MixedTorSupernova Era was originally published in China in 2004. (Notably, it was written at a time when that country’s one-child policy was still in effect ... even with Martinsen’s smooth translation, Supernova Era can’t help but feel like an earlier, rougher work: looser and wobblier, it rambles more than it drives. Thankfully, Supernova Era still has plenty of the big, clever, unexpected ideas that define Liu’s brain-bending work. Liu doesn’t think quite like anyone else’s—which is a good thing, considering this tale covers territory traveled by so many others. Liu’s vision stands apart ... Throughout Liu’s apocalypse and post-apocalypse, it’s hard to forget that in the real world, and unlike any other time in history, we’re seeing young people—many of whom are no older than Liu’s protagonists—fighting to influence the planet that will soon be theirs.
RaveTor...a collection that’s just as surprising, exciting, and engrossing as the first ... Liu is almost supernaturally great at sharing stories that are, if nothing else, memorable—and, in most cases, that are also clever and strange, lyrical and addictive ... Broken Stars takes a significantly broader look at Chinese science fiction than its predecessor did, with over a dozen authors represented. Not every story will click with every reader, but a few standouts will captivate all but the crankiest of readers ... As was the case with Invisible Planets, Broken Stars seems geared to those English-readers who have only recently glimpsed all that Chinese science fiction can offer. And—also like its predecessor—Broken Stars has already made me want to read more work from its authors, and cross my fingers that Liu has another Chinese science fiction anthology in the works.
RaveThe Portland MercuryWanderer is a few things: a tense mystery; an Outbreak-style medical thriller; a sprawling, Stephen King-esque epic. But mostly it’s a book about America right now—and much like America right now, it’s a potent blend of fear, confusion, and guarded, fragile hope. It’s also a book that has a lot to say, so it’s a good thing Wendig is sharp and funny, with a live-wire imagination that sparks with his singular voice. Few writers are better at quick character sketches...and even fewer can match his shocks of horrorshow violence... And, of course, there’s his near-future, too-familiar America ...\'any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental,\' reads that edition notice. It’s a lie, and Wanderers is all the better for it.
RaveTor.comFurious, funny, and smart, Cory Doctorow’s Radicalized is a quick, cracking read, full of the brave ideas and humanistic optimism that have marked Doctorow as one of our best writers and activists. The four novellas in Radicalized grow from a fundamental truth: That things in 2019 America are horrifyingly broken ... Radicalized’s razor-sharp stories are up-to-the-second relevant and gleefully, unashamedly political ... this is all funnier than I’m making it sound. It’s also smarter than I’m making it sound, with Doctorow digging deep into these concepts, threats, and possibilities. For all of these stories’ sci-fi sheen, the cruel realities of contemporary America hover just beneath the surface, and Doctorow is fearless in exploring their real-world ramifications. Radicalized will be categorized as science-fiction, but there’s only enough fiction here to make the book a quick, slick read. As the words click and roll by, the non-fiction beneath burns like acid.
Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Bucknell
MixedTor.comBuckell and Bacigalupi imagine the melancholy remnants of a once-grand empire, where magic-using citizens once lived in comfort ... The bramble—a writhing, insatiable growth of cruel vines and deadly seeds—was attracted to magic ... By the time The Tangled Lands begins, bramble covers the land, and people are forbidden from using magic ... by its final pages, The Tangled Lands occupies an awkward middle ground: It’s not quite significant or unified enough to feel like a novel, yet its parts aren’t independent or far-ranging enough to have the appeal of a story collection.
RaveThe Portland Mercury\"Vacationland...is full of true things: memories and thoughts and jokes and essays, all of which gradually cohere into a careful, bittersweet memoir. It’s just as funny as his previous books; it’s better than all of them … Self-reflection—and reflections on family, and death, and what it means to be a white man in 2017—are at the core of Vacationland, except funnier than I just made them sound. At first, Hodgman doesn’t even seem to like the places he’s ended up (‘the beaches of Maine are made out of jagged stones shaped like knives,’ and sure, there are also lakes, but ‘you do not want to swim in them either, because lakes are disgusting’), but he does know that we can learn from such places, and that we can teach ourselves while in them.\
RaveThe Portland MercuryThe Collapsing Empire offers plenty of Scalzi’s usual wit—reading about a doomed society is rarely this much fun. Rarely, too, is it this timely ... Blending Scalzi’s sturdy world-building with jolts of action, fast-paced politics, and a bit of Austen-flavored romance, The Collapsing Empire is the first in a series, and readers who get in now will find much to look forward to.
RaveThe Portland MercuryEarly on, Universal Harvester’s setup can’t help but recall a few other things: the haunted VHS from The Ring, the titular film at the heart of Infinite Jest, the small-town horror of Lee Child’s Make Me. But Darnielle digs deeper and stranger—he isn’t interested in what’s on the tapes so much as how the tapes affect those who watch them ... The book’s constant, though, is the same thing that makes Darnielle’s songs with the Mountain Goats so goddamn great: He has an incredible efficiency and skill with words, subtly eliciting a slew of reactions—heartache, fear, the emptiness of half-healed grief—in a few quick lines ... Darnielle feels some stories are best left untold. Not all of Universal Harvester’s questions are answered. The answers that do come are rarely the kind that satisfy. But answers aren’t the point. Despite taking a few cues from mysteries, Universal Harvester isn’t about unraveling plot. It’s about tracing the history and scars of people, of families, of farms and towns.
RaveThe Portland MercuryAs Moonglow weaves its ambitious, romantic tragedy, Chabon’s writing is, as expected, graceful and witty and laced with melancholy. And by freeing himself from the rigidity of linear plot Chabon avoids the sometimes trying plotting that’s marked his previous novels. I can’t tell you if Moonglow’s specifics will resonate with you as strongly as they did for me, but I can suggest that the story’s broad strokes are applicable to, well, everybody.