Sleeps With Monsters: Two Uneven SF Sequels

A new column over at

This week I’m going to talk about two sequels, one of which I liked a lot better than the other. Part of this is down to my enjoyment of the characters, but part of it, too, is that one of the novels is advertised as the second part of a duology, but it closes on a note that raises as many questions as it answers. The other novel makes no claims to completing its series arc, but it finishes in an emotionally satisfying place, even if it does leave a wide-open door for “further adventures”—and terrible threats.

Sleeps With Monsters: Secrets and Consequences

A new post over at

There’s an enormous amount of interesting new SFF literature out practically daily. I read fast, but you know, it’s impossible to keep even close to completely current with the fresh new delights (and, occasionally, horrors) this field has to offer.

Jaine Fenn’s Queen of Nowhere, reviewed at Strange Horizons

Being distracted, I missed acknowledging the publication of my review of Jaine Fenn’s Queen of Nowhere, at Strange Horizons:

I don’t remember where I first heard, in relation to science fiction and fantasy, the axiom that the world of the novel’s action is as much a character as the personalities in the narrative. World-as-character is the reason that “sensawunda” remains a term to conjure with in science fiction, and part of the reason, it seems, behind the journey/quest narratives in the fantasies of Jacqueline Carey, Elizabeth Bear, Steven Erikson, Robert Jordan, and others too numerous to name. In Queen of Nowhere, Jaine Fenn opens a window on a fascinating and vivid science fictional world, seen through the lens of an intriguing character—a world which, ultimately, proves more vivid and coherent than our protagonist.

Books in brief: Mitchell, Fenn

Sandy Mitchell, Warhammer 40K: The Emperor’s Finest and Warhammer 40K: The Last Ditch. Black Library, 2012 and 2013.

The Emperor’s Finest is probably the weakest installment in Mitchell’s Ciaphas Cain series, lacking the usual vibrancy and humour, and dogged by a very poor secondary character in the form of the lady aristocrat Mira. The Last Ditch makes up for this with rollicking battle action.

One of the things that strike me most about the Cain books is that, while never rising above the level of crunchy popcorn entertainment, Mitchell takes the (clichéd) darkness of the Warhammer 40K setting, acknowledges it, and then goes on to populate it with relatively well-adjusted, well-adapted people. With fully-developed senses of humour.

Jaine Fenn, Queen of Nowhere. Gollancz, 2013. Review copy courtesy of Strange Horizons –

– Where it will be reviewed. Preliminary thoughts: interesting SF, interesting world, not sure how satisfied I am with the pacing or the ending.