Gary K. Wolfe Reviews How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

How Long ’til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 978-0-316-49134-1, $26.00, 404pp, hc) November 2018.

When an author achieves as much suc­cess as N.K. Jemisin has with huge architectonic structures like the Broken Earth and Inheritance trilogies, readers might be excused for greeting her first story collection in either of two ways: gleefully expecting more of the same, or cynically suspecting a series of outtakes or early yeomanlike exercises. I ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Terra Nullius, Claire G. Coleman (Hachette Australia 978-0733638312, A$29.99, 304pp, tp) August 2017. (Small Beer 978-1-61873-1517, $17.00, 304pp, tp) September 2018.

The idea of alien invasion as a commentary on colonialism is at least as old as H.G. Wells, but unfortunately never seems to get out of date. Wells himself, in the very first chapter of The War of the Worlds, formulated it succinctly:

The Tasmanians, in spite of their ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Zion’s Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Specula­tive Literature, Edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum & Emanuel Lottem

Zion’s Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Specula­tive Literature, Sheldon Teitelbaum & Emanuel Lottem, eds. (Mandel Vilar Press 978-1-94213-452-7, $24.95, 336pp, tp) September 2018.

It’s nearly 45 years since Jack Dann’s ground-breaking anthology of Jewish fantasy and SF Wandering Stars, and as he pointed out way back then, a lot of American SF had already been shaped by Jewish writers and editors, from Asimov, Avram Davidson, and Horace Gold, to Ellison, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford

Ahab’s Return, Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow 978-0-06-267900-0, $26.99, 262pp, hc) August 2018

One of the dependable pleasures of Jeffrey Ford’s work, apart from his precise and lyrical prose and generally ingratiating characters, is its acute sense of place, from the Long Island of his childhood to the small-town upstate New York of last year’s The Twilight Pariah. More often than not, these settings seem awash in immanence, conveying a haunting ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton

An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000, Jo Walton (Tor 978-0765379085, $29.99, 576pp, hc) August 2018.

Since their inception in 1953, the Hugo Awards have been SF’s most unignorable elephant in the room, providing generations of readers with a de facto canon and reading list, despite an often wild inconsistency and occasional tendency to reward beloved authors simply because they’re beloved. For ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Irontown Blues by John Varley

Irontown Blues, John Varley (Ace 978-1-101989-37-1, $16.99, 304pp, tp) August 2018.

John Varley’s Eight Worlds sequence of stories and novels – not really a series, since it’s less a consistent future history than a shared conceit among several stories and novels – dates back to the beginning of his career in the 1970s, when he seemed like the hottest new voice in SF since the arrival of Delany, Disch, Le ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Future is Female!, edited by Lisa Yaszek

The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fic­tion Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, Lisa Yaszek, ed. (Library of America 978-1-59853-580-8, $27.95, 532pp, hc) September 2018.

In her pioneering 2016 anthology Sisters of To­morrow, Lisa Yaszek brought to light a number of women SF writers of the pulp era, most long forgotten and out of print for decades. Now, with The Future is Female! 25 ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All I Ever Dreamed and Thoreau’s Microscope by Michael Blumlein

All I Ever Dreamed, Michael Blumlein (Valancourt 978-1-943910-99-1, $22.99, 506pp, tp) May 2018

Thoreau’s Microscope, Michael Blumlein (PM Press 978-1-62963-516-3, $14.00, 118pp, tp) June 2018.

Michael Blumlein has long brought a sharply original perspective to his science fiction, and one possible reason he’s not gained wider recognition is that his most better-known earlier works, such as the now-classic story “The Brains of Rats” and novels such as X,Y were generally ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis

Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories, Abbey Mei Otis (Small Beer 978-1-618-73140-1, $16.00, 238pp, tp) August 2018.

As I’ve mentioned before, the better small presses cultivate a curatorial sensibility, a distinct personality which can be a reliable indicator that, whatever this new book is, it’s probably at least interesting. Small Beer Press is near the top of this list, and Alien Virus Love Disaster is a good example of what they ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly

The Promise of Space, James Patrick Kelly (Prime 978-1-607-01495-9, $15.95, 384pp, tp) July 2018.

In his afterword to The Promise of Space, James Patrick Kelly assures us that none of the 16 stories were included in his massive Centipede Press collection from a couple of years ago, the impos­ingly titled Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly – which serves as an indication that his accomplished career as a short ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0-399-18098-9, $28.00, 440pp, hc) July 2018.

One of the highlights of Navah Wolfe & Dominic Parisien’s The Starlit Wood a couple of years ago was Naomi Novik’s “Spinning Silver”, a shrewd deconstruction of the Rumpelstiltskin tale, which highlighted, among other things, the anti-Semitic undertones of the original, a point which Jane Yo­len and others have previously noted. Now Novik has expanded Spinning Silver into ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders

Rock Manning Goes for Broke, Charlie Jane Anders (Subterranean 978-1-59606-878-0, $40.00, 128pp, hc) September 2018.

When Kingsley Amis coined the very useful term “comic inferno” back in 1959, he wasn’t thinking of Harold Lloyd comedies, and certainly couldn’t have imagined the sort of Jackass-style homemade movie stunts that are at the heart of Charlie Jane Anders’s novella Rock Manning Goes for Broke. But the term is a pretty useful description ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, Theodora Goss (Saga 978-1-4814-6653-0, $26.99, 720pp, hc) July 2018.

When Theodora Goss introduced us to the members of the Athena Club in last year’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, that fun she was having with her lively and contentious group of women was contagious, but that fun masked a more provocative reconsideration of the roles imposed on women in Victorian society – ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

Summerland, Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor 978-1-250-17892-3, $25.99, 304pp, hc) June 2018.

Those who are as impressed as I was with the coruscating style and dense information environment of Hannu Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief trilogy might be a bit taken aback at the very different sort of world of his Summerland, which is essentially an espionage procedural set in 1938 Britain. It quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t our 1938, and Rajaniemi’s England ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Annex by Rich Larson

Annex, Rich Larson (Orbit 978-0-316-41654-2, $15.95, 336pp, tp) July 2018.

By his own count, Rich Larson has published over 100 stories since 2012, with an impressive number of them making it into year’s best anthologies. That amounts to one of the more stunning debuts in recent SF, even as he’s largely been under the radar for major awards (possibly in part because of that very prolificity). This inevitably creates a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

How To Stop Time, Matt Haig (Canongate 978-1-782-11861-9, £12.99, 33699, hc) July 2017. (Viking 978-0-525-52287-4, $26.00, 329pp, hc) February 2018.

The notion that living among us there might be immortals – or at least folks with very long lifespans – is itself an idea that just hangs on decade after decade, not only in SF/F circles but in popular potboilers like Viereck & Eldridge’s hoary My First Two Thousand Years ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Smoke by Simon Ings

The Smoke, Simon Ings (Gollancz 978-0-575-12007-5, £16.99, 298pp, tp) February 2018.

Simon Ings’s The Smoke – his second new SF novel in four years after having taken more than a decade off for more mainstream projects (including a fascinating study of sci­ence under Stalin) – is quite a bit more radical than 2014’s Wolves, which was judiciously and elegantly restrained in its examination of the pos­sible impact of augmented reality, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Space Opera, Catherynne M. Valente (Saga 978-1481497497, $19.99, 304pp, hc) April 2018.

Like its acknowledged inspiration, The Hitch­hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera is something of a Christmas tree: a fairly generic template adorned with so many glittering ornaments and exuberant sentences careening along like beaded garlands (some of Valente’s more ambitious sentences sound as though they need bongos for backup), that pretty soon the plot ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Time Was by Ian McDonald

Time Was, Ian McDonald ( 978-0-7653-9146-9, $14.99, 144pp, tp) April 2018.

Throughout his career, Ian McDonald has demon­strated a remarkable versatility of style and language. His recent fiction has ranged from the YA sense-of-wonder exuberance of his parallel-world Everness series to the efficient social melodrama narration of the Luna novels, but he’s always been equally capable of great lyricism, and his new novella, Time Was, is a persuasive and gorgeous ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12, edited Jonathan Strahan

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1781085738, $19.99, 620pp, tp) April 2018. Cover by Adam Tredowski.

After many years – sometimes it feels like too many – of reading year’s best anthologies, I’ve come to the conclusion that they serve three different purposes for three different but over­lapping audiences. The first, and most obvious, is to provide a rich and entertaining ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco 978-0-06-268482-0, $22.99, 336pp, hc) April 2018.

If Sam J. Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving was an intimate portrait of a troubled but appealing teen grappling with personal demons like bullies and eating disorders, his SF debut Blackfish City is expansive, ambi­tious, violent, rich in invention, and populated by a range of colorful figures whose characteristics sometimes seem drawn from sources as diverse ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi & To­bias S. Buckell

The Tangled Lands, Paolo Bacigalupi & To­bias S. Buckell (Saga 978-1481497299, $26.99, 304pp, hc) February 2018.

Nearly eight years ago, Tobias S. Buckell & Paolo Bacigalupi joined forces to create a high-fantasy world with a lot of familiar late-medieval/early Renaissance trappings and one particularly neat device: every act of magic or spellcasting, no matter how small, fuels the rapid growth of dense, poisonous brambles already threatening to encroach the land. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson ( 978-1-2501-6385-1, $14.99, 240pp, tp) March 2018. Cover by Jon Foster.

There is much to admire in Kelly Robson’s novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach – her surprising skill at rigorous SF worldbuilding after a career distinguished mostly by clever fantasies like “The Waters of Versailles”, her nuanced characterization, especially of a cranky, middle-aged woman protagonist (with six leg-like tentacle prostheses), ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean 978-1-59606-864-3, $40.000, 96pp, hc) March 2018. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Aliette de Bodard is another writer who, in a career of barely more than a decade, has shown remarkable versatility, shifting from the multiple award-winning, far-future space opera settings of her Xuya series to the Dominion of the Fallen fantasy novels, which seem to occupy a territory no one had ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel

Pride and Prometheus, John Kessel (Saga 978-1-4814-8147-2, $27.99, 384pp, hc) February 2018.

One of many things that come to mind in reading Pride and Prometheus, John Kessel’s thoroughly enjoyable full-length expansion of his 2008 Nebula- and Shirley Jackson-winning novelette, is that Pride and Prejudice might have made a pretty suitable title for Frankenstein, at least from the unfortunate creature’s point of view. After all, he’s the product of Victor Frankenstein’s ...Read More

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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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