Annalee Newitz – Autonomous

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, fabricating cheap medicines for those who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses.

Hot on her trail is an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a deadly military agent, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop Jack, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understands.

And underlying it all is one fundamental question: is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous was a challenging read. Not because it was a slog to get through, or because I couldn’t connect to the characters, but because it posed so many questions to chew on. There are political and environmental quandaries, there was commentary on academic practices and the way research is commercialised. But perhaps more importantly to me, it made me consider my thoughts on gender identity and on power differentials in (sexual) relationships. Read More …

Sam J. Miller – Blackfish City

After the climate wars, a floating city was constructed in the Arctic Circle. Once a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, it has started to crumble under the weight of its own decay — crime and corruption have set in, a terrible new disease is coursing untreated through the population, and the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside deepest poverty are spawning unrest.

Into this turmoil comes a strange new visitor — a woman accompanied by an orca and a chained polar bear. She disappears into the crowds looking for someone she lost thirty years ago, followed by the whispers of a vanished people who could bond with animals. Her arrival draws together four people and sparks a chain of events that will lead to unprecedented acts of resistance.

Sam J. Miller wasn’t an unknown name to me when Blackfish City arrived on my doorstep. I’d heard some of his short stories on the Clarkesworld podcast (read by the inimitable Kate Baker) and they were great, so I was excited to read a novel from his hand. And that excitement turned out to be completely justified. Because spoiler alert: I LOVED IT. Blackfish City may be my favourite read of the year thus far. I will try to not gush and fangirl too much, but that might prove hard with this one.  Read More …

Andrew Lane & Nigel Foster – Netherspace

This is another Wiebe review!

First contact is only the beginning…

Contact with aliens was made fourty years  ago, but communication turned out to be impossible. Humans don’t share a way of thinking with with any of the alien species, let alone a grammar. But there is trade, trade that produces scientific advances that would have taken thousands of years.

Earth may be a better place but it is no longer our own. We may be colonizing the stars, but we’re dependent on inexplicable alien netherspace drives, and they come at a heavy cost: live humans. When a group of colonists are captured by Cancri aliens, a human mission is sent to negotiate their releasse. But how can you negotiate when you don’t know what your target wants or why they took your people in the first place?

For my next read I semi-randomly picked Netherspace by Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster out of our many boxes of too-read-books. Our bookcases are coming next Monday (Editor’s Note: This review was written on November 16, the bookcases are standing right now). I had to put this book down after reading 130-some pages, as I was starting to hate-read this book. I know I am a very particular and unforgiving reader. Anytime the setting or the writing style takes me out of the story to go “wtf!” it detracts from my reading experience. This book did this too often and I just had to put it down.  Read More …

Chris Brookmyre – Places in the Darkness

As announced previously, my husband Wiebe is going to be contributing reviews more regularly. Chris Brookmyre’s Places in the Darkness is his first review on A Fantastical Librarian in a while.

This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.

Ciudad de cielo is the city in the sky, a space station where hundreds of scientists and engineers work in earth orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.

When a mutilated body is found on the CdC, the eyes of the world are watching. Top-of-the-class investigator Alice Blake, is sent from earth to team up with CdC’s Freeman – a jaded cop with more reason than most to distrust such planetside interference.

As the death toll climbs and factions aboard the station become more and more fractious, Freeman and Blake will discover clues to a conspiracy that threatens not only their own lives but the future of humanity itself.

Based on the copy on the back of the book, I judged Places in the Darkness to be a detective novel set in space. From the rest of the cover I saw that this is not the first crime novel Chis Brookmyre has written. Writing crime in a completely fictional stetting is a hard thing to do. Not only do you have all the elements for your crime, you also have to explain the universe the story is set in. You need to split your focus and risk not doing a good job on one or both of these elements.  Read More …

Guest Post: Julie Czerneda on Saying Goodbye [plus giveaway!]

Cover art by Matthew Stawicki

Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to have Julie Czerneda visit my blog as part of her tours for her latest releases. Today she is back with another one, but one that is a true milestone: the release of the final book in her Clan Chronicles. With To Guard Against The Dark, book three in the Reunification trilogy, she brings to an end a series that she started twenty years ago. I wondered how you say goodbye to characters you’ve lived with for so long. Julie wrote me the following beautiful post. Warning: tissues required! If you want to be in with a chance to win a hardcover of the book check the giveaway details at the end of the post.  Read More …

Author Query – Claire North

Claire North has received huge accolades for her first two novels under that name — I say that name as it is an open secret that it is a pseudonym for Catherine Webb aka Kate Griffin — her third novel The Sudden Appearance of Hope was just released in paperback and her fourth novel The End of the Day is out this April. So no time like the present to have her over on A Fantastical Librarian for an Author Query. I very much enjoyed this interview and Claire’s answer for how she shelves her books is one of my favourite ones I’ve received yet. My next goal is my own book nook! I hope you enjoy the interview just as much as I did. And look for reviews of Claire’s books here on the blog in the near future.  Read More …

Emma Newman – After Atlas

Gov-corp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away, what made his father lose hope, what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do with why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realises that escaping the past isn’t so easy. There is more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realises…

Let’s not bury the lede here: Emma Newman’s After Atlas is brilliant, you should all read it and I nominated it for a Hugo. Done. Everyone can go about their day. Or you can read on and find out why I loved this book so much.  Read More …

Margrét Helgadóttir (ed.) – Asian Monsters

They lurk and crawl and fly in the shadows of our mind. We know them from ancient legends and tales whispered by the campfire. They hide under the dark bridge, in the deep woods or out on the great plains, in the drizzling rain forest or out on the foggy moor, beneath the surface, under your bed. They don’t sparkle or have any interest in us except to tear us apart. They are the monsters! Forgotten, unknown, misunderstood, overused, watered down. We adore them still. We want to give them a renaissance, to reestablish their dark reputation, to give them a comeback, let the world know of their real terror.

Asian Monsters is the third in a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world.

If myths and monster stories are universal and timeless, they are separated by place. Even if almost any civilisation has an overlap in the core nature of their monsters, each is rich in their variety often influenced by their environment. You can find dozens of iterations of vampiric entities and shape shifters, of the fey and the possessive. The one creature that appears across the globe in the same guise is the ghost. Be it a revenant, haunt, poltergeist or lingering spirit, be they malevolent or benign—ghosts are of all times and places. As such I found it striking that so many of the stories in Asian Monsters, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, focused on these apparitions. If the monsters in African Monsters were largely bound by place, the monsters in this volume were bound by people.  Read More …

Margrét Helgadottir and Jo Thomas (eds) – African Monsters

They lurk and crawl and fly in the shadows of our mind. We know them from ancient legends and tales whispered by the campfire. They hide under the dark bridge, in the deep woods or out on the great plains, in the drizzling rain forest or out on the foggy moor, beneath the surface, under your bed. They don’t sparkle or have any interest in us except to tear us apart. They are the monsters! Forgotten, unknown, misunderstood, overused, watered down. We adore them still. We want to give them a renaissance, to reestablish their dark reputation, to give them a comeback, let the world know of their real terror.

African Monsters is the second in a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world.  Read More …

A.C. Wise – The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories

“Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the Kissing Booth Girl! Lips that beguile. Oh, I promise, the nearest thing to nuzzling an angel can be yours—today!—for a shiny round Seated Liberty I know you carry in your very pockets as I speak.” But to mechanically-inclined Beni, is the ethereal girl who fell from the sky a wish come true or false hope for life beyond the confines of the odd carnival called home. Her story—as well as tales of an order of deep-sea diving nuns caring for a sunken chapel and a high school boy asked to prom by the only dead kid he’s ever met—can be found in A.C. Wise’s newest collection of the fantastical, the weird, the queer and the poignant.

Last year I read and reviewed A.C. Wise’s The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and I loved it. It was fun, camp, and utterly delightful. So when Wise approached me about reviewing her latest collection, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, I agreed with alacrity, as I was keen to read more of her work. And while this collection is perhaps less exuberant than the previous one, it is a deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking set of stories, which while spanning the breadth of the speculative genre in space and time, all deal with identity and agency.  Read More …