Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales, Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press/Kudzu Planet 978-1-933846-72-9, $17.99, 282pp, tp) August 2018.

Michael Bishop has been defining his own uniquely eclectic brand of humanistic SF since his emergence as one of the most prominent new writers of the 1970s, and it’s likely that this has been both good and bad news for his career. On the one hand, he’s given us works that ...Read More

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A Year of Looking Backward by Gary K. Wolfe

I’m not sure this is prog­ress: 2018 began with The Handmaid’s Tale, Nine­teen Eighty-Four, and Fahrenheit 451 back on the bestseller lists, and a fair number of folks re­marking on how prescient Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower suddenly seemed.

Toward the end of the year, just before Thanksgiv­ing, Vintage decided to re-release, for the first time in decades, Fletcher Knebel’s Night of Camp David, the 1965 political SF thriller ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma

All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Un­dertow 978-1-988964-02-7, $17.99, 288pp, tp) May 2018.

Priya Sharma’s short fiction has mostly appeared in horror or dark fantasy venues, earning her a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson nomination for “Fabulous Beasts”, one of the strongest stories in her very strong first collection All the Fabulous Beasts. But her relationship to these genres, and to the often folkloric materials that she draws ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan

An Agent of Utopia, Andy Duncan (Small Beer 978-1-61873-153-1, $16.00 288p, tp) November 2018.

There are few contemporary writers in any genre as immediately identifiable by voice alone as Andy Duncan, and it’s a voice with roots as far back as Mark Twain and as current as Howard Waldrop, finely attuned to the various tributaries of American vernacular – but often quite a bit darker than its down-home patina would ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-304-0, $15.95, 262pp, tp) November 2018.

It may be the oldest Nimby game in the world. By now, we could assemble a small shelf of alternate histories concerning un­realized Jewish homelands in unlikely parts of the globe. Twenty years ago, Janet Berliner and George Guthridge won a Bram Stoker award for Children of the Dusk, the final volume of their Madagascar Manifesto trilogy, which had ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Book of Magic Edited by Gardner Dozois

The Book of Magic, Gardner Dozois, ed. (Ban­tam 978-0-399-59378-9, $30.00, 576pp, hc) October 2018.

In his introduction to The Book of Magic, his follow-up to last year’s The Book of Swords, Gardner Dozois somehow manages to build an argu­ment comparing SFF magazines to the Great Smoky Mountains, which I will admit to being a notion I had not previously entertained. (Basically, he claims the magazines served like “cove forests” during ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews More Walls Broken by Tim Powers

More Walls Broken, Tim Powers (Subterranean 978-1-59606-886-5, $25.00, 136pp, hc) February 2019.

One of the appealing aspects of Tim Powers’s fiction is his obvious affection for his settings, whether the 19th-century Britain of his Romantic and Victorian era novels, the Caribbean of On Stranger Tides, or the Southern California-Las Vegas axis of his Fault Lines trilogy and later novels. His relatively sparse shorter fiction hardly gives him room to dwell ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

Hazards of Time Travel, Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco 978-0-06-231959-3, $26.99, 336p, hc) November 2018.

The main problem with contemporary dystopian fiction, I think, is that it no longer demands any imagination. It’s not just that the US is currently being governed by the petulant brat from Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life” (or that the rest of the government is acting like the terrified adults in that story), but that ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Sense of Wonder: Short Fiction Reviews (2009-2017) by Gardner Dozois

Sense of Wonder: Short Fiction Reviews (2009-2017), Gardner Dozois (Advent/ReAni­mus Press 978-1718795051, $19.99, 444+60pp, tp) May 2018.

A good example of what we’ll be missing – in this magazine in particular – can be found in Dozois’s Sense of Wonder: Short Fiction Reviews 2009-2017, which collects the first nine years of the Gardnerspace columns he wrote for Locus (in his introduction, Dozois makes it clear this title was foisted upon ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street/William Morrow 978-0-06-257194-6, $28.99, 528pp, hc) October 2018.

In the acknowledgements to Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Hein­lein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Alec Nevala-Lee quotes the late Algis Budrys arguing that “we need a long, objec­tive look at John ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Moon, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0-316-26237-8, $27.00, 480pp, hc) October 2018.

As far as I know, Kim Stanley Robinson hasn’t bothered to develop a consistent fu­ture history in the manner of Heinlein and others, and it’s just as well: why be constrained by a future concocted years or decades earlier, when everything that’s happened in the interim could alter that future radically? (Robinson recognized this when he updated the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater, Tade Thompson (Apex 978-1-937009-29-8, $16.95, 360pp, tp) November 2016. (Orbit 978-0-316-44905-2, $15.99, 394pp, tp) September 2018.

I missed Tade Thompson’s Rosewater when it first appeared from Apex a couple of years ago and subsequently won the inaugural Nommo award and became a Campbell Award finalist. Since then, it’s generated quite a bit of discussion, not only for its inventive and ambitious plot, but because it seemed to represent yet ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

How Long ’til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 978-0-316-49134-1, $26.00, 404pp, hc) November 2018.

When an author achieves as much suc­cess as N.K. Jemisin has with huge architectonic structures like the Broken Earth and Inheritance trilogies, readers might be excused for greeting her first story collection in either of two ways: gleefully expecting more of the same, or cynically suspecting a series of outtakes or early yeomanlike exercises. I ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Terra Nullius, Claire G. Coleman (Hachette Australia 978-0733638312, A$29.99, 304pp, tp) August 2017. (Small Beer 978-1-61873-1517, $17.00, 304pp, tp) September 2018.

The idea of alien invasion as a commentary on colonialism is at least as old as H.G. Wells, but unfortunately never seems to get out of date. Wells himself, in the very first chapter of The War of the Worlds, formulated it succinctly:

The Tasmanians, in spite of their ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Zion’s Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Specula­tive Literature, Edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum & Emanuel Lottem

Zion’s Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Specula­tive Literature, Sheldon Teitelbaum & Emanuel Lottem, eds. (Mandel Vilar Press 978-1-94213-452-7, $24.95, 336pp, tp) September 2018.

It’s nearly 45 years since Jack Dann’s ground-breaking anthology of Jewish fantasy and SF Wandering Stars, and as he pointed out way back then, a lot of American SF had already been shaped by Jewish writers and editors, from Asimov, Avram Davidson, and Horace Gold, to Ellison, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford

Ahab’s Return, Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow 978-0-06-267900-0, $26.99, 262pp, hc) August 2018

One of the dependable pleasures of Jeffrey Ford’s work, apart from his precise and lyrical prose and generally ingratiating characters, is its acute sense of place, from the Long Island of his childhood to the small-town upstate New York of last year’s The Twilight Pariah. More often than not, these settings seem awash in immanence, conveying a haunting ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton

An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000, Jo Walton (Tor 978-0765379085, $29.99, 576pp, hc) August 2018.

Since their inception in 1953, the Hugo Awards have been SF’s most unignorable elephant in the room, providing generations of readers with a de facto canon and reading list, despite an often wild inconsistency and occasional tendency to reward beloved authors simply because they’re beloved. For ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Irontown Blues by John Varley

Irontown Blues, John Varley (Ace 978-1-101989-37-1, $16.99, 304pp, tp) August 2018.

John Varley’s Eight Worlds sequence of stories and novels – not really a series, since it’s less a consistent future history than a shared conceit among several stories and novels – dates back to the beginning of his career in the 1970s, when he seemed like the hottest new voice in SF since the arrival of Delany, Disch, Le ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Future is Female!, edited by Lisa Yaszek

The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fic­tion Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin, Lisa Yaszek, ed. (Library of America 978-1-59853-580-8, $27.95, 532pp, hc) September 2018.

In her pioneering 2016 anthology Sisters of To­morrow, Lisa Yaszek brought to light a number of women SF writers of the pulp era, most long forgotten and out of print for decades. Now, with The Future is Female! 25 ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All I Ever Dreamed and Thoreau’s Microscope by Michael Blumlein

All I Ever Dreamed, Michael Blumlein (Valancourt 978-1-943910-99-1, $22.99, 506pp, tp) May 2018

Thoreau’s Microscope, Michael Blumlein (PM Press 978-1-62963-516-3, $14.00, 118pp, tp) June 2018.

Michael Blumlein has long brought a sharply original perspective to his science fiction, and one possible reason he’s not gained wider recognition is that his most better-known earlier works, such as the now-classic story “The Brains of Rats” and novels such as X,Y were generally ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis

Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories, Abbey Mei Otis (Small Beer 978-1-618-73140-1, $16.00, 238pp, tp) August 2018.

As I’ve mentioned before, the better small presses cultivate a curatorial sensibility, a distinct personality which can be a reliable indicator that, whatever this new book is, it’s probably at least interesting. Small Beer Press is near the top of this list, and Alien Virus Love Disaster is a good example of what they ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly

The Promise of Space, James Patrick Kelly (Prime 978-1-607-01495-9, $15.95, 384pp, tp) July 2018.

In his afterword to The Promise of Space, James Patrick Kelly assures us that none of the 16 stories were included in his massive Centipede Press collection from a couple of years ago, the impos­ingly titled Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly – which serves as an indication that his accomplished career as a short ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey 978-0-399-18098-9, $28.00, 440pp, hc) July 2018.

One of the highlights of Navah Wolfe & Dominic Parisien’s The Starlit Wood a couple of years ago was Naomi Novik’s “Spinning Silver”, a shrewd deconstruction of the Rumpelstiltskin tale, which highlighted, among other things, the anti-Semitic undertones of the original, a point which Jane Yo­len and others have previously noted. Now Novik has expanded Spinning Silver into ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders

Rock Manning Goes for Broke, Charlie Jane Anders (Subterranean 978-1-59606-878-0, $40.00, 128pp, hc) September 2018.

When Kingsley Amis coined the very useful term “comic inferno” back in 1959, he wasn’t thinking of Harold Lloyd comedies, and certainly couldn’t have imagined the sort of Jackass-style homemade movie stunts that are at the heart of Charlie Jane Anders’s novella Rock Manning Goes for Broke. But the term is a pretty useful description ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, Theodora Goss (Saga 978-1-4814-6653-0, $26.99, 720pp, hc) July 2018.

When Theodora Goss introduced us to the members of the Athena Club in last year’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, that fun she was having with her lively and contentious group of women was contagious, but that fun masked a more provocative reconsideration of the roles imposed on women in Victorian society – ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi

Summerland, Hannu Rajaniemi (Tor 978-1-250-17892-3, $25.99, 304pp, hc) June 2018.

Those who are as impressed as I was with the coruscating style and dense information environment of Hannu Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief trilogy might be a bit taken aback at the very different sort of world of his Summerland, which is essentially an espionage procedural set in 1938 Britain. It quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t our 1938, and Rajaniemi’s England ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Annex by Rich Larson

Annex, Rich Larson (Orbit 978-0-316-41654-2, $15.95, 336pp, tp) July 2018.

By his own count, Rich Larson has published over 100 stories since 2012, with an impressive number of them making it into year’s best anthologies. That amounts to one of the more stunning debuts in recent SF, even as he’s largely been under the radar for major awards (possibly in part because of that very prolificity). This inevitably creates a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

How To Stop Time, Matt Haig (Canongate 978-1-782-11861-9, £12.99, 33699, hc) July 2017. (Viking 978-0-525-52287-4, $26.00, 329pp, hc) February 2018.

The notion that living among us there might be immortals – or at least folks with very long lifespans – is itself an idea that just hangs on decade after decade, not only in SF/F circles but in popular potboilers like Viereck & Eldridge’s hoary My First Two Thousand Years ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Smoke by Simon Ings

The Smoke, Simon Ings (Gollancz 978-0-575-12007-5, £16.99, 298pp, tp) February 2018.

Simon Ings’s The Smoke – his second new SF novel in four years after having taken more than a decade off for more mainstream projects (including a fascinating study of sci­ence under Stalin) – is quite a bit more radical than 2014’s Wolves, which was judiciously and elegantly restrained in its examination of the pos­sible impact of augmented reality, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Space Opera, Catherynne M. Valente (Saga 978-1481497497, $19.99, 304pp, hc) April 2018.

Like its acknowledged inspiration, The Hitch­hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera is something of a Christmas tree: a fairly generic template adorned with so many glittering ornaments and exuberant sentences careening along like beaded garlands (some of Valente’s more ambitious sentences sound as though they need bongos for backup), that pretty soon the plot ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Time Was by Ian McDonald

Time Was, Ian McDonald (Tor.com 978-0-7653-9146-9, $14.99, 144pp, tp) April 2018.

Throughout his career, Ian McDonald has demon­strated a remarkable versatility of style and language. His recent fiction has ranged from the YA sense-of-wonder exuberance of his parallel-world Everness series to the efficient social melodrama narration of the Luna novels, but he’s always been equally capable of great lyricism, and his new novella, Time Was, is a persuasive and gorgeous ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12, edited Jonathan Strahan

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 12, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1781085738, $19.99, 620pp, tp) April 2018. Cover by Adam Tredowski.

After many years – sometimes it feels like too many – of reading year’s best anthologies, I’ve come to the conclusion that they serve three different purposes for three different but over­lapping audiences. The first, and most obvious, is to provide a rich and entertaining ...Read More

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