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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Stormsong, C.L. Polk ( 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

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews Docile by K.M. Szpara

Docile, K.M. Szpara ( 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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey ( 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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather

Sisters of the Vast Black, Lina Rather ( 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

Read more

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

Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir ( 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

Read more

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 ( 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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang

The Ascent to Godhood, JY Yang ( 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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Liz Bourke Reviews The Fire Opal Mechanism by Fran Wilde

The Fire Opal Mechanism, Fran Wilde ( 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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more