Blog Posts, July 2017

Books Received, July 22 - 28

“History is a hostage, but it will bite through the gag you tie around its mouth, bite through and still be heard.”—Operation Daniel

In a calm and serene world, one has the luxury of imagining what the future might look like.
Now try to imagine that future when your way of life has been devastated by forces beyond your control.

Iraq + 100 poses a question to Iraqi writers (those who still live in that nation, and those who have joined the worldwide diaspora): What might your home country look like in the year 2103, a century after a disastrous foreign invasion?

Using science fiction, allegory, and magical realism to challenge the perception of what it means to be “The Other”, this groundbreaking anthology edited by Hassan Blasim contains stories that are heartbreakingly surreal, and yet utterly recognizable to the human experience. Though born out of exhaustion, fear, and despair, these stories are also fueled by themes of love, family, and endurance, and woven through with a delicate thread of hope for the future.

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July 2017 in Review

July

20 books read. 11 by women (55%), 8 by men (40%), 1 by NB (5%)

Works by POC: 7 (35%)

Year to Date

146 works reviewed. 79 by women (54%). 63 by men (43%). 4 by non-binary authors (3%).

Works by POC: 46.5 (32%)

And now, the meaningless table.


Key: WNB stands for “women and non-binary genders”, while POC stands for “person of colour”. R/R stands for “reviews/reviewers”. For R/R the percentage represents the site’s R/R over my 2015 R/R. SFX is actually called SFX; it is not short for anything. Same with io9. F&SF is the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. SFS is Science Fiction Studies. LARB is the Los Angeles Review of Books. CSZ is the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Review source Total WNB WNB % POC POC % Reviewers R/R R/R %
JNR 2015 329 195 59 45 14 1 329 100
Locus 324 163 50 22 7 17 19 5.7
JNR 2016 255 163.5 64 62.5 25 1 255 78
SFX 165 48 29 10 6 30 5.5 1.5
Romantic Times 146 84 57 14 10 (incorrect) n/a N/a
JNR 2017 146 83 57 46.5 32 1 146 44.4
Tor 141 66 47 18 13 27 5.2 1.6
Strange Horizons 139 66 48 30 22 80 1.7 0.5
Rising Shadows 83 25 30 1 1 2 41.5 12.6
Interzone 67 21 31 7 10 19 3.5 1
F&SF 59 32 54 5 9 5 11.8 3.6
Analog 58 10 17 3 4 1 58 17.6
Io9 56 17 30 12 21 10 5.6 1.7
Asimov’s 53 21 23 3 6 3 17.7 5.4
Vector 52 18 35 4 8 26 2 0.6
SFS 45 48 21 2 4 38 1.2 0.3
NYRSF 42 11 26 6 13 24 1.8 0.5
Foundation 38 9 24 1 3 27 1.4 0.4
LARB 35 11 31 7 20 28 1.3 0.4
Lightspeed 28 16? 57 14 50 3 9.3 2.8
CSZ 23 19 80 8 35 17 1.4 0.4

I am making progress on the non-binary front but only in terms of books. In terms of authors, I am still narrow focus. I’ve read more books by POC than this time last year (46.5 versus 34) but fiddling about with numbers says at 4 or 5 books by POC I will only have reviewed 66 to 71 books by POC by the end of December. The low end is not significantly better than 2016. It’s a good thing I am neither competitive nor obsessed with my statistics.

At 20 books a month, by year’s end I will probably edge out everyone but Locus’ army of reviewers, in terms of total reviews. Ah, well. And Locus will have reviewed slightly more WNB authors than I will by years end. At least I can console myself that I am about 27 times as productive thus far as the median reviewer is in a year.

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Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Dystopian works, chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance1. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should conside2.



Persons unfamiliar with one or two of the works, congratulations! You’re one of today’s Ten Thousand!

1: There are two filtering rules:

  • Only one work per author per list
  • Any given work by a particular author can appear on only one list. A given author may, however, have works on various lists but each instance of their work will be unique.

2: NO IMPLICATION IS INTENDED THAT THESE ARE THE ONLY TWENTY BOOKS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER3.

3: See footnote 2.

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Books Received, July 8 - 14


Lyrical, witty, and heartbreaking, here is Peter S. Beagle’s much-anticipated return to the short form. In these uniquely beautiful tales, Beagle once again proves himself a master of the imagination.

Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice … mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks―and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities―and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!

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Books Received, July 1 - 7


To catch an assassin, use an assassin…

Girton Club-foot, apprentice to the land’s best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But his latest mission tasks him and his master with a far more difficult challenge: to save a life. Someone, or many someones, is trying to kill the heir to the throne, and it is up to Girton and his master to uncover the traitor and prevent the prince’s murder.

In a kingdom on the brink of civil war and a castle thick with lies Girton finds friends he never expected, responsibilities he never wanted, and a conspiracy that could destroy an entire kingdom.


CONTROL THE MAGIC, CONTROL THE WORLD

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.
Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.


From New York Times bestselling author James S.A. Corey…

Set in the hard-scrabble solar system of the Expanse, this new novella deepens James S. A. Corey’s acclaimed series.

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit in this rollicking fantasy adventure series.

The Dragons who once ruled over the land are dead.

The motley crew that stumbled through that revolution are rich and praised as saviors.

Everyone gets to live happily ever after, right?

Right?

Well, it might have worked out that way if the dragons in Kondorra had been the only ones. If they hadn’t been just the tip of the spear about to fall upon the whole world…



The second book in a glorious new fantasy trilogy by the next major force in commercial epic fantasy.
In the wake of the devastating attack on Ilin Illan, an amnesty has been declared for all Augurs - finally allowing them to emerge from hiding and openly oppose the dark forces massing against Andarra.

However as Davian and his new allies hurry north toward the ever-weakening Boundary, fresh horrors along their path suggest that their reprieve may have come far too late.

In the capital, Wirr is forced to contend with assassins and an increasingly hostile Administration as he controversially assumes the mantle of Northwarden, uncovering a mystery that draws into question everything commonly believed about the rebellion his father led twenty years ago. Meanwhile, Asha begins a secret investigation into the disappearance of the Shadows, determined to discover not only where they went but the origin of the Vessels that created them - and, ultimately, a cure.

And with time against him as he races to fulfill the treacherous bargain with the Lyth, Caeden continues to wrestle with the impossibly heavy burdens of his past. Yet as more and more of his memories return, he begins to realise that the motivations of the two sides in this ancient war may not be as clear-cut as they first seemed…


THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDSFOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

Something bizarre is happening among the government workers at weapons laboratories across the United States. Increasing numbers of employees are abandoning their jobs for no apparent reason, some of them committing suicide, others trading their high-profile, specialized careers for unskilled jobs in obscure towns.


One such employee, metallurgist Richard Bransome, is drinking coffee at a café when he overhears a conversation about a long-ago murder that has newly come to light. The details awaken Bransome’s suppressed memory of a similar crime that he committed years before. Like his co-workers, Bransome takes flight, eventually discovering that his sudden recollection is linked to an enemy spy ring and a powerful new weapon. Set during the height of Cold War tensions, this mystery offers a compelling mix of espionage novel, crime drama, and psychological thriller.


FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.

Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.



Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with an enthralling new novel of power, theft, privilege and birthright.

A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artifacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.

Ingray and her charge will return to her home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.



Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line.

Enter Rem: new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons with no money for bail. When offered a position with the Watch to compensate for his crimes, Rem jumps at the chance.

His new partner is less eager. Torval, a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later, is highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem.

But when Torval’s former partner goes missing, the two must consort with the usual suspects — drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans — to uncover the truth and catch a murderer loose in their fair city.


Clementine is a bounty hunter in a world gone mad.

Bound and gagged in her passenger seat is the most revered and reviled raider king in the eastern wastes. She can’t cash him in and she can’t let him go, so together they cross the wasteworld, following a dying road and dodging bloodthirsty raiders who either want to free Jedediah or claim him as their own.

And in a world where lawlessness reigns, a tyrant worse than they could have ever imagined emerges to take the throne.

A series of murders shocks Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward, but Shigenori, a retired police detective, is instead obsessed with a gargoyle that seems to move. College freshman Kotaro launches a web-based investigation of the killer, and comes to find that answers may lie within an abandoned building in the center of Japan’s busiest neighborhood, and beyond the Gate of Sorrows. In this adult sequel to Miyabe’s The Book of Heroes, you will meet monsters from other worlds and ordinary horrors that surpass even supernatural threats.



Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin’s wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.

Antonina, who prefers her family’s country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society’s ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can’t help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent.

Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice.


Charlotte is learning to control her emerging magical prowess under the
secret tutelage of Magus Hopkins. Her first covert mission takes her to a
textile mill where the disgruntled workers are apparently in revolt.

But it isn’t the workers causing the trouble. The real culprits are far
more extranormal in nature.

And they have a grudge to settle.


The Bureau of Preternatural Investigations returns in Switchback, the sequel to Melissa F. Olson’s Nightshades.

Three weeks after the events of Nightshades, things are finally beginning to settle for the Chicago branch of the BPI, but the brief respite from the horror of the previous few weeks was never destined to last.

The team gets a call from Switch Creek, WI, where a young man has been arrested on suspicion of being a shade. The suspect is held overnight, pending DNA testing, but seemingly escapes in a terrifying and bloody massacre. But is there more to the jailbreak than a simple quest for freedom?

Morino is the strangest girl in school — how could she not be, given her obsession with brutal murders? And there are plenty of murders to grow obsessed with, as the town in which she lives is a magnet for serial killers. She and her schoolmate will go to any length to investigate the murders, even putting their own bodies on the line. And they don’t want to stop the killers — Morino and friend simply want to understand them.


Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills - vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.



In the fight for humanity, one final hope remains…

Humans are losing the war. Master Sergeant Reed Beckham and the survivors of 1st Platoon must battle through the tunnels — where they make a grisly discovery.

Dr. Kate Lovato is working on a new bioweapon to destroy the Variants when a derelict Navy Destroyer crashes into the Connecticut shoreline carrying yet another threat.

As the doomsday clock ticks down and military bases fall across the country, the human race enters the age of extinction. Will they prevail — or will mankind vanish off the face of the planet?

The third book in self-publishing sensation and USA Today bestselling author Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s propulsive post-apocalyptic series about a soldier’s mission to save the world.



There’s a storm on the horizon...

Central Command is gone, the military is fractured, and the surviving members of Team Ghost, led by Master Sergeant Reed Beckham, have been pushed to the breaking point.

Betrayed by the country they swore to defend and surrounded by enemies on all sides, Team Ghost has one mission left: protect Dr. Kate Lovato and Dr. Pat Ellis while they develop a weapon to defeat the Variants once and for all. But after a grisly discovery in Atlanta, Kate and Ellis realize their weapon might not be able to stop the evolution of the monsters.

Joined by unexpected allies and facing a new threat none of them saw coming, the survivors are running out of time to save the human race from extinction.

Remnants of the high nobility, manipulated by the “third power” of Phezzan, abduct the seven-year-old emperor and, with the cooperation of the Free Planets Alliance, declare the establishment of a traditional imperial government. Reinhard, however, has turned the tables by making a secret pact with Phezzan’s high officials and plans a grand invasion of the alliance by way of the Phezzan Corridor. So begins an epic battle between Yang — who, despite surmising Reinhard’s true intentions, must defend Iserlohn — and the Imperial Navy’s peerless fighter, von Reuentahl.

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Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Mysteries Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Speculative Fiction Mysteries chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field [1]. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider [2].

Persons unfamiliar with one or two of the works, congratulations! You’re one of today’s Ten Thousand!

1: There are two filtering rules:

  • Only one work per author per list
  • Any given work can appear on only one list

2: NO IMPLICATION IS INTENDED THAT THESE ARE THE ONLY TWENTY BOOKS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER [3].

3: See footnote two.


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Books Received, June 24 - 30


Once upon a time, Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang) was demon-infested San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine, a beacon of hope and strength and really awesome outfits. But all that changed the day she agreed to share the spotlight with her best friend and former assistant Evie Tanaka—who’s now a badass, fire-wielding superheroine in her own right.

They were supposed to be a dynamic duo, but more and more, Aveda finds herself shoved into the sidekick role. Where, it must be said, she is not at all comfortable.

It doesn’t help that Aveda’s finally being forced to deal with fallout from her diva behavior—and the fact that she’s been a less than stellar friend to Evie. Or that Scott Cameron—the man Aveda’s loved for nearly a decade—is suddenly giving her the cold shoulder after what seemed to be some promising steps toward friendship. Or that the city has been demon-free for three months in the wake of Evie and Aveda’s apocalypse-preventing battle against the evil forces of the Otherworld, leaving Aveda without the one thing she craves most in life: a mission.

All of this is causing Aveda’s burning sense of heroic purpose—the thing that’s guided her all these years—to falter.

In short, Aveda Jupiter is having an identity crisis.When Evie gets engaged and drafts Aveda as her maid-of-honor, Aveda finally sees a chance to reclaim her sense of self and sets out on a single-minded mission to make sure Evie has the most epic wedding ever. But when a mysterious, unseen supernatural evil rises up and starts attacking brides-to-be, Aveda must summon both her superheroine and best friend mojo to take down the enemy and make sure Evie’s wedding goes off without a hitch—or see both her city and her most important friendship destroyed forever.


We all think we know how the story ends…

With the Crescent Empress dead, a civil war has torn the empire asunder. No one seems able to stop the ruthless Gagargi Prataslav. The five Daughters of the Moon are where he wants them to be, held captive in an isolated house in the far north.

Little Alina senses that the rooms that have fallen in disrepair have a sad tale to tell. Indeed, she soon meets two elderly ladies, the ghosts of the house’s former inhabitants.

Merile finds the ghosts suspiciously friendly and too interested in her sisters. She resolves to uncover their agenda with the help of her two dogs.

Sibilia isn’t terribly interested in her younger sisters’ imaginary friends, for she has other concerns. If they don’t leave the house by spring, she’ll miss her debut. And while reading through the holy scriptures, she stumbles upon a mystery that reeks of power.

Elise struggles to come to terms with her relationship with Captain Janlav. Her former lover now serves the gagargi, and it’s his duty to keep the daughters confined in the house. But if the opportunity were to arise, she might be able sway him into helping them flee.

Celestia is perfectly aware of the gagargi coming to claim her rather sooner than later. She’s resolved to come up with a plan to keep her sisters safe at any cost. For she knows what tends to happen to the sisters of the Crescent Empress.


What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his ‘trade’? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?

When Kia’s dying father gives her a small leather pouch he’s kept hidden for years, she’s too grief-stricken to open it. Only later does she discover it contains a stunning Malemese diamond. The trouble is, it’s a crime punishable by death for any non-Malemese to own one of these rare diamonds. The only way she can learn how her father came by such a priceless gem is to go to the distant planet of Malem - the last place in the universe Kia wants to be. But how will she find out where the diamond came from when no one can know that she has it? Can she trust Agatha, the strange Select who accompanies her, or handsome but mysterious Jumal, the youngMalemese who befriends her, with her deadly secret?


The great geoengineering projects have failed.

The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice.

Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population. She’s been a convict, a corrections officer in a labour camp, and consort to a criminal, and now, out of desperation, she has committed the kidnapping of the century. But before she can collect the ransom and make a new life elsewhere, she must find a place of safety amongst the peninsula’s forests and icy plateaus, and evade a criminal gang that has its own plans for the teenage girl she’s taken hostage.

Blending the story of Austral’s flight with the fractured history of her family and its role in the colonisation of Antarctica, Austral is a vivid portrayal of a treacherous new world created by climate change, and shaped by the betrayals and mistakes of the past

.


The powerful young wizard Sybel requires the company of no man. In her exquisite stone abode, she is attended by exotic, magical beasts: Riddle-master Cyrin the boar; the treasure-starved dragon Gyld; Gules the Lyon, tawny master of the Southern Deserts; Ter, the fiercely vengeful falcon; Moriah, feline Lady of the Night. To complete her menagerie, Sybel only desires the mysterious Liralen, which eludes even her strongest enchantments.

But Sybel’s solitude is shattered when a desperate soldier arrives with an endangered child. Soon she will discover that the world of men is full of love, deceit, and the temptations of vast power.


A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper. But at Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive, and even evolve.

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