Quick Review: THE ALBUM OF DR. MOREAU by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)

GregoryD-AlbumOfDrMoreauA fantastic science fictional twist on detective fiction and pop culture

It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?

Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began — a place they used to call home.

It feels like a long time since I last read something by Gregory. I’ve enjoyed his work ever since I read Afterparty. He has a great writing and storytelling style. This new novella is a fantastic read: an intriguing, inventive science-fiction twist on detective fiction and pop culture. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: ONE DAY ALL THIS WILL BE YOURS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris)

Tchaikovsky-OneDayAllThisWillBeYoursA fantastic, amusing and original take on the time travel paradox

Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.

Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.

I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.

Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.

This is the third of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novellas that Solaris will publish, and I think it’s easily the best so far. An original and often amusing take on time travel and humanity’s tendency to inevitably ruin everything, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: FIREHEART TIGER by Aliette de Bodard (Tor.com)

deBodard-FireheartTigersmEmpire, love, betrayal, and duty…

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate — and her own?

This latest novella by Aliette de Bodard is a moving, engaging tale of politics, love, divided loyalties, and betrayal. It has many of the hallmarks of a great de Bodard story, and I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: SUN-DAUGHTERS, SEA-DAUGHTERS by Aimee Ogden (Tor.com)

OgdenA-SunDaughtersSeaDaughtersAn intriguing, imaginative debut sci-fi novella

One woman will travel to the stars and beyond to save her beloved…

Gene-edited human clans have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to environments as severe as the desert and the sea. Atuale, the daughter of a Sea-Clan lord, sparked a war by choosing her land-dwelling love and rejecting her place among her people. Now her husband and his clan are dying of an incurable plague, and Atuale’s sole hope for finding a cure is to travel off-planet. The one person she can turn to for help is the black-market mercenary known as the World Witch — and Atuale’s former lover. Time, politics, bureaucracy, and her own conflicted desires stand between Atuale and the hope for her adopted clan.

This is an intriguing debut sci-fi novella, following Atuale as she sets out desperately on a perilous journey to save her people. Well-paced, well-written, and imaginative. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE BIG SCORE by K.J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-BigScoreSaloninus returns, for possibly his most lucrative job yet…?

Welcome to the world of Saloninus, the most unlikely Renaissance Man you will ever encounter. A man of many and diverse talents, he is the hero and narrator of K.J. Parker’s witty, hugely entertaining novella, The Big Score.

Saloninus is a man with two distinct professions. In idle moments, he dashes off immortal masterpieces — philosophical treatises, musical compositions, dramas of Shakespearean range and depth — that never manage to turn a profit. His primary profession — that of thief, grifter and itinerant con man — is equally unprofitable, and he spends his life in constant flight from the encroaching forces of the law.

The story opens in the aftermath of Saloninus’s own funeral, an act of self-concealment he has staged many times before. Newly risen from the dead, he encounters an old flame — a sort of archetypal femme fatale — with whom he shares a colorful — and highly illegal — history. She has a plan in mind, one that involves both of Saloninus’s skill sets: criminality and literary genius. If successful, that plan will lead to the elusive “big score” that will set them free forever. Against his better judgment, and fully aware that failure and betrayal may await him, Saloninus agrees to participate. The result is this ingenious — and very funny — tale.

In K.J. Parker’s latest, he returns to the story of Saloninus. A gifted renaissance man, prone to falling on the wrong side of the law, he finds himself in a position to win the big one — one final con that could set him up for life, if only he can make it all the way through alive and not get cheated. Another fantastic, entertaining and brilliantly-written novella from the master of the form. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: Two New Novellas by K.J. Parker!

Each year, K. J. Parker seems to publish at least one novella with Subterranean Press and Tor.com. In 2021, the trend continues with two intriguing and, for me at least, highly-anticipated new novellas. Here are the details:

ParkerKJ-BigScoreTHE BIG SCORE (Subterranean Press) — March 2021

Welcome to the world of Saloninus, the most unlikely Renaissance Man you will ever encounter. A man of many and diverse talents, he is the hero and narrator of K.J. Parker’s witty, hugely entertaining novella, The Big Score.

Saloninus is a man with two distinct professions. In idle moments, he dashes off immortal masterpieces — philosophical treatises, musical compositions, dramas of Shakespearean range and depth — that never manage to turn a profit. His primary profession — that of thief, grifter and itinerant con man — is equally unprofitable, and he spends his life in constant flight from the encroaching forces of the law.

The story opens in the aftermath of Saloninus’s own funeral, an act of self-concealment he has staged many times before. Newly risen from the dead, he encounters an old flame — a sort of archetypal femme fatale — with whom he shares a colorful — and highly illegal — history. She has a plan in mind, one that involves both of Saloninus’s skill sets: criminality and literary genius. If successful, that plan will lead to the elusive “big score” that will set them free forever. Against his better judgment, and fully aware that failure and betrayal may await him, Saloninus agrees to participate. The result is this ingenious — and very funny — tale.

Described as “a comic gem”, the novella “also offers a heartfelt commentary on books, art, and the comforts they provide.” Saloninus is a great character, who also appears in the Blue and Gold (Subterranean Press) and The Devil You Know (Tor.com). The former is also included in the Academic Exercises collection, and the latter in The Father of Lies collection (both published by Subterranean Press).

The Big Score is due to be published by Subterranean Press, in March 2021.

*

ParkerKJ-InsideManINSIDE MAN (Tor.com) — June 2021

K. J. Parker returns to the amoral world of Prosper’s Demon with a wry, sardonic novella that flips the eternal, rule-governed battle between men and demons on its head.

An anonymous representative of the Devil, once a high-ranking Duke of Hell and now a committed underachiever, has spent the last forever of an eternity leading a perfectly tedious existence distracting monks from their liturgical devotions. It’s interminable, but he prefers it that way, now that he’s been officially designated by Downstairs as “fragile.” No, he won’t elaborate.

All that changes when he finds himself ensnared, along with a sadistic exorcist, in a labyrinthine plot to subvert the very nature of Good and Evil. In such a circumstance, sympathy for the Devil is practically inevitable.

As the synopsis states, this novella is a sequel to the excellent Prosper’s Demon, which was one of my favourite reads of the year. Really looking forward to where Parker takes the story and setting.

Inside Man is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Devil You Know, The Last Witness, Downfall of the Gods, My Beautiful Life, Prosper’s Demon, and Academic Exercises

Follow the Author: Goodreads

Quick Review: SONS OF THE SELENAR by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHSoT-SonsOfTheSelenarThe Shattered Legions’ story comes to a heroic, tragic, and fitting end

The Shattered Legions crew of the Sisypheum, broken and at the end of their endurance, find themselves divided – torn between following their resurrected captain on a suicidal mission or obeying orders to return to Terra and rejoin their Legion brothers.

Following a series of garbled messages intercepted by the Kryptos, the divided warriors descend to the shattered surface of Luna. Here, their bonds of loyalty, duty, and their devotion to one another will be tested as ancient horrors of the earliest days of gene-manipulation are unleashed, and a long-buried secret is revealed.

A secret that will have far-reaching consequences for the future course of the galaxy, no matter who eventually claims Terra.

Following the betrayal at Isstvan, a handful of loyalist legions were shattered. Various members of these forces — Salamanders, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands — eventually coalesced into mixed forces that have persecuted their own crusade against Horus and his Traitor Legions. As the Siege of Terra begins, the vestiges of this ragtag force makes its way to the Solar system. I really enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Quick Review: RING SHOUT by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)

ClarkPD-RingShoutA dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

The KKK are monsters. But what if, in addition to the human kind of monsters, they were also actual otherworldly demons? P. Djèlí Clark examines just such a situation, in this engaging and twisted novella. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Review: THE SEVENTH PERFECTION by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

PolanskyD-SeventhPerfectionAn excellent new mystery novella about memory

When a woman with perfect memory sets out to solve a riddle, the threads she tugs on could bring a whole city crashing down. The God-King who made her is at risk, and his other servants will do anything to stop her.

To become the God-King’s Amanuensis, Manet had to master all seven perfections, developing her body and mind to the peak of human performance. She remembers everything that has happened to her, in absolute clarity, a gift that will surely drive her mad. But before she goes, Manet must unravel a secret which threatens not only the carefully prepared myths of the God-King’s ascent, but her own identity and the nature of truth itself.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Polansky’s writing ever since his debut, The Straight Razor Cure, was published in the UK. The Seventh Perfection is his second novella for Tor.com (following the superb The Builders), and I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. Continue reading

Quick Review: AN UNNATURAL LIFE by Erin K. Wagner (Tor.com)

WagnerEK-AnUnnaturalLifeAn interplanetary tale of identity and responsibility.

The cybernetic organism known as 812-3 is in prison, convicted of murdering a human worker but he claims that he did not do it. With the evidence stacked against him, his lawyer, Aiya Ritsehrer, must determine grounds for an appeal and uncover the true facts of the case.

But with artificial life-forms having only recently been awarded legal rights on Earth, the military complex on Europa is resistant to the implementation of these same rights on the Jovian moon.

Aiya must battle against her own prejudices and that of her new paymasters, to secure a fair trial for her charge, while navigating her own interpersonal drama, before it’s too late.

Who enjoys the full protections of the law? Can an AI have a jury of its peers, if no AIs are represented? Can humans make objective choices if they need to decide the fate of an artificial being? All these and more are the questions asked by Wagner’s interesting novella. Continue reading