Adrienne Martini Reviews The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six, Olivie Blake (Self-published 978-1-679-91099-9, 383pp, tp) January 2020. (Tor 978-1-25085-451-3, 536pp, $25.99, hc) March 2022.

I am late to the Olivie Blake (AKA Alexene Farol Follmuth) party because I can’t com­mit to TikTok, which is where The Atlas Six first caught the imaginations of thousands of readers. This Tor edition is an expanded and revised edit of the version of the book that made the rounds ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom – Volume Two: 1940 by David Ritter & Daniel Ritter

The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom – Volume Two: 1940, David Ritter & Daniel Rit­ter (First Fandom Experience 978-1-7366596-1-8, $195.00, 484pp, hc) December 2021.

It’s already been a couple of years since David & Daniel Ritter’s The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s gave us a sort of tomb-raider’s view of the early days of fan culture, more or less concluding with the first ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Crazy in Poughkeepsie by Daniel Pinkwater

Crazy in Poughkeepsie, Daniel Pinkwater (Tachyon 978-1-61696-374-3, $16.95, 192pp hc) April 2022.

There’s always a degree of satisfaction, maybe bor­dering on smugness, in finding that a favorite quirky writer is also a favorite of other writers you respect. In a career of half a century, Daniel Pinkwater has gained the admiration of writers as diverse as Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, and Charlie Jane Anders – some lucky enough to ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews The Long Game by K.J. Parker

The Long Game, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-64524-080-0, $44.88, 108pp, hc) March 2022.

K.J. Parker may not have invented the idea of using an exasperated, put-upon narrator to under­cut the implicit pretensions of a classic fantasy setting, but he’s certainly become its reigning virtuoso. His latest novella, The Long Game, is again set in his alternate late-medieval Europe, with its not-quite-recognizable place names like Idalia or Sabades Amar but ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Kundo Wakes Up by Saad Z. Hossain

Kundo Wakes Up, Saad Z. Hossain (Tordotcom 978-1-250-82392-2, $15.99, 208pp, tp) March 2022.

Saad Z. Hossain’s Kundo Wakes Up returns us to the uniquely original vision of a future South Asia plagued by environmental disaster, swarm­ing with airborne nanotech, governed by mostly benevolent AIs, and occasionally plagued by rogue djinns, that we first encountered in The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday back in 2019. Even one of his ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel by John Kessel

The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel, John Kessel (Subterranean 978-1-64524-058-7, $45.00, 584pp, hc) June 2022.

In his insightful introduction to The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel, Kim Stanley Robinson grapples with the somewhat thorny question of how Kessel’s stories relate to the genres of the fantastic, and at one point he even invokes allegory, citing Kessel’s own musing about what ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Spear by Nicola Griffith

Spear, Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom 978-1-250-81932-1, $19.99, 192pp, hc) April 2022.

In terms of actual scholarship, it’s probably a good thing that historians have largely aban­doned the pejorative “Dark Ages” to describe the early medieval period, since it had become such a broad-brush pop-culture shorthand that it eventually seemed to refer to everything between the fall of Rome and the rise of Amazon. For fantasy writers, on the other hand, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie

All the Horses of Iceland, Sarah Tolmie (Tor­dotcom 978-1-250-80793-9, $15.99, 112pp, tp) March 2022.

Sarah Tolmie’s All the Horses of Iceland might also be described as a concise epic, purporting to describe how horses came to Iceland, but it’s cast more in the form of a chronicle than a plot­ted tale. Its narrator is a priest named Jor, who is reconstructing from a distance of centuries the story of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

The Cartographers, Peng Shepherd (William Morrow 978-0062910691, $27.99, 400pp, hc) March 2022.

Speaking of maps, thanks largely to Tolkien they’re all but inescapable in modern secondary-world fantasy, but fantasies about maps are much less common. With her second novel The Cartog­raphers, Peng Shepherd sets out to correct that, focusing in part on the actual practice by early commercial mapmakers of inserting fake ‘‘phan­tom settlements’’ in their maps as ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Teen 978-1250317391, $18.99, 320pp, hc) April 2022.

It’s practically an unwritten rule that middle vol­umes of trilogies should shade a bit darker, with higher stakes, unexpected complications, dimmer hopes, and a growing sense of desperation. If you’re going to (apparently) kill off Frodo, volume two is the place to do it. The second volume of Charlie Jane Anders’s YA Unstoppable trilogy, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf 978-0-593321447, $25.00, 272pp, hc) April 2022.

One of the central characters in Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility is a novelist known for a bestseller about a worldwide pandemic, published just a few years before an actual pandemic makes it a bestseller all over again, with a blockbuster film adaptation in the works. Not surprisingly, she’s on a world­wide book ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Adventurists by Richard Butner

The Adventurists, Richard Butner (Small Beer 9781618731944, $17.99, 312pp, tp) March 2022.

Here’s a good example of the value of a well-curated small press. To the best of my knowledge, I’d never read a word of fiction by Richard Butner, though I recognized the name as one mentioned respectfully by some of the attendees at the fabled Sycamore Hill Writers’ Workshop, which he’s been directing for several years. But ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews 51 by Patrick O’Leary

51, Patrick O’Leary (Tachyon 978-1-61696-348-4, $16.95, 304pp, tp) February 2022.

Patrick O’Leary hasn’t been the most prolific of writers (it’s been almost 20 years since his last novel, The Impossible Bird, and that was only his third), but he’s certainly among the most unex­pected. He characteristically begins with familiar SF/F devices (time travel in Door Number Three, alien invasions and immortality in The Impossible Bird), and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Long Game by K.J. Parker

The Long Game, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-64524-080-0, $40.00, 108pp, hc) March 2022.

 

K.J. Parker may not have invented the idea of using an exasperated, put-upon narrator to under­cut the implicit pretensions of a classic fantasy setting, but he’s certainly become its reigning virtuoso. His latest novella, The Long Game, is again set in his alternate late-medieval Europe, with its not-quite-recognizable place names like Idalia or Sabades Amar ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

Moon Witch, Spider King, Marlon James (Riv­erhead 978-0-735-22020-1, $30.00, 656pp, hc) February 2022.

The narrative trick of telling the same story from different viewpoints has yielded some genuine classics, from Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet to Kurosawa’s Rashomon, and it would seem especially well suited to fantasy epics – which too often tend to have far more characters and settings than actual plot lines. So when readers of Marlon ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2021 by Gary K. Wolfe

It doesn’t seem to ever go away. It spreads, mutates, develops new strains, infects every age group, and sometimes seems immune to immunization. Its symptoms may range from the severe to the indifferent. Even if you think you’re safe from it, you might occasionally need a booster shot. By now, it’s become an accepted part of the fabric of modern life.

I’m talking about SFF, of course. Or whatever you ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future by Kai-Fu Lee & Chen Qiufan

AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future, Kai-Fu Lee & Chen Qiufan (Currency 978-0-593-23829-5, $30.00, 452pp, hc) September 2021.

I’ve generally been skeptical of efforts to match up SF stories with ‘‘science fact’’ essays, partly because ‘‘science fact’’ has always seemed a redundant back-formation that no one would use at all, if it weren’t for the supposed need to remind us that science fiction is, well, fiction. (Most of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Cyber Mage by Saad Z. Hossain

Cyber Mage, Saad Z. Hossain (Unnamed Press 978-1-951213-28-2, $18.00, 350pp, tp) December 2021.

In a remarkably short period, the Bangladeshi author Saad Z. Hossain has emerged as one of the most distinctive new voices in SF, earning comparisons to everyone from Joseph Heller to Quentin Tarantino, and as a major figure in an apparent renaissance in South Asian SF (see the next two books under review). Of course, “renaissance” ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Horizon by Gautam Bhatia

The Horizon, Gautam Bhatia (HarperCollins India 978-9354227639, ₹499.00, 468pp, tp) October 2021.

It’s always tricky to review the second volume of a duology without loading it with spoilers for readers who may not have read the first volume, or who might quite reasonably have decided to wait until the complete work was available (authors have been known to leave you hanging, after all, sometimes in ways that make you ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction: Volume 2 by Tarun K. Saint, ed.

The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction: Volume 2, Tarun K. Saint, ed. (Hachette India 978-9391028626, ₹699.00, 488pp, hc; $10.99, eb) September 2021.

The first volume of Tarun K. Saint’s The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction (reviewed here in June 2019) seemed to serve two purposes: to present the variety of South Asian SFF to the world at large, and – equally important, to judge from Saint’s ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Noor, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW 978-0756416096, $23.99, 224pp, hc) November 2021.

As vibrant and inventive as her settings are, Nnedi Okorafor’s most consistent theme may simply be the discovery of unexpect­ed inner powers. Zahrah the Windseeker finds that her dreadlocks give her the power to levitate and fly; Ejii in The Shadow Speaker learns she can hear at great distances and even read minds; On­yesonwu in Who Fears Death? not ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2 by Jonathan Strahan

The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 2, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Saga 978-1534449626, $18.99, 624pp, tp) September 2021.

In his introduction to his second Year’s Best Sci­ence Fiction for Saga Press, Jonathan Strahan observes, surprising no one, that 2020 was an extremely strange year, and not only for science fiction. But readers expecting this strangeness to show up in Strahan’s customarily eclectic selec­tion (27 stories from 18 different sources) are ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Hood by Lavie Tidhar

The Hood, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus 978-1-838-93131-5, £18.99, 448pp, hc) October 2021.

Lavie Tidhar’s ambitious four-novel re­visiting of British mythology – which he calls the Anti-Matter of Britain – began with last year’s By Force Alone, a cheerfully anarchic and thoroughly entertaining assault on Arthuriana, and now, with The Hood, it moves forward a few centuries to the 12th-century era of Robin Hood legends. But while ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Complete Short Fiction of Peter Straub by Peter Straub

The Complete Short Fiction of Peter Straub: Volume 1: Stories, Peter Straub (Borderlands Press, $120.00, 477pp, hc) October 2021.

The Complete Short Fiction of Peter Straub: Volume 2: Novellas, Peter Straub (Borderlands Press, $120.00, 477pp, hc) October 2021.

Whenever Peter Straub’s name shows up on social media or in critical discussions of horror, it’s increasingly accompanied by encomiums like “icon” or “living legend” (he even has an award ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The First Law of Thermodynamics by James Patrick Kelly

The First Law of Thermodynamics, James Pat­rick Kelly (PM Press 978-1629638850, $14.00, 128pp, tp) August 2021.

As I’ve mentioned in this space before, PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series, which began in 2009 with titles by Kim Stanley Robinson and series editor Terry Bisson, has become a reliable literary loot box, now up to its 27th volume with James Patrick Kelly’s The First Law of Ther­modynamics. My immediate thought ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Even Greater Mistakes by Charlie Jane Anders

Even Greater Mistakes, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor 978-1250766502, $27.99, 352pp, hc) No­vember 2021.

It’s probably a peculiarity of my own, but I’ve always found the acknowledgements in books fascinating – not the simple copyright listings, but the part that pays tribute to mentors, colleagues, friends, students, partners, pets, agents, editors, and various other literary and nonliterary influ­ences. They offer a context reminding us that each book represents a unique confluence ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories by Nina Allan

The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories, Nina Allan (Titan 978-1-789091755, $15.95, 480pp, tp) September 2021.

Not very many lines of SF criticism get widely quoted, but Susan Wood’s long-ago observation that ‘‘Ursula K. Le Guin makes maps’’ is one of them, and it helped kick off a discussion of fantasy maps that isn’t over yet. It came to mind about halfway through Nina Allan’s major retrospective collection ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Rock Eaters: Stories by Brenda Peynado

The Rock Eaters: Stories, Brenda Peynado (Penguin 978-0-143135623, $16.00, 288pp, tp) May 2021.

Brenda Peynado’s first collection, The Rock Eaters, places her in that growing cadre of talented short fic­tion writers who seem equally comfortable in venues as diverse as The Georgia Review and Tor.com, and whose voice is just as distinctive when writing about real-world poverty and student debt or about grim futures in which people take ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim

On the Origin of Species and Other Stories, Bo-Young Kim (Kaya Press 978-1-885030-71-9, $19.95, 224pp, tp) May 2021.

When I reviewed Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Wait­ing for You and Other Stories last April, the first collection from an author widely regarded as among the most prominent voices in Korean science fiction and fantasy, I found it impressive, but also tantalizing: it consisted only of two pairs of linked stories, leaving ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar

The Escapement, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon 978-1-61696-327-9, $16.95, 256pp, tp) September 2021.

In the most exuberant sense of the word, Lavie Tidhar is something of a literary magpie, borrow­ing from – and celebrating – a dizzying variety of narrative traditions. His previous novel, By Force Alone, enlisted everything from Macbeth to Roadside Picnic in the service of radically reinventing Arthurian legends. The Escapement is if anything even more radical. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Comfort Me With Apples, Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom 978-1-250-81621-4, $17.99, 112pp, hc) October 2021.

Catherynne M. Valente’s love affair with language is well known, so it’s not surprising that the Song of Solomon, with its sensuous lyricism, should not only provide the title of her new novella Comfort Me With Apples, but also be echoed in her own prose (not to mention chapter titles that are all varieties ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered, Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom 978-1-250-76335-2, $17.99, 128pp, hc) October 2021.

There are two reasons why fairytale retellings and adaptations have remained consistently popular for centuries: one is that these old tales are deeply beloved, and the other is that they aren’t – or that they could use some serious fixing. Alix E. Harrow, or at least the narrator of her novella A Spindle Splintered, evidently ...Read More

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