Liz Bourke Reviews Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean 978-1-59606-952-7, $40.00, 384pp, hc) September 2019. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Aliette de Bodard’s Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight is a collection from an author whose work possesses both breadth and depth. Published by Subterranean Press, this volume largely collects works from her Hugo Award-nominated Xuya continuity – including award-winning stories “The Shipmaker” (BSFA Award), “Immersion” (Nebula and Locus ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

The Outside, Ada Hoffmann (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-813-4, $12.99, 346pp, tp) May 2019.

The Outside is Ada Hoffmann’s much-anticipated debut novel. Well, much anticipated in my circles and, I have to say, the novel lives up to its buzz. (If you take nothing else away from this review, take away that it’s well worth checking out.)

In Hoffmann’s space opera universe, artificial intelligences have become Gods. These AI-Gods don’t exist ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer

Brightfall, Jaime Lee (Jo Fletcher 978-1-78747-920-3, £18.99, 312pp, hc) August 2019.

Brightfall is Jaime Lee Moyer’s first novel since her debut trilogy (Delia’s Shadow, A Barricade in Hell, and Against A Brightening Sky, the last of which came out in 2015). Brightfall is both like and unlike these previous books. Like, in that it shares a similar tone and a similar interest in women’s lives ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Five Unicorn Flush by T.J. Berry

Five Unicorn Flush, T.J. Berry (Angry Robot US 978-0-85766-783-0, $12.99, 314pp, tp) May 2019. Cover by Lee Gibbons.

T.J. Berry’s debut novel, Space Unicorn Blues, took place in a fantastical space opera world, one in which creatures from human mythology, possessing magical powers, live and struggle alongside humans. These beings are known as the Bala, and the totalitarian, genocidal human government known as the Reason went to war ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Broken Shadow by Jaine Fenn

Broken Shadow, Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot US 978-0-85766-803-5, $12.99, 432pp, tp) May 2019. Cover by Andreas Rocha.

Jaine Fenn’s Hidden Sun, out from Angry Robot Books last year, introduced the reader to the world of shadowlands and skylands. In the shadowlands, or at least the ones with which the novel concerns itself, a powerful Church restricts scientific development and unorthodox thought, while a patriarchal society relegates women to ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane, Joan He (Albert Whitman 978-0-80751-551-8, $17.99, 416pp, hc) April 2019.

I more than liked Joan He’s debut fantasy. Descendent of the Crane sets itself in a world deeply influenced by Chinese history and culture. It’s a lush, deeply realised world, full of laws and ministries and red-light districts, scents and textures and presences, histories and legacies. (I’m almost certainly missing references and reso­nances that would ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde

The Fire Opal Mechanism, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-19654-5, $14.99, 208pp, tp) June 2019. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

The Fire Opal Mechanism is billed as a sequel to an earlier novelette by award-winning author Fran Wilde (Updraft, Cloudbound, Horizon). That novelette was The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a work with elegant prose, a deeply compelling friendship between two young women, and an am­bivalent – ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Theater of Spies by S.M. Stirling

Theater of Spies, S.M. Stirling (Ace 978-0-399-58625-5, $16.00, 464pp, tp) May 2019.

Since the 1980s, S.M. Stirling has been writing novels that revel in the minutiae of technological development, generally with a militaristic bent and frequently with an alternate-history (or alternate-present) setting. This attention to technological minutiae accom­panies an interest in cultures and societies, and the ways in which those cultures approach military conflict. Theater of Spies, a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Not for Use in Navigation by Iona Datt Sharma

Not for Use in Navigation, Iona Datt Sharma (Self-published, $5.25, 210pp, eb) March 2019. Cover by Katherine Catchpole.

I read Iona Datt Sharma’s short-fiction collection Not for Use in Navigation almost by accident, at the end of a chain of happy coincidences that both led me to learn about its existence and to read it in a single sitting. Datt Sharma is a writer at the beginning of their ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Fleet of Knives by Gareth L. Powell

Fleet of Knives, Gareth L. Powell (Titan Books 978-1-785655210, $14.95, 406pp, pb). February 2019.

Fleet of Knives is the sequel to BSFA Award-winning author Gareth L. Powell’s Embers of War, in which sentient ex-warship Trouble Dog and her crew – including Captain Sal Konstanz – fell face first into trouble associated with their job for the House of Reclamation (an apolitical interstellar organisation dedicated to search and rescue), ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Hound of Justice by Claire O’Dell

The Hound of Justice, Claire O’Dell (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-269933-6, $15.99, 328pp, tp) July 2019. Cover by Brandon Bourdages.

Claire O’Dell burst onto the near-future science fiction scene last year with A Study in Honor, the opening volume in the Janet Watson Chronicles. A Study in Honor, which I reviewed for this publication, was a tense, compelling near-future thriller, set in a United States in the throes of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

An Illusion of Thieves, Cate Glass (Tor 978-1-250-31100-9, $16.99, 352pp, tp) May 2019. Cover by Alyssa Winans.

When I first heard about Cate Glass’s An Illusion of Thieves – a fantasy novel, part heist, part political thriller, and part coming-of-age story in a setting inspired by late medieval Italy – I had no idea that Glass was a pen name for notable author Carol Berg, whose novel-writing career began ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Oblivion, Michelle Sagara (Mira 978-0-7783-0784-6, $16.99, 538pp, tp) February 2019. Cover by Glenn Mackay & Shane Rebenschied.

Michelle Sagara has a long career behind her under at least two names. Her House War series as Michelle West is ongoing, and she’s been writing the Chronicles of Elantra series as Mi­chelle Sagara for going on 15 years now. Cast in Oblivion comes to us as the 14th novel ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Empress of Forever, Max Gladstone (Tor 978-0-7653-9581-8, $18.99, 480pp, tp) June 2019. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Max Gladstone is unfairly talented. Reviewing his Empress of Forever is a bloody intimidating undertaking, because it’s just that damn good. It’s not enough that his Craft Sequence series is a complex, twisty, delightfully playful and deeply thought provoking set of works that take on themes of power, the ten­sion between progress and ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly

Prisoner of Midnight, Barbara Hambly (Severn House 978-0-7278-8860-0, £21.95, 256pp, hc) January 2019.

Barbara Hambly has been writing excellent novels for over 30 years. Alas, in the last decade her new work has been rather less than widely available. Severn House Press, an outfit that specialises in hardcover crime and mystery novels, publishes both her Benjamin January novels and her James Asher vampire series, but hasn’t made them avail­able ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

The Women’s War, Jenna Glass (Del Rey 978-198-481720-4, $28.00, 560pp, hc) March 2019.

I wish I felt that The Women’s War was doing more interesting work. According to Jenna Glass’s bio, she’s published more than 20 books under a variety of different names. The pseudonym is sufficiently open to identify at least one of those names: Jenna Black, author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I’ve never read any ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Ninth Step Station by Malka Older, Curtis C. Chen, Jacqueline Koyanagi, & Fran Wilde

Ninth Step Station, Malka Older, Curtis C. Chen, Jacqueline Koyanagi, & Fran Wilde (Serial Box 978-1-68210-589-4 $13.99, 324pp eb) March 2019. Cover by Christine Barcellona.

Ninth Step Station is one of two new science fiction serial offerings from publisher Serial Box this year. (The other is The Vela, starting in March.) Cre­ated by Malka Older and written by Older, Fran Wilde, Curtis C. Chen, & Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ninth ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds

Permafrost, Alastair Reynolds (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-125-030356-1, $14.99, 176pp, tp) March 2019.

Alastair Reynolds is one of a handful of authors writing science fiction today who can boast of having worked for a space agency as a scientist (as part of the European Space Research and Technology Centre). His long-form fiction has tended towards far-future science fiction, space operas with sprawling future histories and a strong interest in the influence ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings, Jenn Lyons (Tor 978-125-031638-7, $24.99, 560pp, hc) February 2019.

One of the delightful conceits of Jenn Lyons’s debut – a much-hyped epic fantasy that almost lives all the way up the extravagant heights of its advance buzz – is that it is presented as an after-action report, a “full accounting of the events that led up to the Burning of the Capital” compiled by a ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori Mc­Carthy

Once & Future, Amy Rose Capetta & Cori Mc­Carthy (Jimmy Patterson 978-0-316-44927-1, $18.99, 336pp, hc) March 2019.

Like Shakespeare, the Matter of Britain and the Arthurian mythos is a vein that speculative fiction has delved deeply into over the years – it could be said, too deeply. I’ve seldom seen an unapologeti­cally Arthurian story – with an Arthur, a Merlin, and a Guinevere, all called by their Arthurian names ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

Miranda in Milan, Katharine Duckett (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-30631-9, $3.99, 198pp, eb) March 2019. Cover by David Wardle.

Of all Shakespeare plays, it seems that The Tem­pest is one of the more popular among writers of speculative fiction. Considering that it boasts among its dramatis personae at least one wizard and one spirit, an isolated young woman, treach­erous lords and a now-gone witch, it’s hardly surprising that this should be ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines

Terminal Uprising, Jim C. Hines (DAW 978-0-7564-1277-7, $26.00, 336p, hc) February 2019. Cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

Jim C. Hines’s work is well known for its verve, energy, and sense of humour. Its fre­quently scatological sense of humour, at that. Hines’s talents have remained over some 12 nov­els, and now extend into a thirteenth, Terminal Uprising, the second book in his Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series, after 2018’s ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, Alex White (Orbit 978-0-316-41210-0, $15.99, 532pp, tp) December 2018. Cover by Lisa Marie Pompilio.

Alex White kicked off a rip-roaring (if you’ll pardon a hoary expression) space opera series in A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe in summer 2018. In December, they followed up with A Bad Deal for the Whole Gal­axy, a new instalment in this inventively ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark. (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-29480-7, $14.99, 144pp, tp) February 2019. Cover by Stephan Martiniere.

I’ve yet to meet a story by P. Djèlí Clark that I didn’t like. Mind you, I’ve only read three of them, but on the evidence, he writes delightfully. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is his second novella from Tor.com Publishing, and this one returns to the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Finders by Melissa Scott

Finders, Melissa Scott (Candlemark & Gleam 978-1-936460-88-5, $20.95, 372pp, tp) Decem­ber 2018.

I have to admit that I’m a fan of Melissa Scott, although I came late to her novels, and later still to her science fiction ones. Her work gen­erally concerns itself in some way with personal relationships, and with social alienation, and with, in some several cases, movements or moments arising out of the solidarity of the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Alliance Rising by C.J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher

Alliance Rising, C.J. Cherryh & Jane S. Fancher (DAW 9780756412715, $26.00, 352pp, hc) Janu­ary 2019. Cover by Micah Epstein.

Alliance Rising is the first novel to be published by the partnership of SFWA Grand Master C.J. Cherryh and her wife, author and artist Jane S. Fancher. It’s also the latest novel to be set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union continuity, a literary universe that incorporates novels like Downbelow Station and Cyteen ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Through Fiery Trials by David Weber

Through Fiery Trials, David Weber (Tor Books 978-0765325594, $28.99, 752pp, hc) January 2019.

I’m not so much looking forward to what David Weber does next. Reading his work has become something of an ordeal. And yet it remains an ordeal to which I’ve willingly subjected myself many times over – at least ten times, in the case of his Safehold series, of which the most recent instalment is Through ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

The Mortal Word, Genevieve Cogman (Ace 978-0399587443, $15.00, 448pp, tp) November 2018.

In lighter news, The Mortal Word is as far from an ordeal as it’s possible for a novel to be. The fifth novel in British author Genevieve Cogman’s ongoing Invisible Library series, it is yet another delightful romp in the style to which her readers have grown accustomed.

The Invisible Library is a library that exists beyond ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

Creatures of Want and Ruin, Molly Tanzer (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 9781328710253, $16.99, 352pp, tp). November 2018. Cover by Eduardo Recife.

Molly Tanzer has a track record of writing weird and marvelous novels that sit uneasily on the border between dark fantasy and horror. Creatures of Want and Ruin is her latest, set in the same continuity as Creatures of Will and Temper, but where Creatures of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Way of the Shield by Marshall Ryan Maresca

The Way of the Shield, Marshall Ryan Maresca (DAW 978-0756414795, $7.99, 354pp, pb) Octo­ber 2018. Cover by Paul Young.

I’m shallow enough to admit I only picked up Marshall Ryan Maresca’s The Way of the Shield because I was told the secondary protagonist was a queer woman. Well, that, and it sounded like a potentially entertaining, city-based, sword-and-sorcery-style adventure.

Dayne Heldrin is a young man whose future with the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Deep and Shining Dark by Juliet Kemp

The Deep and Shining Dark, Juliet Kemp (Elsewhen Press 978-1911409243, £9.99, 272pp, tp). September 2018.

The Deep and Shining Dark is Juliet Kemp’s first novel, out of small outfit Elsewhen Press. Kemp (whose recent novella from Book Smug­glers Publishing you may remember me discuss­ing here before) has written a novel that’s one part high fantasy, one part political fantasy, and one part old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery – without the swords or ...Read More

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2018 in Review by Liz Bourke

Looking back on 2018, the year feels rather longer than mere chronological time can account for. I don’t imagine I can remember all the books I’ve read this year – a year in which I became engaged, hunted for a house, moved house, and most recently, acquired a pair of very boisterous bouncy kittens: the mere quotidian logistics of living have absorbed rather more of my energy and memory than ...Read More

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