B&N SFF Blog: This debut, out in June, has something for every SFF reader, and we’re not just saying that. It welds together urban fantasy, epic fantasy, horror, and science fiction in the futuristic South African city of Port Elizabeth. A hallucinogenic drug (possibly fueled by deific powers), a robot uprising, a little girl with every right to be angry at the world, and an ancient goddess looking to win followers and regain her rightful place in the world (that would be ruling it), even if it takes the blood and bone of all the humans around her to do it—Nicky Drayden is throwing everything at the wall, and you won’t believe how much of it sticks. The characters will enchant you, the bloodthirsty goddess and the closeted trans government official and the young queer boy and the gentle A.I. alike, and the vibrance of the setting and the velocity of the storytelling will knock your socks off. This novel is going to blow up. Pre-order it, and say you read it when.
Locus: What Bennett [has] delivered here is something along the lines of Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE: a brainy political thriller with non-mimetic trappings, an unnatural engine at its heart.
B&N SFF Blog: The sheer amount of work packed into in these books is staggering; in the two earlier novels, Bennet balanced frankly huge amounts of worldbuilding with intensely deep character studies, interrogated political, social, and economic effects between national powers on a global and divine scale, and puzzled together plots both micro and macro with what seems like relative ease. His novels are never anything less than perfectly oiled machines, moving between layers and levels of narrative with elegance and precision. Impossibly, the sheer weight on these books has increased with each new installment—and I’m not talking about page count. They just keep getting better as they go: their politics murkier, their plots more labyrinthine and compelling. This is epic fantasy on a whole new level.
Library Journal: Once a demigoddess of immense powers, Sydney schemes to return to her rightful place while working in a beauty salon in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. When she hears about a new street drug that produces vivid hallucinations and strange abilities, awakening slumbering godlike powers in humanity, she plots to use it to her advantage. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Muzi and his best friend (and tentative love interest) Elkin also try the drug. As Nomvula, a young Zulu girl in a nearby township, is coming into powers of her own, Muzi, along with a pop star, a cross-dressing politician, and a newly sentient AI, must stop Sydney before her reign of terror can really begin. Drayden’s first novel is set in a near future with personal robots, making the magical elements unusual yet effective.
VERDICT: Fans of Lauren Beukes and N.K. Jemisin will want to check out this winning mashup that mixes genres and moods with gleeful abandon, heralding a fresh new talent. It also has a truly fantastic cover.
B&N SFF Blog: Veteran fantasist Wells proves her sure hand at sci-fi as she imagines a future dominated by corporations, in which the twin imperatives of bureaucratic adherence to policies and the need to award all contracts to the lowest bidder result in every planetary mission being required to be accompanied by a company-supplied SecUnit, an artificially intelligent android built from cheap parts, and as likely to malfunction as all of the other shoddy equipment the expeditions are counting on to, oh, keep them breathing. The SecUnit narrating the story has hacked its own Governor Module, attaining sentience and free will; it would despise the humans it protects if it didn’t find them so boring, but it nevertheless refers to itself as Murderbot. When its humans are attacked by something outside of the experience provided by its data banks, however, Murderbot must turn its prickly, near-omniscient mind towards not just the survival of its humans, but itself. This slim read is both surprisingly funny and packed with intriguing future worldbuilding, all the more reason to celebrate the sequel due later in the year.
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
The Family Plot, Cherie Priest (Tor)
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw (Tor.com Publishing)
“Foxfire, Foxfire,” Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/03/16)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” Brooke Bolander (Uncanny 11-12/16)
“Afrofuturist 419,” Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld 11/16)
Publishers Weekly: This stunning sequel to the Hugo-and Nebula-nominated Ninefox Gambit contains a satisfying mixture of interstellar battles, politics, intrigue, and arcane technology.
The Hafn have invaded Hexarchate territory, and the Hexarchate military Kel Command have resorted to deploying a human weapon to take control of the response force. He is the resurrected General Shuos Jedao, and he has possessed the body of Kel infantry captain Ajewen Cheris. After subduing and releasing Lieutenant Colonel Brezan, who tries to resist him, Jedao goes rogue, still fighting the Hafn but also pursuing his own agenda. Brezan is promoted to the rank of high general and sent back to retake control of the fleet with the assassin Tseya, a member of the diplomatic Andan faction. In the background, Hexarch Shuos Mikodez maneuvers his faction’s intelligence-gathering forces; meanwhile, the leader of another faction has disappeared, and his replacement offers immortality to her peers.
With multiple characters skilled in deception, Lee is able to keep readers guessing at Jedao’s goals until the end. He never explains the Hexarchate’s “calendrical technology,” but readers who don’t mind being dropped in the deep end will savor this brilliantly imagined tale.
NPR: [Bennett’s] universe is one of brilliant juxtaposition . . . a place where a god, a gun, a telephone and a plow horse can all exist comfortably on the same page, in the same sentence. It is this world that has driven the action in this trilogy, the push and pull of spies and generals and gods and bureaucrats all dancing because the intrinsic entropy of Bennett’s universe demands it.
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.
And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…