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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020 by M. John Harrison

Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, M. John Harrison (Comma Press 978-1912697281, £9.99, 288pp, tp) August 2020.

Harrison’s acute and sometimes merciless fasci­nation with couples who don’t quite know what they’re doing also shows up in two of the most memorable stories in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1969-2019, his first real retrospective collection since Things That Never Happen back in 2003. “The Gift” describes the parallel stories ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn, Patrick Ness (Harper Teen 978-0-06-286951-7, $18.99, 384pp, hc) June 2020.

The first half of Patrick Hess’s thrilling alt-history, Burn, is set in a small rural Washington State town in 1957. Sarah Dewhurst and her father are barely holding their farm together, still mourning the recent death of Sarah’s mother and struggling to find a way to be a family without her. Gareth Dewhurst cannot af­ford the men ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews My Favorites by Ben Bova

My Favorites, Ben Bova (Blackstone 978-1094000923, 352pp, $24.99, hardcover) October 2020

Ben Bova turns 88 in November of 2020. He also just published a new novel, Uranus, a few months ago. Two statements of this general import are not usually compatible. Writers who continue to maintain their productivity—and personal standards of quality—so late in life form a small elite. In our field, we note such towering figures as ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Tender Is the Flesh, Agustina Bazterrica (Scribner 978-1-982-15092-1, $16.00, 224pp, tp) August 2020.

Tender Is the Flesh, by Argentinian author Agustina Bazterrica (and wonderfully translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses), is not for the faint of heart. The novel is set sometime in the future, when animals across the world have been infected by a virus that’s made them poisonous to eat. In response, governments cull their ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country, Emily Tesh (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-1-25075-660-2, $13.99, 160pp, tp) August 2020.

This time last year, I reviewed Emily Tesh’s debut novella, Silver in the Wood. It was an enchanting little book, full of love and darkness and the flutter of green leaves against one’s cheek. It can only be good news that this year we have a second Emily Tesh novella, con­tinuing the story of Silver in ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Deeplight, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books 978-1-509-83695-6, £12.99, 448pp, hc) October 2019. (Abrams 978-1-419-74320-7, $19.99, 432pp, hc) April 2020.

Author Frances Hardinge’s latest fantasy, Deeplight, takes elements of Charles Dickens and Jules Verne and blends them into a world where the old and mysterious gods are now just carcasses in the depths of the sea, and a young teen must rely on his wits to survive. The adventures ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison

The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, M. John Harrison (Gollancz 978-0575096356, £20.00, 272pp, hc) June 2020.

Despite the watery spectacle implied by the title, there are no lost continents dra­matically erupting from the waves in M. John Harrison’s The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, but there is a lot of water. The title comes instead from a rather obscure lecture called “Thoughts in a Gravel Pit” ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Loop by Ben Oliver

The Loop, Ben Oliver (Chicken House 978-1-338-58930-6, $18.99, 369pp, hc) April 2020.

In Ben Oliver’s The Loop, Luka has been in the prison known as The Loop for 736 days. Every day he wakes up in his solitary cell; works out; eats forgettable food; talks to the computer that runs the prison; spends one hour outside where he cannot see anyone but at least can speak to his ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Three Kings, Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass

Three Kings, George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass, eds. (HarperVoyager UK 978-0-00-83614-8, £20.00, 560pp, hc) May 2020.

Three Kings is a mosaic novel by five authors: Melinda M. Snodgrass, Peadar Ó Guilín, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Caroline Spector & Peter New­man, published, for now, only in the UK (a US edition from Tor won’t be out for at least a year). It is the 29th volume in the Wild ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Selkie Summer by Ken MacLeod

Selkie Summer, Ken MacLeod (NewCon Press 978-1-912950-63-8, £9.99, 141pp, tp) May 2020. Cover by Ben Baldwin.

In Selkie Summer, Ken MacLeod has given us – or me, anyway – something quite unlike what I would have expected from the deviser of Newton’s Wake: A Space Opera or The Execu­tion Channel. Its first half operates as a romance with metaphysical/supernatural complications: university student Siobhan Ross, working a sum­mer ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Adventure of the Naked Guide by Cynthia Ward

The Adventure of the Naked Guide, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press 978-1619761797, $9.99, 116pp, tp) February 2020.

Five years ago, I would never have believed that I’d coincidentally read for review, back-to-back, four books, in every one of which there’s a romance between two women. But the increased frequency with which I read such books means that I no longer so desperately look for them to be good: I no ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Edited By, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Edited By, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Subterranean 978-1596069671, 632pp, $45, hardcover) September 2020.

When does one properly offer a career retrospective for a creative person? Certainly it’s safe to issue one when the creator is dead. Then the career is etched in stone, with no further additions possible, and also with no dissents or quibbles from the creator! And if enough time goes by between the creator’s passing and the ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood Song, Erica Waters (Harper Teen 978-0-06-289422-9, $17.99, 360pp, hc) July 2020.

While urban fantasy is a thriving fantasy sub­genre, its rural counterpart has been far less explored. Erica Waters goes all in with Ghost Wood Song, a contemporary title not only set in a small, woodsy Florida town, but also cen­tered around bluegrass music. Her protagonist is a fiddle-playing teen determined to uncover family secrets, who ...Read More

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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, 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 Echh ...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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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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