Reviews: Miscellaneous Reviews

And The Stars Above

Finder — Suzanne Palmer

Suzanne Palmer’s 2019 Finder is a science fiction novel.

Humanity has escaped the Earth and the Solar System and has spread across the Milky Way. It’s a grand, romantic era … in the midst of which Fergus Ferguson has an unromantic job. He is a modern-day repo man, tracking down and recovering items that have not been paid for.

The quest for a starship misappropriated by Arum Gilger leads Fergus to Cernekan, a meh system midway between nowhere remarkable and no place special. Cernekan is about to become an interesting place, and the unfortunate Fergus will play a central role in that transformation.


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Driven By the Night

The Raven Tower — Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower is a standalone secondary-world fantasy.

Mawat’s story may sound familiar: a northern kingdom; an heir who learns that his father has disappeared and that his uncle has seized power.


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Laying Down the Law

Ninth Step Station — Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, Curtis C. Chen

Malka Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Curtis C. Chen’s 2018 Ninth Step Station is an anthology of serial shared-world cyberpunk fiction. It is published by Serial Box, who (to quote their site):

Serial Box is a publishing company and mobile app that produces and delivers team-written serialized fiction. We blend story production and distribution practices from television, book publishing and narrative podcasting to create professionally crafted serials that fit your life.

Following earthquake and Chinese invasion, Tokyo is divided between Chinese occupation forces, American forces, and of course the Japanese themselves. Crime is still a fact of life. It is up to Tokyo Metropolitan Police officers like Miyako Korida to deal with it. Because there is no job that cannot be made more complicated, Miyako has the privilege of partnering with Peacekeeper Lieutenant Emma Higashi of the US Navy.

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Panorama

Hidden Sun — Jaine Fenn
Shadowlands, book 1

2018’s Hidden Sun is the first volume in Jaine Fenn’s Shadowlands series.

Disfigured in a mishap, aristocratic shadowkin Rhia disregards convention and indulges her scholarly interests.

Dej is also unconventional, but she’s not as lucky. She’s a skykin and so a lesser being in the eyes of the shadowkin who run the creche that raised her. Rhia can flout rules; Dej cannot. She is punished for disobedience and eventually sent back to her people, the skykins, who lead hard lives under the bright sun of the skylands.

Who would expect that these two women, of such different backgrounds and tastes, would ever meet?

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Love and Pain

Miranda in Milan — Katharine Duckett

Katharine Duckett’s Miranda in Milan is a standalone historical fantasy novella. It is Duckett’s book debut1.

Restored to his dukedom, Prospero returns to Milan, bringing with him his daughter Miranda. Miranda was raised on Prospero’s uncharted island and finds Milan a bewildering, alien city.

A bewildering, alien, and hostile city.


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I Get Knocked Down

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again — Zen Cho

Zen Cho’s 2018 If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again is a standalone novelette.

Nothing is finer than being an enlightened dragon, armed with the wisdom of the ages and a cintamani, a matchless pearl that confers godly power on the possessor. Or so believes Byam, a lowly imugi (worm). Searching for the secret of enlightenment, it is visiting terrified monks, asking them to teach it the Way. Right now!1 It is also contriving various schemes to trick heaven into granting it entry to the celestial ranks.

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All Your Dreams Are On The Way

The Man Who Bridged the Mist — Kij Johnson

Kij Johnson’s 2011 The Man Who Bridged the Mist is a standalone secondary world fantasy.

A river divides the Empire’s Nearside from Farside. Bridging the wide river would be challenge enough. The challenge is doubled or tripled by the mist that covers the river. The mist is caustic; it burns. Things live in the Mist, some vast enough to swallow boats and their contents whole. Boats can cross the Mist, but it’s a perilous crossing. Boats disappear; passengers die.

Kit Meinem of Atyar has been tasked to build a bridge over the river.


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Meet at a Post Apocalypse

Eat Your Heart Out — Dayna Ingram

Dayna Ingram’s 2011 Eat Your Heart Out is a standalone zombie apocalypse novella.

Devin has it all: a postage-stamp sized apartment over what’s almost certainly a meth lab, an increasingly aloof girlfriend, and a new position as shift-leader at Ashbee’s Furniture Outlet (where the odd smells and stains are thrown in for free!). All this in a town that is a backwater even for a flyover state. The only possible way Devin’s slice of heaven could go wrong is if zombies attack.

Zombies attack.

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Til Eternity Passes Away

A Symphony of Echoes — Jodi Taylor
Chronicles of St. Mary's, book 2

2013’s A Symphony of Echoes is the second volume in Jodi Taylor’s series Chronicles of St. Mary’s.

Madeline Maxwell and Kalinda Black’s innocent foray into the late 19th century to seek out Jack the Ripper takes an unpleasant turn when the pair finds Jack the Ripper. Or rather, the Ripper finds them.

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Walk in the Sun

The Future is Female! — Lisa Yaszek


Lisa Yaszek’s 2018 The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories By Women, From Pulp Pioneers To Ursula K. Le Guin is an anthology. As promised by the title, it contains twenty-five classic stories by women, published over a span of time stretching from the early days of commercial science fiction to the late 1960s.

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Go Ask Alice

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo — F. C. Yee

2017’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is F. C. Yee’s debut novel.

Bay Area high school student Eugenia “Genie” Lo is highly motivated and hard-working, determined to earn her way into Harvard. She’s going to claw her way to the top, despite all her equally motivated, hard working, and better-connected rivals. Harvard is not just a top-ranked school. It is as far from Genie’s well-meaning, interfering mother as it is possible to be without leaving the United States. Genie does not need distractions on her journey to the east. She gets a major distraction in the form of brash transfer student Quentin Sun.

Also known as Sun Wukong.

Also known as the Monkey King. That Monkey King.

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Can’t Get There From Here

The Luminous Dead — Caitlin Starling

2019’s The Luminous Dead is Caitlin Starling’s debut novel.

Gyre Price lies to get the contract for a solo caving expedition. It’s a calculated risk: caving is dangerous. But the payoff for the foray could be lucrative enough to pay Gyre’s way off the dead-end colony world of Cassandra-V.

Cassandra-V’s wealth, such as it is, is based on subterranean mineral deposits. It’s a reasonable guess that Gyre’s employer hopes to discover a new vein of ore. A guess is all it is, as the employer is oddly reticent about the project’s goals. This isn’t the only piece of important information that Gyre has not been given. The employer knows that Gyre lied about her experience but hired her anyway.

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Ten Fathoms Deep on the Road to Hell

Spanish Mission — K. B. Spangler
Hope Blackwell, book 2

2018’s Spanish Mission is the second volume in K. B. Spangler’s Hope Blackwell series of novels1.

Seeking to distract her cyborg friend Mary “Mare” O’Murphy from the disquieting revelation that ghosts exist and are quite visible to Enhanced Americans, Hope Blackwell takes Mare and their talking koala pal Speedy on a road trip to Vegas.

This bold gambit sets Hope and Mare up for an encounter with paranormal impresario Eli Tellerman of the reality show Spooky Solutions [2]. Tellerman knows Hope for the psychic that she is. In short order he manages to strong-arm her into joining his latest venture.

It’s an exciting foray into the desert in search of ancient treasure, pirate ships lost in an arid wasteland, and (of course) ghosts.

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Why Don’t You Be You?

No Man of Woman Born (Rewoven Tales) — Ana Mardoll

2018’s No Man of Woman Born (Rewoven Tales) is a single-author collection by Ana Mardoll.

Thanks to the place Tanith Lee’s Red as Blood has in my heart, I am always up for fairy tales re-imagined in a new light. Of course, this is sometimes not fair to new collections; I tend to measure them against a collection I like very much. Mardoll’s collection passes the test.

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Save the World

Krrish — Rakesh Roshan
Krrish, book 2

2006’s Krrish is the second film in the Krrish franchise (which includes at least five films, a television show, television movies, a comic, and a computer game, and probably more tie-ins I’ve missed). It was written, directed, and produced by Rakesh Roshan. It stars the producer’s son Hrithik Roshan1 as the title character, as well as Priyanka Chopra, Rekha, and Naseeruddin Shah.

As soon as orphan Krishna Mehra’s super-intelligence begins to show itself, his doting grandmother Sonia (Rekha) whisks him away to a remote village in northern India. Krishna’s father Rohit had similar abilities, which led to tragedy when an evil man tried to exploit him. Sonia is determined not to lose her grandson as she lost her son and daughter-in-law.

Sonia can flee the world but that won’t keep the world from coming to that remote village.

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Evil Genius

Vicious — V. E. Schwab
Villains, book 1

2013’s Vicious is the first volume in V. E. Schwab’s Villains series.

ExtraOrdinary (EO) people are the stuff of rumours. That doesn’t stop ambitious college students Eli and Victor from trying their hand at artificially inducing EOs. The key seems to be near-death experiences, which are easy enough to orchestrate provided one has no professional ethics and less caution.

EOs do exist and Eli and Victor’s method does work. Which is how Eli and Victor got their powers, why Victor spent a decade in prison, and why as the book opens Victor and his new friend Sydney are digging up a dead body.

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Nothing’s Gonna Change My World

A Real Sky — tori_siikanen

tori_siikanen’s A Real Sky is an unfinished novel, readable at Archive of Our Own. It attempts to give Tanith Lee’s Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine duology a concluding volume.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

But not in Four-BEE, Four-BOO, and Four-BAA, where, for humans, there is no death and no escape from the carefully orchestrated existence permitted by their quasi-robot (Q-R) tenders. Attempts to step outside carefully defined borders spark the close attention of the Q-Rs.

Case in point: a nameless protagonist plagued with unexplained dreams of a past of which they should have no knowledge. Also, unfashionable interests.


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Like Dreamers Do

Otherbound — Corrine Duyvis

Corrine Duyvis’ 2014 Otherbound is a standalone fantasy.

Arizona teen Nolan is a visionary. He doesn’t imagine things: he sees things. Whenever he closes his eyes — when he blinks, for example — he sees whatever Amara sees.

Amara lives in another realm where magic is real. She has a talent, healing, which makes her nigh unkillable. You’d think this would make her a power in the world in which she lives. It doesn’t. She’s a slave. She’s a slave on the run, following her mistress.


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From Here to Mars

The Fated Sky — Mary Robinette Kowal
Lady Astronaut, book 2

2018’s The Fated Sky is the second volume in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series.

Earth is doomed … but not immediately. There is enough time to try to establish colonies on the other worlds of the Solar System, for a chosen few to survive catastrophe. But who, exactly, will qualify to be among the lucky handful to have a future?


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Screaming to Say

In the Vanisher’s Palace — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2018 novel In the Vanishers’ Palace is a standalone secondary world fantasy (unless it’s SF; see comments).

The Vanishers used the world as their toy until they broke it. Having ruined the world, they absconded, leaving their former slaves and playthings behind to scrabble for life in the poisoned wreckage.

Yên’s village has no room for the useless or the weak. Her mother’s knack for healing magic pays her own way, but it’s not enough to support Yên. She is only a mediocre scholar. She has failed to pass the metropolitan exam and escape to the comparative security of the imperial court. It’s only a matter of time before Elder Tho finds a pretext to eject Yên from the village or feed her to the purifying artifact in the Plague Grove.

Giving Yên to a dragon to do with as the dragon wishes is also acceptable to Elder Tho.

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Bloom for Me and You

A Study in Honor — Claire O'Dell

Claire O’Dell’s 2018 A Study in Honor is a near-future Holmesian mystery.

Public spirit compelled Dr. Janet Watson to serve on the Federal side of the New Civil War1. After an enemy bullet cost her an arm, the government thanked her for her service by providing her with a second-hand, defective prosthetic limb and a medical discharge.

She has broken up with her girlfriend. She is having a hard time finding a job (not that many jobs for one-armed African-American surgeons). She is depressed and struggling with PTSD. Nevertheless, she persists. Watson settles for a position well below her skill level, as a medical technician whose tasks are limited to ticking boxes on a checklist. Now she has to find a place to live in the crowded capital (a quest complicated, of course, by the melanin content of her skin).

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A Dream of Weaving

The Meek — Der-shing Helmer

The Meek is a webcomic by Der-shing Helmer (last seen here as the author of Mare Internum).

Fifteen year old Angora has been dispatched to save her world by the ancient and powerful giant salamander Mocheril, whom Angora calls Grandfather. Angora is energetic, determined, and able to command plants. She is also fearfully ignorant of the world and deficient in many attributes that would facilitate her quest.

Her utter lack of clothing proves unpleasantly attention-getting.

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Sole Misfortune

An Unkindness of Ghosts — Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon’s 2017 An Unkindness of Ghosts is a generation-ship novel.

The generation ship Matilda set out lifetimes ago to convey a handful of people to a distant promised land1. It carries within it every flaw known to human society. Until the ship arrives at its destination, there is no escape, not for the ship’s rulers (the Sovereignty) and not for the unfortunates relegated to the lower decks.

Aster is brilliant. Her intellectual gifts recommend her to the great surgeon Theo — not as a potential surgeon, but as a surgeon’s assistant. That is all she can ever be, because her skin is brown. That marks her as one of the underclass, as someone who can be oppressed and victimized without consequence.

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Beat Down Like a Waterfall

Sleepless Domain — Mary Cagle

Sleepless Domain is an ongoing webcomic by Mary Cagle.

The time is now 10 PM. All citizens should be indoors, and all magical girls transformed.

The unnamed city is perpetually under siege; monsters have overrun the world. During the day, the monsters are kept at bay by a magical barrier. At night, the monsters are able to make their way into the city. At night, it is up to the city’s magical girls to protect the city and its mundane inhabitants.

Team Alchemical — Undine Wells, Gwen Morita, Sylvia Skylark, Tessa Quinn, and Sally Fintan, or, as they are known by the city, Alchemical Water, Alchemical Earth, Alchemical Air, Alchemical Aether, and Alchemical Fire — spend their days in school and their nights fighting monsters. Now they’ve found a new enemy to fight.

Each other.

(spoilers)

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See the Crystal Raindrops Fall

What’s Left of Me — Kat Zhang
Hybrid Chronicles, book 1

2012’s What’s Left of Me is the first volume in Kat Zhang’s Hybrid Chronicles.

Alone of all the world’s regions, only the Americas have chosen to eliminate the two-minded adult hybrids, to seal themselves off from the chaos that hybrids cause. The rest of the world can have its Great Wars, but North and South America are secure, peaceful, and steadfastly conventional.

Like all human children everywhere, Eva and Addie were born as hybrids, two minds sharing a single body. Most New World children settle, a process in which the weaker of the two minds fades away, leaving only a single, stable, intellect. Although clearly fated to vanish, Eva lingered on, unable to control the shared body, but still present. Despite the best treatments modern medicine could offer, it seemed the child was doomed to be one of those unfortunates safely sequestered away from decent folk.

Eva_and_Addie eluded institutionalization by embracing the one technique that would keep the adults satisfied. They lied.

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