Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-78478-0, $26.99, 272pp, hc) June 2021. Cover by Greg Ruth.

When the copyright protection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby expired at the beginning of this year, the speculation was predictably rampant and occasionally dire. The tale of Gatsby’s fabulous but shady wealth, his giant parties, his pining for the love of Daisy (now married to a racist millionaire), all ...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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Impossible Resurrection of Grief by Octavia Cade

The Impossible Resurrection of Grief, Octavia Cade (Stelliform Press 978-1-777091767, $14.99, 82pp, tp) May 2021.

Octavia Cade is a writer new to me, even though since 2016 she’s won three Sir Julius Vogel Awards, the national SF awards of New Zealand, and has published a fair amount of short fiction in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. Her new novella, The Impos­sible Resurrection of Grief, comes to us ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water Sister, Zen Cho (Ace 978-0425283431, $14.99, 384pp, tp) May 2021.

Zen Cho quickly earned a reputation for wit and style with her debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown, with its entertaining but sharp critique of racism, sexism, and colonialism in Regency England, but the novel also introduced a power­ful Malaysian witch. Malaysian magic played a more central role in the sequel The True Queen, but ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

We Are Satellites, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley 978-1984802606, $16.00, 400pp, tp) May 2021.

When I reviewed Sarah Pinsker’s collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea a couple of years ago, it seemed to me that her approach to SF was fairly restrained, usually focusing on the impact of a particular new tech­nology, like a process for suppressing memories in “Remembery Day”, or a virtual concert tech­nology called StageHolo ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom 978-1250267689, $ 27.99, 400pp, hc) May 2021. Cover by Stephan Martiniere.

The notion of magic returning to the world has been a familiar trope for so long that it’s nearly become part of the performance repertoire of fantasy writers, like locked-room murders for mystery writers or alien invasions for SF. The idea by itself doesn’t have much air left in it, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas

The Planetbreaker’s Son, Nick Mamatas (PM 978-1-62963-834-8, $14.00, 118pp, tp) Febru­ary 2021.

With all the venues featuring original short fiction these days, one that might be easily overlooked is PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series of chapbooks, each a potpourri of stories and essays, along with a quirky interview with series editor Terry Bisson. It has featured authors as diverse as Ursula K. Le Guin, Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Joy Fowler, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck

The Memory Theater, Karin Tidbeck (Pantheon 978-1-5247-4833-3, $25.95, 240pp, hc) Febru­ary 2021.

One of the more memorable figures in Karin Tidbeck’s Crawford Award-winning collection Jagganath was the title character of the story “Augusta Prime”, an epically supercilious aris­tocrat whose idea of entertainment was to smash her croquet ball into the face of an attending page. Augusta lived in a kind of polder (in the John Clute sense), a garden ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best of World SF: Volume 1, Edited by Lavie Tidhar

The Best of World SF: Volume 1, Lavie Tidhar, ed. (Head of Zeus 978-1838937645, $39.95, 624pp, hc) June 2021.

In his incisive introduction to The Best of World SF: Volume 1, a kind of follow-up to the Apex Book of World SF volumes, which appeared over nearly a decade until 2018, Lavie Tidhar takes ironic note of the various meanings of “world science fiction” over the years. Originally ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Return of the Sorceress, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Subterranean 978-1-64524-030-3, $40.00, 96pp, hc) June 2021. Cover by Fang Xinyu.

Since her first novel Signal to Noise was pub­lished in 2015, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s career has traced an impressive curve – award nomina­tions for Gods of Jade and Shadow (2019), a major bestseller and Hulu deal with last year’s Mexican Gothic. Moreno-Garcia’s affinity for weird fic­tion is evident in all these, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer

Chaos on Catnet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen 978-1-25016-522-0, $18.99, 304pp, hc) April 2021.

Naomi Kritzer’s Chaos on Catnet is a direct sequel to her Lodestar Award winner Catfishing on Catnet, and it does exactly what a sequel should do: expand the stakes, introduce a few important new characters, reveal some secrets and puzzles left over from the first novel, and deepen the tone a bit. The trick is ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories, Kim Bo-Young (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-295146-5, 336pp, $26.99, hc) April 2021.

Between the films of Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer, Parasite) and Yeon Sang-ho (Train to Busan, Peninsula) and its various series on Netflix (Kingdom, Sweet Home, Uncanny Counter, etc.), South Korea has lately become a significant player in SF/F media, but ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu

On Fragile Waves, E. Lily Yu (Erewhon 978-1-64566-009-5, $25.95, 288pp, hc) February 2021.

Although it only marginally features any fantastic elements (mainly a rather ingratiating spirit), E. Lily Yu’s luminous first novel On Fragile Waves has a lot to say about both the power of story and the limits of what stories can do. We first meet Firuzeh, the central point-of-view character, as a ten-year-old trying to escape with ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Teen 978-1-250317315, $18.99, 288pp, hc) April 2021.

It goes without saying that I’m not exactly the tar­get audience for Charlie Jane Anders’s new YA trilogy, which begins with Victories Greater Than Death. But, as I’ve argued before, there’s a huge overlap between YA and SF readers. A good deal of classic SF works perfectly well as YA, and some tropes ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom 978-1-250793263, $14.99, 104pp, tp) February 2021.

Aliette de Bodard seems fascinated by relationships with huge power differentials – angels and mortals, giant mindships and modest students, dragons and young teachers, etc. Thanh, the protagonist of Fireheart Tiger, is a princess of Bình Hải, a small Vietnam-like country seeking to gain protection from the more powerful neighbor Ephteria, and Thanh is assigned by ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts

Purgatory Mount, Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473230941, £16.99, 336pp, hc) February 2021.

It’s not too uncommon for an SF story to split itself between different time frames separated by centuries, with the causal links between frames only gradually made apparent – M. John Harrison’s Light is a well-known example – but the odd structure of Adam Rob­erts’s Purgatory Mount still seems pretty bold, as does the novel’s shifting tone from ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Paula Guran Review Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Burning Girls and Other Stories, Veronica Schanoes (Tordotcom 978-1-250781505, $25.99, 336pp, hc) March 2021.

“History is a fairy tale”, a subtitle in Veronica Schanoes’s story “Emma Goldman Takes Tea with the Baba Yaga”, could almost serve as an epigram for the whole of her first collection, Burning Girls and Other Stories. Schanoes, who is a scholar of fairy tales, feminism, and Jewish literature and history, brings all of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Alias Space and Other Stories by Kelly Robson

Alias Space and Other Stories, Kelly Robson (Subterranean 978-1645240259, $40.00, 420pp, hc) April 2021.

I’ve sometimes been skeptical of authors who as­semble a story collection almost as soon as they’ve totted up enough publications to make a book – after all, is almost everything you’ve published that worthy of preservation? – and I’ve sometimes been wrong about it, as with writers like Ted Chi­ang or Eileen Gunn. The latest ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Machinehood, S.B. Divya (Saga 978-1-9821-4806-5, $27.00, 416pp, hc) March 2021.

S.B. Divya’s first novel Machinehood is a good argument for why it’s important to understand the history of SF, and an equally good argument for why you don’t need to bother with the history of SF at all. Its central conceit – an apparent terrorist organization seek­ing the liberation of all forms of intelligence, ar­tificial and otherwise – carries ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Neil Gaiman Reader by Neil Gaiman

The Neil Gaiman Reader, Neil Gaiman (Wil­liam Morrow 978-0-06-303185-2, $40.00, 736pp) October 2020.

The selections in The Neil Gaiman Reader were chosen neither by an outside editor nor by Gaiman himself, as he did with his earlier collections. Instead, apparently, the book was edited by the internet. In 2019, Gaiman invited his readers to name their three favorite Gaiman sto­ries, and the result – from nearly 6,000 responses, we ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Blackthorn Winter by Liz Williams

Blackthorn Winter, Liz Williams (NewCon 978-1-912950-79-9, $15.99, 348pp, tp) January 2021.

One of last year’s most appealing fantasies, Liz Williams’s Comet Weather, introduced us to the redoubtable Fallow sisters, each balancing the challenges of life in contemporary England with a family heritage entwined with fae, ghosts, alternate dimensions, demons, star-sprites, and even time travel. The sequel, Blackthorn Winter, again brings the sisters back to Mooncote, the family ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Big Score by K.J. Parker

The Big Score, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-64524-000-6, $40.00, 104pp, hc) March 2021.

The Big Score sounds like a title from the golden age of sleazy paperbacks, or maybe a high-octane, low-budget action flick. In fact, it was both, and I suspect K.J. Parker either knew this or didn’t care in choosing it for the latest novella set in his hilari­ously corrupt version of Renaissance Europe, which has shown a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Africanfuturism: An Anthology, Edited by Wole Talabi

Africanfuturism: An Anthology, Wole Talabi, ed. (Brittle Paper, free, 113pp, eb) October 2020.

It’s a little surprising to realize that it’s been more than a quarter century since the term “Afrofutur­ism” was coined by Mark Dery, and at least a couple of years since Nnedi Okorafor coined “Af­ricanfuturism” to describe more Africa-centered SF (the jury is still out on whether her parallel term for fantasy, “Africanjujuism,” is going to ...Read More

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Maya C. James and Gary K. Wolfe Review Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Attack Surface, Cory Doctorow (Tor 978-1-250-75753-1, $26.99, 384pp, hc) October 2020.

Privacy is a luxury in Cory Doctorow’s Attack Surface, a political technothriller that follows the questionable choices of former spy, gov­ernment operative, and traitor, Masha Maximow, as she builds cyberweapons for authoritarian govern­ments, greedy cyber firms, and progressive activists alike. Taking place a few years after the events of Little Brother and Homeland, this standalone novel ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Wall by Gautam Bhatia

The Wall: Being the First Book of the Chron­icles of Sumer, Gautam Bhatia (HarperCollins India 978-93-5357-835-0, INR399, 386pp, tp) August 2020.

The tale of a society long trapped in enforced stasis but finally destabilized by curious and rebellious youth is one of SF’s core narratives; think of Clarke’s The City and the Stars, Heinlein’s “Uni­verse”, or even Collins’s The Hunger Games. The Wall, Gautam Bhatia’s first ...Read More

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The Year of the Jackpot by Gary K. Wolfe

It should have been a good year for reading. Many of the usual distractions seemed to go on hold in the spring, and most of them never came back. What had previously been the most boring soft­ware to emerge from the corporate app world, Zoom, suddenly became a lifeline for many, especially those without pants, while a simple trip to pick up groceries be­gan to feel like going out on ...Read More

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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

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best of Elizabeth Hand by Elizabeth Hand

The Best of Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Hand (Subterranean 978-1-64524-005-1, $45.00, 560pp, hc) February 2021.

I’ve always distrusted the notion of “comfort reading,” especially as it applies to our little corner of the swamp. After all, the very idea of horror fiction involves discomfort, and SF characteristically challenges our sense of the stability of everything from nations to our bod­ies to the planet itself. I suppose fantasy does leave room ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Big Blind by Lavie Tidhar

The Big Blind, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing 978-1-786365-98-9, £18.00, 164pp, hc) November 2020.

With its long and shady history, poker seems to have a natural affinity for fantasy writers, ranging from Edward Whittemore (Jerusalem Poker) to Tim Powers (Last Call). It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ever-eclectic Lavie Tidhar turns his attention to it with The Big Blind, which is peppered with ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020, Edited by Diana Gabaldon & John Joseph Adams

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020, Diana Gabaldon & John Joseph Adams, eds. (Mariner 978-1328613103, $16.99, 432pp, tp) November 2020.

It’s always seemed to me that John Joseph Ad­ams’s Best American Science Fiction and Fan­tasy series, now in its sixth volume, has served a somewhat different if equally important purpose than the more traditional year’s best volumes which have been a staple of SF publishing for more ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Reconstruction by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Reconstruction, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Small Beer 978-1-618731777, $17.00, 278pp, tp) No­vember 2020.

Like a number of writers who have arrived with a splash in the last decade or two, Alaya Dawn Johnson seems to have written nearly as many novels as short stories. That’s not actually the case, of course – her website lists seven novels, and her first collection, Reconstruction, contains ten stories – but it’s probably ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Evidence by Christopher Priest

The Evidence, Christopher Priest (Gollancz 978-1-473231375, £20.00, 320pp, hc) October 2020.

Long before the notion of worldbuilding became catnip for writer’s workshops and convention panels, Christopher Priest was finding new ways to explore and exploit his mas­sive Dream Archipelago, a string of thousands of islands on a world in which the two major countries on a massive continent waged an endless war, mostly through a frozen south polar wasteland ...Read More

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