Book Review – Children of Dune

I’m slowly continuing my goal to read all six Dune books written by the original author, Frank Herbert. Children of Dune is the third in the series and takes up the story of Paul Atreides’ twin children. I had previously watched SyFy’s television miniseries based around this book, but didn’t remember most of that as I read the events in this book.

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Here is the blurb:

The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities–making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.

Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.

But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions–and their destinies….


This book was… a lot. I did have some trouble getting through the middle, but in the end I did enjoy it. Leto and Ghanima each have their own stories, as well as Jessica, Duncan, Gurney, and Irulan. Minor spoilers below:

I feel like I only understood half of the philosophical aspects of this book and that I would need to re-read it again after finishing the series. Leto and Ghanima have a strange mysticism propelling their actions, and it was challenging to understand the depth of this while following the political intrigue of the story. I wanted more clarity about their visions and their internal struggles against Abomination. Another interesting facet was whether having foresight took away all the characters’ meaningful choices about their actions. Was their role in all of it predetermined by Paul’s earlier actions?

The Preacher is clearly Paul, but his character changed, and I wish I had seen more of that. I want to read about what he went through between walking into the desert at the end of Dune Messiah and the events of this book.

The ending of Children of Dune brings much of the story to a concrete ending. With three books to go, I’m not sure where Dune is going next. Book 4 is God Emperor of Dune!

Have you read Dune or the sequels? Please help me understand the metaphysical stuff. Let’s chat in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Friday

I had this book sitting in a box for a long time and had meant to read it, but having it as the pick for one of my book clubs finally forced me to get to it. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein is one of the author’s later works and seems to produce strong responses from readers.

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Here is the blurb:

Friday is a secret courier. She is employed by a man known to her only as “Boss.” Operating from and over a near-future Earth, in which North America has become Balkanized into dozens of independent states, where culture has become bizarrely vulgarized and chaos is the happy norm, she finds herself on shuttlecock assignment at Boss’ seemingly whimsical behest. From New Zealand to Canada, from one to another of the new states of America’s disunion, she keeps her balance nimbly with quick, expeditious solutions to one calamity and scrape after another.

I had thought this book would have more of a spy-thriller type of plot from that blurb. And while there are moments of that, it is more of a series of smaller capers and misadventures. The main story is about Friday’s struggle to belong, both to a family and to humankind. She is an artificial person – created from a test tube and a conglomeration of genetic material from which she cannot trace any particular parentage.

In the society of this world, artificial persons do not have the same rights as normal people, but also cannot be identified through any testing or experiences. Friday chooses to reveal her real nature to others at particular points in this book and faces the repercussions of that decision.

The opening of this book is also hard to read, featuring a gang rape. While it isn’t particularly graphic, Friday’s reaction to her rape is unusual and may be off-putting to many readers. I think that Heinlein was probably using this device to show how Friday truly isn’t human and can rationalize her way through the situation.

Heinlein’s portrayal of women is both innovative and problematic in this book. At the time of its publication, there weren’t many strong female protagonists in science fiction. So while I appreciate Heinlein trying to put a woman at the forefront of his story, in other ways he doesn’t quite get past the stereotypes of the time.

There is a lot to think about in this book and while I didn’t love it, I’m glad I read it. Have you read Friday or other novels by Heinlein? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Sea of Tranquility

I had not read any of Emily St. John Mandel’s books until just a couple of months ago. I picked up her newest release–Sea of Tranquility–as an audiobook and made my way through it quickly. While her books are linked thematically and through some of the characters, you can read them in any order. You can find my review of her earlier book, Station Eleven, here.

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Here is the blurb:

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


While I didn’t like Sea of Tranquility as much as I did Station Eleven, it was still an intriguing story. Both books are told through different points in time, but Sea of Tranquility is actually about time travel. Like in Station Eleven, pandemics are also part of this story, and eventually the different viewpoint characters become interrelated through the actions of the time travelers.

I had a harder time getting into this book because I didn’t find the opening chapters as engaging as I did for Station Eleven. However, once the overall theme and story started to take a concrete shape, I found myself enjoying it more. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too many details, but the book delves into concepts of what is real in our world and how people act when faced with knowledge of mortality.

The audiobook is narrated by an ensemble cast, featuring John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter. This is always a little odd to me, as I seem to grow attached to one narrator for a book. One of the voice actors (Kirsten Potter) narrated Station Eleven, and I also enjoy John Lee’s narrations, having listened to several of his performances in the past.

Have you read Sea of Tranquility or any of Emily St. John Mandel’s other work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Parable of the Sower

I read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler at the same time I was reading Station Eleven (review here), a pairing that made for some strange parallels. Both books contain a near-future dystopia where the characters live under a constant threat of violence in a world plagued by scarcity and competition for resources.

This is the second book that I have read by Octavia Butler (the first was Kindred, which I have not reviewed yet but was one of the best books I read in 2021) and is the first in a series of two books known as the Parable (or Earthseed) series. At the time of her death, the author had been at work on a third book in this world. Parable of the Sower was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1995.

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Here is the blurb:

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.


This is not a happy book, but Lauren Olamina somehow manages to persevere and exists in this story as a reluctant hero. Her struggles are chillingly realistic and believable. Her vision for an Earthseed community and an ultimate destiny for mankind is remarkable from where she begins.

While reading this book, I was surprised at how many of the themes — social inequality, drug abuse, climate change, authoritarianism, labor issues — are still relevant (and perhaps more relevant) today, almost 30 years after its publication.

Despite the grim themes, Parable of the Sower did paint a hopeful outlook for society. I enjoyed reading this novel and plan to continue on with the sequel soon.

Have you read any of Octavia Butler’s work? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Station Eleven

Station Eleven is the first book that I have read by Emily St. John Mandel and is the one that has been her most successful novel so far. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Kirsten Potter. The book was a National Book Award finalist and was also adapted for a recent series on HBO Max.

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Here is the blurb:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


This was an odd book and is more literary than what I usually read. But despite being a bit out of my comfort zone, I did enjoy it. The opening chapter that describes Arthur Leander’s on-stage heart attack, and the segue into the outbreak of the Georgia flu, hooked my interest enough that when the story meandered to other characters, I remained engaged with the tale.

Station Eleven was published in 2014. After experiencing 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the actions of people who were confronted with this fictional plague in Station Eleven were eerily true to how people behaved as the world shut down.

Through the book, the title’s Station Eleven graphic novel is developed by a secondary character and influences the rest of these linked people in their separate lives. This creation is described in a few short passages that contain such engaging details that I wish it truly existed so that I could read it as an adjunct work.

I’m currently the latest release by the same author – The Sea of Tranquility – so expect a review on that one soon.

Have you read Station Eleven? Have you watched the series? Let me know in the comments above. I will have to subscribe to HBO Max soon so that I can see it.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Light

This book was a pick for a local science fiction book club that I participate in. I had never read anything by M. John Harrison, and Light had an interesting premise. I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julian Elfer. It is book 1 in the Kefahuchi Tract series.

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Here is the blurb:

In M. John Harrison’s dangerously illuminating new novel, three quantum outlaws face a universe of their own creation, a universe where you make up the rules as you go along and break them just as fast, where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness.

In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn’t yet exist—a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the “inhuman” K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is. In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He “went deep”—and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he’s now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks—and in debt to all the wrong people.

Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander—and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.


I really struggled to get into this book and I gave up on it after listening to about a third of it. The audio narration was fine, but I couldn’t follow the story or care about the characters. Much of the writing is spent on meaningless description, and while I like detail and an immersive world, none of the description related to how the characters interacted with their world, making it feel gratuitous.

The story follows three viewpoint characters, but I never felt interested in any of them. The idea of having someone’s consciousness merged into a starship has been done in other books, but is always something that I find interesting. Even with this theme, I couldn’t care what happened to Seria Mau. Of the three, Michael Kearney, was the most interesting to me, and he was a serial killer.

I might consider reading something else by this author because the writing itself was good. It just didn’t engage me at all.

Have you read something by M. John Harrison? Give me other recommendations in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

SFWA Changes Membership Requirements

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I wanted to write about this change because I only happened to discover it when one friend made brief mention of it on Facebook and I thought other writers might not be aware of it. In any case, SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the professional organization for fiction writers in these genres. For many aspiring writers, membership is an early career goal. Former requirements for full membership were either publication of one novel or two short stories in approved “pro-level” markets.

With changes in publishing models, the requirements for SFWA membership have changed a few times in recent years. This latest update changes the requirements for both full membership and associate membership to be based around a writer’s total income from their writing, setting the bar for full membership at $1000 and associate membership at $100.

You can find the full details at the SFWA site here.

With this change, I was eligible to join. So as of last week, I’m an associate member of SFWA! You can find the benefits of membership listed here. I’ve been browsing the forums and have already received an issue of the newsletter.

If I want to upgrade to full membership I’ll have to publish additional short stories or a novel. But that has always been the goal, memberships and associations aside.

Who else is new member of SFWA? Let me know in the comments above.

Book Review – Dark Matter

I picked this book up at a signing at New York Comic-Con a couple of years ago but hadn’t had a chance to read it until now. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is the first book I’ve read by this author and is a blend of science fiction, thriller, and romance.

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Here is the blurb:

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

– – –

‘Are you happy in your life?’

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before the man he’s never met smiles down at him and says, ‘Welcome back.’

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream?

And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

I enjoyed this book a lot and finished it in less than a week, which is pretty fast for me. Despite the theoretical physics behind the science fiction premise, the concept is explained just enough to be understandable for the purposes of the plot.

Jason Dessen is quite a sympathetic protagonist, and we see him go through some horrific experiences as he struggles to find his way home. By the end, everything is resolved in a satisfactory although not completely happy way. This was a fun stand-alone novel and I’ll look out for more books by this author in the future.

Have you read Dark Matter or anything else by Blake Crouch? Let me know in the comments above.

Book Review – Dune Messiah

While I have been a fan of Dune for decades, I have never delved beyond the first book or a few different movie and miniseries versions of the story. After seeing Denis Villeneuve’s recent cinematic masterpiece, I decided I needed to read the core six books of the series that were written by the original author. Dune Messiah is book #2 in the series.

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Here is the blurb:

Dune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides, better known—and feared—as the man christened Muad’Dib. As Emperor of the known universe, he possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremen, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne—and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence.

And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty…

This was a hard book to read, but was at turns fascinating and confusing. Not much happens in terms of a plot, but the commentary on power, religion, and government that twisted itself together with Paul’s prescience and struggles with his predetermined fate made for a captivating read.

I did find that I had some prescience of my own when reading this. As events in the book unfolded, I half-remembered them from the SyFy Channel’s Children of Dune miniseries. Even so, Paul certainly foreshadows enough of the events that nothing was terribly shocking in this book. But it still kept me reading in a trippy series of visions of unavoidable tragedy.

This was a book that I couldn’t read when I was tired, but I’m ready to move on to the next volume after I finish something a little more straight-forward (The Dragon Reborn).

How much of Dune are you familiar with? Did you start with the books or one of the movies? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

March Reading and Writing Updates

Wow! Somehow it got to be March already! And of course I’m behind schedule from where I wanted to be on my reading, but I’m not surprised, given that I set a bit of an unrealistic goal.

Looking back at February, here is how it went: I managed to finish Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene (review here) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (review here). I just finished Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert this past weekend (technically in March) and I have a review coming up on that book later this week. With some work-related projects and other obligations, I got bogged down and didn’t get through all the other books I wanted to.

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The other books I’m currently reading are The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. With a long drive this weekend, I’m making solid progress on Harrow the Ninth because I’m listening to that as an audiobook. I also pulled out The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett (my physical non-e-book read) after I finished Magical Midlife Madness, but then decided I needed to catch up on The Dragon Reborn before starting it.

I haven’t given any writing updates recently. I hardly made any progress in February, but I’m expecting that to improve in March. Current projects include the first draft of a hard sci-fi stand alone novel with a working title of East of the Sun, continued work on a stand along sword and sorcery novel called Daughter of the Sun, and a rewrite of a short story involving dream magic. I don’t know why both novel projects involve the sun, but I think East of the Sun will get renamed at some point.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, Brandon Sanderson sort of shamed all writers out there in regards to productivity last week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out his video here. So clearly I need to up my writing game.

Are you reading as much as you had hoped this year? Are you a writer? Tell me about your projects in the comments above.

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