Maya C. James Reviews A Girl Called Rumi by Ari Honarvar

A Girl Called Rumi, Ari Honarvar (Forest Avenue Press 978-1-942436-46-1, $16.00, 362pp, tp) September 2021. Cover by Ari Honarvar.

Content warning: self-harm.

Ari Honarvar’s debut novel, A Girl Called Rumi, is a sage, beautifully-written fantasy novel. Against the intense backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war and eventual Green Uprising, Kimia uses storytelling to escape, and discovers a storyteller that will lead her through the Seven Valleys of Love – an ...Read More

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Russell Letson Reviews Invisible Sun by Charles Stross

Invisible Sun, Charles Stross (Tor 978-1-250-80709-0, $27.99, 285 pp, hc) September 2021. Cover by Neil Lang.

Partway into Charles Stross’s Invisible Sun, a harried intelligence/security chief says, “We’ve got a lot of balls in the air,” a condition that might apply as well to a number of his fellow characters and to Stross himself in his authorial role. This ninth and final entry in what is now called ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Within These Wicked Walls, Lauren Blackwood (Wednesday Books 978-1-250-78710-1, $18.99, hc 336pp) November 2021.

The publicity materials for Lauren Blackwood’s Within These Wicked Walls describe the book as an “Ethiopian-inspired debut retelling of Jane Eyre.” If you aren’t a fan of Charlotte Bronte’s classic this might put you off the book, whereas, if you are a fan, you might be instantly concerned that the marketing machine is overreaching. ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 10/7/21 Clarkesworld 10/21 9/8, 9/15, 9/29, 10/13, 10/20/21 Strange Horizons 9/13/21

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a strong, high-quality venue, week in and week out, but on anniversaries and big milestones editor Scott Andrews pulls out the stops. For the 13th Anniversary we get a double issue filled with magic. First up is “The Burning Girl” by Carrie Vaughn, an alternate history in which ...Read More

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Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction: F&SF, Cossmass Infinities and Fusion Fragment

F&SF 11-12/21 Cossmass Infinities 9/21 Fusion Fragment 9/21

F&SF’s final 2021 issue is at hand. The marquee name is Nalo Hopkinson, the newest SFWA Grand Master, with her first appearance in the magazine. (One result of new editor Sheree Renee Thomas taking the helm has been lots of first appearances.) “Broad Dutty Water: A Sunken Story” is an example of “cli-fi,” but a science fiction writer’s approach ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang

After the Dragons, Cynthia Zhang (Stelliform Press 978-1-77709-174-3, $19.99 160pp, tp) August 2021. Cover by Wang Xulin.

“Shaolong. Throat scorch. Caused by long exposure to poor air quality, especially common in cities with high pollution indexes and poor environmental regulations – the same disease that killed his grandmother.”

Cynthia Zhang’s After the Dragons is a queer SFF novella that follows Xiang Kaifei (Kai), a jaded college student, and Elijah ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Best of Lucius Shepard Volume Two

The Best of Lucius Shepard Volume Two, edited by Bill Sheehan (Subterranean Press 978-1645240358, hardcover, 844pp, $50.00) December 2021.

When Subterranean Press gifted us all with The Best of Lucius Shepard in 2008, the author still walked among us, with some six productive years left in his wide-ranging, extravagant, hectic, and literarily prolific life. (He died in 2014 at the too-young-but-still-amazing-for-his-profligate-ways age of seventy.) One can presume Shepard had ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

Build Your House Around My Body, Violet Kupersmith (Random House 978-0-81299-332-5, $27.00, 400pp, hc) July 2021.

Violet Kupersmith’s debut novel, Build Your House Around My Body, is a beautifully wrought, non-linear tale of ghosts, missing girls, and revenge set against the backdrop of colonial and post-colonial Vietnam. It’s not a spoiler to say that one of those disappearing girls is Ngoan Nguyen (though she prefers to go by ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Weird Horror, The Deadlands, The Dark, and Apex

Weird Horror #2 The Deadlands 10/21 The Dark 9/21, 10/21 Apex #125

I’m still not convinced that its title matches its content, but Weird Horror’s second issue offers a couple of very good stories. Stephen Volk scores high with fantasy “Adventurous”: when Carole’s sexual encounter with Collin is interrupted by her mum’s unexpected return home, the young man hides in the wardrobe. It proves to be much more ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction: Volume 2 by Tarun K. Saint, ed.

The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction: Volume 2, Tarun K. Saint, ed. (Hachette India 978-9391028626, ₹699.00, 488pp, hc; $10.99, eb) September 2021.

The first volume of Tarun K. Saint’s The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction (reviewed here in June 2019) seemed to serve two purposes: to present the variety of South Asian SFF to the world at large, and – equally important, to judge from Saint’s ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Lightspeed, Mithila Review, Common Tongues, and Bards & Sages

Lightspeed 10/21 Mithila Review 3/21 Common Tongue 8/21 Bards & Sages 10/21

October’s Lightspeed has plenty of stories with chewy premises to enjoy. “Stowaways” by Andrew Dana Hudson is a flash piece told in the form of a museum sign explaining an art piece. This dangerous piece of art can “install” itself in viewers’ brains whenever enough “infected” people gather nearby. Its main effect is to generate companion ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Undiscovered Territories by Robert Freeman Wexler

Undiscovered Territories, Robert Freeman Wexler (PS Publishing 978-1-786365-89-7, £25.00, 326pp, tp) October 2021.

Although Undiscovered Territories is not Robert Freeman Wexler’s first collection – that would be 2008’s Psychological Methods to Sell Should Be Destroyed – it is his most complete, featuring most of the short fiction he’s published over the last two decades in magazines like Electric Velocipede, Polyphony, and The Journal of Experimental Fiction. The fourteen stories ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K.J. Parker

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World, K.J. Parker (Orbit 978-0316498616, $17.99, 384pp, tp), January 2022.

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World winds up the Siege trilogy K.J. Parker started with Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. While that first book and the second, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, were amusing and engaging on their own terms, the third installment ...Read More

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T.G Shenoy Reviews The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, ed. (Jembefola Press, $6.99, eb) September 2021. Cover by Maria Spada.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. You’ll want to remember the name because if the recent past is anything to go by, then you’ll be coming across it often, very often. Ever since he burst on the scene – with a Nommo Award for his 2018 story “The Witching Hour” – he’s ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Michael Bishop’s A Few Last Words for the Late Immortals

A Few Last Words for the Late Immortals, Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press 978-1933846125, trade paperback, 250pp, $17.99) November 2021.

Fairwood Press has become the classy home to many of Michael Bishop’s fine books from his large and exciting backlist. They have now issued a dozen of his titles, all extensively revised by the author. But this latest compilation is something very different, a brand-new assemblage of poetry and flash ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Second Shooter by Nick Mamatas

The Second Shooter, Nick Mamatas (Solaris 978-1-78108-926-2, $14.00, 400pp, tp) Novem­ber 2021.

Having skewered everything from late-stage capitalism to America’s political and cultural malaise in his last novel, Sabbath, Nick Mama­tas boldly turns his attention to the intractable issue of gun violence and mass shootings with his highly entertaining follow-up, The Second Shooter.

The story centres on journalist and hack-for-hire Mike Karras as he travels across America ...Read More

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Maya C. James Reviews God of Mercy by Okezie Nwọka

God of Mercy, Okezie Nwọka (Astra House 97801-66260-0-838, $27.00, 304pp, hc) Novem­ber 2021.

Content warning: child abuse.

Supreme beings, elders, and ancestors clash in Okezie Nwọka’s God of Mercy, a decolonized, magical realist novel about a young girl named Ijeọma who can fly. Uncertain if her power is a curse or a blessing from feuding gods, a cast of bitter family members, sage elders, and violent pastors attempt ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

Bad Witch Burning, Jessica Lewis (Delacorte 978-0-593-17738-9, 352pp, $17.99, hc) August 2021.

“I’m painting Will’s nails when she asks me to talk to her dead grandma.” Jessica Lewis opens her debut young adult fantasy Bad Witch Burning with a killer hook that, once you have finished the novel, you realize is packed with worldbuilding tidbits. Katrell is our protagonist, and she can communicate with the dead. When she’s not ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Mike Ashley’s Nature’s Warnings: Classic Stories of Eco-Science Fiction

Nature’s Warnings: Classic Stories of Eco-Science Fiction, edited by Mike Ashley (British Library Publishing ‎ ‎ 978-0712353571, trade paperback, 320pp, $16.95) November 2021.

Being an anthologist is much like being a party host. If you have excellent taste in people (or stories) and know a lot of interesting people (or stories) and can instinctively or cleverly create harmonious or synergistic or even antagonistic assemblages of people (or stories), you ...Read More

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Colleen Mondor Reviews Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad

Mercury Boys, Chandra Prasad (Soho Teen 978-1-64129-265-8, $18.99, 360pp, hc) August 2021.

When Saskia Brown persuades her friend Lila to let her “borrow” a daguerreotype from the library archive where she works, neither girl can imagine that the old photograph will be a vehicle for time travel, romance, and a near-death experience. The twist in Chandra Prasad’s Mercury Boys is that the nightly adventures in the past are not ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Noor, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW 978-0756416096, $23.99, 224pp, hc) November 2021.

As vibrant and inventive as her settings are, Nnedi Okorafor’s most consistent theme may simply be the discovery of unexpect­ed inner powers. Zahrah the Windseeker finds that her dreadlocks give her the power to levitate and fly; Ejii in The Shadow Speaker learns she can hear at great distances and even read minds; On­yesonwu in Who Fears Death? not ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories by Tobias S. Buckell

Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories, Tobias S. Buckell (Fairwood Press ‎ 978-1933846187, trade paperback, 328pp, $17.99) November 2021.

The twentieth anniversary of Tobias Buckell’s first story appearance, “The Fish Merchant,” in Science Fiction Age for March 2000 (making him one of editor Scott Edelman’s many insightful launches), has come and gone without much ado, although by rights it should have been celebrated widely. For Buckell has become a ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Liar of Red Valley and The Last Graduate

Walter Goodwater, The Liar of Red Valley (Solaris 978-1-78108-911-8, $24.99, 359pp, hc) September 2021.

Red Valley, a dying town in rural California, pro­vides the colorful backdrop for this twisted dark fantasy novel. Sadie lives an outsider’s life as the daughter of the town’s Liar, but then her mother dies. Suddenly, Sadie learns she has to be the Liar, only her mother never told her how to take people’s lies, the ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews This Weightless World by Adam Soto

This Weightless World, Adam Soto (Astra House 978-1-66260-063-0, $27.00, 320pp, hc) November 2021.

Recently, on The Writer and the Critic podcast, Kirstyn McDermott and I spoke glowingly about Olga Ravn’s The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century (longlisted for this year’s International Booker Prize). During the discussion, I pas­sionately argued (some might say ranted) that mainstream genre publishers no longer seemed interested in publishing radical science-fiction; that ...Read More

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Rich Horton reviews Short Fiction: Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories andHow to Get to Apocalypse and Other Disasters

Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories, Tobias S. Buckell (Fairwood Press) November 2021.

How to Get to Apocalypse and Other Disasters, Erica L. Satifka (Fairwood Press) November 2021.

Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories is a new collection from Tobias S. Buckell. He’s been publishing much of his short work on his Patreon in recent years, so this book is a great way for non-patrons to see ...Read More

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Nadia Elbaar Reviews Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Jade Legacy, Fonda Lee (Orbit 978-0-31644-097-4, $28.00, 736pp, hc) November 2021.

Jade Legacy is the final book in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga. The trilogy, starting with Jade City (which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2018) and followed by Jade War, presents an ingenious blend of high-stakes mafia plots with the fantastic martial arts of Chinese wuxias.

Set in a continent analogous to 20th-century ...Read More

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Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Hexagon

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 9/9, 9/23/21

Clarkesworld 9/21

Strange Horizons 8/21

Lightspeed 10/21

Hexagon Fall ’21

While Beneath Ceaseless Skies doesn’t typically do theme issues, the fact that each features a pair of stories lets us find synchronous themes pretty often. Issue #338 features two young people facing very different coming-of-age trials. In “The Shape of Wings and Feathers” by Jenny Rae Rappaport, Bryce is a young girl ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

The Fall of Babel, Josiah Bancroft (Orbit 978-0316518192, trade paperback, 672pp, $17.99) November 2021.

As everyone from gymnasts to songwriters knows, “sticking the landing” is essential for creating an artistic triumph. You might be doing great for nine-tenths of your balance-beam ballet or your three-minute pop tune, but unless you go out elegantly, with a bang, and in fulfillment of all that you have set up earlier, after prepping ...Read More

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Carolyn Cushman Reviews A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton and Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne

Laurell K. Hamilton, A Terrible Fall of Angels (Berkley 978-1-9848-0446-4, $28.00, 388pp, hc) August 2021.

A world where angels, demons, and other su­pernatural beings interact with humans provides a fascinating backdrop for this novel, the first in a new urban fantasy series. Detective Zaniel ‘‘Havoc’’ Havelock was taken as a child to train to be an Angel Speaker, one of the special few who can communicate directly with angels, but ...Read More

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Gabino Iglesias Reviews The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World, Cassandra Khaw (Erewhon 978-1645660200, $25.95, 288pp, hc) September 2021. Cover by Ashe Samuels.

Once in a while a debut novel comes along that deserves to be on every radar, and Cassandra Khaw’s The All-Consuming World is that kind of book. An explosive, lyrical, foul-mouthed science fiction novel in which tech­nological advances fail to silence the most basic human emotions, The All-Consuming World is an interstellar trip ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Galaxias by Stephen Baxter

Galaxias, Stephen Baxter (Gollancz 978-1473228863, trade paperback, 544pp, $22.84) October 2021.

Stephen Baxter’s latest novel is a mind-expanding trip into an unpredictable but scientifically rigorous future—in other words, one of his patented Hard SF wonderworks. But much as I enjoyed it, my reading pleasures only bloomed after I had dashed some of my perhaps not-unwarranted expectations. I was ready to read Wylie and Balmer’s When Worlds Collide, and ...Read More

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Alex Brown Reviews Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

Redemptor, Jordan Ifueko (Abrams 978-1-419-73984-2, 336pp, $18.99, hc) August 2021.

At 11 years old, she was Tarisai of Swana, a lonely girl who was desperate to be loved. Now at 17, she is Tarisai Idajo, Empress Redemptor, the ruler who was never supposed to exist. Tarisai was raised in a secret estate, cut off from the world by her enigmatic and largely absent mother, a woman known only as ...Read More

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