Feb 222019
 

Cover of All Systems Red by Martha Wells.NPR: But this book is sneaky. As much as you want to think this is just some lightweight little confection made of robot fights and space murder ­and as much as All Systems Red wants to present itself as nothing but robot fights and space murder ­Martha Wells did something really clever. She hid a delicate, nuanced and deeply, grumpily human story inside these pulp trappings, by making her murderous robot story primarily character-driven. And the character doing the driving?

Murderbot.

There are subtexts to be read into Murderbot that its experience is a coming-out narrative, that it mirrors the lives of trans people, immigrants, those on the autism spectrum or anyone else who feels the need to hide some essential part of themselves from a population that either threatens or can’t possibly understand them. Or both. And I get all of that because every one of those reads is right.

It’s the wonder of the character ­ that something so alien can be so human. That everyone who has ever had to hide in a crowded room, avert their eyes from power, cocoon themselves in media for comfort or lie to survive can relate. It’s powerful to see that on the page. It’s moving to ride around in the head of something that is so strong and so vulnerable, so murder-y and so frightened, all at the same time.

Best news of all? All Systems Red is only the first of four Murderbot Diaries novellas. Wells followed Red with Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy, all of which have gotten multiple electronic, hard- and softcover releases over the past year or so, with the Red hardcover being released this month after winning Hugo, Nebula, Alex and Locus Awards in 2018. Which is proof, I suppose, that I’m not alone in my love for Murderbot. That we are all a little bit Murderbot. That we see ourselves in its skin. And that reading about this sulky, soap-opera-loving cyborg killing machine might be one of the most human experiences you can have in sci-fi right now.

Feb 212019
 

Publishers Weekly: As usual, McCammon dazzles the reader with gritty historical detail, vivid local color, and a cast of memorable grotesques, among them the Owl, who can literally watch his own back by disjointing his neck. Series fans will find this entry a thoroughly enjoyable extension of McCammon’s evolving period epic.

Feb 202019
 

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Hypable: When I say Dragon Pearl has it all, I mean it has it all. It’s difficult to place this book in a singular box, but rather than that being a deterrent, it seems to be one of its biggest strengths. Kids (and adults!) looking for something a little different will certainly find exactly that in Yoon Ha Lee’s novel.

Feb 182019
 

Locus: This book is in conversation with a number of others, first of all with Bear’s own—this future is tied to her Jacob’s Ladder trilogy (Dust, Chill, and Grail) via a mention of that “famous ship from history.” There are also strong echoes of C.J. Cherryh and Iain M. Banks—especially the latter, since the Synarche is clearly a cousin of the Culture: an ancient, galaxy-spanning, multi-species polity dedicated to what we might call rational and utopian values (also prone to snarky ship names, e.g., the Synarche Justice Vessel I’ll Explain It To You Slowly). That, in turn, connects with Haimey’s debates with Farweather about freedom and authenticity, which echo Greg Egan’s frequent examinations of ways of engineering the self (e.g., “Chaff” or “Mister Volition”).

Not that it’s all applied philosophy and psychology. The chases, escapes, and discoveries of ancient alien artifacts and haring across half the galaxy and back again make for as gaudy an adventure as one could want, as does the cast of AIs, sociopathic libertarian pirates, snoozy cats, and particularly a charming giant predatory alien-insectoid cop. And this is just Volume One. I quake to imagine what the encore will be like.

Feb 132019
 

Library Journal: When the humans decided to strike against the terra indigene, they were hit with a force that decimated all the people living in towns in Thaisia. Now both humans and Others­those who survived­attempt to revive some of the ruined areas for cooperative living. In Bennett, Jana Paniccia becomes deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff who holds bitter memories of the humans’ actions. Tolya Sanguinati attempts to build relationships with the town of Prairie Gold, and Inuit shopkeeper Jesse Walker, while restoring Bennett and monitoring the area’s train service. As humans slowly come into Bennett, so do Others, all looking for a place of their own. But trust takes time, and when the Blackstone clan tries to take over, everyone in Bennett will need to work together.

VERDICT Bishop’s sequel to Lake Silence presents captivating characters and rich detail, resulting in a satisfying urban fantasy.

Feb 122019
 

Cover of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson.Bookseller: A cinematic novel that perfectly blends funny and emotional. Some friendships are larger than life.

Feb 082019
 

Cover of Dragon Pear by Yoon Ha Lee.Kirkus: Yoon Ha Lee’s first foray into the field is an absolute winner (not that I should have expected anything different, given the author’s awesome track record with the Ninefox Gambit books). Dragon Pearl is everything that I want in a sci-fi adventure story (for a reader of any age): it’s smart, fast-paced, and balanced nuanced world building with solid characterizations and exciting capers spanning different planets, space ships (and space ship battles), and supernatural twists. I especially loved the world building and the different look at what science fiction­ with space ships and gate jumps­ can be when rooted in a Korean pantheon that runs on magic and luck, and whose characters eat gimchi in outer space.

Feb 072019
 

Cover of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson.School Library Journal: A brain aneurysm killed July Cooper, but it can’t destroy her bond with Dino DeLuca. July rises from the dead at the funeral home owned by Dino’s family, and though the two teens had been on the outs for the past year, they are drawn together as they attempt to conceal July’s reanimation. What ensues is messy. July’s body is slowly rotting, and the two trade barbed words while untangling why their friendship ended after Dino met his boyfriend, Rafi. Once again, Hutchinson defies genres. This isn’t a ghost story, and July isn’t a zombie, as she frequently points out. But she can’t eat, she has no heartbeat, and until she’s finally laid to rest, nobody else can die. This inventive take on the life-after-death narrative ponders profound truths. It’s the ones who love us the most who can inflict the deepest wounds and hold us back, but even bitter fights can’t extinguish some connections. Like typical adolescents, uncertain Dino and snarky July seem wise beyond their years one moment and maddeningly immature the next, and their journeys to self-discovery will resonate with readers. VERDICT A grotesque, mordantly funny, and tender look at friendship, for fans of Aaron Starmer’s Spontaneous and Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End

Feb 062019
 

Publishers Weekly:  Bensen has created some larger-than-life characters, but the true star of the tale is Junction itself. The author’s creativity gambols across the planet along with his characters, and the journey is as much about the weird creatures as it is about the human drama.

Feb 052019
 

Kirkus: Her arduous journey toward transfiguration—while also dissecting her strained relationships with both parents—makes this a valuable addition to the contemporary realistic fiction genre. The message that being kinder does not mean compromising who you are, but rather unveiling the better and more authentic version of one’s self, is admirable. A refreshing mean-girl transformation story akin to 10 Things I Hate About You.