May 072015

In Victorian England, a famous Reverend scientist has secrets, and a personal shame. He has a series of sickly sons, most of whom have died, and the last of whom is writing left-handed. He is driven away from his home by scandal. His daughter, Faith, remains steadfast despite any evidence she has against him. She is his true daughter, clever and quick-witted and interested in science and used poorly, again and again.

This Faith’s story of discovery of her own strength and what it means to be a modern woman; it is heartbreaking, true and absolutely wonderful in its awfulness.

May 052015

Sarah Lotz is disgustingly good, and the worst part of it is how easy she makes it look.

This is a follow-up to The Three and, while it’s definitely in the same creepycrazywtfisgoingon universe, the story is built in a completely different fashion – told from the point of view of a handful of central characters rather than as a tabloid disaster porn memoir.

This book is terrifying, but it’s not horror, or terror. It’s a masterful character study of a group of people as the boat they are on stalls, drifting without purpose or pilot, and their social structure fragments.

Apr 072015

This is a debut.

It is massive in scope, telling the story of the rise and fall of empires, using classical Chinese storytelling tropes and wuxia heroes.

It is breathtaking in its language and ambition. 640 pages of instructive fable and myth and history of a fictional series of countries at war with each other and with themselves.

It deals with class, race, gender, and the fruits and drawback of empire. Power as a corruptive influence, and hard decisions.

It’s not perfect – the cast of women is tiny, though dealt with well.

But it is a debut.

And bloody good.

Apr 022015

Detroit, Michigan. A broken city filled with broken people – from the overworked police department through to the underfunded school system, the homeless, and the the transplants trying to make something new out of something broken, or at least having good parties in the city’s apocalypse.

What happens when the world starts to break, the edges of reality start to open up? Is it all happening in one person’s mind or is there something larger going on, something terrifying?

Beukes has gone out of her way to capture the Detroit in time and space, on the edge of renewal or disaster.

Apr 012015

Welcome to America, kid.

Ariel (ah-riel) is adopted into a middle-class American family after he survives the massacre of his entire village during a civil war by dressing as a clown and hiding in a refrigerator.

He ends up in summer camp. A very particular type of summer camp. Digital detox camp, filled with all the horribleness of summer camp.

Also, a giant evil corporation.

A parallel story of an Arctic mission gone wrong. A parallel story of a melting man bent on revenge.

The book is at times heartbreaking, funny, wicked, irreverent, and wrong. And yet so very right.

Mar 302015

This book is ridiculous. Let’s get that out of the way.

It is the story of a little girl who asks an artificial intelligence robot for “the best cake” before going down into cold sleep on an interstellar spacecraft which is taking her family and hunderds of other colonists on a journey to a new world.

It is the story of the AI’s use of evolutionary algorithms to make the best cake, by having them duel.

It’s the story of what happens when the little girl wakes up to these cakes.

And it is utterly, stonkingly, ridiculous.

Go read it.

Mar 272015

It takes a certain chutzpah to have a first-person narrator with no name, and yet this book does. The premise: there exist beings (no spoilers) who can take over a body; they pass between them by touching flesh. They live out our lives, in moments or decades, and move on before they die.

Many of my favourite things from The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August are here: the careful attention to detail in perspective, and how it shifts through people, time, and space. North’s writing is engaging, thought-provoking, and may keep you awake at night, wondering what you’re missing.

Mar 162015

This is a troubling book, a dark imagining of a future five minutes from now, or five minutes ago. It’s a portrait of technology entrepreneurs, recalling the heady late 90s Internet boom “before it was cool”, and the heady and terrifying successes that could come about. It’s a story of augmented reality, something a little bit different that’s as unlikely as faster than light travel but eminently plausible, but it’s also the story of the protagonist’s struggles with what it means to be human, a man, a conscious actor in an ultra-modern world where he is both shaper and participant.

Mar 132015

The second in the Osiris trilogy, and this one is a corker – there’s no need to have read the first book at all.

In a climate change ravaged world, Ramona Callejas is the only pilot – and mapmaker– of the last aeroplane in the technophobic country of Patagonia, a poor state at the southern edge of the desert that stretches across the Americas. She, and Antarctican refugee Taeo, have to travel through Cataveiro, the a crossroads city, where anything can happen, and often does, in this deeply personal story of politics and the high cost of life in this post-apocalyptic world.

Mar 112015

This book is a slow burn, and most of the time, much like Gibson or Le Carré, you have little idea of what’s really happening, reading along trying to keep up.

Rudi is a cook in a future Europe in which the nation-state is a fragmentary being. Rudi is quiet, and stays out of trouble, and that attracts the mysterious courers to him, makes him a valuable asset.

Writers will want to read it to admire the craft of it. Readers will be sucked into the world he’s created and the subtle ennui of the courer. Everyone will love it.