PositiveThe Washington Post... a highly naturalistic and Earthbound milieu, but one with its own share of strangeness. The 22 Murders of Madison May begins with the intimate perspective of Madison \'Maddie\' May ... Her somewhat sad and depressive life is rendered with fine touches ... We next jump into the daily grind of Felicity Staples, young political reporter for New York City’s Daily News. (Her vividly drawn co-workers, boss Brandon and crime beat maven Levi, stake out their roles nicely, too) ... Barry strives to paint equally compelling portraits of the two women and comes pretty darn close. Each character assumes a fully rounded and weighty resonance. But Maddie’s condition as an unaware perennial victim militates against her foregrounding. It’s really Felicity who functions as our protagonist, as we witness her dogged, creative pursuit of justice, despite all the deracination she experiences. The various iterations of her boyfriend, Gavin, are especially amusing ... Barry goes light on the mechanics of his multiversal paradigm, coating the dynamic, suspenseful action with a light frosting of metaphysics ... [the time travelers] never emerge as a real force, but do acquire some of the tinge of the vulture-like time-travel tourists from C.L. Moore’s classic tale, \'Vintage Season.\'
Ed. by Gideon Lichfield
RaveThe Washington PostKen Liu deploys a glittering bricolage of multimedia materials to chart his future of telepresence tourism in \'Jaunt\' and discovers surprising sociopolitical consequences in the new recreational tech ... Especially for a younger writer, Rich Larson pulls off an amazing portrait of lonely and bitter senior citizen Ivan ... So much of Cory Doctorow’s work imagines ingenious solutions to our current binds that this anthology is a perfect fit for his talents ... Editor Lichfield wisely saves what is arguably the best story for last. \'Vaccine Season,\' by Hannu Rajaniemi ... Being written so close to our daily pandemic realities, these stories risk contradicting the news on the ground here in May 2021. But their conceptual, daring and compassionate narratives overcome such niggling hazards to perform with brio and clarity the job that science fiction was always meant to do: walking the readers through the \'garden of forking paths\' and assuring us that life can flourish, despite all challenges and crises, if we only deploy our imaginations.
PositiveLocusWecker tantalizes us right up to the end. Nor does she neglect the maturation of her two main characters. What she focuses on is their development as artists ... Wecker’s portrait of New York City from 1900 to 1915 has the bright substance and sheen of, say, an E.L. Doctorow or Jack Finney book. She does not rely overmuch on famous events or famous personalities (we do see the sinking of the Lusitania and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire), but rather delights in charting the lives of her average invented citizens and the societal and technological changes at large.
RaveLocus... a glorious overstuffed \'secondary world\' fantasy that manages to balance the picaresque mode with that of the (far too often overdone) quest mode; the cosmic with the mundane; comedy with tragedy; the scatalogical with the ethereal; and unmitigated selfishness with noble dedication and altruism. It’s a rollicking ride from start to finish (a finish which is fully satisfying, but open-ended towards sequels), and it’s all contoured, colored and made tangible by the unique narrative voice of our anti-hero, Kinch ... fine worldbuilding ... Buehlman’s various systems of magic, one of which revolves heavily around living tattoos, are well constructed.
RaveLocus MagazineOlivia Chadha’s heartfelt, adroit, brisk and thoughtful debut novel proves that everything old is new again ... [Chadha] deploys a lucid, unornamented voice that serves her purposes well, showing us the grimness of existence, but also granting clear access to the inner lives of her protagonists ... her swell utilization of the c-p toolkit is beyond reproach. Additionally, seasonings of Richard Morgan, Ian McDonald, and Paolo Bacigalupi contribute nice elements to the mix ... Rise of the Red Hand proves itself willing to shatter daringly all its initial assumptions and verities, putting its cast through life-altering fires, in order to create new forms of beauty and hope and possible salvation.
C Robert Cargill
RaveLocus... the powerful immediacy of the prequel story takes over, rendering this book just as engaging as its predecessor, despite its be-fatedness ... The time frame of the tale is very compressed—just a few days—but into this short span is stuffed a wealth of allies, battles, venues, enemies (the supercomputer CISSUS, who uses individual robots as its limbs, is the prime evil), emotional interludes, and philosophical speculations on free will, education, loyalty, rebellion, the possibility of true friendship and love between robots and humans, and the need to follow one’s bliss ... a nicely executed and rousing apocalyptic love story between two unlikely comrades ... examines quite cleverly some deep philosophical conundrums about the nature of mismatched intelligences in conflict, while also providing a cinematic boatload of kinetically delivered cyber-smashing to get the reader’s pulse pounding as rapidly as his or her thoughts are flowing.
RaveThe Washington PostNow from this daring and ever-shifting author comes Hummingbird Salamander, a volume more naturalistic, more like a traditional thriller than its predecessors, but one that also features hooks into the literary novel of paranoid conspiracy, a genre best exemplified by Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. In fact, our doughty and frankly terrifying heroine, \'Jane Smith,\' might be the Oedipa Maas the 21st century needs ... VanderMeer’s tale succeeds marvelously on many levels. First is the creation of Jane and her narrative voice...Her perceptive observations and descriptions weave an atmosphere of unrelenting coldblooded doom from the very first page. Yet her emotions are also given fair shrift, and ultimately she becomes the definition of a \'hopeful monster,\' a term derived fittingly from evolution sciences describing a bridge between stages of a species ... The action sequences and convoluted pursuit of various MacGuffins — waystations toward the ultimate MacGuffin — are masterfully done, with cinematic set pieces, noirish interludes and horrifying bad guys. And VanderMeer does not neglect the symbolical aspects of events ... Lastly, the book digs deeply into themes of individual moral culpability for communal sins ... One could imagine Lars von Trier filming Jane’s Dantean descent and conflicted redemption, giving us a 21st-first century odyssey into the guttering soul of the planet.
RaveLocus MagazineJasper Fforde’s entertaining, surprisingly thoughtful yet fleet-footed new book—a standalone novel with a climax so dramatic, irrevocable, perfect yet unpredictable that it seems impossible to extend the book to a series—is the comedic master’s foray into this thematic realm. It is, as one might expect, by turns droll and hilarious, poignant and cruel, hopeful and despairing. In other words, a true comedy in depth, a form that is not mere mindless japes and slapstick, but one which counsels us that if we don’t laugh, we must cry.
RaveLocusPicking up the threads of the first book just a few days after that action ended, the sequel exudes the same charm and fascination as the original. Characters, tone, voice, all beautifully replicated, continued, and extended. But Cline does not merely push all the same buttons once more. How could he, given the vast climactic, life-altering victory enjoyed by its protagonist, whereby he jumped from lowest of the low to highest of the high? Instead, he levels up to new challenges and themes, while recreating the world we came to enjoy with new depth, as he exfoliates both the virtual universe of the OASIS, and the perpetually collapsing meatspace environment ... the propulsive action carries us along like a white-water rafting expedition, to a conclusion that is unforeseen and utterly satisfying.
PositiveLocusWhile stuffed and overstuffed with vivid set pieces, sharp character interactions and revelations of different venues, this installment does suffer a little from the mid-series holding action pattern of all trilogies ... moves rather more linearly and stepwise towards a truly fine and resonant and surprising climax, one which, not to give too much away, revolves around, of all anti-swashbuckling maneuvers, a stock-market scheme. Thus does Dickinson remain true to the first book’s original presentation of Baru as Stealth Accountant ... Dickinson can construct a five-page fight scene that never falters, and then turn around and describe that emotionally charged parental reunion with some tenderness ... This alternation of these separate eras provides a pleasant jigsaw-puzzle nature to the plot, and of course, Dickinson’s prose is always cinematically lush, replete with striking figures of speech.
RaveThe Washington PostCory Doctorow is among the best of the current practitioners of near-future speculative fiction, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with such superlative peers as Bruce Sterling, Kim Stanley Robinson, Charles Stross and Justina Robson ... it’s plain that Doctorow’s \'future history,\' however many clever and insightful resonances it still maintains with current headlines, is no longer a plausible near-term guide for the world, but rather the events of a counterfactual \'stub\' ... What we enjoy instead is political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance, even if it’s no longer precisely contoured to our actual dilemmas ... Doctorow relentlessly builds Masha’s character into a deep portrait of a damaged personality ... Doctorow’s world might no longer map our current events, but it still charts the universal currents of the human heart and soul with precision.
PositiveThe Washington Post...the latest offering in this vein, and while it breaks no new ground, the depth of its first-person presentation of the silicone-and-circuitry heroine is a quiet triumph ... Sylv.ie’s enlightenment never becomes political. Anderson does not excoriate the patriarchy ... The story comes to the reader in friendly bite-sized (or byte-sized?) chunks that serve to emulate Sylv.ie’s thought processes, almost like a flowchart of subroutines, now dealing with \'Babies,\' now with \'Tears,\' now with \'Dreams.\'
Beneath the well-done science-fictional skin, there’s a hidden fairy-tale archetype to Sylv.ie’s autobiography, and that’s the tale of Pinocchio. A \'wooden\' creature magicked into sentience, she longs for a Blue Fairy to make her a \'real girl.\'
Natalie Zina Walschots
RaveLocusIt is a clever, witty, vigorous, and well-crafted adventure in this mode of superhero revisionism, by turns hilarious and tragic, alternately rudely juvenile or sophisticated. It has some refreshing twists ... Walschots’s accomplishments in this novel are several and impressive. First comes Anna’s character and voice. As narrator, she is onscreen every moment, but never becomes predictable or boring ... The dialogue always has a 21st-century snarky hipness to it, conferring a sense of black humor to all the actions. This is of course fully in line with the traditional comic book quipping and banter.
RaveThe Washington Post... laugh-out-loud-funny ... [Stephenson\'s] approach is absurdist, outrageous, irreverent and satirical, full of pratfalls, embarrassment, high jinks and broad caricatures. And yet, by the end of Jared’s adventures, readers will find themselves left with more or less the same sentiments that Anderson engendered: an appreciation for the mutuality of all sentient life, and for the universal desire to be acknowledged and appreciated, whether one is birthed from factory or hospital ... Stephenson contrives a captivating voice for his hero ... In Stephenson, Vonnegut may have his first true protege. From the use of repeated verbal tags and the inclusion of diagrams and charts, to the attitude of cynicism and despair about the human condition masquerading as devil-may-care frivolity (or is that the other way around?), Stephenson brings his best Breakfast of Champions game to the table ... Your mileage may vary with this style of somewhat precious storytelling, but I found Stephenson’s deployment of these verbal tics to be effective, clever and not overdone. They contribute immensely to Jared’s charming self-portrait and often evoke laughter with their precise placement ... the long stretch in Los Angeles is what truly elevates the novel to its heights ... Besides echoing such masters of comedic science fiction as Ron Goulart, John Sladek and Tom Disch, Stephenson pays tribute to no one more than Voltaire. For Jared is no less than Candide in bot clothing, a perpetually hopeful soul endlessly \'bamboozled; by this best of all possible worlds.
PositiveLocusCastleberry proves very adept at altering each chapter’s style and pacing to reflect the different personalities. Moreover, his evocation of each era is excitingly vibrant and authentic ... in a deliberately chosen and briefly frustrating tactic, Castleberry never trots out Danville center stage again. The reader only witnesses him from a distance, through intermediary figures. But once we realize this tactic, we can revel in the gospel-as-revealed-through-the-disciples approach ... While the overall narrative arc is fairly consistent and satisfying, with most threads tied up semi-neatly, Castleberry’s strength is in his linked-stories approach. Each chapter is very strong and rewarding considered as a self-contained unit. These characters pop off the page, with one composite character—America herself—emerging brilliantly from the gestalt ... Castleberry has managed to lay down an extraterrestrial template over the \'mundane\' life of the country
Andrés Barba, Trans. by Lisa Dillman
RaveLocusIt’s a wonderfully creepy and authentically different example of Modern Weird ... We begin in the lulling, judicious, cerebral yet emotive first-person voice of our unnamed narrator ... Barba’s prose relies heavily on rich and poignant aphorisms from its sensitive and self-doubting narrator ... forceful symbolic language embedded in action...imbues what might otherwise be a simplistic tale of bad-seed kids with haunting and haunted allegorical power ... Ultimately, Barba proclaims, we all move through enforced patterns toward unknown fates.
Hao Jingfang, trans. by Ken Liu
MixedLocus... meditative and stimulating ... a meandering, discursive, low-action, deliberately calm and uneventful \'novel of ideas\' ... This is not to proclaim that the book is hard reading. To the contrary, I found it inviting and rewarding in a strolling fashion, once I adapted to those foreign rhythms and concerns I alluded to above. Jingfang’s prose, as translated by Liu, flows smoothly, offers passages of beauty, and limns her characters deeply. But despite certain professed outbreaks of feeling, there’s really no tensions or high drama. And despite some wan romance, these are the most sexless young adults imaginable. It’s all politesse and intellectual ponderings and group consciousness-raising sessions ... the reader must be prepared to encounter innumerable tell-don’t-show passages bordering on infodumps ... Readers who have enjoyed Jo Walton’s Thessaly Trilogy and Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series will be well-primed to take a long luxuriant soak in Jingfang’s novel, which rivals these predecessors in its earnest engagement with the underlying paradigms of how humans may conceivably organize their lives for the better.
RaveThe Washington Post... sedate and ruminative ... imbued with a fairy-tale vibe reminiscent of John Crowley, Nicholas Christopher and Reif Larsen. Overlaying the deftly conjured 20th- and 21st-century settings and events is a sense of eternality, of archetypes and mythic patterning ... Zapata’s own evident love for and knowledge of science fiction. He is no mere dabbler or trendy opportunist. He plainly knows the field inside and out and name-checks seminal figures with precision. His knowledge of the genre’s history allows him to brilliantly fabricate and insert other imaginary titles ... The result is a realistic alternate history of the field which harks back to Kurt Vonnegut’s imagined works of Kilgore Trout ... a truly satisfying closure that blends hope and despair ... Zapata’s carefully crafted prose oscillates between matter-of-fact and lyrically poetic, a tonal range that provides a very pleasant reading experience. Also stuffed not inelegantly between the microcosmic doings are several larger incidents that limn the bloody and brutal history of the two centuries, including South American totalitarianism, European pogroms and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
RaveThe Washington Post... as engaging, thought-provoking and delightful as its predecessor. While the novelty of Gibson’s core conceit is no longer as startling, he still manages to squeeze fresh juice from the novum ... the intricate noir-thriller plotting affords constant entertainment and suspense ... Eunice is an extremely believable, idiosyncratic and highly polished character. So much so that her vanishing takes a little luster off the subsequent action. Her glib confidence and joie de vivre are really missed. But Verity, Netherton and the supporting cast offer plenty of anchoring interest ... Gibson fleshes out the \'present-day\' venue of 2017 with his patented sharp vision for small and large cultural touchstones ... Gibson’s language is as zesty as ever ... what is different about this book, and the previous one, is a kind of elder statesman wisdom and optimism. Ironically, the 1980s — retrospectively a less fraught era — generated Gibson’s bleakest scenarios, while the arguably more dire present has seen him moving toward an almost Westlakean mordant lightheartedness ... Regardless of Gibson’s shifting ratios of glee to cynicism, he can always be counted on to show us our contemporary milieu rendered magical by his unique insights, and a future rendered inhabitable by his wild yet disciplined imagination.
Edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
RaveBarnes and NobleThe primary quality of this anthology is its sheer readability, its exuberance, range and level of esthetic accomplishment and sheer writerly craft. These stories need take no back seat to any \'literary\' specimens in terms of sophisticated prose, emotional or philosophical depth, or richness of characterization. Far from some dry historical and academic tome, the book provides hours and hours of pure entertainment. Although nearly half of the book consists of stories from the nineteenth century, there is nothing fusty about them, and they embody the word \'classic\' in the perfect sense of betokening something imperishable and worthy of any era ... the reader is never put at a distance: They feel intense and fresh and intimate ... Once the reader has satiated himself or herself on the pure narrative joy to be found here, thanks to the curatorial prowess of the VanderMeers, it’s also a pleasure to trace the many links among the included stories ... This feast of almost one hundred extravagant, unnerving, baffling, reassuring, unearthly, unpredictable stories forms...a lens and window, artfully assembled by two master artificers of the unknown.
PositiveLocus...a charming, meticulously crafted, laid-back ghost story ... The book...is more often drolly humorous than not, remote from horror’s more extreme boundaries. Still, there is melancholy and poignance aplenty. But aside from its inherent virtues, it offers some instructive lessons about the apparent differences between mainstream and genre ghost stories. Norman deftly weaves backstory and real time events in an alluring tapestry ... Despite being narrated by a ghost, the book is ninety percent concerned with quotidian affairs. In fact, at some points I began to wonder if the tale could have been told equally effectively without Simon being there at all. But the resonant supernatural ending scotched that surmise, and in fact Simon’s presence does impinge significantly ... Norman’s main characters are all from a certain well-bred stratum of society and deal with each other with a punctilio and correctness that sometimes approaches blandness ... The Ghost Clause is a benign haunting that leaves readers and participating parties happier for its happening.
PositiveLocus... [a] low-key yet stirring, black-humored debut novel ... although Powers does not minimize the canonical looking-over-one’s-shoulder paranoia or the brutal power hierarchies, the dominant effect of the book is intimate and personal and fabulaic ... has a lot of gravitas, mixed with a Catch-22 vibe at times. And although there’s not a lot of ancillary speculation outside the central novum, the narrative offers plenty of cognitive estrangement ... Powers’s plot is low key and subtle and slow-moving, save for a couple of vivid and tense moments of crisis, both involving technological disasters ... Overall, the tale is a Kafkaesque parable of the seductive power of lies in the service of bold and worthy aspirations ... the story of breaking through the veils of identity that stiflingly enwrap us and blinker us, in public and private, and seeing the stars for the very first time.
RaveLocus... combines a solid, modest gravitas, a homey quotidian ambiance, a sophistication of character development, and some genuine SFnal strangeness into a unique and savory gumbo ... A native of the region before taking up residence in the USA, Turnbull has the setting and citizens of St. Thomas in his bones and blood, and he conveys their reality to us gracefully, colorfully and with a minimum of hand-holding ... Turnbull illustrates life on the island and the patterns of culture that contribute to the climactic mini-apocalypse with sensitivity and flair. He charts the personal arcs of his characters with insight and ingenuity ... Ultimately, this deft, low-key, exacting, surprising, yet predestined story assumes the contours of the classic account of two cultures at cross-purposes, misunderstanding each other through a welter of good and bad intentions, tragedy resulting.
RaveLocusIn the end, Crouch achieves a tale that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. It might be somewhat slick, it might be eminently filmable, but it has heft and gravitas beyond the unambitious technothriller category ... you will not predict anything. In short, the fusion of human verities — albeit contorted into unprecedented shapes — and a fruitful novum sternly parsed leads to quintessential SF. Crouch’s skills in laying down tense and vivid action scenes is essential here as well.
RaveThe Washington PostChiang’s stories are uniformly notable for a fusion of pure intellect and molten emotion. At the core of each is some deep conceptual notion rich with arcane metaphysical or scientific allure. But surrounding each is a narrative of refined human sensitivity and soulfulness. This, the ideal definition and practice of all science fiction, is seldom achieved ... The two stories original to this collection are both masterful and striking ... His challenging and rewarding fiction proves that a sizable and appreciative audience exists for the kind of speculative fiction that doesn’t merely offer cosmic explosions, but that instead plucks both heartstrings and gray matter in equal measure.
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveLocus\"From the very inception of its title... the reader senses that he or she is in for some kind of dark thrill ride. And Anders provides that in spades ... Anders has created a unified story that integrates any number of complex submechanisms into its organic and authentic whole ... Anders’s concern with social structures, on display in her first book, also gets an even more sophisticated exegesis here. The book is full of aperçus and aphorisms (and enlivened scenes) that deliver her judgments on the folly and wisdom of mankind ... Never didactic or preachy, Anders illustrates by action and characterization the various approaches to mutuality and consensus that underpin human life ... Anders’s sophomore outing proves that she can embrace passionately and creatively just about anything she turns her hand and mind to.\
S. A. Chakraborty
PositiveLocus\"With all these players now arrayed on the gameboard, the scene is set for an eruption of massive, paradigm-overturning violence, and Chakraborty’s multiple fireworks and cataclysms don’t disappoint ... What continues as before is Charkaborty’s generous provision of sensual details in a sometimes Dunsanyian fashion...; imaginative backstory; multiple rival races of fantastical beings; sharp dialogue; and total immersive believability of this world ... And Chakraborty proves herself adept at staging big exciting battle scenes as well, not something really exhibited in the first book so much.\
Un-Su Kim, Trans. by Sora Kim-Russell
PositiveLocus\"... streamlined yet superb ... The book starts off at a high pitch of tension, and then modulates through an unpredictable succession of quiet and frenzied moments ... The reader is forced by the author’s noncommittal objectivity to parse all the philosophical arguments and start asking questions they may never have considered. But all of that is secondary to the cinematic immediacy and engrossing colorful realism of the action. It’s not only in such balletically violent, heart-grabbing scenes as Reseng’s battle with the Barber, but also in simple conversations—not unmarked by black humor—and other interactions... that Kim’s prose sparkles.\
Roberto Bolano, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
MixedThe Washington Post\"... the book can be seen as a template for The Savage Detectives ... Plotwise, there’s not a lot of linear velocity. It’s a picaresque by a poet more concerned with notating startling moments than crafting a multibraided saga ... The Spirit of Science Fiction never attains the full dimensions of heartbreaking tragedy of which Bolaño is capable ... Bolaño’s lusty, laughing passion for art and literature, for women and Mexico City, is tangible here, but would find its richest expression only with the author’s maturity.\
George R.R. Martin
MixedLocus\"... lean and efficient and slyly seductive and instructive prose ... Although the text is, for the most part, a recounting rather than an enacting... the text is filled with such a wealth of incident and so many colorful characters ... There are scattered moments when the vividness quotient shoots up—a royal traitor being given to a dragon for the beast’s breakfast, for example—but generally one’s pulse will not pound. The book is far from a mere set of author’s notes to himself, but is more formal than otherwise.\
M. R. Carey
RaveThe Washington Post\"... Someone Like Me, is a spooky, wrenching, exhilarating ghost story-cum-thriller that manages to put a fresh, almost science-fictional spin on its specters and spooks. It’s domestic in scope — no global armageddons or apocalypses here, no burning cities or plague-ridden communities — but still delivers the maximum freight of frights and consequences ... Having constructed this very sturdy stage for his supernatural action, Carey does not stint with the unpredictable chills and an implacable, unstoppable cascade of events leading to his climax — all of which is made sharper by juxtaposition with the drab and quotidian venue, a very solidly rendered Pittsburgh. Along the way there are many moments of tenderness and humor, leavened with pop culture riffs ... In the end, Carey’s novel joins the accomplished ranks of Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts and Tim Powers’s Alternate Routes as a 21st-century rethinking of the eternal nature of ghosts.\
RaveBarnes & Noble Review\"[No book on the golden age of science fiction], even the best, have synthesized all the others and chosen to inhabit the writing of that era with the sensitivity, perceptiveness and insight that Alec Nevala-Lee exhibits in his new book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction ... This scrupulous account of the lives and careers and spreading waves of influence of the four named participants is simultaneously broad and laser-focused, nostalgic and forward-looking. It delivers both sweeping judgments and anecdotal particularity which fuel each other in a synergistic cycle ... And Nevala-Lee’s prose is exemplary, reading like the classic fiction it details: witty, vivid, taut, suspenseful, empathetic. And when Nevala-Lee does critically synopsize and dissect a piece of fiction, he inhabits it wholeheartedly and insightfully, making the reader–who might not have encountered a certain tale–completely understand the nature of the story and why the piece was important.\
Edited by Ellen Datlow
RaveLocusHer [Datlow\'s] various stints assembling annual best-of volumes has given her a deep sense of which stories stand the best chance of meriting the praises of posterity ... And indeed, this volume does not disappoint. It’s the kind of anthology you can hand to a friend who does not know the horror field—or even claims to dislike horror—and be sure that it will convert them into a passionate fan ... all these authors are superb at naturalism. They all prefer to stage their tales in settings that are either \'mundane\'—Laird Barron’s low-rent neighborhoods—or, if exotic—Carole Johnstone’s Himalayas—still well-chronicled and familiar. The fusion of the everyday with eruptions of the horrific and unnatural is a potent combo, of course, and the preferred mode these days. But conversely, this means there is less overt surrealism or out-of-this-world horror ... These tales walk the tightrope between enigmas and explicitness. They also represent a fusion of topicality and timelessness, dealing with both eternal concerns of the human soul and spirit and hot-button issues.
Richard K Morgan
PositiveLocust MagazineIf you ever imagined that the core esthetics and themes of cyberpunk—lowlifes and high tech; corporate dominance; future noir; posthuman evolution and cyborg adaptations; hardscrabble urban environments–were played out, Thin Air will set you straight, and kick your butt in the process ... Morgan’s world-construction is solid and clever and forceful ... kinematic and cinematic.
Joyce Carol Oates
MixedLocus\"The dystopia itself is pretty standard, with the exceptional aspects I cited above. The backstory does not really chart how we got there, or how any dystopia a writer might envision after seventy years of post-Orwell events would and must differ from 1984. If you take a book like Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway or Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan as hip postmodern dystopias, then Oates’s version seems relatively flat... So on this level, the book offers nothing radically new.\
Peter F Hamilton
RaveLocusPeter Hamilton just keeps getting better and better with each book, more assured and more craftsmanly adroit, and more inventive ... It’s a bravura performance from start to finish ... a virtuoso treat.
PositiveLocus MagIrontown Blues opens up with the CC having been defeated a few years ago and Luna experiencing a multiplicity of regimes. The event that toppled the CC is known, in suitably noirish fashion, as The Big Glitch. I say \'suitably noirish\' because our hero, Chris Bach, who narrates about half the chapters, is all about antique noir. He lives with fellow reenactors in Noirtown, dresses like a 1940s private eye, and in fact earns his living by doing investigations of all sorts. Chris’s partner is a uplifted canine named Sherlock. About half of our story is given through Sherlock’s eyes (and nose!), via a certain filter. That filter is a human woman named Penelope Cornflower, a trained dog-to-human mental interfacer who transcribes Sherlock’s consciousness for the reader ... This combo of Chris’s human desires and Sherlock’s complementary but alien motives gives us an...adventure with an emotional payoff at the climax that neither tactic alone could have provided.
Maria Dahvana Headley
RaveBarnes and Noble ReviewIn language brutal, elegant and as consequential as a sniper’s precision, constructing a drama that is no less fateful and tragic than the original, Headley abstracts from Beowulf many of its classic motifs and characters and plot points, but uses them to illuminate themes and conflicts vastly different from the Dark Ages concerns of the original. Nonetheless, an emotional and intellectual resonance comes to exists between the ur-text and the modern version ... Headley delivers a drama along those very lines, turning Beowulf‘s portrayal of allied noble houses and a team of equals menaced by almost cosmic irrationality into a parable of twenty-first century social and economic inequality ... The Mere Wife is a boldly conceived work that can stand proudly on the bookshelf next to its inspiration.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewOpening with the title story, we are immediately privy to the kind of awkward intimacies among humans that Aickman loved to portray ... Exiting this vividly intuitive yet rigorously formulated labyrinth of frustrated desires and derangements of the senses, of existential dread and numbly accepted confirmations of preternatural forebodings, the reader has a better sense of Aickman’s tropes and tactics. Quotidian boredoms are transmogrified into supernatural prisons, and every potential opening for expansion of the soul–new lovers, new houses, new rivers, new hikes–becomes a double-edged sword of entrapment ... Ultimately, these stories, striking and accomplished as they certainly are, serve mainly to underscore the uniqueness of Aickman’s tales, which originated from a mind shaped by an ethos and environment now as effectively extinct as Babylon or Byzantium.
RaveThe B&N ReviewAndreasen’s assured voice is a blend of quietly brooding naturalism and blithe surrealism, a kind of Raymond Carver sensibility and style mated with Mark Leyner’s fizzy, mad ideation. Employing sharp-edged yet deceptively unadorned prose, Andreasen succeeds in sucking the reader into his drolly insane and charmingly ghastly scenarios ... There is an undeniably cartoonish quality at work in many of Andreasen’s tales: the title story reads like a particularly demented episode of SpongeBob SquarePants ... Andreasen is frequently in touch with the apocalyptic strain in American writing, but even here he offers a variety of flavors. He can channel Flannery O’Connor ... By contrast, if the giant flying bear named Mord who dominated Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne was your cup of tea, then you will surely enjoy 'Rockabye, Rocketboy' ... Manifesting both the wise-old-sage chops of Robert Coover and the newfangled youthful freshness of Karen Russell, Michael Andreasen wraps his readers in literary tentacles that both stroke and throttle, and pulse with fervent alien life.
S. A. Chakraborty
RaveLocus MagazineThe City of Brass, the debut novel by S. A. Chakraborty, falls squarely into this mini-surge, while still proving to be a non-derivative, honorable, well-wrought and entertaining creation ...delightful prose style, producing moments of gravitas, humor and pathos; a vivid imagination; good narrative pacing; a sharp ear for dialogue; a solid grasp of history; and a keen eye for the natural world and mankind’s creations therein ... Chakraborty admirably keeps a number of plates spinning in her story ...above all she [Chakraborty] delivers the colorful grandeur and danger and decadence we associate with The Thousand and One Nights style of tales ...offers pleasures worthy of Scheherazade.
John Crowley, Illustrated by Melody Newcomb
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewA worthy summation and knotting together of his eternal main themes: life as story and stories as life; the relations between nature and humanity; the meaning of and transcendence of death; the teeter-totter between social duties and rogue outsiderly freedoms; and the value of families … Crowley’s inventions consort so well with what we know of these birds that the reader never feels any artificiality … Although it’s a given with those who know Crowley’s books, I would still be remiss if I did not comment on the sheer agile beauty of his prose.
RaveThe Barnes and Noble Review...it [Angelmaker] fills our mundane globe with such a raft of hidden marvels and oddities that it transforms the known, miracle-devoid terrain into a marvelous and dangerous wonderland ... At the center of a large, entertaining cast of nonpareils and eccentrics, freaks and monsters, geniuses and idiots is one quite average, unassuming fellow... characters occupy a lively period from WWII to the present and frequent such outré venues... Harkaway has managed to recapture the lighthearted brio of an earlier age of precision entertainment, when the world was deemed to be perpetually teetering on the brink of Armageddon but always capable of being snatched back to safety with a quip, a wink, a judo chop, and the lurid highlights reflecting off Mrs. Peel’s leather catsuit.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewAny good-hearted, whimsy-favoring reader, from acned to aged, who delights in chaotically fantastical or fantastically chaotic narratives involving the quest for one’s authentic identity and place in the world will surely enjoy Gabe Hudson’s debut novel ... one of Hudson’s main achievements in the book: vividly fleshing out the unrepentant, Darwinian, nihilistic, amoral dragon civilization ... The second accomplishment of the tale is the gleeful farrago of SF tropes that are mashed together, making this book a true instance of satirical science fiction rather than any kind of fantasy ... Gork, the Teenage Dragon offers us the insights and pleasures of seeing an absurdist, more savage version of our own bestial arena, a vision that makes us rethink our own default derangements.
PositiveSalonKaren Russell’s exotic Bigtree clan comes out at the top of the weirdo heap. They operate a shabby gator-wrestling establishment on an island mired in Florida’s swampy backwaters — carnies of a sort, united against rubes and ‘mainlander’ types … Russell is no miniaturist or minimalist, but rather the opposite, heir to a Southern tradition of tall tales, thick descriptions, deep backstories and contrary cusses as anti-heroes. Her theme of the onerous weight of a family’s destiny would not be out of place in any Faulkner production. Neither is she shy about heaping on the plot. By the end of Chapter One, we’ve already been introduced to all the family dynamics and much of its history, and seen the threat on the horizon, which is a rival amusement park on the mainland called the ‘World of Darkness’ … Russell privileges a kind of idioglossia, the special language and set of associations known only to the Bigtree clan, fabulators all.
RaveThe Washington PostOnce the reader accepts the incongruities and phantasmagorical exaggerations of Yuknavitch’s damning nightmare, the book offers a wealth of pathos, with plenty of resonant excruciations and some disturbing meditations on humanity’s place in creation ... Yuknavitch delivers no straight-up cinematic battles, chases or confrontations, but always mixes in digressive, reflective philosophizing with her action scenes ... The Book of Joan concludes in a bold and satisfying apotheosis like some legend out of The Golden Bough and reaffirms that even amid utter devastation and ruin, hope can still blossom.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThese tropes, first explored fictionally over thirty years ago, in the seminal works by Gibson, Sterling, et al., might seem like yesterday’s news. But Mason’s fresh burnishing of them, his willingness to invest some deep thoughts into how the last three decades have mutated these omnipresent trends, makes all of it new again ... Employing short, punchy chapters that alternate viewpoints with near-metronomic regularity (some gaps in the rotating pattern are necessitated by the plotting), the story unfolds with a sense of both unpredictability and fatedness that most novels would find hard to sustain, and which is all the more pleasing when deftly accomplished, as here ... Like Pynchon, Zachary Mason is determined to probe at the existential heart of our modern conundrum, even if it means confronting the void star at the core of our ultimately unknowable predicament.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewKalfa?’s novel is resoundingly about failure and the interior life. In fact, it is a pedigreed descendant of the landmark novels of Barry Malzberg, who at the height of his career represented the deliberate, postmodern dismantling of the Golden Age verities about space travel ... interspersed with Jakub’s spaceflight, in long episodes richly evocative of a vanished past, we see Jakub’s sociopolitical path in his changing nation, as well as his early romance with Lenka. All this history will eventually blend with the outer space experiences to produce deep insights about Jakub’s destiny and that of his country ... bravura metaphysical insights, matched with Realpolitik drama, might very well propel Spaceman of Bohemia into the realm traversed by The Martian and other tales for novice travelers and seasoned astronauts alike.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe allusiveness of this novel, both explicit and implicit, is a major part of its allure. While its narrative can be enjoyed purely on a surface level, it resonates so cleverly and deeply with so many other works that it both borrows their luminosity and confers its own newer radiance on its predecessors.