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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comet Weather by Liz Williams

Comet Weather, Liz Williams (NewCon Press 978-1-912950-46-1, $15.99, 306pp, tp) March 2020.

Comet Weather, Liz Williams’s first novel in several years, is an absolutely lovely tale of an attractive if troubled family in contemporary Somerset and their increasingly hazardous interactions with the world of faerie. I suppose it falls into the broad tradition of what we might call English rural gothic, reaching all the way back through Diana ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Finna by Nino Cipri

Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com 978-1-250-24573-1, $14.99, 138pp, tp) February 2020.

I suppose the giant retail emporium has served as a portal into shadowy realms at least since John Col­lier’s “Evening Primrose” almost eighty years ago, but the deliberately labyrinthine layout of IKEA stores seems almost designed for creepy stories – something that Nino Cipri enthusiastically takes advantage of in their novella Finna, which is partly a testy workplace ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fan­dom, Volume One: The 1930s, David Ritter & Daniel Ritter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7332964-4-1, $150.00, 516pp, hc) Febru­ary 2020.

Fandom may be a billion-dollar industry these days, and the field of fandom studies has drawn enough scholarly attention that it even has its own academic journal, so old-time SF fans might be excused a degree of smugness while claiming – not unreason­ably – ...Read More

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Ian Mond & Gary K. Wolfe Review Ghost Species by James Bradley

Ghost Species, James Bradley (Hamish Hamilton 978-1-926-42866-6, AU$29.99, 320pp, tp), April 2020.

REVIEW BY IAN MOND

Back in February, Jeff Bezos earmarked ten bil­lion dollars for the establishment of the “Earth Fund.” He joins fellow billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill and Melinda Gates in throwing large sums of money at the climate crisis. While it’s questionable whether these acts of rich-people tokenism will play any role in sav­ing ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds, Simon Jimenez (Del Rey 978-0-593-12898-5, $27.00, 394pp, hc) January 2020.

Simon Jimenez’s The Vanished Birds comes to us from Del Rey, with its long and distinguished SF/F history, but with a cover that pointedly eschews any suggestion of the space opera elements that are central to the novel’s action. The central character sees herself as something of a vagabond. Nia Imani is captain of a space ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination by Rick Wilber

Rambunctious: Nine Tales of Determination, Rick Wilber (WordFire 978-1-68057-068-7, $24.99, 289pp, hc) March 2020.

There are a few things we can reliably expect in a collection of stories from Rick Wilber (whose Alien Morning was a finalist for the Campbell Award a couple of years ago, but whose only previous collection was 1999’s Where Garagiola Waits and Other Baseball Stories). Two of these are pretty common SF preoccupations ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Edited by Jonathan Strahan

Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris 978-1781087879, $11.99, 400pp, tp) March 2020.

I suppose it’s both appropriate and inevitable that the coming centennial of Karel Capek’s R.U.R. will have us reconsidering the long and varied history of robots in SF, and an excellent way to start that conversation is by reading Jonathan Strahan’s Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, which brings together 16 original ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

War of the Maps, Paul McAuley (Gollancz 978-1473217348, £14.99, 432pp, hc) March 2020.

More than 20 years ago, Paul McAuley established his bona fides as a master of the ancient-far-future tradition of Vance and Wolfe with his Confluence series, set on an oddly shaped artificial world with a deep history that unfolded in fragments over the course of three volumes. With War of the Maps, he offers an ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker

Prosper’s Demon, K.J. Parker (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250260512, $11.99, 104pp, tp) January 2020. Cover by Sam Weber.

One of the things you can count on from a K.J. Parker story, along with the dry wit of the prose, the morally dubious narrator, and the richness of his faux-historical Europe, is a fascination with the actual issues of economics, production, and manufacture that most fantasy writers blithely ignore: how, exactly, do ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus by Michael Swanwick

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus, Michael Swanwick (Subterranean 978- 1-59606-936-7, $40.00, 200pp, hc) April 2020.

When Michael Swanwick first introduced us to his redoubtable rogues Darger and Surplus in the Hugo Award winning “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” back in 2001, many readers immediately saw them as descendants of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, a duo whose DNA has shown up in the work of everyone ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 978-0-316-50984-8, $28.00, 448pp, hc) March 2020.

I have no idea whether N.K. Jemisin has read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook”, which is in part Lovecraft’s half-hearted attempt to write a detective story and in part a racist having a panic attack in print, but it was the story that provided the template for Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, Ken Liu (Saga 978-1-9821-3403-7, $26.00, 432pp, hc) February 2020.

In his introduction to The Hidden Girl and Oth­er Stories, Ken Liu’s much-anticipated second collection, Liu tells us that selecting the stories was easier, since he no longer felt “the pressure to ‘present,”‘ but rather decided to “stick with stories that most pleased myself.” In fact, more than half of the 18 stories ...Read More

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