the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Vintage SciFi

 

Robots have no Tails, by Henry Kuttner

 

What fun this collection was!  I never know what to expect with pulp fiction, will it be good? Will it be super dated? Will I get the references?  

 

Ok, sure, I’m sure there were some references I missed, as these were written in the 1940s. But? They were great!  And hilarious!  Kuttner’s Galloway Gallagher jumps off the page, even as he’s passing out on the sofa from having had too much to drink.  And you don’t want Gallagher to stop drinking, because it’s only when he’s shitfaced drunk does he invent the wildest things . . .  . 

 

Gallagher sounds like the kind of character an author would make up during a drinking game with friends, maybe at a scifi convention. Imagine a talented inventor, who makes amazing machines and robots out of what’s laying around his lab (the original McGuyver?), but the inventor can only invent things when he’s absolutely drunk.  Sober, he can barely change a lightbulb, and has no memory of what he created the night before. Gallagher often wakes up surrounded by wild inventions that he has no memory of being contracted to create. . . screwball comedy ensues! 

 

This volume of all the Gallagher stories has an introduction by Paul Wilson, and also an introduction by Kuttner’s wife C.L. Moore. Wilson talks about the environment in which these stories were written, and Moore talks about their life when Kuttner was writing the Gallagher stories, and how the drafts made her laugh so hard she was worried about disturbing their neighbors. 

 

“Time Locker” is the first story in the volume, and considered the “least Gallagher” of the bunch, but it was one of my favorites.  Gallagher has invented a weird locker-thing, that you can put something in the locker and it disappears, but then you can pull it out again. A perfect place for a crook on the run to hide the documents that will incriminate him!  With crooks and lawyers stopping in at all hours of the day at Gallagher’s lab, how is he supposed to be able to concentrate to figure what this darn locker-thing actually does, and why he created it? This story has an absolutely fantastic twist at the end! 

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In 1932, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first of what would be five Venus novels, starring Carson Napier.  Napier had thought he was navigating towards Mars, but one wrong calculation took him to Venus!  Called Amtor by the natives, the planet is covered in a thick cloud cover. Napier’s adventures on Venus include earning the love of Princess Duare, piracy, getting involved in politics, rescuing people, dealing with classism, daring escapes, and generally having as many adventures as can possibly be crammed into a sword and planet pulp novel.

There were only five Carson of Venus novels. . .   until now!

 

The Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe is relaunching the Carson of Venus series!  The pulping characters from yesteryear, written , well, today!   Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts will be available this spring.

I realize this isn’t strictly Vintage Science Fiction, since Betts’ book is being published now. But? I was SO CURIOUS to know how and why Betts wrote this! And how in the heck would a contemporary writer write in the style of pulp fiction from the 1930s and 1940’s?   So, like any good blogger, I asked him.  You can learn more about Matt Betts at his website, or by following him on twitter @Betts_Matt. Check out all the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe books and comics here.

Wanna know if you need to read the original Carson of Venus stories to enjoy this new one?  Wanna know about Betts’ adventures in writing canon in someone else’s world?  What about the stickier issues of modernizing pulp fiction?  Of course you want to know! read on!

Little Red Reviewer: Who is Carson of Venus, and how did you get involved with writing in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe?

Matt Betts: Carson Napier is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of novels that were first published in 1932. Burroughs originally wrote four novels and a novella with the character, and started another book but abandoned it with the outbreak of World War II, when he became a war correspondent.

Carson is an earth man that built a rocket to fly to Mars. Unfortunately, he miscalculated one vital factor, which throws him off course and eventually lands him on Venus, or Amtor as the inhabitants call it. Carson is a little different from other pulp heroes of the time in that he isn’t infallible, and is a little more thoughtful in his plans.

I got involved through the new Director of Publications, Christopher Paul Carey. I’d submitted some work to him when he was with another company, and he remembered my writing. When he was hired on at ERB, Inc., he contacted me and discussed his ideas to continue some of Burroughs’ stories. This was exciting enough, but the plan was to make these canonical additions to Burroughs’ series. The idea of being part of these worlds was really too interesting to pass up. We discussed how the series would start and decided Carson would be a wonderful launch for the new series he had planned.

LRR: What went through your head, as you started reading ERB’s original Carson of Venus books, and comparing his writing style to yours?

MB: It was daunting to be sure. I mean it’s one thing to say I’d love to write a Edgar Rice Burroughs book, but sitting down to actually do it is a whole other matter. There’s a lot of expectation riding on new work in an established series by a pulp legend.

Reading ERB’s work was a big part of preparing to write the book. I read the Carson books first, of course, to get a feel for the series and the characters, but I also read most of the John Carter of Mars books and a few others to really get Burroughs’ style. After that, I read the Venus books again (and again.) While they didn’t ask me to emulate Burroughs exactly in my book, I did have a few directives from ERB, Inc. that included sticking to Burroughs’ point of view for the series, keeping to their spirit, and his storytelling conventions.

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Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Ib Melchior and John C. Higgings, starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West, 110 minutes long.

 

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Robinson Crusoe on Mars.  I knew this movie was from the 60s,  I knew it was a modernized/scifi version of Defoe’s 18th century novel Robinson Crusoe, and I knew this movie filmed and released before we actually knew what the surface of Mars was really like.  And that’s all I knew. 

 

 

I wasn’t expecting a good movie. 

 

And you know what? Compared to movies that came out in the last ten years, well, yes, Robinson Crusoe on Mars sucks.  BUT. like many classic works, you have to adapt your lens, to see it the way people at the time may have seen it.   Once I realized this movie wasn’t about about being stranded on a realistic Mars, but a movie about a man who was stranded somewhere inhospitable, and what he went through to survive, the movie and the story gets far more enjoyable. And the special effects were pretty darn good for the time! So check your 2020 expectations at the doors, folks.

 

Did you read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in high school? I didn’t, and had to look it up on Wikipedia.  The big plot points of the original are fairly straightforward – experienced sailor gets shipwrecked and makes it to an island where he believes he is alone. How to survive if no one comes looking for him because no one knows he’s alive? Yeah, anyway, he finds that cannibals are using this island to kill their prisoners. One of their prisoners escapes, and he and Crusoe become allies. Not being able to understand the man’s language, Crusoe names him Friday and starts trying to convert the guy to Christianity. Friday is viewed as a loyal servant. They save more of the prisoners and kill the cannibals.  Eventually they are rescued.  

 

Knowing the plot of the original Robinson Crusoe makes plot moments in this movie make SO MUCH MORE SENSE, I’m just sayin’! 

 

What Robinson Crusoe on Mars does very, VERY well, is showing the desolation and loneliness that Kit Draper is facing on Mars.  With only the friendly monkey Mona for company, Kit has to stave off the fears that no one knows how to find him, and that he may never hear another human’s voice again, or see another human again, and there’s a very high chance that he will die alone and far from home.  The scenes of him just walking, and walking, and walking, on desolate plains that are completely devoid of life were quite effective.  The hobbies he invents, to cope with all the nothingness, were relatable in this current day and age of social distancing.

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Welcome to Vintage Science Fiction Month!

 

 

Right out of the gate we have some excellent reviews and blog posts:

 

John at SciFi Mind posted his Vintage Month reading list, I’m most looking forward to John’s reviews of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven, and C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories.

H.P. at Everyday Should be Tuesday got started a few hours early with a fun review of the time travel romp Lest Darkness Fall, by L. Sprague de Camp. Double entry accounting? really?  (I tease!)

Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog has a truly gorgeous cover art gallery of   Be sure to grab her January schedule of themed cover art tags.

John at WikiFiction has a fantastic review of A Case of Conscience by James Blish. I had no idea Blish was a biologist, i love learning new things!  Alien biology, evolution, and religion? that’s a firm YES from me!

Starship CoffeeCake (what a great twitter name!) has plans to reread Larry Niven’s Ringworld. I hope they live-tweet their reading adventure!

If you’re still building your January TBR, GW recommends Galactic Sybil Sue Blue by Rosel George Brown.  She’s a mad, mod heroine!

Joseph’s first read of the month is Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock, a title and author I’m not familiar with, so now I’m even more curious to read Joseph’s thoughts on this book!

And if you’re looking for some issues of Astounding Magazine, where you can read famous stories in their very first printing, Astronaut LeTigre offered the perfect link to the Internet Archive’s section on Astounding.

 

We’re only ten hours into Vintage Month and the party is already hopping! If I’m able to hop online later tonight, I’ll update this post with more links as I find them.

I’m knee deep is some Henry Kuttner stories, and working on a review of R.U.R.  Stay groovy my friends!

 

 

2020,  don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, m’kay?

The leaves are turning, the wind is kicking up, the temperature is plummeting, I’m making autumn food and planning for Thanksgiving.

 

that means it’s time to start planning Vintage Science Fiction Month with my co-host Jacob from Red Star Reviews!

 

Every January I go back in time and read/watch/listen to science fiction and fantasy that was created before 1979.  Why 1979?  it’s the year I was born.  You can choose to read/watch/listen to spec fic from before 1979, or from before the year you were born. Up to you!

 

Everyone involved with Vintage month spends January blogging, booktubing, tweeting, insta’ing, FBing, and booksta’ing about the vintage scifi they’ve been reading. We use super modern technology to talk about super old stuff!  If you read a Vintage book and you loved it, we want to hear about it! Did you watch a really old TV show or movie, or listen to an old radio play? We wanna hear about it!  Maybe that vintage book you are reading, it just isn’t doing it for you. maybe it didn’t age well? We wanna hear about it!   Use the hashtag #VintageScifiMonth on all the socials,  and if you’re on twitter, follow us at @VintageSciFi_ .

 

Years past have had bingo cards, blind-date-with-a-Vintage-book, giveways, read alongs, and more.  Not entirely sure yet what this year will bring!  What would you like to see?

 

I’ve got something different that I’m doing this January. Typically, I’d buy or borrow a ton of old paperbacks. I have a ton of old paperbacks that I bought used, over the years. Here’s the thing though – many of these books smell like they were in grandma’s basement for 40 years. My old-lady sinuses just aren’t having it anymore. If I open a book, and get an instant migraine because the book is musty or moldy . . .  I’m not gonna read it.

 

My big change for this January is I’m giving my sinuses a break from moldy old books. Everything I read for Vintage month this year will be a relatively new printing that wasn’t in grandma’s basement for 60 years, or a digital copy.  I have a copy of the Big Book of Science Fiction and the Big Book of Fantasy (edited by the Vandermeers) both of which have a ton of obscure short stories from befre 1979, I’m gonna go crazy downloading old stuff from Project Gutenberg, and there’s a good chance I’ll be buying some e-books of older anthologies.  Yes, I said e-books!   Yes, I have spent the last ten years railing against e-books and complaining about them . .  and I plan to spend at least the next ten years bitching and complaining about them. But? when given the choice between a musty, moldy, ratty paperback that gives me an insta-headache. . .  and an e-book, I’ll take the e-book.

 

I’m counting down the days till January!

I discovered this wonderful short story in The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.  I did some research on the author, and learned about her incredible legacy. Read the story because it’s fun,  learn about Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein (also known as Begum Rokheya) because she’s freaking amazing.

 

 

One of the many wonderful things about fiction that’s older than 100 years old, is that you can often read  it for free, online.  If a fifty pound anthology isn’t for you,  you can read “Sultana’s Dream” at Strange Horizons, where they reprinted the story as part of a series on Utopias.

 

Because all science fiction (and a lot of art) is a reaction and reflection of the time in which it was written,  here are a few contextual things you might want to know before you read “Sultana’s Dream”.

  • Begum Rokheya was born in 1880,  in what is now known as Bangladesh, and at the time was British India
  • She is considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal
  • She was raised in an intellectual, multi-lingual home that was wealthy but also very traditional.  This combination meant that she learned Arabic and Urdu, and then English and Bengali.
  • You may want to understand what purdah is. (or not. up to you)

 

Reading this story sent me down a google rabbit hole of the phrase “gender-flip”.  That term has to be fairly new, right?  hahahaha, NO.    I love that gender-flipping has been having a moment for the last, oh, 20 years,  but the concept has been around for quite a while.   My brain is also going down the rabbit hole of “what was social media way back when?”  more on that at the end of this post.

 

“Sultana’s Dream” plays with gender flipping (and women’s rights!),  with the idea that in this Indian Utopia,  the women run the country and the men are kept in seclusion.

 

The plot goes like this:   Sultana is drowsing away the afternoon,  when a woman walks into her room and invites her out for a walk.   Sultana at first thinks the woman is her friend Sister Sara,  but later realizes the woman is a stranger.   Upon leaving Sultana’s home, they end up where not-Sister Sara lives,  and Sultana states that  she feels weird walking around in public unveiled, as she is a purdahnishin.

 

The rest of the story  is not-Sister Sara explaining to Sultana how her women-run world, called Ladyland, came to be.  A young Queen insisted that all women in the country have access to education,  thus women’s universities were started.   The women’s universities used their discoveries and inventions for the good of the whole community, while the men stayed focused on military might.  The men insisted that the inventions that came out of the women’s university’s were nice, but nothing compared to the value or importance of military strength and other men’s work.

 

When the country finds themselves on the losing side of a war,  the Queen and her female advisors come up with a plan, which I won’t spoil.   They win the war, and in the process transform the country into one where women can be in public unveiled, and the men are kept in seclusion.  When the men ask to be let out of seclusion, the Queen’s response is “if their services should ever be needed, they would be sent for, and that in the meanwhile they would remain where they were”.

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We’re about  a week into Vintage month,  and it’s been so wonderful so far!  There’s been wonderful discussions in comments sections,  chit chat on twitter,  cool stuff happening every where!

 

I catch the posts I can, so anything i missed, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

 

Howling Frog Books is having a blast using the Vintage SciFi Month bingo card, and has reviewed Spock Must Die by James Blish, Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison, and Exiled from Earth by Ben Bova. Three reviews in a week?  Yikes, I gotta up my game!

 

Bookforager has a  beautifully written review of Driftglass by Samuel R Delany. Srsly, if you have not read his work, you are missing out!

 

Eclectic Theist enjoys Past Master by R.A. Lafferty, with bonus recommendations in the comments section.

 

Kristen Brand has a blast talking about her favorite Vintage Scifi tropes. What are you favorite vintage scifi tropes? which ones annoy you?

 

Wiki Fiction offers a very indepth look at Stanislaw Lem’s fiction, and primarily the frustration with Solaris.  I too was frustrated, but as luck would have it, I ended up being OK with how it ends.

 

Judith Tarr (yes, that Judith Tarr!)  is over at Tor.com talking about reading Andre Norton’s Quag Keep.  Fantasy fiction certainly wasn’t new in the last 70s, but Dungeons and Dragons was.

 

Sara Light-Waller has an excellent profile of Captain Future, at PulpFest.   the mythos of Captain Future goes back to the first Worldcon, how cool is that?

 

Still looking for Vintage recommendations?  Prepare to have your TBR explode. Not only does Joachim Boaz have a list of excellent Vintage Scifi recommendations, he’s got an entire website, Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations that is 99.99% Vintage Scifi Goodness!

 

I know I missed plenty of links. Help a girl out and put them in the comments?  you can also tweet them to @VintageSciFi_ 

 

What Vintage scifi posts have been popping up in the blogosphere?  So much good stuff, I can’t even keep track of it all!

 

My VintageSciFi Month co-host Jacob at Red Star Reviews has something to say about Gordon Dickson’s Wolfling.  I agree a million percent on the joy that is sparked by the greenish edges of so many vintage-y paperbacks.

 

In case you missed it a few days ago, I was over at Every Day Should Be Tuesday talking about C.L. Moore’s groundbreaking stories Shambleau and Black God’s Kiss. Hard to believe both of these stories were written in the 30s!   Check out the post just for the photo that Justin posted, I really am little and red in that photo!

 

Tip The Wink‘s Forgotten Book feature is Space Tug by Murray Leinster. I appreciate that Richard mentions that this book is realistic with the knowledge and scientific development of the early 1950s in mind.

 

Jean at Howling Frog had a tough time deciding which titles to read first on her Ace Double.  Good thing she enjoyed both Kar Kaballa by George Henry Smith. Unfortunately The Tower of Medusa by Lin Carter was a disappointment.  Ya’ll, read this blog post just for her entertaining take down of Tower of Medusa!

 

Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations (have you seen his cover art gallery? go look at it, right now!) reviews A City in the North by Marta Randall, which takes story telling in the direction of anthropology and relationships between humans and aliens.

 

SFF Book Reviews had a lot to say about Ursula K Le Guin’s quietly powerful The Left Hand of Darkness.  speaking of, I’m due for a reread of this novel that is completely different every time I read it.

 

Dinara Tengra has an excellent summary of Clifford Simak’s titles. If you keep hearing about Simak but don’t know where to start,  start with Dinara’s post!  (My fave is Way Station, btw)

 

And speaking of Way StationKaedrin has an excellent review that talks about the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, along with some commentary about what Way Station was up against that year for the Hugo award. It won against Cat’s Cradle?  WHAT.

 

Beamer Books has a concise and informative article on some Andre Norton titles, and the connection between Andre Norton and Martha Wells.

 

Planetary Defense Command reviews John Brunner’s Secret Agent of Terra, a novel that discusses how higher tech civilizations should interact with lower tech civilizations.  Years before Star Trek, Brunner was discussing The Prime Directive.

 

Galactic Journey discusses The Wonder War by Laurence Janifer, along with some biographical info about the author. Unfortunately, this specific title by Janifer did not impress.

 

I KNOW I missed some excellent Vintage posts from the last 10 days or so.  Leave links in the comments, so the rest of us can find them too!

 

Updated to add:

PC Bushi enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core, and compares it to A Princess of Mars

 

Howling Frog Books had a great time with A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clark, enjoying the balance between solving scientific problems, and keeping human problems at bay

 

On the other hand, Bookforager did NOT have a good time with Philip Jose Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go (I’m pretty sure I DNF’d this one)

 

With only a few hours to go in the month of January, yet MORE UPDATES! yay! These updates include reviews that are linked to in the comments below.

Richard at Tip the Wink enjoyed Islands in the Sky by Arthur Clarke, in which a TV quiz show winner gets to visit the Inner Station and experience zero G for a few weeks.  I’m intruiged by the idea of the Inner Station, it is low Earth orbit, and I’m interested to see what future technology Clarke predicts in this book. It’s got some great Vintage cover art too!

 

According to Who’s Dreaming Who, Fritz Leiber’s Hugo award winning The Big Time starts out entertaining if a little basic, and then takes a surprising left turn into Locked-room mystery territory.  I’ve only read a bit of Leiber’s fantasy, I’m interested to see what he does with science fiction!

 

Although dated and lacking in characterization, Mervi thought H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was worth the time.  Mervi also enjoyed Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth,  where people discuss the scientific ideas of the day, and then manly men go on an adventure complete with imaginative creatures.

 

Dinara Tengri gave John W. Campell’s Who Goes There a try, and found it suffered from death by adjectives, but was able to get past that. Report from Dinara is that John Carpenter’s The Thing is fairly loyal to the source material! (a movie that is loyal to the book? when was the last time that happened?)

 

Tor.com talks about my favorite Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s been at least four years since I read this, definitely time for a re-read. Why knot, you know?

 

 

 

Welcome to our last week of #VintageSciFi discussions.

There are some excellent conversations going on in the comments sections, and it’s never too late to join in. Here are links to the discussions posts from earlier this month:

Topic for Jan 6 – Jan 12:  I just dated myself.

Topic for Jan 13 – Jan 19:  Gateway Drug to Vintage.

Topic for Jan 20 – Jan 26: Why is this important to you?

 

for our final week of Vintage Science Fiction month, we’re doing something fun. Let’s talk about cover art! the good, the bad, the weird, and the WTF.  Before going further, I need to give a huge shout out to Joachim at Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations, who has a ginormous index of Vintage Cover Art.  There are also cover art galleries available at The Future Is Female, and this rather random but still enjoyable SciFi Books Flickr group gallery. DECADES of wonderful and weird cover art!  because do you judge a book by it’s cover? I know I do.

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Let’s discuss!

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Topic for Jan 27 – Jan 31: That’s, um, interesting.  Post your favorite Vintage Cover art. Post the weirdest cover art you can find. Post Vintage cover art that makes you want to pick the book up, post vintage cover art that makes you say WTF?

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Be warned, this post is just a gigantic gallery of Vintage cover art (loading my be slow) and my comments on the artwork. Based on the cover art, would you pick up this book?   If you’ve read these titles, does the cover art have anything to do with the story?

 

If you’ve got Vintage SciFi Cover art that you love, or cover art that is so weird you’re not sure what to think about it, put a link to the image in the comments.

What a striking image!! But I don’t think that’s what Jirel was wearing??

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This 1962 artwork looks right out of the mid 80s

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my favorite Waystation Cover Art. first time I saw this cover art, I didn’t even notice the little farmhouse.

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um, what??

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Lem’s The Cyberiad is freakin’ fantastic! Love this Monty Python-esque cover art!


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This week’s discussion topic is:

Topic for Jan 20 – Jan 26: Why is this important to you?   Why are you interested in reading Vintage SciFi? What do you get out of it?

With so many new books coming out every year, why even bother reading older science fiction?

Is there value in reading older science fiction?  Is it worth your time?

Why even read this stuff?

 

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the past five years.  Reading older science fiction, for me, is like taking the world’s most fun history class. I get to see what life was like in the 60s, the 40s, the 30s, and before 1900, through the eyes of speculative fiction.     Because I can’t think of a way to phrase it better, I’m going to plagarize myself from a Vintage SciFi blog post I wrote in 2016:

If you could ask your great grandparents what their life was like when they were growing up, you would, right?

If you could go back in time and see what your country and your family were like before social media took over the universe, you’d be interesting in seeing what the world was like, right?

This January, you can. This January, I invite you to travel through time with me. Travel into the past, look into the youthful eyes of your great grandparents. See what came before so we could have what we have now.

Ok, maybe not time travel exactly. . . but sort of.

Everything comes from somewhere. You came from your parents, duh. But who are the parents of your favorite science fiction books? I’ll tell you: the parents of your favorite science fiction books are the books that author read to be inspired and to dream. And those books have parents too. If you don’t like me using the word “book parents” here, how about “the author’s influences”? Something they were influenced and inspired by to create something new and modern.

By reading older fiction, you get to see how that fiction progressed to get to where it is today. You get to experience the family tree, as it were, of speculative fiction.

Ok, that’s my two cents.

What are yours?


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.