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

Interview with STARK HOLBORN

HolbornS-TriggernometryLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Stark Holborn?

Who indeed?

Your intriguing new novella, Triggernometry is out now. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Triggernometry is an alt-history western, set in a world where mathematicians are dangerous outlaws. It’s a pulp fiction adventure with shoot-outs, bar brawls, heists, peril and vivid landscapes, starring a cast of mathematicians from across history.

What inspired you to write the novella? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

You have Jared Shurin to thank for this one; we were messing around on Twitter when he mentioned the name Triggernometry. I started musing on what form the story might take, and here we are. The same was true of Nunslinger; it was a 2am post night out joke, until I actually started thinking about it. Of course, I never dreamed at the time it would spark off a 180,000 word, twelve novella epic. Continue reading

Quick Review: LOW LIVES by Denny Flowers (Black Library)

FlowersD-N-LowLivesAn excellent Necromunda novella featuring a great pair of protagonists

Even in the nightmare depths of the underhive, there are heroes… or at least those who’d like to be heroes. Caleb Cursebound is one such soul, but pursued by bounty hunters and desperately outgunned, can he even survive, let alone prove his worth?

Caleb Cursebound, the Underhive’s ninth-most-dangerous man, and his ratskin partner Iktomi are in hiding, having deposed the tyrannical lord of a Necromundan noble house. Pursued by relentless bounty hunters, the pair descend to the remote mining settlement of Hope’s End, the last place anyone would think to look. They soon learn, however, that all is not well in Hope’s End; the people are being terrorised by a powerful Orlock gang, and in desperate need of a hero. Caleb cannot resist the opportunity to prove himself, but there are those who would see his reputation forever tarnished…

I’m very happy that GW decided to re-launch Necromunda — it was the game that most caught my attention and imagination when I was in my teens. With the recent re-launch of the game, there has been a welcome return to the setting in BL fiction. Denny Flowers is just one of the authors writing about life in the Underhive, but he has quickly become one to watch. I very much enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Quick Review: RIOT BABY by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

OnyebuchiT-RiotBabyA powerful dystopian novella

Ella has a Thing. She sees a classmate grow up to become a caring nurse. A neighbor’s son murdered in a drive-by shooting. Things that haven’t happened yet. Kev, born while Los Angeles burned around them, wants to protect his sister from a power that could destroy her. But when Kev is incarcerated, Ella must decide what it means to watch her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.

Rooted in the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is as much an intimate family story as a global dystopian narrative. It burns fearlessly toward revolution and has quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are both shockingly human and immeasurably powerful. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by racism. Their futures might alter the world.

In Tochi Onyebuchi’s first book for Tor.com, we are introduced to Ella and Kev: sister and brother, navigating contemporary and future America. This is an unstinting look at the injustices of modern society, as well as an extrapolation of where the country could be headed if these failings are left unchecked. It’s a powerful story, and I very much enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by Nghi Vo (Tor.com)

VoN-EmpressOfSaltAndFortuneA short, engaging novella about imperialism and exclusion

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

In this short novella, Vo introduces us to a handful of interesting and engaging characters, as one regales another with a story of imperialism and oppression. As the synopsis states, the world depicted is akin to imperial China, and the author has a gift for writing evocative, albeit-brief description. After meeting Rabbit, the emperor’s wife’s handmaid, Cleric Chih learns Empress In-yo’s story. Through this, we glean the larger picture of not only In-yo’s life, but also the world and culture in which all of the characters exists. Continue reading

Quick Review: PROSPER’S DEMON by K.J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-ProspersDemonAnother magnificent novella from the master of the form

In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.

The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out — he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.

Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.

I love K.J. Parker’s short fiction. In addition to his excellent prose, the author is able to pack in so much into his short stories and novellas: they are humorous, subversive, and peppered with historical allusions. Prosper’s Demon is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading