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.

Sleeps With Monsters: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

A new column over at Tor.com:

This week, I’d like to talk about a film that qualifies as SFF either tangentially or by association, and which I enjoyed enormously. If Argo counts as SFF enough to find itself on the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo ballot, then surely Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is sufficiently close to speculative fiction for our purposes.

THE BARROW WILL SEND WHAT IT MAY by Margaret Killjoy

A new review over at Tor.com:

Killjoy’s prose is clean and precise, elegantly atmospheric. The Barrow Will Send What It May is a brisk and entertaining read, and I recommend it. It’s complete in itself, but it feels like a continuing installment of an ongoing adventure—and I hope this means that there will be more Danielle Cain novellas to come.

THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR by Tessa Gratton

A new review over at Tor.com:

There have been many fantasy treatments of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, several on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even one or two (I believe) on Coriolanus, but this is the first novel I recall to deliver a fantastical take on The Tragedy of King Lear.

 

Though it must be said my appreciation for the book was rather tainted by reports of Gratton’s objectionable behaviour.

Sleeps With Monsters: Annihilation is Amazing, and Full of Women

A new column over at Tor.com:

Annihilation is luminous. It’s dizzying and visionary and strange, a balletic question with no certain answer, peculiar and horrifying and layered and gorgeous, and lit from within with its own artistic vision: unified, structurally and thematically, in a way that few Hollywood films ever are. It’s a film that speaks with its silences, embraces them. It layers implication, symbolic meaning, from the opening shot of a dividing and re-dividing cell—revealed by Natalie Portman’s Lena in a lecture to her students to be a tumour cell—to its asides about grief and self-destruction, and from the horrifying wonders (and bewildering horrors) of the Shimmer to the fact that the film is subtly framed as Lena’s narrative, and all things considered (“Lena is a liar,” as Anya Thorensen, played with brilliant intensity by Gina Rodriguez, says in a moment fraught with psychological horror), we can’t be entirely sure about our narrator’s reliability.

STONE MAD by Elizabeth Bear

A new review over at Tor.com:

In 2015’s Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear introduced us to Karen and her compelling, colloquial storyteller’s voice. Stone Mad follows on from that story, with Karen recovered from her injuries and enjoying a nice dinner out at a fancy hotel with her lover and partner Priya before they move into the farmhouse they’ve bought together. But events, in the form of a pair of travelling Spiritualist sisters, rather intervene…

Sleeps With Monsters: Feeling and Faith in The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher

A new column over at Tor.com:

I’ve only ever read a handful of books that treat the question of religion in fantasy with any serious weight. The presence or absence of gods and their powers, the (un)knowability of divine things, the question of whether or not one can get, or understand, an answer from a god—the question of whether, if you’ve given your fealty to a god, it matters if you understand the use said god makes of you—is not a question that fantasy in general deals with in great detail, even—or perhaps especially—in those works that take the existence of gods for granted.

Sleeps With Monsters: Awards Season (or, Some Things I’m Nominating for the Hugos in the Fiction Categories)

A new post over at Tor.com:

I thought I’d share with you some of the things I intend to nominate in the fiction categories, just in case anyone feels like they want to discuss literary merits vs. popularity in non-juried awards. I’m not going to share more than two or three things in a category: these are as much ideas for discussion as they are recommendations. There’s so much out there that’s good that even a much longer list will exclude some amazing work.

THE WARRIOR WITHIN by Angus McIntyre

A new review over at Tor.com:

On a backwater planet whose inhabitants live parochial lives surrounded by the artefacts and wreckage of a long-vanished civilisation, a somewhat-disinterested religious autocracy dispenses subsistence wages and food for devotion and prayer—or salvaged artefacts—at their technological Temples. The head of each Temple is called the Muljaddy, and they’re all part of one single family, and the Temples—which are sometimes moved—are strung out along the length of a Road through a wasteland landscape, around which towns grow and falter, and along which people occasionally move.

STARFIRE: MEMORY’S BLADE by Spencer Ellsworth

A new review over at Tor.com:

Memory’s Blade is a fast, punchy story that packs an awful lot of boom into a relatively small space. It wraps up the whole Starfire storyline in a series of surprising revelations, startling choices, and complicated emotions.

But like its predecessors in this trilogy, I can’t help feeling that Memory’s Blade takes a bit too much of a breakneck approach to pacing.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Old Influences and New Impressions

A new column over at Tor.com (two this week!):

I may be a sucker for a good Dr. Watson, or maybe Claire O’Dell (an open pseudonym for Beth Bernobich) has just written a hell of a good novel, because A Study in Honor (Harper Voyager, forthcoming July 2018) turns out to be one of those books I find impossible to put down. I want the sequel immediately.

PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS by John Kessel

A new review over at Tor.com:

This is a fine, measured novel, deeply interested in the social conditions and conventions of its setting, and deeply interested, too, in human nature and human frailty.

It’s not nearly as fun as Theodora Goss’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (Saga, 2017), which is working with some of the same influences—revisioning 19th-century popular fiction from a point of view that emphasises women’s choices and agency, and which interrogates the assumptions of the original texts.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: Where Are the SFF Stories About Pregnancy and Child-rearing?

A new column over at Tor.com:

The literature of the fantastic is a fruitful place in which to examine gendered questions of power. People have been using it to talk about women’s place in society (and the place of gender in society) pretty much for as long as science fiction has been a recognisable genre. Joanna Russ and Ursula Le Guin are only two of the most instantly recognisable names whose work directly engaged these themes. But for all that, science fiction and fantasy—especially the pulpishly fun kind—is strangely reluctant to acknowledge a challenge to participation in demanding public life (or a physically ass-kicking one) faced primarily (though not only) by women.

Pretty sure you’ve already guessed what it is. But just to be sure—

Pregnancy. And the frequent result, parenting small children.

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.

 

Sleeps With Monsters: The Adventures of Murderbot

A new column over at Tor.com:

Martha Wells is an amazing writer, whose work I’ve generally loved since first encountering The Element of Fire. When her novella All Systems Red came out last year from Tor.com Publishing, it was a delight to see Wells turn her considerable talents to original science fiction—space operatic science fiction with a sense of humour and a deep well of kindness. This year will see two sequels published, Artificial Condition (May) and Rogue Protocol (August), and—not a word of a lie—they’re both really good.

 

MARKSWOMAN by Rati Mehrotra

A new review over at Tor.com. I did not greatly enjoy this book. I rather disliked it, unfortunately.

Markswoman is Rati Mehrotra’s debut novel. It’s also a book I really wish I’d enjoyed, because its big idea—sword-wielding telepathic lady assassins enforce the law while having internal politics that might involve murder!—is the kind of thing that feels like it should be tailor-made to appeal to me. And yet, reading Markswoman felt like a chore, a book that could only be read a couple of pages at a time, because its voice was about as compelling as old cardboard.