Adrienne Martini reviews Upon This Rock: Book 1 – First Contact by David Marusek

Upon This Rock: Book 1 – First Contact, David Marusek (A Stack of Firewood Press 978-0-9988633-0-6, $9.99, 574pp, eb). June 2017.

David Marusek’s first big impact on the SF/F land­scape was 2005’s Counting Heads, a book about genetic engineering peopled with strong, interest­ing characters and a meandering yet purposeful plot. The sequel Mind Over Ship dropped four years later. Then, apart from publishing a couple of quiet short story collections, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch (Subter­ranean 978-1-59606-833-9, $40.00, 146pp, hc) June 2017. Cover by Stephen Walters.

I’m already in the tank for Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot series of books, which follows the trials of one Peter Grant, a police constable in London’s Metropolitan Police. He’s in a special unit, one that is charged with tracking down crimes that involve magic or, as his non-magical brothers in stab vests say, “weird ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-7653-9523-8, $14.99, 176pp, tp) May 2017. Cover by Richard Anderson.

Here’s what is true: at the turn of the 20th century, a couple of American business tycoons (and wannabe tycoons) floated the idea of populating the swampy south with hippopotami. The beasts would make great eating, they thought, which means they could make some money. The whole story – and it’s a great ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn (John Joseph Adams/Mariner 978-0-544-94730-6, $14.99, 288pp, tp) July 2017.

In Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless, the world as we currently know it has fallen, thanks to environmental and economic calamities. Humanity nevertheless persists – thrives, really, given the circumstances. People along the Coast Road, a temperate zone subject to seasonal devastating storms, have learned to live in harmony with the world. They’ve agreed to live by a system of ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Robert Charles Wilson

Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor 978-0-765-33263-9, $27.99, 352pp, hc) December 2016

The past, it has been said, is another country. If you’re August Kemp in Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year, that other country is one you can monetize.

Kemp, a billionaire businessman from some­thing resembling our near future, has opened a resort of sorts in 1876. The writerly hand waving that makes this possible is mirror technology, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Elan Mastai

All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai (Dutton 978-1-101-98513-7, $26.00, 384pp, hc) Febru­ary 2017.

‘‘So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.’’

So opens Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays and, indeed, main character Tom Barren comes from a 2016 we were supposed to have, the one that looks like the Space Age as imagined in the early 1960s, all Jetsons and flying cars ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Carrie Vaughn

Martians Abroad, Carrie Vaughn (Tor 978-0-7653-8220-7, $25.99, 336pp, hc) January 2017.

Carrie Vaughn’s Martians Abroad clearly shares DNA with Heinlein’s juveniles, and is, the author states, and homage to Podkayne of Mars. There are young people filled with a can-do attitude about problem solving and space travel. There are kids trapped in an academic system that, while it feels it knows best, clearly doesn’t. The main character has ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Bob Proehl

A Hundred Thousand Worlds, Bob Proehl (Viking 978-03-99562-21-1, $26.00, 362pp, hc) June 2016.Beause I can be an idiot, I thought I knew what Bob Proehl’s A Hundred Thousand Worlds would be about be­fore I even cracked the spine. It’s about comic book conventions, the blurbs on the back said, and follows small group of loosely intertwined comics-industry-adjacent characters as they travel across the country from one con to the ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Manuel Gonzales

The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead 978-159463-241-9, $28.00, 400pp, hc) April 2016.

Wrapping your metaphoric arms around Manuel Gonzales’s The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is nearly impossible – but it is delicious to try.

The best comparison might be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if only because the story is about a coterie of girls who are trained to kick some otherworldly ass. There’s also ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Chuck Wendig

Invasive, Chuck Wendig (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-235157-9, $25.99, 352pp, hc) August 2016.

Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, which is about killer ants (sort of), is a companion (also sort of) to Zer0es, which was about killer hackers (mostly (but not really)). Both are rich, darkly funny page-turners with details designed to make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up with how plausible they seem.

This time ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Hugh Howey

Beacon 23: The Complete Novel, Hugh Howey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-0-544-83963-2, $14.95, 256pp, pb) February 2016.

Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23 started as a novel-in-installments, with each of the mostly freestanding parts released individually. Only after you’d completed the set could you see the full story of a space-age lighthouse keeper who came back from the interstellar war deeply damaged. Now those parts have been collected between two covers. The ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Blythe Woolston

MARTians, Blythe Woolston (Candlewick Press 978-0-7636-7756-5, $16.99 220pp, hc) October 2015.

In Blythe Woolston’s MARTians, teenager Zoë lives in the future exurbs of some Southwestern town. She has a year or two to figure out which of the giant retail outlets she wants to join when she graduates: AllMART or Q-Mart. In the meantime, she’ll continue her studies, which include Sexual Responsibility, Communication, Math, Corporate History, and Consumer ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton 978-14736-1979-1, £18.99, 416pp, hc) August 2015. (HarperVoyager 978-0062444134, $15.99, 464pp, tp) July 2016.

The first 30 pages of Becky Chambers’ Kick­starter-backed novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet are catnip for space opera fans, especially those with a bent toward TV shows that portray a spacecraft’s crew as a chosen fam­ily, like Firefly or ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Max Gladstone

Last First Snow, Max Gladstone (Tor 978-0-7653-7940-5, $25.99, 384pp, hc). July 2015.I am an unabashed Max Gladstone fan. His Craft sequence, in which the use of magic is intertwined with the business of insurance, is deeply satisfying. Here you won’t find magi­cians waving their hands about and making grand pronouncements about who shall pass; instead, they use their supernatural skills to ne­gotiate urban water access or actuarial tables.

Gladstone’s ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Naomi Novik

Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0-8041-7903-4, $17.00, 440pp, hc) May 2015.

Most readers will recognize the furniture in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. The book is decorated with all of the fantasy paraphernalia we’ve developed during the last several hundred years. There’s a grumpy, caustic wizard in a tower. There are two young girls, one of whom seems to be the chosen one (but isn’t) and one who seems to ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Elizabeth Bear

There’s no better series of words for describing Elizabeth Bear’s newest, Karen Memory, than ‘‘excellent grown-up steampunk yarn.’’ And, just FYI, ‘‘grown-up’’ modifies ‘‘steampunk,’’ rather than the yarn itself, even though the story is set in Madame Damnable’s Sewing Circle, which is the polite nomenclature for a brothel in Bear’s version of 19th-century Seattle.

Bear gives the reader all of the steampunk trappings she could want, of course. There ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Ben H. Winters

It’s two weeks until the end of the world and detective Hank Palace is still looking for his sister Nico. Maia, the asteroid that Winters introduced us to in The Last Policeman which will destroy life on this planet, is almost here and civilization has completely come apart. But Palace investigates on, doggedly pursuing the sister who had disappeared in a haze of pseudo-scientific conspiracy in the second title in ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope, an anthology of YA short stories edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios, was born from a WisCon panel. Sort of.

Krasnostein was listening to an episode of The Outer Alliance podcast, which was a rebroadcast of the ‘‘Heteronormativity in YA Dystopian Novels’’ panel. The seeds of an idea were planted and the result is a book full of YA SF/F shorter fiction that better resembles the actual ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Rachel Bach

The advantage to not really noticing Rachel Bach’s Paradox trilogy until April 2014 is that they’d all been published by then and I could devour all three books without delay. This is a good thing.

These three titles – Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight, and Heaven’s Queen – tell the story of Devi Morris, a young female mercenary fresh out of her mandatory years of service. Devi is looking ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt’s writing just keeps getting better and better. In Heirs of Grace, his voice feels dialed in. The writing is tight and sassy without wasting one word – and he makes it seem easy.

Of course, it helps that his protagonist, Bekah, a fresh college graduate/visual artist who has been willed a house by an unknown relation in North Carolina, is her own smart force to be reckoned ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Ben H. Winters

When we last left Detective Hank Palace, the titular Last Policeman in Ben H. Winters’s kick-off to this trilogy, he had just reunited with his sister Nico, who is involved in a quasi-military, super-secret organization that she believes will save the world. And, still, the asteroid that is likely to end all human life on the planet just keeps coming.

In Countdown City, Hank (and by extension Winters) grapples ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Adam Roberts

At its core, Adam Roberts’s By Light Alone is a book about economics and class that is premised on a simple supposition: what if some technology came along that allowed the haves to no longer worry about providing the have-nots with food? And what spun out of Roberts’s fertile brain is a brilliant book about, yes, economics and class, but also about families and power and gender.

The story opens ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Jennifer Pelland

Despite its soft-porn cover, Jennifer Pelland’s Machine is a novel about much, much more than what sexual shenanigans one could accomplish with a robotic/clockwork body. Which is too bad, in a way, because this book might be judged by its cover. Those seeking graphic sex will leave disappointed by how little of it there is (although there is some, sort of); those put off by the promises of the cover ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews A.S. Byatt

At its heart, A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarök is a story about stories. Here Byatt explores why we tell them and how some grow to become myths. The book’s slightness does nothing to indicate the weight of the ideas enclosed within.

On its surface, this is a story about a character referred to only as ‘‘the thin girl,’’ who was evac­uated from a ‘‘steel city’’ to the English country­side during World War ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Kage Baker

The Best of Kage Baker makes me mad – not in a “reading this was a waste of time” way but in a “she had so many stories left” way. My anger is purely selfish.

While the bulk of the stories collected here have turned up in other publications and online, it is lovely to have these 20 tales under one cover, even though most have been anthologized before. Best ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth

It’s probably easier to explain what The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book One: Target Earth isn’t.

It isn’t a standard Broadway spectacular, with glam costumes and nubile dancers. It isn’t a fraught family drama that is instant Tony bait. And it definitely isn’t an angst-filled monologue about coming of age.

What I can unequivocally state is that it is live theater about, well, an intergalactic nemesis who is poised to conquer 1933’s ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Cherie Priest

Sometimes, you (or, to be more specific, since I can’t really speak about your reading habits, I) need a nice little bite of well-done whimsy in order to keep pushing through all of the unpleasantness that life can dish out. Hellbent by Cherie Priest is that perfect bite. No, this tale of Raylene Pendle, vampire and thief, and her adventures in tracking down a box full of bacula, isn’t deep ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Erin Morgenstern

The advanced reader’s copy of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus comes with a four-page document tucked inside. Most ARCs have some kind of sexy cover letter tucked in them that talks up the book you are about to open. Usually, there are advanced quotes from big-name writers and useful-but-dull details about price and promotion. The Night Circus is no different in this respect.

What is different is how ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Tansy Rayner Roberts

In less than 120 pages, Tansy Rayner Roberts has not only told a kick-ass series of interlinked stories in Love and Romanpunk, she has also, quite possibly, kicked off the next historical period for writers to mine. For such a slim volume, it packs a wallop.Rayner Roberts’s ancient Rome was infested with all models of allegedly mythical creatures, like harpies and basilisks. Most troubling are the lamias, which are ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Scott Phillips

Scott Phillips’s Rut is nearly impossible to talk about without also talking about the mode of its publication. Concord Free Press’ publishing model defies all of our expectations about what a publishing house should do, which is, ultimately, make money for itself and its editors and investors. Instead, Concord Free Press eschews the concept of financial gain. The books come out in limited runs – only 3,000 copies of Rut ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Jon Armstrong

In its brocade heart, Jon Armstrong’s Yarn is an archetypical tale of a boy who takes on a quest and becomes a man. It’s like Star Wars – but with yards and yards of fabric rather than warp drives and droids. But the central story remains the same.

Yarn’s hero is Tane Cedar, whose tale begins in the corn slubs, where men labor endlessly and cheaply in service of ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Jeff VanderMeer

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer’s newest collection of short fiction, The Third Bear, is how the juxtaposition of these initially unrelated 14-plus stories creates a much larger narrative about a larger undiscovered country. Each narrative is like a textual postcard from a singular land, with each missive capturing a slightly different view.

The stories, including ‘‘The Quickening’’, which first sees print here, ...Read More

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