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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Colleen Mondor Reviews This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

This is Not the Jess Show, Anna Carey (Quirk 978-1-68369-197-6, $18.99, hc, 298pp) Febru­ary 2021.

From the moment readers first meet her in Anna Carey’s breakneck thriller, This is Not the Jess Show, it is clear that Jess Flynn is living a classic 1998 life. True, her younger sister Sara has been bat­tling an extremely rare disease for a few years and her parents are obviously frazzled with ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Man Who Never Was by R.A. Lafferty

The Man Who Never Was, R.A. Lafferty (Centipede Press 978-1-61347-266-8, $65.00, 384pp, hc) March 2021.

By literally eyeballing the list of Lafferty short stories at ISFDB, I get a rough count for his canon of some 200 to 250 short stories. This figure consorts with what his Wikipedia entry maintains. The current Centipede Press series collecting his less-than-novel-length oeuvre is featuring about 20 stories per volume. So now, with ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom 978-1250267689, $ 27.99, 400pp, hc) May 2021. Cover by Stephan Martiniere.

The notion of magic returning to the world has been a familiar trope for so long that it’s nearly become part of the performance repertoire of fantasy writers, like locked-room murders for mystery writers or alien invasions for SF. The idea by itself doesn’t have much air left in it, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Rise & Shine by Patrick Allington

Rise & Shine, Patrick Allington (Scribe 978-1-925-84976-9, $27.99, 224pp, hc) June 2020; (Scribe US 978-1-950-35442-9, $16.00, 240pp, tp). April 2021.

I’ve noticed that I seem to be gravitating toward post-apocalyptic fiction. This is not something I set out to do, and yet when I look back at my col­umn over the last seven months, I’ve read at least six post-apocalyptic novels (more if you include dystopian fiction). What’s striking ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Robot Artists and Black Swans: The Italian Fantascienza Stories by Bruce Sterling

Robot Artists and Black Swans: The Italian Fantascienza Stories, Bruce Sterling (Tachyon Publications, 978-1616963293, $25.95, 250 pp, hc) March 2021. Cover by John Coulthart.

Few American SF writers are as good at evoking the vibe of parts of the world outside the US as novelist-futurist-journalist Bruce Sterling – it’s something he was working at as far back as Holy Fire (1996), and it became a notable feature of the ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Yesterday Is History by Kosoko Jackson

Yesterday Is History, Kosoko Jackson (Source­books 978-1-4926-9434-2, $17.99, hc, 320pp) February 2021.

Seventeen-year-old Andre Cobb has survived cancer and is six months into receiving a life-saving donor liver as Kosoko Jackson’s achingly romantic time-travel drama, Yesterday Is His­tory, opens. Andre is dearly loved by his parents, has a great best friend and, while he is struggling in school due to his illness-related absences, is still fortunate enough to ...Read More

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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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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, BCS, and Lightspeed

Clarkesworld 3/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/25/21, 3/11/21 Lightspeed 3/21

My two favorite stories in Clarkesworld in March are “Homecoming is Just An­other Word for the Sublimation of the Self” by Isabel J. Kim and “The Orbiting Guan Erye” by Wang Zhenzhen (translated by Carmen Yiling Yan). Kim’s story features an amazingly appropriate use of second-person perspective as “you” are a first-generation Korean immigrant to the US ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny and Weird Tales

Uncanny 3-4/21 Weird Tales #364

The March-April issue of Uncanny is pretty remarkable. All of the stories are strong. Catherynne M. Valente opens with “The Sin of America“, which expands on the “sin eater” concept in purposefully American fashion, with a bit of the vibe of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to boot. American fashion here is repre­sented by a clichéd upper Midwest diner and way too much food ...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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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Tor.com, BCS, Strange Horizons, Aurealis, and Fantasy

Tor.com 1/27/21, 2/3/21, 2/10/21, 2/24/21 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/28/21, 2/11/21 Strange Horizons 2/8/21, 2/15/21 Aurealis #137 Fantasy Magazine 2/21

The stories in Tor.com I read this month leaned heavily toward horror, with three edited by El­len Datlow and the fourth a vampire story edited by Jonathan Strahan. “Shards” by Ian Rogers is a cabin-in-the-woods story in which four friends violently murder the fifth friend, due to a demonic ...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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