Jan 152019
 

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Shelf Awareness: In DRAGON PEARL, Yoon Ha Lee (the Machineries of Empire series) melds elements of Korean myth, science fiction and adventure stories into a strong, cohesive narrative that fans of multiple genres will enjoy…Lee’s inclusion of Korean mythological aspects isn’t limited to supernatural beings; it also impeccably incorporates “geomantic arts-—the flow of gi and the cosmic balance of the universe” into how the Space Forces’ battle cruisers are engineered. All these components work in harmony to shape Min’s quest, immersing readers in her journey.

Lee’s epic romp through space also includes discussions about prejudice (“Other supernaturals, like dragons and goblins and shamans… wield their magic openly” and are even praised for it, while foxes must pretend to be extinct), nonbinary identity (“This [guard’s] particular badge… had a small symbol next to the name that let me know they should be addressed neutrally, as neither female nor male”) and inequality between rich and poor (“Whoever this councilor was, I doubted she was thinking about people like me and my family, who could use the Pearl’s powers to make our lives less desperate.”) Lee handles these topics sensitively without burdening his audience.

DRAGON PEARL shoots for the moon and lands flawlessly, delivering a rollicking and meaningful space adventure.

Jan 142019
 

Cover of The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson.School Library Journal: Strong, well-developed characters . . .    Give to fans of A.S. King and Andrew Smith.

Jan 112019
 

Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells.B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: Wells has been a beloved but under-read voice in fantasy for two decades, which is why it is so gratifying to see the success she’s having with the bestselling, and now, Hugo- and Nebula-winning Murderbot Diaries novella series, which follow a rogue Security Unit cyborg that has hacked its governor module and gained sentience and free will—and given itself the (mostly ironic) name Murderbot. This fourth and final novella (a full-length novel arrives next year) finds Murderbot close to getting the goods on the evil corporation GrayCris. When it learns that its former owner/possible friend Dr. Mensah is under threat, Murderbot doesn’t understand its own urge to save her. Wells’ explorations of free will and the question of what, exactly, makes us human remain fascinating, and the snarky narrative voice—and the murder-y mayhem—that peppers the story as it marches toward to a bracing conclusion are as fun as always.

Jan 042019
 

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Publishers Weekly: In this highly original novel by Lee (the Machineries of Empire series for adults), 13-year-old Min must venture to the stars of the Thousand Worlds in order to find her older brother, Jun, who is suspected of deserting the Space Forces to search for the legendary Dragon Pearl. Min’s quick wits and technical prowess come in handy, but it’s her abilities as one of the fox people to shape-shift and charm others that prove vital after she leaves her home planet of Jinju aboard the freighter Red Azalea. When her brother’s former ship rescues the vessel from mercenaries, she poses as slain cadet Bae Jang, promising his ghost that she will avenge his death in exchange for impersonating him on the ship. Disguised as the dead cadet, Min is able to continue both quests, enlisting the aid of two of Bae’s friends—female dragon Haneul and nonbinary goblin Sujin—all the while avoiding the scrutiny of Captain Hwan as the ship heads to the Ghost Sector, the probable location of the Dragon Pearl. Lee offers a perfect balance of space opera and Korean mythology with enough complexity to appeal to teens.

Dec 192018
 

Publisher’s Weekly: [A] riveting near-future debut… This claustrophobic, horror-leaning tour de force is highly recommended for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Dec 142018
 

Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells.New York Times: Martha Wells’s EXIT STRATEGY (Tor.com) is the fourth and final part of her brilliant Murderbot Diaries, a series of far-future novellas set in a universe worn out by corporate indifference and bureaucratic inertia. A single grumpy security unit—Murderbot—fights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of hours and hours of soap operas. The first book, “All Systems Red,” won both Nebula and Hugo Awards this year and is definitely the place to start.

I came late to these novellas, and during a difficult month this year I read almost nothing else. Murderbot’s voice, a beautiful blend of exhausted cynicism and deep, helpless love, was the only thing that felt like both a match to my mood and an appropriate response to the events provoking it. Murderbot has no illusions about the way the world works and will say so blisteringly, but remains so passionately committed to the people it loves and doing what’s right that I kept welling up in response. Its angry, poignant point of view, wrapped up in sharp, short bites of space adventure, is utterly addictive, and I’m genuinely delighted—as well as a little relieved—that the series’ success has greenlit a full-length Murderbot novel, so that I don’t yet have to bid it goodbye.

Dec 062018
 

Cover of Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.Booklist: The diverse, multifaceted characters, meticulous world building, and complex interhouse conflicts will draw readers into this new, action-packed fantasy series.

Nov 212018
 

Publisher’s Weekly: Anyone who enjoys space opera, exploration of characters, and political speculation will love this outstanding novel, Bear’s welcome return to hard SF after several years of writing well-received steampunk (Karen Memory) and epic fantasy (the Eternal Sky trilogy). As an engineer on a scrappy space salvage tug, narrator Haimey Dz has a comfortable, relatively low-stress existence, chumming with pilot Connla Kuruscz and AI shipmind Singer. Then, while aboard a booby-trapped derelict ship, she is infected with a not-quite-parasitic alien device that gives her insights into the universe’s structure. This makes her valuable not only to the apparently benevolent interstellar government, the Synarche, but also to the vicious association of space pirates, represented by charismatic and utterly untrustworthy Zanya Farweather. While fleeing Zanya, Haimey and her crew discover a gigantic, ancient alien space ship hidden at the bottom of a black hole at the center of the galaxy, and at that point, things start getting complicated. This exciting story set in a richly detailed milieu is successful on many levels, digging into the nature of truth and reality, self-definition vs. predestination, and the calibration of moral compasses. Amid a space opera resurgence, Bear’s novel sets the bar high.

Nov 142018
 

Booklist: Once again, Tanzer expertly weaves an authentic historical setting into a tense, engrossing supernatural frame with lush descriptions and a steadily building pace…. Despite the supernatural, historical setting, readers will see themes and issues that reverberate eerily with our present.

Nov 122018
 

Cover of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson.Kirkus: When death stops working, avoiding a dead ex-best friend becomes impossible. Dino DeLuca and July Cooper were best friends. Then Dino started dating perfect—and perfectly handsome—Rafi Merza, and their duet dissolved, an end punctuated by July’s unexpected death. Kind of. As Dino is grieving privately by her corpse (the DeLuca’s have a funeral home) July wakes up from death as vocal as ever. Tandem with trying to keep her revenant status secret is analyzing why their once strong pact devolved into dislike. His answer: her jealousy. Her answer: his boyfriend. The truth: somewhere in the middle. Rafi is trans and has a group of friends diverse in ethnicity and sexual orientation who school brash, brassy July on sensitivities to marginalized people (her struggle with being labeled without nuance as “dead” lightheartedly mirrors that of the LGBTQ+ community). The quasi-linear overlap of Dino’s and July’s narratives demonstrate the difficulty in finding the reality between the two sides. Their voices (him: think the dry intellect of Juno circa 2007, her: the audience who rolled their eyes at Juno circa 2007) are as distinctly different as their perceived versions of the truth. Dino and July are both white, while Rafi is of Pakistani descent. The explanation of why deaths cease is underdeveloped but doesn’t stop this from being a decent romp. Unfortunately for Dino, Rafi outranks him in narrative allure. The dissection of a fractured friendship with a pretty fun post-mortem.