Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Best of Lucius Shepard Volume Two

The Best of Lucius Shepard Volume Two, edited by Bill Sheehan (Subterranean Press 978-1645240358, hardcover, 844pp, $50.00) December 2021.

When Subterranean Press gifted us all with The Best of Lucius Shepard in 2008, the author still walked among us, with some six productive years left in his wide-ranging, extravagant, hectic, and literarily prolific life. (He died in 2014 at the too-young-but-still-amazing-for-his-profligate-ways age of seventy.) One can presume Shepard had ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Michael Bishop’s A Few Last Words for the Late Immortals

A Few Last Words for the Late Immortals, Michael Bishop (Fairwood Press 978-1933846125, trade paperback, 250pp, $17.99) November 2021.

Fairwood Press has become the classy home to many of Michael Bishop’s fine books from his large and exciting backlist. They have now issued a dozen of his titles, all extensively revised by the author. But this latest compilation is something very different, a brand-new assemblage of poetry and flash ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Mike Ashley’s Nature’s Warnings: Classic Stories of Eco-Science Fiction

Nature’s Warnings: Classic Stories of Eco-Science Fiction, edited by Mike Ashley (British Library Publishing ‎ ‎ 978-0712353571, trade paperback, 320pp, $16.95) November 2021.

Being an anthologist is much like being a party host. If you have excellent taste in people (or stories) and know a lot of interesting people (or stories) and can instinctively or cleverly create harmonious or synergistic or even antagonistic assemblages of people (or stories), you ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories by Tobias S. Buckell

Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories, Tobias S. Buckell (Fairwood Press ‎ 978-1933846187, trade paperback, 328pp, $17.99) November 2021.

The twentieth anniversary of Tobias Buckell’s first story appearance, “The Fish Merchant,” in Science Fiction Age for March 2000 (making him one of editor Scott Edelman’s many insightful launches), has come and gone without much ado, although by rights it should have been celebrated widely. For Buckell has become a ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

The Fall of Babel, Josiah Bancroft (Orbit 978-0316518192, trade paperback, 672pp, $17.99) November 2021.

As everyone from gymnasts to songwriters knows, “sticking the landing” is essential for creating an artistic triumph. You might be doing great for nine-tenths of your balance-beam ballet or your three-minute pop tune, but unless you go out elegantly, with a bang, and in fulfillment of all that you have set up earlier, after prepping ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Galaxias by Stephen Baxter

Galaxias, Stephen Baxter (Gollancz 978-1473228863, trade paperback, 544pp, $22.84) October 2021.

Stephen Baxter’s latest novel is a mind-expanding trip into an unpredictable but scientifically rigorous future—in other words, one of his patented Hard SF wonderworks. But much as I enjoyed it, my reading pleasures only bloomed after I had dashed some of my perhaps not-unwarranted expectations. I was ready to read Wylie and Balmer’s When Worlds Collide, and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Shadows of Eternity by Gregory Benford

Shadows of Eternity, Gregory Benford (Saga 978-1534443624, 496pp, $27.99) October 2021.

It’s hard to label any book the “capstone” to a career when the author in question is still lively, vibrant, intellectually bold, ambitious, au courant, and masterfully proficient. Who knows what new heights such a person might reach beyond the current title? And yet one is tempted to attach this label to Greg Benford’s newest, Shadows of Eternity, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Juicy Ghosts by Rudy Rucker

Juicy Ghosts, Rudy Rucker (Transreal Books 978-1940948485, 332pp, $24.95) September 2021.

If any currently working SF author can be held up as an instance of the main thesis in that valuable but sadly underutilized volume by the Panshins—The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence—then Rudy Rucker is that writer. All his work involves humanity’s desire to reach or at least to observe ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Stanisław Lem’s The Truth and Other Stories

The Truth and Other Stories , Stanisław Lem (The MIT Press ‎ 978-0262046084, 344pp, $39.95) September 2021.

“Of these twelve short stories by science fiction master Stanisław Lem, only three have previously appeared in English, making this the first ‘new’ book of fiction by Lem since the late 1980s.” Thus reads the press release accompanying this hot-off-the-presses volume (from a somewhat unlikely source, MIT Press), a plain and sober statement ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Bewilderment , Richard Powers (Norton 978-0393881141, 288pp, $27.95) September 2021.

Since his first book in 1985, Richard Powers has published a dozen novels, with this newest one being his lucky thirteenth. In one way or another, to one degree or another, they have all manifested deep concern with matters of technology and culture, the core remit of SF. Some, such as Galatea 2.2, have been flat-out undeniable science fiction. ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Scholars of Night by John M. Ford

The Scholars of Night, John M. Ford (Tor 978-1250269171, 256pp, $18.99) September 2021.

While we all eagerly await the heretofore-unseen last novel by John M. Ford, Aspects, due in April of next year, we will have to quench our desires for all things Fordian with the various reprints that are tilling the soil for that harvest. We earlier got The Dragon Waiting (my review here) which had gone ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

In the Watchful City , S. Qiouyi Lu (Tor.com 978-1250792983, 192pp, $14.99) August 2021.

Close as I can discern, S. Qiouyi Lu began their career circa 2016, with a story in Strange Horizons titled “Her Sacred Spirit Soars.” (Although their CV does list a poem from one year earlier, “Particularities.”) In either case, the succeeding short span of years have been filled with a respectable number of tales from their ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Appleseed by Matt Bell

Appleseed, Matt Bell (Custom House ‎ 978-0063040144, 480pp, $27.99) July 2021.

Matt Bell is a writer whose whole oeuvre (a couple of previous novels and several story collections) is plainly steeped in the elements of fantastika; a writer who is manifestly cognizant of all the hardcore tropes of the genre, able to deploy them deftly. But he is published outside the genre fences, and hailed as non-denominational Literature with ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Everything in All the Wrong Order by Chaz Brenchley

Everything in All the Wrong Order: The Best of Chaz Brenchley, Chaz Brenchley (Subterranean ‎ ‎978-1645240112, 568pp, $45.00) August 2021.

Starting in 1974 with The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ballantine Books began issuing a series of best-of volumes that became a definitive record of canonical authors and stories, providing a reading map and sense of history for a generation or two of readers. (To a lesser extent, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Reclaimed by Madeleine Roux

Reclaimed, Madeleine Roux (Ace 978-0451491855, 320pp, $17.00) August 2021.

Not many tropes derive their name from one specific seminal work of art. And yet such a thing did happen with the 1932 Karloff spookfest, The Old Dark House. Over the decades, the movie gradually lent its name to a whole genre or iconography, whose lineaments are now so familiar that their invocation often results in cliché. But mashing ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews City of Iron and Dust by J.P. Oakes

City of Iron and Dust, J.P. Oakes (Titan ‎ 978-1789097108, 400pp, $15.95) July 2021.

If Joe Abercrombie climbed into his time machine to visit famed Black crime writer Chester Himes, and they then collaborated on a new version of the as-yet-unborn Cotton Comes to Harlem, the result might very well resemble Oakes’s debut novel, City of Iron and Dust. The book is a grim’n’gritty yet often blackly humorous ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

The Hidden Palace, Helene Wecker (Harper 978-0062468710, 480pp, $28.99) June 2021.

Helene Wecker’s sequel to her stunning 2013 debut, The Golem and the Jinni [reviewed here], succeeds 100 percent in recapturing the assured voice, the delicate magic, the solid historical verisimilitude, and the engaging interplay of personalities that she delivered in the first book. But she does not merely replicate all the pleasures, plot points, devices, and charms of ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Sidewinders by Robert V.S. Redick

Sidewinders, Robert V.S. Redick (Talos 978-1945863608, 672pp, $25.99) July 2021.

Worldbuilding has developed a bad rap lately. The meticulous and detailed creation of another realm “beyond the fields we know,” with novel cultures, languages, religions, history, geography, flora and fauna, is somehow deemed oppressive and pedantic and tiresome. Well, duh, yeah—if it’s done badly and ham-handedly. Like any tool in the writer’s toolkit, worldbuilding can be employed deftly and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Man Who Never Was by R.A. Lafferty

The Man Who Never Was, R.A. Lafferty (Centipede Press 978-1-61347-266-8, $65.00, 384pp, hc) March 2021.

By literally eyeballing the list of Lafferty short stories at ISFDB, I get a rough count for his canon of some 200 to 250 short stories. This figure consorts with what his Wikipedia entry maintains. The current Centipede Press series collecting his less-than-novel-length oeuvre is featuring about 20 stories per volume. So now, with ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo and Adrienne Martini Review The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

The Blacktongue Thief, Christopher Buehlman (Tor 978-1250621191, $25.99, 416pp, hc) May 2021.

Author of five previous novels, Christopher Buehlman had not previously fallen across my radar screen. But certainly my enjoyment of his newest, The Blacktongue Thief, will propel me to search out his earlier books. What he has delivered in this sixth of his tales is a glorious overstuffed “secondary world” fantasy that manages to balance the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

Day Zero, C. Robert Cargill (Harper Voyager 978-0062405807, $27.99, 304pp, hc) May 2021.

This era seems a Golden Age for fictional examinations of artificial intelligence, plumbing the deeper meaning of robot consciousness and even silicon emotions. With recent novels such as Today I Am Carey, Set My Heart to Five, Barren Cove, and The Hierarchies, along with films like Ex Machina, Zoe, Blade Runner ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Cretaceous Past by Cixin Liu

The Cretaceous Past, Cixin Liu (Subterranean 978-1645240150, $40.00, 192pp, hc) May 2021.

One of the amazing things about Cixin Liu’s writing, as I observed when I reviewed his short-story collection To Hold Up the Sky, is that “he is at once a radical and a conservative, an optimist and a pessimist, a member of the Old Guard and of the New Wave simultaneously.” His tales have a way ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

We Are Satellites, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley 978-1984802606, $16.00, 400pp, pb) May 2021.

Can science fiction—so often seen as the literature of the cosmic, the outré, the wide-screen perspective, populated by larger-than-life loners—ever be successfully hybridized with the naturalistic, domestic novel—the artistic glorification of the mundane, the quotidian, the miniaturist perspective, populated by uniquely average and intriguingly commonplace interrelated folks? This is a question famously asked by Ursula Le Guin ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias

The Godel Operation, James L. Cambias (Baen 978-1982125561, 288pp, $16.00, tp) May 2021.

Readers of a certain vintage might recall that before the term “cyberpunk” crystallized and assumed critical dominance, there were proposals to call the cutting-edge SF of the 1980s “Radical Hard SF.” I’d like to now propose that we invent or recognize a sub-genre called “Radical Fun SF,” and that we put James Cambias at the top ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Best of Harry Turtledove by Harry Turtledove

The Best of Harry Turtledove, Harry Turtledove (Subterranean 978-1645240228, 584pp, $45.00) April 2021.

There was once a filksong dedicated to Gordon Dickson’s reputation for partying. I seem to recall the refrain went like this:

Gordy Dickson, Gordy Dickson, Gordy Dickson, he’s the one. Science fiction is his hobby, but his main job’s having fun!

I’d like to repurpose that tune for Harry Turtledove. I am not aware of any ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Unity by Elly Bangs

Unity, Elly Bangs (Tachyon 978-1616963422, 304pp, $15.95) April 2021.

This debut novel by Elly Bangs rockets out of the starting gate with the high-powered energy of such nth-gen cyberpunk as Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, before settling down towards its climax into a (comparatively) meditative ramble on identity, kinship, communication, and individual responsibility for the survival of the species. Along the way, there’s seldom a dull moment—although the success ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Stormland by John Shirley

Stormland, John Shirley (Blackstone Publishing 978-1094017822, 368pp, $26.99, hc) April 2021.

Once upon a time, there were two factions of SF writers: the humanists and the cyberpunks. Their differing narrative stances and methodologies, themes, and angles of attack basically broke down along lines of optimistic/pessimistic; liberal/anarchic; spiritual/nihilistic. Of course there were gradations and overlaps, anomalies and paradoxes among and between the two camps; and surely the whole dichotomy is ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Complete Ivy Frost by Donald Wandrei

The Complete Ivy Frost, Donald Wandrei (Haffner Press 978-1893887619, 720pp, $49.99, hardcover) December 2020

Haffner Press has been gifting the world of bibliophiles and literature-lovers with enormously attractive and highly readable books since 1998, when they published Jack Williamson’s The Queen of the Legion. (For a complete record of their offerings, visit their ISFDB page.) Any publication from Haffner exemplifies craftsmanship, graphic design ingenuity, and attention to textual ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Purgatory Mount by Adam Roberts

Purgatory Mount, Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-1473230941, 336pp, L16.99, hardcover) February 2021

Last year marked the generally under-recognized 20th anniversary of Adam Roberts’s first novel, Salt, and the launching of his career. His prodigious and impressive output in the past two decades has earned him a reputation as one of the field’s most delightfully surprising, adept, and formalistically variant authors. His novums are always startling and innovative and cutting-edge, ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews Robot Artists & Black Swans: The Italian Fantascienza Stories by Bruce Sterling

Robot Artists & Black Swans: The Italian Fantascienza Stories, Bruce Sterling (Tachyon 978-1616963293, 256pp, $25.95, hardcover) April 2021

Certain superficial things change over time, while other essential phenomena remain fixed and permanent. Cyberpunk was born a bit over 35 years ago, and the world is a much different place now than it was in 1985. So it’s foolish to imagine that cyberpunk writing would persist unchanged, adhering to the ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck

The Memory Theater, Karin Tidbeck (Pantheon 978-1524748333, 240pp, $25.95, hardcover) February 2021

When I reviewed Karin Tidbeck’s story collection Jagannath at The Barnes & Noble Review, I said that it distilled and hybridized “almost every writer in the VanderMeers’ massive anthology The Weird. A century’s worth of potent surrealism and estrangement surge through her veins and onto the page.” With the publication of her new novel, I’ll have ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Society of Time by John Brunner

The Society of Time, John Brunner (edited by Mike Ashley) (The British Library 978-0712353823, 288pp, hardcover) November 2020

Was John Brunner’s life a tragedy? In some undeniable senses, yes. Possessed of enormous talents, but also an array of character faults, he became his own worst enemy and his later-era career suffered immensely—in large part due to one poor decision to stake too much effort and hopes on a mainstream ...Read More

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