RivkaT (rivkat) wrote,


The New Voices of Science Fiction, ed. Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman: Excellent collection with a number of award-winning stories, including Suzanne Palmer’s The Secret Life of Bots (service and heroism even when you’re considered outdated), S. Qiouyi Lu’s Mother Tongues (when you can sell your knowledge of your basic language to buy your child’s future, what should you do?), Rebecca Roanhorse’s Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience TM (also about selling your culture to survive, though very differently), Kelly Robson’s A Study in Oils (surviving the doing of a horrible act in a destructive culture), and a number of others, including Sarah Pinsker and Amar El-Mohtar. Overall, delivers on its promise.y

Seanan McGuire, Laughter at the AcademyA number of short stories by McGuire with various fantasy settings. I mostly liked them—McGuire’s tics of repetition and fairy-tale singsongs are not as apparent/annoying in short story form.
John Scalzi, A Very Scalzi ChristmasLightweight collection of Christmas-themed f/sf stories. The best was the interview with Santa’s lawyer—Scalzi at least talked to someone with a working knowledge of intellectual property law, yay!
Rainbow Rowell, AttachmentsVery specific setting: it’s the early 90s and a newsroom hires a person to go through employees’ email to make sure they’re not cursing etc. on company time. Except the guy hired to do it has never gotten over his girlfriend’s abandonment in college and isn’t motivated to do much of anything. He starts following the conversation of two friends, one married (and wondering if she wants kids) and the other partnered to a guy who plays in a band (and wanting more of a commitment). He falls in love, but can they get over the creepy, invasive way he learned about her? I don’t think this book could’ve been written in the past few years, because it is a romance, though he does indeed know it’s creepy and they do not go straight to being ok.
Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, This Is How You Lose the Time WarThrough time and alternate realities, Red and Blue chase each other and fall in love against the wishes of their superiors, sending letters to each other in the bubbles in boiling water and the bones of animals sent to kill. It was too internal for me—the people who died around them seemed irrelevant; the time war was pointless as far as I could tell. But if you like weird love stories and trippy imagery, it might work for you.
Leigh Bardugo, Ninth HouseAlex is a freshman at Yale, despite never having finished high school. She was recruited because she can see ghosts, which makes her better able to oversee the activities of the eight secret societies at Yale, which have access to various mystical forces. But she has a lot of dark secrets, and when her mentor vanishes and then a girl is murdered, possibly with secret society involvement, she has to decide how much of her past she can accept and how much she can run from. It’s quite an adventure, with fascinating worldbuilding (including about how magic can be as unreliable as economic theory); it ends with a new quest that I would very much like to see played out. Warnings for past and current sexual assault, described with limited, enraging detail.
L.L. McKinney, A Blade So BlackAlice can fight Nightmares, monsters from the other side, trained and assisted by her mentor Hatta (another helper is Maddy, heh). But her recently widowed mother is suspicious and fearful (especially after another young black girl is killed by the police) and replacing all the ruined clothes isn’t cheap. When a greater threat comes out of the other side—the Black Knight, seeking to get the power that the Black Queen used to exercise—she has to fight for her friends here as well as there. An interesting variation on Alice in Wonderland x Buffy (one of her friends lampshades the latter, though nobody seems to know about the classic Alice in Wonderland).
Alexis Hall, The Affair of the Mysterious LetterJohn Wyndham, a trans man recently returned from a mystic war that left him with a migrating wound, lodges with the sorceress Shaharazad Haas at 221B Martyr Street, and accompanies her on her adventures. When an old flame gets Haas to investigate a blackmail attempt designed to end her impending marriage to a respectable woman, the suspects include underwater denizens, vampires, and a functionary in the revolutionary regime that overthrew the Yellow King in Carcosa. A bit of Cthulhu, a bit of fairy tales, and a lot of quasi-Victorian disapproval of Haas’s salty language. Wyndham himself is a refugee from the deeply anti-theocratic regime that he fled after the revolution against its corrupt theocratic predecessor, and deeply prudish despite his awareness of the charms of young men. (Nobody is homophobic; he’s just been raised not to approve of sex outside marriage.) The background politics alone are a kick, is what I’m saying.
Ada Hoffman, The OutsideYasira is an autistic scientist in a far future ruled by Gods that are part computer, part consumed human soul. The Gods allow some human experimentation, but advanced computers and some other things are heresies to be destroyed. Yasira is working on a power source when things go horribly wrong; suddenly she’s contaminated by Outside: an assault on the very foundations of reality, and the worst of heresies. Angels are using her against her former mentor and threatening everything she loves. It kept me reading, though I wouldn’t say I loved it.

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Tags: au: bardugo, au: el-mohtar, au: gladstone, au: hall, au: hoffman, au: lucas, au: mcguire, au: mckinney, au: roanhorse, au: rowell, au: scalzi, au: various, fiction, reviews
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