Joyce Chng, Starfang, Fox Spirit Books,
"Werewolves in space!" is the tagline of this trilogy of novellas. Now, the word "werewolves" usually has me running very fast in the opposite direction, but in my never ending quest for space operas, I gave it a try.
Tina Makereti, Once upon a time in Aotearoa, Huia Publishers, 2013.
Tina Makereti came to my attention because she contributed to the Pacific Monsters anthology by Fox Spirit Books, a small press I'm following, and I was keen to read her short stories. This collection contains 13 short stories, and it is a hidden gem that deserves to be read.
Saad Z. Hossain, Djinn City, The Unnamed Press, 2017.
I will start straight up with a warning I wish someone had given me: this is the first volume in a fantasy series and it ends on a cliffhanger. Nonetheless, I'm reviewing it because Djinn City was a compelling read, with a rich and detailed world building.
Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber, Grand Central Publishing, 2000.
Audiobook available on Audible.
I was recently reminded that I often talk about Midnight Robber but that I still haven't reviewed it. I'm delighted to finally being able to as this scifi novel, artfully blending an intimate narrative with a thoughtful take on the power of words and fiction, and an intriguing planet, is definitely not one to be missed.
Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad, Oneworld Publications, 2018.
Translation: Jonathan Wright.
In more ways than one Frankenstein in Baghdad is a novel in conversation both with a literary context and a historical context. And, strangely enough, this fantasy story has common points both with The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
W. E. B. DuBois, "The Comet", Darkwater, 1920.
Audiobook available on Audible.
Reprinted in Dark Matter: The Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction by Black Writers, edited by Renee Sheree Thomas and Martin Simmons (2000).
It's not my habit to read nor review short stories. They are, as it says on the tin, a tad too short. Nonetheless, I really wanted to read "The Comet", which is not only considered as a scifi classic but also written by one of the earliest Black American scifi writers. I wasn't disappointed.
First story in my series of reviews for stories written before 1978.
Walter Mosley, Disciple, Tor, 2013.
I was looking for something short to read and decided to pick Disciple which had been on my long term to-be-read list for a while. Don't let yourself be fooled by the cover: it is a novella, 77 pages on my ereader. It may be a short scifi story, but oh my! Is it striking!
Aliette de Bodard,
Aliette de Bodard is a writer I follow keenly. Sometimes, her stories aren't my cup of tea, but sometimes they are. They are a risk I enjoy taking because I know the writing is gorgeous anyway. So when I realised she had two scifi novellas I had never read, I had to try them.
Prayaag Akbar, Leila, Simon & Schuster India, 2017.
Leila is typically the kind of entirely believable dystopia that you end up being completely engrossed into. It is not a happy read but it's chilling and sadly all too easy to imagine it happening.
A. Igoni Barrett, Blackass, Graywolf Press, 2016.
Sometimes, you speak of novels blurring the genres, when scifi or fantasy is in the background. Blackass definitely blurs them, very much so. The fantasy element is mainly the starting point to the story and doesn't come back much. But as the novel has been shortlisted for a Nommo Award, it felt only right that, having liked it, I'd review it too.
Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom, St Martin's Press, 2016.
Audio version available on Audible and on Kobo.
Almost ten years ago, I had read Big Machine by Victor LaValle. I had found it ok. Because of this lack of enthusiasm, I didn't really followed what LaValle did after that. But one person told me I had to read The Ballad of Black Tom. Then another. Then another.
Guess what? They all were right. I had to read it, and so do you.
Short stories... I don't like short stories... Mainly it's because I read too fast: I barely have time to get into the story that it's over. It's a bit like going to a gastronomic restaurant when you haven't eaten for two days.
But sometimes, however short, a story grabs you and the world and characters it depicts remain with you for a long long time.
So, there. I don't like short stories and stories that are short, except when I like them.
Those are all short stories (and two novellas.. and two anthologies) I've read and liked in the past twelve months or so, and, as usual, they are by chronological order.
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book, Constable, 2015.
Audio version available on Audible.
The Swan Book is by more way than one a novel that blur the genres. It is also something quite unique and if you are the right reader for it, this politically and ecologically engaged fantasy novel from Australia set in the near future will be a delight to read.
Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium, Aqueduct Press, 2014.
Audio version available on Audible.
By the first chapter, I was intrigued. By the second chapter, I was starting to elaborate theories. By the fifth chapter, I was going "What the heck?" By the tenth chapter, I was going "What the frigging heck?" By the ending, I was in no doubt I would review it.
Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Utopia, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2011.
Translation: Chip Rossetti.
First published in 2009 in Cairo, a year before the Arab Spring begun, this near future novel has something prophetic in it. But even some 8 years after the events, Utopia is a tale of violence and social unrest that still remains topical.
Indra Das, The Devourers, Del Rey, 2016.
Here was The Devourers, popping up on a few of "Best of scifi 2016" lists. I'm always wary of those lists on which I often find the latest thing everyone raves about and that I barely managed to finish. Only one way to find out: I picked it up, started reading... argh, no, werewolves! Is it going to be Twilight all over again? But I kept on reading and I loved it. (And it's definitely not Twilight!)
Tade Thompson, Rosewater, Apex Publications, 2016.
Aliens arrived on Earth and... "Wait!" will you tell me, "I've already read this. Like, a thousand times! Not to mention countless formulaic American movies... Why would I read it?" Because it's far removed from your typical "Aliens arrived on Earth" story and so well written that it'd be a real pity not to read it...
Art by Joshua Mays.
"Science-fiction is a white "menochrome": it's a genre written by white men for white men and in which characters are white men."
Erm... No, really, no.
So here are ten novels, chosen subjectively and by chronological order, that will get you on your way to discover that there are much more than just these ten novels and that scifi and fantasy is a genre as diverse as our planet's population...
N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth, Orbit.
There aren't many novels that have received the Hugo Award and that I've really liked. But The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin grabbed me from the first pages and I couldn't leave it until I had reached the end.
This review has been initially published in October 2016 and substantially updated and enriched in August 2017 after I've finished reading The Stone Sky. It nonetheless remains spoiler free.
Nnedi Okorafor, The Book of Phoenix, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.
Phoenix is an abomination. This is how she defines herself. She was born three years ago but looks like she's 40. The Big Eye scientists who created her have her under lock inside Tower 7, among other abominations, in New-York. She reads a lot. She falls in love with Saeed. She has a friend, Mmuo. But she also finds out why she's called Phoenix and which strange abilities the scientists have put inside her DNA...
All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
Comments are moderated. I may be slow in approving them, but please, feel free to go ahead.