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.

Nov 092018
 

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Library Journal: Min is a supernatural creature, a fox spirit, with the ability to use fox-magic, called the Charm, to change her appearance and persuade others to do things. All her life, her mother has told her to avoid using the Charm, as foxes are mistrusted and looked down upon by the rest of society. When an investigator comes to their home inquiring after her brother Jun, who he claims has deserted from his place in the Space Forces, Min takes matters into her own hands and goes in search of him. Her travels take her from a gambling house run by a disowned relative to the ship where her brother was last stationed, the Pale Lightning. The more Min learns about her brother’s disappearance, the more she suspects foul play and all signs seem to be leading to the discovery of the Dragon Pearl, an ancient relic with great powers and value. The story’s climax features multiple surprises and betrayals, in a quick but unhurried pace. Lee skillfully weaves Korean folklore into this space opera narrative, creating dynamic and relatable characters. The ending is satisfying, tying up loose ends, but leaving room for a sequel. VERDICT With ghosts, pirates, and a rollicking space adventure, there’s a little something for everyone here. A recommended purchase for all middle grade collections.

Nov 082018
 

Barnes and Noble: Molly Tanzer does it all; from her debut novel, named best book of 2015 by i09, to the “thoughtful erotica” she edits at her magazine, Congress, she’s proven to be one of the most distinct voices in contemporary SFF.

Tanzer balances wink-wink references to contemporary politics with pulpy tropes and solid storytelling.

Oct 242018
 

Cover of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells.Tor.com: This is a fast, fun, and funny novella that, at its heart, is about personhood, independence, and selfhood: about autonomy, trust, and kindness, as well as anxiety, frustration, and anger. At its heart, Exit Strategy is a kind story, and a hopeful one. I deeply enjoyed it. I heartily recommend the entire Murderbot Diaries series.

Don’t start with Exit Strategy: start with All Systems Red. But you’ll find that Exit Strategy is worth the build-up.

Oct 232018
 

Publishers WeeklyTanzer’s charming, confident follow-up to Creatures of Will and Temper continues the conceit of drawing on famous literary source texts for character and plot material; here, The Great Gatsby crashes into the works of H.P. Lovecraft, with, of course, chaotic results. On Long Island in the 1920s, Ellie West does bootlegging by boat to help pay for her brother’s education. One night, she inadvertently gets into an altercation with another sailor that ends in her acquiring some odd new bottles of moonshine; those bottles end up at a party thrown by Delphine “Fin” Coulthead and her rich husband and friends. Fin is out of her element in the endless parties of the Roaring ’20s, a situation only made worse by the nightmarish paranormal effects of the tainted liquor. Fin and Ellie make an appealing team as they work to figure out what’s wrong and stop it, and the depiction of Long Island is a fine example of nuanced, lovely landscape writing. The portrayal of groups of normal people falling into mob violence and hatred of the other groups is genuinely unnerving, and Tanzer resists simplistic moral takes. Some elements of the plot are a touch predictable, but the overall effect is delightful.

Oct 152018
 

Cover of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson. Booklist: Get ready, because Hutchinson is going to knock your socks off with this new, deliciously bizarre novel. . .  His intelligent writing will seduce readers with its complex and spunky characters, lively dialogue, offbeat humor, and emotional depth.

Oct 122018
 

Cover of Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee.Booklist: Min is shocked to hear her brother, Jun, has deserted the Space Force in search of the legendary Dragon Pearl. Eager to prove his innocence, she sets out to find him, and to do so, she’ll need to use her family’s ancestral magic—they’re shape-shifting fox spirits who have preternatural charm—a skill that has not endeared them to others.

Along the way, Min outthinks pesky space security, earns money at a gambling den, survives a laser fight with mercenaries, impersonates a dead cadet, and breaks a planet-wide quarantine of the Fourth Colony to rid it of its vengeful ghostly inhabitants. Luckily, she has some new friends on her side, Haneul, a female dragon, and Sujun, a nonbinary goblin.

Lee’s written a unique space opera infused with elements of traditional Korean mythology. Not only are Lee’s characters refreshingly diverse both in race and gender identity, but the mythology mixed with sf means there is something for many readers to enjoy. Billed as a stand-alone, this is ideal for readers who want fantasy epics without the commitment to multivolume stories.

Oct 112018
 

Cover of Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.NYT Book Review: An absolutely riveting secondary world fantasy. To say ‘I couldn’t put it down’ is a cliché, but… I felt fully, utterly engaged by the ideas, actually in love with the core characters for their differences and the immensely generative friction between them, and in awe of Bennett’s craft.

Crossing the brilliant economics and object-empathy of Edward Carey’s Heap House with the careful character and setting work of Fonda Lee’s Jade CityFoundryside is a magnificent, mind-blowing start to a series I’m hungry for.

Oct 102018
 

Cover of The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson.B&N SFF Blog: With The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Dickinson showed an impressive talent for executing an epic fantasy rich in worldbuilding, complex in character, and brutally exacting in its clockwork plotting.

Baru Cormorant rose off the page as one of the most flawed, fascinating characters to come out of fantasy in a long time, her incandescent rage and patient desire for revenge but a few of her visceral qualities. In the first book, she survived the destruction of her culture and death of her loved ones at the hands of the Empire of Masks and feigned obedience in order to rise within its ranks and orchestrate its epic downfall from the inside. As The Monster Baru Cormorant opens, she finds herself, finally, a powerful member of the empire she’s vowed to destroy, yet psychically damaged by the effort it took to get there, to the point that she can no longer trust her own motivations.

With this second of a planned four-volume epic, Dickinson has done something incredible by deepening our understanding of a fabulously complex, compelling character.