Adrienne Martini Reviews Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager 978-0-06302-142-6, $27.99, 560pp, hc) August 2022.

With Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Transla­tors’ Revolution, the multi-award nominated R.F. Kuang travels to 1830s Oxford University to build a tale about a tower built on languages whose fate is all but guaranteed. Her story about ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Becky Chambers (Tordotcom 978-1-25023-623-4, $21.99, 160pp, hc) July 2022. Cover art by Feifei Ryan.

Becky Chambers’s A Prayer for the Crown-Shy picks up where A Psalm for the Wild-Built ends: Sibling Dex (a monk) and Mosscap (a robot) have begun their journey from the wilds back out into the built world. The robot has questions about happiness (which lead to conversations about more than ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Spare Man, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-1-25082-915-3, $30.99, 368pp, hc) October 2022.

My reading habits have shifted after the last two-plus years. Anything gritty or tense has got to be followed by at least one lighter title or maybe two, otherwise I cannot regulate my re¬sponse to anything happening to the characters. It seems like the last two-plus years have done the same to many SFF writers. The ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Rosebud by Paul Cornell, The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler, and And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

Rosebud, Paul Cornell (Tordotcom 978-1-25076-539-0, $14.99, 110pp, tp). April 2022.

Just to get it out of the way, the Rosebud in Paul Cornell’s Rosebud is a survey ship, not a sled. Said Rosebud has happened upon a mysterious black sphere out in space, and its digital inhabitants “a balloon, a goth, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects” decide to investigate ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Last Exit, Max Gladstone (Tor 978-0-76533-573-9, $18.99, 400pp, tp). March 2022.

Max Gladstone’s voice is one that defies easy description. It’s both succinct and verbose, dour and silly, dark but also light. Last Exit, his homage to the great American road story, is peak Gladstone, the voice he has de­veloped through his Hugo-nominated Craft series and his award-winning This is How You Lose the Time War. Yes, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher (Tor 978-1-25024-404-8, 256pp, $25.99, hc) April 2022.

I am already a fan of T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon). The three books (so far) in the Paladin series are full of light romance (with occasional corpses) and have kept me going through the last 18 months. Her young-adult stories like the Lodestar Award-winning The Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking are fun for adults as well ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

The Paradox Hotel, Rob Hart (Ballantine 978-1-98482-064-8, 324pp, $28, hc) February 2022.

Rob Hart’s The Paradox Hotel sums its own energy up with one line of dialog: ‘‘We’re at DEFCON Level Holy Shit.’’ Hart not only starts in media res, he puts us on the rollercoaster that is the Paradox Hotel just as it is tipping down the first big hill. The pace never really lets up until the ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Battle of the Linguist Mages by Scotto Moore

Battle of the Linguist Mages, Scotto Moore (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76772-1, 448pp, $28.99, hc) January 2022.

Scotto Moore’s debut story Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You was a weird trip into the wild world of streaming music and touring bands. It was a strange delight – and at about 128 pages, it was just enough too muchness to be fun. Battle of the Linguist Mages is very much a Moore creation ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Ogres, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris 978-1-78618-528-0 $30.00, 144pp, hc) March 2022.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Ogres is hard to warm up to at first, mostly because it is written in the second person. It’s so hard to do well, the second person. Stick with it. Tchaikovsky knocks it out of the park, once you find your way in.

Ogres is the story of Torquell, a young man who is six feet tall, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Sisters of the Forsaken Stars by Lina Rather

Sisters of the Forsaken Stars, Lina Rather (Tordotcom 978-1-250-78214-4, $16.99, 192pp, tp) February 2022.

The events in Sisters of the Vast Black, Lina Rather’s first novella in her ‘‘space nuns’’ series, have caught up with said space nuns in Sisters of the Forsaken Stars, at least those who remain in the Order of Saint Rita. The Central Governance, which sprung from Old Earth and intends to rule ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

The Annual Migration of Clouds, Premee Mohamed (ECW Press 978-1770415935, $15.95, 168pp, tp) September 2021. Cover by Veronica Park.

Premee Mohamed’s The Annual Migration of Clouds isn’t interested in telling a story like Ogres’s, one where the main character goes on a journey to become a hero. At first, though, it feels like that’s the arc that is being set up: Reid, a young woman, receives a one-in-a-million ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (Scribner 978-1-9821-6843-8, $30, 640pp, hc) Sept. 2021

Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land is hard to sum up for all of the best reasons. His voice is clear, strong, and gorgeous. The story tells the truth about books and being a human by looking at both slantwise – and it sticks with you long after you’ve finished it. Yet, despite the author’s Pulitzer-winning pedigree, Cloud ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2021 by Adrienne Martini

As is usual with these end-of-the-year columns, I’m not sure what the best approach would be, partic­ularly given that my 2021 standouts are mostly con­tinuations or conclusions of long-running series. Maybe, first, then, Antho­ny Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, the one book that stands alone.

Doerr is a known entity in literary fiction circles. His All the Light We Cannot See ran the table of celebrity book clubs and award ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

Termination Shock, Neal Stephenson (William Morrow 978-006-302805-0, $35.00, 720pp, hc), November 2021.

My response to Neal Stephenson’s work tends to be binary – either I want to shove the title into the hands of everyone I know (like The Baroque Cycle) or I want to hurl it far away from everyone I love (like Fall; or Dodge in Hell). No matter which pole a title circles, I will ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Hope, T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio 978-1-61450-551-8, $34.95, 270pp, hc), October 2021.

Paladin’s Hope is the third book in T. Kingfisher’s (AKA Ursula Vernon’s) Saint of Steel series. Like Paladin’s Grace and Paladin’s Strength before it, Paladin’s Hope is a fantasy romance at its core. There are gods and clerics and gnoles set against a medieval-esque city and countryside. The two main characters are destined for each other but ...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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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0-593-12886-2, $28.00, 400pp, hc) Sep­tember 2021.

Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education introduced us to the Scholomance, a magical high school for wizards that kills the better part of each incoming class by the time they are seniors. The school is not driven by pure malice (although it does seem to take a certain glee in making its students miser­able) but by hope. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Hope, T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio 978-1-61450-551-8, $34.95, 270pp, hc) October 2021.

Paladin’s Hope is the third book in T. Kingfisher’s (AKA Ursula Vernon’s) Saint of Steel series. Like Paladin’s Grace and Paladin’s Strength before it, Paladin’s Hope is a fantasy romance at its core. There are gods and clerics and gnoles set against a medieval-esque city and countryside. The two main characters are destined for each ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Widowland by C.J. Carey

Widowland, C.J. Carey (Quercus 978-1-529-41199-7, £14.99, 436pp, hc) June 2021.

Widowland by C.J. Carey would be a very intense, engaging, and horrifying book if we didn’t live in a world that has 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Brave New World already in it.

Carey – the pseudonym of historical fiction writer Jane Thynne – has created an alternate history of 1950s Britain, one where the Prime Minister ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space, Miles Cameron (Gollancz 978-1-473-23260-0, £18.99), 568pp, tp) June 2021.

If you are a fan of space operas with buckets of world building and solid characters, Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space is the book you need. I know this because I am always on the look-out for exactly this, and this book sparked joy.

Humanity has gone through an Age of Chaos – the details of this aren’t super ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space, Miles Cameron (Gollancz 978-1-473-23260-0, £18.99), 568pp, tp) June 2021.

If you are a fan of space operas with buckets of world building and solid characters, Miles Cameron’s Artifact Space is the book you need. I know this because I am always on the look-out for exactly this, and this book sparked joy.

Humanity has gone through an Age of Chaos – the details of this aren’t super clear ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Grave Reservations, Cherie Priest (Atria Books 978-1982-16889-6, $26.00, 304pp, hc) October 2021.

My first introduction to Cherie Priest was her amazing debut Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which is about ghosts and the South and is mesmerizing. I’ve drifted in and out of this Locus award-winning (and Nebula and Hugo nominated) writer’s work since then. Even though I loved Boneshaker and am convinced I Am Princess X deserved a ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Destroyer of Light by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Destroyer of Light, Jennifer Marie Brissett (Tor 978-1-250-26865-5, $25.99, 304pp, hc) October 2021.

Jennifer Marie Brissett’s Destroyer of Light is a book that sneaks up on you. If you can make it through the disorienting (somewhat intentionally because there is a lot of world building to do) first couple dozen pages, the reward is vast. Brissett has built a story that the 21st century needs, while never forgetting its ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews Version Zero by David Yoon and The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

Version Zero, David Yoon (Putnam 9-780-59319035-7, $27.00, 368pp, hc) May 2021.

David Yoon – husband to the bestselling writer Nicola Yoon and bestseller himself for Frankly in Love – makes a compelling case for burning the entire internet down in Version Zero. #Jok­ingNotJoking

Yoon has created a here-and-now that is just slightly askew from our own here and now. Main character Max is working in Silicon Valley for ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Adrienne Martini Review You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

You Sexy Thing, Cat Rambo (Tor 978-1-250-26930-0, $25.99, 304pp, hc) September 2021.

You Sexy Thing, Cat Rambo’s first space opera novel, is in fact a romp. If you’re the kind of person who likes Mass Effect, or enjoyed Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect and Prime Deceptions, or fell head-over-heels for Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy (The Wrong Stars and sequels), then this book is definitely for you. This is ...Read More

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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

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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

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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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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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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

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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

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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

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