Finder, Suzanne Palmer (DAW 978-0-7564-1510-5, $26.00, 400pp, hc) April 2019.
Hugo Award winner Suzanne Palmer’s Finder gets off to slow start, despite its action packed opening scene. Fergus Ferguson, an Earth-born repo man/thief/finder of lost things, is traveling in a cable car between space habitats. The other passenger in the car, Mother Vahn, assures him that the ride will smooth out soon. It doesn’t. Instead, they are attacked, the cable is cut, and Mother Vahn is killed. Fergus, however, winds up in her family’s home and discovers his mission to repossess a ship dovetails nicely with the Vahns’ desire for revenge.
It’s a great start, story wise. Once that beginning is over, however, the plot bogs down as Palmer backfills what we need to know in order for the rest to make sense. That is to be expected, mind, but my hope is that early lull doesn’t lead readers to stop reading. Finder is a fun (and funny) story with heart and panache that inspires the sensawunda so many SF readers crave.
Palmer’s skill goes beyond plot and story. Burbling under all of that wonderfulness is a thread about “fixing” who you are – and if that is even desirable in the first place. The world she has built feels like one inhabited by actual humans, with all of the pockets of delightful weirdness that may entail. Add to that the moments when she hits you with a sentence like this: “It is a warm enough evening that he can escape and sleep in the shed, where he won’t be able to hear their silence.” Her writing is simple but never simplistic.
Fortunately, Finder is the first in what should be a bunch of books set in this universe. It stands alone, though, and tells a complete story, even as it sets up what could come next. Even if those future titles fail to materialize (but I really hope they do!), Finder is a strong debut novel from a short fiction stand-out.
The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, Katherine Howe (Holt 978-1-250-30486-5, $28.00, 352pp, hc) June 2019.
The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, which is technically a sequel to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (but that doesn’t really require that you’ve read it), takes us to the Boston area during the turn of the most recent millennium. Soon to be post-doc Zazi is being grilled by her exam board about her research into voodoo, hoodoo, and other Southern folk practices. Constance “Connie” Goodwin, soon to be our hero, asks Zazi, “Think any witches are real?” Soon we’ll learn that yes, indeed, they are.
Connie is descended from a line of witches, one of whom was killed during the Salem trials. Katherine Howe spends some time with some of those ancestors while also spinning Connie’s story about a transformative time in her life – and how she hopes to save the man she loves.
The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs isn’t a literary tour de force that plays with language and plot to move the genre forward. Not every single book in the world needs to be on the cutting edge of the form. It is, however, delightful. Howe has created characters who feel real and keeps the story moving, while continuously upping the stakes. The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is great fun.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the August 2019 issue of Locus.
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