It’s this new app for better living…

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023

BETTER LIVING THROUGH ALGORITHMS by Naomi Kritzer. 5610 words, 18 pages, short story.

“It’s this new app for better living.” “I love the idea of an app that tells you to put your phone down more. For your own good,” Margo said, her eyes glinting. “You should try it!” June said. “You get the first thirty days free!”

A fun story about a lifestyle app that attempts to make you happier. I smiled and the story made me happier. 
4/5 📱✍️🚌💐☆

Can be read for free here.


This has gotten me thinking—I have so many „unfinished“ magazines on my virtual shelves and I want to read more short stories again. I got most of these stories for free. Maybe it would be a fun challenge to actually get all of these magazines and really read them. Not only could I tick them off as read, I would also support those magazines with keeping up the good work…

Swimming through Space under the Roof of the World…

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023 

6220 words, 20 pages, short story.

A story told by a tentacled and shelled mollusk. They are in Space and above them is the roof of the world. There is a disturbance. I was pretty convinced what or where this space and the roof really are—I was not quite right. Interesting and well written. 
4/5 🐙🦑🐙🦑 

“Scog hung in space, close enough to the Roof of the World so she could faintly hear her pulses echoing back from its jagged hardness. Coming back from everything in the area, those pulses told her of almost everything around her out to past the distance where it could be dangerous.“

Can be read for free here.

I have never read anything by Turtledove before. A gazillion of his books are included in my Audible subscription and the Internet mostly recommends to start with In the Balance. I added it to my Audible pile, which is starting to develop massive proportions. I am not too keen though, neither World War II nor Alternate History are high on my preferred reading list.

Also available by Turtledove for free on Clarkesworld: The Yorkshire Mammoth (7370 words)

My May Wrap-up

Four rainy, but nice days in Dubrovnik. Finally the weather is picking up, I had a very nice and relaxing long Pentecost weekend. My balcony is turning into wilderness, I have all kinds of wild and bee-friendly stuff sprouting—pansies, forget-me-nots, daisies, purple tansies and last but not least some parsley, coriander and three tomatoes… I barely fit… on the downside work is infuriating and I have had an acute rheumatoid arthritis attack in my right ring finger that has been a bitch for the last two weeks. Getting better though. The nice temperatures and sunshine have definitely made life better! Reading…

– The Last Astronaut | My review 🚀🚀🚀🚀¾, ebook, TBR pile, alien spaceship turns out to be more than that. Creepy, but great.
Planet of the Apes | My review 🦍🦧🙈🙊, audible, free with subscription. The classic SF that sailed the whole merchandize.
The Unsettling Stars 🚀🚀½, paper, ST:AOS, set after the first Abrams movie. Meh.
– Ascending | My review 🚀🚀🚀¼, old Netgalley, first contact (light edition), linguistic and cultural struggles.
– Bright Shards 🚀🚀🚀½, KU, direct sequel to Ascending, similarly light on SF, but I enjoyed the third part planetside. The third book is MIA so far.
Lords of Uncreation (Final Architecture #3) 👁️👁️👁️½, audio. Thank goodness, I am done. Too long. Bittersweet ending. Did I mention that this whole trilogy was too long?

Graphic novels/comics
– Fables Vol. 6: Homelands 👺👺👺👺, eComic, Hollywood interlude with unlikable MC and then some Snicker-Snack in the Homelands… I miss the big bad wolf!
– Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️🧞🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️ eComic, Sinbad brings a Djinn on his visit. Things go downhill fast. And a great additional short story about wooden soldiers, a forbidden love and the consequences.
– Fables Vol. 8: Wolves (Fables 🐺🐺🐺🐺, Mowgli channels Tarzan, the kids learn to be human kids, Cinderella is the comic relief.
– Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire 🍭🐺🐁🎅, the short stories threw off my flow… War, winter, scary plans…
– Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables 🐸🤴🏻🧌⚔️¼, the good fight, peacefully…

Shorts stories, novelettes, novellas
– The Puppetmaster by Kemi Ashing-Giwa 👹👹👹👹👹, short, of revenge and demons from another universe. Best guess, inspired by Japanese culture. Short, grim and good. For free here:…
– TO SAIL BEYOND THE BOTNET by Suzanne Palmer, 🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖 with a 🍒 on top! 21920 words, 72 pages. My favourite little bot is back. For free here:…
– BETTER LIVING THROUGH ALGORITHMS by Naomi Kritzer, 📱✍️🚌💐. 5610 words, 18 pages, about a lifestyle app. For free here:…
– THROUGH THE ROOF OF THE WORLD by Harry Turtledove 🐙🦑🐙🦑. 6220 words, 20 pages, story told by a tentacled and shelled mollusk. For free here:…
– LOL, SAID THE SCORPION by Rich Larson 🇵🇹🇵🇹🇵🇹. 2680 words, 10 pages. Near future SF, holiday trip to Portugal, wearing unusual suits. For free:…

currently reading:
– Call of the Reed Warbler, audio, non-fiction, regenerative agriculture in Australia, ongoing, but struggling…
– Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023, eMagazine, ongoing
– Bear Head (Dogs of War #2), KU
– Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces (Fables, eComic

On the small screen:
– Wild Isles, 🐦🦭🦉🐁🐝, Prime, nature documentary, David Attenborough—enough said! Ongoing… The puffins in Ep. 1 were priceless.
– Still: A Michael J. Fox movie, 🛹🛹🛹🛹🛹, apple TV+, excellent! 
– AntMan and the Wasp: Quantumania 🐜🐜🐜½☆, entertaining, but forgettable. 

The whole point of live tourism is authenticity…

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023 

2680 words, 10 pages.

“Does it come in any other colors?” Maeve asks, eyeing herself in the smart glass.

“No,” the salesperson admits. “You look quite elegant in eggshell, though.”

A couple takes a trip to Faro in Portugal, wearing onesies consisting of cooperative swarms of microorganisms. Their „holiday suits“ shield them from their surroundings and have some unexpected side effects… I am not sure what to make of the title. The story was ok, but not really my thing.
3/5 🇵🇹🇵🇹🇵🇹 

Can be read for free here.


The good fight, peacefully…

Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

Flycatcher‘s story. Single-handedly invading the Homelands. Third time‘s a charm, after Bigby Wolf and Boy Blue…

Frau Totenkinder is smart, but very scary. There is some pretty gung-ho diplomacy. And Flycatcher cleans up nicely. I didn‘t expect the Arthurian Legend or Lancelot. Nice twist.

The Interlude: The Birthday Secret was cute. Very different artwork. It worked well. Finally the cubs find out something important on their fifth birthday.

Back to the Good Prince. Most of the crew in Fabletown watching Flycatcher through the magic mirror—that was a fun idea. 

I really liked what happened with the Magic Grove. Nice art & ending. The final full artwork pages were especially nice.

That was a proper fairytale!
4/5 🐸🤴🏻🧌⚔️ 

Collecting: Fables 60-69

The Real, the Unreal and the Unnecessarily Long…

Lords of Uncreation (The Final Architecture, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Author), Sophie Aldred (Narrator)

Last part of a trilogy. I really loved the first book Shards of Earth and sadly struggled with the middle book Eyes of the Void. At the end I think I could have done without books 2 and 3 and would have preferred one standalone and closed novel with less padding and all the plotlines tidied up.

Favourite characters are Olli and Kittering. Idris is really kind of a drag in this one, especially his forays into Unspace with their lengthy descriptions of what he sees and feels. My eyes glazed over a few times. Ollis‘ entire story was the most fun. I did enjoy Solace and Kris as well, although Kris only played a minor part. Too bad that she ended up so bitter at the end.

I struggled again, same as in the second book, to remember who all of the characters were and what they did before. So many of them! It‘s a good thing that the print edition has a list of characters at the back. Too many characters. 

Massive world-building effort. Loved the concept of the Eye. Crux was also a fascinating place to be.

bit lot on the overly long side. The entire trilogy is too long. A duology would have done nicely. I had to re-listen to the last three chapters, because I had run out of steam at the end and reaching the end I realized that I hadn‘t retained any of it, including the grand finale. It‘s a pity that by the end I was mostly glad to be finally done with this trilogy.

Bittersweet ending. 👁️👁️👁️½☆, rounded up. It‘s probably me. 

Shards of Earth | My Goodreads review | My WordPress review
Eyes of the Void | My Goodreads review | My WordPress review

I really think I do not need trilogies anymore. Or novels that are a 1000 pages long. What a drag. Why torture it to those formats with all this padding and endless reminiscing, if you can tell a compelling story in one novel of average length?

Ok, yes, I did enjoy the entire trilogy of Children of Time (Children of Time | Children of Ruin | Children of Memory). So sue me. 

Evolution was a source of much inconvenience, to be sure.

Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 200, May 2023
by Neil Clarke (Editor), Suzanne Palmer (Author)

TO SAIL BEYOND THE BOTNET by Suzanne Palmer. 21920 words, 72 pages, novella. My favourite little bot is back. 

“I have been activated, therefore I have a purpose, Bot 9 thought. I have a purpose, therefore I serve.“

I laughed so much, my face is hurting. And this was so cute as well. The aliens— bad and good guys—were hilarious. Never mind convergent evolution. This is a lot more fun. 
🤖🤖🤖🤖🤖 with a 🍒 on top!

Bot 9 is awakened and something is amiss. It has been ejected into space and Ship is gone. It is alone. Well, not quite… Is it a thing in SF at the moment to explore aliens that communicate with other means than speech? Or has that always been a thing and I just missed it?

“They were flashing colors back and forth, along with a volley of whistles, hums, and vaguely flatulent squeaks. They took turns, providing further evidence for 9’s theory that the aliens used both visual and audio signals to communicate.“

Nice take on individual and group consiousness. 

Bouncy Birthday Moonwalk by Sunnie Spot & The Solar Flares

Can be read for free here. I decided to get the whole magazine though, to support Clarkesworld. 

“Suzanne Palmer is a multiple Hugo Award-winning author whose work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and other magazines. She is currently at work on the fourth novel in her Finder Chronicles series, and thinking about what comes next for Bot 9.“

I added her first Finder novel to my TBR pile early in 2022. I guess I will have to read it soon, because I really like what I have read so far. I am happy for Bot 9 to stay in the world of novellas, I don‘t need a full-length novel…


More light SF, this time with a touch of romance

Bright Shards (The Vardeshi Saga, #2)
by Meg Pechenick

The second half of Ascending. I recommend reading both books back to back, they really feel like one novel, as the first novel leaves too many plot points unanswered.

This again is very, very light SF, with a dash of romance. The aliens are very humanoid and there isn‘t really much though given to the differences or how Avery deals with them. 

”Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.”

I am still flummoxed about the use of camping stoves. There never really is a clear description of how the Vardeshi cook. Anyway, in the middle I lost interest and skimmed quite a bit. I liked the third part the best. Enough actually to consider reading the third book, CELESTIAL NAVIGATION, when or if it comes out. I assume it will take us all the way back to Earth.

The various parts of the novel could have been separate novellas, they felt quite distinct. For me personally this was too little SF. It was all much too unlikely. Avery could have been on a climb in Nepal with some locals and it would have roughly been the same in terms of how alien it feels to a Western college graduate.

So, light SF romance, brain candy, nothing deep. New Adult Romance SF?

Ascending | My review

Currently reading / weekend update

I did not read an awful lot in the last few days. The weather was nice, it‘s finally getting warmer and I was out with friends a few times in the evenings. On the plus side it‘s a national holiday here tomorrow (Pentecost), so more reading today and tomorrow! Here is what I am currently reaqding:

Bright Shards (The Vardeshi Saga, #2)
by Meg Pechenick

I might finish this today or tomorrow, I have 100 to 150 pages left. I skimmed a little through the middle, because I had lost interest. The third part is not bad though. Nice relaxing SF brain candy for reading on the balcony…

This is the sequel to Ascending (The Vardeshi Saga, #1) (my review). They really need to be read back to back, because the first book stops in the middle of the story and none of the plotlines are resolved. To be honest, I would not have spent any money on the sequel, both books are on Kindle Unlimited and I currently have a free subscription. This is very, very light on the SF part.

Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.

Lords of Uncreation (The Final Architecture, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

About 1 and a half hours left in the audiobook. Long! Some (too) long introspective sequences that I could have done without. Had to rewind a few times, because I spaced out. It is good though and much better than the second book of this trilogy. The first book will remain my favourite though.

… the third and final novel in an extraordinary space opera trilogy about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

The Final Architecture
Shards of Earth
Eyes of the Void
Lords of Uncreation 

Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

I am about halfway through this graphic novel. This volume mostly focusses on Flycatcher. Not bad so far.

With all-out war looming between the forces of the Adversary and the free Fables living in the mundane world, everything now depends on a humble janitor known as Flycatcher. Released from centuries of trauma-induced amnesia, Prince Ambrose (as he was known in happier times) faces a long and difficult road – one that will take him through the lands of the dead and into the heart of the enemy’s realm. Once there, this unassuming and unlikely hero will face his greatest and most arduous test – and the future of both Fabletown and the Homelands will turn on the outcome. 

And some impressions from my walk yesterday:

Top 5 Tuesday — Air!

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Bionic Bookworm, now hosted by Meeghan Reads. If you’re interested in participating, check out their blog to get the details and the prompts for each week, then link your post back to Meeghan’s blog or leave a comment on her weekly post.

23 May: Top 5 books with air

Calm like a monk, or wild like Aang? Don’t forget to breathe deeply. 💨🍃
(Variant: flight)

So, the obvious choice: Books with „air“ in the title or air travel…

Airframe by Michael Crichton — ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

I read this quite a while ago, when it came out first as a paperback. 2006-ish? Back then I probably would have given it four or five stars, but tastes change. I remember starting to read this, while sitting in a plane, about to hurl itself down a runway to take-off and thinking “How stupid can I be?” If you want some well written, fast paced entertainment, without having to engage too much brain power, this is a good choice. Unless you are afraid of flying… 

Probably around the same time or a little earlier I also read this:

Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones — ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Funnily enough, I bought this at duty free in Heathrow Airport. This book is a loose collection of anecdotes of the shenanigans in the airline industry. They are told in the form of one day in the working life of an airport duty manager. Very British, very shallow, occasionally very funny – especially if you have flown a few times. Brain candy. This is probably a great read during a long-haul flight.

Similar theme, still part of my TBR pile:

Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith — TBR pile

I got this in 2018. At the time I was still a regular flyer and I guess I thought it would be entertaining and illuminating:

„Cockpit Confidential covers not only the nuts and bolts of flying, but also the grand theater of air travel, from airport architecture to inflight service to the excitement of travel abroad. It’s a thoughtful, funny, at times deeply personal look into the strange and misunderstood world of commercial flying.“

So much for non-fiction. This meme’s prompt is a good reminder that I still have this short story on my TBR pile:

Any Way the Wind Blows by Seanan McGuire — TBR pile

Pretty cover, right? Added to my TBR pile in 2020.

In the original story Any Way the Wind Blows, New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire presents a sweet tribute to Manhattan’s iconic Flatiron building–celebrating the longtime home of Tor Books as the publisher bids farewell for new office space.

Composed of travelers from nine different parallel dimensions, the Cartography Corps crew aboard the airship Stalwart Trumpet of Glory descends on the New York City in our universe to collect and preserve artifacts from the legendary turn-of-the-twentieth century landmark Flatiron building.

Can be read for free here. Yes, I still need to read her Wayward Children novellas, they are burning a hole into my virtual TBR pile. I know, I know.

Last, but not least, if you are looking for a fun graphic novel series with good artwork, I highly recommend this:

Skyward Vol. 1: My Low-G Life — read in 2019 — ☁️ ☁️ ☁️ ☁️ ☁️
by Joe Henderson (Author), Antonio Fabela (Illustrator), Lee Garbett (Illustrator)

One day, gravity on Earth suddenly became a fraction of what it is now. Twenty years later, humanity has adapted to its new low-gravity reality. And to Willa Fowler, who was born just after G-day, it’s pretty awesome. You can fly through the air! I mean, sure, you can also die if you jump too high. So you just don’t jump too high. And maybe don’t get mixed up in your dad’s secret plan to bring gravity back that could get you killed…

Nice artwork, fun story. In Issue #2 Willa, the main character, started to live dangerously. There is a stunning panel, showing what happened to those that didn’t make it past G-Day.

I am not sold on the whole premise of this story and the world building seems flawed. Henderson claims to have researched gravity. I enjoyed this comic so much that I was willing to roll with it and suspend my major disbelief.

What did I like? The artwork, the colours, the humour. Willa is a little daft at times, but generally likeable, so is her dad. I liked the outfits people wear.

What did I not like? The holes in the world building, aka how would all this still work with really low gravity? Loose water, loose dirt, loose everything, the weather… What happens to the polar ice caps without water? However, the story telling works just fine, even without those open questions.

At the time I read Skyward, it sounded as if it might be adapted as a motion picture for Sony. I guess Covid-19 happened, so… 🤷‍♀️

So, any air-themed books on your shelf? What did you like and what can you recommend?