Aug 042017
 

Cover of The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden.New York Times: Long ago, as one character explains early in Nicky Drayden’s THE PREY OF GODS, the human race was fathered by a god who gave unique powers to each of his children. Though human beings have lost these abilities over the generations since, they remain present in mitochondrial DNA, latent except in a few rare individuals. And except in those humans whose latent DNA has been awakened — which a new street drug called godsend just happens to be able to do.

This is the mytho-scientific premise underlying a madcap, rapid-fire tale of South Africa in the year 2064, where a handful of individuals are suddenly plagued by godhood. One, Nomvula, is a lonely little township girl born with power. Several others acquire their abilities from godsend, to varying degrees of trauma or delight…As a genetically engineered virus spreads and threatens to awaken the latent godhood of billions, these few special individuals come together to decide, ultimately, what manner of gods will rule the future. Oh­ — and also, the technological apocalypse looms as personal robots all over the world quietly become self-aware.

Drayden’s delivery of all this is subtly poignant and slap-in-the-face deadpan – perfect for this novel-length thought exercise about what kinds of gods a cynical, self-absorbed postmodern society really deserves. Lots of fun.

Aug 012017
 

Cover of The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo.B&N SFF Blog: With lush prose and an immersive sense of place, this brief, evocative work – the first half of a duology that continues with The Sisters of the Crescent Empress in November – will bring an icy chill to the summer months.

Aug 012017
 

Cover of Feral Youth by Shaun David Hutchinson.Publishers Weekly: Nine perspectives interweave in a novel composed of divergent, unsettling stories from authors that include Brandy Colbert, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Stephanie Kuehn. A group of delinquent teens is sent to Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program that dumps them in the wilderness to teach lessons about hard work and connection. There, they take turns recounting maybe-true stories in an effort to win a promised $100 from Hutchinson’s character, who guides readers through their haphazard three-day trip. The kids are considered “human garbage,” as Hutchinson’s character puts it, but their choices and situations are born of sharp, complicated moments and realities. Though the voices are distinct, it’s the overall experience of disparate people finding common understanding that lingers.

Jul 272017
 

Cover of Swarm and Steel by Michael Fletcher.Publishers Weekly: Fletcher’s third novel set in his Manifest Delusions universe (after Beyond Redemption), a world where anything a person truly believes will become reality, is a tour de force of dark fantasy shot through with wonder and black humor….Fletcher’s twisty and continuously surprising plot piles spectacle upon spectacle in an amazingly ambitious structure, while his consistently three-dimensional characters lend depth and heart to the narrative.

Jul 262017
 

Cover of The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden.Tor.com: Spinning between the perspectives of multiple main characters, the seemingly divergent storylines of The Prey of Gods soon begin to intersect in unexpected and often delightful ways.

For all its wild subplots and deeper messages, the novel never collapses into (unintentional) camp or heavy-handedness, but underneath the propulsive action is a fleshed-out cast of living, breathing characters whose journeys are as vivid as their costumes.

The skill with which Drayden pulls off her fully realized world, bananas plot, and multivocal narrative is so impressive it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. And on top of her nearly supernatural ability to juggle something like thirty-seven balls at once, she’s also an inventive and delightful stylist with an eye for the novel metaphor and snappy turn of phrase.

Jul 252017
 

Cover of Kaira Rouda's BEST DAY EVER.Kirkus: A husband and father has a very, very special weekend planned for his wife in this creepy little chiller. Ohio couple Paul and Mia Strom are heading up to their lake house on the shores of Lake Erie for the perfect weekend, and Paul is determined to make it the best day ever. Their two young sons are with a babysitter, and Mia, who has been struggling with a mysterious illness, is feeling better. And why shouldn’t it be a perfect day? Paul and Mia have a perfect family, and Paul is the perfect husband (he even says so) and Mia, the perfect housewife. All is…well, perfect.

Or so Paul would have everyone think. After 10 years, the shine has worn off for Paul…Paul’s skeletons are falling out of the closet in droves, and Mia isn’t the wilting housewife he thought she was. The Stroms seems to have it all and are a king and queen of their suburban domain, but there’s a creeping rot underneath, and his name is Paul. Rouda’s (The Goodbye Year, 2016) choice to have Paul narrate is a compelling one…He laces his narrative with just enough snippets about his fraught childhood to give his warped pathology some psychological heft. The conclusion even leaves a little bit of uncertainty for readers to chew on. Darkly funny, scandalous, and utterly satisfying.

Jul 242017
 

Cover of The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo.Publishers Weekly: Likitalo’s lush debut, the first in a duology inspired by the Russian revolution and the story of the Romanov sisters, combines court intrigue, unnerving magic, and brewing revolution in a world powered by the souls of animals….A fantasy landscape both familiar and otherworldly comes to life in this absorbing, imaginative tale.

Jul 212017
 

Publishers Weekly: The beautiful fifth Raksura fantasy begins immediately after the events of The Edge of Worlds, tracing the various journeys of Moon, Jade, and the rest of the now-scattered Raksuran archaeological expedition as they seek to regroup, recover a lost weapon, and attempt to prevent worldwide genocide by their erstwhile allies. Having done the heavy lifting of characterization in earlier books in the series, Wells is able to focus here on exploring how the Raksura fit into the wider world, dealing with the prejudices that result from their previous isolation, their shape-shifting ability and other magic, and their biological connection to the predatory Fell. The Fell themselves give rise to some of the more intriguing social explorations, as more is revealed about the half-Fell/half-Raksurans who were raised among the predators. Wells’s worldbuilding strengths are on display, and she knows just what to explain and what to imply, making this volume accessible to newcomers as well as longtime readers.

Jul 192017
 

Cover of Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer.Publishers Weekly: Tanzer mixes Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray with queer romance and demonology in this subtle, beautiful Victorian-era fantasy novel….The perfectly depicted relationship between the sisters takes center stage in a complex (though never overplayed) web of art, swordplay, romance, and, much to the sisters’ surprise, actual demons. Gorgeously portrayed three-dimensional characters and sensual prose propel this smoothly entertaining story to an emotionally affecting end.

 

Jul 052017
 

Cover of The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden.B&N SFF Review: Her style is utterly unique. There’s a freshness in the tone and pace that ensures The Prey of Gods isn’t just going to be one of the best science fiction (or is it fantasy?) novels of the year, but also, hopefully, a launching point to many more raucous, evocative works from its author.

What Drayden has accomplished is important and impressive, particularly for a debut. She has populated a sci-fi universe with fully fleshed personalities spanning disparate walks of life, some more underrepresented than others, and has made each of them into characters complete and compelling-irreverently funny, beautifully and empathetically drawn. There are depths to The Prey of Gods that make it both an endlessly enjoyable read and the start of something truly promising-not another sci-fi trilogy, but a career to follow.