Arley Sorg Reviews The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Vol­ume One, Edited by Paula Guran

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Vol­ume One, Paula Guran, ed. (Pyr 978-1645060253, $19.95, 440pp, tp) October 2020.

Paula Guran started her The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror series in 2010 with Prime Books. After working as a senior editor for Prime for seven years, Guran parted ways with the company and published the final installment in that series in 2019. Guran returns in 2020 with no ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Early Departures, Justin A. Reynolds (Kath­erine Tegen 978-0-06-274840-9, $17.99, 480pp, hc) September 2020.

It is not a spoiler to share that Justin A. Reynolds’s latest, Early Departures, is about what happens when someone you care about dies suddenly and then, through the miracle of technology, is reanimated for a few weeks so everyone can say a proper goodbye. This is not a zombie novel nor, surprisingly, much of ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews The Empire of Gold Audiobook by S.A. Chakraborty

The Empire of Gold, S.A. Chakraborty; Soneela Nankani, narrator (HarperAu­dio 978-0-06295660-6, $48.99, digital download, 28.5 hr., unabridged) June 2020.

The Daevabad trilogy comes to a thrilling and emotionally satisfying end. Nahri, a former Cai­ro con artist turned magical healer and displaced heir to a kingdom of djinn and daeva, unexpect­edly finds herself in Egypt again, along with her friend and brother-in-law, Prince Ali, who now bears the Seal of ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick by David Wong

Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick, David Wong (St. Martin’s 978-1-250-19579-1, $27.99, 368pp, hc) October 2020.

David Wong enjoys an eye-catching title. His 2007 debut went with the striking John Dies at the End, followed by the equally intriguing and impressive This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It (2012) and What the Hell Did I Just Read (2017). The title to Wong’s latest ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Clarkesworld, Breathe Fiyah, and Tor.com

Clarkesworld 10/20, 11/20 Breathe Fiyah 10/19/20 Tor.com 10/21, 10/28, 11/11, 11/18/20

While many of Locus‘s reviewers are deeply entrenched in 2021, I’ll be spending this month and the next wrap­ping up everything I can from 2020. The joy of online publication is the ease of getting content quickly, but it means I rarely get to see issues in advance. So please enjoy these last hurrahs of an otherwise insane year, ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Knox, Complete Season 1: Episodes 1–11 by K. Arsenault Rivera, Brooke Bolander, Gabino Iglesias & Sunny Moraine

Knox, Complete Season 1: Episodes 1–11, K. Arsenault Rivera, Brooke Bolander, Gabino Iglesias & Sunny Moraine; Pilar Uribe, narra­tor (Serial Box, digital download, $9.99, 6 hr., unabridged) May 2020.

Morgan Knox came back from her service as an army nurse in the Great War with disturb­ing memories of a frightening magic ritual and morbid visions that haunt her sight and once got her locked up in a mental ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Wall by Gautam Bhatia

The Wall: Being the First Book of the Chron­icles of Sumer, Gautam Bhatia (HarperCollins India 978-93-5357-835-0, INR399, 386pp, tp) August 2020.

The tale of a society long trapped in enforced stasis but finally destabilized by curious and rebellious youth is one of SF’s core narratives; think of Clarke’s The City and the Stars, Heinlein’s “Uni­verse”, or even Collins’s The Hunger Games. The Wall, Gautam Bhatia’s first ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron Reviews The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

The First Sister, Linden A. Lewis (Skybound 978-1-98212-699-5, $26.00, 352pp, hc) August 2020.

I genuinely wanted to like and to root for Linden A. Lewis’s debut, and the inaugural book in a trilogy, The First Sister. As I read, though, the book dissolved more and more of my goodwill, until, by the conclusion, I had very few positive things left to say. Lewis presents a new science fiction ...Read More

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Amy Goldschlager Reviews Last Smile in Sunder City Audiobook by Luke Arnold

Last Smile in Sunder City, Luke Arnold; narrated by the author (Hachette Audio 978-1-54915049-4, $25.98, digital download, 8 hr., unabridged) February 2020.

There has always been a lively debate, in this column and among the audiobook lis­tening community at large, as to whether a book should be narrated by the author or by a professional narrator. Authors have an intimacy with their material that’s difficult to duplicate, while professional ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic, Eden Royce (Walden Pond, 978-0-062-89957-6, $16.99, 352pp, hc) January 2021.

Root Magic is an entrancing story of fam­ily love, legacy, and strength; of finding oneself; and preserving a connection to the past. Intended for ages eight through 12, the book can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults.

Vividly set on one of South Carolina’s marshy Sea Islands, the story begins on September 2, 1963, with the funeral of ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Silence of the Wilting Skin by Tlotlo Tsamaase

The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase (Pink Narcissus Press 978-1-939056-17-7, $12.00, 97pp, tp) May 2020.

The opening line of Motswana author Tlotlo Tsamaase’s searing novella hits readers hard and fast: “My Girlfriend was born on the train a week after her mother died,” she writes. From there the short chapters fly by as the unnamed narrator documents the train’s monthly arrival in her bisected city, carrying the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Evidence by Christopher Priest

The Evidence, Christopher Priest (UK: Gollancz 978-1473231375, £20, 320pp, hardcover) October 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a pretty horrible year. Nonetheless, I am not willing to write it off entirely, if only because it gave us new books by both M. John Harrison and Christopher Priest. These two British writers both began their extraordinary careers in 1966. That’s fifty-four years ago, folks! The fact ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo Wife, Sarah Gailey (Tor 978-1-250-17466-6, $24.99, 256pp, hc) February 2021.

Clones don’t seem quite as popular these days as they were back in the 1970s and ’80s, when we were treated on a fairly regular basis to stories about celebrity clones, spare-parts clones, hazardous-duty clones, doppelganger clones, identity-crisis clones, cheap-labor clones, ominous replacement clones, survivalist clones, posthu­man clones, tabula-rasa clones, and, inevitably, murder-mystery clones. Sarah Gailey touches ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell (Tor 978-1-250-75883-5, $24.99, 432pp, hc) February 2021.

Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit is a debut novel with an interesting history. A version of this novel was first published online, where I encountered (and enjoyed) it as “The Course of Honour” on Archive Of Our Own (in the Original Works category). Winter’s Orbit as published by Tor Books is different in some respects from “The Course of ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Eartheater by Dolores Reyes

Eartheater, Dolores Reyes (HarperVia 978-0062987730, $24.99, 224pp, hc) November 2020.

Eartheater (translated by Julia Sanches) is a strong debut from Dolores Reyes, the second Argentine author I’m reviewing this month. The novel is set in an impoverished barrio in present-day Argentina, told from the perspective of a young woman (she’s never named) burdened with visions of the lost and murdered. On the day her mother is laid to rest, ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Creative Surgery by Clelia Farris

Creative Surgery, Clelia Farris (Rosarium Pub­lishing) September 2020.

Creative Surgery is Italian author Clelia Far­ris‘s debut collection (with translations by Rachel Cordasco and Jennifer Delare), and it’s a great start. The first story, “A Day to Remember” is an extended meditation on living in a world that feels much smaller when circumscribed by cli­mate change. We follow an artist in a post-flood Italy as she tours ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve, Edited by Ellen Datlow

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-973-3, $15.99, 480pp, tp) October 2020.

Ellen Datlow’s career as the doyen of “year’s best” editors began with The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Col­lection in 1988 (with co-editor Terri Windling), and the series was renamed The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror with the third annual col­lection. After 21 volumes, the series ended, but Datlow ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews The Best of Walter Jon Williams by Walter Jon Williams

The Best of Walter Jon Williams, Walter Jon Williams (Subterranean 978-1645240020, $45.00, 610pp, hc). Cover by Lee Moyer. Feb­ruary 2020.

Exactly 30 years ago, this column’s lede was “Walter Jon Williams is an interest­ingly various writer….” The intervening decades have given me no reason to alter that opinion, variations on which I have been re­peating just about every time I write about a Williams title. So why should I ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best of Elizabeth Hand by Elizabeth Hand

The Best of Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Hand (Subterranean 978-1-64524-005-1, $45.00, 560pp, hc) February 2021.

I’ve always distrusted the notion of “comfort reading,” especially as it applies to our little corner of the swamp. After all, the very idea of horror fiction involves discomfort, and SF characteristically challenges our sense of the stability of everything from nations to our bod­ies to the planet itself. I suppose fantasy does leave room ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Big Blind by Lavie Tidhar

The Big Blind, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing 978-1-786365-98-9, £18.00, 164pp, hc) November 2020.

With its long and shady history, poker seems to have a natural affinity for fantasy writers, ranging from Edward Whittemore (Jerusalem Poker) to Tim Powers (Last Call). It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ever-eclectic Lavie Tidhar turns his attention to it with The Big Blind, which is peppered with ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Samovar, Tor.com, and Strange Horizons

Samovar 7/20 Tor.com 8/26, 9/16, 9/23, 10/14/20 Strange Horizons 9/20

In July Strange Horizon‘s sister publication dedi­cated to translations, Samovar, published a duet of stories. “The Curtain Falls, The Show Must End” by Julie Nováková (translated from Czech by the author) is a historical drama set at the eve of WWII. Two backstage workers in a theater in Prague conjure up ghosts, which proceed to haunt and torment ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Inscape by Louise Carey

Inscape, Louise Carey (UK: Gollancz 978-1473232747, £14.9920, 432pp, trade paperback) January 2021

Some genetically talented, culturally nurturing families produce writers across multiple generations, or multiple sibling iterations in the same clade. Famous literary lineages are almost too numerous to name. John le Carré and Nick Harkaway. Stephen King and progeny. Nathaniel and Julian Hawthorne. The McCaffreys. Peter and Emma Straub. The Powys clan; the LaFarge clan. And on and ...Read More

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Gabino Iglesias Reviews Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-76702-8, $19.99, 192pp, hc) October 2020. Cover by Henry Sene Yee.

P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout is a wildly imaginative, superbly written narrative about friendship, magic, and fighting racism that occupies a strange interstitial space between historical fiction, fantasy, and body hor­ror. It is also a smart reimagining of history that pushes current racial tensions to the forefront and forces readers to ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Doors of Sleep, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0-857-66874-5, $14.99, 272pp, tp) January 2021.

Tim Pratt’s last trilogy from Angry Ro­bot, the Axiom (The Wrong Stars, The Dreaming Stars, and The Forbidden Stars), was precisely the kind of space opera romp guaranteed to delight me. Fast paced, and with a rag-tag crew of heroes and a selection of batshit weird dangers, it drove an appealing course ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020, Edited by Diana Gabaldon & John Joseph Adams

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020, Diana Gabaldon & John Joseph Adams, eds. (Mariner 978-1328613103, $16.99, 432pp, tp) November 2020.

It’s always seemed to me that John Joseph Ad­ams’s Best American Science Fiction and Fan­tasy series, now in its sixth volume, has served a somewhat different if equally important purpose than the more traditional year’s best volumes which have been a staple of SF publishing for more ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini 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 built on a solid SFnal idea: a shadowy genius has figured out how to travel between parallel Earths and is raiding them for information and resources. There’s a catch, of course. The only humans who can make the jump between the worlds are those who don’t have a ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: London Centric, Uncanny, On Spec, Pulp Literature, and The New Yorker

London Centric, Ian Whates, ed. (NewCon Press) March 2020. Uncanny 11-12/20 On Spec #114 Pulp Literature Summer ’20 The New Yorker 11/9/20

Here’s an intriguing new anthology from Eng­land’s NewCon Press, London Centric: Tales of Future London, edited by Ian Whates. The anthology is mostly exactly what it says, a collec­tion of looks at a future London, but one of the very best stories is mostly set in ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Tor.com

Uncanny 9-10/20 Black Static 9-10/20 The Dark 9/20, 10/20 Nightmare 10/20, 11/20 Tor.com 9/2/20

Uncanny #36 offers five rewarding originals. T. Kingfisher‘s terrific science fictional retelling of Hansel and Gretel, “Metal Like Blood in the Dark“, is a grim but triumphant tale.

The engaging “Anchorage” by Samantha Mills involves a spacefaring crew beset with guilt, a librarian of sorts who also serves as a confessor ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Clerk by Guillermo Saccomanno

The Clerk, Guillermo Saccomanno (Open Letter 978-1-948-83025-6, $15.95, 138pp, tp) September 2020.

Going back to the country’s independence in 1816, Argentina has been a rich source of genre and genre-adjacent fic­tion. Most will be aware of Jorge Luis Borges – the father of magical realism – but there’s also Silvina Ocampo, Carlos Gardini, and An­gélica Gorodischer, whose 1979 mosaic novel Trafalgar was finally translated into English in 2013 thanks ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Ready Player Two, Ernest Cline (Ballantine 978-1524761332, $28.99, 384pp, hardcover) November 2020

I am not often bowled over by first novels, but I admit to being very delighted and impressed with Ernest Cline’s bestseller, Ready Player One, when it appeared nearly ten years ago. I was then a judge for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and cast my vote to ensure it got on the shortlist as ...Read More

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Karen Haber Reviews Three Art Books

Snow, Glass, Apples, Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran (Dark Horse 978-1-50670-979-6, $17.99, unpaginated, hc) August 2019. Cover by Colleen Doran.

Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Trina Rob­bins (It’s Alive 978-1-7325915-2-3, $24.99, 80pp, hc) September 2019. Cover by Trina Robbins.

Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark, Ulla Thynell (Chronicle Books, 978-1-4521-7447-1, $22.95, 160pp, hc) August 2019. Cover by Ulla Thynell.

Snow, Glass, Apples ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, Garth Nix (Katherine Tegen Books 978-0-06-268325-0, $19.99, 416pp, hc) September 2020.

In a version of 1983 London that is just a bit not-like the actual 1983 London, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father. Her mother, whose memories of Susan’s conception are fond but hazy, can provide only the vaguest of clues as to his identity, thus prompting her summertime quest. Susan’s plan to ...Read More

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