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)

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.


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…


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?

Murder, revenge and demons

The Puppetmaster
by Kemi Ashing-Giwa

A story of revenge and of demons from another universe. Best guess, inspired by Japanese culture. Short, grim and good.

“Uduak IX may have ordered an assassin to gut his niece in a holy monastery, but he is still a man of honor. As emperor of Johari IX, the greatest human-ruled planet in the Known Worlds, honor is an attribute to be expected. And so before he had her butchered, he gave the order that she would be allowed a single sheet of solar parchment and a holographic brush so she might write her last words.“

15 pages, from 👹 👹 👹 👹 👹
Can be read for free here

Added to my TBR pile: The Sufficient Loss Protocol

    “When an alien entity sneaks aboard a corporate spaceship, with no motive besides sabotaging the mission and murdering those aboard, commander Uzoma Ifiok launches an investigation—despite knowing that the real danger isn’t the one picking off her crew.”

    And read previously: Fruiting Bodies

    “An alien fungal infection has ravaged a faraway planet, turning all but six of the colonists into ravenous arinkiris. Inyama, a mycologist, is her species’ last hope. But it’s not expertise her fellow survivors want from her.”

    I liked it. Well written, tightly plotted. Very short, but with a nice plot bunny at the end.

    Revisiting the Xuya Universe

    Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100, January 2015 



    After the funeral, Quang Tu walked back to his compartment, and sat down alone, staring sightlessly at the slow ballet of bots cleaning the small room—the metal walls pristine already, with every trace of Mother’s presence or of her numerous mourners scrubbed away.

    A dead woman seen through the eyes of her human son, her mindship daughter and her scientific successor. I have to confess that the story didn‘t do much for me. Set in the world of Bodard‘s Xuya Universe.



    More from the Universe of Xuya

    Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 88 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #88) 

    SHIP’S BROTHER by Aliette de Bodard


    You never liked your sister.

    After reading a novel set in the Xuja Universe, I decided to catch up on the online short stories set in the same universe, preferably in publication order. This one is told by the birth mother of a mind ship, talking about her first born son and his conflicted relationship with his sister.

    Related entries on Clarkesworld — I will get to them eventually:

    Matthew Reilly round-up

    I read some Matthew Reilly novels in the 2000s. They were fast and fun action novels for low brain power. In retrospect I figured that they might not have been terribly well written, but I enjoyed them at the time, until I did not. I came across this short story and decided to give the author a quick check, to see if I might still like him.

    Jack West Jr and the Hero’s Helmet (Jack West Jr, #3.5)
    by Matthew Reilly

    “Late on Christmas Eve, decorated SAS officer and Egyptologist Jack West Jr is about to make a discovery that could rewrite history.“

    The short story is 17 pages, could have done with some editing and is not terribly exciting. It reads more like a plot bunny. In my edition it‘s followed by another 10 pages of the fourth Jack West novel, The Four Legendary Kingdoms.

    If you are tempted, there is an overview of the novels and a bunch short stories free for download (including this one) to be found here:

    My first (I think) and probably favourite of his novels was this one:

    Ice Station (Shane Schofield, #1)
    by Matthew Reilly

    My review from 2004:

    James Bond on speed! If you want to travel to Antarctica, to be shot at with pistols, rocket launchers and crossbows and wrestle with killer whales and (navy) seals, this is the book. Hilariously over the top. A total page turner. Action, action, action from the very first page and it never stops until the end. I kept thinking, this can not be topped and then something else crazy happened… I kept giving sound bites to my fellow travellers in the minibus in the morning and they just thought I was bonkers…. If you love action and suspense, don’t miss this! Suspend belief and enjoy a mega rollercoaster ride!

    The sequel apparently was just as much fun:

    Area 7 (Shane Schofield, #2)

    I read this in 2004 as well, here is my old review:

    Shane Schoefield, aka the Scarecrow, is destroying government property again in a big way…. This time he is on the President’s security detail, on the way to do a tour at the secret Area 7. But, alas, the bad guys were faster again and are already waiting. The president is taken prisoner and a fiendish game of cat and mouse ensues. Good thing for the president that the Scarecrow and his loyal band of warriors are there as well. What follows is an extremely high body count, blood and gore galore and some of the most ridiculous and exciting action ever packed on paper.

    I also read Scarecrow (Shane Schofield, #3), but didn‘t review it, so I guess my excitement was wearing off. Then there was a standalone, also read in 2004:

    Contest by Matthew Reilly, read and reviewed 2004

    So there you are in your kitchen, minding you’re own business, when all of a sudden you are engulfed by this blinding white light. No, Scotty is not beaming you up, some aliens are teleporting you to a place where you do not want to be. Suddenly everybody is out to get you, unless you get them first…. Fun, fast-paced, silly, scary, page-turning suspense. As always with books by Reilly, don’t get hung up on the ridiculous story line, just enjoy the ride!

    My excitement and enchantment with these high octane thrillers started to go downhill with the two books I read afterwards, sometime in 2006… I am foggy on the dates:

    Hover Car Racer, read and reviewed 2006

    I loved all his other books. Fluff. Very entertaining, fast-paced fluff with great heroes. But what was he thinking, when he wrote this? Minimalistic plot, no substance. Just an endless narration of one race after the other. This might work well as a biweekly release on the Internet, targeted at teenagers with no attention span. But it certainly doesn’t work as a book. It is just repetitive. Each chapter feels like the previous one. Fast-paced race, hero against the odds, sabotage of his car, him turning that into a win, the crowd going ballistic. And again. And again. And again. What a disappointment.

    Seven Ancient Wonders (Jack West Jr, #1), read and reviewed 2006

    This was just silly. Lots of action as usual, which I like. But otherwise it felt like reading a comic or playing a first person shooter. The heroes were endlessly going through the same chapter over and over again. Problem of getting through a maze without getting killed by the traps, neat little sketch that gets repeated several times and everything neatly pointed out with exclamation marks and highlighted in Italics, so you really do not miss when you are supposed to be excited and dying from the suspense – in case you are too thick to get it by yourself. Was he still writing for 12 year olds? I almost did not finish it, it was so shallow and the plot so simplistic, I couldn’t decide if I should feel insulted or just throw it in the bin. Sorry Mr Reilly, you lost me.

    So, bottomline, I keep remembering Ice Station fondly — caves, ice, marine life, it‘s my thing. I liked Area 7 and then things went downhill. Too formulaic and over the top in the long run. Great beach reads, if you want to switch off your brain and like action.

    Matthew Reilly books in order:

    Non Series

    • Contest (1996)
    • Temple (1999)
    • The Great Zoo of China (2014)
    • Troll Mountain (2014)
    • The Secret Runners (2019)
    • Cobalt Blue (2022)


    1. Roger Ascham and the King’s Lost Girl: A Tournament Novella (2013)
    2. The Tournament (2013)
    3. Roger Ascham and the Dead Queen’s Command: A Tournament Novella (2020)

    Hover Car Racer

    1. Hover Car Racer (2004)
    2. Crash Course (2005)
    3. Full Throttle (2006)
    4. Photo Finish (2007)

    Jack West Jr. Novels

    1. The Seven Deadly Wonders (2005)
    2. The Six Sacred Stones (2007)
    3. The Five Greatest Warriors (2009)
    4. The Four Legendary Kingdoms (2016)
    5. The Three Secret Cities (2018)
    6. The Two Lost Mountains (2020)
    7. The One Impossible Labyrinth (2021)

    Shane Schofield Novels

    1. Ice Station (1998)
    2. Area 7 (2001)
    3. Scarecrow (2003)
    4. Hell Island (2005)
    5. Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves (Scarecrow Returns) (2011)