Gary K. Wolfe Reviews You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts by M. John Harrison

You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts, M. John Harrison (Comma Press 978-1-910-97434-6, £9.99, 272pp, tp) November 2017.

“I’m moving forward into something here,” thinks the main character in M. John Harrison’s story “Yummie”, “but I don’t know what it is.” That’s a pretty succinct description of what it feels like to enter many of the stories and sketches in You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer (Houghton Mifflin Mariner 978-1-328-71026-0, $16.99, 346pp, tp) November 2017.

Something often overlooked in this whole business of setting fiction in the Victorian era, whether steampunk or its various fan­tasy and horror offshoots, is that the Victorians were perfectly capable of writing their own fan­tasy, SF, and horror, some of it classic. This may be one reason I have less sympathy for novels and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books 978-1-61775-588-0, $15.95, 350pp, tp) October 2017.

Whether or not you believe generation starships will ever be a viable concept (an argument most recently engaged by Kim Stanley Robinson in Aurora), the stories are never going to go away: the notion is just too useful in too many ways. The idea of putting a large number of people in a confined vessel and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Luminescent Threads: Connections to Oc­tavia E. Butler edited by Alexandra Pierce & Mimi Mondal

Luminescent Threads: Connections to Oc­tavia E. Butler, Alexandra Pierce & Mimi Mondal, eds. (Twelfth Planet 978-1-922-10144-0, $19.99, 434pp, tp) August 2017.

Next to Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler seems to have developed the most impressive posthumous career of any late 20th century SF writer. Kindred has become a staple of classrooms and commu­nity reading projects; the Carl Brandon Society has named both a scholarship and an award in her honor; ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Emerald Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-273-9, $15.95, 282pp, tp) November 2017.

One of Jane Yolen’s abiding concerns in the hun­dreds of books she’s written or edited has been the ways in which stories and lives shape each other, so it’s not too surprising that her new collection The Emerald Circus begins and ends with actual historical figures, Hans Christian Andersen and Emily Dickinson. In between, we also briefly meet ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle

The Overneath, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon 978-1-61696-269-2, $15.95, 336pp, tp) November 2017.

Peter S. Beagle’s late career has been something of a marvel, shifting between deeply resonant and apparently autobiographical fictions like “The Rabbi’s Hobby” and “The Rock in the Park” (both in his earlier Tachyon collection Sleight of Hand) with occasional revisits to the greatest-hits territory of The Last Unicorn or The Innkeeper’s Song. His new collection, The Overneath, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

The Man in the Tree, Sage Walker (Tor 978-0-7653-7992-4, $26.99, 382pp, hc) September 2017.

More than 20 years ago, Sage Walker won a Locus Award for her first novel, Whiteout (recently reprinted by Tor), and then nearly disappeared from the field entirely, except for a couple of short stories, but it’s apparent she hasn’t been ignoring the field all that time. Her second novel, The Man in the Tree, is ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Changeling, Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau 978-0-8129-9594-7, $28.00, 434pp, hc) June 2017.

At least since his Shirley Jackson Award-winning The Big Machine back in 2009, and probably before that, Victor LaValle has been edging toward more direct engagement with genre materials, although his trademark approach has been to frame such materials in his sharp-edged brand of social realism. Last year, The Ballad of Black Tom (also nominated for multiple ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams

Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams (Saga 978-1-4814-8997-3, $27.99, 544pp, hc) October 2017.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown 978-0-316-22083-5, $17.99, 378pp, tp) October 2017.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy, which concludes with Tool of War, began as a disturbing ecological fable of young people trying to survive by mining ruined oil tankers for copper and other resources in a devastated southeastern US, mostly around New Orleans, then moved to an almost equally devastated DC area in The Drowned Cities. Over the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crow­ley

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, John Crow­ley (Saga 978-1-4814-9559-2, $28.99, 464pp, hc) October 2017.

Toward the end of John Crowley’s aston­ishing new novel Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, the immortal crow of the title asks a Coyote what they have ever got from the humans whose world has encroached upon and finally displaced their own, and the Coyote responds, “Stories…. We’re made of stories ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan El­lison by Nat Segaloff

A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan El­lison, Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press 978-1610373234, $35.00, 416pp, hc) July 2017.

For decades, people (myself included) have asked Harlan Ellison when he might get around to writing an autobiography, bringing together in one volume those voluminous anecdotes and memoirs that have peppered his speeches, introductions, and essays almost since his first story collections and conven­tion appearances. His response, at least when I ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor (Viking 978-0-6707-8561-2, $18.99, 480pp, hc) October 2017

It’s been more than six years since Nnedi Okora­for’s Akata Witch, which introduced us to Sunny Nwazue, the American-born daughter of Nigerian parents (or Naijamerican) who moves to Nigeria at 12, begins to discover her own latent powers as a “free agent,” joins the secret society of Leopard people, discovers the magical hidden village of Leopard Knocks, and finally ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

The Twilight Pariah, Jeffrey Ford (Tor.com 978-0-7653-9734-8, $14.99, 164pp, tp) Septem­ber 2017.

A group of college students setting out to ex­cavate the grounds of a long-deserted mansion at night sounds like the plot of about half the low-budget horror films you scroll past while browsing through listings for the Shudder or Chiller channels, and I suspect Jeffrey Ford was perfectly aware of this while writing The Twi­light Pariah, a suitably ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Tender: Stories by Sofia Samatar

Tender: Stories, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer 978-1-618-73126-5, $24.00, 280pp, hc) April 2017.

The practice of including original stories in a collec­tion of mostly reprints is usually an astute marketing decision, but perhaps not always the best literary decision. There have been cases, some in fairly recent memory, in which brilliant tales that helped establish the writer’s reputation are mixed with what one suspects were trunk stories that never found a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Telling the Map: Stories by Christopher Rowe

Telling the Map: Stories, Christopher Rowe (Small Beer 978-1-618-73132-6, $16.00, 270pp, tp) July 2017. Cover by Kathleen Jennings.

One of the surviving conventions of golden age SF is the notion that any sort of complicated future is likely to be both urban and coastal, but there’s also been a smaller but distinctive tradition of flyover-state futures that imagine the towns and rural areas of the South or Midwest as something ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Mother Go by James Patrick Kelly

Mother Go, James Patrick Kelly; January LaVoy, narrator (Audible, $29.95, 10 hrs., un­abridged, digital download) July 2017.

It’s been more than a decade since James Patrick Kelly’s short novel, Burn, and his new one Mother Go is unusual in that its first publication comes as an audiobook (this review is based on the text version). Kelly is deservedly well respected for his short fiction, and two of the three stories ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Autonomous, Annalee Newitz (Tor 978-0-7653-9207-7, $25.99, 306pp, hc) September 2017.

With only a handful of stories published – sometimes in think-tankish venues such as Hieroglyph or Bruce Sterling’s Twelve Tomorrows – and with a distinguished career in science and SF non-fiction and journalism, Annalee Newitz might well be expected to produce the sort of programmatic first novel that we used to get from professional ‘‘futurists’’ like Robert Theobald or even ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun

After the Flare, by Deji Bryce Olukotun (Unnamed Press 978-1-9447-0018-8, $16.00, 264pp, tp September 2017)

Despite its provocative title, Deji Bryce Olukotun’s first novel Nigerians in Space escaped my attention in 2014, but as it turns out, the Nigerians don’t actually get into space in that novel, which is mostly an international thriller centered around an effort to bring expatriate Nigerian brain power back to the home country (or ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Nina Allan’s The Rift

The Rift, Nina Allan (Titan 9781785650376, $14.95, 423pp, tp) July 2017.

Writers get labeled subversive for all sorts of reasons. You can subvert a traditional tale by autopsying its in­nards, as Angela Carter and others did with fairy tales; you can subvert a traditionally masculinist form by leaving the men out entirely, as Kameron Hurley recently did in The Stars Are Legion with space opera; you can subvert a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders, Daryl Gregory (Knopf 978-1-5247-3182-3, $26.95, 402pp, hc) June 2017.

Happy families may be all alike, but Daryl Gregory’s families, as a rule, need work. The father in The Devil’s Alphabet turns into a morbidly obese drug factory, the adopted baby brother in Raising Stony Mayhall is a zombie, the mom in Harrison Squared is abducted by Lovecraftian nameless ones, even the victims of various bizarre horrors in We ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ellen Klages

Wicked Wonders, Ellen Klages (Tachyon Publications 978-1-61696-261-6, $15.95, 288pp, trade paperback) May 2017

For decades, it seemed like Ray Bradbury was SF’s default poet of childhood, even though, with few exceptions (such as ‘‘All Summer in a Day’’), the girls in his evocative tales were notable mostly by their absence. I wonder if Ellen Klages is gradually assuming that mantle while redressing the imbalance. It’s not that all the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Claire North

The End of the Day, Claire North (Redhook 978-0-316-31674-3, $26.00, 456pp, hc) April 2017.

Claire North seems to have emerged as the preferred pseudonym for high-concept adult fiction from the successful YA author Catherine Webb, and it earned her a Campbell Award for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and strong reviews and for the subsequent Touch and last year’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope. While none ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews John Kessel

The Moon and the Other, John Kessel (Saga 978-1-4814-8144-1, $27.99, 600pp, hc) April 2017.

After what seems like decades of being sidelined as a bench player, with Mars and the outer solar system getting much of the action in novels by Paul McCauley, Alastair Reynolds, and others, and with Kim Stanley Robinson striving to convince us that generation starships are a Really Bad Idea, the moon is back! Perhaps ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Elizabeth Hand

Fire, Elizabeth Hand (PM Press 978-1-62963-234-6, $13.00, 118pp, tp) January 2017.

PM Press’s ongoing series of chapbook mis­cellanies of ‘‘outspoken authors’’ – basically appetizer-size collections of fiction, non-fiction, and interviews – can at their best convey a sense of meeting an old radical friend in a bar, sharing a few memories, and catching up on things. The authors featured so far are a stunning line-up – Le Guin, Bisson, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0316262347, $28.00, 640pp, hc) March 2017.

It’s been just a decade since Kim Stanley Robinson published Sixty Days and Counting, the final volume in his Science in the Capital trilogy (since updated in the one-volume version Green Earth), and during that time SF’s common approach to global warming seems to have shifted from cautionary tales to a general acceptance of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kameron Hurley

The Stars Are Legion, Kameron Hurley (Saga 978-1-4814-4793-5, $26.99, 388pp, hc) Febru­ary 2017.

Kameron Hurley’s first full-bore venture into SF is described by both the author and the publisher as space opera, but it’s about the most claustrophobic space opera we’re likely to see. In place of the galaxy-wide canvases of the classic form, she takes us to a rather sad cluster of decaying artificial worldlets, called the Legion, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Cat Sparks

Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks (Talos 978-1-940456-70-6, $15.99, 380pp, tp) March 2017

The post-apocalyptic desert wasteland was a staple of SF long before the Mad Max films – think of Zelazny, Ellison, Walter M. Miller, Jr. – but I suppose anyone invoking such a setting these days is fated for the ‘‘Mad Max meets so-and-so’’ treatment, just as anyone invok­ing a rainy, overcrowded dystopolis is likely to get Bladerunnerized. This ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga 978-1-4814-2430-1, $29.99, 860pp, hc) October 2016.

In one of those enjoyable but pointless conven­tion barroom debates a few years ago, I found myself drawn into the question of whether the term ‘‘fantasy novel’’ is a redundancy or an oxymoron. The argument, as I recall it (and I don’t remember who started it, since alco­hol was certainly involved), was whether the traditional literary ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Nnedi Okorafor

Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com 978-0-7653-9311-1, $14.99, 166pp, tp) January 2017.

In one sense, Nnedi Okorafor’s characters are startling originals in SF – women or girls either African or of African descent, deeply aware of their cultural roots and struggling to balance the essential conservatism of tribal traditions with their own dreams of independence and self-sufficiency and with the sort of progressive futures offered through SF. In another, though, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ellen Klages

Passing Strange, Ellen Klages (Tor.com 978-0-7653-8952-7, $14.99, 222pp, tp) January 2017. Cover by Gregory Manchess

As satisfying as Ellen Klages’s YA historicals The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace are, in terms of SF and fantasy she belongs to that select but important group of well-received short fiction writers whose readers would be thrilled at the prospect of seeing her unique vi­sion at novel length. Passing Strange ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Emmi Itäranta

The City of Woven Streets, Emmi Itäranta (Harper Voyager UK 978-0007536061 8.99, 332pp, tp) June 2016. As Weaver (Harper Voy­ager 978-0-06-232617-1, $14.99, 310pp, tp) November 2016.

The Weaver, published earlier this year in England under the far more evocative title The City of Woven Streets, is the second novel from the Finnish writer Emmi Itäranta, whose post-apocalyptic SF novel The Memory of Water deservedly gained attention a ...Read More

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