Sep 212021

Booklist: The prolific Mohamed, one of the most unique and engaging voices in genre fiction, presents a dystopian sf thriller set in her home province of Edmonton, Alberta. A post–climate disaster has ravaged the landscape. Reid, the 19-year-old protagonist, carries a strange parasite that has startling relevance to both the ongoing global pandemic as well as the climate crisis. The horrifying aspects Mohamed expertly describes will burrow into the bones of the reader. Survival has not been easy, which is an understatement in this grim universe. Some readers may struggle at times with the scientific jargon, but that does not obscure what is a pulse-pounding, compelling narrative about an impossible chance Reid has in front of her. She can choose to go to it, but in doing so, she would abandon her mother, her friends, and the community in which she lives. Science-fiction and horror readers alike will enjoy Mohamed’s novel, which will appeal to fans of Jeff VanderMeer, Kameron Hurley, and Tochi Onyebuchi.

Sep 162021

Booklist: Hutchinson’s engaging historical fantasy suffers from the occasional implausibility and loose end, but its strength lies in the captivating relationship between Jack and Wil. Now there’s real magic.

Sep 102021

Booklist: Khaw turns the haunted house trope on its head with her latest, after The All-Consuming World (2021). The story starts off with Cat, who is celebrating at a wedding party with friends. It doesn’t take long for the group to discover that what they think is going to be a night of fun and revelry will be the exact opposite. As Cat starts to recount a fairy tale, the house takes on a life of its own. One of Cat’s friends reminds her this is a giant mansion in the middle of nowhere full of dolls and creepy things and that certain danger awaits them. As fear begins to get the better of the characters, the veneers and façades they maintain start to crack. Cat’s emotional pain radiates from the pages, making the supernatural elements more tense and frayed as the tension mounts. If Guillermo del Toro directed The Ring, it might play out something like this engaging thriller. Japanese mythological creatures come to life in this dynamic, unique tale that will satisfy horror readers eager for fresh blood.

Sep 092021

Booklist: This female-driven thriller is in the same vein as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and draws inspiration from the unreliable narrators of Dexter and Fight Club. Fans of domestic-suspense novels with psychological undertones, particularly admirers of the works of Tana French, Megan Abbott, and Zoje Stage, will devour this book.

Aug 182021

Publishers Weekly: When this witty, energetic, and unabashedly odd thriller from Mamatas (Sabbath) begins, hack writer Mike Karras believes that he’s doing research for his crackpot publisher exploring a persistent delusion among witnesses to multiple different mass shootings: that the killer wasn’t the only one firing during the massacre, though no trace of a lurking accomplice—or mastermind—is ever found. The people Karras interviews, however, are absolutely convinced that another person was there behind the scenes, a human shape blurred like “heat shimmer.” Rahel Alazar, survivor of a mass shooting in an Ethiopian church in Berkeley, Calif., insists that God will protect truth tellers, but Karras isn’t reassured: the more he learns, the less he trusts the “truth,” as his computer is tampered with, his cell phone is compromised, and drones surveil his actions. Chris Bennett, host of a gonzo radio program that urges listeners to distrust every bit of news as a false flag, is the most obvious plotter to interfere with Karras’s quest; the novel’s final revelation, though, is much more disturbing. However readers feel about that conclusion, it’s a smart, scary, mind-boggling ride to get there.

Aug 132021

Locus: This is an exquisitely gripping novel with a bloody, unflinching heart. And yet, for all the intricate brutalities of its worldbuilding, it holds out the hope of revolutionary change.

The queerness of Star Eater rests as much in its unsqueamish examination of power relations and the meaty, bloody metaphor of its magical mechanics as in its normalising treatment of queer relationships and the sexualities of its major characters: it’s a novel with teeth, and it sets those teeth into a thematic argument about – an indictment of – the hereditary transmission and constant maintenance of power that comes from acts of, essentially, theft and consumption.

It’s striking how full and complex Hall’s world is here, how invested with communities and meanings. Neither support for the Sisterhood nor opposition to it is an uncomplicated thing. Hall writes with striking, assured pose, bringing her world and characters vividly to life. Both in style and (thematic) substance, her work here reminds me of Max Gladstone’s Craft novels, of Aliette de Bodard’s novel-length fantasy work, of A.K. Larkwood’s blisteringly good debut The Unspoken Name. (Hardly surprising, then, to find both Gladstone and Larkwood have contributed advance praise.) Star Eater is a fantastic book. I recommend it highly.

Aug 122021

Publishers Weekly: Glover’s charming sequel to The Conductors digs deeper into the captivating Black society of a post–Civil War Philadelphia that’s infused with celestial magic. Magical married detective duo Hetty and Benjy Rhodes have enjoyed a quiet life of late. Their new funeral home isn’t seeing much business and their most recent case, involving fires spontaneously sparking in their neighborhood and claiming the life of Raimond Duval, resolved almost too easily—until Raimond’s son, Valentine, also dies, and questions about an old mission from Hetty and Benjy’s days as conductors on the Underground Railroad resurface. Overnight, what seemed a simple investigation turns into a cryptic cipher the couple must puzzle through. Layers of intrigue and tension build into a gripping whodunit, while drama within Hetty’s group of friends and tender moments between Hetty and Benjy offer juicy character beats. The easy momentum will keep both new and returning readers racing along to the end. It’s fun, twisty, and richly detailed.”

Aug 112021

Booklist: Mohamed (Beneath the Rising, 2020) offers a new novella with stunning artwork by illustrator Carly A-F. The story starts with a group of courtesans, led by the protagonist, Jewel, who work in a luxurious, high-end brothel. Mix in murder, a lust for revenge, living dead girls, and rituals in an abandoned church to create a unique, lyrical story: Mohamed is skilled at combining just the right ingredients in a recipe that makes for a gothic delight. The main characters exist in a futuristic dystopia where they oversee funerary processions and funerals that mostly happen at sunrise. As it turns out, our motley band of characters has some enemies and face danger from them, but will they be able to survive? While the novella is steeped in a Victorian, Picture-of-Dorian-Gray style, it reads smoothly and has a cinematic quality. It is a fast-paced tale that fans of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels will enjoy. The lustrous prose and lush settings will also tantalize fans of Anne Rice.