Sleeps With Monsters: Storybundle Pride Month Reading

A new column over at Tor.com:

Melissa Scott’s Mighty Good Road (first published in 1990) employs a world-building conceit that other authors have used since: a railway among the stars, stations linked by permanent wormhole gates. From these stations, less reliable FTL ships head off to planets outside the “Loop,” but in the stations of the Loop, interstellar corporations have their offices, and people live and work and transship cargo.

STARLESS by Jacqueline Carey

A new review over at Tor.com:

Khai’s complicated negotiation of his self-image and his feelings about Zariya also make Starless feel fresh. It’s not often that you come across an epic fantasy where the main character can be described as nonbinary—even if Khai keeps using masculine pronouns. Even less often does one read a novel where a main character—Zariya, in this case—must deal with physical disability and concomitant issues with both self-image and other people’s prejudices. The hope of a magical cure is held out to Zariya several times in the course of the novel, but while some of her symptoms are alleviated, she never stops needing crutches to walk.

Carey’s characters feel real and alive, and her world is lush and well-realised. This is an excellent novel. I recommend it.

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE UPRISING by Raymond A. Villareal

A new review over at Tor.com:

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is a novel about which I would like to be engaged enough to be scathing. But it’s hard to be properly scathing about something so deeply mediocre. I’m sure that it will speak to some people: for me, it fails to even be interestingly bad. It comes across as slapdash but self-important, and that’s a mode of art that’s absolutely not my scene.

Sleeps With Monsters: Fun in Imaginary Countries

A new column over at Tor.com:

Stories about imaginary countries are, I feel, sufficiently science fictional (or fantastical) to count as SFF. And Anthony Hope’s 1894 adventure novel The Prisoner of Zenda with its imaginary country of Ruritania has inspired a number of science fiction and fantasy writers, not to mention writers of romance. Now K.J. Charles, whose works frequently combine fantasy and queer romance, has written a response to The Prisoner of Zenda: The Henchman of Zenda.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: The Intriguing World of Ilana C. Myer’s Fire Dance

A new column over at Tor.com:

Ilana C. Myer’s first novel, Last Song Before Night, was a well-written variation on a traditional quest narrative: the problem of restoring magic to a realm without it. Its sequel, Fire Dance, takes a much more innovative approach. It deals with the consequences, political and personal, of that restoration—along with who benefits, and who suffers, from the change.

Except more twisty and intriguing even than that sounds.

THE THOUSAND DEATHS OF ARDOR BENN by Tyler Whitesides

A new review over at Tor.com:

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a little disappointing. This is a very straight novel, to all appearances, and if you are supposed to read any of the characters as people of colour, I’m hard-pressed to tell. Also, while there are a number of female characters in the book, the two most-developed are romantically linked to Ardor Benn, and no friendships or independent relationships between women are depicted or even mentioned in passing.

And I have the niggling feeling that Benn is a little bit of a Mary Sue.

Sleeps With Monsters: The Atmospheric Fantasy of Melissa Scott’s Astreiant Novels

A new column over at Tor.com:

If you’re a fan, especially of the Astreiant novels (and as you may have guessed, I am), I have good news for you. There’s a new one out, and I’m utterly delighted, because it’s—as usual—fantastic.

This newest novel, Point of Sighs, is the fifth book in the Astreiant setting, and Scott’s third as sole author. (The first two, which are also excellent, were co-written with the late Lisa A. Barnett.) Astreiant’s a rich and atmospheric setting, a city of merchants where women predominate in high-status roles, and where astrology has real-world significance.

ARMED IN HER FASHION by Kate Heartfield

A new review over at Tor.com:

Armed in Her Fashion is Kate Heartfield’s debut novel, and what a strange, compelling, genre-bending debut it is. Part horror, part fantasy, part history, and part epic, it combines all of its elements into a commentary on gender, power, and patriarchy. It centres around several women (and one man) who want in their own ways to have their due.

That makes it sound deeply serious. Actually, it’s enormously fun.

ARMISTICE by Lara Elena Donnelly

A new review over at Tor.com:

Where Amberlough spiralled down into tight, claustrophobic tragedy, Armistice opens up with the promise of change. It teases with the idea that personal happiness is possible for its protagonists, and the idea that a fascist regime may be opposed—may not, after all, last forever. That makes Armistice a rather easier book to read than Amberlough: less harrowing and less tragic in the Shakespearean sense. It doesn’t hurt than Donnelly paces her twists and revelations very well, creating a remarkably smooth narrative experience.

BY FIRE ABOVE by Robyn Bennis

A new review over at Tor.com:

Like The Guns Above, By Fire Above shines with its voice and sense of humour—gallows humour, mostly, blackly glittering. Bennis slyly slides in a nod to the dead lesbians trope—in which Josette fails to recognise an obvious couple and one member of that couple remarks that everyone seems to expect her to die (she doesn’t)—and manages to make a fraught parent-child relationship grimly hilarious.

BORN TO THE BLADE by Michael R. Underwood, Marie Brennan, Cassandra Khaw, Malka Older

A new review over at Tor.com:

The things that annoyed me about Born to the Blade are the same things that annoy me with every serial—or with almost every long series, for that matter. It possesses at least as many things that delighted me, including a willingness to play with culture and the ability to depict collegiate friendship along with professional (and sometimes personal) antagonism in the miniature diplomatic circuit of the Warders in Twaa-Fei. Born to the Blade is enjoyable and immensely readable, and if I had the opportunity to read the second season right now, I’d take it.

ARTIFICIAL CONDITION by Martha Wells

A new review over at Tor.com:

Artificial Condition is the second of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, after last year’s All Systems Red. It could be subtitled “Murderbot makes a friend, finds it harder to pretend not to be a person, and discovers some truths about their past,” but that’s a really long subtitle, so it’s probably just as well it isn’t.

 

AFTERWAR by Lilith Saintcrow

A new review over at Tor.com:

Afterwar is the first of Saintcrow’s novels that I’ve read than can be parsed as purely science-fictional, and the first that is purely human in its horror. It is also very much in dialogue with the present political moment in American life, where at least one swastika-burning Nazi rally has occurred and been reported in the international press.

Sleeps With Monsters: So Much Genre TV, So Little Time

A new column over at Tor.com:

All of the shows I want to watch have women as main characters or at minimum in several major roles in an ensemble. Because men are boring. (Okay, that’s not necessarily true, but we’ve seen men’s stories and arcs and relationships prioritised so often on television that those stories are often frequently tediously predictable.)

THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang

A new review over at Tor.com:

The Poppy War is a complex, sprawling, ambitious novel, part coming of age and part tragedy of power, that uses motifs and influences from the 20th century. It reminds me tonally of Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough and Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King, in setting of K. Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter, and structurally of P.C. Hodgell’s To Ride a Rathorn crossed with a war film. I feel ambivalent about whether or not it has succeeded in its ambitions, but Kuang is certainly a voice to watch.

Sleeps With Monsters: Marriages and Monsters

A new column over at Tor.com:

Life takes you by surprise with how fast things happen. In the past few weeks, I’ve become engaged to be married, and set out on a journey of attempting to buy a house with my beloved fiancée. (Houses are bewildering and expensive.) This makes me feel rather sympathetic to the just-turned adult protagonists of E.K. Johnston’s That Inevitable Victorian Thing, who are all of a sudden finding themselves dealing with truly adult concerns.

TIME WAS by Ian McDonald

A new review over at Tor.com:

Multiple-award-winning Northern Irish writer Ian McDonald has a significant body of work behind him, from 1988’s Desolation Road to 2017’s Luna: Wolf Moon. Time Was, his new novella from Tor.com Publishing, is a peculiar story of time, mystery, books, love, and war, compact as a parable, layered like a complex metaphor… and in some ways, strikingly unsettling.

FROM UNSEEN FIRE by Cass Morris

A new review over at Tor.com:

These characters engage in political intrigue, magic, and war. In emotional terms, From Unseen Fire focuses on whether Latona will allow herself to claim ambition for herself—to move into spheres that custom and habit would deny her—and whether or not she’ll allow herself to act on her attraction to Sempronius Tarren. Meanwhile, Tarren is aiming at election to the praetorship, with an eye to having control of the legions in Iberia and advancing his ambitions for the future of Aven, but his enemies have no hesitation at stooping to dirty tricks to try to bar his way.