Paul Di Filippo Reviews By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

By the Pricking of Her Thumb, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473221499, $24.99, 272pp, hardcover) August 2018

I seem to recall a character from one of John Barth’s early novels who wanted to live a life of utter unpredictability and inconsistency, as a kind of embodiment of the chaos principle. But then with a shock the man realized that total inconsistency was a kind of predictability. And so he picked ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Apex Book of World SF 5

The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 5, edited by Cristina Jurado and Lavie Tidhar (Apex, $16.95, 359pp, hardcover) October 2018

It can be convincingly argued, I believe, that the expressed genuine interest of the English-speaking SF audience in foreign science fiction is exactly coterminous with the birth of the genre. For did not the very first issue of Amazing in 1926 feature work by Jules Verne? Yes, that’s ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey 978-0399178764, $30, 576pp, hardcover) September 2018

Peter Hamilton just keeps getting better and better with each book, more assured and more craftsmanly adroit, and more inventive. And to his credit, he wants to stretch and try different things, not just repeat himself. His newest–the first in a fresh cycle–is, to my eye, rather different than any of his previous books. I detect ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Michael Bishop’s The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales, by Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press 978-1933846729, $17.99, 280pp, trade paperback) August 2018

Vividly do I recall purchasing the 1970 issue of Galaxy magazine that contained Michael Bishop’s first story sale, “Piñon Fall.”  After all, I was only sixteen years old at the time, and in the midst of my own personal Golden Age of SF immersion.  Liking the eerie and evocative ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Irontown Blues by John Varley

Irontown Blues, by John Varley (Ace 978-1-101-98937-1, $16, 304pp, trade paperback August 2018

The science fiction and fantasy genres are conducive to long-lived series. Any number of writers who have managed to contrive extensive careers have found fandoms who relish receiving continuing installments of their favorite sagas. Sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes reluctantly, these writers keep the franchises ticking along. Jack Williamson gave us The Legion of Space in 1947–and in ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews A Voice in the Night by Jack McDevitt

A Voice in the Night, by Jack McDevitt (Subterranean 978-1-59606-880-3, $40.00, 464pp, hardcover) 31 August 2018

With nearly two dozen novels published, Jack McDevitt is one of those writers whose sturdy and engaging presence in the territory of long-form fiction definitely overshadows his stature at shorter lengths. But since his first story sale in 1981–nigh unto forty years ago, impossible as that seems!–he has accumulated, by ISFDB’s catalog, over ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The End of All Our Exploring by F. Brett Cox

The End of All Our Exploring, by F. Brett Cox (Fairwood Press 978-1933846712, $17.99, 306pp, trade paperback) August 2018

Like a fine vintage wine, Brett Cox’s career has been slowly ripening, almost subliminally, for some time now, a vault-ensconced treasure that we handle and inspect at intervals, as if turning a precious stored bottle to prevent sedimentation, always anticipating the day when the long season’s whole batch is ready ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Annex by Rich Larson

Annex, by Rich Larson (Orbit 978-0-316-41654-2, $15.99, 368pp, trade paperback) July 2018

I’ve been enjoying the stories of Rich Larson for a couple of years now, amazed at his rate of production and polished skills. (Over a hundred tales sold since his debut in 2011, with several taken for best-of compilations.) So his first novel is a book greatly anticipated, and, happily, it lives up to the measure and ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling

Black Chamber, by S.M. Stirling (Ace 978-0-399-58623-1, $16, 400pp, trade paperback) July 2018

For the past twenty years, since the publication of Island in the Sea of Time in 1998, S. M. Stirling has been compounding an immense series of books that fall under the rubric “Novels of the Change.” But he has not focused exclusively on that series, issuing many other titles, standalone and otherwise, in that same ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

The Book of Hidden Things, by Francesco Dimitri (Titan 978-1-785-65707-8, $14.95, 385pp, trade paperback) July 2018

Authors who write splendid books in languages other than their native tongue must all be rounded up and stopped, so they don’t make us struggling monolinguists look bad. Joseph Conrad, Vladimir Nabokov–well, they’re already canonized. But we still face Salman Rushdie, Hannu Rajaniemi, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and Lavie Tidhar, among others. Their excellent ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Uncharted, by Kevin J. Anderson & Sarah A. Hoyt

Uncharted, by Kevin J. Anderson & Sarah A. Hoyt (Baen 978-1-4814-8323-0, $25, 272pp, hardcover) May 2018

American history is over five hundred years deep–much deeper, of course, if you venture beyond the European presence. The latest findings put the first human footprint in North America at 130,000 years ago. Given this vast tract of time, populated with myriad fascinating cultures and personages, knowable and conjecturable, it seems silly and ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Peter Watts’ The Freeze-Frame Revolution

The Freeze-Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts (Tachyon Publications 978-1-61696-252-4, $14.95, 192pp, trade paperback) June 2018

In 2014, I concluded my Locus Online review of Peter Watts’s Echopraxia by saying, “Peter Watts is some precisely engineered hybrid of Lucius Shepard and Gregory Benford, lyrical yet hard-edged, purveyor of sleek surfaces and also the ethical and spiritual contents inside.” I am happy to report, after a torturous wait of four years, ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Harlan Ellison’s Blood’s a Rover

Blood’s a Rover, by Harlan Ellison (Subterranean 978-1596068681, $40.00, 232pp, hardcover) June 30, 2018

The tradition of creating “fixups“–a narrative assembled from previously published pieces, sometimes with new interleaved material, and then issued as an organic whole–is a grand one in science fiction. Such masterpieces as Simak’s City and Vance’s The Eyes of the Overworld have arisen from this process. (The term was coined by A. E. van Vogt ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

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

I’m going to confess to an idiosyncratic critical weakness: if you want me to be immediately predisposed towards your novel, preface it with an epigram from Dhalgren. Not only will I instantly respect your taste and cultural leanings, but I will be excited to see if your own book can possibly be worthy of bearing ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima

Sisyphean, by Dempow Torishima (Haikasoru 978-1-4215-8082-1, $16.99, 304pp, trade paperback) March 2018

With this stellar debut volume–a “mosaic novel” depicting a world of infinite biomorphic perversity that feels at once surreal yet authentic; estranging yet welcoming; otherwordly yet familiar–Dempow Torishima gives the world a book of fantastika with very few literary precedents. Perhaps the closest correlative is the cult classic Moderan, by David Bunch, a long-out-of-print sui generis ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Rig by Roger Levy

The Rig, by Roger Levy (Titan 978-1785655630, $14.95, 617pp, trade paperback) May 2018

In the period from 2000 to 2006, Roger Levy gave the world three novels: Reckless Sleep, Dark Heavens and Icarus. I recall receiving review copies and making a mental note that these books seemed several cuts above the average, and I should pay attention to them. But of course, due to the constant, overwhelming ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Real-Town Murders, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473221451, $28.99, 240pp, trade paperback) US edition April 2018

Starting in the year 2000, with the appearance of his first book, Salt, I have read (and mostly reviewed) all of the non-parody novels from Adam Roberts, except, for some forgotten reason, Gradisil. (Must save one Roberts treat for my dotage.) In those eighteen years he has never repeated himself and ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Spirits of the Vasty Deep by Brian Stableford

Spirits of the Vasty Deep, by Brian Stableford (Snuggly Books 978-1-943813-54-4, $17.95, 300pp, trade paperback) March 2018

For a stretch of years in the recent past, the indefatigable and talented Brian Stableford was producing upwards of a dozen books annually. These consisted of his own fiction; translations for the essential Francophile publisher Black Coat Press; and non-fiction critical works, including the massive four-volume set New Atlantis: A Narrative History ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Origamy by Rachel Armstrong

Origamy, by Rachel Armstrong (NewCon Press 978-1910935781, $14.99, 256pp, trade paperback) April 2018

When she is not wearing her fiction-writer hat and offering us her debut SF novel, Dr. Rachel Armstrong is performing her duties as Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Newcastle, and, like some character out of an early William Gibson novel, lecturing via TED Talks about “living buildings” ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Quietus by Tristan Palmgren

Quietus, by Tristan Palmgren (Angry Robot 978-0857667434, $12.99, 464pp, trade paperback) March 2018

Hidden spies from a high-tech culture inserted into the primitive polity of fellow humans in order to gather data, while obedient to a clause not to interfere. Oh, we must be talking about one of Connie Willis’s time-travel novels, or perhaps an installment of Kage Baker’s Company franchise. Maybe even The Man Who Fell to Earth ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

The Coincidence Makers, by Yova Blum (St. Martin’s 978-1250146113, $26.99, 304pp, hardcover) March 2018

It is a shame that English-speaking readers are deprived of two out of Yoav Blum’s three books to date, since they exist only in Israeli editions in his native land. Consider this description of his latest, The Unswitchable. “[The novel] takes place in a world where everybody has a bracelet that enables them to ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Bridges to Science Fiction and Fantasy: Outstanding Essays from the J. Lloyd Eaton Conferences

Bridges to Science Fiction and Fantasy: Outstanding Essays from the J. Lloyd Eaton Conferences, edited by Gregory Benford,‎ Gary Westfahl,‎ Howard V. Hendrix,‎ and Joseph D. Miller
(McFarland 978-1476669281, $26, 271pp, trade paperback) February 2018

Despite the flourishing of courses devoted to fantastika in the groves of academia, it seems to me that actually, in any given year, very few scholarly volumes emerge. Most of the non-fiction books–the candidates ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig (Viking 978-0-525-52287-4, $26, 336pp, hardcover) February 2018

I am not quite sure how I managed to be ignorant of Matt’s Haig’s work prior to this moment, especially since he has produced twelve prior novels–the first appearing in 2004, and one currently optioned for film–and a non-fiction bestseller. I can only blame the incredible and overwhelming plethora of interesting books being produced these ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

Embers of War, by Gareth L. Powell (Titan 978-1785655180, $14.95, 411pp, trade paperback) February 2018

The first appearance in Interzone that I can track down for Gareth Powell’s fiction is “Memory Dust” in 2009, although he had been publishing elsewhere since 2004. But Interzone is where I personally discovered this marvelous fellow, and I am glad I did. When his pivotal story “Ack-Ack Macaque” showed up (the three allied ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Madness Is Better Than Defeat by Ned Beauman

Madness Is Better Than Defeat, by Ned Beauman (Knopf 978-0-385-35299-4, $27.95, 416pp, hardcover) February 2018

When I reviewed Ned Beauman’s first two novels–Boxer, Beetle and The Teleportation Accident–I concluded by citing “his endless fecundity of invention and specificity. No setting is unburnished, no individual, even walk-ons, left undistinguished. Second, and more amazing, is his patterning ability — a skill so important to an author yet one of ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Tim Wirkus’s The Infinite Future

The Infinite Future, by Tim Wirkus (Penguin Press 978-0-7352-2432-2, $28, 400pp, hardcover) January 2018

The concept of “steam engine time” should be familiar to most SF readers. The notion derives from a line by Charles Fort in his book Lo!. “A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time.” This initial formulation evolved into a broader principle, as defined by the Urban Dictionary: ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo Reviews Charles Stross’ Dark State

Dark State, by Charles Stross (Tor 978-0-7653-3757-3, $25.99, 352pp, hc) January 2018.

Charles Stross launched his “Merchant Princes” franchise in 2004 with The Family Trade. There were subsequently five more volumes in what might be thought of as the “first season” of the enterprise. I was able to read the first two installments and review them for Scott Edelman, then editing the online zine SF Weekly. There I ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo Reviews K.J. Parker’s The Father of Lies

The Father of Lies, by K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1596068520, $40.00, 544pp, hardcover) 31 January 2018.

Like many other ultra-prolific and career-splitting authors before him (I’m thinking “Evan Hunter” and “Ed McBain” as an example), Tom Holt manages to put out multiple books every year, one or more under “Tom Holt,” and one or more under “K. J. Parker.” The year 2017 saw the publication of Holt’s The Management Style ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo Reviews Ada Palmer’s The Will to Battle

The Will to Battle, by Ada Palmer (Tor 978-0-7653-7804-0, $26.99, 352pp, hardcover) 19 December 2017

In my consideration of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in a piece at The Barnes & Noble Review, I found this kickoff to her quartet to be rife with Bester-style pyrotechnics, complex and intriguing linguistic and sociopolitical speculations, deep moral and ethical issues, and maximalist kitchen-sink plotting. It was an awesome debut novel, ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews Until the Last Dog Dies by Robert Guffey

— Special to Locus Online —

Until the Last Dog Dies, by Robert Guffey (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-918-4, $15.99, 320pp, trade paperback) November 2017

Somewhere up on a cloud–or somewhere down in the abyss–the ghost of Lenny Bruce is leering approvingly upon Robert Guffey’s Until the Last Dog Dies, after which the savage shade will nod off with a spike in his arm. Guffey’s book is a rarity ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo reviews The Clingerman Files by Mildred Clingerman

The Clingerman Files, by Mildred Clingerman (edited by Mark Bradley) (Size 5 1/2 B Publishing, 978-1981219926, $25, 306pp, trade paperback) November 2017

Mildred Clingerman (1918-1997) was a writer I grew up on, and loved. Although her heyday came during the 1950s, before I began reading SF, I would run across her memorable tales reprinted in anthologies–and also in their original venues, as I began to accumulate back issues of ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo Reviews Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers

Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers, Tim Powers (Baen 978-1-4814-8279-0, $25, 496pp, hardcover) November 2017.

Casual sports fans merely enjoy the games. Hardcore obsessive sports fans compile stats and follow the managerial maneuvers of the franchises. A similar dichotomy exists between casual readers of fantastika and the true aficionados. The latter nerds, such as myself, chart the careers of writers along several axes. And ...Read More

Read more