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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

The Blade Between, Sam J. Miller (Ecco 978-0-06-296982-8, $26.99, 384pp, hc) December 2020.

In both of Sam J. Miller’s YA novels, The Art of Starving and Destroy All Monsters, Hudson High School – presumably a version of the same small-town high school that Miller attended in upstate New York – is nearly as powerful an antagonist as the supernatural forces that threaten Miller’s outsider heroes. With The Blade ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, V.E. Schwab (Tor 978-0-7653-8756-1, $26.99, 446pp, hc) November 2020.

There are so many classic themes woven together in V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie Larue that at times the novel feels like a gallery of old favorites curated by someone who clearly loves them all. The deal-with-the-devil tale, of course, is as old as the devil. The secret-immortal-living-among-us has been a genre ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe and Ian Mond Review The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem

The Arrest, Jonathan Lethem (Ecco 978-0-06-293878-7, $27.99, 320pp, hc) November 2020.

A little more than halfway into Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest comes a chapter titled “Postapocalyptic and Dystopian Stories”, in which the screenwriter protagonist and his movie-producer friend debate the appeal of such tales while name-checking a panoply of authors and titles – Vonnegut, King, Atwood, Walter Tevis, Philip K. Dick, George R. Stewart, Walter M. Miller, Emily St. ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 1, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Volume 1, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Saga 978-1-5344-4959-6, $17.99, 570pp, tp) September 2020.

The first thing I noticed about the inaugural volume of Jonathan Strahan’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction for Saga Press (af­ter 13 years of SF and fantasy annuals for other publishers) is that it’s dedicated to the memory of Gardner Dozois, whose dozens of year’s best anthologies remain the baseline for all ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-76702-8, $15.99, 176pp, hc) October 2020.

If there’s such a thing as boisterous folk horror, P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout may set the standard. While it doesn’t directly invoke Lovecraft’s own eldritch critters the way that N.K. Jemisin does in The City We Became or Victor LaValle in The Ballad of Black Tom, it certainly invokes the mythos of Really Ugly ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook 978-0-316-42204-8, $28.00, 528pp, hc) October 2020.

Despite its vampires, assassins, and a viciously conspiratorial patriarchy, the main sensibility I took away from Alix E. Harrow’s spectacular debut, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, was one of celebration – a celebration of portal fantasies, of secret histories, of favorite books and tales, most of all of the protagonists’ capac­ity to ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0-316-30013-1, $28.00, 576pp, hc) October 2020.

Kim Stanley Robinson has famously shown us a post-neutron-bombed USA, inundated and then frozen the DC area, tossed sizeable chunks of California into the Pacific, flooded most of Manhattan, and even wiped out virtually all of Europe with the plague, but the opening chapters of The Ministry of the Future may be the most ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Episodes: A Collection by Christopher Priest

Episodes: A Collection, Christopher Priest (Gollancz 978-1473200630, £8.99, 368pp, tp), May 2019. (Gollancz 978-1-473-22600-5, $24.99, 368pp, hc) August 2020.

Last month I had the opportunity to review an important 50-year retrospective of M. John Har­rison stories, and so it seems appropriate to take a look at Episodes, a similar long-term retrospective from Christopher Priest, originally published in the UK last year and now available to the likes of ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen

The Midnight Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-340-8, 242pp, $16.95, tp) October 2020.

The Midnight Circus is the third collection of Jane Yolen stories from Tachyon in the last three years, following The Emerald Circus (which won a World Fantasy Award in 2018) and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Collectively these rather modest volumes are giving us a pretty good sense of what a Selected Stories volume might ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews City Under the Stars by Gardner Dozois & Michael Swanwick

City Under the Stars, Gardner Dozois & Michael Swanwick (Tor 978-1250756589, $14.99, 272pp, tp) August 2020.

As any number of people observed after his un­timely death in 2018, Gardner Dozois’s phenom­enal career as an editor and his ebullient public presence at conventions vastly overshadowed his own achievements as a writer – though he won back-to-back short fiction Nebulas back in the 1980s – and that same ebullience may have ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020 by M. John Harrison

Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, M. John Harrison (Comma Press 978-1912697281, £9.99, 288pp, tp) August 2020.

Harrison’s acute and sometimes merciless fasci­nation with couples who don’t quite know what they’re doing also shows up in two of the most memorable stories in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1969-2019, his first real retrospective collection since Things That Never Happen back in 2003. “The Gift” describes the parallel stories ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison

The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, M. John Harrison (Gollancz 978-0575096356, £20.00, 272pp, hc) June 2020.

Despite the watery spectacle implied by the title, there are no lost continents dra­matically erupting from the waves in M. John Harrison’s The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, but there is a lot of water. The title comes instead from a rather obscure lecture called “Thoughts in a Gravel Pit” ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg

The Four Profound Weaves, R.B. Lemberg (Tachyon 978-1-61696-334-7, $14.95, 192pp, tp) September 2020.

For nearly a decade, R.B. Lemberg has been developing their Birdverse world in a number of stories and poems, and I confess to having seen only a handful of them prior to reading their first novel The Four Profound Weaves. But the novel provides most of what you need to know about this universe, which ...Read More

Read more

Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Seven of Infinities, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean 978-1-59606-976-3; $40.00, 176pp, hc) October 2020.

I’ve always been impressed by the ways in which different genres can use each other, especially in the hands of an adroit writer who is also an adroit reader. Alix E. Harrow is one example and Aliette de Bodard, who adapted “Beauty and the Beast” into a far-future post colonialist fable with In the Vanishers’ Palace ...Read More

Read more