PanThe Guardian (UK)Alderman stays in SF techno-thriller mode for her new book, The Future, but the rattle is less readable this time round, and the \'what if?\' less engaging ... Reads like a first draft: unevenly paced, digressive, clogged with mini lectures about all sorts of thing ... It’s a shame, because Alderman is addressing some large and interesting questions, and a novel about the distorting pressure online life and social media apply to society is nothing if not timely. But the execution is lacking; after The Power, The Future feels like a backward step.
Helen MacDonald and Sin Blaché
RaveThe Guardian (UK)A fast-paced techno-thriller, with a high body count, zippy dialogue and an intriguing central mystery ... Macdonald and Blaché manage to fold in powerful reflections on loss and trauma. The balance of the lethal actualisation of happy memories with the sensitive, believable way the two main characters are shown processing their unhappy ones makes this novel a cut above the usual techno-thriller fare. H Is for Highly Recommended.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Bewilderment is a much narrower piece of writing than the capacious, multi-stranded The Overstory. The knife-edge of Robin’s moods is rendered with remarkable believability and sensitivity, and the love between son and father has an emotional truth and vividness that wrings the heart. But the focus is so tightly on these two, while the larger tragedy of a world increasingly poisoned and abused is so unremittingly pushed home, that the novel becomes rather claustrophobic ... Powers’s nature writing here is as beautifully observed and evocative as it’s ever been ... If Bewilderment is a little suffocating, it’s not because Powers’s sense of wonder at the natural world has waned: his descriptive writing is as spacious and poetic as ever ... But the narrowness of dramatic focus closes around the reader. Perhaps that is only fitting; perhaps we ought to feel suffocated by what is happening to our world. But activism is one thing, fiction another, and Bewilderment is unable to conceive of anyone except the wicked and the ignorant failing to join Theo and Robin in their intensity of belief ... polemical certainty cramps the novelistic form. Powers has extraordinary gifts as a writer and there is much to admire in this book, but it doesn’t reach the heights of his previous work.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Excellent scripts they are, too, and there is something televisual in the way Newland pitches his new novel: lots of visual description, busy with incident and plotty twists and turns ... A River Called Time reaches forward into a near-future alternate reality. If there are aspects of this worldbuilding that don’t entirely work, then maybe that reflects the broader influence on fiction of TV. Newland is certainly not the only contemporary writer trying to reproduce the immediacy and kinetic hustle of visual drama; but TV and novels tell stories in quite different ways, and sometimes that difference jars ... Newland gives his dystopia an extra spin by making it an alternate history. In this world European interactions with Africa, stretching back to Ancient Egypt, were treated as opportunities to learn and mingle, not to exploit and enslave. As a result, magical African abilities (squashed in our timeline, the implication is, by the horrors of colonialism) have flourished, becoming a kind of world religion ... The story is readable and absorbing ... His dialogue is good, as you might expect, but the descriptive prose is sometimes over-fruity. The desire to avoid cliche is commendable, but sometimes effortful stylistic ingenuity backfires ... Such moments are symptomatic of a writer straining for effect – aiming, perhaps, for a televisual vividness rather than resting content in more literary restraint. Vivid writing is better than bland writing, no question. But good writing is best of all.
N. K. Jemisin
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... there is certainly fun to be had in The City We Became, though I suspect that native New Yorkers will have more fun than out-of-towners...In other words, this is an intensely site-specific piece of fiction ... Jemisin is good on the interactions of her group – never too cosy; sparky, inclusive and likable – and her narrative is punctuated with enough incident to keep the reader reading ... The treatment is a little uneven. There’s a quantum-theoryish explanation for the strange goings on that feels redundant in a story that functions just fine as magical fantasy. I’m prepared to take on trust that Jemisin captures the specificity of her Brooklyn and Queens protagonists, but a character called Bel Nguyen, visiting from London, speaks like no Londoner I’ve ever met ... Running through all of The City We Became is Jemisin’s fizzing, vivid energy – we might add \'urban\' and \'street\' as descriptions too, acknowledging the ways these terms have become so racially, and often negatively, coded. Jemisin is well aware of this; her novel dramatises, and her characters specifically discuss, the city’s legacies of racism and bigotry...But none of this detracts from the fact that Jemisin just loves New York. That affection, that partiality, is all over this novel.
RaveThe Guardian...Fall is the best thing [Stephenson\'s] written in ages ... Reamde, like many of Stephenson’s books, was a Goliath-sized techno thriller, mixing info-dumps and action in a sometimes uneasy novelistic emulsion. Fall is a different sort of beast. The info-dumping is still there, of course – fans would expect nothing less – but this time it’s mixed in with an old-school fantasy novel, exploring the exotic, magical world of its virtual afterlife, Bitworld. There are even maps, although this being Stephenson the maps are in the process of being drawn as the story develops. He doesn’t usually write fantasy. On the evidence of Fall, he ought to do it more often ... Fall is, among other things, an interrogation of our lamentably post-truth world, and Stephenson rolls history a couple of decades into the future to depict a US completely unmoored from factual reality ... The satire here is smart and trenchant, if perhaps a little one-sided ...[Stephenson] expertly uses the sheer momentum he builds up in this enormous story. This is a novel with genuine heft. It keeps you reading, it makes you think, and, by the end, it generates that sense of wonder that is the very lifeblood of science fiction and fantasy.
PositiveThe GuardianExhalation’s nine stories are … fine. A couple are excellent, most are good, a couple don’t really work. It feels like damning the book with faint praise to say so, but isn’t that exactly how short-story collections generally work? ... there are enough classic Chiang shorts to make the collection something special ... The collection’s two finest stories both achieve this expert balance of the emotional and the cerebral. . The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)This is a long novel, and it’s not in a hurry to get where it’s going. Anders’s plotting isn’t thin, exactly; it’s just that storyline isn’t what she finds most interesting. Instead she draws the reader into the socio-political detail of her imagined world ... This is a millennial’s novel, featuring young people trying to make their way through an uncaring, corrupt and intermittently violent world. If this middle-aged reviewer found it sometimes hard to like the dramatis personae, that doubtless says more about the gap between real-world generations than about the novel. Though sometimes judgmental and self-righteous, Anders’s characters are also emotionally sophisticated and passionate, and this is heartfelt and absorbing fiction.
RaveThe GuardianTade Thompson’s debut novel, published in the US in 2016, is brilliant science fiction, at the cutting edge of contemporary genre ... Thompson expertly juggles all his disparate elements – alien encounter, cyberpunk-biopunk-Afropunk thriller, zombie-shocker, an off-kilter love story and an atmospheric portrait of a futuristic Nigeria. The book is sharply plotted and well written, with Kaaro’s narration achieving a sort of louche, disengaged charm ... [a] stellar debut.
Kim Stanley Robinson
PanThe Weekly StandardA promising set-up ... but laid-back is the whole novel. Red Moon never really sits forward, let alone gets to its feet. Mystery dissipates and narrative momentum stalls ... though it has the flavor of a young adult novel, Red Moon is too long and infodumpy to work as YA; and taken as adult fiction it’s stretched all too thin ... All this would matter less if the book lived up to Robinson’s usual standard of thought-provoking ideation. But it doesn’t. There’s no sense here of the buzzing interplay of concepts and analysis that characterized Robinson’s last novel ... There are various blots and clumsinesses, unusual for a writer as meticulous as Robinson ... Robinson usually writes better than this ... That Robinson has done all these things in earlier novels (and done them better) makes this book less Red Moon than Retread Moon.
PanThe GuardianAs in The Martian, Weir’s is a prose entirely without aesthetic ambition, flat and cheerful and a bit sweary. Nabokov it ain’t ... This time, though, authorial inexperience results in a markedly lumpier read than was the case in The Martian. Orchestrating a rather more complicated plot and many more characters tests Weir’s ability both to pace his story and to hold things together. The text is so laden with information and facts, it feels heavy even in one-sixth lunar gravity ... There’s no question that, commercially speaking, this novel is going to be a hit. But as a work of fiction it’s a crescent rather than a whole moon.
PositiveThe GuardianProvenance is a thoroughly decent science fiction novel that is readable, absorbing and ever so slightly so whatish ... Provenance is intricately, if linearly and rather shallowly, plotted. It leans heavily on the likeability of its protagonist to carry the reader through the ins and outs of its arcane social protocols, treaty terms and legal shenanigans. Ingray is a likeable heroine, but not a terribly remarkable one ... the mix of the estranging and the cosy is part of Leckie’s appeal, and her many fans will surely enjoy the way this new novel balances them. But we are entitled to wonder whether a thousand-year-old galactic empire saturated with futuristic technology would be quite so recognisable.
Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
MixedThe GuardianReal-world physicists talk about time travel as something theoretically possible but practically unachievable; Stephenson and Galland undertake things in this novel that are theoretically funny without ever making you laugh ... The temporal complications are farcical, but thinly so; the dialogue is often banter, but containing a very low ratio of humour to blathery exposition. Jokes are telegraphed. It’s the comedic equivalent of telling rather than showing ... Even so, though it’s no comic classic, The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is big, roomy and enjoyable. The historical scenes are refreshingly unembarrassed by their hey-nonny-nonnyisms. The characters are lively, the plot moves along and the whole thing possesses heart and charm.
PositiveThe Guardian...includes many of the same things that made the first book such a success: a believably grimy hi-tech world, complex characters, varied alien species, and above all the sheer likability of the whole. It has the same weaknesses, too: a tendency for characters to pootle about rather than move the larger plot forward, and a slight sense of authorial thumb-in-the-balance when it comes to stressing the upsides, never the downsides, of cultural, sexual and inter-species diversity ... In the character of Sidra, Chambers has created a memorable addition to this gallery: a rational computer intellect who grows wonderfully into her emotional life. Warm, engaging, properly science-fictional, A Closed and Common Orbit is a very likable novel indeed.
Kim Stanley Robinson
RaveThe GuardianThis is a large-scale novel, not only in terms of its 624 pages, but also the number of characters and storylines Robinson deploys, the sheer range of themes and topics ... Robinson is not a writer who does villains; none of his characters here is evil, although some are grubbier and more compromised than others. The villain in this novel is capitalism itself ... New York 2140 does what Robinson’s award-winning Mars books did: it creates a whole world in such compelling detail that the reader starts to suspect the author has actually been there, in a time machine, and has come back to file what amounts to documentary reportage ... New York 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation. Impressively ambitious, it bears comparison with other visionaries’ attempts to squeeze the sprawl and energy of the US between two covers: John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy and Don DeLillo’s Underworld.
RaveThe Guardian...[a] powerfully disorienting and brilliant novel ... Priest works a series of meditations on memory and inspiration, on the relationship between place and art. The Gradual is a time travel story, but one unlike any other I have read...[Priest] carefully constructs a much more filigree, intricate structure to embody its temporal slippage, and it is very much to Priest’s credit as a writer that this always feels coherent ... amazing, haunting, eloquently baffling and clever.
MixedThe GuardianVyleta takes this intriguing premise and works its ramifications cleverly into the rhythms of his story. Smoke is being marketed as a commercially canny hybrid of Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, and for once both comparisons are apt ... the book’s main problem is living up to its extraordinary opening chapters ... The momentum drains from the narrative in the latter half, and although the ending is a satisfying round-off, there’s a sense of a novel that doesn’t quite ignite ... despite glitches in its pacing, this is a novel that stays in the imagination long after it is read.
RaveThe Guardian\"The book manages to provide both the guilty pleasures of a fast-paced violent pulp and the more thoughtful moral depth of a genuine engagement with what the camps meant ... Like Tarantino, Tidhar may find that some people don\'t take him seriously. But the joke\'s on them. Seriousness is the least of it: A Man Lies Dreaming is a twisted masterpiece.\