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 ... The two stories original to this collection are both masterful and striking ... challenging and rewarding ... [Chiang] 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.