Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

The Hod King, Josiah Bancroft (Orbit 978-0316517980, $15.99, 624pp, tp) January 2019.

To the familiar litany of author names that illustrate self-publishing successes – Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, E.L. James – you can add that of Josiah Bancroft. Convinced of the quality of his first novel, Senlin Ascends, he issued it himself in 2013, with the goal of “selling five hundred copies.” Five years later, new editions of ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Zero Bomb by M.T. Hill

Zero Bomb by M.T. Hill (Titan 978-1-78909-001-7, $14.95, 304pp, trade paperback) March 2019.

The byline M.T. Hill is a not-too-opaque screen for the writer Matt Hill, whose two previous books under that name have been The Folded Man (2013) and Graft (2016). I mention this fact only because his third novel, Zero Bomb, is so good that you will want to snatch up copies of the first two, as ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Today I Am Carey by Martin L. Shoemaker

Today I Am Carey by Martin L. Shoemaker (Baen 978-1-4814-8384-1, $16, 336pp, trade paperback) March 2019.

Martin Shoemaker’s debut novel (he had his first story publication in 2011), is based on his tale “Today I Am Paul“. That quietly emotional story about “Medical Care Android BRKCX-01932-217JH-98662” garnered Shoemaker a Nebula nomination, and consequently a fair number of readers will certainly be quite interested to see how Shoemaker expands what was ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Sarah Pinsker’s Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press 978-1-61873-155-5, $17, 286pp, trade paperback) March 2019

Having published her first story as recently as 2012 — that date surely seems barely in the rearview mirror to me, although your personal chrono-mileage may vary — Sarah Pinsker has accomplished a lot. With nearly fifty stories to her credit, and a couple of major awards, she has ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks ((John Joseph Adams 978-1-328-56645-4, $24, 304pp, hardcover, February 2019)

Arguably, we live in a golden age for ghost stories, of an excellence and profusion on a par with the Victorian era classics. Writers such as Mike Carey, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Tim Powers, and Paul Tremblay are working in this mode at the top of their game. As an article in ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor 978-0-7653-7996-2, $26.99, 368pp, hardcover, February 2019)

Charlie Jane Anders’s debut novel from 2016, All the Birds in the Sky, marked the emergence of a truly distinctive voice. In her tale of battling magicians and scientists, she managed to gainfully conflate a touching love story with a scary apocalypse, yoking the quotidian with the cosmic, the comic ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The Plotters by Un-su Kim

The Plotters by Un-su Kim ((Doubleday 978-0385544382, $25.95, 304pp, hardcover, January 2019)

The theme of secret conspiracies running our mundane world has sunk deep roots into the genre of fantastika. Although quite often such books exhibit no supernatural or SFnal apparatus, they still manage to evoke speculative or weird effects that resonate with the genre, since they demand a kind of cognitive estrangement: everything you know is wrong. John Crowley ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds (Orbit 978-0316555708, $15.99, 448pp, trade paperback, January 2019)

A person huddles alone in the wreckage of a spaceship, body glowing with strange patterns of light. And all that the person can think of is revenge on those responsible for the situation.

Sounds familiar, right? Good old Gully Foyle in The Stars My Destination. Well, surprisingly, that’s not the book under discussion today. Instead, we ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Arkad’s World by James Cambias

Arkad’s World by James Cambias (Baen 978-1-4814-8370-4, $24, 304pp, hardcover, January 2019)

One of my all-time favorite SF novels is Earthblood, by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown. It’s a space operatic quest following the life of a man called Roan, from youth to maturity. He’s the only human, and despised, in a galaxy of oddball aliens, and he’s determined to find the rest of his species on the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-267813-3, $26.99, 640pp, hardcover, January 2019)

Chakraborty’s second novel, a sequel to The City of Brass, which I reviewed on this site, continues to chronicle with grace and elegance the ongoing exploits of Nahri, once an unassuming child of Cairo’s streets, whose true role was proven to be the scion of a race of magical healers. When her mystical powers ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Tropic of Eternity by Tom Toner

The Tropic of Eternity, Tom Toner (Night Shade 978-1-59780-911-5, $26.00, 380pp, hc) August 2018.

Fans of Saga, that superlative postmodern-space-opera in graphic novel form, creat­ed by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, had cause to mourn recently. Issue 54 brought the tragic death of a main character, and also the news that the series would go on indefinite hiatus. If I could offer any solace to these read­ers, it ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Tell Me Like You Done Before: And Other Stories Written on the Shoulders of Giants by Scott Edelman

Tell Me Like You Done Before: And Other Stories Written on the Shoulders of Giants, Scott Edelman (Lethe Press 978-1-59021-544-9, $20, 332pp, trade paperback, December 2018)

As a writer who labors meticulously and intensively and slowly at his craft of short fiction, and as one who has publicly proclaimed that he has no interest in writing novels, Scott Edelman accumulates published work at a relatively slow rate—at least compared ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Hazards of Time Travel Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco 978-0-06-231959-3, $26.99, 336pp, hardcover, November 2018)

Joyce Carol Oates turned eighty this year, and her fabled productivity seems undiminished. Given that she began her career at age nineteen by winning a short story contest sponsored by Mademoiselle, she has passed sixty years of unceasing and exemplary creativity. Moreover, she continues to delve into areas outside her familiar remits of mimetic fiction, crime ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin

Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin (Bantam 978-1524796280, 736pp, hardcover, November 2018)

When first the weighty brazen tome yclept Fire & Blood did wend its serendipitous way into mine hands, I was struck with poignant recognition, as by the sharp lance of mine foe. “Magister Martin,” I did spontaneously vociferate, “hath written his own version of The Silmarillion!” But little did ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Mike Ashley’s Lost Mars: Stories from the Golden Age of the Red Planet

Lost Mars: Stories from the Golden Age of the Red Planet, edited by Mike Ashley (University of Chicago Press 978-0226575087, $17.00, 304pp, trade paperback) October 2018

Once upon a time, when book publishers first decided that there was a wealth of fantastical stories that deserved reprinting, buried in back issues of magazines, our field featured many expert spelunkers of pulp, editors who could delve deep into the substrata of ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Amanda Bridgeman’s The Subjugate

The Subjugate, by Amanda Bridgeman (Angry Robot 978-0857667717, $12.99, 400pp, trade paperback) November 2018

I have not had the pleasure of reading Amanda Bridgeman’s six-book Aurora series, nor her previous standalone novel, The Time of the Stripes. But if they are half as good as her newest singleton, The Subjugate, I will heartily search them out with the guaranteed prospect of enjoying them thoroughly. This new book ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Rudy Rucker’s Return to the Hollow Earth

Return to the Hollow Earth, by Rudy Rucker (Transreal Books 978-1940948324, $22.95, 270pp, trade paperback) August 2018

Like Adam Roberts, a peer whom he matches in speculative chops and daring, Rudy Rucker seldom repeats himself. Yes, he’s given us a couple of series—the Ware Tetralogy and the duology consisting of Postsingular and Hylozoic—but the bulk of his output has been singletons, with each book utterly different from all ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Ellen Datlow’s The Best of the Best Horror of the Year

The Best of the Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-983-2, $17.99, 432pp, trade paperback) October 2018

In the hurly-burly of making literature—writing fiction, buying it, editing it, publishing it, selling it, promoting it, reviewing it—one’s focus is always on the immediate. Tasks to do, commitments, hopes and aspirations, victories and defeats, what’s new now, the latest thing. Faddish trends can intrude, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan

Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey 978-0345493125, $28, 544pp, hardcover) October 2018

I was bowled over by Richard Morgan’s debut, Altered Carbon, and the sequels—Broken Angels and Woken Furies—that fleshed out the saga of Takeshi Kovacs. Exciting, gritty, muscular nth-generation cyberpunk, self-aware yet not archly ironic or parodic, they took the tropes of that subgenre and amped them up to reflect the harsh realities ...Read More

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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

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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

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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

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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 ...Read More

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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