Paul Di Filippo reviews Rudy Rucker’s Return to the Hollow Earth

Return to the Hollow Earth, by Rudy Rucker (Transreal Books 978-1940948324, $22.95, 270pp, trade paperback) August 2018

Like Adam Roberts, a peer whom he matches in speculative chops and daring, Rudy Rucker seldom repeats himself. Yes, he’s given us a couple of series—the Ware Tetralogy and the duology consisting of Postsingular and Hylozoic—but the bulk of his output has been singletons, with each book utterly different from all ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry

Space Unicorn Blues, T.J. Berry (Angry Robot 978-0857667816 $12.99), 384pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Lee Gibbons.

I finished reading T.J. Berry’s debut novel, Space Unicorn Blues, and said to myself (and several other people): “Maybe Angry Robot Books is becoming the publisher of queer, feminist, sometimes-angry, sometimes-funny, anti-imperialist novels that we didn’t know we deserved.” Because Berry’s Space Unicorn Blues can join a list that includes (in the UK, ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Infinity’s End, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Infinity’s End, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1-78618-106-0, $14.99, 347 pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Adam Tredowski.

For seven years and six volumes, editor Jonathan Strahan has been devising a con­sistently strong original anthology series that has engineered, reached, met, and bridged infinity from the edge onward (or inward?), and even gone to war in it. Now, in the seventh and last of the Infinity Project anthologies, we have reached ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews Competence by Gail Carriger and The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

Gail Carriger, Competence (Orbit US 978-0-316-43388-4, $26.00, 309pp, hc) July 2018. Cover by Don Sipley & Michael Roberts.

The steampunk fun ramps up in this third volume in the Custard Protocol series, a spin-off from Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. This time, the main focus shifts to Primrose Tunstell, purser of the airship The Spotted Custard and style-conscious friend of Captain Prudence Akeldama. Their airship needs repairs, and the damage is ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Condomnauts by Yoss

Condomnauts, Yoss; translated by David Frye (Restless Books 978-1632061867, $16.99, 208pp, tp) July 2018.

The instant I saw the cover of Yoss’s Condom­nauts on Twitter I knew I was going to read it. Cherry red lips caught in a moment of ecstasy; the teeth and tongue replaced by a starfield. It’s a cover, matched with a lurid title, that promises alien sex, not a subgenre I generally gravitate toward – ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Redemption’s Blade, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris 978-1781085790, $11.99, 520pp, tp) July 2018.

Redemption’s Blade, like Adrian Tchai­kovsky’s unrelated 2016 novella Spi­derlight, is heavily influenced by the Tolkien tradition in epic fantasy. Unlike Tolkien, though, Tchaikovsky’s work is interested in – for want of a better word – the humanity of people on both sides of a war between “light” and “darkness”: the flaws and the good points on both sides of ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards

K.D. Edwards, The Last Sun (Pyr 978-1-63388-423-6, $17.00, 363pp, tp) June 2018. Cover by Micah Epstein.

The last scion of a once-powerful house works as an investigator/agent in this entertaining first novel, a sort of urban fantasy set in a world that mixes modern technology (cell phones) with a strangely different culture. In this world, refuges from war-torn Atlantis used money and magic to turn Nantucket into New Atlantis, mostly ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Dragon’s Child by Janeen Webb

The Dragon’s Child, Janeen Webb (PS Pub­lishing 978-1-786363-19-0, £15.00, 208pp, hc) May 2018.

Janeen Webb’s novella The Dragon’s Child opens with Lady Feng, a wealthy Hong Kong businesswoman, deciding to “stretch her claws” on the first day of Chinese New Year (The Year of the Dragon). Assuming her true dragon form, Lady Feng circles a remote village where she spies a tasty morsel of meat. It’s only after she gobbles ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas

Scarlett Thomas, The Chosen Ones (Canongate 978-1-78211-930-2, £12.99, 368pp, hc) April 2018; (Simon & Schuster 978-1-4814-9787-9, $17.99, 374pp, hc) May 2018. Cover by Erwin Madrid.

Effie Truelove and her friends continue their efforts to understand the world of magic while working around obstructive adults, in this second book in the quirky middle-grade Worldquake tril­ogy. Effie Truelove wants to get back to the magi­cal Otherworld, but things keep going wrong; one ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Buried Ark by James Bradley

The Buried Ark, James Bradley (Pan Macmil­lan Australia 9781743549902, A$14.99, 272pp, tp) May 2018.

James Bradley’s The Buried Ark begins where the first book of The Change, The Silent Invasion, ends: Callie is lost in the Zone, confused and frightened until she hears the impossible voice of her father say her name. For those of you who haven’t read The Silent Invasion (you really should because it’s terrific), the Zone ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma and At the Mercy of Beasts by Ed Kurtz

All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Under­tow 9781988964027, $17.99, 288pp, tp) May 2018.

“The Crow Palace”, the opening story in Priya Sharma’s luminous debut collection, All the Fabu­lous Beasts, begins with its protagonist revisiting a childhood memory. When she was young, Julie tells us, living with her parents and twin in a large house in the English countryside, her father built a bird table, an arrangement of large shelves on ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson

K.R. Richardson, Blood Orbit (Pyr 978-1-63388-439-7, $18.00, 492pp, tp) May 2018. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Richardson, who has written urban fantasy as Kat Richardson, now turns to SF mystery in this first volume in the Gattis File series, set on the corpo­rate-owned planet Gattis, where corporate profits take precedence over justice. Rookie security ofiçe (not officer) Eric Matheson stumbles across a mass murder at a nightclub, and is assigned to ...Read More

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John Langan The Ones Who Are Waving by Glen Hirshberg

The Ones Who Are Waving, Glen Hirshberg (Cemetery Dance 9781587676314, $40.00, 208pp, hc) March 2018.

“Freedom is Space for the Spirit”, the first story in Glen Hirshberg’s excellent collection, The Ones Who Are Waving, is a tale of returns. It begins when Thomas, its protagonist, receives a telegram from Vasily, a friend from his youth, requesting his return to St. Petersburg. As a university student, Thomas left then-East Germany for ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After, Emily X.R. Pan (Little Brown 978-0-316-46399-7, $18.99, 462pp, hc) March 2018.

The unreliable narrator has a long and il­lustrious career in fiction, taunting readers with questions of fantasy versus reality in novels ranging from We Have Always Lived in the Castle to Gone Girl. Either because they are shameless liars, accidental embellishers, or suffering from a degree of mental illness or trauma, unreliable narrators lead ...Read More

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John Langan Reviews The Immaculate Void by Brian Hodge

The Immaculate Void, Brian Hodge (ChiZine 9781771484374 $17.99, 232pp, tp) May 2018.

For the last several years, Brian Hodge, always one of his generation’s leading writers of horror, has been having something of a renaissance, writing stories which have been among the highlights of anthologies including The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Children of Lovecraft, and The Devil and the Deep. The Immaculate Void, his gripping new novel, has its origins ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

Theory of Bastards, Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions 978-1609454371, $18.00, 416pp, tp) April 2018.

There’s quite a bit to chew on in Audrey Schul­man’s magnificently titled Theory of Bastards. It’s a novel that tackles chronic pain, our reliance on technology, climate change, and the mating rituals of humans and bonobos. The thread that ties these issues together is the field of Evolution­ary Psychology, the attempt to understand human nature through the ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews A Guide for Murdered Children by Sarah Sparrow

Sarah Sparrow, A Guide for Murdered Children (Blue Rider 978-0-399-57452-8, $27.00, 385pp, hc) March 2018.

Murdered children take over the bodies of re­cently deceased adults in order to get revenge on their murderers in this truly strange novel. Ex-police detective Willow Millard Wylde is retired at 57, messed up with booze and pain pills and iffy health, in rehab when first encountered. Trying to do better for his grown daughter ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn and Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

The Rending and the Nest, Kaethe Schwehn (Bloomsbury 978-1-63286-972-2, $26.00, 304pp, hardback) February 2018.

A blurb of The Rending and the Nest could position it as a combination of Station Eleven and The Leftovers, but that would do the novel a major disservice. In structure, it resembles Station Eleven, because the struggle to endure after most of the world’s resources are no longer available is the main practical concern of ...Read More

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Paul Kincaid Reviews Haven by Adam Roberts

Haven, Adam Roberts (Solaris 978-1781085660, $11.99, 320pp, tp) August 2018.

You can tell this novel is by Adam Roberts. It is set a hundred or so years in the future, after a global catastrophe, the collapse of civilization as we know it, and the painfully slow emergence of a way of life that is at best nasty, brutish, and short. For all that, he still manages to slip a reference ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Shades Within Us, Edited by Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law

Shades Within Us, Susan Forest & Lucas K. Law, eds. (Laksa Media Groups) September 2018.

Shades Within Us is an anthology devoted to “Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders” and, almost predictably, the better stories are those less rigorously meeting the anthology’s theme. For example, Tonya Liburd‘s “Superfreak” does concern a young woman moving from Trinidad to Toronto, in order to escape her abusive uncle. Alas, the uncle in Toronto ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford

Ahab’s Return, Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow 978-0-06-267900-0, $26.99, 262pp, hc) August 2018

One of the dependable pleasures of Jeffrey Ford’s work, apart from his precise and lyrical prose and generally ingratiating characters, is its acute sense of place, from the Long Island of his childhood to the small-town upstate New York of last year’s The Twilight Pariah. More often than not, these settings seem awash in immanence, conveying a haunting ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Ellen Datlow’s The Best of the Best Horror of the Year

The Best of the Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-983-2, $17.99, 432pp, trade paperback) October 2018

In the hurly-burly of making literature—writing fiction, buying it, editing it, publishing it, selling it, promoting it, reviewing it—one’s focus is always on the immediate. Tasks to do, commitments, hopes and aspirations, victories and defeats, what’s new now, the latest thing. Faddish trends can intrude, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton

An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000, Jo Walton (Tor 978-0765379085, $29.99, 576pp, hc) August 2018.

Since their inception in 1953, the Hugo Awards have been SF’s most unignorable elephant in the room, providing generations of readers with a de facto canon and reading list, despite an often wild inconsistency and occasional tendency to reward beloved authors simply because they’re beloved. For ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Speculative Japan 4 Edited by Edward Lipsett

Speculative Japan 4, Edward Lipsett, ed. (in paperback and ebook from Kurodahan Press) April 2018.

Speculative Japan 4 is an anthology of SF and fantasy (and horror) from Japan – some recent, some from decades ago. Most of the stories are of a distinctly different flavor and focus than most recent anglophone SF, and different from, for example, the Chinese SF that we have seen a great deal of recently. ...Read More

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Lila Garrott Reviews Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett. (Crown 978-1-5247-6036-6, $27.00, 512pp, hc) August 2018.

Foundryside is the beginning of a new fantasy series, and is Robert Jackson Ben­nett’s first novel following the extremely well-received Divine Cities trilogy. It mostly lives up to expectations, managing to combine a large-scale story with an interesting world, relatable characters, and a complicated magic system; it also demonstrates, as the Divine Cit­ies trilogy did, that Bennett’s interests lie ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Fated Sky, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-0765398949, $15.99, 384pp, tp) August 2018.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Fated Sky is the second half, mostly, of The Calculating Stars, which I talked about in more depth a couple of months ago [review here]. While The Fated Sky could stand alone if a reader is really good at picking up con­text clues, it doesn’t feel like it was intended to do so. ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan

Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey 978-0345493125, $28, 544pp, hardcover) October 2018

I was bowled over by Richard Morgan’s debut, Altered Carbon, and the sequels—Broken Angels and Woken Furies—that fleshed out the saga of Takeshi Kovacs. Exciting, gritty, muscular nth-generation cyberpunk, self-aware yet not archly ironic or parodic, they took the tropes of that subgenre and amped them up to reflect the harsh realities ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Artificial Condition by Martha Wells and Twelve Tomorrows edited by Wade Roush

Artificial Condition, Martha Wells ( Publishing) May 2018.

Twelve Tomorrows, Wade Roush, ed. (The MIT Press) July 2018.

Artificial Condition is the second Murderbot novella from Martha Wells. (The first, All Systems Red, won the most recent Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novella.) In this story, Murderbot, having gained somewhat ambiguous autonomy, plans to return to the scene of the killing spree it apparently engaged in on a previous ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews War Cry by Brian McClellan

War Cry, Brian McClellan ( Publishing 978-1250170163, $11.88, 112pp, tp) August 2018.

Brian McClellan is best known for his military fantasy, and War Cry doesn’t represent a change of pace. Teado is a Changer, a shapeshifter. He’s part of a military team stationed in the Bavares high plains, a remote and largely unpopulated area between the borders of two warring nations. Although he’s still young, he’s been there for years, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Irontown Blues by John Varley

Irontown Blues, John Varley (Ace 978-1-101989-37-1, $16.99, 304pp, tp) August 2018.

John Varley’s Eight Worlds sequence of stories and novels – not really a series, since it’s less a consistent future history than a shared conceit among several stories and novels – dates back to the beginning of his career in the 1970s, when he seemed like the hottest new voice in SF since the arrival of Delany, Disch, Le ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Half-Witch by John Schoffstall

Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth Press 978-1-61-873140-1, $18.99, 322pp) July 2018.

There is something deeply satisfying about a traditional fantasy with plucky protagonists, nefarious villains, hungry goblins, tricky witches, and a dangerous and difficult quest. In John Schofstall’s Half-Witch, everything you expect to find is present, plus a lot of unlikely twists and turns that make this ad­venture a classic read. The novel’s most unusual plot device is the presence ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

By the Pricking of Her Thumb, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473221499, $24.99, 272pp, hardcover) August 2018

I seem to recall a character from one of John Barth’s early novels who wanted to live a life of utter unpredictability and inconsistency, as a kind of embodiment of the chaos principle. But then with a shock the man realized that total inconsistency was a kind of predictability. And so he picked ...Read More

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