Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Embertide by Liz Williams

Embertide, Liz Williams (Newcon 978-1-914953-21-7, $16.99, 346pp, tp) June 2022.

Writers of both fantasy and historical fiction have long recognized the British landscape as a palimp­sest, maps upon older maps upon older maps, but in fantasy it’s another sort of palimpsest as well, disguising hidden worlds just below the surface of what we can perceive. It’s a tradition refined and extended in various ways by writers as diverse as

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin

The World We Make, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 978-0-31650-989-3, $30.00, 368pp, hc) November 2022.

The term “urban fantasy” has undergone so many permutations over the past few decades, from modest subgenre to block­buster market segment, that it’s probably the name of an energy drink by now. (Don’t tell me if it is.) At the same time, it’s easy to overlook the tradition of fantasies that are actually and intensely urban ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

The Mountain in the Sea, Ray Nayler (MCD 978-0-37460-595-7, $28.00, 464pp, hc) October 2022.

Here’s another genre term that seems to have shifted meaning over time. For a field that some­times proudly calls itself “speculative fiction” – an upscale term designed to get you invited to more parties than “science fiction” would – most SF features remarkably few scenarios in which char­acters actively speculate about much of anything. (I guess ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Lucky Girl: How I Became a Horror Writer: A Krampus Story by M. Rickert

Lucky Girl: How I Became a Horror Writer: A Krampus Story, M. Rickert (Tordotcom 978-1-250-81733-4, 110pp, tp; -81734-1, $4.99, ebook) September 2022.

M. Rickert has long demonstrated her skill in managing the venerable tradition of tales nested within tales in such brilliantly constructed stories as ‘‘Journey Into the Kingdom’’ and ‘‘Cold Fires’’ (not to mention last year’s The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie). Her new novella Lucky Girl, which ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Night Shift by Eileen Gunn

Night Shift, Eileen Gunn (PM Press 978-1-629639-42-0, $15.00, 115pp, tp; -56-7, $8.95, ebook) August 2022.

I’ve come to think of PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series, which has by now been going on for some 13 years under the editorship of Terry Bisson, as my favorite collection of author hang­outs. These modest collections of fiction, essays, bibliographies, and interviews have ranged from legendary authors like Le Guin and Delany to

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Neom, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-382-8, $17.95, 240pp, tp) November 2022.

Every so often, arguments erupt on social media about whether it’s even worthwhile to read old-school ‘‘golden age’’ SF, given the vast cultural and demographic broadening of the field during the past few decades. It’s always struck me as an unnecessary dichotomy, since no two writers have the same set of ancestors anyway, and since it’s entirely possible to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman

Saturnalia, Stephanie Feldman (Unnamed Press 978-1951213640, $28.00, 256pp, hc) October 2022.

It’s been a few years since Stephanie Feldman re­ceived the Crawford Award for her first novel, The Angel of Losses, a notable addition to the list of contemporary fantasies that draw on elements of both Jewish mysticism and Gothic tradition, so it’s a delight to find that she’s back, and with a very different sort of novel ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Fantasy: How It Works by Brian Attebery

Fantasy: How It Works, Brian Attebery (Ox­ford University Press 978-0192856234, $27.95, 208pp, hc) October 2022. Cover by Charles Vess.

If Clute is essentially a practical critic, Brian At­tebery has earned a substantial reputation starting from the academic end of the spectrum, begin­ning with The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature way back in 1980 and continuing through his recent editorship of the Ursula K. Le Guin volumes for the Library ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Sticking to the End by John Clute

Sticking to the End, John Clute (Beccon 9781-870824-66-8, £20.00, 415pp, tp) June 2022. Cover by Judith Clute.

Sticking to the End is the fifth of John Clute’s collections of reviews and essays to appear from Beccon, a small British publisher that for decades has specialized in SF reference and criticism (including collections by Paul Kincaid and yours truly). The title is sadly if coincidentally appro­priate, since Roger Robinson – ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Silverberg Business by Robert Freeman Wexler

The Silverberg Business, Robert Freeman Wexler (Small Beer 978-1-61873-201-9, $17.00, 271pp, tp) August 2022.

Probably the first thing SFF readers need to know about Robert Freeman Wexler’s The Silverberg Business is that it has nothing to do with any legendary grand masters of the field. Instead, it’s one of the mostly deeply weird novels I’ve read in some time, at times hallucinatory and dreamlike, at other times gritty and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Unbalancing by R.B. Lemberg

The Unbalancing, R.B. Lemberg (Tachyon 971-1-61696-380-4, $17.95, 246pp, tp) September 2022.

Back in 2015, R.B. Lemberg published in Strange Horizons a poem titled ‘‘Ranra’s Unbalancing’’, part of their ongoing Bird­verse series of stories and poems that eventually gained wider recognition (and award nomina­tions) with the novella The Four Profound Weaves a couple of years ago. Despite some intriguingly cryptic elements (it’s apparently ad­dressed to someone inexplicably obsessed with quince), ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan

Walk the Vanished Earth, Erin Swan (Viking 978-0-59329-933-3, $27.00 384pp, hc) May 2022.

Earlier this year, in reviewing Emily St. John Man­del’s Sea of Tranquility, I thought I’d detected a growing trend of fiction that not only blurs the traditional divide between mainstream and genre, but does so in a particular way, with multiple time­lines that range from historical settings to current or near-futures and more distant apocalyptic ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Bruising of Qilwa by Naseem Jamnia

The Bruising of Qilwa, Naseem Jamnia (Tachy­on 978-1-61696-378-1, $15.95, 176pp, tp) August 2022. Cover by Elizabeth Story

The Bruising of Qilwa is the first novel by non-binary Persian-American author Naseem Jamnia, who last year received the first Samuel R. Delany Fellowship, sponsored by CatStone Books, to recognize SFF writers from ‘‘a community that has been traditionally marginalized in speculative fiction,’’ according to their website. It seems like an excellent ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson

High Times in the Low Parliament, Kelly Robson (Tordotcom 978-1-25082-302-1, $14.99, 160pp, tp) August 2022. Cover by Kate Forrester.

It could be that what modern fantasy needs, from time to time, is a good jolt of old-fashioned goofi­ness. Few ideas I’ve seen recently are as goofy as the notion of trying to weave a romantic fairy fantasy around the struggles of a legislative body that can’t get anything done ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

The Embroidered Book, Kate Heartfield (Harp­erVoyager 978-0-00838-059-5, $28.99, 672pp, hc) May 2022.

After reading Kate Heartfield’s thoroughly engrossing The Embroidered Book, with its account of the secret role of magic in European politics around the time of the French Revolution, I made the mistake of checking out what Wikipedia had to say about such topics as ‘‘secret history’’ or ‘‘historical fantasy.’’ Not too surprisingly, the depth and consistency ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The City Inside by Samit Basu

Chosen Spirits, Samit Basu (Simon & Schuster India 978-9386797810, ₹499.00, 243pp, hc) April 2020. (Self-published, $3.99, eb) April 2020. As The City Inside, Samit Basu (Tordotcom 978-1-25082-748-7, $25.99, 256pp, hc) June 2022.

Samit Basu’s The City Inside appeared in India a couple of years ago under the title Chosen Spir­its, and was reviewed in this magazine (August 2020) by Ian Mond, who, while noting parallels between Basu’s ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews January Fifteenth by Rachel Swirsky

January Fifteenth, Rachel Swirsky (Tordotcom 978-1-25019-894-5, $15.99, 240pp, tp) June 2022.

SF has long had a somewhat fraught relationship with economic policy. On the one hand, it would seem to be an inescapable part of any future society; on the other, it doesn’t easily lend itself to high drama. ‘‘Epic economics’’ isn’t really a thing, despite what Asimov may have thought decades ago. As a result, economics is often ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Utopias of the Third Kind by Vandana Singh

Utopias of the Third Kind, Vandana Singh (PM Press 978-1-62963-915-4, $15.00, 128pp, tp) April 2022.

Vandana Singh’s Utopias of the Third Kind is the 28th volume in PM Press’s useful ‘‘Outspoken Authors’’ series of chapbooks edited by Terry Bis­son, and, following the customary format, includes a mix of fiction and nonfiction rounded out by Bisson’s interview with the author and a brief bibliography. As with the earlier volumes, it ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance by Jonathan Strahan, ed.

Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1-78618-509-9, $18.99, 420pp, tp) June 2022.

In his introduction to Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance, Jonathan Strahan (who is both my podcast co-host and this magazine’s reviews editor) echoes an observation that ought to be self-evident, but that is often overlooked by readers and writers who get caught up in the theoretical mechanics of time ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

All the Seas of the World, Guy Gavriel Kay (Berkley 978-0-59344-104-6, $28.00, 528pp, hc) May 2022.

Based on absolutely no evidence other than a handful of conversations, I suspect that Guy Gavriel Kay’s large and loyal readership extends along a fairly definable spectrum. At one end are the pure fantasy readers, who value his torqued version of actual historical settings as a kind of worldbuilding all its own, even ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

Siren Queen, Nghi Vo (Tor 978-1-25078-883-2, $26.99, 288pp, hc) May 2022.

From Nathanael West to Tim Powers, the vision of Hollywood as a kind of halluci­nogenic inferno of ambition, lust, corrup­tion, and betrayal has nearly become a literary convention, both in fiction and nonfiction. While most novels about Hollywood history succumb to the temptation to name-check real-life movie personalities, even if only as walk-ons, Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen reverts ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews These Prisoning Hills by Christopher Rowe

These Prisoning Hills, Christopher Rowe (Tor­dotcom 978-1250804488, $15.99, 144pp, tp) May 2022.

These Prisoning Hills is the latest installment in Christopher Rowe’s striking vision of a phantasma­gorical future Tennessee that we first encountered in ‘‘The Voluntary State’’ and ‘‘The Border State’’, both included in his 2017 collection Telling the Map. While much of the novella resonates with those earlier tales, familiarity with them isn’t necessary, since Rowe provides ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

Boys, Beasts & Men, Sam J. Miller (Tachyon 978-1-61696-3729, $17.95, 330pp, tp) June 2022.

In reading his new collection Boys, Beasts & Men, it came as a bit of a surprise to remember that Sam J. Miller’s first novel, The Art of Starv­ing, appeared only five years ago, and that the earliest of the 14 stories here date back only to 2013. This may in part be ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended, Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76664-9, $18.99, 144pp, hc) June 2022.

Although it hasn’t really caught on much, ‘‘bib­liofantasy’’ has always seemed to me a useful term for describing a certain kind of recursive fantasy, in which protagonists find themselves transported into classic stories or story-worlds. It has a pretty respectable pedigree, and although some of its earlier classics aren’t read much these days, it’s enjoyed a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill

When Women Were Dragons, Kelly Barnhill (Doubleday 978-0385548229, $28.00, 352pp, hc) May 2022.

I suppose there are plenty of human-dragon metamorphoses in fantasy novels, but they aren’t what immediately came to mind when reading Kelly Barnhill’s first adult novel When Women Were Dragons – in which 642,987 American women suddenly transform into dragons on a single day in 1955. Instead, I was reminded of Ionesco’s 1959 play Rhinoceros, ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini Reviews The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six, Olivie Blake (Self-published 978-1-679-91099-9, 383pp, tp) January 2020. (Tor 978-1-25085-451-3, 536pp, $25.99, hc) March 2022.

I am late to the Olivie Blake (AKA Alexene Farol Follmuth) party because I can’t com­mit to TikTok, which is where The Atlas Six first caught the imaginations of thousands of readers. This Tor edition is an expanded and revised edit of the version of the book that made the rounds ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom – Volume Two: 1940 by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom – Volume Two: 1940, David Ritter & Daniel Rit­ter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7366596-1-8, $195.00, 484pp, hc) December 2021.

It’s already been a couple of years since David & Daniel Ritter’s The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s gave us a sort of tomb-raider’s view of the early days of fan culture, more or less concluding with the first ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Crazy in Poughkeepsie by Daniel Pinkwater

Crazy in Poughkeepsie, Daniel Pinkwater (Tachyon 978-1-61696-374-3, $16.95, 192pp hc) April 2022.

There’s always a degree of satisfaction, maybe bor­dering on smugness, in finding that a favorite quirky writer is also a favorite of other writers you respect. In a career of half a century, Daniel Pinkwater has gained the admiration of writers as diverse as Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, and Charlie Jane Anders – some lucky enough to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews The Long Game by K.J. Parker

The Long Game, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-64524-080-0, $44.88, 108pp, hc) March 2022.

K.J. Parker may not have invented the idea of using an exasperated, put-upon narrator to under­cut the implicit pretensions of a classic fantasy setting, but he’s certainly become its reigning virtuoso. His latest novella, The Long Game, is again set in his alternate late-medieval Europe, with its not-quite-recognizable place names like Idalia or Sabades Amar but ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Kundo Wakes Up by Saad Z. Hossain

Kundo Wakes Up, Saad Z. Hossain (Tordotcom 978-1-250-82392-2, $15.99, 208pp, tp) March 2022.

Saad Z. Hossain’s Kundo Wakes Up returns us to the uniquely original vision of a future South Asia plagued by environmental disaster, swarm­ing with airborne nanotech, governed by mostly benevolent AIs, and occasionally plagued by rogue djinns, that we first encountered in The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday back in 2019. Even one of his ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel by John Kessel

The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel, John Kessel (Subterranean 978-1-64524-058-7, $45.00, 584pp, hc) June 2022.

In his insightful introduction to The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel, Kim Stanley Robinson grapples with the somewhat thorny question of how Kessel’s stories relate to the genres of the fantastic, and at one point he even invokes allegory, citing Kessel’s own musing about what ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Spear by Nicola Griffith

Spear, Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom 978-1-250-81932-1, $19.99, 192pp, hc) April 2022.

In terms of actual scholarship, it’s probably a good thing that historians have largely aban­doned the pejorative “Dark Ages” to describe the early medieval period, since it had become such a broad-brush pop-culture shorthand that it eventually seemed to refer to everything between the fall of Rome and the rise of Amazon. For fantasy writers, on the other hand, ...Read More

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