universe building

The Subtle Knife

Posted on

Novel Ideas returns with the first episode of year three, or Season 3, if you prefer. This week we are discussing Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, sequel to The Golden Compass, second book in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. In this episode we talk about trust, power, corruption, and moral ambiguity. We also touch on trilogy naming conventions, Sir Charles’s creepy vibe, trope subversion, and references to other things we have read and/or podcasted.

This week’s music bump is “Under the Knife” by Kansas because “Mack the Knife” seemed too obvious.

The Subtle Knife – EVIDENTLY


This book contains excellent world building and interesting characters, as well as adding to the universe of the story rather than rehashing what was popular the first time around. Read it. But first read The Golden Compass.

Gabs: 9/10 I love this damn book.

Ben: 9/10 All of those things.

Old Man’s War

Posted on

We’re back with what is becoming something of a modern science fiction classic, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. This is a book where humanity is defended by soldiers over the age of seventy-five and under the age of ten. Listen to the episode to hear us discuss universe building, characterization, imperialism, and bioethics. We also talk about the fuuuuture, quip machines, strange alien religions, and, of course, boobs.

Also, next week will be our year in review episode. If you have any last minute comments or questions about anything we’ve covered in the last year, get them in ASAP! If you’re not sure what we’ve covered since last March, go to the Episodes page and look at the titles in “Season Two.”

The music bump this week is a Carl Reike march called “Old Comrades,” performed by a tuba quartet because who doesn’t love that?

Old Man’s War – Six Year Old Adults


Gabs: 6/10. Easy to read, but probably best recommended to science fiction fans.

Ben: 8/10. Solid writing and an interesting universe, plus it made me laugh a couple of times.


Posted on

This week Novel Ideas discusses Hyperion by Dan Simmons, a far future version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. This is probably the most “pure” science fiction we’ve read so far, with various story elements not only taking place in a science fiction setting, but requiring a science fiction setting to exist at all. In this episode we’ll discuss imperialism, mystery, pain, and feminism (of course.) We’ll also discuss whether this book has a protagonist (probably not), violence induced boners, surprisingly accurate visions of the internet, and ridiculous applications of Godwin’s Law. This episode also features our less than soundproof studio and the various comings and goings of roommates, angry post-surgical cats, and Ben’s extremely creaky chair that he can’t sit still in. We hope you enjoy!

The music bump is “Mysteries and Mayhem” by Kansas because those are both common subjects in this book, plus I couldn’t quite bring myself to use “We’re Off To See the Wizard,” but Kansas feels like it’s at least close. Should I even try to justify these decisions? It comes off as feeble even to me…

2012-13 Year in Review

Posted on

It’s time for our first year(ish) anniversary episode. We apologize for being a week late, but our recording from last week was corrupted somehow and we had to meet again and record the whole thing a second time. In this week’s episode, we cover our top and bottom five from the previous year, recount several old jokes, and even manage to make a couple of new ones. We plug a few of our favorite episodes and books, revisit old hatred, and are generally the same vainglorious, self-indulgent goofballs that by now you expect us to be.

The music bump is “It Was A Very Good Year” as arranged by Gordon Goodwin and performed by Take Six and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.

42 – 2012-13 Year in Review

A quick correction: North Dakota did not pass a “personhood” law, they merely okayed putting a “personhood” law up for referendum.