You Paint Mushrooms Beautifully

Some people read with their eyeballs, and still others talk to their books—we do both! In part two of our three-part survey of novels shortlisted for 2021’s top SF and Fantasy awards, we’re discussing the magic and romance of “The Midnight Bargain” by C.L. Polk, the spooky “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and the murderbotiness of “Network Effect” by Martha Wells. Plus, what else are we reading?

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty and Aleen Simms


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Previous Episodes

The Worst Way to Write a Book, Ever

Back in 2014, we read Helene Wecker’s novel “The Golem and the Jinni,” and we liked it! Little did we know that she was listening to us… and that she would end up as an Incomparable panelist! Now a sequel, “The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni” has arrived! In this special episode, Jason and Helene discuss the first novel, how real life can intrude on a publishing schedule, the value and temptation of research, and how “The Hidden Palace” ultimately came together.

Jason Snell with Helene Wecker


The Avengers of Cities

Our Book Club returns with a new way to approach this year’s SF novel shortlist: we’re reading all the Hugo and Nebula novels in three batches. First up: “Black Sun,” “The City We Became,” and “Piranesi.” Plus: What are we reading?

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty and Aleen Simms


Transdimensional Tech Warlord

After a long gap, our Book Club reconvenes, and if they can remember Micaiah Johnson’s “The Space Between Worlds,” they’ll recommend it to you. It’s a story about identity and society set across parallel worlds that are even more similar than they initially appear to be. Also, what else have we read lately? Curl up with a good book and keep an eye out for parallel-universe warlords!

Jason Snell with Aleen Simms, Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty and David J. Loehr


Sorry, Ocean

It’s our annual read of the annual science fiction and fantasy shortlist, the Hugo Awards nominees! Our panelists catch up on the three books that weren’t covered in our Nebula Awards episode, and then Jason and Erika spend a little time on the short fiction nominees. And the raging debate on whether a planet is space or not continues!

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Aleen Simms, Scott McNulty and Dan Moren


Like a Fruit Salad

We’ve completed our read of this year’s six Nebula Award nominees for best science fiction/fantasy novel of the year, and have returned with our opinions! And this year was a pretty good one, with very few of our readers experiencing the pain of bad books. From space opera to portal fantasy to Mexican mythology, there are almost certainly books on this list that will strike your fancy. Also, we debate the perennial question: Are planets in space?

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Aleen Simms, Scott McNulty and Dan Moren


The Kickstarter of Space Exploration

Climb aboard your spaceship and prepare your skin to be sparkly, because we’re discussing “To Be Taught, If Fortunate,” a novella from Becky Chambers, a writer we enjoy quite a lot. This is a story about science, adventure, sacrifice, and the difficulty of being away from home for a very, very long time. An interesting crew of characters explores strange, new worlds—while trying to fit in biologically. Sometimes it goes really well, and other times it doesn’t. Also: What are we reading?

Jason Snell with Scott McNulty, Aleen Simms, Erika Ensign and David J. Loehr


What If Romeo and Juliet Were Terminators

Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss “This Is How You Lose the Time War”, a beautiful novella about the relationship between two time-traveling operatives in a multiverse-wide struggle. Also, Erika keeps stuffing us full of food metaphors. Plus: What are we reading? This episode will go down like ice cream on your brain tongue.

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty, Aleen Simms and David J. Loehr


33 Percent Rule

Our Book Club returns with reviews of the six finalists for the Hugo Award for best science fiction/fantasy novel of the year. You’ll be thrilled by our panelists attempting to remember what happened in books they read months ago! We liked five out of the six, which is a great batting average—but oh, that sixth book. Also, we read some novellas and short stories, too! And Erika’s up for another Hugo!

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Aleen Simms and Scott McNulty


Team Jerkface

It’s time once again for our Book Club to tackle the six novels that made it to the Science Fiction Writers Association’s shortlist, the nominees for the Nebula Awards. All four of us read all six nominees and we discuss their merits (and occasionally demerits). The concept of being a Reverse Nemesis With a Twist is introduced. If you’re looking for a few books to add to your reading list, this episode will hit the spot.

Jason Snell with Erika Ensign, Scott McNulty and Aleen Simms


Allergic to Brands

Clip the labels off your clothes and put on a World War II replica bomber jacket—it’s time to revisit one of our favorite novels of this century, 2003’s “Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson. It was Gibson’s first book to be set in the present day, and yet 16 years later it still feels like a work of science fiction, with a very modern story about brands and viral marketing and our desperate search to find meaning in a world that may have none. If all you’ve read of Gibson is “Neuromancer”, it’s past time that you visited the post-9/11 world of cool-finder Cayce Pollard, the mysterious internet video clips known as The Footage, the global marketing firm Blue Ant, and a series of increasingly lonely international hotel rooms.

Jason Snell with Lisa Schmeiser, Fred Kiesche, Antony Johnston and Monty Ashley


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