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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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco 978-0-06-268482-0, $22.99, 336pp, hc) April 2018.

If Sam J. Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving was an intimate portrait of a troubled but appealing teen grappling with personal demons like bullies and eating disorders, his SF debut Blackfish City is expansive, ambi­tious, violent, rich in invention, and populated by a range of colorful figures whose characteristics sometimes seem drawn from sources as diverse ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi & To­bias S. Buckell

The Tangled Lands, Paolo Bacigalupi & To­bias S. Buckell (Saga 978-1481497299, $26.99, 304pp, hc) February 2018.

Nearly eight years ago, Tobias S. Buckell & Paolo Bacigalupi joined forces to create a high-fantasy world with a lot of familiar late-medieval/early Renaissance trappings and one particularly neat device: every act of magic or spellcasting, no matter how small, fuels the rapid growth of dense, poisonous brambles already threatening to encroach the land. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com 978-1-2501-6385-1, $14.99, 240pp, tp) March 2018. Cover by Jon Foster.

There is much to admire in Kelly Robson’s novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach – her surprising skill at rigorous SF worldbuilding after a career distinguished mostly by clever fantasies like “The Waters of Versailles”, her nuanced characterization, especially of a cranky, middle-aged woman protagonist (with six leg-like tentacle prostheses), ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean 978-1-59606-864-3, $40.000, 96pp, hc) March 2018. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Aliette de Bodard is another writer who, in a career of barely more than a decade, has shown remarkable versatility, shifting from the multiple award-winning, far-future space opera settings of her Xuya series to the Dominion of the Fallen fantasy novels, which seem to occupy a territory no one had ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel

Pride and Prometheus, John Kessel (Saga 978-1-4814-8147-2, $27.99, 384pp, hc) February 2018.

One of many things that come to mind in reading Pride and Prometheus, John Kessel’s thoroughly enjoyable full-length expansion of his 2008 Nebula- and Shirley Jackson-winning novelette, is that Pride and Prejudice might have made a pretty suitable title for Frankenstein, at least from the unfortunate creature’s point of view. After all, he’s the product of Victor Frankenstein’s ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen

Mapping the Bones, Jane Yolen (Philomel 978-0-399-25778-0, $17.99, 418pp, hc) March 2018.

I should point out up front that Jane Yolen’s powerful young-adult Holocaust novel Mapping the Bones is a straight historical without overt fantastic elements, although – like her earlier Briar Rose – it’s woven around the armature of a classic fairy tale, in this case “Hansel and Gretel”. Almost inevitably, considering its subject, it’s a horror story, and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Vandana Singh (Small Beer 978-1-618-73143-2, $16.00, 336pp) February 2018.

For the past 15 years or so, Vandana Singh has been producing consistently interesting and often brilliant short fiction, and her name is often among those mentioned in celebra­tions of SF’s growing diversity. But “diversity” can have a number of meanings, and, as beauti­fully demonstrated in her new collection Ambi­guity Machines and Other Stories, diversity in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Starlings by Jo Walton

Starlings, Jo Walton (Tachyon 978-1-61696-056-8, $15.95, 288pp, tp) January 2018.

In the introduction to her first collection of stories and poems, Starlings, Jo Walton tells us that she didn’t really figure out how to write short stories until after her award-winning Among Others was published in 2011, and that her earlier efforts “were either extended jokes, poems with the line breaks taken out, experiments with form, or the first chapters ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin

No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-1-328-66159-3, $22.00, 218pp, hc) December 2017.

Has the SF arena ever produced a more widely respected public intellectual than Ursula K. Le Guin? Back in the days of the space race, Asimov, Heinlein, or Bradbury would occasionally get hauled before the TV cameras to celebrate all the SFnal dreams that were about to come true ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf 978-1-55597-788-7, $16.00, 250pp, tp) October 2017.

Award nominations are no way to judge anything, but it would be nice to think that the recogni­tion afforded Carmen Maria Machado’s first collection Her Body and Other Parties might represent, if not a complete blurring of the lines between “literary” and genre fiction, at least a diminishing level of mutual intolerance. Not only was ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Conversation Larger than the Universe by Henry Wessells

A Conversation Larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017, Henry Wessells (Oak Knoll Books 978-1-60583-074-2, $35.00, 288pp, tp) Janu­ary 2018.

Sometimes an exhibition catalog can provide a much-needed opportunity to step back and regain some perspective on what makes us like this stuff in the first place, even if we can’t make it to the exhibition itself. A few years ago the British Li­brary mounted ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Father of Lies by K.J. Parker

The Father of Lies, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-59606-852-0, $40.00, 542pp hc) January 2018.

K.J. Parker’s major new collection The Father of Lies doesn’t actually contain a story by that title, but it doesn’t need to: the old trickster’s techniques run like a twisted thread through these 12 equally twisted stories and novellas (three of them published earlier by Subterranean as standalones). All but two take place in Parker’s now-familiar shadow-Europe ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Robots vs Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Robots vs Fairies, Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe, eds. (Saga 978-1-4134-6236-5, $27.99, 384pp, hc) January 2018.

It certainly started long before Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier’s Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology a few years ago, and before the movie Batman vs. Superman turned a game kids had been playing for a half-century into gloomy sludge, and it probably even dates back before things like King Kong vs. Godzilla. But I suspect ...Read More

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Saving the World Through Science Fiction, Unless We’re Too Late by Gary K. Wolfe

[Editor’s note: part of our 2017 year-in-review essay series from the February 2018 issue of Locus]

According to Barnes & Noble’s year-end summary, if we set aside J.K. Rowl­ing and Rick Riordan, the bestselling genre-related novel of 2017 was Mar­garet Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, followed a few slots later by Stephen King’s It – novels originally published in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Ama­zon’s list adds Orwell’s 1984 (from way back ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Weight of Words edited by Dave McKean & William Schafer

The Weight of Words, Dave McKean & William Schafer, eds. (Subterranean 978-1-59606-825-4, $40.00, 248pp, hc) December 2017.

At least in the SFF world, Dave McKean’s prolific multimedia career is most often associ­ated with that of his frequent collaborator and pal Neil Gaiman, who has two short pieces in The Weight of Words, a fascinating anthology edited by McKean & William Schafer in which ten authors – including McKean himself – ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts by M. John Harrison

You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts, M. John Harrison (Comma Press 978-1-910-97434-6, £9.99, 272pp, tp) November 2017.

“I’m moving forward into something here,” thinks the main character in M. John Harrison’s story “Yummie”, “but I don’t know what it is.” That’s a pretty succinct description of what it feels like to enter many of the stories and sketches in You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer (Houghton Mifflin Mariner 978-1-328-71026-0, $16.99, 346pp, tp) November 2017.

Something often overlooked in this whole business of setting fiction in the Victorian era, whether steampunk or its various fan­tasy and horror offshoots, is that the Victorians were perfectly capable of writing their own fan­tasy, SF, and horror, some of it classic. This may be one reason I have less sympathy for novels and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books 978-1-61775-588-0, $15.95, 350pp, tp) October 2017.

Whether or not you believe generation starships will ever be a viable concept (an argument most recently engaged by Kim Stanley Robinson in Aurora), the stories are never going to go away: the notion is just too useful in too many ways. The idea of putting a large number of people in a confined vessel and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Luminescent Threads: Connections to Oc­tavia E. Butler edited by Alexandra Pierce & Mimi Mondal

Luminescent Threads: Connections to Oc­tavia E. Butler, Alexandra Pierce & Mimi Mondal, eds. (Twelfth Planet 978-1-922-10144-0, $19.99, 434pp, tp) August 2017.

Next to Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler seems to have developed the most impressive posthumous career of any late 20th century SF writer. Kindred has become a staple of classrooms and commu­nity reading projects; the Carl Brandon Society has named both a scholarship and an award in her honor; ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Emerald Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon 978-1-61696-273-9, $15.95, 282pp, tp) November 2017.

One of Jane Yolen’s abiding concerns in the hun­dreds of books she’s written or edited has been the ways in which stories and lives shape each other, so it’s not too surprising that her new collection The Emerald Circus begins and ends with actual historical figures, Hans Christian Andersen and Emily Dickinson. In between, we also briefly meet ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle

The Overneath, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon 978-1-61696-269-2, $15.95, 336pp, tp) November 2017.

Peter S. Beagle’s late career has been something of a marvel, shifting between deeply resonant and apparently autobiographical fictions like “The Rabbi’s Hobby” and “The Rock in the Park” (both in his earlier Tachyon collection Sleight of Hand) with occasional revisits to the greatest-hits territory of The Last Unicorn or The Innkeeper’s Song. His new collection, The Overneath, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

The Man in the Tree, Sage Walker (Tor 978-0-7653-7992-4, $26.99, 382pp, hc) September 2017.

More than 20 years ago, Sage Walker won a Locus Award for her first novel, Whiteout (recently reprinted by Tor), and then nearly disappeared from the field entirely, except for a couple of short stories, but it’s apparent she hasn’t been ignoring the field all that time. Her second novel, The Man in the Tree, is ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Changeling, Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau 978-0-8129-9594-7, $28.00, 434pp, hc) June 2017.

At least since his Shirley Jackson Award-winning The Big Machine back in 2009, and probably before that, Victor LaValle has been edging toward more direct engagement with genre materials, although his trademark approach has been to frame such materials in his sharp-edged brand of social realism. Last year, The Ballad of Black Tom (also nominated for multiple ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams

Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams (Saga 978-1-4814-8997-3, $27.99, 544pp, hc) October 2017.

In one of Donald Barthelme’s funnier stories, a hapless would-be writer finds that one of the questions on the National Writer’s Examination (“a five-hour fifty-minute examination, for his certificate”) involves recognizing at least four archaic words for sword. On the basis of his new novel Quillifer, Walter Jon Williams would get that certificate with flying colors. His vocabulary of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown 978-0-316-22083-5, $17.99, 378pp, tp) October 2017.

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy, which concludes with Tool of War, began as a disturbing ecological fable of young people trying to survive by mining ruined oil tankers for copper and other resources in a devastated southeastern US, mostly around New Orleans, then moved to an almost equally devastated DC area in The Drowned Cities. Over the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crow­ley

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, John Crow­ley (Saga 978-1-4814-9559-2, $28.99, 464pp, hc) October 2017.

Toward the end of John Crowley’s aston­ishing new novel Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, the immortal crow of the title asks a Coyote what they have ever got from the humans whose world has encroached upon and finally displaced their own, and the Coyote responds, “Stories…. We’re made of stories ...Read More

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