Category: Science Fiction

This Interactive Short Story Will Make You Feel Things

Ever wanted to choose your own profound and horrifying sci-fi adventure? This article is for you.

“With Those We Love Alive” is a strange, deeply atmospheric short story, told a few pieces at a time. You are an artificer, drawn into the service of the Skull Queen. The magic is strange and tangible, and though you don’t see much of the world, you get an impression of its vastness. Live the luminous sense of listless terror made ambiance through the simple but powerful backgrounds, the eerie soundtrack, and the world’s uneasy details. Wander the palace and the city. Look on the outer world. You will be prompted to hold your breath. Look. Look away. Draw all over yourself (cue weird looks from the rest of the editorial team).


Please don’t judge my lack of art skills

You make many choices, shape the world, or does it shape you? The pull of the plot is inexorable, subtle. This is a land of monsters, of gruesome beauty, and unlike any fantasy world you’ve ever seen. You will come to feel trapped. You will come to realize you are terribly in love. With a sense of both choice and inevitability, walk through this place, the palace of the Skull Queen, her city, and see what it makes you. Find an ending as sudden and vibrant as the rest of the story, and etch each choice into your skin.

Eerie, gorgeous, and coolly violent, this story will stay with you long after the sigils you’re instructed to draw have faded.

Things you’ll need: headphones, a marker or pen.

See other people’s sigils here.


Top 5 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Picks That Are Out Of This World

Each week, Bookstr will be giving a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list.


This week we’re going back to sci-fi and fantasy.



5-The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

A writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa, Kerstin Hall’s debut novel The Boarder Keeper was released this past July 16th and, let me tell you, it’s a trip.


Kerstin Hall | Image Via Strange Horizons


This captivating read takes you on a journey through the mortal realm of Ahri and the mystical realm of Mkalis, the latter guarded by a mysterious woman dubbed “the end-of-the-line woman”. Hall beautifully blends astounding world-building with an emotionally gripping tale. Follow the hero of this tale, Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, as he comes to seek a favor from the end-of-the-line woman. With her aid, he must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.


Image Via Amazon


This premise is deceivingly simple. The novel addresses and delves into laws of order and justice, power struggles between the strong and weak, vengeance and hate, and love and sacrifice. Anyone of those themes would take up an entire novel on its own own, but this book manages to take all of those and weaves them beautifully into its story in under 300 pages. Kirkus Reviews praises Hall, calling her “a writer with the skills to create weird and wonderful worlds,” although I’d reckon that’s an understatement.


4-This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone


Amal El-Mohtar

Amal El-Mohtar | Image via Amazon


Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning author, editor, and critic. Her short story, Seasons of Glass and Iron, won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. Her poetry collection, The Honey Month, is written to the taste of twenty-eight different kinds of honey. She’s contributed to NPR Books and The New York Times.


Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone | Image via Amazon


She joins with Max Gladstone, author of the Hugo-nominated series Craft Sequence and The Ruin of Angels, the sixth book in the series. Together, this dynamic duo wrote this July 16th release: This Is How You Lose the Time War.


Image via Amar El-Mohtar


A beautifully and poetically written love story, spanning across time and multiverses. Two agents fighting on rival sides in a war across time communicate with each other through letters. What begins as a taunts and battlefield boasts, grows into something more. Something romantic and intimate, and could change the past and the future. Their relationship must remain a secret from their warring factions, otherwise it will end with not only the end of their relationship, but their very lives.

This is certainly a case of opposites attract, as Agent Red is aggressive and calculated, while Agent Blue is cultured and sophisticated, however that does work against their favor at the end of the day. Since these two women have already dug themselves deep into their chosen side of the war. Fraternizing with the enemy, what will win in the end? The war, or their love?

Publisher’s Weekly warns “[t]his short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities”.



3-The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

Image result for david wellington

Image via Amazon

David Wellington is an American author of horror fiction and is best known for his Monster Island Trilogy, but he does write science-fiction as well. In The Last Astronaut, he combines the excitement and intrigue of both genres.


The Last Astronaut

Image via Hachette Book Group


After a mission to Mars ends in disaster, Sally Jansen, NASA’s leading astronaut, hangs up her helmet and isolates herself in shame of her failure. Sally is convinced that her space days are over, until an ominous alien object enters the solar system, ceaselessly advancing toward Earth. With no time to spare and life on Earth at stake, NASA turns to Jansen as their last astronaut. This could be her shot at redemption, or it will be her demise.

“[T]his story’s got everything,” Kirkus Reviews writers, and it sure does. This thrilling space adventure will leave you on the edge of your seat with its high stakes action and terrifying dive into the unknowns of Space. What more could you want?


2-The Hounds of Justice: The Janet Watson Chronicles by Claire O’Dell


Claire O'Dell

Image via Amazon


This author’s been through it all. She grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in the years of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal, attended high school just a few miles from the house where Mary Surratt once lived and where John Wilkes Booth conspired for Lincoln to die, and has spent much of her time in the history and political science departments at college. Who knows what type of stories she could tell?

Well, I could tell you about one of them:


Image via Amazon


In this action-packed sequel to The Janet Watson Chronicles, The Hound Of Justice follows Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes as they continue their investigation into the belly of the beast that is the Brotherhood of Redemption.

After being placed on leave for going rogue during their previous adventure,Agent Holmes must to clear her name. Meanwhile, Dr. Watson has accepted a new job at Georgetown University Hospital. After a failed assassination attempt on the President’s life, Holmes decides to take on the dangerous case on her own, but subsequently disappears. This brings Dr. Watson back into action to reunite with her brilliant friend and compatriot. With the country in disarray, split by a new Civil War, the dangers for these two women lurch in every corner. To begin to bring back unity, Dr. Watson and Agent Holmes aim to crack the case and bring down the heinous Brotherhood of Redemption.

Fast-paced, action packed, and just plain cool, Kirkus Reviews sums up the novel perfectly with this single sentence: “Read it for the action scenes and savor some sweet friendship moments in between”.

1-Ascent To Godhood (The Tensorate Series) by JY Yang


JY Yang

Image via Amazon


JY Yang, who published the final installment of their genre-blending Tensorate series last month, has a new novel up for grabs…


Image via Amazon


In this fourth installment to the Tensorate series, the whole world is turned upside-down after the Protector dies. Her beloved followers are distraught, her armies lay dormant, and her enemies rise. While the world is flipped around, the Protector’s greatest enemy, Lady Han, who sought the Protector’s head for years, finds herself mourning the loss. This epic fantasy follows Lady Han’s memories the past and how their former romance fell apart.

The series is made up of four short novellas: The Red Threads of FortuneThe Black Tides of HeavenThe Descent of Monsters, with The Ascent to Godhood being the newest addition. Don’t fret, however! Publisher’s Weekly writes that this fantastical fantasy novel is a “thrilling adventure stands alone, as well as providing moving, complicated backstory for the earlier books in the series”. It was released this past July 30th, so you have no excuse not to pick it up!




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4 Upcoming Sequels and Where to Start

There are a lot of exciting sequels coming up, and if you’ve left preparation for the last minute, don’t panic: here are four forthcoming books and how you can catch before they come out!




1. When She Reigns – Jodi Meadows

When She Reigns
Image via Amazon


Where to start: Before She Ignites and its sequel As She Ascends

A lush fantasy world and slow burn plot that’ll keep you thinking until the final book on September 10th, pick up this book if you want an amazing story that’ll make you feel things. Plus you’ll love the complexity of the characters and their relationships.



2. Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell

Wayward Son
Image via Amazon


Where to start: Carry On

This series is a great take on wizard school. We start in the last year. Simon Snow’s got a lot of power, but he’s not good at using it. Also he’s pretty sure his roommate is a secret vampire. And something is eating magic in great, horrible swathes. Also, LGBTQAA+.


3. Supernova – Marissa Meyer

Image via Amazon


Where to start: Renegades and its sequel Archenemies

This is a post-Utopian urban fantasy about villainy and revenge. Superpowers, syndicates, and spy craft make this different from other entries into the genre, and you’ll find the characters awfully charming or charmingly awful. Sides are set in stone, and one person’s interests might contradict.



4. Children of Virtue and Vengeance  – Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Image via Amazon


Where to start: Children of Blood and Bone

Magic and it’s users were killed off by ruthless invaders, but now there’s one chance to bring it back. To do so will require crossing territory filled with beasts and magic, side by side with an enemy, but the greatest struggle may be controlling the magic that’s left.



Featured image via Hope Walks Blog

3 Independent Web Comic Serials Worth the Wait

We’re living in a golden age of graphic novels, and serials give you your comic fix while also taking you back to the days when you had to wait a month between Full Metal Alchemist chapters. Dark times. There are plenty of great platforms for web comics nowadays, but here are a few that are doing it on their own.



1. Ava’s Demon

Image via Patreon


Sci-fi, ghosts, and a whole lot of fire – this comic has it all! Ava Ire, haunted by a malicious ghost all her life, lives on a boarding school planet for the god-emperor TITAN, until raiders attack and she’s forced to flee. When her escape goes wrong, she’s forced to make a pact with the very entity she’s been trying to resist all her life, but that’s just the beginning. Ava is a flawed character you’ll still adore, and the blend of science fiction and fantasy is seamlessly elegant. Plus the art is outrageously beautiful.




2. Vattu

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This is the story of Vattu, a small creature from a tribe of nomadic musicians, who are given to a colonizing empire as tribute. A servant in the palace, Vattu gets into more than she expects to when she stumbles across secret plots, cults, and strange magics. This is high fantasy at it’s best, original, high stakes, and immersive, in a world that’s not really like anything you’ve seen. The art is simple and evocative, and the plot steady and surprising.




3. Barbarous

Image via JohnnyWander


This urban fantasy centers around Persephone, a young woman who can’t control her magic. Considered a liability, she’s unemployed and couch surfing, until an attempted act of kindness and a chance encounter lead to a job that prizes her for her unruly magic and difficult personality. The world is sparse and believable, the art is stylized, and the color manages to convey urban blight without actually being monochrome. Persephone is instantly likable, and her world is seamlessly supernatural.



Featured image via Roblox

Summer Flings – 5 Fantasy Standalones

As the summer draws to a close, here’s a list of the five best fantasy books you just have to read before autumn arrives! All these books aren’t set in the summer, but they’re still the perfect thing to pick up, no strings attached! Whether you like paranormal, high fantasy, or light horror, you’ll find the perfect book to read in the sun (without falling asleep).



Uprooted – Naomi Novik


Image via Amazon


If you’re not reading Novik yet, then you’re missing out! This is the perfect standalone to get you started. Set on the outskirts of a terrifyingly magical forest, this book has a dragon (arguably), an unexpected heroine, plenty of violence, and even more magic. If you want a glorious modern story with the feel of a classic fantasy, you’re going to love this book. It’s also got sense, heart, and writing that’ll make you wonder why anyone else even tries.


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Image via Amazon


Black writes a lot of different moods, so if you read fantasy you’ve probably encountered her. The Coldest Girl is and isn’t like anything else. Whether you’re over vampires or completely obsessed, give this book a try. A strong, sensible heroine who never the less gets drawn into danger and horror she thought she’d escaped, this book has both the elegance and horror of the genre, the obsession and the disinterest, as well as characters who step off the page.


Deep Secret – Danna Wynne Jones


Deep Secret
Image via Amazon


Jones is also outrageously prolific. Even if you haven’t read any of her work, you’ve probably seen the Miyazaki adaptation of one of her novels, Howl’s Moving Castle. This is something slightly different, but with Jones’ dry humor, sense of tangible magic, and deeply flawed characters you’ll still absolutely love. Royal succession, a secret magical society, and a digital curse make this book a classic, even if you may not know all the retro computer terms.



The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff


The Replacement
Image via Amazon


You probably don’t know Yovanoff, but you might want to. This book is a little gruesome, but only in the way some old fairy tales are. Sometimes children in Gentry are taken, and Mackie Doyle is what was left. Exploring sacrifice, familial love, and what it means to be different, this is an unusual book that’s worth your consideration. The protagonist is complex, and teeters between selfishness and alarming selflessness. My advice? Read it with the lights on.



The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien


The Hobbit
Image via Amazon


It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or haven’t even seen any of the movies, The Hobbit is self-contained novel that stands on its own. This book is sweet, engaging, frighting, and funny. If you like modern fantasy, here’s it’s start. If you love Tolkien, you know this is a great read and reread,  and if you never got into Tolkien and were too afraid to ask, this is a great place to start. Plus, they put the most gorgeous covers on this book now.



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