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8/10
Review: Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Reviews / July 31, 2017

I’m always up for a good tale of alien first contact, and Tomorrow’s Kin definitely fit the bill. Expanding upon the author’s Nebula Award-winning novella Yesterday’s Kin, this book is told in multiple sections, first chronicling the arrival of the extra-terrestrials before exploring the far-reaching repercussions in the latter parts of the novel. It is New York City, sometime in the near future. Humanity now knows for certain they are not alone in universe. When the “Debnebs” first arrived, people were scared—understandably. But as time passed and the aliens proved themselves to be peaceful, life on Earth returned to relative normalcy. The visitors even had their Embassy ship parked on a platform in the middle of New York Harbor, even though pretty much everything about them still remains a great mystery. At first, they would only speak to the United Nations, claiming that their physiologies were too different to withstand Earth’s atmosphere and thus they must stay on their ship. No one has any idea what they look like, or what they want. But suddenly, two months later, they are finally ready to talk. For Dr. Marianne Jenner, the invitation to the Debneb Embassy comes as one of the biggest surprises…

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8/10
Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates
Reviews / July 17, 2017

The Waking Land is a gorgeous new fantasy novel from debut author Callie Bates, and it was on my wishlist long before I had the opportunity to read it. There are just certain types of stories, while not entirely groundbreaking or new to the genre, that are just irresistible to me, and this is one of them. The book encompasses a lot of the elements I love, including a courageous heroine, an evocative magic system tied to the living earth, and a complex world built upon the political alliances and animosities between various kingdoms. Things get off to a rather intense start, with the prologue opening on the scene of an interrupted dinner party. Our protagonist Elanna Valtai, five years old at this point, watches as her nurse is murdered in front of her eyes. Meanwhile, King Antoine and the rest of his royal guards are storming the house downstairs, putting an end to her father’s rebellion. To ensure no more attempted uprisings, Elanna’s parents are banished back to their ancestral home of Caeris, while Elanna herself is seized as a hostage, to be raised in the king’s household in Eren. Fourteen years pass. For all that she is an…

Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee (space ships in battle)
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9/10
Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
Reviews / July 13, 2017

Kel Cheris, half-possessed by the ghost of notorious General Shuos Jedao, survived an assassination attempt that wiped out her entire fleet. Or did she? Physical appearances aside, it appears to be Jedao who usurps command aboard the Hierarchy of Feasts. Formation instinct compels the Kel to follow Jedao – but will he really defend the Hexarchate from the Hafn? Or will he betray them to their deaths? Ninefox Gambit was one of my favourite books last year, although not all reviewers shared my enthusiasm for its unapologetically oblique world-building and its obsession with the ethics of war. In Raven Stratagem, the core dilemma is much the same – can the ghost of the mass-murdering general be trusted? – but this time we see the action strictly through outside eyes. Enter General Kel Khiruev, tormented by her enforced loyalties to both the Hexarchate and – unwillingly – to Jedao as her superior officer. Haunted by childhood memories of her mother executing her father for heresy, it’s only Kel formation instinct that suppresses her doubts about the Hexarchate. When Jedao arrives, she can’t resist the urge to obey him even knowing Kel Command wants him dead. By contrast, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan has weak…

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9/10
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Reviews / July 10, 2017

Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at the cover I’ve chosen.  It’s strangely hypnotic isn’t it, you want to look at it, to make sense of it, just turn it around slightly or turn it upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle and give it a name we understand.  Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of the image on the cover and having read the book I’m still not entirely sure what is being depicted, but, in spite of that, I love the cover, it drew me in and held my attention and more than that is a great representation for this book because I don’t think there is any one fixed image – for me, the point is the image could be anything that your mind comes up with whilst reading this. I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, as I was reading I began to appreciate that it…

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9/10
Review: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Reviews / June 26, 2017

What do you get when you mix clairvoyance and psychokinesis with Cold War secret agents, the Chicago mob, shady con artists, and a dysfunctional family undergoing a crisis of zany proportions? You get Spoonbenders, a wildly original, humorous, and unexpectedly heartwarming tale of paranormal drama. This book had everything in it—and I do mean EVERYTHING—but I’ve seen Daryl Gregory pull off some pretty amazing things with an even stranger mishmash of ideas, so I never doubted for a second that he would be able to pull this off. Spoonbenders introduces us to the Telemachus family, whose members made brief waves in the 70s by dazzling late-night talk show audiences with their amazing psychic abilities. At the head of this act is Teddy Telemachus, who ironically is the only one with no real power of his own, though he does make up for it by being a smooth and charismatic master swindler. The true talent was his wife Maureen, who is said to be the most powerful psychic in the world. And in their individual ways, each of their children inherited a bit of their mother’s gifts: Irene is a human lie detector, able to fox out the smallest insincerities or…

Shattered Minds - Laura Lam (an eye with a graphic treatment suggestive of shards of glass streaming out of it)
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8/10
Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam
Reviews / June 19, 2017

Carina Kearney is a rising star at Sudice Inc, a gifted neuroprogrammer on a highly sensitive research project to record the lived experience: senses, feelings, memories. She’s also a cold-blooded killer. Scared of her urges, Carina flees her job and embraces Zeal addiction instead, drowning herself in drug-induced sprees of virtual murder. But her mentor Roz has ambitions far beyond brain recording, and Carina is key to her success. How can Carina escape her in a near-future California where any brain can be hacked? And can she ever escape herself? Shattered Minds is a companion novel to last year’s excellent False Hearts, set once again in Laura Lam’s Pacifica – a crime-free, poverty-free near-future California shaped by ubiquitous surveillance and bleeding edge technology. You can make Shattered Minds your point of entry to this universe if you wish: it stands alone – although spoilers in passing for the outcome of the first novel mean you’re better to read them in order. And you really should read False Hearts, because it’s excellent. So is Shattered Minds. That said: Shattered Minds requires a thick skin. Hearts beats with emotions from the first page, circling tightly around the bond between its twin protagonists, their love a…

The Space Between The Stars - Anne Corlett
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9/10
Review: The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett
Reviews / June 14, 2017

The virus had a long incubation period. By the time it started killing, it had already spread across the stars. Those who survived the second day lived. The rest burnt up, 99.9999% of the human race reduced to piles of dust. Now the few survivors – scattered across planets – must try to reconnect, regroup and choose their future. Should Jamie try to rebuild what she’s lost or choose a fresh start? The Space Between The Stars is – for me, at least – this year’s Station Eleven. I have seen more critical reviews, but it spoke straight to my heart and unstrung it, leaving me crying quietly on an aeroplane (whether that’s one better than crying on public transport I leave to you). Like Station Eleven, this is a story that uses a SF conceit to explore human nature rather than a story that is interested in its SF trappings. As such, some SF readers may feel sold short. But not this SF reader. This reader is in resonant bits. We meet Jamie on Soltaire, a remote farming planet where she has fled from her long-term partner Daniel to seek the space to heal after a devastating loss. Her flight…

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10/10
Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / June 12, 2017

It is no exaggeration when I say that a series like the Greatcoats only comes once in a lifetime, and now that it has come to an end, I am filled with a mixture of complicated emotions. On the one hand, I am extremely pleased with the conclusion, with our heroes and heroines getting the satisfying sendoff they deserved. On the other, I no longer know what to do with myself. Like many goodbyes, this one was bittersweet, and if it hadn’t been for the final words of the author’s postscript, I would be having a much harder time right now. Picking up not long after the events of the previous book, Tyrant’s Throne sees Falcio val Mond and his allies continuing their efforts to put King Paelis’ daughter Aline on the throne of Tristia. To do so, he would need the support of the dukes, but unfortunately most of them would forsake their kingdom than to be ruled by a young girl. To make matters even more dire, talk of war is also brewing in the mountains. More and more, the penniless and starving common folk in the northern duchies are fleeing into neighboring Avares for their salvation, and…

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7/10
Review: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Reviews / June 8, 2017

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s new novella is an odd beast. Take our universe and turn it a few degrees to strange and this is the world of Agents of Dreamland. It begins with a meeting between two people who are apparently government agents, takes a journey into the mindset of cult members and reaches out into space as a NASA probe falls silent beyond the orbit of Pluto. Kiernan is best known for her lyrical dark fantasy and extraordinarily weird short stories. This novella is somewhere in-between. We begin with the Signalman, a special agent getting off a train in the blistering heat of a 2015 Arizona. He is to meet Immacolata who has information for him. Something strange happened and they need to work out what. She writes as if this is hard-boiled noir. Meanwhile, a typically charismatic-type has founded the Children of the Next Level. This is where we meet Chloe. She is an lost, standing on the roof and reaching for the stars. This particular cult offers transcendence into a better future. This short story alternates in styles between the points of views of the Signalman, Immacolata and Chloe. These are highly descriptive and enigmatic chapters. There are…

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6/10
Review: Damnation by Peter McLean
Reviews / June 7, 2017

Damnation is the third instalment in the Burned Man series and picks up about six months after the conclusion of events in Dominion where the main protagonist found himself employed by a Goddess with vengeance on her mind.  For the record this being the third in series the review below will undoubtedly contain spoilers so please bear this in mind before reading further. I will start out by saying that Damnation is not my favourite of the series so far, but, that being said I am invested in the story and will definitely continue.  For me, this book had two main issues that prevented me from loving it – firstly, it did nothing to endear me further to the main character, Drake, and secondly, it felt very much like a ‘filler’ or set up book for the next in series. As mentioned, we start 6 months after Dominion where we learn of Don’s rapid decline since he departed London to try and track his former girlfriend Debbie. Unfortunately the search goes very poorly and nobody is inclined to help Don.  Why would they after all?  Debbie is a very talented alchemist who doesn’t want to be found by her cheating former boyfriend s0 there’s no reason for…