Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

The Hidden Palace, Helene Wecker (Harper 978-0062468710, 480pp, $28.99) June 2021.

Helene Wecker’s sequel to her stunning 2013 debut, The Golem and the Jinni [reviewed here], succeeds 100 percent in recapturing the assured voice, the delicate magic, the solid historical verisimilitude, and the engaging interplay of personalities that she delivered in the first book. But she does not merely replicate all the pleasures, plot points, devices, and charms of ...Read More

Read more

Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Not One of Us, Bourbon Penn, and Speculative Los Angeles

Not One of Us 1/21, 4/21 Bourbon Penn 3/21 Speculative Los Angeles, Denise Hamilton, ed. (Akashic) February 2021.

The always intriguing Not One of Us has gone to slimmer issues. I have two at hand. January opens, appropriately enough, with “January House“, an absolutely lovely story by Alexandra Seidel. Isla Glas returns to her childhood home perforce, as her mother has died and she’s now the ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews How to Mars by David Ebenbach and Questland by Carrie Vaughn

How to Mars, David Ebenbach (Tachyon 978-1-61696-356-9, $16.95, 256pp, tsk) May 2021. Cover by Elizabeth Story.

David Ebenbach’s How to Mars is one of those books that could be easy to write-off as a delightful bit of fluff. Six humans from various backgrounds take a one-way trip to the red planet, sent there by a publicity-seeking corporation that monetizes their training and early days via a reality series. The ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-78478-0, $26.99, 272pp, hc) June 2021. Cover by Greg Ruth.

When the copyright protection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby expired at the beginning of this year, the speculation was predictably rampant and occasionally dire. The tale of Gatsby’s fabulous but shady wealth, his giant parties, his pining for the love of Daisy (now married to a racist millionaire), all ...Read More

Read more

Colleen Mondor Reviews A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises, Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen 978-1250316035, $17.99, 272pp, hc) June 2021.

In A Chorus Rises, sequel to A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow continues to give her penetrating attention to the hazards young Black women face when they possess a significant amount of magic and power. Following closely on the heels of the earlier book’s shattering finale, A Chorus Rises picks up the ...Read More

Read more

Ian Mond Reviews Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints by Teffi

Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints, Teffi (NYRB Classics 978-1-68137-539-7, $17.95, 256pp, tp) April 2021.

New York Review Books’ publication of Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints continues a rediscovery of Teffi’s short fiction that began with the Pushkin Press release of Subtly Worded back in 2014. I should note that before picking up a review copy of Other Worlds, my interest piqued by references to the occult ...Read More

Read more

Paul Di Filippo Reviews Sidewinders by Robert V.S. Redick

Sidewinders, Robert V.S. Redick (Talos 978-1945863608, 672pp, $25.99) July 2021.

Worldbuilding has developed a bad rap lately. The meticulous and detailed creation of another realm “beyond the fields we know,” with novel cultures, languages, religions, history, geography, flora and fauna, is somehow deemed oppressive and pedantic and tiresome. Well, duh, yeah—if it’s done badly and ham-handedly. Like any tool in the writer’s toolkit, worldbuilding can be employed deftly and ...Read More

Read more

Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Tor.com, The Future Fire, Lightspeed, and Escape Artists

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/25/21, 4/8/21 Tor.com 4/20/21 The Future Fire 1/21 Lightspeed 4/21 Escape Artists 3/2/21, 3/5/21

Beneath Ceaseless Skies continues going strong this spring with stories such as Cat Rambo‘s “Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer“, set in her Tabat universe. Lady Callynahdra is a centaur who rejected her default fate as a noble and instead earned the rank of sergeant in the military. ...Read More

Read more

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro Reviews After Human: A Critical History of the Hu­man in Science Fiction from Shelley to Le Guin by Thomas Connolly

After Human: A Critical History of the Hu­man in Science Fiction from Shelley to Le Guin, Thomas Connolly (Liverpool University Press 978-1800348165, $130, 240pp, hc) May 2021.

What is meant, or assumed to be meant, by human, non-human, and whatever division between them stands the test of various philosophical and science fictional thought experiments, falls centrally within this book’s ambit. As Thomas Connolly states in the Introduction to his ...Read More

Read more

Maya C. James Reviews Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Son of the Storm, Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Orbit US 9780316428941, $14.49, 480pp, tp) May 2021.

Note: Son of the Storm refers to very light-skinned Africans (i.e. “high yellow”) as “yellowskin.” It refers to people with albinism and not people of Asian descent (all characters are of African descent in this novel).

Forbidden knowledge, half-truths, and a woman with magic that is not supposed to ex­ist. Son of the Storm ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory

The Album of Dr. Moreau, Daryl Gregory (Tor­dotcom 978-1250782106, $14.99, 176pp, tp) May 2021.

Already in the public domain for years, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau has practi­cally spawned a microgenre all its own, with Brian Aldiss, Gwyneth Jones (as Ann Halam), Gene Wolfe, Theodora Goss, the Simpsons, and even Marlon Brando having a whack at the story or its characters and themes. I’m pretty sure, though, ...Read More

Read more

Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Apex, Nightmare, and Black Static

Apex #123 Nightmare 4/21 Black Static 78-79

Apex #123 presents six original stories. Technol­ogy allows the protagonist of “This Is the Mo­ment, Or One of Them” by Mari Ness to review and “shift,” if she desires, some of her memories of a relationship. That’s a far too simplistic de­scription of a story with both subtle nuance and profound consideration of life choices. Just read it. “Throw Rug ...Read More

Read more

Ian Mond Reviews Subdivision by J. Robert Lennon

Subdivision, J. Robert Lennon (Graywolf Press 978-1-64445-048-2, $16.00, 240pp, tp) April 2021.

If my column has a mission statement, it’s to shine a light on literary or translated works with speculative elements that rarely get recognised or discussed within the genre. J. Robert Lennon is an example of the former, a literary author whose fiction has increasingly gravitated toward the fantastic but who is likely to be unfamiliar to ...Read More

Read more

Gabino Iglesias Reviews Broken Fevers by Tenea D. Johnson

Broken Fevers, Tenea D. Johnson (Rosarium 978-1732638853, $14.95, 272pp, tp) March 2021.

Tenea D. Johnson’s Broken Fevers is a wildly imaginative short story collection that tackles some important topics with style and delivers a healthy heaping of meaning in each narrative, regardless of length. A solid mix of genres, this collection pulls readers into short stories that do a lot more than just entertain.

Johnson sets the atmosphere in ...Read More

Read more

Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld

Strange Horizons 3/29/21, 4/21 Clarkesworld 4/21

At the end of March Strange Horizons published a special issue featuring Pales­tinian speculative fiction. It includes art, poetry, four stories, and an introductory essay, and features creators from across the Palestinian diaspora. “Wills” by Wadih Haddad is very short and very Weird, starting with a man in a sort of consumer hypnotic state coming awake with the statement “I want,” then ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Impossible Resurrection of Grief by Octavia Cade

The Impossible Resurrection of Grief, Octavia Cade (Stelliform Press 978-1-777091767, $14.99, 82pp, tp) May 2021.

Octavia Cade is a writer new to me, even though since 2016 she’s won three Sir Julius Vogel Awards, the national SF awards of New Zealand, and has published a fair amount of short fiction in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. Her new novella, The Impos­sible Resurrection of Grief, comes to us ...Read More

Read more

Ian Mond Reviews Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf 978-0-59331-817-1, $28.00, 320pp, hc) March 2021.

Over the last couple of years, it’s been sur­prising to see literary authors of the cali­bre of Jeanette Winterson and Ian McE­wan, with their respective novels Frankissstein (which I reviewed in 2019) and Machines Like Me, raise concerns about machine consciousness. Compared to climate change, pandemics, or the fallout from late-stage capitalism, the robot-apocalypse is ...Read More

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews Soulstar by C.L. Polk

Soulstar, C.L. Polk (Tordotcom 978-1-250-20357-1, $17.99, 302pp, tp) February 2021. Cover by Will Staehle.

Soulstar is the conclusion to Polk’s Kingston trilogy, a cycle of books that each take politics and romantic and familial relationships as their focus. In Witchmark, it was Miles Hensley and his mysterious lover Tristan, and a series of deaths connected with an unjust war; in Stormsong, Miles’s sister Grace (and her romantic ...Read More

Read more

Gabino Iglesias Reviews Later by Stephen King

Later, Stephen King (Hard Case Crime 978-1-78909-649-1, $14.95, 272pp, tp) March 2021. Cover by Paul Mann.

Later, Stephen King’s latest, is a horror story – something the narrator reminds readers of from time to time – but it’s one dressed up like a thriller with supernatural ele­ments, and it has all the working parts of a pulpy crime novel. King has been known to walk the interstitial ...Read More

Read more

Maya C. James Reviews Prayer for the Living by Ben Okri

Prayer for the Living, Ben Okri (Head of Zeus 978-1789544596, £14.99, 240pp, hc) October 2019. (Akashic Books 978-1-61775-863-8, 216pp, hc) February 2021.

Ben Okri’s Prayer for the Living offers a simple suggestion at the beginning: read slowly. This is sage advice – if you pick through his words too quickly, you might miss a fateful turn within a story or a sentence that will steal your soul away. Reading ...Read More

Read more

Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF and Speculate

F&SF 5-6/21 Speculate, Dominique Hecq & Eugen Bacon (Meerkat) January 2021.

Sheree Renée Thomas’s second issue of F&SF is a strong one, and the longest sto­ries are particularly good.” In “Babylon SystemMaurice Broaddus tells of Lij Tafari, newly and unjustly sent to prison in an alternate America that is part of the Albion Empire. In some ways it’s a classic prison narrative, with the protagonist remaining ...Read More

Read more

Carolyn Cushman Reviews Miss Bennet’s Dragon by M Verant

M Verant, Miss Bennet’s Dragon (Acerbic Press 978-1-7366629-1-5, $17.99, 367pp, tp) May 2021.

There’s something about Jane Austen, particularly her Pride and Prejudice, that other authors can’t resisting playing with. M Verant shows a great love for the work and period in this charming retelling, while adding dragons and somewhat modernizing the actual writing. Most of the familiar characters are here, but we’re seeing them from slightly differ­ent angles. ...Read More

Read more

Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and The Dark

Uncanny 3-4/21 The Dark 3/21, 4/21

Uncanny #39 starts off well, and the issue continues in the same admirable vein. It is highly likely that whatever you be might be expecting from Catherynne M. Valente‘s marvelously descriptive “The Sin of America” is not what the story delivers. It is also likely that however dark you are expecting this tale of Ruby-Rose Martineau, who is eating the sins ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water Sister, Zen Cho (Ace 978-0425283431, $14.99, 384pp, tp) May 2021.

Zen Cho quickly earned a reputation for wit and style with her debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown, with its entertaining but sharp critique of racism, sexism, and colonialism in Regency England, but the novel also introduced a power­ful Malaysian witch. Malaysian magic played a more central role in the sequel The True Queen, but ...Read More

Read more

Ian Mond Reviews Dead Souls by Sam Riviere

Dead Souls, Sam Riviere (Catapult 978-1-646-22028-1, $26.00, 320pp, hc) May 2021.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Sam Riviere loathes poetry. His shaggy dog tale of a second novel, Dead Souls, is, amongst other things, an evisceration of the poetry industrial complex: the poems, their au­thors, and the publishers. Riviere is, of course, famously a poet who runs an independent press (If a Leaf Falls Press) and has ...Read More

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews Hard Reboot by Django Wexler

Hard Reboot, Django Wexler (Tordotcom 978-1-250-79026-2, $14.99, 150pp, tp) May 2021.

Django Wexler’s Hard Reboot is a standalone sci­ence fiction novella from the author of Ashes of the Sun (2020) and the Wells of Sorcery trilogy (Ship of Smoke and Steel, City of Stone and Silence, Siege of Rage and Ruin). It sets itself in a far-future where Earth is a relatively lawless backwater in ...Read More

Read more

Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Pulp Literature, Fusion Fragment, Galaxy’s Edge, and The New Yorker

Pulp Literature Winter ’21 Fusion Fragment 3/21 Galaxy’s Edge 3/21 The New Yorker 3/8/21

Pulp Literature remains a favorite small magazine for me. I don’t often mention their two ongoing “serials”: “Allaigna’s Song“, by JM Landels; and “The Extra” by Mel Anastasiou – both are enjoy­able. The first is secondary-world fantasy, the second is crime fiction set in Hollywood in the ’30s, so not SF. ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

We Are Satellites, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley 978-1984802606, $16.00, 400pp, tp) May 2021.

When I reviewed Sarah Pinsker’s collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea a couple of years ago, it seemed to me that her approach to SF was fairly restrained, usually focusing on the impact of a particular new tech­nology, like a process for suppressing memories in “Remembery Day”, or a virtual concert tech­nology called StageHolo ...Read More

Read more

Paula Guran Reviews Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland, Rivers Solomon (MCD 978-0-374-26677-6, $27.00 268pp, hc) May 2021.

Fifteen-year-old Vern Fields – abused, Black, pregnant, albino, nearly blind – escapes cult compound the Blessed Acres of Cain and its leader, her husband, fleeing into a forest. There she gives birth to twin boys she names Howling and Feral. She is prepared to survive in the wild by her upbringing in Cain­land: founded by Black nationalists in the ...Read More

Read more

Ian Mond Reviews Defekt by Nino Cipri

Defekt, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom 978-1-250-78749-1, $14.99, 176pp, tp) April 2021.

Nino Cipri’s enjoyable new novella, Defekt, is a perpendicular sequel to last year’s Finna: perpendicular because both books briefly meet then diverge in different directions. Like Finna, Defekt is set in LitenVärld, a company that bears more than a passing resemblance to a Swedish multinational famous for its flat-pack, do-it-yourself furniture and maze-like stores. The wonderfully ...Read More

Read more

Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Giganotosaurus, Departure Mirror, and Flash Fiction Online

Tor.com 3/3/21, 3/24/21 Strange Horizons 3/1/21, 3/15/21 Giganotosaurus 2/21, 3/21 Departure Mirror Quarterly Winter ’21 Flash Fiction Online 3/21

Tor.com had two stories in March. A new Usman T. Malik story is always a treat. “#Spring Love, #Pichal Pairi” is his latest take on the pandemic, where the narrator is a reporter in Lahore who in­terviews a particularly woke, feminist pichal pairi. The pichal pairi of folklore is ...Read More

Read more

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro Reviews Vivid Tomorrows: On Science Fiction and Holly­wood by David Brin

Vivid Tomorrows: On Science Fiction and Holly­wood, David Brin (McFarland 978-1-4766-8338-6, $29.95, 241pp, tp) March 2021.

In addition to his well-established body of fictional work, David Brin has been writing genre-related non-fiction since the 1980s. More recently, he co-edited the anthologies King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape (2005) and Star Wars on Trial (2006) – his con­tributions to both of which are reprinted here ...Read More

Read more