Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle #3), by Nghi Vo

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250851420, October 2022

Chih and the talking bird with the indelible memory, Almost Brilliant, travel into the riverlands to gather the stories of near-immortal martial artists that characterize the area. Along the way, they meet up with two young women (a martial artist, and her friend who makes sure the bills get paid), and an older couple, who might be a bit more than that seem. Including a bit older than they seem. The six of them band together to continue traveling to Betony Docks, where they are all bound.

After a lively debate about whether the ferry (safer) or the road (faster) is the better choice, including discussion of just how dangerous the road really is, in these calmer, more settled times, they set off on foot.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250849458, November 2022

This story was definitely not for me.

I had bad feelings just reading the title. It telegraphs that there's something not positive about the ending, right? And the publisher's blurb for it cheerily states that the protagonist, Helen, sold her soul to save her brother's life. This is accurate.

As a direct result, she and her brother are no longer on good terms, or even in contact. She also got kicked out of the magical order they belonged to because, of course, damned soul.

Then years later, her time is almost up, and she gets pulled into the investigation of Chicago's White City Vampire, a serial killer who is apparently a demon. She doesn't want to be involved; she has only three days left and wants to spend them with her girlfriend, Edith. Her client offers irresistible bait, though--the chance to win her soul back, and have a lifetime with Edith.

Monday, September 18, 2023

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2), by Alix E. Harrow

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250766656, June 2022

Zinnia Gray is five years into her accidental career as a fairy tale fixer. Well, Sleeping Beauty tale fixer.

And she's getting kind of sick of it. The "happy ending" weddings at the end are wearing on her. Why can't some of these princesses solve their own problems?

She's also feeling like a bit of a third wheel, in the apartment she shares with her very first "happy ending," Charm and Primrose. Although, it should be noted, Charm and Prim seem to think this particular third wheel is entirely appropriate.

Planning to cut out early from the latest wedding she's attending, a beautiful, malevolent face looks out at her, a hand reaches for her--and pulls her into a different, and darker, fairy tale. This is the Evil Queen from Snow White.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Two to Tango (Brits in Manhattan #2), by Laura Carter

Boldwood Books, ISBN 9781785135392, September 2023

Brooks Adams owns a very successful gym in New York City, and is an extremely successful personal trainer. Having come up from nothing, he's motivated in part by the need to prove his real worth to those who doubted him--most importantly, to Alice, the high school girlfriend with whom he had a child while they were still in high school. They never married, and their daughter is starting college now, and Brooks still thinks his life will be fixed if he can prove to Alice that he's really good enough.

Izzy is British, a daughter of a mother whose main focus is social success, and a fitness guru with a very different approach than Brooks's. She's just published her first book, and she's in NYC for her first book tour. Sales aren't off to a good start, but egged on by her publicity manager, she slams Brooks and his gym, and every time she does, her book sales jump.

Soon this leads to a challenge that has them working together, each working out, and eating, according to the other's program.

What Moves the Dead (Sworn Soldier #1), by T. Kingfisher

Tor Nightfire, July 2022

This is a retelling of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." Kingfisher discovered on a rereading that Poe's story was much shorter than she remembered, and that there was room for...more.

More background and explanation of why this happened, in particular.

It's 1890, and Alex Easton is a retired soldier, plagued by tinnitus, from a tiny European kingdom called Gallacia. Kan is a "sworn soldier," a status which requires an exchange of gendered for nongendered pronouns. Kan is also the childhood friend of Roderick and Madeline Ussher, and travels to their ancestral home in Ruritania, in response to a letter from Madeline.

Madeline says she's dying.

Easton is nearly there when they encounter Miss Eugenia Potter, a knowledgeable and practical English mycologist, who shows them some of the creepier mushrooms of the area. This proves to be important information.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Ogres (Terrible Worlds: Revolutions, #3), by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Solaris, ISBN 9781786185280, March 2022

Torquell lives in a world that looks beautiful, but under the surface is quite grim. He's a young man, an ordinary human, the son of the headman of his village, and will almost certainly be the next headman himself.

The headman's responsibility is to keep order in the village, keep things running smoothly, and above all, to make sure the village makes a good impression and can pat the required taxes when the Landlord comes to visit. The required taxe are whatever the Landlord says they are.

The Landlord is an Ogre. Bigger, stronger, more powerful, reactive emotions. Those appetites include eating meat, which just makes ordinary humans sick. Ogres rule the world, and humans serve them. Torquell, though, there's a little bit of rebellion in him. He's a bit of a lovable rogue, who pulls pranks and commits minor acts of vandalism--most of which are in the interest of righting some wrong that can't or won't be set right by the ordinary system of law and order. One day, Torquell's spirit of justice and rebellion collides with the latest visit of the Landlord. This time, the Landlord has brought his son and heir.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Difference Between Love and Time, by Catherynne M. Valente

Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Solaris Books, 2022

Our first person narrator first meets the space-time continuum when she is a little girl playing with her Lego set, and he is presenting as a boy of the same age. He changes her Lego set in to a fancier one, one that possibly Lego does not actually make. It's the start of an off and on relationship, in which sometimes, for her, there may be minutes or years between their meetings. They go to high school together. She goes to college, but because of the weird dimensional effects of college with all those young people in transitional stages, he can't even set foot on campus, and has to meet her elsewhere.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness, by S.L. Huang

Clarkesworld, December 2022

Mariah Lee-Cassidy, currently imprisoned for fraud, is the putative creator of a chatbot called Sylvie, who targets nasty characters the law is never going to do anything about. People who, if they are ever caught at all, will get slap-on-the-wrist punishments for mostly technical violations that don't come close to the real damage they've done. The poster boy example is Ron Harrison, CEO of a medical supply company facing the potential recall of a defective pacemaker. He has successfully buried the evidence of the defect, and gradually upgraded the pacemaker to eliminate the defect, without announcing those changes. Some people die, but it's not blamed on his company, and he gets bonuses instead of a prison sentence.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

A Dream of Electric Mothers, by Wole Talabi

Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, Sheree Renรจe Thomas (editor), Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (editor), Zelda Knight (editor), Tordotcom, ISBN 
9781250833006, November 2022

Brigadier-General Dolapo Abimbola Titilope Balogun is the youngest member of the cabinet of what I think is the country of Yoruba, with what is currently Kenya again separated into Yoruba and Dahomey. (I was intent on the story, and I'm not 100% sure I picked up the political detail correctly, except that Dahomey is definitely "the other country." If someone can correct me, please do.) They are facing rising tensions with Dahomey, over a border dispute, and are seeking a solution that neither surrenders the territory in dispute, nor results in war. So far, they're not having success.

Friday, September 8, 2023

If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You, by John Chu

Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2022

Steve is an actor--he sings, he dances, and between gigs he works out regularly at his local gym to stay in shape. He's Chinese-American, and we soon learn, fluent in Mandarin. Lately, gym time has been enlivened by viral videos that might be part of a marketing campaign for a movie. featuring a flying man who is extremely well-built. Steve refers to him as Tom of Finland Guy. He of course wears a costume that emphasizes his really excellent build.

Tom of Finland Guy, who is also Chinese-American, intervenes to stop attacks on other Asian-Americans. He also, when convenient, does casual favors, like moving a piano.

For some reason, the coverage Tom of Finland Guy gets gradually more hostile, as if he's the troublemaker in those assaults on Asian-Americans.