Mar 012021
 
Publishers Weekly: Mohamed’s thrilling, intricate sequel to Beneath the Rising picks up a year and a half after the events of the first book. Nick Prasad, driven by hatred for his former best friend, genius inventor Joanna “Johnny” Chambers, has joined the mystical Ssarati Society to help monitor magical threats against Earth. Mohamed’s lush, intense prose bewitches as Nick volunteers to spy on Johnny at the unveiling of her new reactor. When the party is overrun by monsters, Nick’s convinced that the eldritch horrors known as Them are back, having found a way to bypass Johnny’s spell that destroyed the gates between their worlds. Now Nick coerces Johnny to let him help her uncover how They are getting through. Johnny’s scientific theories can be difficult to parse, as their quest takes them through chaotic alternate dimensions, but they result in one of the more convincing scientific frameworks for the existence of magic. New readers won’t want to jump in with this volume, but existing fans will be thrilled as Mohamed builds to an exhilarating finale. Expertly melding sci-fi, horror, and literary elements, this is an astounding examination of a shattered friendship.
Feb 162021
 

Publishers Weekly: Barrett debuts with a delightful office romance for the #MeToo era…. Barrett expertly captures both the frenzied intensity of sex as distraction and the awkward drop back into reality as Corrine and Wesley face the limitations of their situation, but it’s the personal growth of both protagonists that really set this rom-com apart. This is a winner.

Feb 122021
 

Library Journal: Born to serve and protect, Warlord Princes are sworn to their Queen. Daemonar Yaslana has always been bossy and protective, but he has reached an age where his behavior walks a fine line, and an emotional attack on his sister by a young Queen results in Daemonar beginning a new set of lessons under Witch, the Queen that many think of as old myth. When a curse is revealed to be rising in Kaleer, Daemonar along with his uncle and father, the High Lord and Demon Prince, respectively, must use his skills to uproot the stain before it sets too far. For Warlord Princes are their Queen’s weapons, and they will destroy any enemy—even if it wears a beloved face. Bishop (Wild Country) leans into references and characters from past books to build a century-spanning saga, tying together pieces of plot and creating new stakes that could break hearts and power. VERDICT The latest “Black Jewels” novel (after The Queen’s Bargain) continues to deliver dark fantasy with lush worldbuilding, strong characters, and high-stakes action.

Feb 052021
 

Publishers Weekly: Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Wells brings her solitude-craving, media-loving killer robot protagonist another step closer to independence in the entertaining sixth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series (after Network Effect). A dead body found in Preservation Station mall propels Murderbot, a SecUnit, into a new contract as a consultant in the murder investigation. Murderbot hopes to gain the refugee status that would enable it to stay in the Preservation Alliance, but it’s an uphill battle as rogue SecUnits are feared as unhinged killers—an unfounded fear in this case, as Murderbot wants nothing more than to catch up on its favorite soap opera in peace. Vexed by the illogical humans it’s forced to work with, Murderbot patiently explains its way through the clues it uncovers, and Senior Officer Indah can’t help being impressed with Murderbot’s investigative skills and surprisingly compassionate regard for life. Murderbot’s wry observations of human behavior are as humorous as ever and the mystery is thoroughly satisfying. This is another winning series installment.

Feb 042021
 

Publishers Weekly: Burke (Semiosis) uses a futuristic world to comment on the present in this politically charged dystopian novel. In a near-future America where human clones are stigmatized as second-class citizens and an authoritarian “Prez” titillates his patriot cult with sloganeering straight out of the Big Brother playbook, a nationwide mutiny is brewing. When the government releases a vaccine against the rampaging Sino cold—purportedly to induce herd immunity nationally, but secretly to sicken the mutineers—the narrative refracts the ensuing chaos through the experiences of four characters: Avril, Irene, and Berenike, young Wisconsin women from various walks of life who discover they are clones of one another; and Peng, the scientist who cloned them and who has a hand in the virus’s release. Burke endows her characters with distinct personalities and conjures a frighteningly real sense of national destabilization as events spiral out of their control. Though the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, references to coronaviruses and a nation wracked by social unrest are sure to resonate. This hits close to home.

Feb 032021
 

Shelf Awareness: Through humor and heartache, Hutchinson balances an incredible situation with the great emotional depths and fragile relationships of his characters. More than survival or love, Hutchinson’s novel is about personal identity and how we define ourselves through memories, experiences and the perceptions of others.

Jan 272021
 

Congratulations to Martha Wells for having NETWORK EFFECT chosen as Publishers Weekly Staff Picks Best Books of 2020! They write:

Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on. Vividly imagined and often wryly hilarious, Network Effect stands as the strongest, richest book in the series, as the SecUnit once more must embroiled itself in human affairs, this time with a team and even a friend. Wells’ accomplished storytelling makes this a perfect entry point, but odds are once you’ve become acquainted with Murderbot you’ll want to do what it would: find a quiet spot and rush through the full series.

Jan 252021
 

Publishers Weekly: With this gripping dystopian novel, Shirley (Eclipse) extrapolates a grim vision of a late-21st-century U.S. wracked by climate change. Former U.S. Marshal Darryl Webb is now a world-weary freelance tracker hired to find a missing serial killer believed to be in Stormland, a 400-mile stretch of devastated southeast U.S. coastline. Some 2,000 squatters live in the ruins of Charleston, inhabiting lawless, flooded enclaves—among them an eerie pseudo-religious cult, a gang of drug dealers, scavenger-refugees, and Gerald Fogle, Webb’s quarry. But Gerald, who’s been medically mind-altered with “Neuro-Cellular Behavioral Modification,” is a new man. No longer the killer he was, he now devotes his time to altruistically helping Stormland’s suffering people. Threads involving “experiencers” who install mind-control implants to drive their doomed victims for their own heinous entertainment and a pharmaceutical executive who finds redemption from his destructive greed propel the intricate, action-filled plot as Webb comes to find meaning in his life. Howling super-hurricanes, grisly torture scenes, and the horrors of scientific experimentation on human brains make for harrowing reading. This is a sober warning about the seductive dangers of power.

Jan 142021
 

Locus: Fugitive Telemetry is an interesting hybrid of murder mystery and space adventure. From the beginning of her career, Martha Wells’ characters have been relatable, understandable, complex, and human; her worldbuilding deft and interesting, filled with graceful detail and implying a universe beyond the page. The Murderbot stories continue this trajectory, with an entertaining protagonist – the incredibly relatable Murderbot – and a wry, witty, darkly humorous voice. Fugitive Telemetry is a brisk, well-paced delight, and fills in a gap in Murderbot’s adventures in a satisfying way. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and I hope that Wells continues to tell Murderbot stories for a long time to come.