Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories, Nina Allan (Titan 978-1-789091755, $15.95, 480pp, tp) September 2021.

Not very many lines of SF criticism get widely quoted, but Susan Wood’s long-ago observation that ‘‘Ursula K. Le Guin makes maps’’ is one of them, and it helped kick off a discussion of fantasy maps that isn’t over yet. It came to mind about halfway through Nina Allan’s major retrospective collection ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Rock Eaters: Stories by Brenda Peynado

The Rock Eaters: Stories, Brenda Peynado (Penguin 978-0-143135623, $16.00, 288pp, tp) May 2021.

Brenda Peynado’s first collection, The Rock Eaters, places her in that growing cadre of talented short fic­tion writers who seem equally comfortable in venues as diverse as The Georgia Review and Tor.com, and whose voice is just as distinctive when writing about real-world poverty and student debt or about grim futures in which people take ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim

On the Origin of Species and Other Stories, Bo-Young Kim (Kaya Press 978-1-885030-71-9, $19.95, 224pp, tp) May 2021.

When I reviewed Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Wait­ing for You and Other Stories last April, the first collection from an author widely regarded as among the most prominent voices in Korean science fiction and fantasy, I found it impressive, but also tantalizing: it consisted only of two pairs of linked stories, leaving ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar

The Escapement, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-327-9, $16.95, 256pp, tp) September 2021.

In the most exuberant sense of the word, Lavie Tidhar is something of a literary magpie, borrow­ing from – and celebrating – a dizzying variety of narrative traditions. His previous novel, By Force Alone, enlisted everything from Macbeth to Roadside Picnic in the service of radically reinventing Arthurian legends. The Escapement is if anything even more radical. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Comfort Me With Apples, Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom 978-1-250-81621-4, $17.99, 112pp, hc) October 2021.

Catherynne M. Valente’s love affair with language is well known, so it’s not surprising that the Song of Solomon, with its sensuous lyricism, should not only provide the title of her new novella Comfort Me With Apples, but also be echoed in her own prose (not to mention chapter titles that are all varieties ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered, Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76335-2, $17.99, 128pp, hc) October 2021.

There are two reasons why fairytale retellings and adaptations have remained consistently popular for centuries: one is that these old tales are deeply beloved, and the other is that they aren’t – or that they could use some serious fixing. Alix E. Harrow, or at least the narrator of her novella A Spindle Splintered, evidently ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

Spirits Abroad, Zen Cho (Small Beer 978-1-618-73186-9, $17.00, 352pp, tp), August 2021.[Expanded from the 2015 edition.]

Before Zen Cho earned well-deserved popularity for her revisionist Regency-era fantasies Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen, she received the 2015 Crawford Award for her collection Spirits Abroad, from the Malaysian publisher Fixi Novo. It seems fair to say that not a lot of international readers got hold of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Revelator by Daryl Gregory

Revelator, Daryl Gregory (Knopf 978-0-525-65738-5, $27.00, 352pp, hc) August 2021.

As he demonstrated again earlier this year with The Album of Dr. Moreau, Daryl Gregory is among our most inventive and eclectic writers, but there are a few themes that recur often enough that they begin to seem like preoccupations, if not quite obsessions. One is that families are weird, and dealing with them can be especially trying ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

No Gods, No Monsters, Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone 978-1-9826-0372-4, $23.99, 330pp, hc) September 2021.

I have to confess that I’m probably losing track of all the monsters. There was a time, before even I was born, when Universal Studios effectively created the first multi-movie franchise by teaching a generation that monsters consisted of some very specific properties – Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature, mummies, werewolves, invisible men, all the way up to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie by M. Rickert

The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie, M. Rickert (Undertow 978-1-988964-32-4, $17.99, 248pp, tp), August 2021.

Even though her short fiction is consistently brilliant on its own terms, occasionally a story by M. Rickert leaves us with the feeling that there’s a good deal more to learn about these haunted characters or equally haunted settings. Such was the case a few years ago when Rickert’s collection You Have Never Been Here included ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North

Notes from the Burning Age, Claire North (Orbit 978-0-316-4988-49883-8, $14.99, 448pp, tp) July 2021.

Having garnered a World Fantasy and a Campbell Award under her Claire North pseudonym, it prob­ably shouldn’t be surprising that the prolific English writer Catherine Webb should turn her unique vi­sion to climate fiction. As others have discovered before her, however, the generations-long trashing of our planet is, by itself, pretty unwieldy as a plot ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Appleseed by Matt Bell

Appleseed, Matt Bell (Custom House 978-0-06-304014-4, $27.99, 480pp, hc) July 2021.

It may be that the overriding theme in the recent spate of Anthropocene apocalypse novels isn’t disaster, but complicity. It’s what sets them apart from earlier secular eschatologies dating back at least as far as Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, in which plagues or floods or asteroids just sort of show up and do their thing, with ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

The Past is Red, Catherynne M. Valente (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-30113-0, $20.99, 160pp, hc) July 2021. Cover by John Hendrix.

There were quite a few provocative tales in Jonathan Strahan’s 2016 anthology Drowned Worlds, but the most memorable narrator in the book was probably Tetley Abednego from Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Future is Blue”, the Sturgeon Award winner which became the title story of Valente’s 2018 collec­tion from Subterranean. Now ...Read More

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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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