Mar 222017
 

Publisher’s Weekly: SecUnit, aka Murderbot, is a semiorganic corporate profit center, genderless and constructed of cheap parts to perform contract bodyguard services for clients who mostly don’t want them. SecUnit can choose its attitude because it has hacked its governor (a hat-tip to Susan R. Matthews), blocking the functions that would punish it for anything but robotic obedience. Disgusted by humans and secretly addicted to a video serial called Sanctuary Moon, SecUnit is simply enduring another assignment until something completely outside of its data parameters tries to kill its humans.

Nebula finalist Wells (Edge of Worlds) gives depth to a rousing but basically familiar action plot by turning it into the vehicle by which SecUnit engages with its own rigorously denied humanity. The creepy panopticon of SecUnit’s multiple interfaces allows a hybrid first-person/omniscient perspective that contextualizes its experience without ever giving center stage to the humans.

Mar 092017
 

Publishers Weekly: In this pitch-perfect penny dreadful, Priest (The Family Plot) evokes the strangeness and charm of early-19th-century Florida and the fortitude of two spectacular protagonists. Alice Dartle…[and] Tomás Cordero…are brought together by powers beyond their understanding, which they must face armed only with universal love and compassion. Priest wields a brilliant command of the delightful and the frightening in this enchanting tale. Though spooky and dangerous events abound, each less logical than the last, she holds tightly to the theme that these events are rooted in human will. The detailed extrapolation of Spiritualist beliefs into reality makes the story even more terrifying than if it had a supernatural villain driving the chaos. The conclusion is both uplifting and satisfying, a fitting reward for the protagonists, who have each sought only to give help and love to those in need.

Mar 082017
 

Cover for At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson.School Library Connection: Shaun David Hutchinson has a real knack for devising a quirky, intriguing premise and crafting vivid characters to populate his stories. The universe is shrinking rapidly, but Ozzie is the only one who has noticed. He’s also the only one to notice the unexplainable disappearance of his boyfriend, Tommy. Ozzie has theories for how this has happened, but his family, friends, and psychiatrists all believe he is out of his mind. Only Calvin, Ozzie’s assigned partner for a physics project, believes him. Ozzie must cope with the complexities of navigating strained relationships, making postsecondary plans, and dealing with his guilt for beginning to forget Tommy. The large cast of characters allows for representation of many topics—including gender fluidity, sexual identity, and abuse—though at times the narrative feels a bit crowded. Despite anticipation of a true science fiction resolution, many events reveal themselves as mere figments of Ozzie’s emotionally-addled imagination. Regardless, the myriad of diverse characters and suspense of the universe’s impending collapse lend momentum to the twisting narrative, while Hutchinson’s indulgent prose perfectly captures the essence of a coming-of-age tale.

Mar 072017
 

Cover for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop, a book in the Others seriesB&N SFF Blog: Congratulations to Anne Bishop on Etched in Bone being one of B&N’s Bookseller Picks for The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of March 2017!

The last book of the Others ends one of the most intriguing urban fantasy series ever written. It picks up in the wake of the events of Marked in Flesh, in which the Humans First and Last movement rose up, forcing the Others to deal with them. The Others are understandably dubious about allowing humans into their realm after all that trouble, and are keeping a close eye on the folks living in the Courtyard­–especially Meg Corbyn and her human friends. One final time (at least until the announced spin-off series), Bishop proves she is a master at carefully setting the scene before tearing it to shreds and throwing everything into delightful chaos: when a mysterious, powerful man arrives in the Courtyard, everyone knows the Others are watching to see how Meg and Simon Wolfgard deal with him. (We vote “teeth and claws,” but maybe cooler heads will prevail.)

 

 

Mar 032017
 

Booklist: Priest (Boneshaker, 2009) offers a textured period piece set in the spiritualist camp of Cassadaga, Florida, in 1920. Alice Dartle is a powerful but untrained medium who has left Virginia in hopes of education in Cassadaga. She dreams of a man who turns out to be Tomás Cordero, a Cuban-American veteran in a distant town, who has been experiencing unexplained fires­both in dreams and in real life­which he fervently hopes are messages from his dead wife. Unfortunately, more sinister forces are at work. An ancient and malevolent spirit may be using Tomás for its own ends, putting all Cassadaga at risk. Alice and Tomás must work with a strong supporting cast of characters to address the threat. Priest weaves intriguing historical detail throughout this slowly intensifying tale of darkness, fire, and the power of human connection. Recommended for fans of Joe Hill, otherworldly suspense, and stories with a strong sense of place and history.

Feb 162017
 

Cover for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop, a book in the Others seriesRT Book Review: Bishop’s Novel of the others series has truly been one of the most original and phenomenal UF series out there, so this fifth book is a bit bittersweet. While Bishop’s worldbuilding is second to none, it has been the characters and their relationships that elevate these stories into masterpieces. It appears that this will be the final Simon and Meg book (at least for now), since in her next book Bishop will turn to new characters in a different part of Thaisia. Bottom line, this is once again an epically amazing and thrilling story, but I really hope Bishop returns to continue Simon and Meg’s unforgettable journey because this didn’t feel like a finale.

Read RT Book Review’s full review of Etched in Bone here.

Feb 152017
 

Cover for Anatomy of Innocence: the Truth of the Wrongfully Convicted, a collection of true stories edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laura CaldwellKirkus: A unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith in the American criminal justice system. In the past three decades, books about wrongful convictions have become so numerous that they form their own genre. The advent of DNA testing for law enforcement purposes validated the previously discredited statement that American prisons are filled with innocent inmates while the actual perpetrators remain unpunished. Few of the books, however, match this skillful anthology, assembled by Life After Innocence founder Caldwell (The Dog Park, 2014, etc.) and Edgar Award-winning mystery editor Klinger (editor: In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914, 2015, etc.), in which exonerated individuals tell their stories to high-profile authors, most of them known for their fast-paced crime novels. While the names of the exonerees may be unfamiliar to general readers, the names of the authors are better known: Sara Paretsky, Lee Child, Laurie King, and more. Scott Turow and Barry Scheck provide the introduction. […] A searing, unforgettable anthology, with valuable insights provided at the end of each chapter by the editors.

Feb 102017
 

Cover for At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson.Publishers Weekly: The universe appears to be literally shrinking around Ozzie Pinkerton: erasing people, obliterating the stars, and reducing the world to little more than his town of Cloud Lake, Fla. Ozzie alone remembers the world as it was […] As in We Are the Ants, Hutchinson uses a science fiction overlay to explore important topics, including self-mutilation, gender identity, and child abuse. Ozzie’s friends remind him that the world doesn’t revolve around him, but Hutchinson playfully disagrees, turning the literal shrinking of the universe into a smart metaphor for Ozzie’s introversion and alienation. Ozzie’s wit and concern for his friends make him a captivating narrator frozen by the changes and choices he faces. The conceit also works as a powerful parable for victimization, as everything Ozzie knows is stolen and the people he should be able to trust constantly undermine him—or disappear altogether.

Feb 082017
 

Cover for At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson.Shelf Awareness: Any breakup can make a person feel like the world has just ended, but high school senior Ozzie Pinkerton of Florida feels even worse: as far as the universe is concerned, his ex-boyfriend Tommy never existed.

While Shaun David Hutchinson is a master of fusing the bizarre with the mundane, and the plot is delightfully constructed, it is Ozzie’s pained, sardonic voice that steals the spotlight. Hutchinson’s authentic characters, exploring their gender and sexuality with equal parts confusion and confidence, will resonate with many teens who no longer see their identity as binary or unchanging. Ozzie’s story may be fantastical, but its emotional honesty renders the whole complicated story believable, and readers will flock to its central truths.

Discover: Shaun David Hutchinson’s smart YA novel finds authenticity in the weirdest of places.

Feb 022017
 

Cover for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop, a book in the Others seriesLocus: The fifth book in the urban fantasy world of the Others picks up shortly after the Elders, particularly powerful and deadly forms of the Others, stopped an attempt by humans to kill off the shapeshifting Others and take over. Having wiped out much of humanity in this world’s version of Europe, the Elders, who have little experience with humans, want to know what makes some humans so much trouble. They decide to invisibly observe Lakeside Courtyard, where humans and Others have learned to co-exist. Unfortunately, the Elders turn up just as a particularly bad human arrives ­ the brother of police lieutenant Crispin James Montgomery, one of the cops who helped defend the Courtyard, and brought most of his family there to live. That brother, Cyrus, is totally different, a self-absorbed petty criminal who manipulates others to avoid the repercussions of his actions, with a troubled wife and two children already imitating their abusive father’s bad behavior. Cyrus makes a fascinating villain, too stupid or lazy to learn what’s really going on, making plans that fail because of his ignorance ­ which has its funny moments ­ but also causing a lot of pain for those around him. The leaders of the Courtyard, aware that the Elders are watching, keep a close eye on him, but his plans suddenly take a far more dangerous turn, leading to some serious thrills. As always, Bishop spins an engrossing tale ­ and ultimately we get a sweet ending that those who’ve been following the series should really appreciate, as the story arc involving Meg and Simon Wolfguard concludes.