Saturday, June 8, 2024

Translation State (Imperial Radch), by Ann Leckie (author), Adjoah Andoh (narrator)

Orbit, ISBN 9781549164835, June 2023

Qven is a junior, that is, not yet full adult, Presger translator. His only purpose is to learn human ways and language, match with an older, more experienced translator, and be an intermediary between the impossibly dangerous Presger and the human worlds. He's the pride of his Clade--until he starts to wonder if there might be a different life possible.

Enae has been hir grandmaman's household manager and aide, until grandmaman dies, and leaves hir not the house and the wealth believed to go with it, but a position as a junior diplomat, which includes the mission of finding the Presger translator who disappeared two centuries ago. That translator must be found, or at least returned to the Presger if found, because Presger translators are too dangerous to wander unsupervised through human societies.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The Mimicking of Known Successes (The Investigations of Mossa and Pleiti #1), by Malka Older

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250860507, March 2023

Holmesian mystery! Sapphic romance!

Earth is no longer habitable, or perhaps, not yet habitable again. The surviving remnants of humanity are living in colonies in orbit around Jupiter. Mossa is an investigator assigned to investigate a man's disappearance at a rail station. She follows the limited evidence about him back to the university town of Valdegeld--where her former girlfriend, Pleiti, is a scholar working on the reterraforming of Earth. Awkward as it will be, she needs to talk to Pleiti to get the information she needs to investigate anything in the cuthroat academic politics of Valdegeld.

It's an awkward reunion indeed, but Pleiti is ready to help her.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Rose/House, by Arkady Martine

Subterranean Press, April 2023

Rose House is the creation of radical architect Basit Deniau, run by an AI. A real, opinionated, arrogant AI. Maritza Smith is the tired, disillusioned police detective in China Lake, somewhere in the American southwest, who takes the call from Rose House when, as required by law, it makes the call to report that there's a dead body inside it.

Well, another dead body inside it. Deniau's corpse, transformed into a diamond, has been there for a year, ever since his death. The only living person allowed inside is Dr. Selene Gisil, his former protègè, later critic, and now, unwillingly, archivist of his his records and memorabilia. Even she's only allowed in seven days a year.

But at the moment, she's in Turkiye. Who is the dead body? Who is the killer?

Monday, June 3, 2024

Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet, by He Xi / 人生不相见, 何夕(author), Alex Woodend (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers, Flame Tree Press, April 2023

At some point in our future, Earth has both a world government, and an interstellar space program. They've developed a faster than light drive, and have found some habitable planets.

Fan Zhe and Yelena are new graduates of the training program, and hope to soon be assigned to visit one of the new colonies, to assess how successful its development has been. He Xi is the older, experienced astronaut, who has himself spent some years on another colony world. He Xi soon reveals that he will be the leader of the mission Fan Zhe and Yelena are assigned to.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle #4), by Nghi Vo

Tordotcom, ISBN 9781250851437, September 2023

Cleric Chih travels widely, gathering stories, with a talking hoopoe bird. The hoopoe, Almost Brilliant, has perfect recall and serves as Chih's neixin, ensuring that the stories will be retained perfectly, even as Chih records them on paper.

For the first time in years, Chih and Almost Brilliant are arriving home at the Singing Hills Abbey, to add their stories to the archives, and to rest. But there have been some changes at the abbey.

Cleric Thien, mentor to Chih and others when they were young and still new to the abbey, has died. Thien's hoopoe, Myriad Virtues, is mourning as only a being with perfect memory can, and it's been somewhat disruptive. 

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Thornhedge, by T. Kingfisher

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250244093, August 2023

We have a princess, sleeping in a tower. The tower is entirely surrounded by tall, thick, dangerous thornhedge. We know this story!

But no, this is T. Kingfisher, and she does strange and wonderful things to fairy tales.

Our heroine is Toadling, born in the tower, but stolen away by fairies, and raised in the warm waters of faerieland, in the loving care of the toads. And then she is summoned to go on a mission, to make a blessing on a newborn princess in the tower, to prevent harm. Such a simple mission. What could go wrong?

Voyage of the Dogs, by Greg Van Eekhout

HarperCollins, September 2018

Hi, there. I'm Lis's service dog, Cider. Lis finally got me a book for me to read and review.

I'll just say this up front, because I'm one of those readers for whom this is important: No dogs die in this book. We do get the story of Laika*, told by one of the dogs to the others so that, at a critical point, they can make an informed choice, but Greg Van Eekhout kills none of his fictional dogs in the course of this story.

Lopside, Bug, Daisy, and their pack leader, Golden retriever Champion, are Barkonauts, dogs specially trained and equipped to be part of the crew of Laika, the first Earth ship to head out to start a colony on an alien world in a distant solar system. There are four human crew as well, and we only meet two of them before one, Roro, helps the dogs into hibernation for the FTL portion of their travels.

When the dogs wake up, the humans are gone, having taken the lifepod, and the ship is badly damaged.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Seeds of Mercury, by Wang Jinkang / 水星播种 (author), 王晋康, Alex Woodend (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers
), Flame Tree Press, April 2023

Chen Yizhe is a successful businessman, with twenty billion yuan in assets, a beautiful wife, and a lovely son. Life is exactly how he wants it.

He gets a phone call from a Mr. He Jun, who is a lawyer representing the estate of Ms. Sha Wu, who has died and designated Chen Yizhe as her legatee. Chen Yizhe has dim memories from childhood of Ms. Sha Wu, a distant aunt of his, but has no idea why she would leave him her estate.

It turns out not to be the small and uncomplicated bequest he assumes. Ms. Sha Wu has been quietly working on a project to develop a new life form that will survive, and hopefully evolve, on Mercury.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Year Without Sunshine, by Naomi Kritzer

Uncanny, November-December 2023

The world has undergone some kind of catastrophe resulting in clouds thick enough to block sunshine--and this is following several lesser disasters that had already created challenges for modern life. Not everything is cut off. Electricity is available several days a week. Medicines are getting hard to get, but authorities, apparently federal authorities, have made life-critical medications, such as insulin, a priority.

When the internet fails, Alexis and a neighbor, Tanesha, set up a booth they call WHATSUP, where neighbors previously communicating via WhatsApp can leave messages for each other.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

One Man’s Treasure, by Sarah Pinsker

Uncanny, January-February 2023

Aden, Nash, and new crewmate Renny are city trash collectors in a world where magic is just a fact of life, and bulk trash day in the wealthy neighborhoods can be exciting.

Sometimes it's neat stuff the wealthy throw away, often with magical enhancements. Sometimes it's dangerous stuff, that can potentially kill you--which is what happened to Blue, the teammate Renny is replacing.

This time, it's a statue quietly asking for help.

City regulations say that a statue, talking or not, is an inanimate object, and if it's been thrown out, it's trash.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Ivy, Angelica, Bay, by C.L. Polk

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250882608, December 2023

Miss l'Abielle--Theresa Anne l'Abelle, but only for people outside the community is she anything but Miss l'Abielle--has just buried her mother, who was the witch protecting their whole community. She's got to take over now, but she's flattened by grief, and doesn't really believe she's up to the task. It seems a little worse, a little harder, when a visit from a desperate young woman results in her becoming the guardian of a mysterious orphan girl.

The girl's name is Jael Brown, and she's an innocent, frightened child abandoned on Miss l'Abielle's doorstep with a battered suitcase with her only possessions. But something else makes itself felt; an insinuating, threatening magic touched them both before being dispersed. Something is wrong, and it's just the first of many signs that something threatens her community.

On the Fox Roads, by Nghi Vo


Tor Books, ISBN 9781250333490, February 2023

A Chinese American girl in 1930s America hooks up with two Chinese American bank robbers, Jack and Lai. The girl's parents had lost the deed to their store to the bank, and then Jack and Lai robbed the bank and took the deed with the rest of what they stole. Now, the girl wants to steal it back from them.

Two adult bank robbers aren't overcome by a young teen girl, but they offer her a chance to earn it back. She becomes their lookout, getaway driver, and occasional more active participant in some crimes.

Along the way, she gets dressed up as a boy for one job, and finds this feels much more natural to her. Or rather, him. He learns the ways of Chinese magic, and not just the "fox roads," or spirit roads of Chinese mythology.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times, by Baoshu (author), Xueting C. Ni (translator)

Galaxy’s Edge Vol. 13: Secret Room in the Black Domain, published by New Star Press, February 2023 (Chinese cover displayed)

A tycoon, who famously delights in gourmet meals from every cuisine, is invited to a unique experience. It's unique, all right, and he experiences tastes that range from the very good to the truly excellent, to the most stunning ever. Something he has never tasted before.

But there are complications. 

The Mausoleum's Children, by Aliette de Bodard

Uncanny, May 2023

In de Bodard's Xuya Universe, there are many space habitats and communities of space habitats. Near one of them is the Mausoleum, the wreckage of several ships from a massive collision. They are crunched and melted together, intruding into each other, but much of the space is still habitable.

Thuận Lộc spent her childhood there, working under the supervision of the Architects, doing jobs only children were small enough to do. Then she escaped, leaving behind her two closest friends--something she still regrets.

Now, she's going back for them.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub, by P. Djèlí Clark

Uncanny, February 2023

Trevor Hemley is an ambitious young man in 19th century London. The precise period isn't clear, but to me it feels more Victorian than Regency. Those terms may be inappropriate, though, because this is a world in when Mermen are real, have lost a war with the British, amd many live in Britain doing whatever work they can get.

It's also a world in which krakens are real, well-documented, and until relatively recently, a major threat to shipping. Now they are believed to be extinct, or nearly so.

Which leads us to Trevor Hemley's ambitions.

Better Living Through Algorithms, by Naomi Kritzer

Clarkesworld, Issue 200, May 2023

Linnea starts hearing about a new--from her friends, online, news stories--called Abelique. It prompts them to make changes, mostly small, in their lives. The users all seem to think it's great, but it sounds creepy to her.

Eventually, her boss, Keith, mentions it, and doesn't just mention it. He wants her and everyone else in the office to use it. "It's not a productivity app!" he insists. "It's a wellness app!"

Having already been downchecked once for being "not open to new processes," she figures she better try it.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Answerless Journey, by Han Song (author), Alex Woodland (translator)

Published in Adventures in Space: New Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers, Flame Tree Press, ISBN 9781787588158, April 2023

A person wakes up, in a chair, alone. There are two other identical chairs in the otherwise empty room. The person has no memory, and can find no way to identify themself than as "Creature." After a while, another person walks in. Creature's retained language is slight enough that they can only call the new person "Same Kind." The two start talking, exploring the space they're in, gradually retrieving more language.

The Locked Coffin: A Judge Dee Mystery (Judge Dee #6) Lavie Tidhar

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250233544, October 2023

Good enough, for a vampire mystery. I'll admit that the use of the name, "judge Dee," annoys me.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

I Am AI: A Novelette, by Ai Jiang

Shortwave Media, ISBN 9781959565093, June 2023

Ai is a cyborg living in grim world, a self-built community on the edge of the city of Emit, controlled by the New Era corporation. There are jobs at New Era, but they are grim, relentless, soul-crushing jobs. And every citizen, working for New Era, or living on the edge in Ai's community, owes a large debt to New Era for just the necessities of surviving to adulthood.

The Job at the End of the World, by Ray Naylor, August 2023

The story of a disaster worker, no, sorry, a resilience worker. The narrator goes to disaster areas, rebuilds, and moves on to the next disaster. They've been doing it for years. now, they're tired, and wealthy. They retire, go to the lovely home they've built in a lovely, and hopefully safe spot.

Things don't go as planned.

Could be grim, but it isn't.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Dragon's Den (Warders #3), by Armen Pogharian (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Armen Pogharian, ISBN 9798868720390, November 2023

The Warders, the secret protectors of the city of Eridan, are facing a new danger. It's alarming enough when an agent working in another city is killed, and a magical artifact stolen. When the local head of the Thieves' Guild contacts the Warders, the message, and one of the messengers, is even more alarming.

The unexpected messenger is a rogue Shaulan assassin, Khelan, and the message concern a plot whose roots are in a centuries-old conflict between two groups of elves. A Chaotic Order sorceress is determined to gain control of the long-suppressed elven magic, and use it to seize power over the entire Federation of which Eridan is a part. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

My Teacher Flunked the Planet (My Teacher is an Alien: Book #4) by Bruce Coville (author, narrator), Rueby Wood (narrator), Full Cast Audio crew (narrators)

Full Cast Audio, ISBN 9781955324052, January 2023 (original publication June 1992)

Seventh-grader Peter Thompson and his friends, Susan Simpson and Duncan Dougal, have had some pretty startling experiences over the past year. For instance, several of their teachers have turned out to be aliens, on Earth to investigate our species and our culture. Along the way, they've experienced some pretty weird effects of the aliens' technology first-hand. Now they've been kidnapped by the aliens, and learned where all this has been headed.

The alien are trying to decide whether it's safe to let humans continue to advance our technology and emerge into the galaxy, or whether it would be the safer and wiser choice, given how violent we are even towards each other, to destroy us now before we can do any damage outside our own system. The consensus is tilting pretty heavily toward "wipe them out now."

Monday, January 15, 2024

Snipers, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

WMG Publishing, 2013

In the winter of 1913, Vienna Police Detective Johann Runge investigates the murders of two men in a cafe--Lev Bronstein and Viktor Adler. It's puzzling enough to start with, but it's soon followed by more sniper killings. Soon five men are dead, some famous, some unknown--at least in 1913.

In Vienna in 2005, bestselling crime writer Sofie Branstadter is researching what she intends to be the definitive book on the still unsolved Carnival Sniper killings. As she does her research, we gradually realize that Sofie isn't living in the same timeline we are. This timeline had The Great War, lasting ten years, and no Second World War. The League of Nations survived, and international politics is quite different. What happened?

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The Counterfeit Count (Warders #2), by Armen Pogharian (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Armen Pogharian, September 2023

Adara is undergoing her field trial test, the final step in completing her preparation to become a full-fledged member of the Warders, the secret organization that protects Eridan. Geren has assigned her to secretly follow the coach of the Count of neighboring Cruese. She's shocked when she hears sword striking sword, and comes into view of the coach to see Geren fighting the Count's personal guard. Has he gone mad? Has he gotten sucked into Cruese's complex political conflicts? Is it the trickiest part of her test? Instead of finishing up her field trial, she now has a dangerous mystery to untangle.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Becoming Terran, by Mark Roth-Whitworth

Novus Mundi Books, February 2024

It's 2077, with climate change hitting hard, trillionaires bent on world control, and ordinary people in many places struggling to survive.

A young woman from Niger is working in a hotel in North Africa, when it is seized by one of those trillionaires, Phillippe Tolliver. She catches his attention, and manages to impress him enough that he decides she worth recruiting as his newest personal aide. Renamed Francoise Trouve, she insists on taking her little sister, renamed Amelie, with her.

She takes advantage of all the education he gives her, by AR and intense study, and her sister is tutored until she's sent off to an elite private school in England. They both get genetic engineering to soften their curls and lighten their skin, and Francoise works hard at making herself indispensable to him. First as his aide,and later as a skilled business operative he can send into any of his corporations, both to learn more herself and identify and solve problems, she does.