All posts by John Ottinger III

John Ottinger III is a writer, classical educator, and dad. His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Electric Velocipede, Strange Horizons, Black Gate, and at He blogs at Grasping for the Wind.

BOOK REVIEW: Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

REVIEW SUMMARY: McDevitt encourages hope for humanity’s future in this far-future adventure.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When an ancient FTL transmitter is unearthed, Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath go hot in pursuit of the missing Apollo artifacts buried in the mists of nine thousand years of history. Meanwhile, the once-lost ship Capella will soon return from a space/time warp with Alex’s uncle and mentor aboard.

PROS: Relatable characters; easygoing storyline; breezy read; interesting concepts; Apollo!
CONS: The Capella subplot may require having read Firebird.
BOTTOM LINE: Reading Coming Home revitalizes proper pride in humanity – what it has accomplished today and what it will design, do, and discover tomorrow.

Nine thousand years into the future, Alex Benedict operates a successful antiquarian firm. Acting as a broker, Alex and his assistant Chase Kolpath seek out new artifacts for clients. Their for-profit motive often angers traditional archaeologists but their love of history and the thrill of discovery always spurs their pursuit of new and alluring artifacts.
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BOOK REVIEW: Brass Stars by A.G. Carpenter

REVIEW SUMMARY: Revenge Western wrapped in a science fiction envelope.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Gunslinger Tashndelu Sand seeks revenge on the last of the posse that raped and killed her mother.

PROS: Strong female lead, inversion of tropes, gunslinging action, psychotic cyborg horse.
CONS: Confusing spatial relationships, minor plot choices.
BOTTOM LINE: A provocative twist on the revenge western.
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BOOK REVIEW: After The End: Recent Apocalypses Edited by Paula Guran

REVIEW SUMMARY: After the End: Recent Apocalypses is an excellent collection of stories for readers who like apocalyptic fiction but are tired of zombies.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An anthology that collects twenty apocalyptic stories from the past ten years (with one exception).

PROS: Exciting action and intriguing protagonists. High level of differentiation in type and setting of stories. The anthology shows well how the tenor and composition of apocalyptic fiction has changed in recent years.
CONS: Mostly pessimistic stories with only glimmers of hope in them. Introductions that give away too much of the story.
BOTTOM LINE: After the End: Recent Apocalypses highlights how our perception of mankind’s role in this world has shifted toward a more pessimistic outlook post 9/11.

Stoker award winner, Prime Books’ senior editor and longtime anthologist Paula Guran collects twenty apocalyptic stories of the past ten years (2007-2012, save one) for a mostly depressing but occasionally hopeful anthology. Unlike many prior anthologies, which mixed various decades of writing output, Guran’s focus on the last ten years (post-9/11), shows how the tenor and composition of apocalyptic fiction has changed in our day. The double meaning of “recent” in the book’s subtitle refers not only to the timing of the apocalypses in this book, but also of their publication. As might be expected of the age of terrorism, war, political and ideological stratification, and the downplay of science, the stories are much darker, the glimmer’s of hope much dimmer. But hope is there among the wreckage, at least for some of our protagonists.
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REVIEW: Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

REVIEW SUMMARY: A Salvador Dali painting in prose form.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: John Finch, detective, must solve a double homicide of a human and gray cap, even as the city of Ambergris slides into chaos.


PROS: Surreal tone; emotionally powerful; great mashup of the real and unreal

CONS: Anti-climactic ending; early difficulty in understanding sentence structure

BOTTOM LINE: The vibrant storytelling of a perversely beautiful city and its hard-boiled detective is well worth the reading.

In this gritty crime noir/fantasy mashup, World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer creates a narrative that is distressingly real, and yet so unreal as to be absurd. Like a Salvador Dali painting in prose, Finch mixes the mundane and the fantastic and then melts them together into one surreal but powerful work.

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Interview: Lavie Tidhar Talks About ‘World SF’

Lavie Tidhar grew up on a kibbutz in Israel and lived in South Africa and the UK. Most recently he’s lived in the Banks islands of Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, one of the most remote and isolated places on Earth. He currently lives in South East Asia. He is the co-author (with Nir Yaniv) of The Tel Aviv Dossier a supernatural thriller that explores the nature of belief, as well as An Occupation of Angels, a Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2006 Fiction Honorable Mention, and Hebrew Punk, a collection of his best short stories, which have appeared in Apex, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Chizine, and other publications.

He recently signed a three book deal with Angry Robot Books for “a steam-powered take on V for Vendetta, rich with satire and slashed through with wild adventure” and is the editor of The Apex Book of World SF which collects stories from around the globe. Tidhar maintains a website at and a personal blog at He also maintains a companion blog to The Apex Book of World SF at

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REVIEW: Bone Dance by Emma Bull

REVIEW SUMMARY: Bone Dance is a science fiction novel that maintains a sense of the spiritual.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Psychic killers stalk the landscape of Earth after a nuclear apocalypse in which hoodoo and the tarot are the dominant belief system.


PROS: Clever integration of the tarot; intriguing look at identity; fast pace.

CONS: Simple worldbuilding, significant philosophical bent; jolting chapter transitions.

BOTTOM LINE: Bone Dance is an appealing, well-written, and thoughtful story, but is best suited to readers of a philosophical nature or reading temperament.

Psychic killers stalk the landscape of Earth after a nuclear apocalypse in Emma Bull’s Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated Bone Dance. Bull crafts a strange yet compelling story of identity and prophecy by basing the story on the ancient tradition of African folk magic known as hoodoo and the still widely practiced oracle of the tarot.

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