Recent reviews and columns at Tor.com

Sleeps With Monsters: Forthcoming (Queer) Novels Starring (Queer) Women:

A few days before I sat down to write this post, I asked a wide range of my acquaintance on the hellsite known as Twitter whether there were any novels or novellas featuring f/f relationships or starring queer women that they knew and were looking forward to in the second half of 2019 or definitely earmarked for 2020. It turns out that there are quite a few—forty-odd, in fact.

More Trouble to Come: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse:

Rebecca Roanhorse burst onto the SFF writing scene in the last couple of years. Her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” (Apex, 2017) took home the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Short Story, and she has also won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her debut novel, Trail of Lightning, came out last year to wide acclaim. It has the distinction of being a post-apocalyptic novel by a Native American author about Native American (Navajo, or Diné) characters. The same is true for the sequel, Storm of Locusts, which strikes me as a stronger, leaner novel.

 

Trouble on Silicon Isle: Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan:

Chen Qiufan is a Chinese science-fiction author whose works have won a number of awards. His short fiction has appeared in translation in Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, among other publications. His first novel, The Waste Tide, was published in China in 2013. As Waste Tide, it’s now been translated into English by Ken Liu, whose translation of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and whose fiction has won awards in its own right.

Sleeps With Monsters: Forests, Kingdoms, and Secrets

A new post over at Tor.com:

This week I want to talk to you about two very different books: Joan He’s debut fantasy Descendant of the Crane, set in a world which draws inspiration from Chinese history and culture; and Jaime Lee Moyer’s Brightfall, a fresh new approach to the Robin Hood mythos set in a medieval Sherwood Forest filled with Fae lords and magic.

RAGGED ALICE by Gareth L. Powell

A new review over at Tor.com:

Ragged Alice is a low-key contemporary fantasy. DCI Holly Craig has had a successful career with the London Metropolitan Police, albeit one marked by her isolation from colleagues, her lack of meaningful relationships, and her alcoholism-as-coping-method. Orphaned young, she was raised by her grandfather in the small Welsh coastal village of Pontyrhudd, a place she left as soon as she could—a place where a brush with death-by-drowning on the eve of her departure for university gave her the ability to see the shadows on people’s souls.

AMNESTY by Lara Elena Donnelly

A new review over at Tor.com:

Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough series, which began in 2017’s Amberlough, continued with last year’s Armistice, and concludes (it seems) in this latest volume, Amnesty, has always focused on complicated people whose ethics are at best extremely flexible and at worst practically non-existent. None of these characters are good people: most of them are fundamentally selfish, frequently ambitious, and guided primarily by what they want, rather than any idea of their responsibility to other people. (Even their love affairs are, at root, fundamentally selfish.)

So it’s quite a triumph of craft that, nonetheless, Donnelly is able to make many of her characters understandable, relatable, and even sympathetic.

Sleeps With Monsters: Two Uneven SF Sequels

A new column over at Tor.com:

This week I’m going to talk about two sequels, one of which I liked a lot better than the other. Part of this is down to my enjoyment of the characters, but part of it, too, is that one of the novels is advertised as the second part of a duology, but it closes on a note that raises as many questions as it answers. The other novel makes no claims to completing its series arc, but it finishes in an emotionally satisfying place, even if it does leave a wide-open door for “further adventures”—and terrible threats.

THE LUMINOUS DEAD by Caitlin Starling

A new review over at Tor.com:

[The] setup looks, in a nutshell, like survival horror: Gyre striving to survive in an inimical environment and fighting to maintain her autonomy against a handler who should be on her side.

Fortunately for us, Starling has written a deeper, richer, and more complicated story. The Luminous Dead is a story of two isolated people who have been defined (and who have defined themselves) by traumatic losses in their childhoods as they open up to each other in the darkness of a cave whose depths may prove unsurvivable.

Sleeps With Monsters: Brief and Complementary Tales

A new column over at Tor.com:

I’m sitting here, friends, trying to think of how to frame this week’s column. Because sometimes you read two books that seem complementary, but you’re not sure if you can put the reasons behind that feeling into words. For all its variety and flexibility, language occasionally falls short when it comes to articulating intangibles.

Rude of it.

Round-up of published things

My ability to stay on top of everything has slid significantly lately. (Planning a wedding is stressful, guys! Everyone wants to sell you shit and you have a budget here!) I’m doing my best with that on top of the usual strains, but my best is significantly less great than I’d like.

 

But! Here are my three most recent posts on Tor.com:

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Intimate Space Operas

An Explosive Debut: The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore

A Shaky Resolution: Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald

THE VELA by Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, S.L. Huang, and Becky Chambers

A new review over at Tor.com:

The Vela is the latest in Serial Box’s slate of speculative fiction offerings. This one’s space opera, with an approach to politics ever so slightly reminiscent of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse. Its concept is credited to Lydia Shamah, Serial Box’s director of original content, but its execution is down to an award-class writing team: Becky Chambers, Yoon Ha Lee, Rivers Solomon, and S.L. Huang. All of their individual talents combine to make The Vela a potent brew.

ALICE PAYNE RIDES by Kate Heartfield

The latest review over at Tor.com:

I’m coming to the conclusion that Kate Heartfield may be the author whose work proves the exception to my “time travel stories never satisfy me” rule. Time travel is messy, and in a story where time travel is the focus, a classic linear narrative never quite works out. But in Heartfield’s Alice Payne novellas—first in last year’s Alice Payne Arrives, and now in its sequel, Alice Payne Rides—the mess is part of the point. The false starts, the paradoxes, the putative dead ends: these are part of the time war that the characters are either fighting or have got themselves caught up in.

CHRONIN VOLUME 1: THE KNIFE AT YOUR BACK by Alison Wilgus

I managed to miss when this went live over at Tor.com, but hey! I’m linking now!

When I heard of Chronin: The Knife At Your Back, the first in a time-travel graphic novel duology, I was intrigued. A comic set in 1864 Japan, featuring a time-travelling female college student from our future, disguised as a male samurai and stuck in the past? Sounds interesting!

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

A new review over at Tor.com:

The last standalone epic fantasy of significant length I read was Jacqueline Carey’s magisterial Starless (2018), a novel told from the perspective of its sole narrator, and one so deftly paced that it seems precisely as long as it needs to be, and no longer. Samantha Shannon is a younger and less experienced writer than Carey, and The Priory of the Orange Tree is her first published epic fantasy and her first published standalone novel. It may be unfair of me to judge them by the same standards, but while The Priory of the Orange Tree does eventually get its legs underneath it for a satisfying endgame, it remains something of an unbalanced, unwieldy beast.

THE AFTERWARD by E.K. Johnston

A new review over at Tor.com:

Every so often, a book comes along that I fall in love with entirely. A book that hooks its fingers into my heart and soul and nests there. Last year the novel that did that to the most precise, complete point was Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace. Although they’re very different books, this year it looks like E.K. Johnston’s The Afterward is a strong contender.

Sleeps With Monsters: Engaging Fantasy Thrillers

A new column at Tor.com:

How’s 2019 treating you so far, friends? I’m personally finding the onslaught of new and excellent books a little overwhelming.

Into that overwhelming (but excellent) category fall the two novels I want to talk about this week, Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Oblivion and Claire O’Dell’s The Hound of Justice.

Sleeps With Monsters: A Coincidence of Prisoners

A new column over at Tor.com:

An odd coincidence saw me read two books back-to-back—both with the word “prisoner” in the title—by authors who began their novel-publishing career in the 1980s. Both Barbara Hambly and Lois McMaster Bujold have definitely grown as writers in the last four decades, and their recent works can be relied on to provide deep, thought-provoking reads—and deeply entertaining ones, too.

 

 

DARK OF THE WEST by Joanna Hathaway

A new review over at Tor.com:

Joanna Hathaway’s debut novel, Dark of the West, can classify itself as fantasy by virtue of its setting: a secondary world whose technology seems to fit an equivalent of our 1930s. With its radios and tanks and machine guns, it perhaps bears comparison with Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough, another magicless fantasy novel with a 1920s/1930s feel. But Amberlough and its sequels foreground the complexities of politics, understanding that while the personal is political, social movements can be bigger (more complicated, more long-lasting) than any single person. For Dark of the West, there appears to be no such thing as competing political interests. Everything, it seems, comes down to personal animus or personal loyalty.

Sleeps With Monsters: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

A new column over at Tor.com:

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power showcases a variety of powerful women, making a variety of different choices about what to do with their power. This is a show with an argument to make about community and responsibility, and being honest about (and responsible for) one’s choices.