Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, Michael Swanwick (Tor 978-1-250-19825-9, $26.99, 366pp, hc) June 2019.

There are hints of the afterlife in Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Mother, but it’s hard to accuse a fantasy world of pretentiousness when it cheerfully includes living metal dragon jet fighters along with Hello Kitty backpacks, or in which the streets of a magical underwater city are lined with Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Edited by Tarun H. Saint

The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Tarun K. Saint, ed. (Hachette India 978-93-88322-05-8, RS599, 382pp, hc) March 2019.

Over the past several months, we’ve looked at anthologies of Chinese, Korean, and Israeli SF, all largely geared towards familiarizing ”outsiders” – namely, English language readers – with these vari­ous national voices. The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, edited by Tarun K. Saint, is a little different. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Little Animals by Sarah Tolmie

The Little Animals, Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-161-2, $20.00, 378pp, tp) May 2019.

Sarah Tolmie’s approach to the intersection between the historical and the marvelous is comparatively minimalist. The Little Animals is, for the most part, a straightforward account of the early career of the 17th-century Delft scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, as he discovers and records various “animalcules” through his homemade single-lens microscopes and tries to get his findings recognized ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Lent by Jo Walton

Lent, Jo Walton (Tor 978-0-7653-7906-1, $26.99, 384pp, hc) May 2019.

Jo Walton goes full multiverse in Lent, her fascinating examination of the life, or possible lives, of the Florentine cleric and prophet Girolamo Savonarola. Except for serious history buffs, Savonarola is mostly remembered for his famous Bonfire of the Vanities – which Walton, in an afterword, insists was “more like Burning Man” than a traditional repressive book burning ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay (Berkley 978-0-451-47298-4, $27.00, 448pp, hc) May 2019.

At the risk of oversimplification – well, no, to be honest, with the intent of oversimplification – the fantastic genres have a long and complex relation­ship with historical fiction, but they often tend to use it to provide templates for their own preoc­cupations. Horror seems to love the Middle Ages, with its demons and tortures ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Exhalation, Ted Chiang (Knopf 978-1-101-94788-3, $25.95, 358pp, hc) May 2019.

It’s not exactly as though Ted Chiang’s prolificacy is getting out of hand, but it might be worth noting that his long-awaited new collection Exhalation contains nine stories, while his previous collection Stories of Your Life contained only eight. On the other hand, that earlier collection covered the first 11 years of his career, while the new one covers ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Big Cat and Other Stories by Gwyneth Jones

Big Cat and Other Stories, Gwyneth Jones (NewCon 978-1-912950-15-7, £24.99, 240pp, hc) April 2019. Cover by Vincent Sammy.

Gwyneth Jones has been writing fiercely intelligent SF for decades, and, despite a few high-profile awards (a Clarke, two World Fantasy Awards, a BSFA, a Tiptree, and a Philip K. Dick), she never seems to have attained the broad, appreciative readership that her fiction warrants (in 2001, she even received one ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller

Destroy All Monsters, Sam J. Miller (Harper Teen 978-0-06-245674-8, $17.99, 400pp, tc) July 2019.

I suppose the first thing to be noted about Sam J. Miller’s third novel, Destroy All Monsters, is that it has nothing to do with the venerable Toho kaiju film with that title, even though there are a few dinosaurs wandering about. They mostly show up in the “Darkside,” a ver­sion of reality occupied ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan

Waste Tide, Chen Qiufan (Tor 978-0-7653-8931-2, $26.99, 352pp, hc) April 2019.

In last year’s The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chi­nese Science Fiction, co-editor Mingwei Song writes in his introduction, “The single most important change in recent years in the English-language translations of Chinese science fiction has been the unrivaled devotion and efforts of Ken Liu.” It’s a generous assessment, but pretty indisputable. Not only is Liu ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Broken Stars, Edited by Ken Liu

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Ken Liu, ed. (Tor 978-1250297662, $27.99, 480pp, hc) February 2019.

One aspect of Waste Tide that may come as a slight surprise to readers whose familiarity with Chinese SF is limited to Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, with its epic galactic scope and somewhat Clarkean ideas, is the degree to which the novel is grounded in gritty near-future realism, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer 978-1-6187-3155-5, $17.00, 292pp, tp) March 2019.

There are a lot of things to like about Sarah Pinsker’s first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, and not the least is a tactful sense of restraint. I don’t mean restraint in telling her tales – Pinsker is willing to try a lot, including a story ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen, Zen Cho (Ace 978-0-425-28341-7, $15.00, 384pp, tp) March 2019.

If G. Willow Wilson offers some insightful contrasts be­tween Islamic and Christian legend, Zen Cho, in her follow-up novel to Sorcerer to the Crown, does something a bit similar with Malaysian vs. English views of magic and faerie. In The True Queen, we learn that the command central of the spirit realm is called the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King, G. Willow Wilson (Grove Press 978-0-8021-2903-1, $26.00, 416pp, hc) March 2019.

G. Willow Wilson seems to be pivoting away from her World Fantasy Award-winning first novel Alif the Unseen, which resonated with many readers, I suspect, because of its shrewd combina­tion of contemporary cyberhacking and ancient magic (a bit like R.A. MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon a generation ago). That novel was also peppered ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Ian Mond Review The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson

The Rosewater Insurrection, Tade Thompson (Orbit 978-0-316-44908-3, $15.99, 378pp, tp) March 2019.

Tade Thompson’s wildly original first novel Rose­water, with its political savvy, its problematic main character, its inventive notion of alien contact, and its colorful setting of the improvised city of Rosewater – which grew up around an alien dome near Lagos, Nigeria – also seemed to challenge some readers with its shifting timelines and questions of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor 978-0-7653-7996-2, $26.99, 368pp, hc) February 2019.

After the popularity of her Nebula Award-winning first novel All the Birds in the Sky, we could hardly blame Charlie Jane Anders for being tempted to double down on the goodnatured, geek-friendly genre sandwich of that novel, which cheerfully piled together ele­ments of SF, fantasy, and rom-com in a tale ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Tachyon 978-1-61696-302-6, $17.95, 420pp, tp) February 2019.

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, a title apparently meant to avoid confusion with the two volumes of The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan published by Subterranean in 2011 and 2015, is probably as good a one-volume introduction to the variety of Kiernan’s work as we’re likely to get, though ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Vic­tor LaValle & John Joseph Adams

A People’s Future of the United States, Vic­tor LaValle & John Joseph Adams, eds. (One World 978-0-5255-0880-9, $23.00, 410pp, tp) February 2019.

I’ve grumbled before in this space about how dystopia – which by now has nearly grown inde­pendent of SF in the popular imagination – may have become the default model for the future simply because, these days at least, it makes fewer imaginative demands than almost any ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James (Riverhead 978-0-7352-2017-1, $30.00, 640pp, hc) February 2019.

Novelists who approach genre materials after having been more or less certi­fied as “literary” writers tend to start by revisiting fairly familiar territory – zombie apocalypses (Colson Whitehead), vampires (Justin Cronin), drizzly dystopias (just about everyone else). Marlon James, with his Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings and several other prominent nomina­tions, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape by Gregory Benford

Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape, Gregory Benford (Saga 978-1-5344-1127-2, $27.99, 368pp, hc), January 2019.

It’s been nearly four decades since Gregory Benford’s classic, multiple award-winning Timescape, which was lauded as much for its convincing portrayal of working scientists as for its ingenious notion of tachyonic cross-time communication. Benford describes Rewrite as a “conceptual sequel” to that novel, but for the most part the scientists in it are walk-on ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-306-4, $16.95, 320pp, tp) November 2018.

Chances are that not every reader of Jane Yo­len’s collection How to Fracture a Fairy Tale – which follows close upon her World Fantasy Award winning The Emerald Circus – will remember the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle segments from nearly 60 years ago, narrated by Edward Everett Horton, which as far as I know ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Uncommon Miracles by Julie C. Day

Uncommon Miracles, Julie C. Day (PS 978-1-786363-34-3, £20.00, 234pp, hc) October 2018.

Well, aren’t we about overdue for the bunny apoc­alypse? That seems to be the question Julie C. Day raises in “Everyone Gets a Happy Ending”, the lead story in her first collection Uncommon Miracles, and it’s not quite as whimsical as it sounds. It follows the familiar pattern of end-of-days tales, with two friends making their ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Readymade Bodhisattva, Edited by Sunyung Park & Sang Joon Park

Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction, Sunyung Park & Sang Joon Park, eds. (Kaya Press 978-1-885030-57-3, $24.95, 434pp, tp) March 2019.

With Chinese SF gaining such prominence lately, and Japanese SF having been more or less familiar to Western readers for decades (I reviewed the first English-language study of Japanese SF way back in 1992!), it’s reasonable to be curious about what else is going ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

Confessions of the Fox, Jordy Rosenberg (One World 978-0-399-59227-0, $27.00, 334pp, hc) June 2018.

When Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox appeared last summer to some mainstream fanfare, drawing praise from figures as diverse as China Miéville and Kelly Link, it didn’t come to my immediate attention since – at least tech­nically – it’s not quite SF or fantasy. Instead, it concerns a failing professor named Voth who comes ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

Tales from the Inner City, Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books 978-1-338-29840-6, $24.99, 224pp, hc) October 2018.

Shaun Tan’s always remarkable work, from his Oscar-winning short The Lost Thing to his wordless fable of immigration The Arrival, often returns to themes of alienation and belonging, and in Tales from the Inner City he takes on very nearly the whole of nature vs. civilization, or at least the ongo­ing ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

In the Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard (JABberwocky Literary Agency 978-1-625673-98-5, $12.99, 202pp, tp) October 2018.

A fair amount of Aliette de Bodard’s recent fiction seems to be about life in the ruins, most spec­tacularly the devastated Paris of her Dominion of the Fallen series, the result of a supernatural war decades earlier. She loves putting her characters adrift in huge, cavernous spaces. Her remarkable new novella In the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales, Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press/Kudzu Planet 978-1-933846-72-9, $17.99, 282pp, tp) August 2018.

Michael Bishop has been defining his own uniquely eclectic brand of humanistic SF since his emergence as one of the most prominent new writers of the 1970s, and it’s likely that this has been both good and bad news for his career. On the one hand, he’s given us works ...Read More

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A Year of Looking Backward by Gary K. Wolfe

I’m not sure this is prog­ress: 2018 began with The Handmaid’s Tale, Nine­teen Eighty-Four, and Fahrenheit 451 back on the bestseller lists, and a fair number of folks re­marking on how prescient Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower suddenly seemed.

Toward the end of the year, just before Thanksgiv­ing, Vintage decided to re-release, for the first time in decades, Fletcher Knebel’s Night of Camp David, the 1965 ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma

All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Un­dertow 978-1-988964-02-7, $17.99, 288pp, tp) May 2018.

Priya Sharma’s short fiction has mostly appeared in horror or dark fantasy venues, earning her a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson nomination for “Fabulous Beasts”, one of the strongest stories in her very strong first collection All the Fabulous Beasts. But her relationship to these genres, and to the often folkloric materials that ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan

An Agent of Utopia, Andy Duncan (Small Beer 978-1-61873-153-1, $16.00 288p, tp) November 2018.

There are few contemporary writers in any genre as immediately identifiable by voice alone as Andy Duncan, and it’s a voice with roots as far back as Mark Twain and as current as Howard Waldrop, finely attuned to the various tributaries of American vernacular – but often quite a bit darker than its down-home patina ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-304-0, $15.95, 262pp, tp) November 2018.

It may be the oldest Nimby game in the world. By now, we could assemble a small shelf of alternate histories concerning un­realized Jewish homelands in unlikely parts of the globe. Twenty years ago, Janet Berliner and George Guthridge won a Bram Stoker award for Children of the Dusk, the final volume of their Madagascar Manifesto trilogy, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Book of Magic Edited by Gardner Dozois

The Book of Magic, Gardner Dozois, ed. (Ban­tam 978-0-399-59378-9, $30.00, 576pp, hc) October 2018.

In his introduction to The Book of Magic, his follow-up to last year’s The Book of Swords, Gardner Dozois somehow manages to build an argu­ment comparing SFF magazines to the Great Smoky Mountains, which I will admit to being a notion I had not previously entertained. (Basically, he claims the magazines served like ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews More Walls Broken by Tim Powers

More Walls Broken, Tim Powers (Subterranean 978-1-59606-886-5, $25.00, 136pp, hc) February 2019.

One of the appealing aspects of Tim Powers’s fiction is his obvious affection for his settings, whether the 19th-century Britain of his Romantic and Victorian era novels, the Caribbean of On Stranger Tides, or the Southern California-Las Vegas axis of his Fault Lines trilogy and later novels. His relatively sparse shorter fiction hardly gives him room ...Read More

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