took nearly three years, but now we know what he has up his sleeves: a standalone called Summerland, in which the self-professed “purveyor of tomorrows” sets his startling sights on yesterday instead.

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Series: British Fiction Focus

Sherlock and the Problem with Plot Twists

I emerged from the fourth season of the BBC’s once awesome Sherlock in a kind of incoherent rage at what successful writers get away with when they are, apparently, deemed too big to fail. I’m not the only one, of course. There was a nice skewering of the show’s degeneration from cerebral mystery to James Bond-lite action film in the Guardian and the program’s principal show runner, Steven Moffat, has been drawing feminist flak since season two, so rather than go after elements of the show itself (and spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it in the process) I want to step back from Sherlock and focus on a troubling element I’ve seen in a lot of recent storytelling: the disastrous pursuit of surprise.

I’m talking about plot twists, and I’ll start by saying yes, I love them. There are few more compelling feelings than reading a book or watching a TV show and suddenly thinking “Wait! This isn’t what I thought it was at all! Everything I thought I knew about this story was wrong! The good guys are the bad guys (or vice versa). Up is down and black is white and I can’t wait to see how this works out!!!”

[If it works out.]

Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune: Dune, Part Eight

The Baron Harkonnen’s plan is coming to fruition this week on the Dune Reread! Which is horrible. But, you know, necessary to the plot and stuff.

Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.

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Series: Rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune

Binti: Home Sweepstakes!

We want to send you a galley copy of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: Home, the sequel to Binti, available January 31st from Publishing!

It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.

But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.

After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 3:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on January 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on January 21st. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”

“The Magicks of Megas-Tu”
Written by Larry Brody
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Animated Season 1, Episode 8
Production episode 22009
Original air date: October 27, 1973
Stardate: 1254.4

Captain’s log. The Enterprise takes a journey to the center of the galaxy in the hopes of seeing matter being created. A kind of matter/energy whirlwind sucks the Enterprise in. They can’t break free of it, so they try to get to the center of it. They find themselves in a place that Spock describes as being outside of time and space. All systems on board start to fail, including life support.

A creature appears on the ship who looks like popular conceptions of the devil and restores ship’s power. He calls himself Lucien and a friend, expressing glee that humans finally found him. He transports Kirk, Spock, and McCoy off the bridge, leaving a stunned Sulu, Arex, and Uhura behind.

[Gaze upon my countenance…]

Series: Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Barack Obama on The Three-Body Problem and Other Meaningful Books

Barack Obama, avid reader of science fiction and fantasy during his two terms as president, recently sat down with the New York Times’ chief book critic Michiko Kakutani to discuss the impact that books have had on him throughout his lifetime. It started at a young age, he explained: “I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider. […] And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me.”

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