Paul Di Filippo Reviews Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers

Forced Perspectives, Tim Powers (Baen 978-1-9821-2440-3, 384pp, hardcover) March 2020

When I reviewed the first book in this series, Alternate Routes, for Asimov’s, I said the novel “continues Powers’s invigorating investigations into spirits from the vasty deep, employing an approach and tone he has not previously offered. As is to be expected, after such a long and vital congress with specters, Powers brings his A-game to the page.” ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Rambunctious by Rick Wilber

Rambunctious, Rick Wilber (WordFire Press 978-1-68057-068-7, hardcover) March 2020

Hewing to the high standards of probity that all reviewers should follow, I solemnly promise not to employ any easy baseball similes, metaphors, or analogies during this review of Rick Wilber’s new story collection, despite the fact that he is most famous, perhaps, for his alternate-history stories involving Moe Berg, Major League Baseball catcher and spy. And despite the fact ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Providence by Max Barry

Providence, Max Barry (Putnam’s 978-0593085172, $27, 320pp, hardcover) March 2020

I tend to create whimsical schools of writers in my own mind, where none necessarily exists in real life. Thus, I place Max Barry in a class with such folks as Ned Beauman, Karen Russell, Nick Harkaway, Matt Ruff, Reif Larsen and others: a clade of “Pop Culture-Savvy, Slipstreamy, High Concept, Maximalist, Always Pioneering New Territory Weirdos.” As silly, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Fighters of Fear, Edited by Mike Ashley

Fighters of Fear: Occult Detective Stories, edited by Mike Ashley (Talos 978-1945863523, $29.99, 624pp, hardcover) January 2020

It is a simple and undeniable fact that the past will in many ways always overpower and outweigh the present. It’s a matter involving sheer numbers and mass. The present is a tiny moving window of some quantum of time in which our consciousness lives. To be generous, let’s denominate “the present” ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Initiate by James L. Cambias

The Initiate, James L. Cambias (Baen 978-1-98212-435-9, $25, 288pp, hardcover) February 2020

Producing four superior novels in six years, starting with A Darkling Sea in 2014 and extending to the current one in 2020, James Cambias seems to have hit his stride, but not his peak. We can only anticipate many more fine books to follow.

Indicative of his desire always to be expanding his range, Cambias’s newest is ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, by Ken Liu (Saga 978-1982134037, $26, 432pp, hardcover) February 2020

Ken Liu is the kind of prodigious talent who makes mere mortals melt in despair at ever matching his accomplishments. He could have been content to remain a software engineer and lawyer, but instead he added to his CV the vocations of editor, translator, and fiction writer. If he had done any of ...Read More

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Near Future Speculator: Paul Di Filippo Reviews Unamerica, Rule of Capture, The Warehouse, and Future Tense Fiction

Unamerica, Cody Goodfellow (978-1732124059)

Rule of Capture, Christopher Brown (978-0062859099)

The Warehouse, Rob Hart (978-1-9848-2379-3)

Future Tense Fiction, edited by Kirsten Berg, Torie Bosch, Joey Eschrich, Ed Finn, Andrés Martinez and Juliet Ulman (978-1944700959)

The world is running a fever, and science fiction is the thermometer, if not also the febrifuge. That is, whenever the genre is not busy gallivanting across the galaxy, science fiction can, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews 2020 Vision, Edited by Jerry Pournelle

2020 Vision, Jerry Pournelle, ed. (Avon Books 18390, $.95, 192pp, paperback) February 1974

Friedrich Nietzsche famously opined, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” I’d like to contribute a corollary observation: “When you stare into the future, you invite the future to stare back at you.” Every attempt at speculative forecasting, every probe of futurity, invites a look in the rear-view ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Novellas by David Sandner & Jacob Weisman, Robert Levy, and James Patrick Kelly

Mingus Fingers, David Sandner & Jacob Weisman (Fairwood 978-1933846873, $8, 68pp, trade paperback) November 2019

The boom in novellas shows no signs of petering out, as their bite-sized yet sufficiently mouth-filling substantiality continues to appeal to readers who want more than a short story but less than a novel. Here we have a go at three recent fine examples of the form.

If I had a time machine, one ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds, Simon Jimenez ((Del Rey 978-0-593-12898-5, $27, 400pp, hardcover) January 2020

Simon Jimenez’s touching, bold, surprising, gorgeous debut novel—a certain manner of postmodern space opera, despite the fantasy-resonant title—is not only the best debut novel I’ve read in ages, but simply one of the best SF novels in recent memory. I am reminded of the excitement I felt when encountering A.A. Attanasio’s Radix (1981). If The Vanished ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Anyone by Charles Soule

Anyone, Charles Soule (Harper Perennial 978-0-06-289063-4, $21.99, 432pp, hardcover) December 2019

Alas for me, I have not yet had a chance to read Charles Soule’s well-regarded debut novel from 2018, The Oracle Year. But I have certainly enjoyed his clever, inventive, and exciting comics scripting, on such titles as Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and She-Hulk. So I came to his sophomore book, Anyone, expecting a treat, and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Shadows in the Stone by Jack Dann

Shadows in the Stone, Jack Dann (IFWG Publishing 978-1-925956-36-8, $18.99, 362pp, trade paperback) November 2019

The Christian “heresy” of Gnosticism offers a fascinating mythos, a disturbing philosophy, and a ready-made set of fantasy props and beings that could be adapted for fictional narratives. Put very simply, Gnosticism holds that all of material creation, rather than standing as the shining example of a benign creator’s will, is a diseased prison ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Best of Uncanny, Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

The Best of Uncanny, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, eds. (Subterranean 978-1596069183, $40, 680pp, hardcover) December 2019

In this challenging, ever-mutable internet era, when publishers are continually searching for ways to find an audience and stay alive, a magazine can take many forms. Some remain old-school print-only. Some are exclusively web-based. Others are hybrids on a regular basis. But one other interesting business model for zines that ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The New Voices of Science Fiction, Edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman

The New Voices of Science Fiction, Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman, eds. (Tachyon 978-1-61696-291-3, 432pp, $17.95) November 2019

In the deep past of our genre, how did one become a notable new writer? The first step back then was always the same as it is now: publish some good, standout stories as your apprentice and journeyman work. But subsequent public recognition in the days when print magazines dominated the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews World Engines: Destroyer by Stephen Baxter

World Engines: Destroyer, Stephen Baxter (UK: Gollancz 978-1473223172, £20, 576pp, hardcover) September 2019

As nearly as I can suss out, Stephen Baxter currently has no publisher in the USA. His last three books in his classic Xeelee series—Xeelee Endurance (2015), Xeelee Vengeance (2017) and Xeelee Redemption (2018)—appeared from Gollancz in the UK, but not here. And this newest one has no American edition either.

Now, thanks to the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews All Worlds Are Real by Susan Palwick

All Worlds Are Real Era, Susan Palwick (Fairwood 978-1933846842, $17.99, 322pp, hardcover) November 2019

With the publication of her new story collection, All Worlds Are Real, Susan Palwick charts her sixth book over the course of her 35 years of professional publication. Measured reductionistically by number of pages produced, she has not been extremely prolific. But when gauged by the quality of her prose and the allure and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Supernova Era by Cixin Liu

Supernova Era, Cixin Liu (Tor 978-1250306036, $27.99, 352pp, hardcover) October 2019

The Anglophone market for foreign fantastika often seems to have one significant niche available per era. No matter how many non-English-speaking authors are producing interesting material, only a single name becomes widely translated and prominent. For the longest time during the earliest years of the genre, that berth was filled of course by Jules Verne. Then by Lem. ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Antediluvian by Wil McCarthy

Antediluvian, Wil McCarthy (Baen 978-1-4814-8431-2, $25, 320pp, hardcover) October 2019

Award-winning author Wil McCarthy has not brought forth a novel since—if I am reading his ISFDB entry aright—2005’s To Crush the Moon, and I suspect a whole new generation of readers is unfamiliar with his name and accomplishments: the ability to splendidly blend solid scientific outrageousness with slambang action and likable Everyman characters. That’s a shame, since, as ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost, Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey 978-0399178856, 512pp, $32.00, hardcover) October 2019

I’m always chuffed when a review of mine provides a sentence that is deemed blurb-worthy by a publisher. This just happened with my review of Peter Hamilton’s novel Salvation from 2018. I appear on the back cover of the brand-new sequel, Salvation Lost, saying, “It’s a bravura performance from start to finish… Hamilton is juggling ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Hollywood North by Michael Libling

Hollywood North, Michael Libling (ChiZine Publications 978-1-77148-490-9, $17.99, 360pp, trade paperback) September 2019

After winning a World Fantasy Award in 2015, ChiZine Publications has continued even more strongly than before as a powerhouse of offbeat fantastika, publishing dozens of titles from such visionary luminaries as Bracken MacLeod, Helen Marshall, and David Nickle. Their latest is the debut novel of Michael Libling, based on his award-nominated short with the same ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews First Cosmic Velocity by Zach Powers

First Cosmic Velocity, Zach Powers (Putnam 978-0525539278, $26, 352pp, hardcover) August 2019

Thirty years after the fall of the Soviet Union (counting from the initial revolts of the satellite nations in 1989, albeit not from the official dissolution date of 1991)—and ignoring all the present complicated realities that remnant Russia entails on the geopolitical scene—the era of the Communist empire (roughly starting in 1917) seems—at least to my perceptions, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Silver Wind by Nina Allan

The Silver Wind, Nina Allan (Titan 978-1789091694, $14.95, 368pp, trade paperback) September 2019

There’s a certain kind of SF that no one does better than the British. Eerie, ambiguous, sly, multivalent, sensitive to the nuanced emotional weather of the protagonists, highly naturalistic despite the weirdness…. If I mention the names Christopher Priest, Brian Aldiss, D.G. Compton and, on the horror end of the spectrum, Robert Aickman, I think you’ll ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The City and the Cygnets by Michael Bishop

The City and the Cygnets, Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press/Kudzu Planet Productions 978-1933846781, $19.99, 466pp, trade paperback) August 2019

Many authors can’t resist the temptation to revisit the work of their younger selves and do a little improving, while others subscribe to the famous verse by Omar Khayyám: “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,/Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit/Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,/Nor ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Sing Your Sadness Deep by Laura Mauro

Sing Your Sadness Deep, Laura Mauro (Undertow 978-1988964133, $27.99, 236pp, hardcover) August 2019

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of Undertow Publications, under the aegis of Michael Kelly, who wears a second hat as an accomplished fiction writer himself, thus continuing the field’s grand tradition of editors who know how stories are put together from the inside out (Knight, Dozois, Campbell, et. al). During that span ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes by Howard V. Hendrix

The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes: Analog Stories for a Digital Age, Howard V. Hendrix (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-77-4, $17.99, 318pp, trade paperback) August 2019

I do believe I’ve read all six of Howard Hendrix’s ingenious, well-crafted and entertaining novels, all of which I’ve enjoyed immensely. When, retrospectively, his output of novels seemed to cease with Spears of God, in 2006, I was dismayed and sad. For one reason or ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Radicalized by Cory Doctorow

Radicalized, Cory Doctorow (Tor 978-1250228581, $26.99, 304pp, hc) March 2019.

There’s a glib and half-serious theory that the career of every SF writer is contained in embryonic form in their first short-story sale. For Cory Doctorow, this critical trick holds partially true. His first major work – “Craphound” from 1998 – displayed his affinity for droll humor laced with melancholy; his hipness and intimacy with trends, fads, and bubbling-under ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Stealing Worlds by Karl Schroeder

Stealing Worlds, Karl Schroeder (Tor 978-0-7653-9998-4, $29.99, 320pp, hardcover) June 2019

There are a handful of SF writers whose novels are both vastly entertaining and which also serve as engineer-level blueprints for refashioning the world. In this category I would put Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and Charles Stross. Now, with a shift in his focus from far futures ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman

The Ghost Clause, Howard Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 978-0544987296, $27, 256pp, hardcover) July 2019

Never having read any of Howard Norman’s previous dozen widely acclaimed books, I was eager to have cause to trek through his newest, due to its falling within my fantastika remit. I discovered a charming, meticulously crafted, laid-back ghost story, a kind of inversion of Thorne Smith’s Topper, not quite so absurdist. Whereas, in that ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Intimations of Death by Felix Timmermans

Intimations of Death, Felix Timmermans (Valancourt Books 978-1948405409, $15.99, 152pp, trade paperback) July 2019

The past is a seemingly inexhaustible trove of forgotten wonders. At least so the current literary rediscovery and reprint bonanza would tell us. (With concurrence from the music world, where lost tapes of fabulous concerts resurface regularly.) Formerly rare and unobtainable and legendary volumes such as The Ship That Sailed to Mars and The Temple ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

The Lesson, Cadwell Turnbull (Blackstone 978-1538584644, $26.99, 290pp, hardcover) June 2019

The nations of the Caribbean are so close to the USA, and share such a rich, tangled, fraught history with the States, that one would imagine many writers would have capitalized on the consanguinity to set their fantasies or futures there. And yet the bibliography at the handy website Caribbean SF lists titles for only thirty-some relevant novels. ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The Grand Dark, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-267249-0, $26.99, 432pp, hardcover) June 2019

The history, culture, folklore, politics and superstitions of Middle Europe — otherwise Central Europe or, more exotically, Mitteleuropa, countries including Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and Albania — offer a rich mine of narrative and thematic possibilities. The same goes for the lands ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Recursion by Blake Crouch

Recursion, Blake Crouch (Crown 978-1-5247-5978-0, $27, 336pp, hardcover) June 2019

It’s easy to recognize a certain kind of technothriller bestseller, even one that’s skillfully done. The characters are not necessarily flat, but, for easy readerly absorption, they spring from readily identifiable societal niches: cop, businessman, housewife, general, terrorist. The language is pared down and highly cinematic, with lots of scenes plainly intended for the big screen. Not much introspection ...Read More

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