Review – The Urashima Effect – E. Lily Yu

I only just saw this 2013 story recently, and it’s the kind of story that… lingers. It’s short, only a little over 3,000 words, and worth every one of them.

E. Lily Yu published “The Urashima Effect” in Clarkesworld, where it is available to read right this instant and you’d be a fool not to do so.

The story takes place in two parts. Primarily, a researcher and solo advance landing party for an interstellar colony wakes up from deep sleep and acclimates to his environment as the ship begins decelerating from relativistic speeds. The second part of the story is the recordings that the researcher’s wife left for him to pass the time during his deceleration, which tell a folktale that carries much more of a message that mere entertainment.

As I said, it’s the kind of story that lingers. It’s precisely the kind of cerebral, soulful, SF that I love, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Review – Beneath Ceaseless Skies – 322

Beneath Ceaseless Skies January 28, 2021 issue features The Guadalupe Witch from Josh Rountree (twitter and website) and Her Black Coal Heart a Diamond in My Hand from R.K.Duncan (twitter and website).

The Guadalupe Witch is short, punchy, and cuts straight at the heart of sacrifice, desperation, and the prices we are willing to pay for loved ones and for magic. It’s got a wonderful weird-west setting and vibe that is subtle but effective, and there’s a sedate but inexorable pace to the story that keeps building tension to the climax. It’s a fast read and absolutely worth your time.

Her Black Coal Heart a Diamond in My Hand paints a bleak picture of a world where ghosts are the materiel for a artist’s mad art installation. He endeavors to shed light on the exploitation and desperation of lower classes while defining the gulf between the stories of those spirits displayed in the exhibit, and those doing the viewing. As R.K.Duncan takes us on this journey, we are presented with a window into how making art can shed light on plight, and how shedding that light might affect the artist. We are asked what the cost of telling stories that might not be ours to tell might be (costs to the teller, and to those whose stories are plundered). And, along the way we experience a story told with visceral and surreal language with magic that is numinous and always drifting just outside our grasp, unable to be clearly defined, yet full of concrete details that pin it in place. R.K.Duncan asks a lot of the reader in this story, but rewards us in doing so.

Review – The Raven Tower

The Raven Tower: Leckie, Ann: 9780316388696: Amazon.com: Books

Ann Leckie‘s fantasy is a wild new spin on Hamlet and the revenge story. This book takes risks with structure, some of it is delivered in second person, others first person, the narrative bounces between a god and the right-hand of the prince who is the one seeking his birthright, and his revenge.

It’s a complicated story, with a complicated structure. It challenges the reader to interrogate perspectives, conceptions of gender, society, and divinity, and it asks questions about the relationship of humanity to divinity. This isn’t the proverbial popcorn movie, but it was exceptionally well-crafted.

If it sounds good to you, check it out. If you’ve got a local independent bookseller, please give them your business in this difficult time. If it works, try using the Bookshop link, which tries to support independent booksellers. If your local library has it on the shelf, support libraries!

If Amazon is the what works for you to get books in the pandemic, use Amazon, that’s okay too!

Bookshop:

The Raven Tower

Powell’s:

The Raven Tower

Amazon:

The Raven Tower

Review – Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, The Autumn Republic

Duck and Covers: The Art of Orbit Books | Tor.com

Brian McClellan all but pioneered the term “flintlock fantasy” with his Powder Mage Trilogy. Beginning with PROMISE OF BLOOD, he creates a world that draws military inspiration from the Napoleonic to American Civil War eras, weaves in the politics of revolution and representation, and adds social seasoning of labor relations and unrest all atop the push and pull between sorcery of an old sort and magic fueled by gunpowder.

It was a fantastic read and there are more books set in this world than this trilogy, though I haven’t quite gotten to those.

If it sounds good to you, check it out. If you’ve got a local independent bookseller, please give them your business in this difficult time. If it works, try using the Bookshop link, which tries to support independent booksellers. If your local library has it on the shelf, support libraries!

If Amazon is the what works for you to get books in the pandemic, use Amazon, that’s okay too!

Bookshop:

Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy Book 1)

Amazon:

The Powder Mage Trilogy: Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, The Autumn Republic

Review – Murderbot

The Murderbot Diaries 1 to 4 by Martha Wells – Track of Words

Martha Wells Murderbot books don’t really need my help in plugging. ALL SYSTEMS RED won a dang Hugo, afterall. However, especially the first four novellas are fantastic, short, fast reads that are perfect escapism with a weirdly-relatable protagonist (weird because we’re in the head a literal murderbot). And, frankly, the first line of ALL SYSTEMS RED is perhaps one of the most gripping paragraphs I’ve ever read:

“I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.”

Look me in the eye and tell me you aren’t going to read the next line. I dare you.

There are currently four novellas and one novel out. Another novel is available for preorder now, so there’s plenty of murderbot to go around.

If it sounds good to you, check it out. If you’ve got a local independent bookseller, please give them your business in this difficult time. If it works, try using the Bookshop link, which tries to support independent booksellers. If your local library has it on the shelf, support libraries!

If Amazon is the what works for you to get books in the pandemic, use Amazon, that’s okay too!

Bookshop:

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel (The Murderbot Diaries Book 5)

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries Book 6)

Powell’s:

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel (The Murderbot Diaries Book 5)

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries Book 6)

Amazon:

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel (The Murderbot Diaries Book 5)

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries Book 6)