RaveTor.com... if you are (understandably) avoiding reality during this historical moment of Summer 2020, tread carefully around Tyrant ... readers are kept on the edge of their seats for all 650 pages of this hulking novel ... The structure of the novel just adds to the mounting tension ... With characters set on such narrow paths, with such limited definitions of success, you as a reader are constantly aware that a single grain of sand could destroy the machinations of their plans. It’s incredibly thrilling. Since each plotline unfolds over the course of the long novel, though, revelations are made slowly, making the pacing overall feel slow and bulky in spite of the huge incentives to keep reading. Still, I wouldn’t trade this structure for the world, for how affective it is and how well it ties into the themes of choice and historical inevitability ... a compelling, horrifying, and at times bizarre entry in the Masquerade series—as brutal as its predecessors but with, finally, a scattering of hope. It is a culmination of the previous two books, not so much tying up loose ends but making the threads visible in the first place. The pieces of the story I’m left unsure of are successes, rather than failures of the series. If we don’t doubt someone with \'tyrant\' as their prefix in the title, we may well be doing something wrong as readers.
RaveTor.com... cinematic and action-packed ... it’s also fast-paced, visual, and satisfyingly trope-y. Ellis knows how to make tropes—from protagonists befriending their alien counterparts to dogs (almost) dying to raise stakes in the first real action scene—effective without ever feeling cold or methodical. Besides being thrilling and readable, there’s real heart to the novel, and that more than anything is its sticking point. You can’t help but be invested in Cora and Ampersand’s awkward, blossoming relationship ... Despite what I found to be quite deft and graceful themes like the ones I’ve discussed here, the novel is clumsy in places ... every once in a while, my incredulity conflicted with what is otherwise a pretty emotionally real tone ... Overall, though, Axiom’s End is a delight—insightful, humane and engaging, even in its imperfections.
Alaya Dawn Johnson
RaveTor.com... interweaves history and unreality, the atmosphere of noir and the magic of fantasy, to form a moving, literary love story. It’s anything but a traditional love story, though. The love in its pages is romantic, familial, platonic, and generational—it is beautiful and it is painful in the way only beautiful things can be ... Johnson writes sex and longing without ever substituting one for the other, with scenes as steamy as they are fraught with emotion. Deep friendships, familial relationships, and even acquaintanceships are described with no less nuance and care ... The intensity of Johnson’s portrayal of love and sacrifice make the novel’s perspective on racism all the more effective ... It would be easy therefore to say that Johnson writes hate as well as she writes love, but I think the poignancy of the novel is in the complexity of their interplay ... the prose in this novel will pull you in even when the story moves slowly. And it does move slowly, missing traditional story beats in favor of a narrative that unravels with the logic and fluidity of a poem. It’s worth every turn of phrase ... just plain gorgeous. It is gritty and violent and achingly real, but stitched through with fantasy. It is bittersweet and affective, but subtle and sneaking in its emotionality. But above all: how nice to be drawn into a story so bursting at the seams with love in all its beauty and terror.
PositiveTor.com... supernatural Sherlock fanfiction (wingfic, to be precise)...the sooner you embrace this sincerely dorky premise, the sooner you can get to all the fun ... a Victorian mystery remix the likes of which I haven’t seen since steampunk’s heyday ... As someone that was ultimately disappointed in BBC’s Sherlock, it was a pleasure to read a kinder, more developed version of these characters that didn’t sacrifice the thrill of deduction and a protagonist much smarter than his readers ... Their treatment of Doyle’s identity as a surprise/reveal may turn some readers off—which, fair enough—but as a trans reader myself, I loved being fooled into misinterpreting Doyle’s transness as a wolf/hound transformation (trans guys are werewolves; don’t ask me to explain myself), and I loved that there was no real \'reason\' for the reveal, it was for its own sake. It’s nice to have a story featuring a trans character that doesn’t focus on their transition or their pain ... All of that being said, there’s quite a lot in Angel of the Crows that exists for its own sake and that did ultimately leave me feeling less in love than I otherwise might have been. There are moments where the fourth wall is—maybe not broken, but certainly questioned—and where canonical material is referenced in a rather leading way, and I often felt as if these moments were going to build into some kind of meta-commentary or universe-bending reveal—something otherwise bigger than the mystery stories in-and-of themselves. But the novel just… never goes there. It is very much just itself. You get what you paid for ... And I like what I paid for. The novel is utterly bizarre, for one thing. The stories are amusing and thrilling, and they fully function as the pastiches of Victorian story-telling that they aspire to. The heroes are the best sort of charmingly-flawed outcasts, and I could go on for days about what a sweetheart this interpretation of Sherlock is. But—especially as a novel, not as a collection of disparate stories—there could have been more meat to it, more substance, more to say. Besides not doing anything to break the form, timeline, or narrative, there aren’t any real themes so much as motifs—various instances of the harm of gender roles and imperialism, but no throughline of commentary. It bothered me less in the heat of the reading process, and more in hindsight and in the final 20 pages or so, which was when I expected the motifs to be brought together somehow. The resolution of the Jack the Ripper case certainly didn’t prove enough of a unifier, however riveting its final scene may be.
RaveTor.com... reading Network Effect was like settling into a warm bath. Don’t get me wrong—the novel includes plenty of action and tension and forward momentum ... But I’d apparently forgotten to anticipate the sheer pleasure that comes from reading Martha Wells’ storytelling. A lot of my expectations were met, but still more were exceeded. For instance, I didn’t even dare to hope that the series would get queerer, but I’m happy to report that Wells’ imagination is not nearly as limited by cynicism as my own ... The return of the series’ exploration of media was immensely satisfying as well ... I don’t think there’s a cynical page in this book.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveTor.comIt might not be the right moment to revisit a novel about viral apocalypse, but Mandel’s piercing eye for precarity and possibility is still a welcome one. The Glass Hotel is just as timely as its predecessor, with its flickering images of financial collapse, the opioid epidemic, and the genuinely different spheres of existence that different classes inhabit. A novel of disaster, guilt, and ephemeral human connection, it is a ghost story for a post-2008 world ... Mandel’s ability to connect these different forms of haunting is a magic act in and of itself...she haunts through tone, through emotional resonance, and through missed connections and fleeting moments of insight. I’d be hard-pressed to describe this novel as genre fiction, but the relationship it weaves between the supernatural and the very real realm of human emotion is a fascinating one ... bizarre and literary and utterly haunting. In an era of social upheaval and economic precarity, it’s a novel that lays bare the grief at the heart of our disconnection.
PositiveTor.com\"... the refugee metaphor inherent to this novel is never overstated ... The novel never felt appropriative of anybody’s story (though as a non-displaced person, I obviously can’t speak to this with authority). It dealt with the themes of a refugee story—including but not limited to grief and prejudice and existential placelessness—without ever claiming that Hel’s experiences are a universal refugee experience. In fact, the lives of each individual UDP are demonstrated as disparate, informed by their former lives, not just their current status ... readers looking for a nail-biting mystery will not find one here: Famous Men Who Never Lived, like Station Eleven, is above all a meditation on grief and the preservation of culture, rather than a plot-driven page-turner. It is a beautifully-written and conceived novel, and one whose message of empathy across lines of difference is much-needed.
Ursula K. Le Guin
MixedTor\"The Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron are among the first of Ursula K. Le Guin novels to be re-released since her death in January 2018 ... The Eye of the Heron is on the more political end of the socio-political allegory ... In both books, characters struggle against history and inheritance, fighting to create a kinder and more gentle reality. And yet, while Le Guin at times wrote of easy answers, she never wrote of easy paths to realizing them.
It is hard for me to say I liked or disliked these novels, and not just because I, like so many other readers, am still mourning the loss of a hero and an architect of hope. The Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron are not great, and I’d never recommend them to a first-time reader—but to those that miss Le Guin’s prose, and who want above all to be moved to a kind of hope in the dark, I’d recommend them.\
Ursula K. Le Guin
MixedTorThe Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron are... two of her lesser-known works; published in 1980 and 1978 respectively, and each clocking in at around 200 pages, it’s not surprising that they’d be so easily lost in an oeuvre of 22 novels and countless shorter pieces, including seminal pieces like The Dispossessed and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. The novels are \'lesser\' in other ways as well, which is not a thing that pleases me to say, since this is also the first review of her work that I’ve written since January ... It is hard for me to say I liked or disliked these novels...Even Le Guin’s worst books move me, and in recent years, they have been a necessary antidote to the cynicism that inevitably creeps into criticism and dissent. The Beginning Place and The Eye of the Heron are not great, and I’d never recommend them to a first-time reader—but to those that miss Le Guin’s prose, and who want above all to be moved to a kind of hope in the dark, I’d recommend them.
Laura Van Den Berg
PositiveTor.comLush in description and psychology alike, The Third Hotel is a literary horror novel that will haunt you long past its final page ... Beyond the novel’s ghostly husband and zombie movie viewings, these horror elements are mostly drawn out in Clare’s character. She is not your typical protagonist ... All this dissociation and desire for non-identity make Clare’s interactions with the world uncanny and tense, and create a tone that drives home the horrors of loss better than a single ghost ever could ... The Third Hotel doesn’t just take away its readers’ compasses—it takes away its protagonist’s ... I was amazed by Laura van den Berg’s prose and deftness of expression in this novel, but it’s hard to say that I enjoyed it. It makes for an unsettling reading experience, and often an anticlimactic one. It is perhaps more weird fiction than horror.
RaveTor.comMFTIM messes with our expectations in lots of ways, but its playfulness with genre and form are chief among them ... It is historical fiction, it’s a love story, it’s a pulp-y monster and ghost story rolled into one. Somehow, none of these elements feel disparate—because we’re reading from Karen’s point-of-view, there’s a child’s logic that holds everything together ... The physicality of MFTIM is undeniable, and not just because the visuals mimic these plays on perception ... I adored My Favorite Thing Is Monsters—even more on the second read.