Paul Di Filippo reviews Sisyphean by Dempow Torishima

Sisyphean, by Dempow Torishima (Haikasoru 978-1-4215-8082-1, $16.99, 304pp, trade paperback) March 2018

With this stellar debut volume–a “mosaic novel” depicting a world of infinite biomorphic perversity that feels at once surreal yet authentic; estranging yet welcoming; otherwordly yet familiar–Dempow Torishima gives the world a book of fantastika with very few literary precedents. Perhaps the closest correlative is the cult classic Moderan, by David Bunch, a long-out-of-print sui generis ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Real-Town Murders, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473221451, $28.99, 240pp, trade paperback) US edition April 2018

Starting in the year 2000, with the appearance of his first book, Salt, I have read (and mostly reviewed) all of the non-parody novels from Adam Roberts, except, for some forgotten reason, Gradisil. (Must save one Roberts treat for my dotage.) In those eighteen years he has never repeated himself and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Spirits of the Vasty Deep by Brian Stableford

Spirits of the Vasty Deep, by Brian Stableford (Snuggly Books 978-1-943813-54-4, $17.95, 300pp, trade paperback) March 2018

For a stretch of years in the recent past, the indefatigable and talented Brian Stableford was producing upwards of a dozen books annually. These consisted of his own fiction; translations for the essential Francophile publisher Black Coat Press; and non-fiction critical works, including the massive four-volume set New Atlantis: A Narrative History ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Origamy by Rachel Armstrong

Origamy, by Rachel Armstrong (NewCon Press 978-1910935781, $14.99, 256pp, trade paperback) April 2018

When she is not wearing her fiction-writer hat and offering us her debut SF novel, Dr. Rachel Armstrong is performing her duties as Professor of Experimental Architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Newcastle, and, like some character out of an early William Gibson novel, lecturing via TED Talks about “living buildings” ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Quietus by Tristan Palmgren

Quietus, by Tristan Palmgren (Angry Robot 978-0857667434, $12.99, 464pp, trade paperback) March 2018

Hidden spies from a high-tech culture inserted into the primitive polity of fellow humans in order to gather data, while obedient to a clause not to interfere. Oh, we must be talking about one of Connie Willis’s time-travel novels, or perhaps an installment of Kage Baker’s Company franchise. Maybe even The Man Who Fell to Earth ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

The Coincidence Makers, by Yova Blum (St. Martin’s 978-1250146113, $26.99, 304pp, hardcover) March 2018

It is a shame that English-speaking readers are deprived of two out of Yoav Blum’s three books to date, since they exist only in Israeli editions in his native land. Consider this description of his latest, The Unswitchable. “[The novel] takes place in a world where everybody has a bracelet that enables them to ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Bridges to Science Fiction and Fantasy: Outstanding Essays from the J. Lloyd Eaton Conferences

Bridges to Science Fiction and Fantasy: Outstanding Essays from the J. Lloyd Eaton Conferences, edited by Gregory Benford,‎ Gary Westfahl,‎ Howard V. Hendrix,‎ and Joseph D. Miller
(McFarland 978-1476669281, $26, 271pp, trade paperback) February 2018

Despite the flourishing of courses devoted to fantastika in the groves of academia, it seems to me that actually, in any given year, very few scholarly volumes emerge. Most of the non-fiction books–the candidates ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

Embers of War, by Gareth L. Powell (Titan 978-1785655180, $14.95, 411pp, trade paperback) February 2018

The first appearance in Interzone that I can track down for Gareth Powell’s fiction is “Memory Dust” in 2009, although he had been publishing elsewhere since 2004. But Interzone is where I personally discovered this marvelous fellow, and I am glad I did. When his pivotal story “Ack-Ack Macaque” showed up (the three allied ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Madness Is Better Than Defeat by Ned Beauman

Madness Is Better Than Defeat, by Ned Beauman (Knopf 978-0-385-35299-4, $27.95, 416pp, hardcover) February 2018

When I reviewed Ned Beauman’s first two novels–Boxer, Beetle and The Teleportation Accident–I concluded by citing “his endless fecundity of invention and specificity. No setting is unburnished, no individual, even walk-ons, left undistinguished. Second, and more amazing, is his patterning ability — a skill so important to an author yet one of ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Tim Wirkus’s The Infinite Future

The Infinite Future, by Tim Wirkus (Penguin Press 978-0-7352-2432-2, $28, 400pp, hardcover) January 2018

The concept of “steam engine time” should be familiar to most SF readers. The notion derives from a line by Charles Fort in his book Lo!. “A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time.” This initial formulation evolved into a broader principle, as defined by the Urban Dictionary: ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Charles Stross’ Dark State

Dark State, by Charles Stross (Tor 978-0-7653-3757-3, $25.99, 352pp, hc) January 2018.

Charles Stross launched his “Merchant Princes” franchise in 2004 with The Family Trade. There were subsequently five more volumes in what might be thought of as the “first season” of the enterprise. I was able to read the first two installments and review them for Scott Edelman, then editing the online zine SF Weekly. There I ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews K.J. Parker’s The Father of Lies

The Father of Lies, by K.J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1596068520, $40.00, 544pp, hardcover) 31 January 2018.

Like many other ultra-prolific and career-splitting authors before him (I’m thinking “Evan Hunter” and “Ed McBain” as an example), Tom Holt manages to put out multiple books every year, one or more under “Tom Holt,” and one or more under “K. J. Parker.” The year 2017 saw the publication of Holt’s The Management Style ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Ada Palmer’s The Will to Battle

The Will to Battle, by Ada Palmer (Tor 978-0-7653-7804-0, $26.99, 352pp, hardcover) 19 December 2017

In my consideration of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in a piece at The Barnes & Noble Review, I found this kickoff to her quartet to be rife with Bester-style pyrotechnics, complex and intriguing linguistic and sociopolitical speculations, deep moral and ethical issues, and maximalist kitchen-sink plotting. It was an awesome debut novel, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Until the Last Dog Dies by Robert Guffey

— Special to Locus Online —

Until the Last Dog Dies, by Robert Guffey (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-918-4, $15.99, 320pp, trade paperback) November 2017

Somewhere up on a cloud–or somewhere down in the abyss–the ghost of Lenny Bruce is leering approvingly upon Robert Guffey’s Until the Last Dog Dies, after which the savage shade will nod off with a spike in his arm. Guffey’s book is a rarity ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The Clingerman Files by Mildred Clingerman

The Clingerman Files, by Mildred Clingerman (edited by Mark Bradley) (Size 5 1/2 B Publishing, 978-1981219926, $25, 306pp, trade paperback) November 2017

Mildred Clingerman (1918-1997) was a writer I grew up on, and loved. Although her heyday came during the 1950s, before I began reading SF, I would run across her memorable tales reprinted in anthologies–and also in their original venues, as I began to accumulate back issues of ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers

Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers, Tim Powers (Baen 978-1-4814-8279-0, $25, 496pp, hardcover) November 2017.

Casual sports fans merely enjoy the games. Hardcore obsessive sports fans compile stats and follow the managerial maneuvers of the franchises. A similar dichotomy exists between casual readers of fantastika and the true aficionados. The latter nerds, such as myself, chart the careers of writers along several axes. And ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-267810-2, $25.99, 544pp, hardcover) November 2017

Even disregarding the familiar spectacle of publishers eagerly emulating the bestsellers of their rivals, we can notice that book people like mini-trends. So does the culture in general. No harm to the phenomenon, really, it’s just the way humans operate. Let something fresh become even modestly successful and suddenly the marketplace perceives a hitherto-unrecognized demand, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess

Above the Timberline, by Gregory Manchess (Simon & Schuster/Saga Press 978-1-4814-5923-5, $29.99, 240pp, hardcover) October 2017

For nearly twenty years I have been a member of an egroup called Fictionmags, founded by David Pringle, best known for his helming of Interzone. Our broad remit covers “all magazine fiction of any sort.” Populated with passionate readers and bibliophiles, the group naturally tends however to wander all over the literary map ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown 978-0-316-22083-5, $17.99, 384pp, hardcover) October 2017

The famously hazy interzone between fiction for adults and fiction for youths totally inverts, evaporates, resubstantiates, and turns into a four-dimensional labyrinth when we consider a novel such as Paolo Bacigalupi’s Tool of War. Demarcations and prohibitions and expectations become meaningless or double-valued, and in the end all one can say is that, no

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams

Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams (Simon & Schuster/Saga Press 978-1-4814-8997-3, $27.99, 544pp, hardcover) October 2017

Walter Jon Williams is one of those genre writers whose talents and ambitions are too large to be contained by any single mode of fantastika. He’s done space opera and near-future thrillers, high fantasy and steampunk, dystopias and cyberpunk. One never knows exactly what mode he will next attempt and conquer. His latest book does

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Jeff Noon

A Man of Shadows, by Jeff Noon (Angry Robot 978-0-85766-670-3, $14.99, 352pp, trade paperback) August 2017

Even for a reader old enough to have lived through the year 1993 and its associated fantastika publications, that period now seems impossibly distant and alien, an era akin to the Enlightenment or the Renaissance–or maybe the Dark Ages, given one’s particular slant on the past. For younger readers, the events and atmosphere

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Paul Di Filippo reviews C. Robert Cargill

Sea of Rust, by C. Robert Cargill (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-240583-8, $27.99, 384pp, hardcover) September 2017

Robots are obviously an SF “power chord,” an essential, irreplaceable, infinitely mutable trope. And so long as there have been robots, there have been tales of robot rebellions or uprisings. Obviously, Karel Čapek’s R.U.R from 1920 is a primary starting point. But today we are concerned only with a subset of the robot rebellion

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Paul Di Filippo reviews James Bradley

Clade, by James Bradley (Titan 978-1785654145, $14.95, 320pp, trade paperback September 2017; Penguin Australia, January 2015)

Clade is an irresistible title for a hardcore SF novel. I thought so in 2003 when a promising cyberpunk author named Mark Budz used it for his debut novel. (I ended up reviewing the subsequent well-done trilogy for Scott Edelman at SF Weekly. Alas, Budz has fallen silent since 2007.) I would stake

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind

The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter (Crown 978-1-5247-6012-0, $27, 496pp, hardcover August 2017 (UK: Orion/Gollancz 978-1473205093, £18.99, 464pp, hardcover) January 2017

In 1995, Stephen Baxter crafted an authorized sequel to H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, titled The Time Ships. I recall enjoying it immensely, and thinking that Baxter was a fine choice for such a project, and should do more such, in between his original

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Nat Segaloff

A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press 978-1610373234, $35.00, 448pp, hardcover) July 2017

Here is a sorta-kinda Harlan Ellison story you have never heard before, because it is known only to me, until now.

In 1968 I was a freshman at Lincoln High School (Rhode Island) and one morning during home-room period–the free time before classes began–I, a dyed-in-the-wool dorky SF junkie-nerd-geek,

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Paul Di Filippo reviews James Patrick Kelly

Mother Go, by James Patrick Kelly (Audible Studios B071LJTF1V, $29.95, audiobook) July 11, 2017

There are two exciting, out-of-the-ordinary aspects to the newest publication from James Patrick Kelly.

Of primary interest and importance is this: Mother Go constitutes his first novel since the appearance of Wildlife in 1994. To belabor the obvious math, that’s a gap of twenty-three years. Science fiction and the world at large have undergone about

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Paul Di Filippo reviews William Browning Spencer

The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories, by William Browning Spencer (Subterranean 978-1596068315, $40, 288pp, hardcover) July 31, 2017

The career of William Browning Spencer stretches back at least as far as 1990, when his first novel, Maybe I’ll Call Anna, appeared. A wild-eyed talent not easily categorizable–think David Bunch, Neal Barrett, Barrington Bayley, or Howard Waldrop–Spencer has had a notoriously hard time producing fiction and getting it

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Susan Casper

Up the Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper, edited by Gardner Dozois (Fantastic Books 978-1-5154-1028-7, $19.99, 452pp, trade paperback) July 18, 2017

Nowadays we feel, with lots of justification and pride in modern medical achievements, that seventy years old is too young to die. Yet that Biblical three-score-and-ten still looms as a numinous, even semi-uncanny milestone in anyone’s existence, a respectable span in which much can be

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Christopher Brown

Tropic of Kansas, by Christopher Brown (Harper Voyager 978-0-06-256381-1, $15.99, 480pp, trade paperback) July 2017

This debut novel from Chris Brown–many of whose earlier short stories appeared under the byline “Chris Nakashima-Brown”–has been long awaited by those who have keenly enjoyed his short fiction and essays since roughly 2004. (“The Launch Pad” appeared in the beautiful but short-lived reboot of Argosy in that year.) The wait proves worth it,

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Paul Di Filippo reviews K.J. Parker and James Morrow

Mightier Than the Sword by K. J. Parker (Subterranean 978-1-59606-817-9, $40, 136pp, hardcover) June 2017

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow (Tachyon Publications 978-1-61696-265-4, $14.95, 184pp, trade paperback) June 2017

It seems pretty nigh inarguable that novellas are hot right now. Long esteemed as the perfect mode for fantastika–since they allow for plentiful world-building, depth of characterization and density of plot, while still being a relatively quick snack

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland

The Rise and Fall of D. O. D. O., by Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland(HarperCollins/Morrow 978-0062409164, $35, 768pp, hardcover, June) 2017

Just after I had lamented, a few reviews ago, that authors were not inclined nowadays to indulge in old-school, one-on-one collaborations, along comes this giddy, engrossing romp of a novel authored by a team. It’s a seamless performance reminiscent of such ancestors as de Camp & Pratt, while

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