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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury 978-1-635575637, $27.00, 244pp, hc) September 2020.

The first thing everyone is going to notice about Piranesi, Susanna Clarke’s long-awaited second novel following her enor­mously popular Jonathan Strange and Mr Nor­rell, is that it’s something like a third the length of that blockbuster. The second is that it bears no direct relation to the densely imagined magical 19th century of that novel and of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Dark Harvest by Cat Sparks

Dark Harvest, Cat Sparks (NewCon 978-1-912950676, $15.99, 244pp, tp) July 2020.

You only need to read a handful of Cat Sparks’s stories before you start feeling the need for some shade and a nice margarita. The bleak, sunbaked landscapes of her novel Lotus Blue are again invoked in her collection Dark Harvest, not only in stories set more or less in that same far-future Australia (“Hot Rods”, “Dragon ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Paper Hearts by Justina Robson

Paper Hearts, Justina Robson (NewCon 978-1-912950-53-9, £7.49, 96pp, tp) March 2020.

Justina Robson’s Paper Hearts – part of a series of novellas from NewCon Press under the collec­tive title “Robot Dreams” – returns to one of the oldest and most fundamental questions in SF’s endless dance with artificial intelligence: namely, what would really happen were we to hand over the reins of pretty much everything to a carefully rule-bound ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Book of Dragons, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

The Book of Dragons, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-287716-1, $35.00, 576pp, hc) July 2020. Cover by Rovina Cai.

I have to confess that I never quite shared the childhood love of dragons that Jonathan Strahan describes in his introduction to The Book of Dragons. It always seemed to me that dragons were too cool to be really scary, and yet too scary to be adorable, no matter ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Big Girl by Meg Elison

Big Girl, Meg Elison (PM Press 978-1-62963-783-9, $14.00, 128pp, tp) June 2020.

Meg Elison seemed to come out of nowhere when her 2014 novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife earned the Philip K. Dick Award, and her short fiction output has remained relatively sparse (although the novel did see two well-received sequels), so Big Girl, her contribution to the long-running ”Outspoken Authors” series from PM Press – ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu

Of Ants and Dinosaurs, Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus 978-1-789-54611-8, 256pp, £18.99, hc) April 2020.

Cixin Liu’s satirical novel Of Ants and Dinosaurs seems to have a complex history. A novella with this title was published in China in 2004, later appearing as a standalone book in 2012, translated by Holger Nahm. This was included in Liu’s 2013 collection The Wandering Earth published in Beijing – but not in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Creatures of Charm and Hunger by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Charm and Hunger, Molly Tanzer (John Joseph Adams 978-0-358-06521-0, $16.99, 320pp, tp) April 2020.

When Molly Tanzer introduced her ”Diabolist’s Library” trilogy with Creatures of Will and Temper back in 2017, she combined the sharply insightful coming-of-age tale of two contrasting sisters finding their way in Victorian London with a cleverly gender-swapped version of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Then, with a skillful narrative ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Liz Bourke Review The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho (Tor.com 978-1-250-26925-6, $19.99, 160pp, hc) June 2020. Cover by Sija Hong.

After decades of movies, games, manga, and TV, it might well be that contemporary audiences are more familiar with the conventions of wuxia than with the classic American Western – not that there isn’t a fair amount of overlap. The crucial opening scene of Zen Cho’s The ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe

Interlibrary Loan, Gene Wolfe (Tor 978-1-250-24236-5, $25.99, 308pp, hc) June 2020.

There was already something of a valedictory tone about Gene Wolfe’s 2015 novel A Borrowed Man, which portrayed a glum, diminished future in which authors survive as helpless ”reclones” who could be checked out of libraries like books (or cubes or disks) – but who could casually be incinerated if they aren’t checked out frequently enough. In ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

By Force Alone, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus 978-1838931278, £18.99, 516pp, hc) March 2020. (Tor 978-1-250-75345-8, $27.99, 416pp, hc) June 2020.

Sometimes while reading a Lavie Tidhar novel, there comes a point when you feel like he’s grabbed the wheel, grinning as he drives you aggressively into oncoming traffic and somehow pulls off moves that by all rights ought to be fatal. That’s never been more the case than ...Read More

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Gary. K. Wolfe Reviews Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Or What You Will, Jo Walton (Tor 978-1-250-30899-3, $26.99, 320pp, hc) July 2020.

It’s too bad that Marianne Moore’s imaginary garden with real toads has become such a fossilized cliché, because I thought of it several times while reading Jo Walton’s Or What You Will, which is an imaginary literary landscape with real books in it. Not only does Walton borrow characters and plot points from Shakespeare’s The ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Unbecoming by Lesley Wheeler

Unbecoming, Lesley Wheeler (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-167-4, $18.00, 236pp, tp) May 2020.

Lesley Wheeler is an accomplished poet and a named professor at Washington and Lee, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that her first novel is peppered with striking language (“She was already a ghost of linen and warm air”; kids “flock and wheel”) and shrewd portraits of some familiar denizens of academia. Wheeler’s major previous venture into fantasy, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford

Out of Body, Jeffrey Ford (Tor.com 978-1-250-25015, $14.99, 168pp, tp) May 2020.

Jeffrey Ford is consistently one of the most graceful writers we have, and when he decides to revisit some of the classic tropes of horror fiction – such as the haunted house in his recent The Twilight Pariah and “The Jew­eled Wren” – we can reliably expect a couple of things. For one, the clarity of the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Properties of Rooftop Air by Tim Powers

The Properties of Rooftop Air, Tim Powers (Subterranean 978-1-59606-974-9, $35.00, 80pp, hc) June 2020. Cover by David Palumbo.

There were plenty of evil clowns before Stephen King’s Pennywise basically photobombed the whole trope, and one of the most disturbing was Horrabin from Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates, who would deliberately disfigure some of the beggars in his gang in order to make them appear more pitiful. Now Horrabin ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe & Rich Horton Review Avatars Inc, Edited by Ann VanderMeer

Avatars Inc, Ann VanderMeer, ed. (XPRIZE, free, eb) March 2020. [Download from <www.avatars.inc>]

All well-made anthologies offer something like a conversation between the stories included, and in some cases (such as Jonathan Strahan’s recent Made to Order: Robots and Revolution) that conversation is more focused than usual, since the stories all revolve around a classic SF theme. With Ann VanderMeer’s Avatars Inc: A Sci-Fi Anthology, now available ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

Vagabonds, Hao Jingfang (Saga 978-1-5344-2208-7, $27.99, 610pp, hc) April 2020.

Although I’ve used it myself often enough, I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the term “literary science fiction,” or for that matter the sister terms “literary fantasy” and “lit­erary horror.” The implication, of course, is that, without that saving modifier, the reader might be faced with unfettered pulp adventures of the sort that gave these genres their unsavory reputations ...Read More

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