Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill

The Crane Husband, Kelly Barnhill (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-85097-3, $19.99, 128pp, hc) February 2023.

Kelly Barnhill’s When Women Were Drag­ons ranked pretty high on my list of last year’s outstanding fantasy novels, a highly original combination of feminist coming-of-age tale, alternate history period piece, and metamor­phosis myth, all cast in the form of a memoir, or what used to be called a personal history. That combination of domestic realism and family ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Scarlet Circus by Jane Yolen

The Scarlet Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 9781616963866, $17.95, 256pp, tp) February 2023.

If you’re thinking about catching up on reading Jane Yolen, forget it. She’s already way ahead of you, with (by her own count) ‘‘well over 400 books, plus thousands of poems and a huge bas­ket load of stories.’’ Of course, a lot of those are children’s and YA titles, but even excluding those, there is a daunting ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best of Catherynne M. Valente: Volume One by Catherynne M. Valente

The Best of Catherynne M. Valente: Volume One, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean 978-1-64524-077-8, $50.00, 800pp, hc) April 2023.

In a career of less than two decades, Catherynne M. Valente seems to have made an outsized im­pact on fantasy and SF, despite never quite fitting in to any movement or trend, and never quite getting predictable – except, perhaps, for her unabashed love of language. For a while, some of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

The Terraformers, Annalee Newitz (Tor 978-1-250-22801-7, 352pp, $27.99, hc) January 2023.

The very title of Annalee Newitz’s The Ter­raformers suggests ambition, and not only the hubris involved in setting out to remodel whole planets as though they were unfinished basements. The concept has been prominent in SF for decades–the term itself dates back to an 80-year-old Jack Williamson story – and Newitz is well aware that they’re revisiting territory ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard

The Red Scholar’s Wake, Aliette de Bodard (JABberwocky Literary Agency 9781625676108, $9.99, 258pp, eb) November 2022.

In the past few years, Aliette de Bodard has been productively exploring different genres such as space opera (The Citadel of Weeping Pearls), fairy tales (In the Vanisher’s Palace) and myster­ies (The Tea Master and the Detective, Seven of Infinities), so when she subtitles The Red Scholar’s ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2022 by Gary K. Wolfe

As I write this, the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2022 is still being finalized, but I can already attest that, as in past years, it contains both too many books and stories, and not enough. Not enough, because there inev­itably worthwhile works that fell through the cracks despite our best efforts, and too many because anyone attempting even a sem­blance of a normal life would find it impos­sible to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Beyond the Burn Line by Paul J. McAuley

Beyond the Burn Line, Paul J. McAuley (Gollancz 978-1-39960-371-3, £22.00, 455pp, hc) September 2022.

Paul McAuley also makes use of bifurcated time­lines in Beyond the Burn Line, but on a much vaster scale, and he also considers the global ef­fects of the Anthropocene Era, already relegated to the mists of ancient history as his tale rather modestly begins. Eventually we learn that the “burn line” is the historians’ ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Mr. Breakfast by Jonathan Carroll

Mr. Breakfast, Jonathan Carroll (Melville House 9-871-61219-992-4, $27.99, 272pp, hc) January 2023.

With all of the original and idiosyncratic voices in SFF these days, it’s tempt­ing and maybe a bit lazy to casually describe an author as sui generis. But when folks have been saying this for more than 40 years, as is the case with Jonathan Carroll, it begins to sound like a pretty solid verdict. No doubt ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Expect Me Tomorrow by Christopher Priest

Expect Me Tomorrow, Christopher Priest (Gollancz 978-1-47323-513-7, £22.00, 336pp, hc) September 2022.

Christopher Priest is another author who writes with an illusionist’s skill about shifting reali­ties and identities, not only in his long-running Dream Archipelago sequence of stories and novels, but in such haunting works as The Separation (2002), in which the contrasting adventures of twin brothers lead us into alter­nate versions of WWII. Twins show up again in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Novels & Story Cycles and The Illustrated Man, The October Country, Other Stories By Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury: Novels & Story Cycles, Ray Bradbury (Library of America 978-1-59853-700-0, $40.00, 896pp, hc) September 2021.

Ray Bradbury: The Illustrated Man, The Oc­tober Country, Other Stories, Ray Bradbury (Library of America 978-1-59853-728-4, $40.00 989pp, hc) October 2022. [Both volumes available as two-volume boxed set The Ray Bradbury Col­lection (Library of America, 978-1-59853-740-6, $80.00, 1,885pp, boxed set) October 2022.]

No one can complain that they’re having a hard ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy by Sam J. Miller

Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy, Sam J. Miller (Solaris 978-1-78618-731-4, 176pp, $15.99, tp) July 2022.

Jonathan Carroll isn’t the only one who’s been thinking about magical tattoos lately, and in fact it’s a fairly venerable tradition. But I think Sam J. Miller has probably carved out his own niche with Kid Wolf and Kraken Boy, which may sound like an unrealized Robert Rodriguez film project, but in fact ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Pulling the Wings Off Angels by K.J. Parker

Pulling the Wings Off Angels, K.J. Parker (Tor­dotcom 978-1-25083-576-5, $16.99, 144pp, tp) November 2022.

K.J. Parker may have the most distinctive voice of any contemporary fantasy writer, and certainly one of the funniest. His tales of an alternate but easily recognizable Europe sometimes re­semble heist capers, sometimes gangster sagas, sometimes comedies of errors – and sometimes they feature provocative discussions of ethics, philosophy, and religion, often disguised in the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo

Into the Riverlands, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom 978-1-25085-142-0, $19.99, 112pp, hc) October 2022.

Into the Riverlands is the third of Nghi Vo’s Singing Hills series of novellas, which began with the Crawford Award-winning The Empress of Salt and Fortune and continued with When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain. All fea­ture the peripatetic cleric Chih from the Singing Hills monastery, sometimes accompanied by their magical hoopoe bird Almost Brilliant. In

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Tomorrow’s Parties: Life in the Anthropocene by Jonathan Strahan, ed.

Tomorrow’s Parties: Life in the Anthropocene, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (MIT Press 978-0-26254-443-6, $19.95, 232pp, tp) August 2022. Cover by Sean Bodley

As a critical term, ‘‘hard SF’’ is something of a blunt instrument. Originally used to distinguish the more-or-less rigorous adherence to known science in the work of authors like Clarke, Asimov, or Clement from the more metaphorical and ‘‘literary’’ SF of a Bradbury, Sturgeon, or Zenna Henderson (which

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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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