Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg

The Four Profound Weaves, R.B. Lemberg (Tachyon 978-1-61696-334-7, $14.95, 192pp, tp) September 2020.

For nearly a decade, R.B. Lemberg has been developing their Birdverse world in a number of stories and poems, and I confess to having seen only a handful of them prior to reading their first novel The Four Profound Weaves. But the novel provides most of what you need to know about this universe, which ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

Architects of Memory, Karen Osborne (Tor 978-1-250-21547-5, $17.99, 336pp, tp) August 2020.

Imagined futures where corporations have remade societies so that they always provide a profit are a common backdrop for speculative fiction. That isn’t a value judgement, mind. There are only so many backdrops to go around, and this future feels increasingly likely with each passing day.

In Karen Osborne’s version, Architects of Memory, Ash is a ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Clown in a Cornfield, Adam Cesare (HarperTeen 978-0062854599, $17.99, 352pp, hc) August 2020.

I’ve not previously read the work of Adam Cesare, but I was drawn to his new teen horror novel, Clown in a Cornfield, because of its strik­ing red and black cover, of a cornfield fashioned in the image (you guessed it) of a grinning clown. It’s a cover that gave me pleasing flashbacks to the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons

The Memory of Souls, Jenn Lyons (Tor 978-1-250-17557-1, $27.99, 640pp, hc) August 2020.

Like The Obsidian Tower, Jenn Lyons’s The Memory of Souls (the third volume in her Chorus of Dragons quartet) focuses as much on individual characters and relationships as it does on the great events in which they are caught up. At the heart of this series is a strong suspicion towards power (either embodied in ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots (William Morrow 978-0062978578, 416pp, $27.99, hardcover) September 2020

Have we reached Peak Deconstruction of Superheroes yet? One could reasonably argue that the trend harks back at least as far as Mad magazine’s “Superduperman” and “Batboy and Rubin” parodies from 1953. Marvel and DC both poked fun at the conventions of the genre during the Sixties, with titles like The Inferior Five and Not Brand ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Divergence by C.J. Cherryh

Divergence, C.J. Cherryh (DAW 978-0-756-41430-6, $26.00, 339pp, hc) September 2020. Cover by Todd Lockwood.

C.J. Cherryh’s Divergence is not a minor book, but after 20 previous entries in this long-running series, your faithful reviewer is reduced to recommending the entire Foreigner sequence yet again and assuring those already familiar with its pleasures that even after so many books, Cherryh’s hand has not lost its cunning and that there are ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Seven of Infinities, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean 978-1-59606-976-3; $40.00, 176pp, hc) October 2020.

I’ve always been impressed by the ways in which different genres can use each other, especially in the hands of an adroit writer who is also an adroit reader. Alix E. Harrow is one example and Aliette de Bodard, who adapted “Beauty and the Beast” into a far-future post colonialist fable with In the Vanishers’ Palace ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K.J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, K.J. Parker (Orbit 978-0-316-49867-8, $16.99, 400pp, tp) August 2020.

Many years on, the walled city in K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is still under siege. The city still needs to be defended from Ogus, the leader of a rival empire who is keen on wiping out every last person in the Robur empire, most of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury 978-1-635575637, $27.00, 244pp, hc) September 2020.

The first thing everyone is going to notice about Piranesi, Susanna Clarke’s long-awaited second novel following her enor­mously popular Jonathan Strange and Mr Nor­rell, is that it’s something like a third the length of that blockbuster. The second is that it bears no direct relation to the densely imagined magical 19th century of that novel and of ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Strange Horizons, Samovar, and Mithila Review

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/18/20 Strange Horizons 6/2/20, 6/8/20 Samovar 4/20 Mithila Review #14

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #306 opens with ”Kill the Witchman” by William Broom. A man is drugged and brainwashed with a mission to kill the witchman and his son. As he hunts them he lives in an almost eternal present with no idea of the past and little conception of the future. When he finds ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Red Dust by Yoss

Red Dust, Yoss (Restless Books 978-1632062468, $16.99, 208pp, tp) July 2020.

Red Dust, Yoss’s latest novel to be translated into English, is an entertaining yarn narrated by a positronic robot (or “pozzie”) named Ray­mond in honour of its favourite author. Alongside its fellow automatons, Raymond guards the corridors and docking bays of space-station, the William S. Burroughs, under the eagle-eye of the Galactic Trade Confederation, and its mem­ber ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens

A Wicked Magic, Sasha Laurens (Razorbill 978-0-593-11725-5, $17.99, 368pp hc) July 2020.

The problems for best friends Dan and Liss began when they found an old book in the lo­cal giveaway box in their small North Coast California town. With almost all of its pages blank, they couldn’t resist the appeal of what was printed: “A Spell for the Making of Naive Witches”. They followed the directions and something ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Pulp Literature, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, and Reckoning

Pulp Literature Spring ’20 Interzone 5-6/20 Galaxy’s Edge 5/20 Reckoning 4

The latest issue of the increasingly interesting Canadian ‘zine Pulp Literature features an engaging story from Matthew Hughes, ”The Bicolour Spiral”, one of his stories about Erm Kaslo, an ”op” (private detective) in Hughes’ Jack Vance-derived science fantasy far-future setting. Kaslo is engaged by a woman to investigate her uncle’s murder because she is going to ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit, Jasper Fforde (Viking 978-0593296523, 320pp, $28, hardcover) September 2020

The trope of uplifted animals is a potent one in science fiction, especially as we advance into a future where humanity’s sheer existence more and more comes to impinge on the rest of animate creation. From Cordwainer Smith’s Underpeople to David Brin’s Uplifted dolphins to Grant Morrison’s trio of assassins, dog, cat and rabbit, in We3; ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Vanished Seas by Catherine Asaro

The Vanished Seas, Catherine Asaro (Baen 978-1-982-12471-7, $16.00, 320pp, tp). July 2020.

Catherine Asaro has been writing novels and shorter works set in her Skolian Empire since the publication of Primary Inversion in 1995. The latest is The Vanished Seas, third in a set of politically oriented mystery novels focussed on private investigator Bhaajan, a former major in the imperial military, whose history and connections with a local, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Dark Harvest by Cat Sparks

Dark Harvest, Cat Sparks (NewCon 978-1-912950676, $15.99, 244pp, tp) July 2020.

You only need to read a handful of Cat Sparks’s stories before you start feeling the need for some shade and a nice margarita. The bleak, sunbaked landscapes of her novel Lotus Blue are again invoked in her collection Dark Harvest, not only in stories set more or less in that same far-future Australia (“Hot Rods”, “Dragon ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is Dead, Kalynn Bayron (Blooms­bury 978-1-5476-0387-9, $18.99, 385pp, hc) July 2020.

This. Is It.

Finally.

The Cinderella story we have all been pining for has arrived. This is the story of what happened not just the day after “happily ever after.” but decades and centuries after. This is the story of what happened all those years later in the kingdom whose foundational truth was the story of a ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell (Random House 978-0812997439, $30.00, 592pp, hc) July 2020.

Five years in the writing, David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue is set during the height of the British Invasion, which famously began when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. This opened the door to acts like the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones, who became household names in America. ...Read More

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

Clarkesworld 6/20 Lightspeed 7/20 Tor.com 6/10/20, 6/17/20

June’s Clarkesworld leads off with ”The Iridescent Lake” from regular D.A. Xiaolin Spires. Yunhe, who is dealing with the death of her son, works as a security guard at an ice skating rink where the ice has truly fantastic properties. Scientists have been studying it, but there are many active smuggling attempts that she must guard against… and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Mother Code by Carole Stivers

The Mother Code, Carole Stivers (Berkley 978-1984806925, 352pp, $26, hardcover) August 2020

With her debut novel The Mother Code (as we shall learn, the title refers to AI software routines meant to emulate the maternal instinct), Carole Stivers joins the elite ranks of SF authors who have actual science creds, either academically or vocationally or both. Asimov, Benford, Clarke, Alastair Reynolds. The list can be extended, but it’s still ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower, Melissa Caruso (Orbit 978-0-316-42509-4 $16.99, 510pp, tp) June 2020. Cover by Peter Bollinger.

It’s interesting to have read Melissa Caruso’s The Obsidian Tower and Jenn Lyons’s The Memory of Souls very close together. Although these are structurally and stylistically very different novels – The Obsidian Tower opens a new trilogy from Caruso, narrated, like her earlier Tethered Mage trilogy, in a first-person voice, while The Memory ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews In the Shadows of Men by Robert Jackson Bennett and Dispersion by Greg Egan

In the Shadows of Men, Robert Jackson Bennett (Subterranean 978-1596069879, 120pp, $40,00, hardcover) August 2020

Tachyon Publications. PS Publishing. NewCon Press. Subterranean Press. Four always reliable and stout bastions of the novella, that in-between-lengths type of fiction that offers the advantages of the short story (quickish reading time and lesser investment) and the advantages of the novel (space for complexity and depth). Win-win, for writers, readers, and publishers!

Let’s ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Ballistic by Marko Kloos

Ballistic, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1542090070, $14.95, 360pp, tp) May 2020.

Marko Kloos’s Aftershocks is the place to start the Palladium Wars series – and it’s a series you should start if you are a fan of grounded space opera with a military lean. In this first book, Kloos sets up a universe ten years after the planet Gretia decided to take on all of the other settled planets and ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews A Sinister Quartet and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident

A Sinister Quartet, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Amanda J. McGee & Jessica P. Wick, eds. (Mythic Delirium Books) July 2020. Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books) July 2020.

Mike Allen’s Mythic Delirium is one of the smaller presses which sustains our field by publishing original anthologies and story collections. He has put out A Sinister Quartet, an anthology of four novellas (well, three ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, Black Static, and Uncanny

The Dark 5/20, 6/20 Nightmare 6/20, 7/20 Black Static 5-6/20 Uncanny 5-6/20

It will be weeks before this sees publication. Who knows what the world will be like by then? All one can do is hope things get better and, meanwhile, find some good short dark fiction to read.

Both of the originals in The Dark #60 deal with men harming women, which – for some – may be somewhat ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Beyond the Outposts by Algis Budrys

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

As I never tire of mentioning in these pages, I have always been a book-review junkie, so it should not be surprising that much of my sense of science fiction – not just which books were worth pursuing but how the whole genre works – was formed less by scholars ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

If These Wings Could Fly, Kyrie McCauley (Katherine Tegen Books 978-0-06-288502-9, $17.99, 400pp, hc) March 2020.

Kyrie McCauley’s intense, realistic, and some­times shocking If These Wings Could Fly has only the most subtle of paranormal touches. It is a haunted house story where the haunting is designed to keep secrets and foster lies rather strike terror through overt acts. But this story of one family’s unraveling in the face ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu

Chosen Spirits, Samit Basu (Simon & Schuster India 978-9386797810, ₹499.00, 243pp, hc) April 2020. (Self-published, $3.99, eb) April 2020.

Samit Basu’s Chosen Spirits presents us with a near-future India where drones saturate the sky, where every room has a listening device, and where those who speak out tend to disappear. It wasn’t meant to be like this. When she was young, our protagonist Bijoyini “Joey” Roy, re­calls attending demonstrations ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth (John Joseph Ad­ams Books 978-0-358-16408-1, $26.99, 432pp, hc) April 2020.

Veronica Roth is best known for the Divergent trilogy. With Chosen Ones, her first book for adult readers, she looks at what happens to the chosen ones when their quest is done and a decade has passed. Sloane, Matt, and the other three youngsters who took on the Dark One in Chicago ten years ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Paper Hearts by Justina Robson

Paper Hearts, Justina Robson (NewCon 978-1-912950-53-9, £7.49, 96pp, tp) March 2020.

Justina Robson’s Paper Hearts – part of a series of novellas from NewCon Press under the collec­tive title “Robot Dreams” – returns to one of the oldest and most fundamental questions in SF’s endless dance with artificial intelligence: namely, what would really happen were we to hand over the reins of pretty much everything to a carefully rule-bound ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow (Inkyard Press 978-1-335-91155-1, $18.99, 432pp, hc) February 2020.

Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars opens two years after a first-contact experience (which in retrospect was actually sort of a preliminary invasion) went horribly awry. The Ilori showed up over Earth and humanity responded exactly as every single science fiction story, book, and movie has made clear humanity should not – by trying to ...Read More

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Alvaro Zinos-Amaro Reviews Horror Fiction in the 20th Century by Jess Nevins

Horror Fiction in the 20th Century: Explor­ing Literature’s Most Chilling Genre, Jess Nevins (Praeger 978-1440862052, $50.00, 277pp, hc) January 2020.

Over the course of 16 chapters split into three sections – “1901–1939, The Golden Age”, “1940–1970, Midcentury Frights”, and “1971–2000, The Boom Years” – Jess Nevins proves that he is not only a well-documented, reliable chronicler of the story of modern horror, but also a sharp observer of previous ...Read More

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