Michael Marshall Smith, The Best of Michael Marshall Smith: Story collection. Reading them together, it’s clear that Smith is always a dark writer, even when there’s humor. Through fantasy/horror and the occasional sf story, he presents a world of failed relationships (or successful ones ended by early death) and selfish betrayals consistent with an unforgiving universe. There are a couple of lighter stories but many of his protagonists are bad guys.
Alaya Dawn Johnson, Reconstruction: Stories: Fantasy and sf focusing on characters making their way in a world they can’t control, whether it’s been invaded by glassmen for mysterious purposes or simply destroyed by climate change. Some of her characters change a lot—or at least how we see them changes a lot—as their choices and reasons for those choices become clearer. I am a bigger fan of her longer writing, but it’s still so unusual to see sympathetic treatment of abortion that this is worthy of note.
Arkady Martine, A Desolation Called Peace: Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass, reunited due to Mahit’s desperation and alien incursion, have to find a way to communicate with the extremely dangerous aliens (and figure out if they can love each other across the cultural boundaries that define Mahit as a barbarian and not quite a person to Three Seagrass). Meanwhile, the empire’s eleven-year-old heir is learning how to do politics and trying to stop a war. The eleven-year-old was way too mature for my comfort, but maybe their years are longer. If you enjoyed the first one and palace politics in space in general, then this is the same stuff on a broader stage, but I found it a bit too chilly for deep enjoyment.
Naomi Kritzer, Chaos on CatNet: The sentient AI who befriended a group of youngsters is back, but has competition from another AI who seems to be raising an army for unclear purposes. Kritzer imagines a completely altered Minneapolis police force focused on helping people more than hurting them, but that isn’t enough to stop the AI. If you liked the first one, you will probably like the second.
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Someday All This Will Be Yours: The last veteran of the time wars sits at the end of Time, killing or erasing anyone who discovers time travel and makes their way to him. Then, one day, visitors arrive from the future, and everything he thinks he knows is upended. Cutesy novella; I don’t really like hugely murderous protagonists, even when “it doesn’t really matter because everything has already happened” or some variant.
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ironclads: Future corporate war; the protagonists come from the US with its syncretic racist/sexist/libertarian ideology fighting the countries/corporations of Northern Europe, searching for a lost “scion”—one of the sons of the wealthy, who get powersuits that ordinary grunts can’t defeat but who was somehow captured. There are also some bioweapons. Tchaikovsky struck me as trying to emulate Haldeman etc. here rather than carving his own space.
Brenna Twohy, Swallowtail: Short, punchy poems about gendered trauma and popular culture. Did not hit me as hard as Patricia Lockwood, to whose work there is some resemblance.
R.F. Kuang, The Burning God: The end of a trilogy is always hard to pull off, especially one as brutal as this. Narratively, the end of Rin’s journey to control the Nikan Empire fell somewhat flat for me, though I didn’t see many alternatives either. This volume has a fair number of betrayals, though less rape (nonexplicit) than the previous volume, not to mention massive suffering to which Rin becomes even more numb as she tries to unite the country under her rule and fend off the Hesperians who despise Nikanese as subhuman. One is left with the fear that the Hesperians might win, depending in part on various loose ends.
Jim Butcher, Battle Ground: Most of the book is a series of boss fights against the Titan and her allies who’ve come to destroy Chicago and then the world. I found them mostly boring because the powers keep getting ramped up and then Harry powers up to match—classic urban fantasy problem—but the hints of secrets surrounding Harry/a larger destiny are nonetheless tempting. There is a big loss among the good guys; Mab gets in a couple of twists to get Harry more on her side; and someone comments in text on the Harry/Marcone UST, so there’s that.