Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen

Mapping the Bones, Jane Yolen (Philomel 978-0-399-25778-0, $17.99, 418pp, hc) March 2018.

I should point out up front that Jane Yolen’s powerful young-adult Holocaust novel Mapping the Bones is a straight historical without overt fantastic elements, although – like her earlier Briar Rose – it’s woven around the armature of a classic fairy tale, in this case “Hansel and Gretel”. Almost inevitably, considering its subject, it’s a horror story, and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Vandana Singh (Small Beer 978-1-618-73143-2, $16.00, 336pp) February 2018.

For the past 15 years or so, Vandana Singh has been producing consistently interesting and often brilliant short fiction, and her name is often among those mentioned in celebra­tions of SF’s growing diversity. But “diversity” can have a number of meanings, and, as beauti­fully demonstrated in her new collection Ambi­guity Machines and Other Stories, diversity in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Starlings by Jo Walton

Starlings, Jo Walton (Tachyon 978-1-61696-056-8, $15.95, 288pp, tp) January 2018.

In the introduction to her first collection of stories and poems, Starlings, Jo Walton tells us that she didn’t really figure out how to write short stories until after her award-winning Among Others was published in 2011, and that her earlier efforts “were either extended jokes, poems with the line breaks taken out, experiments with form, or the first chapters ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin

No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-1-328-66159-3, $22.00, 218pp, hc) December 2017.

Has the SF arena ever produced a more widely respected public intellectual than Ursula K. Le Guin? Back in the days of the space race, Asimov, Heinlein, or Bradbury would occasionally get hauled before the TV cameras to celebrate all the SFnal dreams that were about to come true ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf 978-1-55597-788-7, $16.00, 250pp, tp) October 2017.

Award nominations are no way to judge anything, but it would be nice to think that the recogni­tion afforded Carmen Maria Machado’s first collection Her Body and Other Parties might represent, if not a complete blurring of the lines between “literary” and genre fiction, at least a diminishing level of mutual intolerance. Not only was ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Conversation Larger than the Universe by Henry Wessells

A Conversation Larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017, Henry Wessells (Oak Knoll Books 978-1-60583-074-2, $35.00, 288pp, tp) Janu­ary 2018.

Sometimes an exhibition catalog can provide a much-needed opportunity to step back and regain some perspective on what makes us like this stuff in the first place, even if we can’t make it to the exhibition itself. A few years ago the British Li­brary mounted ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Father of Lies by K.J. Parker

The Father of Lies, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-59606-852-0, $40.00, 542pp hc) January 2018.

K.J. Parker’s major new collection The Father of Lies doesn’t actually contain a story by that title, but it doesn’t need to: the old trickster’s techniques run like a twisted thread through these 12 equally twisted stories and novellas (three of them published earlier by Subterranean as standalones). All but two take place in Parker’s now-familiar shadow-Europe ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Robots vs Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Robots vs Fairies, Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe, eds. (Saga 978-1-4134-6236-5, $27.99, 384pp, hc) January 2018.

It certainly started long before Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier’s Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology a few years ago, and before the movie Batman vs. Superman turned a game kids had been playing for a half-century into gloomy sludge, and it probably even dates back before things like King Kong vs. Godzilla. But I suspect ...Read More

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Saving the World Through Science Fiction, Unless We’re Too Late by Gary K. Wolfe

[Editor’s note: part of our 2017 year-in-review essay series from the February 2018 issue of Locus]

According to Barnes & Noble’s year-end summary, if we set aside J.K. Rowl­ing and Rick Riordan, the bestselling genre-related novel of 2017 was Mar­garet Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, followed a few slots later by Stephen King’s It – novels originally published in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Ama­zon’s list adds Orwell’s 1984 (from way back ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Weight of Words edited by Dave McKean & William Schafer

The Weight of Words, Dave McKean & William Schafer, eds. (Subterranean 978-1-59606-825-4, $40.00, 248pp, hc) December 2017.

At least in the SFF world, Dave McKean’s prolific multimedia career is most often associ­ated with that of his frequent collaborator and pal Neil Gaiman, who has two short pieces in The Weight of Words, a fascinating anthology edited by McKean & William Schafer in which ten authors – including McKean himself – ...Read More

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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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