Ian Mond Reviews The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff (Harper 978-0-06-325689-7, $30.00, 320pp, hc) Feb­ruary 2023.

As many readers of Locus will know, Maureen Kincaid Speller passed away on September 18, 2022. She was an outstanding critic (a collection of her reviews and essays, edited by Nina Allan, will be out from Luna Press in 2023) and a generous and insightful editor for Strange Horizons. Maureen was ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Empathy by Hoa Pham

Empathy, Hoa Pham (Goldsmiths Press 978-1-91338-061-8, $24.95, 256pp, tp) November 2022.

The 2018 documentary Three Identical Strangers tells the astonishing and distressing true story of triplet brothers split at birth who become aware of each other only by chance when they turn 19. The documentary reveals that the triplets were part of a “nature versus nurture” study that was never disclosed to the boys or their adoptive parents. It’s ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself, Marisa Crane (Catapult 978-1-64622-129-5, $27.00, 352pp, hc) January 2023.

Recently, author and editor Nick Mamatas nailed the “X meets Y” elevator pitch when he accurately described Titan by Japanese author Mado Nozaki as “The Lifecycle of Software Objects meets Pacific Rim.” But if I were handing out gold medals for the best use of this formulation, it would be to the ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted House, Grady Hendrix (Berkley 978-0-59320-126-8, $28.00, 400p, hc) January 2023.

Over the last several years, I’ve drifted away from core (mainstream) horror fiction to the extent that I haven’t read the last few Stephen King novels (something that I could not have imagined less than a decade ago). Grady Hen­drix is the exception. Since picking up My Best Friend’s Exorcism back in 2016, I’ve ...Read More

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The Year in Review 2022 by Ian Mond

I had already read my favourite book of 2022 while writing my Locus wrap-up for 2021. I knew as much at the time, re­marking in my review: ‘‘I know it’s only January, but I’m sure [this] will be one of my best nov­els of the year.’’ The novel in question was John Darnielle’s Devil House, an astonish­ing metanarrative that questions the ethics of true crime books while recognising that ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep: Ghost Stories by Adam Soto

Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep: Ghost Stories, Adam Soto (Astra House 978-1-66260-135-4, $17.00, 272pp, p) September 2022

My initial reaction to “Polyptych for the Begin­ning of the End of the World, or Three Begin­nings for the End of the World and a Play”, was that it was a poor choice of story to open Adam Soto’s debut collection, Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep: Ghost Stories. As ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada

Weasels in the Attic, Hiroko Oyamada (New Directions 978-0-81123-118-3, $13/95, 96p, hc) October 2022.

In my humble opinion, the best surrealist fic­tion being published today is coming out of Japan, spearheaded by female authors like Yoko Tawada, Sayaka Murata, Yōko Ogawa, and Hiromi Kawakami. Included in that list is the elusive and discombobulating work of Hiroko Oyamada, whose third book, Weasels in the Attic, has been translated into ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Here Be Leviathans by Chris Flynn

Here Be Leviathans, Chris Flynn (University of Queensland Press 978-0-70226-277-7, $A32.99, 240pp, tp) August 2022.

I first encountered the work of Chris Flynn with his third novel, Mammoth. Narrated by an American mastodon and including the view­points of a Tyrannosaurus bataar (not rex), a pterodactyl, a prehistoric penguin, and the sev­ered hand of an Egyptian mummy, Mammoth tells the story of how these bones and fossilised remains came ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun by Anil Menon

The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun, Anil Me­non, (Hachette India 978-9-39102-860-2, ₹599.00, 280pp, tp) June 2022.

Anil Menon had me at the contents page of his debut collection, The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun. In place of the expected list of titles, Menon offers up an introductory essay that starts by ridiculing “Western” authors of yesteryear who would begin “with excuses, explanations and snivels about their work” and ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Titan by Mado Nozaki

Titan, Mado Nozaki (Airship 978-1-68579-318-0, $14.99, 496pp, tp) October 2022.

Mado Nozaki’s novel Titan (translated from Japa­nese into English by Evan Ward) is a thoughtful, eloquent meditation on the nature of work and self-fulfilment that also happens to feature giant, AI-controlled robots.

Set in 2205, the bulk of humanity no longer needs to work, with tasks both simple and com­plex performed by Titan, a hugely powerful cen­tral brain spread ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Valley of Shadows by Rudy Ruiz

Valley of Shadows, Rudy Ruiz (Blackstone Publishing 978-1-98260-464-6, $27.99, 350pp, hc) September 2022.

Having not encountered a “Weird Western” in close to two decades (the last being the final volume in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series), I’ve now read three of them in 12 months. Last November, I reviewed Lavie Tidhar’s eclectic, strange but also moving The Escapement, while a couple of months ago, I spoke glowingly about ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Life Ceremony, Sayaka Murata (Grove Press 978-0-80215-958-8, $25.00, 256pp, hc) July 2022.

In the title story of Sayaka Murata’s collec­tion Life Ceremony, one of the characters observes that “normal is a type of madness… it’s just that the only madness society allows is called normal.” It’s a sentiment that encapsulates the driving force of Murata’s fiction: a recognition that “normality” is subjective, that acceptable behaviour is a generational ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Malarkoi by Alex Pheby

Malarkoi, Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press 978-1-91311-130-4, £17.99, 550pp, hc) Sep­tember 2022.

To begin with a question: have you read Alex Pheby’s Mordew? If not, stop read­ing this review. Not just because I’m about to spoil the novel, but because Mordew is simply brilliant. If I were prone to sweeping statements, I’d describe it as the best start to a fantasy tril­ogy in the last decade. If, however, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Last Night in Brighton by Massoud Hayoun

Last Night in Brighton, Massoud Hayoun (Darf Publishers 978-1-85077-350-4, £10.99, 240pp, tp) October 2022.

In my review of Robert Freeman Wexler’s, The Silverberg Business, I remarked that I seldom read fiction with characters and situations rep­resenting my faith and culture. Yet here I am, for the second consecutive month, reviewing a novel where Jewish identity is central to the nar­rative. The book in question, Massoud Hayoun’s Last Night ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Conjunctions 78: Fear Itself by Bradford Morrow, ed.

Conjunctions 78: Fear Itself, Bradford Morrow, ed. (Bard 978-0-941964-89-0, $20.00, 322pp, tp) Spring 2022.

My first reaction to picking up Fear Itself, the Spring 2022 issue of the long-running anthology series Conjunctions, was: why? Given everything that’s happening right now – the worsening effects of climate change, never-ending viral pandemics, wars in Ukraine and Tigray, and inflationary pres­sures forcing so many to go with so little – ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Silverberg Business by Robert Freeman Wexler

The Silverberg Business, Robert Freeman Wex­ler (Small Beer Press 978-1-61873-201-9, $17.00, 320pp, tp) August 2022.

Robert Freeman Wexler enjoys playing in worlds counter to our own. This was evident from his 2021 collection, Undiscovered Territories (the title is a bit of a giveaway), where most of the stories take place in fantastical locales and distorted versions of our reality. His new novel, The Silverberg Business, also features a ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews A Suitable Companion for the End of Your Life by Robert McGill

A Suitable Companion for the End of Your Life, Robert McGill (Coach House Books 978-1-55245-444-2, $21.95, 220pp, tp) June 2022.

Content warning: The following review contains multiple references to self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Robert McGill’s new novel, A Suitable Com­panion for the End of Your Life, has a doozy of a premise. What if people could be flat-packed into boxes like cheaply made furniture? It’s the sort of ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Bliss Montage, Ling Ma (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 978-0-37429-351-2, $26.00, 240pp, hc) Septem­ber 2022.

Ling Ma’s debut novel, Severance, was one of my top-five books of 2018. Seven months before the pandemic, Ma told the story of a fungal infection originating in China that spreads rapidly across the world and com­pels the infected to repeat the same mindless tasks before they drop dead from exhaustion and malnutrition. Not only ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Hard Places by Kirstyn McDermott

Hard Places, Kirstyn McDermott (Trepidatio 978-1-68510-057-5, $22.95, 312pp, tp) July 2022.

The year was 1994 and I was attending the monthly meeting of the Melbourne Horror Society at the Māori Chief Hotel in South Melbourne. Issue #3 of Bloodsongs – Australia’s first professional horror fiction magazine – had just been released, and the members, which in­cluded the periodical’s two editors, were poring over copies and discussing the content. Sitting ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Splendid City by Karen Heuler

The Splendid City, Karen Heuler (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-985-8, £9.99, 400pp, tp) June 2022.

Karen Heuler’s fifth novel, The Splendid City, begins with a human-sized talking cat, wearing a bow-tie and a fanny pack, shooting a woman in the arm over a disagreement about mushroom roots and the internet. The feline’s name is Stan. He was once a human, working in a gift store in New York alongside a ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Here Goes Nothing by Steve Toltz

Here Goes Nothing, Steve Toltz (Melville House 978-1-61219-971-9, $27.99, 384pp, hc) May 2022.

Here Goes Nothing, the new novel from Australian and Man Booker-nominated author Steve Toltz, is the blackest of black comedies about the end of the world and the afterlife. Our narrator, Angus Mooney, is both dead and very much alive, a somewhat sur­prising development, given he always believed that:

Heaven was a childish dream, Purgatory ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Last Blade Priest by W.P. Wiles

The Last Blade Priest, W.P. Wiles (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-982-7, $15.99, 400pp, pb) July 2022.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend: literary authors turning their hand to epic fantasy. It began – in my humble opinion – with Marlon James, better known for his Man Booker award-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, who, in 2019, penned Black Leopard, Red Wolf, labelled as ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Doloriad by Missouri Williams

The Doloriad, Missouri Williams (MCD x FSG Originals 978-0-37460-508-7, $17.00, 240pp, tp) March 2022.

Missouri Williams’s debut novel, The Doloriad, comes close to pipping Mónica Ojeda’s Jawbone as the most disturbing book I’ve read this year (note, I said close; Jawbone still holds the crown). It’s a post-apocalyptic story where an unknown cataclysm, possibly environmental (though it’s never made clear) has wiped out humanity. Well, almost. In a ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter

The Path of Thorns, A.G. Slatter (Titan Books 978-1-78909-437-4, $15.95, 384pp, tp) June 2022.

Over the last decade, beginning with the collec­tion Sourdough and Other Stories, A.G. Slatter has steadily built a lush and deeply imagined sec­ondary world inspired by European fairy tales, myths, and legends. Last year she published the first novel set in this universe, the fabulous gothic fantasy, All The Murmuring Bones (one of my ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape 978-0-59330-026-8, $27.00, 272pp, hc) June 2022.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been tracking Ottessa Moshfegh’s career that her fourth novel, Lapvona, takes place in a me­dieval fiefdom. Beginning with the publication of McGlue – an experimental novella following the dark and violent exploits of a 19th-century sailor – and then her debut (and break-out) novel, the Man Booker-shortlisted Eileen – a claustrophobic ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Rouge Street: Three Novellas by Shuang Xuetao

Rouge Street: Three Novellas, Shuang Xuetao (Metropolitan Books 978-1-25083-587-1, $26.99, 240pp, hc) April 2022.

Rouge Street: Three Novellas is the first Eng­lish-language publication of Shuang Xuetao’s fic­tion, translated by Jeremy Tiang, who worked on Yan Ge’s Strange Beasts of China last year. Like Yan Ge, Xuetao’s short stories and novels have long been celebrated in China. He’s taken home several awards, including the Blossoms Literary Prize, the Wang Zengqi ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara

The Immortal King Rao, Vauhini Vara (Nor­ton 978-0-393-54175-5, $27.95, 384pp, hc) May 2022.

Along with Adam Roberts’ The This and Jenni­fer Egan’s The Candy House, Vauhini Vara’s debut novel, The Immortal King Rao, is the third book I’ve read this year that imagines a future where people have direct neural access to social media and the internet. This growing literary trend, a mix of cyberpunk and transhu­manism, ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Poguemahone by Patrick McCabe

Poguemahone, Patrick McCabe (Unbound 978-1-80018-111-3, £20.00, 624pp, hc) April 2022. (Biblioasis 978-1-77196-473-9, $21.95, 600pp, tp) May 2022.

Weighing in at more than 600 pages and written entirely in free verse, I can understand that some readers will be a little intimidated by Patrick McCabe’s 13th novel, Poguemahone. I’m here to tell you that despite the comparisons to Ulysses and Ducks, Newburyport, despite the Gaelic salted through the ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi

My Volcano, John Elizabeth Stintzi (Two Dol­lar Radio 978-1-95338-716-5, $12.95, 330pp, tp) March 2022.

John Elizabeth Stintzi’s second novel, My Vol­cano, begins in the early hours of June 2, 2016, with a volcano ‘‘sprouting from the middle of the reservoir in Central Park.’’ On that first morn­ing, the volcano is only eight feet high; within a week it has swallowed up Central Park, and ‘‘by June 23, the ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Candy House, Jennifer Egan (Scribner 978-1-47671-676-3, $28.00, 352pp, hc) April 2022.

As the publishing Gods would have it, Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility is published in the same month as Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. Moreso than Margaret Atwood, I consider Mandel and Egan to be the mainstream authors who have done the most to blur the artificial lines between literary and speculative fiction, as ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf 978-0-59332-144-7, $25.00, 272pp, hc) April 2022.

There is this wink-to-the-audience moment about halfway through Sea of Tranquility where Olive Llewellyn, bestselling author of Marienbad, is asked what it’s like to have written such a successful book.

Oh. It’s surreal, actually. I wrote three books that no one noticed, no distribution beyond the moon colonies… when I published Marienbad, I ...Read More

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Ian Mond Reviews Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda

Jawbone, Mónica Ojeda (Coffee House Press 978-1-56689-621-4, $16.95, 272pp, tp) Febru­ary 2022.

On occasion, I’ve been known to make bold pro­nouncements in this column. Back in January, I crowned John Darnielle’s Devil House as one of the best books of the year, having read less than a handful of novels published in 2022. Three months later and I stand by that proclamation. Having just finished Mónica Ojeda’s Jawbone, ...Read More

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