Carolyn Cushman Reviews Angel of the Overpass and Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire, and Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas

Seanan McGuire, Angel of the Overpass (DAW 978-0-7564-1689-8, $17.00, 309pp, tp) May 2021. Cover by Amber Whitney.

The third book in the Ghost Roads series finds Rose Marshall, the hitchhiking ghost also known as the Girl in the Green Silk Dress, facing serious changes in her world. Word has come down that the Crossroads is dead (seen in InCryptid novel That Ain’t Witchcraft). No one’s sure what the death of the Crossroads means, but the power of the Crossroads is what gave Rose’s nemesis Bobby Cross his eternal youth and his ghost-eating car, and now Bobby’s more determined than ever to put Rose in his gas tank. In turn, she’s more than ready to stop running and do something about him, if she can figure out how. In fact, some very powerful forces of the road insist Rose to stop him. She spends a lot of time looking for information while delivering her own lectures on what she is and can do, and explain­ing aspects of the afterworld regions she passes through. When she finally stops explaining and gets down to business it’s lots of fun; the rather vague rules of Rose’s existence mean anything can and does happen, for a wild ride – the dino­saur is a particularly nice touch. Ultimately, the novel even brings a sort of conclusion to Rose’s story, or at least an unexpected growing up for an eternal adolescent.

Seanan McGuire, Calculated Risks (DAW 978-0-7564-1181-7, $7.99, 429pp, pb) February 2021. Cover by Lee Moyer.

The tenth novel in the Incryptid series follows directly from the previous volume, which saw Sarah Zellaby, a Johrlac cuckoo raised by hu­mans, pursued by other Johrlac who wanted to use her to destroy the world in a mathematical spell that would allow them to move to a new dimension. Sarah managed to to avoid destroying the world, but somehow the dimension-hopping part worked, and she now finds herself on another Earth with a bunch of her human family who no longer remember her, but definitely recognize her as a threat. The world they’re on isn’t safe, and for a while the story takes a sort of turn into old-fashioned planetary romance, with the trans­plants trying to figure out how do get home while dealing with giant bugs and seemingly friendly natives with some interesting legends. Heroic ad­venture mixes with some really horrible choices, an uneven mix that entertains while leaving a bit of a bitter taste behind. The bonus novella in the volume, a prequel of sorts involving a trip for some of the characters to a comics convention, reveals some interesting family dynamics, but fails to satisfy in the end.

Sarah Prineas, Trouble in the Stars (Philomel 978-0-593-20428-3, $17.99, 247pp, hc) April 2021. Cover by Pétur Antonsson.

A shapeshifting blob of goo manages to charm multiple species and defy an empire in this charming middle-grade SF adventure. The goo, initially adrift in space, tries sneaking onto a space station, but the arrival of StarLeague forces looking for a fugitive sends it onto a small space trader ship, where it turns into a human boy to avoid getting spaced by the human captain. The dodge works with the captain, though she calls the boy “trouble,” so he adopts the name. Unfor­tunately, the StarLeague insists on searching the ship, which has its own reasons to avoid them, and a chase across space ensues. Meanwhile, Trouble makes friends with the mixed-species crew. Mak­ing friends could be his most dangerous talent; even the young pilot of a small StarLeague ship that finds them starts to fall for it. Trouble doesn’t even know what he really is, and trying to figure that out, along with what the StarLeague wants, sends him on a dangerous quest, ending with dra­matic battles. There’s a certain cinematic aspect – the science is sketchy at best, but Trouble’s a likeable youngster in a fast-paced Star Wars-ish adventure, dealing with an evil empire with its giant space ship, and meeting all sorts of strange alien races. Touches of humor keep things lively, capped off by a feel-good victory in the end. The novel’s rather young for our usual audience, but great for kids and good light entertainment for older readers.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the July 2021 issue of Locus.

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