DEFYING DOOMSDAY, Edited by Tsana Dolichva & Holly Kench

Freshly posted yesterday, my latest review for Skiffy & Fanty

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“People with disability already live in a post-apocalyptic world.” – Robert Hoge

This crowd-funded anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction showcases the theme of disabled or chronically-ill protagonists. Edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, the collection features many Aussie female writers (though not exclusively) and names likely both familiar and new to speculative fiction readers. With all of its diversity in characters, apocalyptic setting, and featured disability/illness, Defying Doomday is remarkably consistent in tone and quality

Read the entire review on Skiffy & Fanty here.

Contents:

And the Rest of Us Wait by Corinne Duyvis
To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath by Stephanie Gunn
Something in the Rain by Seanan McGuire
Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts
In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands
Two Somebodies Go Hunting by Rivqa Rafael
Given Sufficient Desperation by Bogi Takács
Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu
Five Thousand Squares by Maree Kimberley
Portobello Blind by Octavia Cade
Tea Party by Lauren E Mitchell
Giant by Thoraiya Dyer
Spider-Silk, Strong as Steel by Samantha Rich
No Shit by K Evangelista
I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher tin exchange for an honest review.

STORIES FOR CHIP: A TRIBUTE TO SAMUEL R. DELANY, Edited by Nisi Shawl & Bill Campbell

Just up today, my latest review for Skiffy & Fanty

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“Publishing since the age of twenty, Samuel R. Delany is a highly respected novelist and literary critic alike. Familiarly known as “Chip”, Delany has written science fiction and fantasy (SFF) known for pushing boundaries, for challenging the notions of speculative genres, and experimenting with approaches to literature in general. Delany’s writing both subverts conventions and transcends fiction to explore social realities, most notably the existence of the Other. Indeed, as a man who could be described with terms such as academic, homosexual, polymath, African-American, and intelligent, Delany writes from the point of view of the Other, a spectrum of under-represented perspectives within SFF.

Both Delany’s fiction and nonfiction have been hugely influential, inspiring, and appreciated, partly due to this unique vision. However, his works have also resonated so strongly because Delany’s vision is not just unique, but uniquely brilliant, honest, and perceptive. With all of its challenges and transgressions against comfortable familiarity, Delany’s work strikes universal human chords, conveying both beauty and progressive encouragement…” Read the entire review on Skiffy & Fanty here.

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ALICE by Christina Henry

Starting today my goal is to put three new reviews up here each week, Tue – Thurs, to achieve some consistency in posting. For today rather than one, I have a pair of links to reviews recently published elsewhere.

In case you missed it, my latest review for Skiffy & Fanty was up recently, on Christina Henry’s Alice, the first book in a series whose sequel The Red Queen was just published by Ace Books.

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“I haven’t read Lewis Carroll before. I’ve never even watched any of the Alice in Wonderland adaptations that have been animated or filmed. But the continual presence of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glassin the popular zeitgeist is sufficient familiarity for anyone to pick up Alice, an arresting novel by Christina Henry published last summer. More inspired by Carroll’s twisted characters and their world as opposed to being a point-by-point ‘retelling’, Christina Henry tweaks Carroll’s work into her own distinct plot and themes, with a marked shift to darkness…” Read the entire review on Skiffy & Fanty here.

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher through the Ace Roc Stars group in exchange for an honest review.

Now up on Skiffy & Fanty: THE LIMINAL WAR, by Ayize Jama-Everett

My latest review for Skiffy & Fanty is now up, on Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal War, a sequel to The Liminal People from Small Beer Press.

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Praised by critics and respected authors like Nalo Hopkinson, Jama-Everett’s novels are powerful SFFs with action, heart, diversity, and a compelling hero/villain dynamic. The Liminal War is rich in action and meaning and is impressive for its short length. Read the entire review on Skiffy & Fanty here.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

THE DRAGONS OF HEAVEN, by Alyc Helms

In case you missed it, my review of Alyc Helms’ The Dragons of Heaven from Angry Robots Books appeared this week at Skiffy and Fanty.

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“In the darkened streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, Missy Masters is struggling to take up the vigilante-hero mantle of her retired, estranged grandfather, Mr. Mystic. Missy shares his stubbornness, his intimate connections with Chinese culture, and his uncanny ability to cross into a realm of shadows and exert limited control over the creatures within…

…The Dragons of Heaven is a fun read. It is a genre blend that combines urban fantasy with folkloric myth, the superhero comic, romance, and the complex family dynamics featured in ‘mainstream’ fiction. There is magical action driving the plot aplenty, there are moments of humor and pop culture reference. But there are also great doses of introspection, of character development for Missy, and deep themes at its core.”

Read the complete review at Skiffy and Fanty!

And look there this coming week for my upcoming review of The Liminal War by Ayize Jama-Everett.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this from the publisher as part of The Angry Robot Army via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

CUCKOO SONG, by Frances Hardinge

My review of Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge’s new dark fantasy novel for middle-grade readers is up at Skiffy and Fanty:

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“It is England during the reign of King George V. The Machine Age is at its peak, and human society is in flux, becoming increasingly urbanized, secular. The Great War has come to a close, but the traumatic devastation it has wrought echoes on in family’s lives. Nations struggle to recover and political/economic turmoil presages greater conflicts and changes to come. What the future holds is not only a concern for humanity, but also for The Besiders, a race that has lived alongside us in the margins, driven further into the isolated shadows as human civilization spreads….”

Read the full review piece here!

A QUILL LADDER by Jennifer Ellis (Review & Interview on Skiffy & Fanty)

My review of A Quill Laddder, the second book in Jennifer Ellis’ Derivatives of Displacement SciFi/Fantasy series for middle-grade readers is up at Skiffy and Fanty:

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“…The Derivatives of Displacement begins primarily through the point of view of fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair, a budding scientist with a love of physics and puzzles. Practical and analytic, Abbey tries to view the world with a calm reason, but she remains filled with a childlike wonder and imagination that compels her to consider a world beyond her previous understanding. Her boundaries between openness, scepticism, and disbelief become blurred when her older brother discovers a strange collection of stones that allow them, along with Abbey’s twin brother, to travel into another world that appears to be a part of their future…”

Read the full review piece here, and also check out the accompanying interview I did with Ellis on the book, the series, on writing YA/middle-grade novels, on being an indie author, and more!

WILDALONE, by Krassi Zourkova

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Wildalone
By Krassi Zourkova
William Morrow – 6th January 2015
ISBN 9780062328021 – 384 Pages – Hardcover
Source: William Morrow, via Skiffy & Fanty


In case you missed it, my review of Wildalone appeared recently on Skiffy and Fanty.
“Talented pianist and bright student Thea Slavin leaves the familiar confines of family and her Bulgarian homeland for the opportunity of study at prestigious Princeton University in the United States. Compounding the normal cultural shocks of studying abroad in an unfamiliar land, Thea discovers that she has chosen to accept an opportunity from the same school her older sister attended years past, an era mired in family secrets. Thea learns that this sister mysteriously died while at Princeton, leaving a hole in her parent’s lives about which they refuse to speak…”
I also ran into the cover reveal for the Bulgarian edition the other day and I think it fits beautifully:
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Disclaimer: I received an advanced reading copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review that originally appeared at skiffyandfanty.com.

THE GRACE OF KINGS, by Ken Liu

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My review of The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, is now up at Skiffy and Fanty.

“My expectations were high after learning about Ken Liu’s debut novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Grace of Kings is both spectacular and significant, an approach to epic fantasy that combines some of the best elements of the established genre with Liu’s unique sentiments and voice. I’ve been trying to avoid reviews before writing this up, but judging from the headlines, I’m not alone in excitement and appreciation.

First in a series dubbed The Dandelion Dynasty, the novel is set in an archipelago called Dara. Following a mythological pre-history, Dara existed for generations as a divided land of seven kingdoms, each with a patron god and its own unique resources and culture. The instability of shifting alliances and waves of conflict represented the price for maintaining the independent nations until one king realized the potential peace, stability, and progress that could be achieved by uniting Dara into one standardized empire. Yet the common people still suffer, and many miss the aspects of local culture now being lost. Rumblings of unrest lead to eventual rebellion following the chaos of a difficult imperial succession. But with the empire dissolved, what will a new Dara look like, and upon whom will each god’s favor befall?…”

Read the rest of the review at Skiffy and Fanty!

THE GALAXY GAME, by Karen Lord

18142342The Galaxy Game
(Sequel, in setting, to The Best of All Possible Worlds)
By Karen Lord
Del Rey – 6th January 2015
ISBN 0345534077  – 336 Pages – Paperback
Source: NetGalley


If you have read and enjoyed Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds, then you should be eager to read her new The Galaxy Game. If you haven’t read her previous novel set in the same universe as this one, then you should go and read The Best of All Possible Worlds. I wish I had, and despite the flaws I see in The Galaxy Game, I’ll starting back at her earlier work and eventually rereading this one again with a bit more familiarity under the belt to guide/support me as a reader.
The Galaxy Game presents itself as a stand-alone novel in its plot (which it truly is), and I had every expectation to adore it as my introduction to Karen Lord’s praised writing. Indeed there is a lot here to affirm that she has exceptional writing talent, and interesting, unique things to say. Unfortunately her writing fails in easily reaching a new reader in the case of this novel, its multileveled complexities obscure its worth.
The plot of the book is rather straightforward and doesn’t really hint at the strengths of Lord’s writing that lie beneath it: her language and her universe building. The heart of the novel is a teenager with psionic powers named Rafi. For historical reasons within this universe, societies largely mistrust these powers and Rafi is effectively kept ‘prisoner’ under government watch at a special school. While he lives a normal teenage life of close friendships and hobbies, the looming responsibilities of adulthood, pressures from his family, and uncertainty over his powers all hover over his daily routines.
Most of this plot exists as a slow build, a nuanced character study that begins to reveal key aspects to Lord’s universe in these novels. Though with a teenage protagonist on a seemingly standard coming-of-age journey, this is far from a young adult book. After a tantalizing prologue, I stepped into this story eager to go along, not really minding that it proceeded so slowly. What I did mind, was that Lord seemed to assume so strongly that readers were familiar with her universe, how it is set up, what the people are like, who different players are. Very little is offered to give a reader bearing.
Alone this might not be a death toll. Complex, subtle novels can work tremendously, even rushing in without firm footing. However added to the assumptions of familiarity and the slow, meandering plot, Lord additionally writes her interesting themes into yet another layer of complexity: multiple points of view. Thankfully these are limited to mostly third person and a first person, but the similarities of third person voices (particularly early on as you are trying to get used to everything), make it hard to tell who is speaking.
Eventually, circumstances force Rafi to flee to a planet where his psionic abilities are far more common, and appreciated. Despite being in a more familiar, accepting environment, Ravi discovers this planet and society comes with its own challenges, one society amid a shifting galaxy of politics, and games.
For all the befuddlement that may befall a reader, The Galaxy Game does have some elements that make it stand out, beyond to beauty of the prose and the interesting sociopolitical commentary at play. Sports pops up in science fiction from time to time, but not too frequently. Lord combines the psyonics with a sport called Wallrunning, one aspect of her world building here that did seem evocatively described, and some of my favorite moments from the book were the parts featuring this. Another great element is simply Rafi. Perhaps it is partly the empathy the reader can sort of feel with Rafi at being out of place, lost, in this society, but parts from the point of view of Rafi (and to a lesser degree his friends) are the closest to familiarity I felt while reading this.
Other reactions to The Galaxy Game seem similar to mine. For instance Sunil Patel’s contribution to the new review section of Lightspeed Magazine echoed well many of my own frustrations with seeing so much potential here, but not coming away really fulfilled.  On the other hand, writing for NPR, Amar El-Mohtar had a much more positive reaction despite recognizing the challenging nature of this novel. Aside from differences arising from familiarity with The Best of All Possible Worlds, another factor that I realize may significantly alter one’s perception of the The Galaxy Game could be the format in which you read it. El-Mohtar speaks in her review of needing to flip back to pages previously read. I would have loved the capability to do that, but having an electronic copy alone, this wasn’t possible (well at least not very facile). So get the physical copy if at all possible if you give this one a try.
One final point: in struggling to put my thoughts over this novel into words I did also listen to this fantastic, fascinating interview that Skiffy & Fanty did with Karen Lord on The Galaxy Game. Whether you to decide to read the novel or not (or if you already have read it), I think it’s well worth a listen.

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reading copy of this from Del Rey via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.