Ian Mond Reviews We All Hear Stories in the Dark by Robert Shearman

We All Hear Stories in the Dark, Robert Shearman (PS Publishing 978-1-786364-46-2, $£90.00, 1,759pp, three volumes, hc) April 2020.

Robert Shearman’s new collection, We All Hear Stories in the Dark, is a remarkable feat of storytelling. Nine years in the making, it comprises over 100 pieces of fiction, spans three volumes (with introductions from Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith, and Lisa Tuttle, and a “peculiar” middleword by Steven ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe

Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe Press 978-1-59021-692-7, $17.99, 222pp, tp) March 2020.

It’s a pity, but not a surprise, that Julian K. Jerboe’s first book hasn’t been released by the kind of large publishing house that can garner big-name blurbs, a splashy publicity campaign, and inclusion on a jillion lists and roundups. Ev­eryone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel is a strange, limber, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: BCS, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Lightspeed, Kaleidotrope, and Giganotosaurus

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20, 3/12/20 Clarkesworld 3/20 Tor.com 2/26/20 Lightspeed 3/20 Kaleidotrope Winter 2020 Giganotosaurus 3/20

Beneath Ceaseless Skies‘s “Science Fan­tasy Month” – now in its fifth iteration – is one of my favorite biennial events in speculative fiction. Issues #298 and 299, both doubles, are given over to stories that blend science fiction and fantasy in whatever propor­tions the authors care to offer, and the results are universally intriguing. ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper Legacy, Daniel José Older (Scholastic 978-1-338-61487-9, $18.99, 432pp, hc) January 2020.

Daniel José Older brings his ambitious, intense and thoroughly satisfying Shadowshaper Cypher series to an end with the very nearly overwhelming action of Shadowshaper Legacy. Sierra and her friends must confront one more big bad in their efforts to bring peace and security to Brooklyn and finally obtain safe control of the Deck of Worlds. A ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Temporary by Hilary Leichter

Temporary, Hilary Leichter (Coffee House Press 978-1566895668, $16.95, 208pp, tp) March 2020.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve reviewed several novels that borrow from the genre toolkit to critique modern-day capitalism. Ling Ma’s 2018 novel Severance (a book that has seen a massive upsurge in popularity for reasons that will soon become obvious) uses an apocalyptic pandemic, born in the sweatshops of China, to echo Marx’s view that ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25021-475-1, $19.99, 176pp, hc) January 2020.

Riot Baby is a good book, an angry book, a useful book. It drenches the reader in cold fire: fury and clarity at once, directed not at individuals but at the systems that make life unfair and treacherous for Black people in America. It wobbles a little when it must create and maintain the alternate near-future reality ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe & Rich Horton Review Avatars Inc, Edited by Ann VanderMeer

Avatars Inc, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE, free, eb) March 2020. [Download from <www.avatars.inc>]

All well-made anthologies offer something like a conversation between the stories included, and in some cases (such as Jonathan Strahan’s recent Made to Order: Robots and Revolution) that conversation is more focused than usual, since the stories all revolve around a classic SF theme. With Ann VanderMeer’s Avatars Inc: A Sci-Fi Anthology, now available ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Infinity Son, Adam Silvera (Harper Teen 978-0-06-245782-0, $18.99, 353pp, hc) January 2020.

Adam Silvera takes an emotional look at fraught sibling relationships in the fantasy adventure Infinity Son. Fraternal twin brothers Emil and Brighton live in a New York that is home to magical humans called Spell Walkers who protect the city from the devious specters. While the Spell Walkers are born with their pow­ers, the specters cruelly ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Interzone, Galaxy’s Edge, Bourbon Penn, and The New Yorker

F&SF 5-6/20 Interzone 3-4/20 Galaxy’s Edge 3/20 Bourbon Penn 3/20 The New Yorker 3/16/20 Prosper’s Demon, K.J. Parker (Tor.com Publish­ing) January 2020. Truer Love and Other Lies, Edd Vick (Fairwood Press) November 2019.

What matters most? Plot? Character? Prose? Something else? The answer is all of the above, I think, and, more im­portantly, each ideally reinforces the other. These thoughts are prompted by an exceptional novelette in the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang (Saga 978-1-5344-2208-7, $27.99, 610pp, hc) April 2020.

Although I’ve used it myself often enough, I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the term “literary science fiction,” or for that matter the sister terms “literary fantasy” and “lit­erary horror.” The implication, of course, is that, without that saving modifier, the reader might be faced with unfettered pulp adventures of the sort that gave these genres their unsavory reputations ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

By Force Alone, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus 978-1-838-93127-8, £18.99, 512pp, hc) March 2020. (Tor 978-1250753458, $27.99, 416pp, hc) June 2020.

Lavie Tidhar has built a career out of not playing it safe. Over the last decade he has written bold, pro­vocative novels that, with a flair for metafiction and inspired by the pulps (both hard-boiled and genre), reimagine Osama bin Laden as a pulp-fiction hero (Osama), ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer, Titan’s Day by Dan Stout, and Network Effect by Martha Wells

Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician (Tor 978-0-7653-3504-3, $26.99, 286pp, hc) April 2020. Cover by Chris Gibbs.

When a trick goes wrong, stage magician Thalia Cutler discovers she has real magic in this sweet, rather low-key historical fantasy set in an alternate 1905. In this world, people are divided into three races, the magicless Solitaires, the shape-shifting Traders who lead society, and the nature-attuned Sylvestri. As far as Thalia knows, she’s ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comet Weather by Liz Williams

Comet Weather, Liz Williams (NewCon Press 978-1-912950-46-1, $15.99, 306pp, tp) March 2020.

Comet Weather, Liz Williams’s first novel in several years, is an absolutely lovely tale of an attractive if troubled family in contemporary Somerset and their increasingly hazardous interactions with the world of faerie. I suppose it falls into the broad tradition of what we might call English rural gothic, reaching all the way back through Diana ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Last Human by Zack Jordan

The Last Human, Zack Jordan (Del Rey 978-0451499813, $27.00 448pp, hardcover) March 2020

Zack Jordan’s debut novel is a highly accomplished postmodern space opera that manages to adroitly blend the SF humor of Robert Sheckley and Douglas Adams with the pathos of Simon Jimenez (The Vanished Birds) and the state-of-the-art high-tech speculative ambiance of Peter Hamilton and Alistair Reynolds. Additionally, it resonates with that great SF novum ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Gods & Lies: Season 1 by Elizabeth Vail

Gods & Lies: Season 1, Elizabeth Vail; Cary Hite & Sarah Mollo-Christensen, narrators (Serial Box, $9.99, 7 episodes, digital download, 5.5 hr., un­abridged) November-December 2019.

Serial Box continues to fuel my love for SF/F buddy-cop dramas with this slightly predictable yet incredibly adorable romantic mystery mini-series.

Set in a modern city in an alternate world where the gods take an active role among mortals, Justix Iris Tharro, priestess and ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Sensational, Jodie Lynn Zdrok (Tor Teen 978-0-7653-9971-7, $17.99, 336pp, hc) February 2020.

Jodie Lynn Zdrok concludes the adventures of late-19th-century teen reporter Nathalie Baudin with her second book, Sensational. As readers of the first book, Spectacle, will recall, Nathalie has a powerful ability to see the last moments of a murder (courtesy a bit of mad scientist intervention involving her parents before she was born). She has ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

Death in Her Hands, Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press 978-1-984-87935-6, $18.99, 272pp, hc) April 2019.

Vesta Gul (pronounced “like the ocean bird”) is walking her dog, Charlie, through the woods when she finds a note on the ground. The note reads:

Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.

Except there is no body, “no bloodstain. No tangle of ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: Analog, Asimov’s, Pulp Literature, and Uncanny

Analog 3-4/20 Asimov’s 3-4/20 Pulp Literature Winter ’20 Uncanny 3-4/20

Analog offers several impressive stories in its March-April issue. Andy Dudak can be counted on for wild ideas, and “Midstrathe Exploding” delivers on that account. Ciaran is a pickpocket in Midstrathe City, which seems mainly known for the weirdly time-shifted explosion that engulfed it 200 years before and is still expanding with its victims frozen inside it. He ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs and Bears Behaving Badly by MaryJanice Davidson

Patricia Briggs, Smoke Bitten (Ace 978-0-440-00155-3, $28.00, 342pp, hc) March 2020. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

A new foe with a really nasty bite and some creepy magic keeps Mercy busy trying protect friends and family. At the same time, she’s re­ally worried about her mate. Alpha werewolf Adam hasn’t really recovered emotionally from the last big battle, retreating inside himself so far he’s even shut down their mage bond. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com 978-1-250-24573-1, $14.99, 138pp, tp) February 2020.

I suppose the giant retail emporium has served as a portal into shadowy realms at least since John Col­lier’s “Evening Primrose” almost eighty years ago, but the deliberately labyrinthine layout of IKEA stores seems almost designed for creepy stories – something that Nino Cipri enthusiastically takes advantage of in their novella Finna, which is partly a testy workplace ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996 by Algis Budrys

Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996, Algis Budrys (Ansible Editions/Lulu.com, 978-0-244-56705-7, $22.50, 378pp, trade paperback) 2020

The field of fantastika could never have reached its current flourishing condition, nor hope to continue forcefully, without the efforts of the small presses. These firms throughout the history of the genre and into the present have preserved many older works from oblivion and also offered homes to worthy living ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats Audiobook by James Patrick Kelly

King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats, James Patrick Kelly; Stefan Rudnicki, narrator (Skyboat Media 978-1-09413898-5, $12.22, digital download, 2.25 hr., unabridged) January 2020.

Veteran narrator Stefan Rudnicki’s deep, nasal, al­most lugubrious, voice (last appearing in this column in connection with Adam-Troy Castro’s short-story collection My Wife Hates Time Travel, and Other Stories) anchors the more absurd aspects of this no­vella, in which a circus serves as ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Audiobooks: An Orc on the Wild Side by Tom Holt and Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

An Orc on the Wild Side, Tom Holt; Ray Sawyer, narrator (Hachette Audio 978-1-47898841-0, $24.98, digital download, 14 hr., unabridged) Sep­tember 2019.

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, K.J. Parker; Ray Sawyer, narrator (Ha­chette Audio 978-1-54915698-4, $24.98, digital download, 13.25 hr., unabridged) Decem­ber 2019.

In the late 1980s, I fell in love with Tom Holt’s first novel, Expecting Someone Taller, an amusing work that took the ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Fiyah, BCS, Strange Horizons, and That We May Live

Fiyah Winter ’20 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/30/20, 2/13/20 Strange Horizons 2/3/20, 2/10/20 That We May Live: Speculative Chinese Fic­tion, Sarah Coolidge, ed. (Two Lines) March 2020.

The 13th issue of Fiyah is unthemed, letting the stories come unfettered and showcasing several very new authors. The lead is “All That the Storm Took” by Yah Yah Scholfield, a harrowing tale of surviving hurricane Katrina. The structure is ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s, David Ritter & Daniel Ritter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7332964-4-1, $150.00, 516pp, hc) Febru­ary 2020.

Fandom may be a billion-dollar industry these days, and the field of fandom studies has drawn enough scholarly attention that it even has its own academic journal, so old-time SF fans might be excused a degree of smugness while claiming – not unreason­ably – ...Read More

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Ian Mond & Gary K. Wolfe Review Ghost Species by James Bradley

Ghost Species, James Bradley (Hamish Hamilton 978-1-926-42866-6, AU$29.99, 320pp, tp), April 2020.

REVIEW BY IAN MOND

Back in February, Jeff Bezos earmarked ten bil­lion dollars for the establishment of the “Earth Fund.” He joins fellow billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill and Melinda Gates in throwing large sums of money at the climate crisis. While it’s questionable whether these acts of rich-people tokenism will play any role in sav­ing ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Grace, T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio, $5.99, 400pp, eb) February 2020.

T. Kingfisher (the pseudonym that Hugo Award winning Ursula Vernon uses when writing for adults) works in a similar setting as K.J. Parker. Her world, like his, is full of commoners and princes and courtiers and tradespeople in an imagined pre-industrial past. Where Parker goes heavy on the engineering (with a little bit of hu­mor), Vernon goes ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper (Bloomsbury 978-1547600144, $17.99, 307pp, hc) February 2020.

Set just slightly in the future, as the US trains astronauts for a mission to Mars, The Gravity of Us is a smart, heartwarming, and thoroughly relevant novel about teens swept up in the clashing ambitions of those around them. It brims with joy and drama, with a dose of treachery tossed in to keep the ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds

Bone Silence, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz 978-0575090675, $23.83, 496pp, hc) January 2020.

With Bone Silence, Alastair Reynolds completes the far, far-future adventures of Arafura and Adrana Ness, a pair of nice girls who ran away from home to find ad­venture and got rather more than they expected. In Revenger it was crewing on a sunjamming, treasure-hunting spacecraft; pawing through caches of ancient lost technology in dangerous, widely scattered troves ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Masters of Science Fiction: Kate Wilhelm by Kate Wilhelm

Masters of Science Fiction: Kate Wilhelm, Kate Wilhelm (Centipede Press 978-1-61347-207-1 and 978-1-61347-208-8, $95, 736 and 784 pages, hardcover) March 2020

Editor John Pelan and publisher Jerad Walters of Centipede Press have again conspired, as they do on an awesomely regular schedule, to produce a book—a two-volume set, actually—that is a masterpiece of curation and production values. A handsome, deluxe, high-quality package, priced sensibly, enshrining important stories—what more could ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Border Keeper Audiobook by Kerstin Hall

The Border Keeper, Kerstin Hall; Mi­chael Braun, narrator (Recorded Books, $15.99, digital download, 5.25 hr., un­abridged) October 2019.

The mortal man Vasethe is an unwelcome guest to the reclusive Border Keeper, the many-lived, dual-souled powerful woman who guards the boundaries that separate the human lands of Ahri from realms of gods, demons, the incarnated dead, and other strange beings. He begs her to help him find his dead lover, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Big Echo, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 2/20 Lightspeed 2/20 Big Echo 1/20 Tor.com 1/29, 2/5, 2/11, 2/19/20

February’s Clarkesworld starts off strongly with “Outer” by Hollis John Henry. It’s a chilling story of mutants in the Caribbean, the result of some kind of scientific mishap. It hearkens back to Van Vogt’s Slans as we follow one particular mutant who can both feel emotions of those nearby and also snuff out their lifeforces, ...Read More

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