Liz Bourke Reviews Machine by Elizabeth Bear

Machine, Elizabeth Bear (Saga 978-1-5344-0301-7, $25.99, 460pp, hc) October 2020.

One thing about Elizabeth Bear’s Machine, the second novel set in her White Space universe after 2019’s Ancestral Night: it’s sure as hell not either shallow or amoral. It is, in fact, fundamentally engaged in wrestling with questions of ethics, culture, worldview, and how much restitution needs to be made when one does harm in order to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook 978-0-316-42204-8, $28.00, 528pp, hc) October 2020.

Despite its vampires, assassins, and a viciously conspiratorial patriarchy, the main sensibility I took away from Alix E. Harrow’s spectacular debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, was one of celebration – a celebration of portal fantasies, of secret histories, of favorite books and tales, most of all of the protagonists’ capac­ity to ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Book of Malachi by T.C. Farren

The Book of Malachi, T.C. Farren (Titan 978-1-78909-519-7, $14.95, 336pp, trade paperback) November 2020.

Tracey Farren has given the world two previous novels under that byline. Whiplash (2008), which was filmed as Tess (2016); and Snake (2011). Both were from the small South African publisher Modjaji Books, and, from description and appearances, were naturalistic tales. Now comes her third novel under the appellation of T.C. Farren, and it’s from ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Fauna by Christiane Vadnais

Fauna, Christiane Vadnais (Coach House Books 978-1-55245-416-9, $15.99, 144 pages) September 2020.

Originally published in French back in 2018, the award-winning Fauna by Quebec author Christiane Vadnais imagines an Earth radically transformed by climate change. The short novel comprises ten linked stories set mostly around Shivering Heights where “life is an enigma of water and sky” and where some days the rain “falls in perfectly formed pearls… [and] on ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Emperor’s Wolves by Michelle Sagara

The Emperor’s Wolves, Michelle Sagara (Mira 978-0-778-30991-8, $16.99, 516pp, tp) October 2020.

Let me confess: I hadn’t intended to read Michelle Sagara’s The Emperor’s Wolves for this month’s Locus. I could read it closer to its publication date, I thought – but I’d already read the first page, and oh, it turned out that I could really use an Elantra novel right then.

The Emperor’s Wolves is a prequel ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0-316-30013-1, $28.00, 576pp, hc) October 2020.

Kim Stanley Robinson has famously shown us a post-neutron-bombed USA, inundated and then frozen the DC area, tossed sizeable chunks of California into the Pacific, flooded most of Manhattan, and even wiped out virtually all of Europe with the plague, but the opening chapters of The Ministry of the Future may be the most ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

The Loop, Jeremy Robert Johnson (Saga 978-1-53445-429-3, $26.99, 320pp, hc) September 2020.

There’s something to be said for a story that jams its foot on the accelerator and leaves it there for 300 pages, an engine that runs at 5,000 RPM for the entire length of a narrative, pushing on until it has spent itself completely. That’s the kind of book Jeremy Robert Johnson’s The Loop is: a sprinting, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Episodes: A Collection by Christopher Priest

Episodes: A Collection, Christopher Priest (Gollancz 978-1473200630, £8.99, 368pp, tp), May 2019. (Gollancz 978-1-473-22600-5, $24.99, 368pp, hc) August 2020.

Last month I had the opportunity to review an important 50-year retrospective of M. John Har­rison stories, and so it seems appropriate to take a look at Episodes, a similar long-term retrospective from Christopher Priest, originally published in the UK last year and now available to the likes of ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen

The Faithless Hawk, Margaret Owen (Henry Holt 978-1-250-19194-6, $18.99, 400pp, hc) August 2020.

In her sequel to The Merciful Crow, Margaret Owen returns to the kingdom of Sabor and the new chaos created by the sudden death/murder of their cruel but powerful king. The Faithless Hawk includes all of the characters from the first book but increases the action and adds some major royal intrigue as the battle ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Afterland, Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books 978-0-31626-783-0, $28.00, 411pp, hc) July 2020.

Released in April, the popularity of Law­rence Wright’s plague novel, The End of October, may have persuaded some to believe there was still an appetite for fictional pandemics. Six months later, and with a second wave of COVID-19 erupting across the globe (as I write this my hometown, Melbourne, is in the fifth week of Lockdown 2.0) ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn, Melissa Bashardoust (Flat­iron Books 978-1-250-19614-9, $18.99, 328pp, hc) July 2020. Cover by Sasha Vinogradova.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is Melissa Bashar­doust’s second novel, after 2017’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass. It’s a delight­ful and energetic book, one that effortlessly avoids any hint of a sophomore slump to present us with a vivid world, a compelling cast, and a narrative that managed to deftly surprise me ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Asimov’s, Analog, Uncanny, Curiosities, and Flyaway

Asimov’s 9-10/20 Analog 9-10/20 Uncanny 7-8/20 Curiosities #7 Flyaway, Kathleen Jennings ( Publish­ing) July 2020.

Asimov’s September-October issue is, as usual, “slightly spooky.” Among the “spooky” stories I particularly liked were Michael Libling‘s “Robyn in Her Shiny Blue Coffin” and Gregory Frost‘s “Traveling On“. In both cases the protagonists are missing some­one important to them and hoping for a message from “beyond.” In ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry (Pantheon Books 978-1-5247-4809-8, $26.95, 360pp, hc) March 2020.

Prior to Quan Barry’s We Ride Upon Sticks, I had never read a novel about a field hockey team. In retrospect, it is a perfectly tailored sport for a story about witchcraft – teenage girls (plus one boy) who really, really want to win while running around on a field wielding sticks at their ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews A Sinister Quartet by Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Amanda J. McGee & Jessica P. Wick

A Sinister Quartet, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, Amanda J. McGee & Jessica P. Wick (Mythic Delirium Books 978-1732644038, $19.99, 380pp, tp) June 2020.

With fiction from C.S.E Cooney, Jessica P. Wick, Amanda J. McGee, and Mike Allen, Mythic Delirium’s excellent new anthology, A Sinister Quartet (edited by Mike Allen), provides fur­ther evidence that long-form genre fiction is not just alive and well but thriving. The book opens with Cooney’s ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air by Jackson Ford and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air, Jackson Ford (Orbit 978-0-316-51922-9, $16.99, 544pp, pb) June 2020. Cover by Steve Panton.

Jackson Ford’s The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind was a propulsive, compulsively fun scamper through a Los Angeles in a world similar to ours with one exception: thanks to a family of rogue scientists, there exists a woman named Teagan who can, as the title says, move ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Brown Girl Ghosted by Mintie Das

Brown Girl Ghosted, Mintie Das (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-0358128892, $17.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

As Brown Girl Ghosted opens 16-year-old Violet Choudhury is dealing with some very typical high school drama. An accepted member of the POMs, she is fitting into her Midwestern town in the most traditional of teenage ways: anchoring the cheer pyramid, at­tending the occasional party, getting into just the right amount of trouble, and determinedly ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Phoenix Extravagant, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris 978-1781087947, 416pp, $24.99, hardcover) October 2020.

What exactly is “Phoenix Extravagant”? Very simply put, it is one of several magical pigments which, when deployed by an expert, can serve to program any kind of automaton, otherwise purposeless, with sophisticated behaviors and knowledge. (This notion of infusing non-sentient matter with agency, via arcane symbology, can also be seen in Bennett’s recent Foundryside, and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen

The Midnight Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-340-8, 242pp, $16.95, tp) October 2020.

The Midnight Circus is the third collection of Jane Yolen stories from Tachyon in the last three years, following The Emerald Circus (which won a World Fantasy Award in 2018) and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Collectively these rather modest volumes are giving us a pretty good sense of what a Selected Stories volume might ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Bone Shard Daughter Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter, Andrea Stewart (Orbit 978-0-31654-142-8, $28.00, 448pp, hc) September 2020.

The Bone Shard Daughter is a surprisingly complex book, even for the first installment in an epic fantasy series. It’s full of reflective themes and characters, ways in which elements of the novel mirror each other, or gesture to each other. Using uncomplicated prose, ideas both innovative and usefully recycled, high-quality worldbuilding, and carefully tuned enigma, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

The Invention of Sound, Chuck Palahniuk (Grand Central Publishing 978-1-538-71800-1, $27.00, 240pp, hc) September 2020.

Chuck Palahniuk’s outlandish new novel, The Invention of Sound, toggles between two very different individuals. Mitzi Ives is a foley artist who, following in her father’s footsteps, special­ises in screams so devastating and true-to-life they almost sound real. Gates Foster is an investigator who spends his days hunting through child-pornography sites for a ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Night Roll by Michael J. DeLuca

Night Roll, Michael J. DeLuca (Stelliform Press) November 2020.

Michael J. DeLuca is known for his work with Small Beer Press and as the editor of Reckoning, an outlet for creative writing on environmental justice. He is also a consistent writer of short fiction and now has a stand-alone novella com­ing out. Night Roll is the most Detroit story I have read since Alexander Irvine’s The Nar­rows (2005), which ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam

Seven Devils, Elizabeth May & Laura Lam (DAW 978-0756415808, $26.00, 464pp, hc) August 2020.

I wanted to like Seven Devils a lot more than, it turns out, I actually did. The epic space-opera team-up from Laura Lam (author of Goldilocks and Shattered Minds ) and Elizabeth May (The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne, The Fallen Kingdom), Seven Devils is the opening novel in a longer series ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Ivory’s Story by Eugen Bacon

Ivory’s Story, Eugen Bacon (NewCon Press 978-1-91295-077-5, £9.99, 152pp, tp) September 2020.

Eugen Bacon’s latest novel has a lot going on. A lot. Any one strand of its dense weave could blanket a whole novel’s activities and characterization in the hands of a different writer. Ivory’s Story is not a simple read, but it is a daring, rewarding read. Bacon demonstrates unusual virtuosity in tone and style and offers ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Failed State by Christopher Brown

Failed State, Christopher Brown (Harper Voyager 978-0062859105, $16.99, 384pp, tp) August 2020.

These days, reading anything scarier than “The Adventures of the Widdle Kiddons in Ice-Cream-Sundae Land” winds up reminding me of some bit of direness I’ve seen on the telly that morning. So when I saw the title of Christopher Brown’s new novel and recalled the spot-on dystopian vibe of its predecessor from last year, Rule of Capture ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Best of Michael Marshall Smith by Michael Marshall Smith

The Best of Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Marshall Smith (Subterranean Press 978-1-596-06950-3, $45.00, 568pp, hc) December 2020.

Michael Marshall Smith is that rare author whose first published story “The Man Who Drew Cats” won a respected award – the British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction – and put him immediately on the genre map. He followed it with a second win the following year with “The Dark Land” and ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Trials of Koli, M.R. Carey (Orbit 978-0-31645-868-9, $16.99, 496pp, tp) September 2020.

In short: if you loved M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli, you will love The Trials of Koli just as much, if not more. Carey has delivered satisfac­torily on the promise of the Rampart Trilogy with a second volume just as absorbing, stunning, and emotionally rich as the first. If you want more information about ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews City Under the Stars by Gardner Dozois & Michael Swanwick

City Under the Stars, Gardner Dozois & Michael Swanwick (Tor 978-1250756589, $14.99, 272pp, tp) August 2020.

As any number of people observed after his un­timely death in 2018, Gardner Dozois’s phenom­enal career as an editor and his ebullient public presence at conventions vastly overshadowed his own achievements as a writer – though he won back-to-back short fiction Nebulas back in the 1980s – and that same ebullience may have ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals 978-0-374110-031, $15.00, 176pp, tp) August 2020.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, Beowulf is a “heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic.” True, but it is also a work of dark fantasy. Without its monsters, there wouldn’t be much to the story.

Maria Dahvana Headley has already retold the poem through ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

To Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu (Tor 978-1250306081, 336pp, $27.99, hardcover) October 2020.

Cixin Liu’s first story collection in English continues to provide the same pleasures found in his award-winning novels: the simultaneous honoring and detournement of classic SF tropes, as filtered through a distinctly non-Western worldview and a quirky set of personal sensibilities. He is at once a radical and a conservative, an optimist and a pessimist, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds, Micaiah Johnson (Del Rey 978-0593135051, $28.00, 336pp, hc) August 2020.

Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds is another book I have mixed feelings about. Not about its success: The Space Between Worlds is ambitious and largely accomplishes what it sets out to do. My mixed feelings are entirely down to whether or not I like it, and how to analyse what it’s doing, regardless of ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

Red Pill, Hari Kunzru (Knopf 978-0-451-49371-2, $27.95, 304pp, hc) September 2020.

The narrator of Hari Kunzru’s provocatively titled new novel, Red Pill, is an unnamed academic and freelance writer suffering from a mid-career crisis. When the prestigious Deuter Centre selects him for a three-month residency at their villa in Berlin, he accepts the invitation. It’s not only an opportunity for him to work on his latest project (“I ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

The Scapegracers, Hannah Abigail Clarke (Erewhon 978-1-64566-000-2, $17.95, 400pp, hc) September 2020.

As an adult woman two decades out from my teenage years, I found The Scapegracers frankly irritating. It so perfectly captures the labile emo­tional textures and bad judgment calls of being a teen girl that it made me cringe, again and again, like that Chrissy Teigen GIF on an infinite loop. However, if you happen to be ...Read More

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