Adrienne Martini Reviews How to Mars by David Ebenbach and Questland by Carrie Vaughn

How to Mars, David Ebenbach (Tachyon 978-1-61696-356-9, $16.95, 256pp, tsk) May 2021. Cover by Elizabeth Story.

David Ebenbach’s How to Mars is one of those books that could be easy to write-off as a delightful bit of fluff. Six humans from various backgrounds take a one-way trip to the red planet, sent there by a publicity-seeking corporation that monetizes their training and early days via a reality series. The ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory

The Album of Dr. Moreau, Daryl Gregory (Tor­dotcom 978-1250782106, $14.99, 176pp, tp) May 2021.

Already in the public domain for years, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau has practi­cally spawned a microgenre all its own, with Brian Aldiss, Gwyneth Jones (as Ann Halam), Gene Wolfe, Theodora Goss, the Simpsons, and even Marlon Brando having a whack at the story or its characters and themes. I’m pretty sure, though, ...Read More

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews The Galaxy, and the Ground Within and A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-293694-2, $27.99, 336pp, hc) April 2021.

Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, which is concluding with The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, is a nice warm cup of tea when the weather outside is terrible. Sure there are conflicts and sadness but all of that unpleasantness is always outweighed by decency and honesty. It would be tempting to also claim ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews The Only Living Girl on Earth by Charles Yu and Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

The Only Living Girl on Earth, Charles Yu (Scribd Originals, subscription required, 43pp, eb) January 2021.

I’m going to step out on a limb and make a bold pronouncement: the fourth section of Charles Yu’s novelette The Only Living Girl on Earth is the most beautiful and true summation of what it means to be mortal. The fact that it is also sur­rounded by a poignant and wry story ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini and Russell Letson Review A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

A Desolation Called Peace, Arkady Martine (Tor 978-1250186461, $26.99, 496pp, hc) March 2021.

Despite how many readers raved about it, I didn’t manage to read Arkady Martine’s multi-award winning A Memory Called Empire when it first came out. There is never enough time, you know? But when the follow-up – A Desolation Called Peace – hit my in-box, I read the first few pages and was so hooked that ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aarono­vitch

What Abigail Did That Summer, Ben Aarono­vitch (Subterranean Press 978-1-64524-029-7, $40.00, 232pp, hc) March 2021.

Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London uni­verse keeps sending new rivulets in unex­pected directions. The series, which started with a relatively straightforward novel about Peter Grant, a London police officer who finds himself confronted with magic, has branched into a comic book series, an audiobook, a handful of short sto­ries, and seven more novels. The ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Red Noise by John P. Murphy and The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter

Red Noise, John P. Murphy (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-847-9, $14.99, 448pp, tp) July 2020. Cover by Kieryn Tyler.

It’s easy to find the Western that lurks beneath the surface of Red Noise, the novel-length debut of Nebula Award finalist John P. Murphy. A drifter wanders into a nearly deserted town and finds two sides in a long-term stand-off. Only in this version, the town is a converted asteroid named ...Read More

Read more

Liz Bourke and Adrienne Martini Review Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry, Martha Wells (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76537-6, $19.99, 176pp, hc) April 2021. Cover by Jaime Jones.

At this point, everyone knows about Murderbot. If you don’t know about Murderbot, what rock have you been hiding under? (Is it a comfy rock? I could use a nice rock-based holiday, away from all the news. And the pandemic.) Martha Wells’s Fugi­tive Telemetry is the sixth outing in the award-winning Murderbot Diaries. It ...Read More

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Goldilocks, Laura Lam (Orbit 978-0-316-46286-0, $27.00, 244pp, hc) May 2020.

Laura Lam’s Goldilocks opens with five women stealing a small space shuttle, one that will get them to a space station in Earth’s orbit. From there, they’ll hijack the Atalanta, a much larger ship able to travel faster than the speed of light (or so they think), which they’ll pilot to Cavendish, a “Goldilocks” planet that should support human ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Anthropocene Rag by Alex Irvine

Anthropocene Rag, Alex Irvine (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-1-250-26927-0, $14.99, 256pp, tp) March 2020.

I’m still not certain what actually happened in Alex Irvine’s Anthropocene Rag – but I do know that this journey into the heart of a transformed-by-nanotech America is a fascinating ride to take. In the end, that may be all that matters.

Irvine’s America is one where the Boom – essentially, programmable bits of tech that are ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik and The House of Styx by Derek Künsken

A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0593128480, $28.00, 336pp, hc) September 2020.

There are so many things that the multi-award winning Naomi Novik’s new book is that it might be best to start with the one thing it is not. A Deadly Education is not a Harry Potter-esque feel-good story about a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Mind, you will feel good afterwards, because it is so very ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air by Jackson Ford and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air, Jackson Ford (Orbit 978-0-316-51922-9, $16.99, 544pp, pb) June 2020. Cover by Steve Panton.

Jackson Ford’s The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind was a propulsive, compulsively fun scamper through a Los Angeles in a world similar to ours with one exception: thanks to a family of rogue scientists, there exists a woman named Teagan who can, as the title says, move ...Read More

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Ballistic by Marko Kloos

Ballistic, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1542090070, $14.95, 360pp, tp) May 2020.

Marko Kloos’s Aftershocks is the place to start the Palladium Wars series – and it’s a series you should start if you are a fan of grounded space opera with a military lean. In this first book, Kloos sets up a universe ten years after the planet Gretia decided to take on all of the other settled planets and ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth (John Joseph Ad­ams Books 978-0-358-16408-1, $26.99, 432pp, hc) April 2020.

Veronica Roth is best known for the Divergent trilogy. With Chosen Ones, her first book for adult readers, she looks at what happens to the chosen ones when their quest is done and a decade has passed. Sloane, Matt, and the other three youngsters who took on the Dark One in Chicago ten years ...Read More

Read more

Liz Bourke & Adrienne Martini Review Network Effect by Martha Wells

Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25022-986-1, $26.99, 352pp, hc) May 2020. Cover by Jaime Jones.

Martha Wells has been writing excellent books since 1993, when Tor Books published her The Element of Fire. The Element of Fire, in its revised 2006 version and Wells’s The Wheel of the Infinite (2000) would feature in a list of my 100 favourite books of all time, so it may ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews The Last Emperox by John Scalzi

The Last Emperox, John Scalzi (Tor 978-0-7653-8916-9 $26.99, 320pp, hc) April 2020.

The Last Emperox is dedicated ”to the women who are done with other people’s shit.” That alone is a great summation of what drives the plot of the third book of John Scalzi’s Interdependency trilogy, which includes The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire.

While the dedication may be aimed at the reader, it also ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Providence by Max Barry

Providence, Max Barry (Putnam 978-0-593- 08517-2, $27, 320pp, hc) March 2020.

Providence by Max Barry opens with a description of a video clip, a fictional one that calls to mind the real world one of the towers coming down on September 11: everyone remembers exactly where they were when they first saw it. In this clip, humanity meets the salamanders, an alien species that can spit tiny black holes ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-1-250-23695-1, $28.99, 544pp, hc) July 2020.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon is exactly the book I needed at the end of March 2020.

For the record, I’m writing this in April 2020. The state I live in has been essentially locked down since St. Patrick’s Day because of the novel coronavirus. This review will run in June, most likely, which means ...Read More

Read more

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

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Interference by Sue Burke

Interference, Sue Burke (Tor 978-1-250-3784-1, $27.99, 324pp, hc) October 2019.

Sue Burke’s Interference picks up where her meditative Semiosis left off. After a brief opening chapter on Earth, she brings us back to the far-flung Pax Colony, which has come to a negotiated peace between its human colonists, its other alien species (the Glassmakers), and its sentient plant. Things are going about as well as can be expected on ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars by Marko Kloos

Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos (47North 978-1-5420-4355-7, $24.95, 282pp, hc) July 2019.

In Aftershocks: The Palladium Wars, Marko Kloos is setting up a series that will look at what happens once a war is over. It’s a nice change from the smash and bang of what happens during the fighting; instead, here he puts the focus on the aftermath of occupation.

Kloos opens on Aden Robertson, a ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker

Prosper’s Demon, K.J. Parker (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250260512, $11.99, 104pp, tp) January 2020. Cover by Sam Weber.

One of the things you can count on from a K.J. Parker story, along with the dry wit of the prose, the morally dubious narrator, and the richness of his faux-historical Europe, is a fascination with the actual issues of economics, production, and manufacture that most fantasy writers blithely ignore: how, exactly, do ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews One Bronze Knuckle by Kenneth Hunter Gordon and False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

One Bronze Knuckle, Kenneth Hunter Gordon (Lanternfish 978-1941360255, $20.00, 416pp, tp) March 2019.

Imagine that you are sitting around a fireplace on a cold night with a mug of something warming in hand. Also in the room is a raconteur of renown, one who delights in the sounds of the words he says as well as the movement of the story he tells. Now lay that imagining over Kenneth ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan and Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Turning Darkness into Light, Marie Brennan (Tor 978-0-7653-7761-6, $27.99, 416pp, hc). August 2019. Cover by Todd Lockwood.

Marie Brennan wrapped up the five-book Memoirs of the Lady Trent series in 2017. That, however, doesn’t mean there isn’t another generation of curious, dragon-focused naturalists ready to move Lady Trent’s work forward. In Turning Darkness into Light, Brennan introduces us to Audrey Camherst, Lady Trent’s granddaughter, who is about to ...Read More

Read more

2019 in Review by Adrienne Martini

These end-of-the-year lists always flummox me, mostly because I never quite know what I’m supposed to write about. Should it be the big titles, the ones that made such a splash that you couldn’t help but notice them? Or should they be the smaller titles that only made a little ripple? That last group is full of the titles that make my reader’s heart sing because they show the writer’s ...Read More

Read more

Adrienne Martini Reviews The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday 978-0-38-55412-13, $28.95, 512pp, hc) Novem­ber 2019.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is more or less the pro­tagonist in The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern’s follow-up to her bestselling The Night Circus. The “more or less” caveat is there because Morgenstern takes great glee in subverting expectations for what a story needs to contain in this, um, story. There are characters, each of whom is ...Read More

Read more