PositiveTor.comCompelling, sometimes perplexing ... Walk the Vanished Earth is a book that I read easily, steadily, from beginning to end. Swan is particularly good at small, unassuming turns of phrase that employ the familiar fixed cadence and sense of economy that characterizes most of American creative nonfiction ... A contemporary exploration of cultural historiography that is usually downplayed in mainstream science fiction that prioritizes people and survival. It shines best when Swan is on the edge of introducing us to something new ... The result is at times an uneven read, mostly in the earlier chapters, that are eventually eclipsed by Swan’s crisp prose, bold scope, and earnest vision for an uncertain new world.
RaveTor.com...as consistently gripping as the first ... Moon Witch, Spider King spins a rich narrative web around Sogolon—the titular Moon Witch who appears in the previous book ... even before she got her own book, Sogolon was one of this world’s most fascinating characters whose painful development is a bloody, brutal example of the transformative magic of fiction ... Moon Witch is by and large a coming-of-age story filled with perplexing politics and arcane worldbuilding. As others have said before me, it’s reductive to compare James’ fantasy work in this way. He isn’t borrowing from famous parts of history, or drawing parallels, or using heaping spoonfuls of metaphor—he’s creating something non-standard and non-compliant and non-traditional on his own ... James’ prose is equal parts hostile and magnetic and presents a sort of cognitive challenge for the passive reader ... It’s all arguably a transformative use of violence, if you’re prepared to sit in for the long haul to see how this particular recipe of fictional alchemy pans out. But as with life, even the bleakest moments in the book are imbued with James’ subtle, wry humor that rekindles very necessary moments of fire and humanity in its suffering characters ... exhilerating and exhausting ... best digested as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Yan Ge tr. Jeremy Tiang
RaveTor.com\"... a beautifully-threaded story of Yong’an’s titular beasts through the eyes of a zoologist-turned-novelist with a penchant for booze and impulsive decisions ... Yan Ge’s prose shines as she layers a well-crafted meta-narrative about otherness—beastliness—over the small, short lives of human Yong’an society ... Yan Ge walks a masterful balance between economy and emotion—each sentence is exactly what it needs to be, nothing more, nothing less. It makes for a magnetic reading experience, especially coupled with the short anthropological coda of each chapter that ties in with the protagonist’s formal training in zoology ... the novel reveals its heart as a peculiar but moving love story ... It’s a story that stays with you long after you finish turning its pages, especially its evocative descriptions of its beastly inhabitants and the protagonist’s semi-cryptic inner monologues that illustrate the beauty of sometimes not knowing—or choosing not to know.
RaveTor.com... a richly rewarding look at identity and independence as Sankofa develops her own convictions, even as everything she knows and loves—her home on a shea fruit farm, her family, her identity—is taken away from her. At times bloody and grim, Okorafor’s straightforward prose highlights Sankofa’s precociousness as she tries to make sense of her frightening new abilities ... One of the most striking sections of the novella is where Sankofa is persuaded to embrace the idea of normalcy. Here, Okorafor illuminates a painful part of the teenage psyche ... Okorafor adds just the right touches of adult condescension and pubescent compliance to build a familiar scenario that resonates with many a reader—memories of being young and confused and stubborn, but secretly hoping for guidance and acceptance ... while references to \'remote control\' within the context of witchcraft escaped me, it conjured an elusive sense of mystery that kept the pages turning until there was nothing left to read ... Some of the most pleasant passages are where Sankofa spends time in the bush, away from prying eyes and opportunistic adults who might use or abuse her. It speaks to a long heritage of fiction that explores young personhood and its place in nature, where human concepts of control are absurd and arbitrary ... Okorafor smartly avoids needless worldbuilding details—instead, she drops neatly-sized crumbs that draw easy parallels between our current reality and Sankofa’s world ... a charming read, opening up a universe of possibilities for more (or perhaps, in a world where we expect things to go on forever, perhaps Remote Control is, in fact, just right as it is).
Sayaka Murata, tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori
MixedTor.comMurata revels in the otherness itself rather than the implications, losing some of the bite of her previous work ... In Convience Store Woman, Murata shows a deft hand, expertly assessing and critiquing society on both sides of the coin; both the bought-in and the othered. However, in Earthlings, Murata doesn’t allow herself the same nuance, and instead seems to feel the need to up the ante at each turn ... I’m rare to give a warning, but this isn’t a book for the faint of heart ... That’s not to say her criticisms or assessments aren’t just as clear-eyed as before; they are. Her writing remains compelling down to the sentence level, though at times the words feel more like Murata’s than Natsuki’s. Murata’s focus seems to be simply on highlighting the depravity we as Earthlings can engage in. She calls attention to some aspects of the Factory we take for granted; but her drive to continually escalate the scenario and push the line undermines this aim. Convenience Store Woman left me eager to read another book of Murata’s — after Earthlings, I’m once again left waiting ... There’s a perverse sort of musicality to the way Murata plants her own seeds through Natsuki’s adolescence, building up her protagonist’s dogged, strong-willed personality and deadpan observations of the world around her. The result is a scathing indictment of Japanese cultural priorities ... mired in Natsuki’s internalized sense of uselessness and worthlessness, the first portion of Earthlings comes off as an emotionally draining experience ... With this quasi-anthropological approach to dissecting conformity and dominant social paradigms, Murata builds a fragile bubble in which Natsuki struggles to preserve her pseudo-xenozoological qualities. It’s a lifetime of trauma packed into an unforgiving story about self-identified aliens seeking a home among a hostile populace. Murata’s candid, matter-of-fact tone only serves to highlight the gulf between accepted \'normalcy\' and Natsuki’s brand of unearthly otherness ... an exhausting read, but one that forces the reader to confront their own biases and standards for what is socially acceptable, and more importantly, what they deem acceptable in others. Horror is often a mirror for things we’d rather not see, and sci-fi often a vehicle to places we’d rather be. Murata marries elements of both into one meticulous journey to the heart of human psychology—one that forces us to address our own reflection—if you have the endurance to get to the end.