Paul Di Filippo and Adrienne Martini Review The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

The Blacktongue Thief, Christopher Buehlman (Tor 978-1250621191, $25.99, 416pp, hc) May 2021.

Author of five previous novels, Christopher Buehlman had not previously fallen across my radar screen. But certainly my enjoyment of his newest, The Blacktongue Thief, will propel me to search out his earlier books. What he has delivered in this sixth of his tales is a glorious overstuffed “secondary world” fantasy that manages to balance the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas

The Planetbreaker’s Son, Nick Mamatas (PM 978-1-62963-834-8, $14.00, 118pp, tp) Febru­ary 2021.

With all the venues featuring original short fiction these days, one that might be easily overlooked is PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series of chapbooks, each a potpourri of stories and essays, along with a quirky interview with series editor Terry Bisson. It has featured authors as diverse as Ursula K. Le Guin, Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Joy Fowler, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The City of Good Death by Priyanka Champaneri

The City of Good Death, Priyanka Champaneri (Restless Books 978-1-632-06252-9, $28.00, 448pp, hc) February 2021.

Priyanka Champaneri’s debut, The City of Good Death, winner of the 2018 Restless Book Prize for New Immigrant Writing, explores the rituals and customs of death from a non-Western perspective. The story is set in the holy city of Banaras, also known as Kashi, on the banks of the River Ganges, where the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

Day Zero, C. Robert Cargill (Harper Voyager 978-0062405807, $27.99, 304pp, hc) May 2021.

This era seems a Golden Age for fictional examinations of artificial intelligence, plumbing the deeper meaning of robot consciousness and even silicon emotions. With recent novels such as Today I Am Carey, Set My Heart to Five, Barren Cove, and The Hierarchies, along with films like Ex Machina, Zoe, Blade Runner ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna (Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House 978-1-984-84869-7, $18.99, 432pp, hc) February 2021.

If you are in search of a feminist, epic fantasy filled with formidable girls healing from their trauma, killing monsters in the style of 300, and discovering their inner power despite the patriarchy, you may want to start with The Gilded Ones.

All 16-year-old Deka wants is acceptance from her village, even ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck

The Memory Theater, Karin Tidbeck (Pantheon 978-1-5247-4833-3, $25.95, 240pp, hc) Febru­ary 2021.

One of the more memorable figures in Karin Tidbeck’s Crawford Award-winning collection Jagganath was the title character of the story “Augusta Prime”, an epically supercilious aris­tocrat whose idea of entertainment was to smash her croquet ball into the face of an attending page. Augusta lived in a kind of polder (in the John Clute sense), a garden ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Kate Milford

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, Kate Milford (Clarion Books 978-1-328-46690-7, $17.99, hc, 384pp) February 2021.

Kate Milford returns to the world of her Greenglass House novels with the be­guiling puzzle that is The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book. Set in a 19th-century-esque time period, the new title focuses on the 15 people waiting out an endless rain in the Blue Vein Tav­ern. The roads are flooded by the rising Skidwrack River ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews In the Empty Quarter Audiobook by G. Willow Wilson

In the Empty Quarter, G. Willow Wilson; Soneela Nankani, narrator (Brilliance Audio, $1.99, digital download, 1.5 hr., unabridged) January 2021.

In this short story, Great Neck NY housewife Jean accompanies her oil exec husband to a city in an unnamed Middle Eastern country in the 1950s, believing that her self-perceived openness to the culture and her association with a local prince makes her superior to the other ex-pat wives. ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Cretaceous Past by Cixin Liu

The Cretaceous Past, Cixin Liu (Subterranean 978-1645240150, $40.00, 192pp, hc) May 2021.

One of the amazing things about Cixin Liu’s writing, as I observed when I reviewed his short-story collection To Hold Up the Sky, is that “he is at once a radical and a conservative, an optimist and a pessimist, a member of the Old Guard and of the New Wave simultaneously.” His tales have a way ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best of World SF: Volume 1, Edited by Lavie Tidhar

The Best of World SF: Volume 1, Lavie Tidhar, ed. (Head of Zeus 978-1838937645, $39.95, 624pp, hc) June 2021.

In his incisive introduction to The Best of World SF: Volume 1, a kind of follow-up to the Apex Book of World SF volumes, which appeared over nearly a decade until 2018, Lavie Tidhar takes ironic note of the various meanings of “world science fiction” over the years. Originally ...Read More

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Gabino Iglesias Reviews The Sentient by Nadia Afifi

The Sentient, Nadia Afifi (Flame Tree Press 978-1-787-58432-7, $14.95, 304pp, tp) Septem­ber 2020.

Nadia Afifi’s debut novel The Sentient is the kind of science fiction narrative that comfortably inhabits the realm of plausi­bility. There is superb technology on display here, including ways of dealing with trauma that would be very useful today, but human suffering, stress, death, and the dark side of religious fanaticism are at the core of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Hold Fast Through the Fire by K.B. Wagers

Hold Fast Through the Fire, K.B. Wagers (Harper Voyager 978-0062887818, $26.99, 416pp, hc) July 2021.

Hold Fast Through the Fire is the second NeoG novel by K.B. Wagers (acclaimed author of the Indranan War and the Farian War space opera trilogies). While it can be satisfying as a stand­alone, I believe it benefits from having read A Pale Light in the Black, Wagers’s first novel in this setting. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Strength, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Pro­ductions, 978-1-61450-530-3, $34.95, 424pp, hc) February 2021. Red Wombat Studio 978-1614505303, $5.99, 478pp, eb) February 2021.

Those who deeply enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s Pala­din’s Grace, the first book in the Saint of Steel series, likely hit “buy” the instant they saw the listing for book two. These are the readers who know the drill: T. Kingfisher is the pen name Ur­sula Vernon uses when ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Bridge by J.S. Breukelaar

The Bridge, J.S. Breukelaar (Meerkat Press 978-1-946154-44-6 $15.95 227pp, tp) June 2021.

J.S. Breukelaar’s The Bridge may be a challeng­ing read for some, but it is certainly a rewarding one. Breukelaar immediately immerses the reader in a complex world with a complicated protagonist. Information is integrated seamlessly into the plot and everything becomes clearer only as one continues to read. Meera is a “Made” – created by the “Father” ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Return of the Sorceress, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Subterranean 978-1-64524-030-3, $40.00, 96pp, hc) June 2021. Cover by Fang Xinyu.

Since her first novel Signal to Noise was pub­lished in 2015, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s career has traced an impressive curve – award nomina­tions for Gods of Jade and Shadow (2019), a major bestseller and Hulu deal with last year’s Mexican Gothic. Moreno-Garcia’s affinity for weird fic­tion is evident in all these, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer

Chaos on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen 978-1-25016-522-0, $18.99, 304pp, hc) April 2021.

Naomi Kritzer’s Chaos on Catnet is a direct sequel to her Lodestar Award winner Catfishing on Catnet, and it does exactly what a sequel should do: expand the stakes, introduce a few important new characters, reveal some secrets and puzzles left over from the first novel, and deepen the tone a bit. The trick is ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

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

Can science fiction—so often seen as the literature of the cosmic, the outré, the wide-screen perspective, populated by larger-than-life loners—ever be successfully hybridized with the naturalistic, domestic novel—the artistic glorification of the mundane, the quotidian, the miniaturist perspective, populated by uniquely average and intriguingly commonplace interrelated folks? This is a question famously asked by Ursula Le Guin ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Tower of Fools Audiobook by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Tower of Fools, Andrzej Sapkowski; Peter Kenny, narrator (Hachette Audio 978-1-54910162-5, $24.98, digital download, 19 hr., unabridged). October 2020.

After the popularity of the Witcher novels, games, and Netflix series, it’s no wonder that US publishers would seek out Sapkowski’s other works. Originally published in Polish in 2002 and newly translated into English by David A. French, this is the first in the Hussite Trilogy, a historical fantasy ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

Peaces, Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead 978-0-593-19233-7, $27.00, 272pp, hc) April 2021.

Peaces is my second encounter with Helen Oy­eyemi’s work. The first book of hers I read was 2016’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, a col­lection of stories that Kirstyn McDermott and I discuss at length on The Writer and The Critic podcast. I found reading the collection to be an invigorating experience, inspired by Oyeyemi’s embrace ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Galaxy, and the Ground Within and A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-293694-2, $27.99, 336pp, hc) April 2021.

Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, which is concluding with The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, is a nice warm cup of tea when the weather outside is terrible. Sure there are conflicts and sadness but all of that unpleasantness is always outweighed by decency and honesty. It would be tempting to also claim ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories, Kim Bo-Young (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-295146-5, 336pp, $26.99, hc) April 2021.

Between the films of Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer, Parasite) and Yeon Sang-ho (Train to Busan, Peninsula) and its various series on Netflix (Kingdom, Sweet Home, Uncanny Counter, etc.), South Korea has lately become a significant player in SF/F media, but ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Alien Stars and Other Novellas by Tim Pratt

The Alien Stars and Other Novellas, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot Books 978-0857669285, $12.99, 200pp, tp) April 2021. Cover by grandfailure.

Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy (The Wrong Stars, The Dreaming Stars, and The Forbidden Stars) is a trio of excellent, modern, space-opera pulp adventures, with a compelling cast and a satisfying amount of solv­ing problems by blowing them up. I’m gutted that there don’t seem to ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer (MCD 978-0-374-17354-8, $27.00, 368pp, hc) April 2021.

With due regard to Jeff VanderMeer’s ear­lier work, which I adore, his new novel, Hummingbird Salamander, contin­ues an extraordinary run of books that began with the publication of Annihilation in 2014. Having given us existential horror, modernist science fiction, and portal fantasy, VanderMeer turns the genre dial to the hard-boiled end of the scale with a tale ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias

The Godel Operation, James L. Cambias (Baen 978-1982125561, 288pp, $16.00, tp) May 2021.

Readers of a certain vintage might recall that before the term “cyberpunk” crystallized and assumed critical dominance, there were proposals to call the cutting-edge SF of the 1980s “Radical Hard SF.” I’d like to now propose that we invent or recognize a sub-genre called “Radical Fun SF,” and that we put James Cambias at the top ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales by Angela Slat­ter

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, Angela Slat­ter (Tarturus 978-1-912586-24-0, £40.00, 452pp, hc) March 2021. Cover by Kathleen Jennings.

We are barely into 2021 and Angela Slatter is already having quite a year. A novel (All the Murmuring Bones as A.G. Slatter) and a collection of microfiction (Red New Day and Other Microfictions) were both reviewed here last month. Add The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales to the ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Audiobook by Lev Gross­man

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, Lev Gross­man; Michael Crouch, narrator (Hachette Audio 978-1-54910912-6, $5.00, digital download, 1.75 hr., unabridged) February 2021.

Of course, the individual publication of this story, the audio production of this story, and the Amazon Prime film based on this story all came out February 2, 2021. This trapped-in-a-time-loop YA fantasy and its author pay explicit homage to Groundhog Day and several similar works. In ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

The Unbroken, C.L. Clark (Orbit 978-0316542753, $16.99, 544pp, tp) March 2021.

C.L. Clark’s debut novel The Unbroken is a military political fantasy teeming with sapphic romance, treacherous espionage, and violent-but-necessary revolution. Situated in a setting reminiscent of North Africa, Clark pens a precise and horrifying tale of the Ballad­aire Empire’s cruel domination over the Qazāl people. Readers follow Touraine’s journey from an obedient lieutenant to a revolutionary of her ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Best of Harry Turtledove by Harry Turtledove

The Best of Harry Turtledove, Harry Turtledove (Subterranean 978-1645240228, 584pp, $45.00) April 2021.

There was once a filksong dedicated to Gordon Dickson’s reputation for partying. I seem to recall the refrain went like this:

Gordy Dickson, Gordy Dickson, Gordy Dickson, he’s the one. Science fiction is his hobby, but his main job’s having fun!

I’d like to repurpose that tune for Harry Turtledove. I am not aware of any ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found by Rucker Moses & Theo Gangi

Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found, Rucker Moses & Theo Gangi (GP Putnam & Sons 978-0-525-51686-6, $17.99, 288pp, hc) February 2021.

The writing collaboration of Rucker Moses (pen name of Craig S. Phillips & Harold Hayes Jr.) and Theo Gangi has created Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found, an adventure novel of breakneck pacing and major magical concerns. It begins with the return, after four years, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Rabbit Island by Elvira Navarro

Rabbit Island, Elvira Navarro (Two Lines 978-1-949641-09-7, $19.95, 184pp, tp) February 2021.

Rabbit Island is Spanish writer Elvira Navarro’s first collection to be translated into English by the always terrific Christina MacSweeney. While this is my first encounter with her work, two of Navarro’s novels – A Working Woman and Happy City, both of which have won numerous awards – have also been published in English.

Rabbit Island ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed

These Lifeless Things, Premee Mohamed (Solaris Satellites 978-1-78618-448-1, $15.99, 176pp, tp) February 2021.

These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed tan­talizes with evocative ideas, excellent characteriza­tion, and beautiful language. It is a perfect story to tell in novella form, a snippet of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been defeated too many times to make sense of its struggle. Mohamed alternates the book’s narration between tense, hopeless diary entries and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

On Fragile Waves, E. Lily Yu (Erewhon 978-1-64566-009-5, $25.95, 288pp, hc) February 2021.

Although it only marginally features any fantastic elements (mainly a rather ingratiating spirit), E. Lily Yu’s luminous first novel On Fragile Waves has a lot to say about both the power of story and the limits of what stories can do. We first meet Firuzeh, the central point-of-view character, as a ten-year-old trying to escape with ...Read More

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