THE PHOENIX EMPRESS by K. Arsenault Rivera

A new review over at Tor.com:

I’ve used the phrase “queer as fuck and fucking amazing” to describe at least one book already this year. But it’s also appropriate for K. Arsenault Rivera’s second novel, The Phoenix Empress, sequel to last year’s The Tiger’s Daughter. This is the kind of Dramatic Gay content that I never knew I wanted—but now that I know it exists, damn you give me more RIGHT THIS INSTANT!

ZERO SUM GAME by S.L. Huang

A new review over at Tor.com:

Zero Sum Game is enormously fun, with vivid, visceral action scenes and a main character who’s definitely on the darker, more scuffed end of the “moral shades of grey” spectrum. Huang’s taken liberal inspiration from old-fashioned noir as well as from superhero stories and the modern high-octane Hollywood-esque thriller to create a novel that’s a souped-up blend of all three. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Huang’s work reach a wider audience.

Sleeps With Monsters: Astronaut Ladies

A new column over at Tor.com:

The simplest way to describe Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars and its sequel, The Fated Sky, is as an alternative history of the American space programme. But that’s not all it is: it’s a story about a young Jewish woman with an anxiety disorder using all the tools at her disposal to gain a place for herself in the astronaut programme, and building coalitions with other women to bring them with her.

THE FURNACE by Prentis Rollins

A new review over at Tor.com:

[M]y tolerance for stories of straight white men in prestigious careers and how their moral weakness is the defining trauma of their adulthood is at an all-time low. (I’m sure it could get lower yet: I’m only in my early thirties, after all.) And my tolerance for stories in which gay white men are tortured by their fathers for their soi-disant “deviance” and go on to die young of overindulgence in alcohol (“Bury Your Gays” strikes again) is also very low. Especially when that death comes after said gay man has (a) attempted to proposition the straight guy narrator, declaring his unrequited love and attraction, and (b) successfully convinced the straight guy narrator to smother his moral qualms at being part of a government project that’s essentially a giant human rights abuse.

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.

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.

THE FAIRIES OF SADIEVILLE by Alex Bledsoe

A new review over at Tor.com:

Bledsoe’s prose, as always, is carefully precise and elegantly measured, a delight to read. But The Fairies of Sadieville feels more scattered and less unified than his previous Tufa novels, without—it seems to me—a compelling through-line to draw the whole work together. Thematically and in terms of characterisation, the book feels slight, lacking the depth of its predecessors. Its strands are woven together without the deftness of connection that I hope for in a Bledsoe book, failing to support each other for the maximum tension or strength of feeling. It’s not quite all that one desires in the capstone volume of a series with the Tufa series’ strengths.

SEMIOSIS by Sue Burke

A new review over at Tor.com:

Semiosis is Sue Burke’s first novel. It’s a braided narrative, taking place over several human generations, and involves questions of community, communication, power, civilisation, memory, history, and compromise. For all its ambition, Semiosis is a fairly slender volume. It’s also an easy read, and a pretty compelling one.

 

HORIZON by Fran Wilde

A new review over at Tor.com:

The things I’ve liked best about Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe books—2015’s award-winning Updraft, last year’s Cloudbound, and now the trilogy’s capstone, the compelling Horizonhas been the character of Kirit Densira, accidental hero, accidental city-breaker, and determined friend; the weird, wonderful worldbuilding (invisible sky-squid that eat people! enormous bone towers in which people live far above the clouds! a society based around unpowered human flight!); and the deep concern with consequences.

Horizon is all about consequences.

World and Character in Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe

A new post over at Tor.com:

It’s long been a truism in science fiction and fantasy that the world is a character—sometimes, indeed, the central character, against which humans and other beings recede into insignificance. Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe—the trilogy comprising Updraft (2015), Cloudbound (2016), and this September’s Horizondoesn’t make the humans insignificant, but thanks to the wild, weird scope of its world, the world looms large in the reader’s consciousness—as large as the giant bone spires, high above the clouds, that are home to Wilde’s characters.

ARABELLA AND THE BATTLE OF VENUS by David D. Levine

Reviewed over at Tor.com:

Arabella and the Battle of Venus leaves me feeling rather bombarded by the way it foregrounds its particular racisms without ever really showing the world from marginalised people’s points of view. For some people, this won’t be a barrier to their enjoyment of the novel. For me, it took all the joy out of reading about airships in space. As far as I’m concerned, Robyn Bennis’ The Guns Above does airships, capers, and 19th-century-esque warfare much better.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Older Women and TOMORROW’S KIN

A new column over at Tor.com:

Science fiction is rarely great at depicting older women: it seldom does, and when it does, rarely does it seem interested in them as women—with grown children, family issues, rich inner lives, friends and relationships both platonic and sexual—as opposed to ciphers. When I find a book that does depict an older woman well, and moreover puts her in a central role, in the narrative forefront—well, that’s a special occasion.

PAWN by Timothy Zahn

Reviewed over at Tor.com:

I’ve read quite a lot of Zahn’s work, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s at his best when he can play in other people’s sandboxes. His original work often feels shallow by comparison, the details of the worldbuilding barely sketched, and the characters not so much shaped by their environments as floating through them.

This is unfortunately true of Pawn, too