Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comet Weather by Liz Williams

Comet Weather, Liz Williams (NewCon Press 978-1-912950-46-1, $15.99, 306pp, tp) March 2020.

Comet Weather, Liz Williams’s first novel in several years, is an absolutely lovely tale of an attractive if troubled family in contemporary Somerset and their increasingly hazardous interactions with the world of faerie. I suppose it falls into the broad tradition of what we might call English rural gothic, reaching all the way back through Diana ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Last Human by Zack Jordan

The Last Human, Zack Jordan (Del Rey 978-0451499813, $27.00 448pp, hardcover) March 2020

Zack Jordan’s debut novel is a highly accomplished postmodern space opera that manages to adroitly blend the SF humor of Robert Sheckley and Douglas Adams with the pathos of Simon Jimenez (The Vanished Birds) and the state-of-the-art high-tech speculative ambiance of Peter Hamilton and Alistair Reynolds. Additionally, it resonates with that great SF novum ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Gods & Lies: Season 1 by Elizabeth Vail

Gods & Lies: Season 1, Elizabeth Vail; Cary Hite & Sarah Mollo-Christensen, narrators (Serial Box, $9.99, 7 episodes, digital download, 5.5 hr., un­abridged) November-December 2019.

Serial Box continues to fuel my love for SF/F buddy-cop dramas with this slightly predictable yet incredibly adorable romantic mystery mini-series.

Set in a modern city in an alternate world where the gods take an active role among mortals, Justix Iris Tharro, priestess and ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Sensational, Jodie Lynn Zdrok (Tor Teen 978-0-7653-9971-7, $17.99, 336pp, hc) February 2020.

Jodie Lynn Zdrok concludes the adventures of late-19th-century teen reporter Nathalie Baudin with her second book, Sensational. As readers of the first book, Spectacle, will recall, Nathalie has a powerful ability to see the last moments of a murder (courtesy a bit of mad scientist intervention involving her parents before she was born). She has ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

Death in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press 978-1-984-87935-6, $18.99, 272pp, hc) April 2019.

Vesta Gul (pronounced “like the ocean bird”) is walking her dog, Charlie, through the woods when she finds a note on the ground. The note reads:

Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.

Except there is no body, “no bloodstain. No tangle of ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Asimov’s, Pulp Literature, and Uncanny

Analog 3-4/20 Asimov’s 3-4/20 Pulp Literature Winter ’20 Uncanny 3-4/20

Analog offers several impressive stories in its March-April issue. Andy Dudak can be counted on for wild ideas, and “Midstrathe Exploding” delivers on that account. Ciaran is a pickpocket in Midstrathe City, which seems mainly known for the weirdly time-shifted explosion that engulfed it 200 years before and is still expanding with its victims frozen inside it. He ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs and Bears Behaving Badly by MaryJanice Davidson

Patricia Briggs, Smoke Bitten (Ace 978-0-440-00155-3, $28.00, 342pp, hc) March 2020. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

A new foe with a really nasty bite and some creepy magic keeps Mercy busy trying protect friends and family. At the same time, she’s re­ally worried about her mate. Alpha werewolf Adam hasn’t really recovered emotionally from the last big battle, retreating inside himself so far he’s even shut down their mage bond. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com 978-1-250-24573-1, $14.99, 138pp, tp) February 2020.

I suppose the giant retail emporium has served as a portal into shadowy realms at least since John Col­lier’s “Evening Primrose” almost eighty years ago, but the deliberately labyrinthine layout of IKEA stores seems almost designed for creepy stories – something that Nino Cipri enthusiastically takes advantage of in their novella Finna, which is partly a testy workplace ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996 by Algis Budrys

Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996, Algis Budrys (Ansible Editions/Lulu.com, 978-0-244-56705-7, $22.50, 378pp, trade paperback) 2020

The field of fantastika could never have reached its current flourishing condition, nor hope to continue forcefully, without the efforts of the small presses. These firms throughout the history of the genre and into the present have preserved many older works from oblivion and also offered homes to worthy living ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats Audiobook by James Patrick Kelly

King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats, James Patrick Kelly; Stefan Rudnicki, narrator (Skyboat Media 978-1-09413898-5, $12.22, digital download, 2.25 hr., unabridged) January 2020.

Veteran narrator Stefan Rudnicki’s deep, nasal, al­most lugubrious, voice (last appearing in this column in connection with Adam-Troy Castro’s short-story collection My Wife Hates Time Travel, and Other Stories) anchors the more absurd aspects of this no­vella, in which a circus serves as ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Audiobooks: An Orc on the Wild Side by Tom Holt and Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

An Orc on the Wild Side, Tom Holt; Ray Sawyer, narrator (Hachette Audio 978-1-47898841-0, $24.98, digital download, 14 hr., unabridged) Sep­tember 2019.

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, K.J. Parker; Ray Sawyer, narrator (Ha­chette Audio 978-1-54915698-4, $24.98, digital download, 13.25 hr., unabridged) Decem­ber 2019.

In the late 1980s, I fell in love with Tom Holt’s first novel, Expecting Someone Taller, an amusing work that took the ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Fiyah, BCS, Strange Horizons, and That We May Live

Fiyah Winter ’20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/30/20, 2/13/20 Strange Horizons 2/3/20, 2/10/20 That We May Live: Speculative Chinese Fic­tion, Sarah Coolidge, ed. (Two Lines) March 2020.

The 13th issue of Fiyah is unthemed, letting the stories come unfettered and showcasing several very new authors. The lead is “All That the Storm Took” by Yah Yah Scholfield, a harrowing tale of surviving hurricane Katrina. The structure is ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s, David Ritter & Daniel Ritter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7332964-4-1, $150.00, 516pp, hc) Febru­ary 2020.

Fandom may be a billion-dollar industry these days, and the field of fandom studies has drawn enough scholarly attention that it even has its own academic journal, so old-time SF fans might be excused a degree of smugness while claiming – not unreason­ably – ...Read More

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Ian Mond & Gary K. Wolfe Review Ghost Species by James Bradley

Ghost Species, James Bradley (Hamish Hamilton 978-1-926-42866-6, AU$29.99, 320pp, tp), April 2020.

REVIEW BY IAN MOND

Back in February, Jeff Bezos earmarked ten bil­lion dollars for the establishment of the “Earth Fund.” He joins fellow billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill and Melinda Gates in throwing large sums of money at the climate crisis. While it’s questionable whether these acts of rich-people tokenism will play any role in sav­ing ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Grace, T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio, $5.99, 400pp, eb) February 2020.

T. Kingfisher (the pseudonym that Hugo Award winning Ursula Vernon uses when writing for adults) works in a similar setting as K.J. Parker. Her world, like his, is full of commoners and princes and courtiers and tradespeople in an imagined pre-industrial past. Where Parker goes heavy on the engineering (with a little bit of hu­mor), Vernon goes ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper (Bloomsbury 978-1547600144, $17.99, 307pp, hc) February 2020.

Set just slightly in the future, as the US trains astronauts for a mission to Mars, The Gravity of Us is a smart, heartwarming, and thoroughly relevant novel about teens swept up in the clashing ambitions of those around them. It brims with joy and drama, with a dose of treachery tossed in to keep the ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds

Bone Silence, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz 978-0575090675, $23.83, 496pp, hc) January 2020.

With Bone Silence, Alastair Reynolds completes the far, far-future adventures of Arafura and Adrana Ness, a pair of nice girls who ran away from home to find ad­venture and got rather more than they expected. In Revenger it was crewing on a sunjamming, treasure-hunting spacecraft; pawing through caches of ancient lost technology in dangerous, widely scattered troves ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Masters of Science Fiction: Kate Wilhelm by Kate Wilhelm

Masters of Science Fiction: Kate Wilhelm, Kate Wilhelm (Centipede Press 978-1-61347-207-1 and 978-1-61347-208-8, $95, 736 and 784 pages, hardcover) March 2020

Editor John Pelan and publisher Jerad Walters of Centipede Press have again conspired, as they do on an awesomely regular schedule, to produce a book—a two-volume set, actually—that is a masterpiece of curation and production values. A handsome, deluxe, high-quality package, priced sensibly, enshrining important stories—what more could ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Border Keeper Audiobook by Kerstin Hall

The Border Keeper, Kerstin Hall; Mi­chael Braun, narrator (Recorded Books, $15.99, digital download, 5.25 hr., un­abridged) October 2019.

The mortal man Vasethe is an unwelcome guest to the reclusive Border Keeper, the many-lived, dual-souled powerful woman who guards the boundaries that separate the human lands of Ahri from realms of gods, demons, the incarnated dead, and other strange beings. He begs her to help him find his dead lover, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Big Echo, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 2/20 Lightspeed 2/20 Big Echo 1/20 Tor.com 1/29, 2/5, 2/11, 2/19/20

February’s Clarkesworld starts off strongly with “Outer” by Hollis John Henry. It’s a chilling story of mutants in the Caribbean, the result of some kind of scientific mishap. It hearkens back to Van Vogt’s Slans as we follow one particular mutant who can both feel emotions of those nearby and also snuff out their lifeforces, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds, Simon Jimenez (Del Rey 978-0-593-12898-5, $27.00, 394pp, hc) January 2020.

Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds comes to us from Del Rey, with its long and distinguished SF/F history, but with a cover that pointedly eschews any suggestion of the space opera elements that are central to the novel’s action. The central character sees herself as something of a vagabond. Nia Imani is captain of a space ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Interference by Sue Burke

Interference, Sue Burke (Tor 978-1-250-3784-1, $27.99, 324pp, hc) October 2019.

Sue Burke’s Interference picks up where her meditative Semiosis left off. After a brief opening chapter on Earth, she brings us back to the far-flung Pax Colony, which has come to a negotiated peace between its human colonists, its other alien species (the Glassmakers), and its sentient plant. Things are going about as well as can be expected on ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Bubblegum by Adam Levin

Bubblegum, Adam Levin (Doubleday Books 978-0-385-54496-2, $29.95, 784pp, hc) April 2020.

Back in 2010, as part of McSweeney’s now lapsed “Book Release Club,” I was sent a copy of The Instructions by debut au­thor Adam Levin. Like everything published by McSweeney’s, the novel was a beautiful artefact, a bright red cover depicting multiple versions of a hooded boy reaching for a girl. It was also over 1,000 pages long, ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Edited by Michael Kelly, and Out of Water by Sarah Read

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Michael Kelly, ed. (Undertow 978-1-988964-17-1, $27.99, 269pp, hc) March 2020.

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8 lives up to the high standard previously set by editor Mi­chael Kelly with this series. The anthology’s 18 original stories serve as a good entry drug to the best in modern short fiction as well as reliable reads for those already addicted. Many tend toward the ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro and The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald

City of a Thousand Feelings, Anya Johanna DeNiro (Aqueduct) February 2020.

Another entry in Aqueduct Press’s long and always challenging Conversation Pieces series. This is a novelette, City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro, a trans woman whose work I’ve long liked and have missed. This story doesn’t quite work for me, but it’s fascinating and well written, with some spectacular imagery. It’s opens with two ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Meat Cute Audiobook by Gail Carriger

Meat Cute, Gail Carriger; Emma Newman, narra­tor (self-published, $4.99, digital download, 1.25 hr., unabridged) January 2020.

The website TV Tropes has coined the lovely term “noodle incident” to refer to a peculiar-sounding event that characters mention in a story but never fully explain. A classic example is Watson’s brief reference to the Giant Rat of Sumatra in the Sher­lock Holmes mysteries.

Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series has the “hedgehog ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Regrets Audiobook by Amy Bonnaffons

The Regrets, Amy Bonnaffons; Jay Ben Markson, Christie Moreau & Gary Tiedemann, narrators (Hachette Audio 978-1-47899966-9, $25.98, digital download, 6.75 hr., unabridged) February 2020.

When Thomas was a boy, a mistaken encounter with an angel of death turned him into a thrill-seeker, flirt­ing with death out of a longing to see the angel again. When he finally gets his wish in a car accident, the afterlife bureaucracy determines that ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold and Potions Are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry

Luke Arnold, The Last Smile in Sunder City (Orbit US 978-0-316-45582-4, $15.99, 316pp, tp) February 2020.

Fetch Phillips is a hard-boiled (or possibly well-pickled) detective type, working in a city that once ran on magic and hasn’t really recovered since the magic ran out in a devastating war. Being human, Fetch is less affected by the loss of magic than many of the supernatural races that used to run things, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars by Marko Kloos

Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1-5420-4355-7, $24.95, 282pp, hc) July 2019.

In Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos is setting up a series that will look at what happens once a war is over. It’s a nice change from the smash and bang of what happens during the fighting; instead, here he puts the focus on the aftermath of occupation.

Kloos opens on Aden Robertson, a ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba

A Luminous Republic, Andrés Barba (Mariner 978-1328589347, $14.99, 208pp, trade paperback) April 2020

Nominated by Granta magazine as one of the best young Spanish novelists of his generation, and winner of several literary prizes, Andrés Barba is little-known, I think it is accurate to say, within our domain of fantastika. I am not sure if this is because his previous eight books (none of which I have encountered) have ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination by Rick Wilber

Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination, Rick Wilber (WordFire 978-1-68057-068-7, $24.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

There are a few things we can reliably expect in a collection of stories from Rick Wilber (whose Alien Morning was a finalist for the Campbell Award a couple of years ago, but whose only previous collection was 1999’s Where Garagiola Waits and Other Baseball Stories). Two of these are pretty common SF preoccupations ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews A Phoenix First Must Burn, Edited by Patrice Caldwell

A Phoenix First Must Burn, Patrice Caldwell, ed. (Viking 978-1-9848-3565-9, $18.99, 306pp, hc) March 2020.

In the new teen anthology A Phoenix First Must Burn, editor Patrice Caldwell has collected a group of 16 stories celebrating “Black girl magic.” The authors include several YA heavy hitters such as L.L. McKinney, Dhonielle Clayton, Justina Ireland, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Rebecca Roan­horse, and the topics range from an interstellar confrontation about ...Read More

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