SciFi/Fantasy

In the Vanishers’ Palace – Aliette de Bodard

In the Vanishers’ Palace - Aliette de BodardYên, scholar and healer’s daughter, feels worthless and unworthy, knowing her place in the village is tenuous and her value low. When her mother summons the magic of the dragon to save the village leaders daughter from a fatal virus, Yen is not surprised when the all powerful village elders sacrifice her to the dragon.

But rather than being torn apart Yênfinds herself in the Vanisher’s Palace, servant to the dragon Vu Côn and teacher to her teenage children. As the attraction grows between Yên

and Vu Côn both must learn some hard lessons; Yên that she is worthy, Vu Côn that her power dos not make her right.

This is, undoubtedly, an unusual take on the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Set in post-apocalyptic Vietnam and infused with Viet language and customs, we are transported to a version of the world where a cruel and heartless race of aliens, the Vanishers, have come, abused, tested and broken the world, leaving behind them fantasy palaces and mutating gene viruses. They have also left behind magic, the magic of words, a little of which remains with the healers and the one remaining dragon, Vu Côn.

Aliette de Bodard’s writing is exquisite, lyrical, flowing, pure poetry in prose form. The descriptions, both physical and emotional, leave you with vivid mental images; from the village with its poverty and minimalist survival to the Escher like Palace with its magic powers and fantasy proportions, and the horror of the Plague Grove, you cannot read this and be untouched.

Ethics and integrity play a fundamental role in the telling of the tale, from the abuse of power to the nature of real power, the treatment of a subservient race to the place of servants and the role of masters. And, unlike in the original fairy-tale, the consequence of abduction and virtual slavery is questioned and challenged. Even the happy ever after we would expect remains a completely unknown quantity until the very end, because in this cruel world what could possibly be a happy ever after.

This isn’t the easiest read, at times it is a steep learning curve to catch the sense of the complex worldbuilding and customs. It challenges the reader to learn, adapt and follow, while also giving an intricate and very adult take on the morals of a world torn apart and the people scraping by to survive.

It’s not something I would normally pick up, but I am glad I have read it and been introduced to this amazing author and her wonderful prose.



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Product info:

  • Paperback: 145 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: JABberwocky (October 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H43M4KT
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Resilience – Fletcher DeLancey

Resilience – Fletcher DeLanceyFollowing on immediately from “Outcaste” Rahel Sayana achieves her dream as she joins a Protectorate warship and becomes the first Alsean in space. She has a lot to live up to; the code of a warrior, the shame of her mistakes, the trust of those who forgave her, and the reputation of Alsea all rest on her shoulders.

As Captain Serrado leads her crew on their first tour with Sayana aboard they must all adjust to having an empath among them. The crew think she’s spying, she thinks she is failing, and Serrado must find a balance in using both her physical and emotional abilities. When the Phoenix is threatened by an unknown lifeform the whole crew must pull together as a team, and Sayana becomes the key to their survival.

Sometimes it’s hard to write reviews about long series because I run out of superlatives. Fletcher DeLancey’s Alseaseries is simply one of the best sci-fi series I have read, and continues to amuse, delight and fascinate as it has developed. The writing flows, the descriptions are creative and emotive, the characters have become friends we can’t wait to catch up with and the whole is a wonderful combination of exquisite world building, social observation and action adventure.

Resilience follows on from the previous 6, equally as strong, maintaining the standard, and yet taking us into a new experience as we travel on the Phoenix with her crew. The primary characters continue to develop while we meet new ones who become part of the core of these tales, because while they are action adventures they are also about the psychological behaviours and social interactions of the players in each adventure.

It would stand alone, but why deny yourself the pleasure of the whole… start with “The Caphenon” and enjoy the amazing world and wonderful characters Fletcher DeLancey has created. I have every intention of rereading the set on a regular basis.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

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Product info:

  • Paperback: 399 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Heartsome (October 31, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07JMWR96F
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Isle of Broken Years – Jane Fletcher

Isle of Broken Years – Jane FletcherCatalina de Valasco, daughter of a powerful Spanish Count, is on her way to the America’s to marry a man she has never met; just part of the life of a seventeenth century noblewoman. Life changes dramatically when the ship she is on gets taken by pirates, and she is suddenly at the mercy of a bunch of cutthroat men who haven’t seen a woman in months.

In an effort to protect her the Captain puts her ashore with the cabin boy and a couple of sailors more interested in each other than her, while they wait for the ransom to be paid by her husband to be. Unfortunately for the Captain and his crew the island they found was in what we now call the Bermuda Triangle and here the real adventure begins.

This is an unusual story which definitely falls into 2 sections, the adventure at sea and the mystery on the island. The first is a more typical build up and sets the scene for both the role and actions of several characters in the later part of the story. The island takes us to a setting that is sci-fi/fantasy in nature but feels almost paranormal with the ongoing influence of the ancients shaping the lives of the islanders. Add in ongoing action adventure, murder mystery and romance and you begin to see why it’s hard to describe.

The group trapped on the island form an interesting mix, and their backgrounds and personalities form the core of a well-drawn ensemble piece. Each takes a role and plays a part, from stoic hero to warrior philosopher, lover to murderer. The characters are lightly drawn but stay in the mind as we root for them to succeed in their quest. The romance is definitely a secondary plotline, it adds an empathy to the main character but takes a back seat to Catalina’s ‘coming out’ as a scholar and adventurer. Her journey from reserved, stuck-up and self-important Condesa to Greek translating computer expert is well done.

An interesting story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Curious mix, intriguing concept, it captured my interest and kept me hooked. The descriptions are vivid and the island literally came to life in the in the imagination. Love it or hate it you can’t help but want to know what happens next.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (October 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H9DZ4XL
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Chosen – Brey Willows

Chosen - Brey WillowsPicked up by a military convoy Devin and Karissa leave all they know behind without knowing why they’ve been selected. They soon realise all the “Chosen” are scientists, many interconnected, but nobody will tell them where they are going or why. When the convoy is attacked by rebels looking for food supplies the scientists learn the truth, that they have been selected to leave the dying planet and start a new colony to save a tiny portion of humanity. The scientists must choose; where to go, who to be, and what their growing attraction is worth.

This is an absolutely excellent example of speculative dystopian fiction which is, unfortunately, all too obviously possible given the current climate change, pollution and declining effectiveness of penicillin. The fact that it is routed in a future we can easily imagine makes it frighteningly real both in terms of the effects of our current lifestyles and the political machinations of self-interested government.

The main characters are both excellent; sympathetic, interesting, intelligent, well rounded within the context of their situation. Both must deal with hard issues and make hard decisions about their future, their colleagues and each other. Their physical chemistry is great, the slow burn romance which follows behind is a wonderful read, and a great cliff-hanger to match the will they – won’t they of the Chosen. The wider cast is well drawn, with depth and variety from the mad scientist to the humanist rebels, they add emotional complexity to the tale.

Earth itself plays a huge role in the story with imaginative descriptive scenes; from the beauty of nature to the tension of the life-threatening weather and the way humanity has found to survive – so far. The settings feel authentic, the details are credible and pull you into the reality these people inhabit, adding hugely to the veracity of the world building. Willows’ writing will simply transport you into this future version of our world.

I loved the plot, complex and layered yet clearly and straightforwardly laid out, if that isn’t an oxymoron. It, like the characters and the setting, is full of small subplots and mysteries which add to the whole rather than distract from the core. And all this is enhanced by the science; it felt real, the processes and interpretation of evidence, the ethics and soul-searching.

Whether you like fantasy or not you should give this book a go. The romance is spot on, the world building excellent and the whole is just speculative fiction at its best. I loved Brey Willows’ “Afterlife Inc” trilogy but this is on a whole new level and I sincerely hope there might be a sequel. I’m giving it a very rare 5 stars from me and can’t recommend it highly enough.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07GGVBZN8
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2′ – Bev Prescott

2 degrees - Bev PrescottIt’s 2092 and the world order has collapsed. Climate change has led to famine, drought and immense changes in the climate. Disease has ravaged humanity; the animal and plant population have been decimated by disease. In Boston hordes of angry, violent and scared people queue for a daily food hand out. In Chicago they queue for a chance to collect uncontaminated water. Neither population know that the last ice cliff is about the fall and take out the sea level populations the government has abandoned to their fate.

Across the maelstrom of the Boston streets Sharon and Eve must get to Dr Ryan, Eve’s only chance of getting the leukaemia treatment she so desperately needs. When they stop to help a starving child the army grabs Eve because of her Asian heritage; the government has issued orders for all Asians to report to an internment camp in Chicago. Despite her determination to rescue her wife, Sharon lets Dr Ryan talk her into leaving it to him and returns to their farm in Maine. But when bandits target the farm she soon sets out west to search for her wife and becomes embroiled in a power struggle that will affect the future of humanity.

This is an epic combination of DUF, action adventure and science fiction. The world is one we can clearly recognise as a possible future if the worst-case scenario comes true, with the decline of the bees, the failure of antibiotics and the melting of the icecaps. World wars over food and water resources, countries redrawn into gigantic territories, uncaring governments who simply cannot feed or protect the general population. Only those with money or a special resource or skillset have value.

Sharon, central to all, is as deeply flawed as any, believing in her moral compass she has to recognise that when it comes to survival she will go way beyond what she thought were her boundaries to survive and save her wife. Having led a somewhat sheltered life, despite losing her parents to the plague, her brothers to violence and betrayal, she has not really faced the extremes of survival in a completely hostile environment.

A wide cast from brainiac survivalists fighting to save what remains of the world to evil megalomaniacs, from lost children to grieving mother figures, makes for interesting reading and a wide gamut of emotions from hope to beyond despair. Sharon moves through all of them on her journey to save Eve, and each touches and impacts her life, bringing out both her humanity and the extremities of her will to complete her almost quest like journey.

The world creation is impressive, horrendous and yet fascinating, calling up our worst fears for the future. Prescot has created a future of nightmare vision yet one we can, unfortunately, imagine coming true. The landscape literally plays a role in the plot and we can never forget that the earth is central to the tale.

I have to admit there were a couple of points which pushed my suspension of disbelief. I found the story of earth’s destruction and the human behaviours it triggered so realistic that the leaps of faith were a little too far-fetched. It’s a hard ask to mix something so credible, based in the reality we know could happen, with science-fiction level futuristic technology, the former was so completely believable that the later didn’t gel for me. But they didn’t distract from the overall story of human endeavour to survive both the environmental meltdown and the evil of a deranged man.

Fast paced, breathless energy, extremely well written and faultlessly edited, this was an exhilarating read and I literally couldn’t put it down.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

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Product info:

  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B079JY9CKV
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Compass Rose – Anna Burke

Compass Rose – Anna BurkeThe first novel by Anna Burke, and what a great start. Set in 2513 this dystopian fantasy, in the lesbian pirate sub-genre, was hard to put down. Imagine a world where the ice has melted, all that’s left are Archipelagos of land, food is scarce, medicines more so, fuel is made from sludge, the seas are polluted and in some places the air is worse.

Introduce the young fleet navigator, Compass Ross, born facing north and always aware of her direction, she has an uncanny, almost psychic ability to tell where she is, predict currents and speed, and has quickly become a most prized tool for the Archipelago’s fleet Admiral. Sent on an undercover mission to work with the renegade pirate Miranda, Compass Rose’s task is to help the pirate Captain find the megalomaniac Ramada, who is determined to take over the Archipelago’s resources for her own gain.

Combine fast-paced action with swashbuckling adventure, a “will they- won’t they” romance, great dystopian world building and a wide-eyed and innocent main character coming to terms with a cut-throat world and Anna Burke has created a real page-turner.

Compass Rose is adorable, naive, trusting and completely unaware of her value. She is used, threatened, supported and occasionally befriended by a wide range of characters which make this a huge ensemble piece. From the wily Admiral and her honest daughter to the bullies, murderers and haters of both the fleet and pirate ships, Compass must learn fast. Add in the seemingly hard-nosed but entrancing Captain Miranda, and the even nastier baddie, Ramada, and we have every shade of character on the spectrum.

I found the writing intriguing, the tone and energy were different to the standard lesfic novel, and I don’t remember reading anything quite like this in the sci-fi fantasy genre; definitely a new voice and a unique style. The world building was excellent with huge attention to detail, the characters are well drawn and varied, the descriptions vivid and colourful and the action was extremely fast-paced and multi-faceted, it felt like reading an action sci-fi movie… and what a wonderful movie it would make.

Can’t wait for the next one from this exciting new author, a sequel would be wonderful, but whatever Ms Burke puts out I will be reading it. Sandra would have been proud to have her name associated with this stimulating new talent.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (July 10, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07FK69944
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Fury’s Bridge, Fury’s Choice, Fury’s Death – Brey Willows

A trilogy I hadn’t come across until Fury’s Death hit my inbox, these three are an interesting mix of fantasy and realism with a romance on top.

Fury’s Bridge - Brey Willows In Fury’s Bridge Alectho (Alec), one of the three mythical Fury sisters, is given the job of saving the world by the Fates. She must convince Selene Perkton, an atheist philosophy professor in LA who think humanity would be better off without religion, that the gods exist and work at a company called Afterlife in LA. Together they must defeat the forces of darkness threatening to overwhelm the world, and along the way work out how to deal with their obvious attraction.

34722522Fury’s Choice sees second Fury sister Tis having a breakdown, exhausted from the workload of punishing evil doers in a world where humans seem more crazy and cruel than ever, she is also tasked with writing a contract for the gods during their new phase among humanity. Taking a much-needed break she meets playgirl philanthropist Kera Espinosa whose medical research nearly led to a horrendous outcome. Kera now spends her time trying to do good in the most war torn and run-down places. Tis and Kera are drawn to each other, but both are unsure of how it could possibly work.

37793299Fury’s Death brings the trilogy to a neat and perfect circle. Third Fury, party girl Meg, is capable of more than the rest of Afterlife suspect. While she loves her hedonistic lifestyle and hates the growing workload, she loves her job, and has some seriously good ideas about how the gods can better interact with humans. Death, Dani Morana, has been crushing on Meg for millennia, but while they are close friends the sexy Fury has never seemed interested. Drawn together by the growing Chaos around them Death and Fury must combine to save the world, and in the meantime become their true selves.

The whole is an intriguing concept, light and playfully done but well researched and constructed, with enough ancient and mythological detail to make it work without ever becoming an theology lesson. If you believe in a higher being how would you react to God or Jesus, Jehovah or Mohammed, being available by email? If you don’t believe, how would you feel if the gods – all of them – materialised?

Brey Willows has created an amusing cast from Fates and Furies to the gods of old; led, managed and bullied along by Z, (Zeus). The gods are extremely well done, literally personifying the characteristics we associate with them, drawn with wit and humour, they are exactly who we would expect them to be. God (that’s the Christian God, he’s called God) is a bit stuffy and takes himself very seriously, Jesus has some level of resentment towards his father but does well with his sandal business, Azrael is really concerned with how people perceive Hell and wants to do a complete overhaul, Death is contemplating what happens to those who believe Death is a destination.

The romances are well done, unusual issues when eternal forces fall for mortal humans and mental concepts collide. But while the romances are central, the stories are far bigger, dealing, albeit lightly, with the constant battle between good and evil, forces of Chaos and destruction wanting humanity to destroy itself while the gods make a stand for peace, love and ecological sanity.

Thoroughly enjoyed these; romances with a difference, fantasy set in the here and now with an interesting twist. Highly recommended.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Fury’s Bridge:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (March 14, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06WP98KL2
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Fury’s Choice:

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 12, 2017)
  • ASIN: B074V9STQH
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Fury’s Death:

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (March 13, 2018)
  • ASIN: B079WRMC4N
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The End – Cheyne Curry & Roselle Graskey

The End: Sanctuary Series Book 1 - Cheyne Curry, Roselle GraskeyThe End (Book One of the Sanctuary Series) by Cheyne Curry and Roselle Graskey is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve read since Roth’s Divergent and Collins’ The Hunger Games. It has the tight action with high emotional impact that I associate with those other stories. It is well written and researched, from Native American and Irish customs and traditions to technical military detail.

The End, oddly enough, is the first book in a multi-book series called The Sanctuary Series. After a catastrophic event kills most of the surface population of the world, at least that they can see and contact, Lieutenant Jessica Baumer and Staff Sargeant Branna Maguire start a journey to sanctuary in the Northwest United States, they were both underground in an isolation experiment when the “event” occurred As their safe haven loses power, they make plans to set off to an area rumored to be not as hard-hit by whatever happened. They pick up other soldiers and some stragglers along the way.

The End is primarily the story of the harrowing and dangerous journey to safety at a compound run by a woman who has been prepping for just such a catastrophic event several states away and then what they find when they get there. The characters are well developed. The reader is fully invested in their survival and safe arrival at Rachel Noble’s compound.

The book had me alternately laughing out loud and wiping away tears as I read. I tore through the story and was brought up short at the cliffhanger at the end. I’m on pins and needles awaiting the next book in the series, The Resistance. If you enjoy realistic military near-future dystopian speculative fiction, give The End a try. I guarantee you’ll love it or hate it. There won’t be any middle ground.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bossy Pants Books (February 8, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06WLGFND9
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Outcaste – Fletcher DeLancey

Outcaste – Fletcher DelanceyThis is the 6th instalment of the Chronicles of Alsea series and one of the best, which says a great deal given they all rate five stars. While it is a strong part of the series it can be read as a stand-alone because of the slight ‘separateness’ of the storyline. But if you read this first you are going to want to go back and read 1-5; they are just too good to miss.

Outcaste finds 10-year-old Rahel dreaming of becoming a warrior, reading all the books she can find, and longing to be allowed to start training. By 15 she is even more set in her path when her merchant father and crafter mother announce they are inscribing her as a merchant early to prevent her from following her ‘unrealistic’ dreams. Like any determined teenager she leaves like a thief in the night, setting out for Whitesun and a very uncertain future.

Surviving the first few ninedays by luck more than good judgement she settles into the life of an outcaste, literally a non-person who does not have the rights or support of a caste house, and must live by low paid day work, quick wits and strength of character alone. Along with the friends she begins to make she must forge a way to survive until she can challenge for the right to join the Warriors at 18.

Rahel is a brilliant lead character. Fletcher Delancy does her usual amazing job of building a character from the inside-out, only this time we get to see the child become the woman, live literally every step of the journey into adulthood, and watch the person evolve and emerge from the childish hopes and dreams. Flawed despite her honest and honourable nature Rahel is a classic hero, who must fall from grace and risk everything to claw her way back, finding her true self in the process.

Fletcher DeLancey bioThe world-building and descriptive scene building in this series is outstanding, some of the best there is, the people, places and deep emotional sense of continuity shows the hand of a truly great fantasy writer. The secondary characters alone rate 5-star. You simply get lost in the alternate reality and forget it’s a book – a story – it just feels so real.

As the plot progresses we move from the isolated and relatively insular life of a teenage runaway into the larger world and revisit many of the major events of the first 5 novels, but from a refreshingly alternate viewpoint, bringing in the major players who have formed the core of the overall saga and filling in details we didn’t even know we were missing. I have to admit I had my doubts about the story arc, I was really concerned with where Rahel was going, her behaviour becoming increasing distant from the woman we had watched grow into the honourable warrior, but Delancey flipped it round in expert style and created a heroic saga of epic proportions, the rise, the fall and the rebirth. I should have known better given the section titles.

Overall, just outstanding. Excellent writing and editing, top class storytelling and a wonderful addition to an already top-notch series. I can’t wait for book 7.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 598 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Heartsome Publishing
    (October 27, 2017)
  • ASIN: B075TCR9LM
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Escape in Time – Robyn Nyx

Escape in Time - Robyn NyxEscape in Time is the first book in an expected trilogy from author Robyn Nyx. In the world Ms. Nyx has created for her readers is a powerful corporation called Pulsus. It derives its power from technology that they have developed and that only they have access to – technology to travel through time and medical regeneration. Their main goal is to build a better future by saving the lives of people in the past. The corporation is located on its own island where most all of the employees live as well as work.

The bulk of this book is the story of a mission to Nazi Germany to save a Jewish doctor on the brink of discovering the cure to cancer and the emotional repercussions the team members experience when they return to their time, in the future. The mission team consists of three operatives, Delaney, Simson and Griffin and their extractor, Landry. After the operatives have embedded themselves in their undercover roles in the past, the extractor arrives to effectuate the actual rescue and then bring the team back to their time.

The portion of the story told from the Nazi concentration camp is well-written and realistic. This shows me that the author took the time to do her research on the time period. An unexpected relationship develops in the camp that has implications for the arc of the series even beyond this first book. Characterizations are finely detailed and help to drive the plot forward both on and off mission.

As a life-long science fiction fan, I do find it disconcerting when advances in technology aren’t sufficiently explained as to how they work. For me that is what puts the “science” in science fiction. When these advances in scientific knowledge, time travel and medical regeneration technology are basically referred to as fait accompli, the story then moves into the realm of speculative fiction. A story about a possible future without the scientific underpinnings in a book categorized as science fiction. The author only references some equipment used in both of these technologies in use at Pulsus but no real explanation into the scientific basis for their use.

This however is my only real quibble with the story.  Ms. Nyx tells an awesome story with real characters and that to my mind is the goal of a good book. I truly enjoyed reading Escape in Time and am eagerly awaiting the second in the series, Change in Time, expected in November 2017.



Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (April 18, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06XPDNJ7P
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