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 978-1-61037, $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 ( 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

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 ( 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 ( 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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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Alastair Reynolds

Revenger, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz 978-0-575-09053-8, £18.99, 432pp, hc) September 2016; (Orbit 978-0-316-55556-2, $14.99, 560pp, pb) February 2017.

There’s a reason why space opera is called space opera, and it isn’t a good one. By now most SF readers are familiar with Wilson Tucker’s coinage of the term in 1941, modeled on ‘‘horse opera’’ for Westerns (which some 1930s pulp SF was thought to resemble), which in turn was modeled ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Connie Willis

Crosstalk, Connie Willis (Gollancz 978-1-473-20093-7, £14.99, 512pp, tp) September 2016. (Del Rey 978-0-345-54067-6, $28.00, 498pp,
hc) October 2016.

Connie Willis’s love of old movies has been evident throughout her career (see the novella Remake, for example), and her skill at deploying the resources of screwball comedy – the ping-pong dialogue, eccentric secondary characters, missed connections, and endless exasperation – has been a recurring feature of her short fiction, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Christopher Priest

The Gradual, Christopher Priest (Titan 978-1-78565-303-2, $24.99, 400pp, hc) September 2016.

In the three and a half decades in which Christopher Priest has been inviting us along to his colorful but shifty Dream Archipelago – including an extensive if inconclusive gazetteer with The Islanders in 2011 – he has mostly confined his viewpoints to those of the archipelago’s inhabitants, though we are given to understand that an endless and vicious ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Drowned Worlds

Drowned Worlds, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (So­laris 9781781084519, $14.95, 336pp, tp) July 2016. Cover by Les Edwards.

Nina Allan also provides what could easily be the tagline for Jonathan Strahan’s provocative if depressing new anthology Drowned Worlds: ‘‘The problem is that no one gives much of a shit about the future until it actually happens’’. This observation is from her story ‘‘The Com­mon Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known’’, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kij Johnson

The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson ( 978-0-7653-9141-4, $14.99, 176pp, tp; -8651-9,$2.99, eb) August 2016.

Apparently, it’s time to deal with The Lovecraft Problem – and not just with the question of whether the World Fantasy Award ought to be represented with a weapons-grade Gahan Wil­son cudgel that looks vaguely like an oversized Monopoly token. Last year saw Daryl Gregory repurposing Lovecraftiana for YA in Harrison Squared ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews China Miéville

The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville (Del Rey 978-0-345-54399-8, $25.00, 208pp, hc) August 2016.

You’d think that Surrealism and genre fan­tasy would have developed a more cordial relationship during the century or so that both have been distinct forms, but that hasn’t ex­actly been the case. The handful of novels usually associated with the Surrealist movement – Bret­on’s Nadja, de Chirico’s Hebdomeros, Coates’s The Eater ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Nina Allan

The Race, Nina Allan (Newcon Press 978-1907069703, £12.99, 256pp, tp) August 2014. Cover by Ben Baldwin. (Titan Books 9781785650369, $14.95 US, 448pp, tp) July 2016.

Nina Allan has seemed on the verge of novel-making for much of her career, with novellas such as Spin and Harlequin and linked story collections like The Silver Wind and Stardust, the latter consist­ing of stories that loop and weave around each other ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Patricia A. McKillip

Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia A. McKillip (Tachyon 978-1-61696-218-0, $15.95, 276pp, tp) June 2016.

For a career of more than 40 years, Patricia McKillip hasn’t been particularly prolific in short fiction, but her generous output of first-rate novels (most recently Kingfisher, reviewed here last month) has more than satisfied a devoted readership. Still, a rare new story collection is something to look forward to, especially when, as with ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Guy Gavriel Kay

Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL 978-0-451-47296-0, $27.00, 448pp, hc) May 2016. Cover by Larry Rostant

In the brief acknowledgments at the end of his magnificent new novel Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay mentions that his fictional Renaissance city of Obravic is an ‘‘amalgam,’’ and it occurs to me that this is as good a word as any for Kay’s much-discussed technique ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Madeline Ashby

Company Town, Madeline Ashby (Tor 978-0-7653-8290-0, $24.99, 256pp, hc) May 2016.

The streetwise, working class bodyguard hired to protect a sheltered member of a wealthy family has been a staple of hardboiled fiction for decades, and you can see why: the class ten­sions that underlie the whole genre are brought to center stage, the decadence and unexamined privileges of the rich are easily parodied, and the value of a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Lavie Tidhar

Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-214-2, $15.95, 252pp, tp) May 2016.

Since the beginning of his career, Lavie Tidhar has shown a fascination with all varieties of pulp writing, from the obscure Yiddish writer in A Man Lies Dreaming, to the series espionage potboilers of Osama, to superhero comics in The Violent Century. But at the same time, over the past five or six years, he ...Read More

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