RaveTor.comMagic for Liars was a challenge to sit and write an articulate, reasonable response to—because it’s that good. Translating the burst of astonished, nigh-on-outraged delight I finished the book with to functional human language took some time. I thought maybe I’d just record a clip of me shaking the book with both hands at a camera in silence ... the novel works on two fronts simultaneously, and each is as good as the other. On the level of individual text, a book with a tale to tell, it’s got scalpel-edge precision in its prose, a compulsively engaging plot, and twisty, unpredictable characters that clash in unexpected ways. Then there’s the secondary level, the one that has me all sorts of bothered (in the positive sense): Magic for Liars is deliciously aware of genre conventions—and in constant, sly, manipulative conversation with them. The novel is a readers’ novel, the sort of text that teases and tugs the attention of the audience in contradictory directions reliant on their shared understanding of tropes ... The plot, too, is stunning. Magic for Liars has an excellent grasp on the structure of mysteries ... Magic for Liars is a perfect, spare, delectable novel that features a masterful narrative structure, terribly human characters occupying realistically magical settings, and more ... I can’t recommend it highly enough.
MixedTor.comIt’s a big book: big objects, big ideas, big conflicts. There’s a distinct pleasure in that bigness, particularly considering Haimey’s meta-level grasp of narrative structure. Her observation that she wants to see herself as the protagonist of the occurrences surrounding her life bears fascinating fruit as the plot progresses ... does have its missteps, however. The main of these is a tendency to founder under repetition of concepts or observations that were crisp on first appearance but become belabored after multiple restatements ... An idea is proposed, so to speak, but not explored. The end result, especially in terms of the scientific-philosophical-political points, was feeling as a reader that the pleasure I took in initially chewing over the concepts had been smothered under the restatement of the idea that first provoked so much interest ... Despite that snag, I found the novel reasonably engaging and well-executed ... For a reader who is daunted by the brick-sized tomes of this sort of science fiction, Ancestral Night offers a potential starting point. It’s got a plot rich in dramatic action plus debates on politics while also encompassing the vast alienation of outer space on an emotional level ... a fair-to-decent novel—occasionally lacking in depth in terms of character and philosophical development but entertaining, set in a world I find intriguing and would appreciate seeing more of (and more done with) in the future.
RaveTor.comAt once a work of historical fiction, a speculative romance in the traditional sense, and a broader feminist commentary on genre fiction, Gloss’s novel is a subtle and thorough piece of art ... I’m impossibly impressed by the spot-on perfection of the prose in this book. Charlotte’s voice is so well-observed, so crafted, that it reads as natural as breathing. The Pacific Northwest comes to life on each and every page, almost to the smell ... Gloss does a masterful job balancing the progressive politics of 1905 against our contemporary understanding of the shortcomings therein ... It’s a delicate balance to strike, representation and criticism in the same turn of phrase. It requires the audience to read carefully and slowly, to consider the layers of the frame and the layers of Gloss’s project at the same time ... Wild Life is a fantastic book, rich and intensely self-aware. It’s referential without being pedantic, philosophical but narratively engaging ... As a historical it’s utterly divine from tip to tail; as a bit of metafiction it’s crunchy and thorough; as a feminist reimagining of those old \'wild man\' novels from within the perspective of the period when it’s set it offers a complex view of progressive politics falling short and shooting long at the same time ... very much worth settling in with for a long weekend’s perusal.
Charlie Jane Anders
RaveTor.com\"... Anders centers actual politics with deliberate efficacy in The City in the Middle of the Night ... As [a science fiction] novel within a lineage of other sf novels doing sociological critique, asking big questions and venturing a handful of possible answers, Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night is an impressive piece of work that stands solid on its own but grows in scope and effect when taken as part of a conversation on the medium ... There is much, much more I’d like to explore about the novel that isn’t even mentioned here, but overall, I couldn’t recommend it more highly.\
PositiveTor.comThe Wicked King plows through the potential for middle book stagnancy with constant high-tension action ... This bundle of conflicts, all maddeningly inter-related and cloaked in layers of deception, keeps the book galloping along without pause ... the relentless pace of the plot also has downsides: the lush, dynamic character development that drove The Cruel Prince is not foregrounded here ... it is an occasional frustration that much of the plot for The Wicked King rests on Jude either failing to communicate dreadfully important information or dismissing warnings/hints that the reader notices without issue. While this device is effective and nail-biting when used sparingly, it begins to feel monotonous if it is the main source of conflict ... Quibbles aside, the strong thematic concerns I adored continue on from the first novel at full strength. Black is careful but frank in her approach to both sexuality and violence in this series ... it maintains a serious investment in the human realities of the trauma it dishes out.
MixedTorThe Future is Female! is a historically-oriented anthology collecting sf written by women that spans from the early pulps to the cusp of the New Wave. All but one of the stories included were originally published in contemporary magazines, an editorial choice emphasizing the fact that women have from the start been major commentators, taste-makers, and artists within genre fiction ... The Future is Female! leans toward sociological and humanistic stories as well as stories that pushed at the boundaries of style and experimentation ... The Future is Female! does fill in a publication gap with proof-positive of the progressive drive of sf from the pulps onward, and that contribution is valuable. While there are editorial choices I’m uncomfortable with, overall it is a coherent and useful text that flows well and has a solid structure.
PositiveTor.com...a fantastical queer coming of age tale ... With as much reflection as it has action, On a Sunbeam takes the reader on a quiet, thoughtful journey through all different shades of love as well as the risks worth taking for it ... Above all the resonance comes from the comic’s dreamlike quality ... That magic-realist approach is present through the project as a whole ... What On a Sunbeam ultimately has to offer is thematic, its soft exploration of human attachment ... And that brings me to the art, which is simply gorgeous ... It’s a willfully tender message that is reflected at all levels of the comic, one I found heartwarming.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
RaveTor\"The collection is cutting from start to finish, a deep stare into the sociocultural abyss shot through with bleak humor ... Adjei-Brenyah prods at tropes and expectations to create affective and moving stories exploring, above all, the \'violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.\' It’s a haunting, unforgiving debut that pushes at genre boundaries in the service of art and criticism ... His willingness to explore ethical and emotional complexity, offering incisive portrayals and few simple answers, gives Friday Black the kind of heft I don’t see often in short fiction debuts.\
Ravetor.com\"My Sister, The Serial Killer is a high-tension, hideously comedic work of literary horror fiction, a memorable debut from Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite ... The mundane realism of the text—social media, crooked traffic cops, the dichotomy of being wealthy enough for a house maid but not enough to avoid working—makes the ethical questions of murder, consequences, and justification for protecting a family member that much sharper ... Braithwaite forces you to do the legwork of her fine, artisanal prose, feel the distress she’s created via tangling sympathy and disgust and morality into a mangled ball. It’s a hell of a debut, that’s for certain.\
Abbey Mei Otis
RaveTor.comAbbey Mei Otis’s first long-form collection...is a powerful debut ... Otis’s fiction has a dynamic blend of contemporary and speculative approaches, diamond-edged and furious in her exploration of power, oppression, and grief. The titular story also serves as a statement of themes: outsider or abject characters; viral, haunting, gruesome physicality; hunger mixed with passion and crooked adoration; cataclysm before-during-and-after. It isn’t a pleasant or simple experience for the audience. The bodies in Otis’s short fiction are subject to a grim though often lyrical brutality, one step too far for comfort at all times ... We recognize it all. It recognizes us. Otis’s prose brings the intense affect of her stories not simply to life but to embodiment—it’s the kind of phrasing and artistry that a reader feels in their guts. Calling it \'body horror\' doesn’t quantify the full extent of the visceral detail Otis gives through her protagonists’ often-internal, often-narrow point of view ... She is recording a lived existence with dirt, hunger, and sorrow down to the cellular level. It’s something I don’t see enough of in SF but she’s got it on lock. These people feel like people, and it makes their suffering almost unbearable to read ... It’s a collection that will keep your heart half in your throat and half in your toes, and I recommend it.
Sam J. Miller
PositiveTor.comMiller has woven a number of pressing contemporary concerns—homelessness, wealth inequality, political corruption, familial bonds, the AIDS epidemic—into the fabric of Qaanaaq, the floating city. Though it has a fast-paced and intriguing political plot, Blackfish City is a novel driven in large part by its conceptual and thematic frameworks. The bits I found most engaging were often the intimate sketches Miller gives of his characters’ interactions with their world. While all of our narrators technically inhabit the same city, the vast gaps in wealth, role, and experience between them make it seem as if they’re all aliens to one another ... It’s a thought-provoking and ambitious book, one that I found delightful and handsome at turns, a signal of the directions science fiction has to go in as contemporary life continues to evolve at pace. This novel is queer, political, and eager to change the status quo—even if it’s a challenge to conceptualize the path to doing so.
Catherynne M. Valente
RaveTor\" It is, in fact, nothing less than intergalactic Eurovision in the fine stylistic tradition of Douglas Adams—madcap, bizarre, comedic, and shot through with a certain wholesome kindness ... A clever, thorough mashup of David Bowie, Eurovision, Douglas Adams, and Valente’s ever-astounding prose drives Space Opera. All of its heart and heft comes from the honest, devoted adoration that rolls off the page at every turn; it’s hard to miss Valente’s total love for her subject and for the argument she’s seeking to make about the production of culture, the songs we sing when the lights go out and we’re left cold in the night. This book is eminently contemporary, enmeshed in arguments about politics, nationalism, resources, and xenophobia ... It’s a big, loud, spangly novel, but it’s also a personally intimate one. Valente has done a fine job giving us the glitz, the glam, and the heart all at once.\
RaveTor.comIt is difficult to single out the stories contained here as, delightfully, the tapestry they create together is so cohesive. I rarely find short fiction collections with this level of continuity of concept that are not also, at times, one-note ... Each individual story has a point and a power; together, an image emerges, a thematic argument of unity ... Singh has very much knocked it out of the park in an unassuming but thorough fashion.
Del Samatar and Sofia Samatar
RaveTor.comMonster Portraits serves the function of philosophy, or poetry: the text makes offerings, sketches connections, and requires leaps of juxtaposition as well as freefalls into implication. Each line is a treat to be savored and allowed to meld with its companions over a slow, methodical, reverential reading experience ... I read Monster Portraits twice in a row, in one sitting, forcing myself to take it in sips each time even though I wanted to gulp.
Charlie Jane Anders
RaveTorAnders has constructed a handsome and delightful novel that represents, intentionally and indirectly alike, the best that the genre has to offer. It’s grand and intimate at the same time, mundane and fabulous alike, livened up with the high-energy intensity and touch of the bizarre that is familiar from Anders’s short fiction as well … Anders has found a spectacular balance between the weirdness of her short fiction—sometimes baroque in its strangeness—and the rung-bell clarity of narrative prose in a novel-length structure … From a purely technical standpoint, it’s a hit out of the park—not least because it’s often dabbling in those familiar narratives of wizard-schools and singularity-seekers, twisting them around into something a bit more human and natural.
PositiveTorSamatar, though she employs artful and often poetic prose, is paradoxically direct in her approach. Whether she is marrying mythologies to modern scenarios ('How I Met the Ghoul') or writing about a dystopian near-future ('How to Get Back to the Forest'), she renders her characters with an unvarnished honesty. She also illustrates her settings in broad sweeps of careful detail, giving the reader a solid and coherent sense of the world the tale takes place in without fail. The only stories in this collection that do not work are the stories where this balance collapses and the direct gives way to the opaque ... I’d strongly recommend giving the literary, clever, and productive art that Samatar has collected here a read. It’s as good as I’d hoped, and just as smart too.
Caitlin R. Kiernan
RaveTorThe novella form allows Kiernan to construct a discomfiting narrative that skips like a stone across water, sketching out a brief but provocative landscape of fright and inevitability for our planet up against Lovecraftian cosmic horrors ... Agents of Dreamland is not a comfortable or comforting read—and that’s quite refreshing. The mix of noir and horror tropes, here, makes for a claustrophobic and unnerving reading experience ... It’s treading familiar ground, especially for fans of Kiernan, but doing so with the kind of panache and skill that makes it a distinct pleasure rather than a predictable experience ... classic Kiernan, and I recommend it thoroughly.
RaveTor...a startling, engaging, and incisive novel ... The experience of reading Black Wave is immersive and eerie, a version of our own world that feels abruptly and dangerously close to home in its coast toward oblivion. It’s a fantastic mélange of tropes and techniques ... Plus, again: the prose is fucking gorgeous, the characters are hilarious and upsetting and miserable, the world is heart-stopping in its strangeness and bleak crawl to the edge of the cliff, then its tumble over the edge.
PositiveTor...a refreshing take on the tropes of the genre: the female protagonist is supported by a tender, fairly innocent, dedicated man, and the romantic tension is complicated significantly by their being from different species. Furthermore, it isn’t anglocentric in its approach to mythology and the supernatural ... The ethnic differences in these vampires and how different countries across the globe have handled their public existence allows Moreno-Garcia to infuse a subtle but thorough political awareness in the world of the novel ... It’s a fun and fast read, but it doesn’t give the reader much to work with in terms of tension. There’s a single arc, it follows a predictable and straightforward path.