Jun 232017
 

B&N SFF Review: Yoon Ha Lee blew up like a supernova last year with the release of his debut novel, Ninefox Gambit, earning a double fistful of award nominations (among them the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke awards) for a brainy, intricate space opera as much about identity, the politics of empire, and grief, as it is about flashy space battles and a revolution within a mathematically constructed super-empire known as the Hexarchate.

Lee’s ability to balance high science fiction concepts­, worlds, cultures, and weapons­-with a deep examination of character-tragic flaws, noble purpose, and societal ideas ­is nigh unprecedented in space opera.

Raven Stratagem more than lives up to the promise of its predecessor, continuing the intriguing double-sided story of Shuos Jedao, the enigmatic tactician reborn and looking to make things right once and for all. It is a challenging read, but it’s not all philosophizing and waxing poetically about scattering of stars in the Hexarchate. There’s a ton of action, and when it hits, it hits hard. There’s literally a climactic battle in which two space fleets just throw math at each other, and it’s spectacular. Only a mad genius could pull off that maneuver in style­ and that madman’s name is Yoon Ha Lee.

Jun 222017
 

RT Book Review: Malfi’s latest is a brilliantly weird, haunting blend of folklore, murder-mystery, and gothic terror that draws readers into an unsettling world filled with the kind of detail and insight that evoke early Stephen King. There is plenty of material here to prey on the most basic of human terrors, beneath the fear and the eeriness is an understated but no less effective story about the hollowing effect of loss on those left behind. The result is an elegant, twisted, gripping slow-burn of a novel that burrows under the skin and nestles deep.

Jun 202017
 

Tor.com: The action-mystery-adventure element to All Systems Red is a lot of fun. Wells has a really tight grasp of tension and pacing, and a truly polished skill with turning a phrase. The language in All Systems Red draws no attention to itself, but Wells has a knack for making even unobtrusive prose slide into a vivid line that brings a whole paragraph to life. But the real appeal of All Systems Red is the voice…All Systems Red is a really fun piece of science fiction adventure with compelling characters and great pacing.

Jun 162017
 

RT Book Reviews: You’ll need to clear your schedule as soon as you get your hands on a copy of Drayden’s debut novel! Taking place in a near-future South Africa, Drayden introduces us to a diverse and endearing cast of characters and mind-blowingly cool concepts. She expertly blends together science fiction and fantasy for a wild ride that gives readers both a robot uprising and a vengeful demigoddess craving power. LGBT characters are also introduced organically, and their personal stories will leave readers cheering. Drayden has certainly made herself an author to watch out for.

Jun 122017
 

Locus: Lee’s world building remains fascinating and complex, with a great deal implied in what is not said. The narrative of Raven Stratagem is a twisty one… It feels intricate, like a piece of clockwork in which every cog and gear has a job: it feels deeply thought, and powerful. Lee deepens here his interrogation of the themes that came so strongly to the surface of Ninefox Gambit: loyalty and trust, free will and self-determination, the personal costs involved in doing a right thing, and the problems of empire. Raven Stratagem offers an argument rather than an answer, and is more effective for it. If you liked Ninefox Gambit, this is a really great sequel, and an excellent novel in its own right.

Jun 082017
 

Locus: “Murderbot,” as the sardonic first-person narrator in Martha Wells’s All Systems Red refers to itself, would simply prefer to be left in peace to watch serialized entertainments in its own high-tech suit. Sadly, given that the planetary expedition Murderbot is part of goes horribly wrong when one of the scientists is almost eaten by the local fauna, it isn’t going to get its wish.

All Systems Red is a light but interesting story about a creation that is half human (maybe) and half non-organic parts, who is learning to deal with actual humans. Murderbot resists being pulled into the circle of fleshy creatures around it. Really, it would just as soon stay on the outside.

The humans, too, aren’t so sure what to make of Murderbot, who was foisted upon them by the corporation who owns exploration rights to the planet they are on. They don’t trust it or its motivations, all of which are complicated by its unreadable responses. Add to that inherent tension Wells’s brisk pacing, an intriguing enough mystery, and lucid action sequences, and this story is a great kick-off for a continuing series of Murderbot Diaries, which are being planned. With this novella Wells, who is better known for her fantasy work, proves that she can play in a science fictional world as well.

Jun 072017
 

Washington Post: Nicky Drayden’s debut novel “The Prey of Gods” (Harper Voyager) is delightfully unlike most science fiction out there. Drayden mixes folklore, urban fantasy and science fiction in her futuristic South Africa to dazzling effect.

In this entertaining tale, a new drug called Godspeed hits the street. It causes users to hallucinate, to see themselves as animal creatures; sometimes it draws out peculiar powers. Teenage Muzi, grappling with his sexuality and his heritage, finds that the drug lets him manipulate people. His path, and that of his personal AI bot, crosses that of a pop star at the pinnacle of her career, a young politician who dreams of stardom and a little girl from a poor village learning to control her awesome power. Together, they must stop a goddess hungry for world-domination. The plot can get a bit (too) twisty and complex—­memories! gods! AI revolutions! But it showcases characters not often seen in popular fiction, and amid the fast-paced action, touches on relevant race and class issues.

Ultimately, it’s a book about coming to terms with your true self.

May 262017
 

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.

May 252017
 

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.

May 242017
 

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.