Liz Bourke Reviews The Vanished Seas by Catherine Asaro

The Vanished Seas, Catherine Asaro (Baen 978-1-982-12471-7, $16.00, 320pp, tp). July 2020.

Catherine Asaro has been writing novels and shorter works set in her Skolian Empire since the publication of Primary Inversion in 1995. The latest is The Vanished Seas, third in a set of politically oriented mystery novels focussed on private investigator Bhaajan, a former major in the imperial military, whose history and connections with a local, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower, Melissa Caruso (Orbit 978-0-316-42509-4 $16.99, 510pp, tp) June 2020. Cover by Peter Bollinger.

It’s interesting to have read Melissa Caruso’s The Obsidian Tower and Jenn Lyons’s The Memory of Souls very close together. Although these are structurally and stylistically very different novels – The Obsidian Tower opens a new trilogy from Caruso, narrated, like her earlier Tethered Mage trilogy, in a first-person voice, while The Memory ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Phoenix Extravagant, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris 978-1-78108-794-7, $24.99, 416pp, hc) October 2020.

Yoon Ha Lee is well known for his science fiction and his short fiction. His debut novel, Ninefox Gambit, won the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was also nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke Awards. His second and third novels, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun, picked up Hugo nominations ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

Dangerous Remedy, Kat Dunn (Head of Zeus 978-1-78954-364-3, £12.99, 430pp, hc) August 2020.

Dangerous Remedy is a much-discussed debut novel from translator and podcast host Kat Dunn: I say much discussed, because I first heard of it in flattering terms as ”LGBT fantasy meets The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and I’ve heard much in its favour since. The advance praise may have had the effect of setting my expectations too ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-31322-5, $26.99, 512pp, hc) August 2020. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Harrow the Ninth is Tamsyn Muir’s second novel, a direct sequel to last year’s Gideon the Ninth, a novel with a strong voice and appealingly batshit worldbuilding that left me with distinctly mixed feelings at its conclusion: a conclusion that blunted the strength of what came before and left me with ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Seven of Infinities, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press 978-1-59606-976-3, $40.00, 176pp, hc) October 2020. Cover by Maurizio Manzieri.

Aliette de Bodard is an author whose works I both like (in several cases, the word adore may be more appropriate) and admire. Seven of Infinities is her latest novella, out from Subterranean Press. Set in the same acclaimed Xuya universe as the award-winning The Tea Master and the Detective, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Worst of All Possible Worlds by Alex White

The Worst of All Possible Worlds, Alex White (Orbit 978-0-316-41214-8, $16.99, 544pp, tp) July 2020.

Alex White’s The Worst of All Possible Worlds is the ”what happens next” for their Salvagers trilogy. The final volume in this high-stakes, high-octane space-opera-with-magic series, it sees the crew of the Capricious in a final showdown with the so-called gods of the Harrow for the fate of the universe, and it reminds me ...Read More

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Liz Bourke & Adrienne Martini Review Network Effect by Martha Wells

Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-25022-986-1, $26.99, 352pp, hc) May 2020. Cover by Jaime Jones.

Martha Wells has been writing excellent books since 1993, when Tor Books published her The Element of Fire. The Element of Fire, in its revised 2006 version and Wells’s The Wheel of the Infinite (2000) would feature in a list of my 100 favourite books of all time, so it may ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole

Sixteenth Watch, Myke Cole (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-805-9 $14.99, 382pp, tp) March 2020. Cover by Issac Hannaford.

I have mixed feelings about Myke Cole’s Sixteenth Watch. Some of those mixed feelings are undoubtedly rooted in my ongoing ambivalence towards science fiction involving the American military and near-future ‘‘clash of the superpowers’’ stories that leave out the presence and actions of… well, everyone who isn’t a member of the military ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Shadows of Annihilation by S.M. Stirling

Shadows of Annihilation, S.M. Stirling (Ace 978-0399586279, $18.00, 400pp, tp) March 2020.

S.M. Stirling’s Shadows of Annihilation is the third volume in his series of spy thrillers set in an alternate history of the early 20th century. It follows 2018’s Black Chamber and 2019’s Theater of Spies, and, like them, it stars clandestine operative Luz O’Malley Aróstegui and her lover, technical genius Ciara Whelan, as they face a ...Read More

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Katharine Coldiron and Liz Bourke Review Stormsong by C.L. Polk

Stormsong, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-76539-899-4, $17.99, 352pp, tp) February 2020.

Witchmark was one of 2018’s critical darlings in genre fiction. Its sequel, Stormsong, has been highly anticipated by readers and reviewers alike, and I believe they will be satisfied. Although the book reads a little predictably, and attaches to its predecessor strongly enough to be difficult to understand at first, it’s a marvelously readable novel set in ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Docile by K.M. Szpara

Docile, K.M. Szpara (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250216151, $27.99, 496pp, hc) March 2020.

Docile is K.M. Szpara’s debut novel. I’ve been hearing about it for months, and my interlocutors have used words like “kinky,” “sexy,” “hot,” “important,” and “squicky.” Now I’ve read it, I can safely say that while I’m sympathetic to its aims and its thematic arguments – and even though intimate explorations of power differentials in relationships are my ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Gravity of a Distant Sun by R.E. Stearns

Gravity of a Distant Sun, R.E. Stearns (Saga 978-1481476935, $16.99, 432pp, tp) February 2020.

R.E. Stearns’ Gravity of a Distant Sun is the third volume in the trilogy that began with Barbary Station and continued in Mutiny at Vesta. I thoroughly enjoyed both previous in­stalments (two women in a committed relationship do crime in order to stay together in the capitalist hellscape of the future! Space! Piracy! Engineer­ing! ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Four Novels by Sarah Kozloff

A Queen in Hiding, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168542, $12.99, 496pp, tp) January 2020.

The Queen of Raiders, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168566, $16.99, 512pp, tp) February 2020.

A Broken Queen, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168665, $16.99, 448pp, tp) March 2020.

The Cerulean Queen, Sarah Kozloff (Tor 978-1250168962, $16.99, 512pp, tp) April 2020.

Sarah Kozloff is a chair of film studies at Vassar College, where she’s apparently been teaching ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250760654, $20.99, 176pp, hc) February 2020. Cover by Will Staehle.

I’ve read enough of Sarah Gailey’s work at this point that I’m reasonably sure I enjoy their work more in concept than in execution, but they are such appealing concepts and, with Up­right Women Wanted, the concept is squarely in the centre of any graph of things I love in fiction. ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

The Name of All Things, Jenn Lyons (Tor 978-1-250-17553-3, $26.99, 592pp, hc) October 2019. Cover by Lars Grant-West.

I read Jenn Lyons’ debut, The Ruin of Kings, around the time it was published in early 2019. It’s a brick of a book – traditional, for epic fan­tasy, in terms of its size. Even if it proceeded to make several rather less-traditional choices in its worldbuilding, structure, and characters, ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

The Bone Ships, RJ Barker (Orbit 978-0-316-48796-2, $15.99, 500pp, tp) September 2019. Cover by Edward Bettison.

The Bone Ships is RJ Barker’s fourth novel, the first in a new series after his well-received Wounded Kingdom trilogy. I haven’t read the Wounded King­dom books (Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins, and King of Assassins), which makes The Bone Ships my first encounter with Barker’s work. I ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt

The Forbidden Stars, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-769-4, $8.99, 400pp, pb) October 2019. Cover by Paul Scott Canavan.

Tim Pratt’s Axiom novels (The Wrong Stars, The Dreaming Stars, and now The Forbidden Stars) have delighted me since almost the first chapter of the first book, back in 2017. They’re a very modern iteration of action-heavy pulp, with appealing characters and worldbuilding that hints at more ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Chilling Effect, Valerie Valdes (Harper Voy­ager 978-0-06287-723-9, $16.99, 448pp, tp) September 2019.

I met Valerie Valdes briefly at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. Part of me wishes I’d already read Chilling Effect, her debut space opera novel, at that point, because I’d like to ask how many of the little things that look like nods to Mass Effect and the likes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are there ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

Sisters of the Vast Black, Lina Rather (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-26025-3, $14.99, 170pp, tp) October 2019. Cover by Drive Com­munication.

I’d never heard of Lina Rather before I was informed I should keep an eye out for Sisters of the Vast Black. The words used to engage my attention were “nuns, lesbians, living ships, and murderous political conspiracies,” and that definitely worked, so maybe I should have heard of ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Carolyn Cushman Review Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Pub­lishing 978-1-250-31319-5, $25.99, 448pp, hc) September 2019. Cover by Tommy Arnold.

Gideon the Ninth, debut novel by much-hyped new voice Tamsyn Muir, is a book that spent several months on my shelf while I wrestled with my mixed feelings about how very hyped it has been since I first heard of it. Lesbian necromancers in space! Gothic cutthroat politics! Epic shit! You’ll ...Read More

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Rich Horton, Liz Bourke, and Amy Goldschlager Review Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney

Desdemona and the Deep, C.S.E. Cooney (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-22983-0, $14.99, 222pp, tp) July 2019. Cover by Kathleen Jen­nings.

I’ve been looking forward to C.S.E. Cooney‘s Desdemona and the Deep for quite a while, and having arrived, it doesn’t disappoint. This is the third of her Breakers novellas (though it stands completely alone), centered around a set of houses called Breakers in three different worlds: the hu­man world, the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton 978-1-473697164, £12.99, 140pp, hc) August 2019. (Harper Voyager 978-0-062-93601-1, $12.99, 176pp, tp) September 2019.

I wish I had enjoyed Becky Chambers’s To Be Taught, If Fortunate nearly as much. Where Chambers’s previous works (The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, and Record of a Spaceborn Few) took place in ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The House of Sundering Flames by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Sundering Flames, Aliette de Bodard (Gollancz 978-1-473-22340-0, £16.99, 550pp, tp) July 2019.

Also on the list of books I can’t recommend highly enough: Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Sundering Flames, the latest – and for now final – novel-length instalment in the series that began with The House of Shattered Wings and continued in The House of Binding Thorns. It’s worth reading the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke and Amy Goldschlager Review This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga 978-1-5344-3100-3, $19.99, 200pp, hc) July 2019.

A novel – or rather a novella – that does find me part of its enthusiastic readership is Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone’s first tra­ditionally published collaboration, This Is How You Lose the Time War. Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. This is the time-travelling queer epistolary romance ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Time’s Demon by D.B. Jackson

Time’s Demon, D.B. Jackson (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-793-9, $14.99, 490pp, pb) May 2019. Cover by Jan Wessbecher.

D.B. Jackson’s Time’s Demon is the sec­ond book in a series, the Islevale Cycle, that began with Time’s Children. I had been under the impression that it was the second book in a duology, but events proved this assump­tion wrong. It does its readers the courtesy of recapping the events of the ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang

The Ascent to Godhood, JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-16587-9, $12.99, 120pp, tp) July 2019. Cover by Yuko Shimizu.

JY Yang’s Tensorate novellas have always been inventive and ambitious, an ambition and a sense of verve and innovation that’s been recognised by several award nominations. All three of those novellas to date have stood more or less alone, but with the fourth, this year’s The Ascent to Godhood, Yang ...Read More

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Liz Bourke Reviews Velocity Weapon by Megan O’Keefe

Velocity Weapon, Megan O’Keefe (Orbit US 978-0-356-51222-8, $15.99, 544pp, tp) June 2019.

There’s really only one problem with Velocity Weapon, Megan E. O’Keefe’s first novel-length space opera, and that problem is something which ultimately isn’t a problem at all: the cover copy makes it sound like a vastly different novel than it really is, and kept me from enthusiastically devouring it for ages.

The last thing Sanda remembers is ...Read More

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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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