NPR Reviews Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear“Karen Memory breezes by at a leisurely pace, a bracing yet charming adventure yarn that never feels forced, despite the brassy confidence of its delivery.”

Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory was reviewed by NPR!

The plot isn’t complicated, nor does it need to be. Bear is paying homage to the dime novels of the era, forerunners of pulp fiction packed with larger-than-life heroes, scheming villains, and gritty action. But she’s subtly subverting this tradition, just as much as she’s giving steampunk a gentle, loving twist. An African-American marshal and a transgender prostitute are just two members of the book’s diverse cast, and it’s clear that Bear is making a point about the way history, like literary subgenres, can steamroll over anyone who falls outside the norm. She makes that point engagingly and effortlessly. Karen Memory breezes by at a leisurely pace, a bracing yet charming adventure yarn that never feels forced, despite the brassy confidence of its delivery.

Read the full review here.

Karen Memory was published on February 3.

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NPR Reviews The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City by Jo Walton“I devoured this book. Walton’s no-nonsense prose and dialogue are the kind of thing I can read anywhere, in any situation, and fall into a world of intelligent people speaking to each other intelligently in interesting ways…”

Jo Walton’s The Just City was just reviewed on NPR!

Like a Socratic dialogue, it lures you into narrative traps and seems to watch as you struggle with your own ethics in response to it. The Just City shows you a group of very different people coming together to transform a philosophical thought experiment into reality, determining how far to follow the letter of Plato’s laws, where to accommodate their spirit, and what to do when the robots they’ve borrowed from the future to do their grunt-work develop sentience.

Click here for the full review from January 15th.

The Just City was published on January 13th.

NPR Reviews The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken LiuThe Three-Body Problem turns a boilerplate, first-contact concept into something absolutely mind-unfolding.”

Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem was reviewed by NPR!

Published in China in 2006 and newly translated by award-winning Chinese-American author Ken Liu, the novel is the first installment of a trilogy that asks one of the oldest questions in SF: What would it mean for the human race to come in contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence? From there, though, it transcends expectation — not to mention borders…The Three-Body Problem turns a boilerplate, first-contact concept into something absolutely mind-unfolding…If The Three-Body Problem (and the next two books in the series, whose translations are in the works) helps bridge the gap between Eastern and Western SF, it will have performed a great duty for the literary world. But as a science-fiction epic of the most profound kind, it’s already won.

Read the full review here.

The Three-Body Problem was published on November 11.

NPR Reviews Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John Scalzi“…the bodies are stacking up, there are ninjas leaping out of the kitchen, and Scalzi has the pot boiling in exactly the way you’re supposed to in a proper procedural.”

John Scalzi’s Lock In was reviewed on NPR!

Once he’s gotten past the tricky part of building a near-future world and putting a dead body in it without getting bogged down in the details of either, the rest is all cake and hand grenades…Which is, of course, where Scalzi plays his second neat trick: Pulling off a half-twist ending that couldn’t work anywhere but in this world and yet, at the same time, is so perfectly cop-story-esque that it could’ve been ripped right from a 1940s pulp novel. It is satisfying in that it’s the resolution you expect, but it catches a spark from the postmodern sense that Scalzi and all his characters seem to know precisely what they’re doing. They understand that the story is coming to a close, too, and can’t help being proud of themselves for the clever job they’ve done.

Click here for the full review from August 27th.

Lock In was published on August 26th.

NPR Reviews Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica

Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica“Ultimately this was a solid, enjoyable book, entirely appreciable on its own while setting up interesting hooks for future installments.”

A. M. Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea was reviewed on NPR!

Usually when someone steps from our world into a fantasy world, they’re one of two sorts of characters. There’s the Bookish Outcast for whom the portal fantasy is a literal manifestation of the act of reading as escape — and there’s the Chosen One, an otherwise unremarkable or unlikeable character who has a Destiny waiting in the other world. There are of course dozens of variations on these roles, but often portal fantasies are more or less wish fulfillment: we want to escape, to be wanted, to be important or powerful or our best selves.

It’s rare and refreshing, then, to encounter a book where the fantasy world and its denizens actively do not want the protagonist, and are invested in keeping them out.

Click here for the full review from June 24th.

Child of a Hidden Sea was published on June 24th.

NPR Reviews My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children by Jo Walton“I loved, deeply, that this was a book half about women growing old together, half about a woman growing old mostly alone, and wholly about the responsibilities shared between parents, children, and the communities they shape together.”

Jo Walton’s My Real Children was reviewed on NPR!

I keep wanting to say this is an elegant book, but that’s not enough to convey my meaning: that there isn’t a word wasted, that there is a deliberateness in its every moment and movement, no matter how small. The cruelties are horrific and heart-breaking, but economically so; the happinesses are writ small, but glow fiercely. There is a restraint throughout that is part of Patricia’s personality, an evenness and a fairness in the face of enormous life events which I found tremendously compelling….

Those details are beautiful. Genre books that represent Christian faith with such tenderness and care are few and far between; even fewer and farther between are genre books that focus on the lives and memories of elderly women. Walton’s representations of disability and the indignities of ageing are unflinching, matter-of-fact, and important. I loved, deeply, that this was a book half about women growing old together, half about a woman growing old mostly alone, and wholly about the responsibilities shared between parents, children, and the communities they shape together.

Click here for the full review from May 21st.

My Real Children will be published on May 20th.

NPR Reviews Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory“Daryl Gregory’s new book, Afterparty has a place in the scale of genres and brains and the squishy collisions of people from vastly different walks of life—that drips and squelches somewhere in the DiFilippo range. It stakes its territory early as a second—generation biopunk tale and holds that ripe ground throughout.”

Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty was reviewed on NPR!

Afterparty has two competing narratives, working a kind of back-and-forth seesaw on the plot. The first is the mystery of what happened at the Little Sprout buyout party — which began with a bunch of happy employees celebrating their becoming sudden millionaires and ended with one dead body and all the survivors forcibly dosed with their own drug, at levels causing blackouts, lawsuits, spontaneous religious conversion and confinement to various Canadian mental institutions. The second tack follows Lyda Rose, one of the Little Sprout founders…

What follows that winning setup is essentially one long chase sequence, woven through with a bittersweet junkie love story and broken up here and there with some backstory and the aforementioned parables. Gregory handles it well, putting the pedal down when necessary, but also knowing when to feather it back a little to let us linger on some small detail of his future world — First Nations cigarette smugglers here, the interior decorating styles of the fabulously wealthy there.

Click here for the full review from April 23rd.

Afterparty was published on April 22nd.

Featured Review: The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

The Revolutions by Felix Gilman“Gilman’s descriptive powers are as economical as they are vivid, beautifully capturing the spirit of fin de siècle society and literature without grinding it into pastiche….And each item in Gilman’s grab-bag of wonder comes with symbolic resonance; even the book’s title can be read in multiple ways: Philosophical revolutions, astronomical revolutions, and the obvious political kind all overlap as the book’s intricate assembly of elements click together like clockwork.”

Felix Gilman’s The Revolutions got a featured review in NPR!

Here’s an excerpt from NPR’s post on April 3:

In his previous novels, Felix Gilman presented fantastic, mind-expanding visions of other worlds. His fifth, The Revolutions, sticks a little closer to home — at least at first. For a change, he’s set a book in the real world, albeit a skewed version of it. Gilman reimagines late-19th-century London as a dark and dangerous place; along with all the political, technological, and cultural upheavals of the age, he’s added an insidious dimension to the fashionable occultism that gripped the end of the Victorian Era. Spiritual seekers are determined to explore outer space as well as inner space — only without their bodies leaving their parlors. Call it séance fiction.

For all its heady concepts, The Revolutions launches on a humble note. In London in 1893, a recently unemployed journalist named Arthur Shaw tries his hand at writing detective stories, attempting to pick up where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is about to leave off. It’s one of many allusions to real-world figures that Gilman weaves into the story, including nods to Jack the Ripper, early computer pioneer Charles Babbage, and author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. But in The Revolutions, the subtle differences between our world and Gilman’s alternate history eventually become striking. The mystical secret societies of London are about to go to war with each other, and Arthur — along with his fiancée Josephine Bradman, a stenographer who records the minutes of one of those societies’ meetings — is drawn into an increasingly dizzying scheme that involves astral projection to other planets. When Josephine participates in a magic ritual to that end, her astral consciousness not only travels beyond Earth, but gets marooned there. Arthur, in no way a magician himself, must find a way to conjure her home — even if it means collaborating with the terrifying occult forces that sent her there.

Click here for the full review.
The Revolutions went on sale on April 1.

NPR Reviews The Time Traveler’s Almanac edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

The Time Traveler's Almanac edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer“The lineup in this book is like the guest list for the greatest cocktail party of all time — writers modern and not so, alive and dead, known tinkerers with the time stream and those who just got it in their heads one day to go back in time and kiss their great-grandmothers or whatever.”

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Time Traveler’s Almanac has received a glowing review from NPR!

“The lineup in this book is like the guest list for the greatest cocktail party of all time — writers modern and not so, alive and dead, known tinkerers with the time stream and those who just got it in their heads one day to go back in time and kiss their great-grandmothers or whatever. Seriously, check out the 60-plus writers in the table of contents and if you don’t find at least one name that makes you say ‘What kind of parents would name their child Cordwainer?’ you can come over to my house and punch me right in the face.

And yes, I know it’s a pseudonym. I was making a joke.

Other good stuff: Team VanderMeer broke the whole thing up into sections: ‘Experiments,’ ‘Communiques,’ ‘Mazes and Traps’ (about paradoxes, of course) and ‘Reactionaries and Revolutionaries.’ This is handy when you’re looking for a certain kind of time travel story but aren’t sure who might’ve written one. And they’ve bookended their sections with what they call ‘Non-fiction, educational palate-cleansers,’ of which Charles Yu’s aforementioned list of tips is one.”

Click here for the full review from March 19th.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac was published on March 18th.

The Week in Review

Welcome to the week in review! Every Friday, we comb through the links and images we found and shared this week, and pull the very best for this post. Consider it concentrated genre goodness from all around the web.

The Wall

  • The Lands of Ice and Fire publishes next week, and as a teaser, they’ve released some beautiful, official maps from Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.
  • October’s almost over, which means January’s almost here. For those Wheel of Time fans having trouble waiting for the January 8 publication of A Memory of Light, Tor.com has you covered: you can now listen to the audio version of Chapter Two, “The Choice of an Ajah.”
  • Great news from NPR: the Facebook generation is reading. Not only that, but they’re using libraries in huge numbers!
  • Have you seen the award-winning short film Afghan? Inspired by a real life racist act post-9/11, it tells the story of a victim of a hate crime forced to look for humor in a terrible situation. Well worth the time.

And, just to make Friday that much sweeter, here’s a list of sweepstakes and sales we have going on!