Black Water Sister
8/2/21; 1:25pm CDT
Zen Cho's Black Water Sister is set in Penang, Malaysia, and based on common religious customs there. Tense, exciting, informative, with a great lead character, struggling to find her way in the world.
She Who Became the Sun
7/28/21; 12:45pm CDT
Shelley Parker-Chan's debut novel, She Who Became the Sun, is a well-written, exciting historical fantasy, based on the beginnings of the Ming Dynasty, but with a twist beyond the fantasy elements. It's the first in a proposed duology knows as the Radiant Emperor. I liked parts of it, but grew discouraged by all the ruthless machinations by almost everyone, and even those who weren't ruthless went along with those who were.
Two New Novellas
7/23/21; 4:40pm CDT
Two reviews of new novellas today, both from Neon Hemlock Press. Premee Mohamed's And What Can We Offer You Tonight, and E. Catherine Tobler's The Necessity of Stars. Both are recommended.
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng
7/22/21; 1:40pm CST
The conclusion to the Bitch Queen series, The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng, was a disappointment, but that may have more to do with epic fantasy just not being my thing rather than the quality of the book. As in all things, YMMV.
The Ikessar Falcon
7/15/21; 2:35pm CST
The second book in K. S. Villoso's Chronicles of the Bitch Queen is The Ikessar Falcon. Not as good as the first, but mainly due to issues of pacing and repetitive action. Still good.
7/9/21; 2:00pm CST
Nalo Hopkinson's first story collection was 2001's Skin Folk. Three of the stories were award finalists on their own, the collection winning the World Fantasy Award and the Sunburst. I would have arranged them in a different order, saving the best for last, but other readers might like some that didn't have as much of an impact on me. Regardless of the order, it's still a powerful collection, highly recommended.
7/5/21; 4:00pm CST
The conclusion of the Protectorate trilogy is Catalyst Gate. Not as good as the second book, but its faults are more about the execution and pacing rather than the plot. The whole series is still highly recommended.
6/30/21; 2:10pm CST
The second book in Megan E. O'Keefe's Protectorate trilogy is Chaos Vector. It's twice as good as the first book, one of the best SF adventures I've read in quite a while.
The Return of the Sorceress
6/21/21; 5:40pm CST
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest is The Return of the Sorceress, a sword and sorcery novella. It was announced for June 30, but Subterranean Press shipped early. E-books will be available at the end of the month. Recommended.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built
6/19/21; 2:05pm CST
Becky Chambers starts a new series with the novella "A Psalm for the Wild-Built." The series name is Monk and Robot. I recommend it, and I look forward to more adventures with Sibling Dex and Splendid Speckled Mosscap.
6/18/21; 12:45pm CST
Nalo Hopkinson's most recent novel, 2013's Sister Mine, won the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Novel, although it has several adult themes. It is very, very good. Highly recommended.
Sibyl Sue Blue
6/12/21; 7:20pm CST
I cannot recommend Rosel George Brown's Sibyl Sue Blue, originally published in 1966, but getting a reprint this year. Her life story is intriguing enough that I may be reading some of her short stories, and if so I may review them too. I have no idea when that might happen though.
6/10/21; 1:30pm CST
Jeff VanderMeer's latest novel, Hummingbird Salamander, follows several of his frequent interests, the most prominent being environmental activism. Instead of the hallucinatory nature of the Southern Reach or Dead Astronauts, this is more of an eco-thriller, although it's not straight-forward. The narrator is the quintessence of unreliability, and so is the person who sends her down the rabbit hole.
The Midnight Bargain
5/31/21; 4:45pm CST
C. L. Polk's The Midnight Bargain is up for a Nebula. Unfortunately, I don't think it's worthy of that honor.
The Witness for the Dead
5/29/21; 12:10pm CST
Katherine Addison's The Witness for the Dead is billed as a stand-alone sequel to The Goblin Emperor. I think it can be appreciated by those who haven't read the previous book. I liked it, and can recommend it, whereas my opinion of Goblin is far less positive than the consensus.
5/19/21; 1:00pm CST
Soulstar concludes C. L. Polk's Kingston Cycle. It's another complicated, multi-layered mystery, laced with political chicanery and magic. I'd welcome a return to this world, but all the major issues are resolved. Highly recommended.
The Kingston Cycle
5/16/21; 4:10pm CST
I finally got around to Stormsong, the second book in C. L. Polk's Kingston Cycle. I re-read the first one and made a few minor edits to that review, so the link is for both. The conclusion will be my next read.
5/12/21; 3:10pm CST
Nalo Hopkinson's fifth novel, The ChaOs, is a lot like a fever dream, or a bad acid trip. As with a lot of dreams, events are interesting while they are happening, but they don't make much sense, and they don't leave a lasting impression.
5/9/21; 5:35pm CST
S. B. Divya's debut novel, Machinehood, is a fast-paced adventure set in a near future transformed by advanced robotics and bio-engineering. The technology is just the icing; as with a lot of the best SF, it's the characters that make the story. Highly recommended.
The Chosen and the Beautiful
5/6/21; 1:40pm CST
In year's past, Nghi Vo's debut novel, The Chosen and the Beautiful, would have been considered fan fiction. But The Great Gatsby is now in the public domain, and this might be just the first of many other writers' take on the characters and themes. I don't care what you think of Fitzgerald's book, this is much, much better.
The New Moon's Arms
4/29/21; 6:10pm CST
I'm not the sort to say all characters have to be sympathetic, but it doesn't help when the main character continually does and says things that are objectionable. She's not completely unredeemable, and I did like a lot of other things about Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
4/26/21; 3:40pm CST
As many times as I've said I prefer standalone novels, or at least not long series, I am truly sorry that The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the last of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series. Four books, each unique, with different characters and different settings, but all combine into a comprehensive look at a complex construct of multi-species cooperation (and sometimes conflict). Highly recommended.
We Are Satellites
4/23/21; 5:20pm CST
Sarah Pinsker's second novel, We Are Satellites, is good, but not as good as her first. The concept is not that unique, there are some interesting characters, but too many plot holes and things left unresolved for a book I assume was intended as a standalone.
A Master of Djinn
4/20/21; 2:15pm CST
A Master of Djinn is the first novel from P. Djèlí Clark, a return to his alternate history of Cairo in 1912 that began with the 2016 novelette, "A Dead Djinn in Cairo." A fascinating multi-layered mystery. Highly recommended.
4/16/21; 3:10pm CST
Rivers Solomon's third book, Sorrowland, is a combination of many genres; gothic thriller, horror, fantasy, science fiction, etc, etc. It begins with a fifteen-year-old runaway from a religious cult giving birth to twins in remote woods. After four years alone in those woods Vern decides it's time to venture back into the wider world. Their journey is fraught with peril, pursuit never far behind, but also with occasional allies. One thing this story is NOT is predictable. Recommended.
The Echo Wife
4/4/21; 10:25am CST
Sarah Gailey's The Echo Wife is about more than just the ethics of cloning. Identity and memory, the nature/nurture debate, and psychological and physical abuse perpetrated against both humans and clones. It's good, and I give it a reserved recommendation, in spite of several lapses in logic.
3/31/21; 6:30pm CST
Martha Wells returns to novella length for the latest Murderbot adventure, Fugitive Telemetry. Another mystery that taxes Murderbot's considerable talents, but it proves it is a thorough investigator. Recommended.
A Broken Darkness
3/29/21; 4:10pm CST
It seems Premee Mohamed's debut novel, Beneath the Rising, was not a stand-alone after all, but I feel confident the story concludes in its follow-up, A Broken Darkness. If not, a third book should prove as unpredictable as the first two.
Victories Greater Than Death
3/21/21; 4:50pm CST
I'm decades past the target demo for Charlie Jane Anders' new YA space opera, Victories Greater Than Death, but I still enjoyed it a lot. There is tragedy, death, destruction, but also hopeful optimism, in a story that might remind you of Guardians of the Galaxy, The Last Starfighter, or the Wayward Children book series by Seanan McGuire. Recommended.
New Awards Page
3/18/21; 4:10pm CST
Since the Hugo/Nebula Awards pages are grouped by decade, I needed to create a new page for The 2020s. Only this year's Nebulas are listed so far, with just a date for the Hugos although that may still be subject to change. I've read all but one of the novels, but just two of the novellas. I've provided links for purchase or to read online where available.
The Salt Roads
3/11/21; 4:10pm CST
Nalo Hopkinson's third novel, The Salt Roads, was a multiple award finalist. If follows the plights of three women in different eras and locales, all of whom are struggling towards freedom. The prose is more direct, less of the Haitian Creole dialect than in her first two, and as such perhaps more accessible. Recommended.
Where the Bird Sings Best
3/6/21; 5:05pm CST
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Where the Bird Sings Best might be considered a memoir, a history of his family, but it has to be mostly fictional. And surreal. And violent. The latter is the reason I can't recommend it, although there are some good things about it.
Record of a Spaceborn Few
2/22/21; 12:30pm CST
Becky Chambers' third Wayfarers novel, Record of a Spaceborn Few, continues the character-driven, contemplative narrative, this time from the perspective of several characters within the Exodus Fleet. I loved it, another 5 star read, highly recommended.
2/16/21; 12:10pm CST
The second novel by newly named SFWA Grand Master Nalo Hopkinson was Midnight Robber from 2000. As with her first, I originally had trouble with the Creole patois, but found reading out loud helped a lot. It's one that may have worked better in audio form.
These Lifeless Things
2/9/21; 1:50pm CST
Premee Mohamed's These Lifeless Things is the first novella from the new Solaris Satellites imprint from Rebellion Publishing. It's good, recommended, but also a bit confusing. It's possible the narrator(s) are unreliable. I need to read it again as soon as possible.
A Desolation Called Peace
2/2/21; 12:00pm CST
I re-read last year's Hugo winner, A Memory Called Empire, which I consider a brilliant novel. That might be why I didn't like the second in the series as much, but A Desolation Called Peace is still very good.
1/29/21; 12:50pm CST
I should have been able to finish Aliette de Bodard's new novella, Fireheart Tiger, in just a few hours, but I kept finding other things to do besides read. It's the first of her stories to disappoint, although I know it will appeal to many other readers.
A Closed and Common Orbit
1/25/21; 2:15pm CST
The second book in the Wayfarers saga is A Closed and Common Orbit, which I had previously reviewed four years ago. I edited that to correct some statements I had made without knowledge of the first book. I liked it just as much, maybe more, the second time. Highly recommended.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
1/20/21; 2:30pm CST
The first three books in Becky Chambers' Wayfarers won the Best Series Hugo in 2019. I had read the second book out of sequence when it was a Hugo finalist on its own in 2017. I finally got around to the first one, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and have deleted comments on the second book for now, pending edits after a re-read, which I started last night. I plan to read the third one next month, and the fourth, reportedly the conclusion, comes out in April.
The Best of R. A. Lafferty
1/15/21; 6:35pm CST
Another instance of a book taking much longer than it should have, and for the same reasons. The Best of R. A. Lafferty is a relatively short book, 22 stories in less than 300 pages, but it seemed so much longer. Some very good stories, some very frustrating ones too.
A History of What Comes Next
1/8/21; 5:05pm CST
Entirely too long since the last book review, even beyond how long it took to re-read the first Expanse novel. But a lot has been going on in the world and personal life to distract me, and it didn't help that I didn't like Sylvain Neuvel's A History of What Comes Next as much as I'd hoped. The beginning of yet another series, but my interest in the sequels is low at this time.
Happy New Year!
1/1/21; 1:00pm CST
May it be better in every way than the last one. I'm not making any resolutions this year, I'll just continue reading as much as possible. So many books I want to get to, new, old, and in between, and I need to get back to several graphic novels that have been waiting way too long. Can't say when the next review will be. I'm currently halfway in a re-read of Leviathan Wakes, the first Expanse novel, which I reviewed eight years ago. I hope to finish all of them before the ninth novel comes out. No word yet on when that will be. After LW I may go back to one I stalled on last month, or read one of the ARCs I have, two of which publish early next month. All of last year's updates have been moved to the Archives page, although I'm also keeping the 20th Anniversary notice at the top for a while longer.
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