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 MoreRead more
The Brilliant Death, Amy Rose Capetta (Viking Books for Young Readers 978-0451478443, $18.99, 352pp, hc) October 2018.
I haven’t much followed Amy Rose Capetta’s career to date, though buried somewhere in the depths of my to-read pile is (I believe) a copy of her third novel, last year’s Echo After Echo. The Brilliant Death is Capetta’s fourth novel, set in a land reminiscent of Italy, where five great families with ...Read MoreRead more
Time’s Children, D.B. Jackson (Angry Robot 9780857667915, $12.99, 528pp, tp) October 2018. Cover by Jan Weßbecher.
D.B. Jackson is the pen-name of David B. Coe. The author has written several novels under each name, though I confess I’ve only a read a couple of those – Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, set in an alternate version of historical 18th-century Boston with magic. Time’s Children is the start of a new series, ...Read MoreRead more
In the Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard (JABberwocky 9781625673749, $5.99, 145pp, eb) October 2018. Cover by Kelsey Liggett.
Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace is a new short novel from an extremely talented author. At approximately 145 pages (or 49,000 words), it’s technically only a little longer than a novella, but it packs an epic amount of worldbuilding and character development into that short space.
The world is a ...Read MoreRead more
Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan (Jimmy Patterson Presents 978-0316561365, $18.99, 400pp, hc) November 2018.
In terms of worldbuilding, Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire works a lot better for me. Overall, it just purely works: part of that might be the sheer weight of feeling that Ngan packs into this, her third novel and fantasy debut. (And what an accomplished, explosive novel it is.)
Lei is the ...Read MoreRead more
Static Ruin, Corey J. White (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250195548, $15.99, 224pp, tp) November 2018. Cover by Tommy Arnold.
Corey J. White’s Static Ruin is the third – and for now final – volume in his Voidwitch Saga series of novellas. Static Ruin follows on from Void Black Shadow, and it’s much less of a hectic hot mess than that volume, and it serves up a decent helping of cathartic resolution – ...Read MoreRead more
The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum, Cynthia Ward (Aqueduct Press 978-1-61976-154-4, $12.00, 128pp, tp) October 2018.
This story follows on from the events of The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, in which Lucy Harker, half-vampire (dhampir) daughter of Mina Harker and Dracula and current agent for the British secret service, encountered the vampire Carmilla (famed in history, now reformed from murder and known as Clarimal) and found a deep attraction ...Read MoreRead more
Hidden Sun, Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot 978-0857668011, $12.99, 448pp, tp) September 2018. Cover by Andreas Rocha.
Jaine Fenn is probably best known for her Hidden Empire science fiction series, begun in 2008 with Principles of Angels, the last entry for which was Queen of Nowhere in 2013. Hidden Sun is her first novel-length publication in five years, and her first fantasy novel.
Well. For certain values of fantasy. It’s set ...Read MoreRead more
Salvation’s Fire, Justina Robson (Solaris 978-1781086087, £7.99, 432pp, pb) September 2018.
Salvation’s Fire is Leeds-native Justina Robson’s twelfth novel. Robson’s previous works have been finalists for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (Silver Screen, Mappa Mundi, Living Next Door to the God of Love) and the Philip K. Dick Award (Silver Screen, Natural History, Living Next Door to the God of Love), among others, but although she’s combined fantasy and science ...Read MoreRead more
Vigilance, Robert Jackson Bennett (Tor.com 978-1250209443, $14.99, 448pp, hc) January 2019.
People keep telling me I should read Robert Jackson Bennett’s work, and I keep meaning to. But his 196-page-long novella from Tor. com Publishing, is the first of his work I’ve actually managed to read so far, and, on the evidence, Bennett can pack a hell of a punch.
Vigilance is less a story than an intensely distilled mood, ...Read MoreRead more
Daughters of Forgotten Light, Sean Grigsby (Angry Robot 978-0857667953, $12.99, 352pp, tp) September 2018. Cover by John Coulthart.
I came away from Sean Grigsby’s debut novel, science fiction pulp extravaganza Daughters of Forgotten Light, deeply entertained, and moved by its apparent feminism and queer-inclusiveness – the latest in Angry Robot’s (really quite strong) feminist, queer-inclusive and fun pulp list. Further consideration, though, leaves me re-evaluating my initial impressions.
Don’t get ...Read MoreRead more
The Dreaming Stars, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0857667670, $7.99, 384pp, pb) September 2018. Cover by Paul Scott Canavan.
The theme of this month, for me, is science fiction that leaves me gleeful and delighted by how much it’s pandering to my taste for low adventure and high fun. Tim Pratt’s The Dreaming Stars is delightful. It follows The Wrong Stars, the first novel in his Axiom series. The Wrong Stars ...Read MoreRead more
Space Unicorn Blues, T.J. Berry (Angry Robot 978-0857667816 $12.99), 384pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Lee Gibbons.
I finished reading T.J. Berry’s debut novel, Space Unicorn Blues, and said to myself (and several other people): “Maybe Angry Robot Books is becoming the publisher of queer, feminist, sometimes-angry, sometimes-funny, anti-imperialist novels that we didn’t know we deserved.” Because Berry’s Space Unicorn Blues can join a list that includes (in the UK, ...Read MoreRead more
Redemption’s Blade, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris 978-1781085790, $11.99, 520pp, tp) July 2018.
Redemption’s Blade, like Adrian Tchaikovsky’s unrelated 2016 novella Spiderlight, is heavily influenced by the Tolkien tradition in epic fantasy. Unlike Tolkien, though, Tchaikovsky’s work is interested in – for want of a better word – the humanity of people on both sides of a war between “light” and “darkness”: the flaws and the good points on both sides of ...Read MoreRead more
War Cry, Brian McClellan (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250170163, $11.88, 112pp, tp) August 2018.
Brian McClellan is best known for his military fantasy, and War Cry doesn’t represent a change of pace. Teado is a Changer, a shapeshifter. He’s part of a military team stationed in the Bavares high plains, a remote and largely unpopulated area between the borders of two warring nations. Although he’s still young, he’s been there for years, ...Read MoreRead more
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing 978-1250294715, $11.99, 112pp, tp) August 2018.
The Black God’s Drums does leave me feeling very enthusiastic. This delightful novella is a breath of fresh air, and promises good things for P. Djèlí Clark’s career – though I should note that he already has no mean track record in shorter fiction.
The Black God’s Drums sets itself in a steampunk-esque alternate history ...Read MoreRead more
Adrift, Rob Boffard (Orbit 978-0356510439, £8.99, 400pp, pb) June 2018.
Adrift is Rob Boffard’s fourth novel and the first piece of his that I’ve read, and it makes me think I’ve been missing out by not noticing his work earlier. This is a strong, well-written effort with an ensemble cast and a solid science fictional setting.
Sigma Station used to be a mining station, but with the end of the ...Read MoreRead more
Furyborn, Claire Legrand (Sourcebooks Fire 978-1492656623, $18.99, 512pp, hc) May 2018.
Claire Legrand is the author of several novels for children and young adults. Her most recent novel is Furyborn, aimed at the YA market but with plenty that would appeal to adult readers of SFF.
Furyborn follows two young women, Rielle Dardenne and Eliana Ferracora, whose worlds are separated by a full millennium, but whose lives and perhaps destinies ...Read MoreRead more
The Expert System’s Brother, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-19756-6, $14.99, 174pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Raphael Lacoste.
The Expert System’s Brother is a new novella by Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky (Children of Time, Ironclads) from Tor.com Publishing’s well-regarded novella line. Tchaikovsky is developing quite a range when it comes to science fiction, from the near-future grim military story of Ironclads to the deep-time, far-future hard evolutionary ...Read MoreRead more
Point of Sighs, Melissa Scott (Lethe Press 978-1-59021-645-3, $18.00, 276pp, tp) May 2018. Cover by Ben Baldwin.
Melissa Scott’s Astreiant is a city to conjure with. It shares some commonalities with Ellen Kushner’s Riverside, though the first book, Point of Hopes (co-written with the late Lisa A. Barnett) was initially published in 1995 to Kushner’s Swordspoint‘s 1987. (And it involves a little less duelling.) Astreiant is a rich, complex setting, ...Read MoreRead more
Fire Dance, Ilana C. Myer (Tor 978-0-7653- 7832-3, $27.99, 368pp, hc) April 2018. Cover by Stephan Martinière.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Ilana C. Myer’s Fire Dance. Myer’s first novel, Last Song Before Night, left me feeling a little distant and disengaged from its action and characters. Fire Dance is its sequel, set a handful of months later. It has a few changes among its viewpoint characters ...Read MoreRead more
The Descent of Monsters, JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing 9 78-1-250-16585-5, $14.99, 168pp, tp). July 2018. Cover by Yuko Shimizo.
JY Yang has garnered several award nominations for The Black Tides of Heaven. Along with The Red Threads of Fortune, to which it is closely linked, The Black Tides of Heaven – a Hugo finalist in the Best Novella category, as well as a Nebula nominee – was published last August ...Read MoreRead more
Black Chamber, S.M. Stirling (Ace 978-0399586231, $16.00, 400pp, tp). July 2018.
I’ll confess I wasn’t expecting as many good things from S.M. Stirling’s Black Chamber as I actually found. I have a peculiar relationship with Stirling’s novels. I’ve read quite a few of them, starting with Island in the Sea of Time, and I liked them quite a bit more before I encountered the author on the internet, explaining history ...Read MoreRead more
Revenant Gun, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris 978-1781086070, $9.99, 400pp, pb). June 2018. Cover by Chris Moore.
Revenant Gun is the third volume in Yoon Ha Lee’s (excellent) Machineries of Empire trilogy. It’s an untraditional sort of trilogy: while all of the volumes continue the same story, they do so with different approaches and different major characters. Where Ninefox Gambit, the first book, focused on Kel Cheris, a mathematically talented military ...Read MoreRead more
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press 978-1534413498, $27.99, 304pp, hc). June 2018.
Like many of this year’s debuts, Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning has a great deal of anticipatory hype to live up to. A fantasy published by a major press that features Native American mythology, written by a Native author, Trail of Lightning carries a weight of expectations for representation that most works by (non-queer, at least) white ...Read MoreRead more
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, Alex White (Orbit 978-0-316-41206-3, $15.99, 470pp, tp). June 2018.
I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, but as it transpires, what I experienced is a lot weirder than I really anticipated. Good, but weird. White (Every Mountain Made Low, Alien: The Cold Forge) has written a compelling science ...Read MoreRead more
Latchkey, Nicole Kornher-Stace (Mythic Delirium 978-0-9889124-8- 9, $17.95, 336pp, tp) July 2018. Cover by Jacquelin de Leon.
Latchkey is the sequel to Nicole Kornher-Stace’s poorly known (and sorely underrated) Archivist Wasp. Archivist Wasp, published in 2015 by Big Mouth House, was a genre-straddling story: part post-apocalyptic coming-of-age tale and part fantasy quest, it structured itself as a literal katabasis – a descent to the underworld – in which a young ...Read MoreRead more
Though Hell Should Bar the Way, David Drake (Baen 978-1481483131, $25.00, 416pp, hc). April 2018.
Though Hell Should Bar the Way is the twelfth and latest novel in David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy (RCN) series, published in the UK by Titan Books and in the USA by Baen. Drake is well known for his command of military science fiction – his record of success stretches back to the Hammer’s ...Read MoreRead more
A Call to Vengeance, David Weber, Timothy Zahn & Thomas Pope (Baen 978-1476782102, $26.00, 480pp, hc) March 2018.
A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn & Thomas Pope is the third and latest novel in the Manticore Ascendant series, which began with A Call to Duty and continued in A Call to Arms. Set several hundred years prior to the events of Weber’s Honor Harrington novels, the series ...Read MoreRead more
Embers of War, Gareth L. Powell (Titan 978-1785655180, $14.95, 412pp, pb) February 2018.
While there are novels that unapologetically defy categorisation to a single subgenre, Embers of War is very definitely space opera – one might even say defiantly so. Gareth L. Powell’s previously best-known novel (Ack-Ack Macaque, joint winner of the 2013 BSFA Best Novel Award) isn’t the kind of work that would appear to lead into a seamless ...Read MoreRead more
A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-269930-5, $15.99, 304pp, tp). July 2018.
Speaking of good, let’s talk about Claire O’Dell’s A Study in Honor. O’Dell is an open pseudonym for Beth Bernobich (The Queen’s Hunt, The Time Roads) and this marks the author’s first novel-length foray into science fiction. And damn, what a novel it is. A Study in Honor is a near-future take on Sherlock Holmes and ...Read MoreRead more
The Empress of Timbra, Karen Healey & Robyn Fleming (self-published 978-0-473-42716-0, $4.99, ebook). February 2018. Cover art by Damonza.
The Empress of Timbra, co-authored by Robyn Fleming & Karen Healey (Guardian of the Dead, While We Run), turns out to be an unexpected delight. Its publication was funded through Fleming and Healey’s Kickstarter campaign, but it’s now widely available as an ebook. While Healey’s solo form is in YA, this ...Read MoreRead more