Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook 978-0-316-42199-7, $27.00, 384pp, hc) September 2019.

The idea of locking out historical change in order to preserve a particular version of male hegemony is an important theme in Alix E. Harrow’s remarkable first novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but for me to explain further might compromise some of the readerly pleasures of unfolding Harrow’s multilayered, origami-like ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

The Future of Another Timeline, Annalee Newitz (Tor 978-0-7653-9210-7, $26.99, 352pp, hc) September 2019.

Stories about time wars, or temporal wars, or change wars (in Fritz Leiber’s classic formulation), along with related tales about time police, time guards, time patrols, time ref­erees, or even just time nudniks, have gotten so ubiquitous that even Sarah Connor must be getting bored. Collectively, they constitute a kind of sub-subgenre somewhere in the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

The Dollmaker, Nina Allan (riverrun 978-1-787-47255-6, £14.99, 416pp, tp) April 2019. (Other Press 978-1590519936, $16.99, 416pp, tp) October 2019.

One of the questions Nina Allan’s fiction consis­tently raises is whether the idea of genre is even useful anymore. Her stories tend to burrow in and out of each other like enthusiastic metafictional badgers, borrowing and repurposing themes and even characters in an ongoing celebration of the fluidity of story; ...Read More

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Ian Mond and Gary K. Wolfe Review Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey 978-0-525-62075-4, $26.00, 350pp, hc) August 2019.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s fourth novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow, is a rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s Mexico, featuring duelling Mayan Death Gods, a secondary cast of ghosts, spirits, and warlocks and, caught in the middle of it all, an 18-year-old who peers long­ingly at the stars and constellations she’s named after. When we ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley

Meet Me in the Future, Kameron Hurley (Tachyon 978-1-61696-296-8, $15.99, 332pp, tp) August 2019.

Chances are that most of the futures in Kameron Hurley’s Meet Me in the Future aren’t ones you’d want to meet anyone in: plagues, endless wars, drowned cities, alien invasions, decaying spaceships, and endlessly inventive ways of disrupting the human body. Bodies, in fact, as Hurley notes in her engagingly personal intro­duction, seem to be ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday, Saad Z. Hossain (Tor.com 978-1-250-20911-5, $14.99, 176pp, tp) August 2019.

Saad Z. Hossein’s pissed-off djinn, awakened after thousands of years by melting ice in the Hima­layas (a nice, subtle reference to global warming), initially seems more concerned with his resumé than with vengeance: when he stumbles down the mountain and meets the crusty old Gurkha Bhan Gurung, he announces himself as “Melek ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews My Beautiful Life by K.J. Parker

My Beautiful Life, K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-59606-930-5, $40.00, 112pp, hc) November 2019.

Unlike the long tradition of disruptive but fundamentally decent rogues, K.J. Parker’s invidious protagonists, who are often his narrators, can almost seem ingratiating in their forthrightness and cynicism – until we catch on to what sort of ruthlessness they are really capable of. It’s not giving anything away to point out that Parker’s new novella My Beautiful ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna by Kate Boyes

Trapped in the R.A.W., A Journal of My Experiences during the Great Invasion by Kaylee Bearovna, Kate Boyes (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-159-9, $20.00, 312pp, tp) July 2019.

Every once in a while, a novel seems to drop in from out of nowhere, with little to go on but a promo let­ter and – in the case at hand – the reputation of the publisher. Aqueduct Press has earned a reputation not ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A City Made of Words by Paul Park

A City Made of Words, Paul Park (PM Press 978-1-629-63642-9, $14.00, 128pp, tp) June 2019.

Paul Park has always had a rather sidewise relationship with science fiction and fantasy. His early novels demonstrated a sophisticated awareness of the literary possibilities of the far-future, dying-Earth theme, and his vastly underappreciated A Princess of Roumania series was as carefully worked-out an alternate history as you could ask for – except that ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gameshouse by Claire North

The Gameshouse, Claire North (Orbit 978-0-316-49156-3, $15.99, 448pp, tp) May 2019.

Claire North has made something of a career of taking weatherbeaten tropes (reincarnation in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, invisibility in The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Death personified in The End of the Day) and reimagining them in a stylish contemporary voice, usually with a witty twist on the original conceit. In The ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Million Mile Road Trip by Rudy Rucker

Million Mile Road Trip, Rudy Rucker (Night Shade 978-1-94094838-6, $24.99, 504pp, hc) May 2019.

There’s little doubt that Rudy Rucker deserves his reputation as one of the founders of cyberpunk – his Software predated Neuromancer by a couple of years – but his own literary origins seem to reach as far back as Lewis Carroll and Edwin A. Abbott, to whose Flatland Rucker paid a kind of parodic tribute ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson

Song for the Unraveling of the World, Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press 978-156689-548-4, $16.99, 212pp, tp) June 2019.

In his story “Leaking Out”, which could be read as Brian Evenson’s characteristically oblique take on the haunted house tale, a “malformed man” (another characteristic Evenson figure) starts tell­ing a story with the warning that “this is not that kind of story, the kind meant to explain things. It simply tells ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Unraveling by Karen Lord

Unraveling, Karen Lord (DAW 978-0-7544-1520-4, $26.00, 258pp, hc) June 2019.

I don’t think it’s giving anything away to note that the final section of Karen Lord’s Unraveling is titled “Metanoia”, since that term has at least a couple of meanings that are relevant not only to the new novel (her fourth), but to the whole body of her work to date. The more-or-less theological meaning, which has to do ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Adrienne Martini Review Fall; or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson (Morrow 978-0-06-245871-1, $35.00, 896pp, hc) June 2019.

Neal Stephenson’s idea of a novel isn’t quite the same as anyone else’s, and for the most part this has served him remarkably well. His Baroque Cycle trilogy was really no more a trilogy than was Asimov’s Foundation series, except that while Asimov’s narrative units were stories and novellas, Ste­phenson’s were entire novels – and ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Iron Dragon’s Mother by Michael Swanwick

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, Michael Swanwick (Tor 978-1-250-19825-9, $26.99, 366pp, hc) June 2019.

There are hints of the afterlife in Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Mother, but it’s hard to accuse a fantasy world of pretentiousness when it cheerfully includes living metal dragon jet fighters along with Hello Kitty backpacks, or in which the streets of a magical underwater city are lined with Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Edited by Tarun K. Saint

The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, Tarun K. Saint, ed. (Hachette India 978-93-88322-05-8, RS599, 382pp, hc) March 2019.

Over the past several months, we’ve looked at anthologies of Chinese, Korean, and Israeli SF, all largely geared towards familiarizing ”outsiders” – namely, English language readers – with these vari­ous national voices. The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction, edited by Tarun K. Saint, is a little different. ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Little Animals by Sarah Tolmie

The Little Animals, Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct 978-1-61976-161-2, $20.00, 378pp, tp) May 2019.

Sarah Tolmie’s approach to the intersection between the historical and the marvelous is comparatively minimalist. The Little Animals is, for the most part, a straightforward account of the early career of the 17th-century Delft scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, as he discovers and records various “animalcules” through his homemade single-lens microscopes and tries to get his findings recognized ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Lent by Jo Walton

Lent, Jo Walton (Tor 978-0-7653-7906-1, $26.99, 384pp, hc) May 2019.

Jo Walton goes full multiverse in Lent, her fascinating examination of the life, or possible lives, of the Florentine cleric and prophet Girolamo Savonarola. Except for serious history buffs, Savonarola is mostly remembered for his famous Bonfire of the Vanities – which Walton, in an afterword, insists was “more like Burning Man” than a traditional repressive book burning ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay (Berkley 978-0-451-47298-4, $27.00, 448pp, hc) May 2019.

At the risk of oversimplification – well, no, to be honest, with the intent of oversimplification – the fantastic genres have a long and complex relation­ship with historical fiction, but they often tend to use it to provide templates for their own preoc­cupations. Horror seems to love the Middle Ages, with its demons and tortures ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Exhalation, Ted Chiang (Knopf 978-1-101-94788-3, $25.95, 358pp, hc) May 2019.

It’s not exactly as though Ted Chiang’s prolificacy is getting out of hand, but it might be worth noting that his long-awaited new collection Exhalation contains nine stories, while his previous collection Stories of Your Life contained only eight. On the other hand, that earlier collection covered the first 11 years of his career, while the new one covers ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Big Cat and Other Stories by Gwyneth Jones

Big Cat and Other Stories, Gwyneth Jones (NewCon 978-1-912950-15-7, £24.99, 240pp, hc) April 2019. Cover by Vincent Sammy.

Gwyneth Jones has been writing fiercely intelligent SF for decades, and, despite a few high-profile awards (a Clarke, two World Fantasy Awards, a BSFA, a Tiptree, and a Philip K. Dick), she never seems to have attained the broad, appreciative readership that her fiction warrants (in 2001, she even received one ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller

Destroy All Monsters, Sam J. Miller (Harper Teen 978-0-06-245674-8, $17.99, 400pp, tc) July 2019.

I suppose the first thing to be noted about Sam J. Miller’s third novel, Destroy All Monsters, is that it has nothing to do with the venerable Toho kaiju film with that title, even though there are a few dinosaurs wandering about. They mostly show up in the “Darkside,” a ver­sion of reality occupied ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan

Waste Tide, Chen Qiufan (Tor 978-0-7653-8931-2, $26.99, 352pp, hc) April 2019.

In last year’s The Reincarnated Giant: An Anthology of Twenty-First-Century Chi­nese Science Fiction, co-editor Mingwei Song writes in his introduction, “The single most important change in recent years in the English-language translations of Chinese science fiction has been the unrivaled devotion and efforts of Ken Liu.” It’s a generous assessment, but pretty indisputable. Not only is Liu ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Broken Stars, Edited by Ken Liu

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Ken Liu, ed. (Tor 978-1250297662, $27.99, 480pp, hc) February 2019.

One aspect of Waste Tide that may come as a slight surprise to readers whose familiarity with Chinese SF is limited to Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, with its epic galactic scope and somewhat Clarkean ideas, is the degree to which the novel is grounded in gritty near-future realism, ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer 978-1-6187-3155-5, $17.00, 292pp, tp) March 2019.

There are a lot of things to like about Sarah Pinsker’s first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, and not the least is a tactful sense of restraint. I don’t mean restraint in telling her tales – Pinsker is willing to try a lot, including a story ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The True Queen by Zen Cho

The True Queen, Zen Cho (Ace 978-0-425-28341-7, $15.00, 384pp, tp) March 2019.

If G. Willow Wilson offers some insightful contrasts be­tween Islamic and Christian legend, Zen Cho, in her follow-up novel to Sorcerer to the Crown, does something a bit similar with Malaysian vs. English views of magic and faerie. In The True Queen, we learn that the command central of the spirit realm is called the ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

The Bird King, G. Willow Wilson (Grove Press 978-0-8021-2903-1, $26.00, 416pp, hc) March 2019.

G. Willow Wilson seems to be pivoting away from her World Fantasy Award-winning first novel Alif the Unseen, which resonated with many readers, I suspect, because of its shrewd combina­tion of contemporary cyberhacking and ancient magic (a bit like R.A. MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon a generation ago). That novel was also peppered ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Ian Mond Review The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson

The Rosewater Insurrection, Tade Thompson (Orbit 978-0-316-44908-3, $15.99, 378pp, tp) March 2019.

Tade Thompson’s wildly original first novel Rose­water, with its political savvy, its problematic main character, its inventive notion of alien contact, and its colorful setting of the improvised city of Rosewater – which grew up around an alien dome near Lagos, Nigeria – also seemed to challenge some readers with its shifting timelines and questions of ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor 978-0-7653-7996-2, $26.99, 368pp, hc) February 2019.

After the popularity of her Nebula Award-winning first novel All the Birds in the Sky, we could hardly blame Charlie Jane Anders for being tempted to double down on the goodnatured, geek-friendly genre sandwich of that novel, which cheerfully piled together ele­ments of SF, fantasy, and rom-com in a tale ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Tachyon 978-1-61696-302-6, $17.95, 420pp, tp) February 2019.

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan, a title apparently meant to avoid confusion with the two volumes of The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan published by Subterranean in 2011 and 2015, is probably as good a one-volume introduction to the variety of Kiernan’s work as we’re likely to get, though ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Vic­tor LaValle & John Joseph Adams

A People’s Future of the United States, Vic­tor LaValle & John Joseph Adams, eds. (One World 978-0-5255-0880-9, $23.00, 410pp, tp) February 2019.

I’ve grumbled before in this space about how dystopia – which by now has nearly grown inde­pendent of SF in the popular imagination – may have become the default model for the future simply because, these days at least, it makes fewer imaginative demands than almost any ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe Reviews Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James (Riverhead 978-0-7352-2017-1, $30.00, 640pp, hc) February 2019.

Novelists who approach genre materials after having been more or less certi­fied as “literary” writers tend to start by revisiting fairly familiar territory – zombie apocalypses (Colson Whitehead), vampires (Justin Cronin), drizzly dystopias (just about everyone else). Marlon James, with his Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings and several other prominent nomina­tions, ...Read More

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