Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu

Of Ants and Dinosaurs, Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus 978-1-789-54611-8, 256pp, £18.99, hc) April 2020.

Cixin Liu’s satirical novel Of Ants and Dinosaurs seems to have a complex history. A novella with this title was published in China in 2004, later appearing as a standalone book in 2012, translated by Holger Nahm. This was included in Liu’s 2013 collection The Wandering Earth published in Beijing – but not in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Creatures of Charm and Hunger by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Charm and Hunger, Molly Tanzer (John Joseph Adams 978-0-358-06521-0, $16.99, 320pp, tp) April 2020.

When Molly Tanzer introduced her ”Diabolist’s Library” trilogy with Creatures of Will and Temper back in 2017, she combined the sharply insightful coming-of-age tale of two contrasting sisters finding their way in Victorian London with a cleverly gender-swapped version of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Then, with a skillful narrative ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho (Tor.com 978-1-250-26925-6, $19.99, 160pp, hc) June 2020. Cover by Sija Hong.

After decades of movies, games, manga, and TV, it might well be that contemporary audiences are more familiar with the conventions of wuxia than with the classic American Western – not that there isn’t a fair amount of overlap. The crucial opening scene of Zen Cho’s The ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe

Interlibrary Loan, Gene Wolfe (Tor 978-1-250-24236-5, $25.99, 308pp, hc) June 2020.

There was already something of a valedictory tone about Gene Wolfe’s 2015 novel A Borrowed Man, which portrayed a glum, diminished future in which authors survive as helpless ”reclones” who could be checked out of libraries like books (or cubes or disks) – but who could casually be incinerated if they aren’t checked out frequently enough. In ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

By Force Alone, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus 978-1838931278, £18.99, 516pp, hc) March 2020. (Tor 978-1-250-75345-8, $27.99, 416pp, hc) June 2020.

Sometimes while reading a Lavie Tidhar novel, there comes a point when you feel like he’s grabbed the wheel, grinning as he drives you aggressively into oncoming traffic and somehow pulls off moves that by all rights ought to be fatal. That’s never been more the case than ...Read More

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Gary. K. Wolfe Reviews Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Or What You Will, Jo Walton (Tor 978-1-250-30899-3, $26.99, 320pp, hc) July 2020.

It’s too bad that Marianne Moore’s imaginary garden with real toads has become such a fossilized cliché, because I thought of it several times while reading Jo Walton’s Or What You Will, which is an imaginary literary landscape with real books in it. Not only does Walton borrow characters and plot points from Shakespeare’s The ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Unbecoming by Lesley Wheeler

Unbecoming, Lesley Wheeler (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-167-4, $18.00, 236pp, tp) May 2020.

Lesley Wheeler is an accomplished poet and a named professor at Washington and Lee, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that her first novel is peppered with striking language (“She was already a ghost of linen and warm air”; kids “flock and wheel”) and shrewd portraits of some familiar denizens of academia. Wheeler’s major previous venture into fantasy, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford

Out of Body, Jeffrey Ford (Tor.com 978-1-250-25015, $14.99, 168pp, tp) May 2020.

Jeffrey Ford is consistently one of the most graceful writers we have, and when he decides to revisit some of the classic tropes of horror fiction – such as the haunted house in his recent The Twilight Pariah and “The Jew­eled Wren” – we can reliably expect a couple of things. For one, the clarity of the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Properties of Rooftop Air by Tim Powers

The Properties of Rooftop Air, Tim Powers (Subterranean 978-1-59606-974-9, $35.00, 80pp, hc) June 2020. Cover by David Palumbo.

There were plenty of evil clowns before Stephen King’s Pennywise basically photobombed the whole trope, and one of the most disturbing was Horrabin from Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates, who would deliberately disfigure some of the beggars in his gang in order to make them appear more pitiful. Now Horrabin ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe & Rich Horton Review Avatars Inc, Edited by Ann VanderMeer

Avatars Inc, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE, free, eb) March 2020. [Download from <www.avatars.inc>]

All well-made anthologies offer something like a conversation between the stories included, and in some cases (such as Jonathan Strahan’s recent Made to Order: Robots and Revolution) that conversation is more focused than usual, since the stories all revolve around a classic SF theme. With Ann VanderMeer’s Avatars Inc: A Sci-Fi Anthology, now available ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang (Saga 978-1-5344-2208-7, $27.99, 610pp, hc) April 2020.

Although I’ve used it myself often enough, I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the term “literary science fiction,” or for that matter the sister terms “literary fantasy” and “lit­erary horror.” The implication, of course, is that, without that saving modifier, the reader might be faced with unfettered pulp adventures of the sort that gave these genres their unsavory reputations ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comet Weather by Liz Williams

Comet Weather, Liz Williams (NewCon Press 978-1-912950-46-1, $15.99, 306pp, tp) March 2020.

Comet Weather, Liz Williams’s first novel in several years, is an absolutely lovely tale of an attractive if troubled family in contemporary Somerset and their increasingly hazardous interactions with the world of faerie. I suppose it falls into the broad tradition of what we might call English rural gothic, reaching all the way back through Diana ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com 978-1-250-24573-1, $14.99, 138pp, tp) February 2020.

I suppose the giant retail emporium has served as a portal into shadowy realms at least since John Col­lier’s “Evening Primrose” almost eighty years ago, but the deliberately labyrinthine layout of IKEA stores seems almost designed for creepy stories – something that Nino Cipri enthusiastically takes advantage of in their novella Finna, which is partly a testy workplace ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s, David Ritter & Daniel Ritter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7332964-4-1, $150.00, 516pp, hc) Febru­ary 2020.

Fandom may be a billion-dollar industry these days, and the field of fandom studies has drawn enough scholarly attention that it even has its own academic journal, so old-time SF fans might be excused a degree of smugness while claiming – not unreason­ably – ...Read More

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Ian Mond & Gary K. Wolfe Review Ghost Species by James Bradley

Ghost Species, James Bradley (Hamish Hamilton 978-1-926-42866-6, AU$29.99, 320pp, tp), April 2020.

REVIEW BY IAN MOND

Back in February, Jeff Bezos earmarked ten bil­lion dollars for the establishment of the “Earth Fund.” He joins fellow billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill and Melinda Gates in throwing large sums of money at the climate crisis. While it’s questionable whether these acts of rich-people tokenism will play any role in sav­ing ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds, Simon Jimenez (Del Rey 978-0-593-12898-5, $27.00, 394pp, hc) January 2020.

Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds comes to us from Del Rey, with its long and distinguished SF/F history, but with a cover that pointedly eschews any suggestion of the space opera elements that are central to the novel’s action. The central character sees herself as something of a vagabond. Nia Imani is captain of a space ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination by Rick Wilber

Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination, Rick Wilber (WordFire 978-1-68057-068-7, $24.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

There are a few things we can reliably expect in a collection of stories from Rick Wilber (whose Alien Morning was a finalist for the Campbell Award a couple of years ago, but whose only previous collection was 1999’s Where Garagiola Waits and Other Baseball Stories). Two of these are pretty common SF preoccupations ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1781087879, $11.99, 400pp, tp) March 2020.

I suppose it’s both appropriate and inevitable that the coming centennial of Karel Capek’s R.U.R. will have us reconsidering the long and varied history of robots in SF, and an excellent way to start that conversation is by reading Jonathan Strahan’s Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, which brings together 16 original ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

War of the Maps, Paul McAuley (Gollancz 978-1473217348, £14.99, 432pp, hc) March 2020.

More than 20 years ago, Paul McAuley established his bona fides as a master of the ancient-far-future tradition of Vance and Wolfe with his Confluence series, set on an oddly shaped artificial world with a deep history that unfolded in fragments over the course of three volumes. With War of the Maps, he offers an ...Read More

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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

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus by Michael Swanwick

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus, Michael Swanwick (Subterranean 978- 1-59606-936-7, $40.00, 200pp, hc) April 2020.

When Michael Swanwick first introduced us to his redoubtable rogues Darger and Surplus in the Hugo Award winning “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” back in 2001, many readers immediately saw them as descendants of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, a duo whose DNA has shown up in the work of everyone ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 978-0-316-50984-8, $28.00, 448pp, hc) March 2020.

I have no idea whether N.K. Jemisin has read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”, which is in part Lovecraft’s half-hearted attempt to write a detective story and in part a racist having a panic attack in print, but it was the story that provided the template for Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, Ken Liu (Saga 978-1-9821-3403-7, $26.00, 432pp, hc) February 2020.

In his introduction to The Hidden Girl and Oth­er Stories, Ken Liu’s much-anticipated second collection, Liu tells us that selecting the stories was easier, since he no longer felt “the pressure to ‘present,”‘ but rather decided to “stick with stories that most pleased myself.” In fact, more than half of the 18 stories ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl

Talk Like a Man, Nisi Shawl (PM Press 978-1-62963-711-2, $14.00, 114pp, tp) November 2019.

It’s been more than a decade since Nisi Shawl’s only previous collection, Filter House, and since much of her short fiction has appeared in small-press publications that often have to be sought out, her new chapbook from PM Press provides an enticing glimpse into the fiction of an author most widely known for the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World 978-0-399-59059-7, $28.00, 408pp, hc) September 2019.

I missed Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first novel The Water Dancer when it appeared last fall to generally glowing reviews, and it didn’t seem to garner much attention from fantasy readers in general, despite a key fantastic trope being central to its plot. Read­ing it now, after reviewing Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, it seems apparent that Coates’s ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer and Stray Bats by Margo Lanagan

Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (TorTeen 978-1-25016-508-4, $17.99, 304pp, hc) Novem­ber 2019.

Naomi Kritzer’s 2015 Hugo Award-winning story “Cat Pictures Please” may have been a bit thin on plot, but the appealing, ingenuous voice of its AI narrator left many readers hoping to hear more, while the very idea of a helpful, well-meaning AI (an idea which Kritzer credited to Bruce Sterling’s “Maneki Neko”) seemed like a welcome antidote ...Read More

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Ian Mond and Gary K. Wolfe Review Anyone by Charles Soule

Anyone, Charles Soule (Harper Perennial 978-0062890634, $21.99, 400pp, hc) December 2019.

I’ve been avidly reading Charle Soule’s work since I ended my decades-long comics book hiatus in 2011. I began with Soule’s run on DC’s Swamp Thing and then, when I migrated to Mar­vel comics, enjoyed his take on Thunderbolts, the Inhumans, and Daredevil. I was particularly fond of his creator-owned series, the wildly inventive and gonzo Letter 44 ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All Worlds Are Real by Susan Palwick

All Worlds Are Real, Susan Palwick (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-84-2, $17.99, 320pp, tp) November 2019.

In her introduction to All Worlds are Real, Jo Walton correctly notes that Susan Palwick is “definitely not as well known as a writer this good ought to be at this point in her career.” While one reason for this is that she’s not been especially prolific – four novels and one prior collection ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Ian Mond Review The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes

The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga 978-1-534-43986-3, $19.99, 176pp) November 2019.

Rivers Solomon’s The Deep has a pretty colorful and convoluted history, but one that suggests how SF and Afrofuturist conceits are increasingly interacting with the broader culture. The idea of a utopian under­water society built by the water-breathing de­scendants of pregnant slaves thrown overboard from slave ships was first conceived by ...Read More

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Russell Letson and Gary K. Wolfe Review Agency by William Gibson

Agency, William Gibson (Berkley 978-1-101-98693-6, $28.99, 416pp, hc) January 2020.

In Agency, William Gibson has produced a sequel to The Peripheral – or as much of a sequel as can be expected of a story space built, not on one alternate history or timeline, but on branching sets of them. Of course, the “multiple alternate histories” enabling device has been around SF for decades, going back as far ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Sundering Flames, Aliette de Bodard (Gollancz 978-1-47322-340-0, £16.99, 560pp, tp) July 2019. (JABberwocky Literary Agency 978-1-625674-61-6, $16.00, 386pp, tp) September 2019.

I’m sure that someone, somewhere, has pointed out a possible relationship between fantasy trilo­gies and the structure of classical sonatas or symphonies, with the final movement recapitu­lating major themes while accelerating the pace and leading toward an aggressively dramatic climax, but Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion ...Read More

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Looking Backward, with Corrective Lenses by Gary K. Wolfe

I confess to once having been one of those annoying calendar geeks who would point out at parties that the new century actually began in 2001, not 2000, and that a year like 2010 or 2020 actually represents the end of the decade, not the beginning of a new one. It was about as useful, and about as welcome, as pointing out to someone turning 40 that it’s actually the ...Read More

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