Tag: SF/F


Review – Permeable Borders

Posted 17 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Permeable Borders by Nina Kiriki HoffmanPermeable Borders, Nina Kiriki Hoffman

I’ve been meaning to try Hoffman’s books for literally years. Not sure how long this one has been on my TBR, but long enough. Short stories aren’t always my thing, so perhaps it wasn’t the right place to start: nonetheless, it’s what came up on my Kobo first and I thought, well, why not?

I ended up bailing, I’m afraid; it’s competent enough writing, but I didn’t get hooked on the stories or characters, and one of the stories was just unbelievably gross, with a ton of rape and rape culture. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be approving of rape, but it’s just not a sort of story I’m interested in, and the obsession with rape in that particular story turned me off all the others. I’ll definitely try some of Hoffman’s novels, but her short story writing seems to be unequivocally not my thing.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – American Hippo

Posted 14 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

American Hippo, Sarah Gailey

Received to review via Netgalley

If you’ve read River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, this doesn’t add much to those two novellas. It’s a nice collected edition with two bonus stories, though: one features Houndstooth, Ruby, and the dentist who looks after Ruby’s teeth (and Houndstooth’s money… sort of), and the other features Houndstooth, Archie, and a certain Marshal. They’re nice little snippets in the world, but they don’t add much to the story of the two novellas. And, sadly for me, they don’t feature my fave, Hero.

That said, if you like the idea of an alternate history in which hippos were introduced in the US as a farm animal and you haven’t read these yet, especially if you enjoy a good caper… you should totally, totally pick this up. What better time?

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Artificial Condition

Posted 11 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Artificial Condition by Martha WellsArtificial Condition, Martha Wells

Received to review via Netgalley

Yay! More Murderbot! My one quibble so far is really that both books have had Murderbot meet up with other people, we learn just enough about them to be invested, and then they end up parting ways. I want more of ART, particularly; I want more of the team that Murderbot protected in the first book — gaah, just have everyone come together and have adventures already!

Nonetheless, I enjoyed Murderbot’s interactions with ART a lot, and I’m very curious about ART’s crew as well. I loved them basically doing Netflix and chill together, and I loved ART’s bossy but well-meaning way of trying to help Murderbot — and especially ART’s understanding of the things that Murderbot isn’t ready to articulate or face, and the way ART pushes Murderbot to look more human, act more human, blend into the background more…

I also enjoyed getting to know a tiny bit more about Murderbot’s past. I’m going to guess there’ll be more about that and the ComfortUnits later on; I’m intrigued to get wherever this is going. I just hope ART is there too! And some time for ART and Murderbot to sit down and watch some Worldhoppers or Sanctuary Moon together. <3

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Time Was

Posted 10 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Time Was, Ian McDonald

Received to review via Netgalley

In the end, this seemed to be rather more about Emmett chasing the tragedy of Ben and Tom than about Ben and Tom themselves. A queer time travelling couple as the mover for another dude’s life angst, yay? Also, Bury Your Gays. If I think about it in terms of rep, it isn’t great: Ben and Tom’s love might be strong and they might work at it to find each other across all the different times, but a lot goes unexplained (like how they get separated, and why they always end up in war zones), but it isn’t really about them. It’s about Emmett, and the twist at the end did not surprise me (or indeed feel like a twist) — but nor did it quite feel like it followed on logically.

It’s well-enough written (though the chapters in Tom’s point of view could do with being slightly more different in order to distinguish the narrative voices), and there are some very poignant moments between Tom and Ben, but… they’re mostly the backdrop to another dude’s story, including featuring his pointless and unfulfilling relationship with a woman, who he meets because he’s looking for evidence about Tom and Ben.

I was kind of excited about this one, but it sucks that Tom and Ben were the sideshow in a love story ostensibly about them.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Void Black Shadow

Posted 8 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Void Black Shadow by Corey J. WhiteVoid Black Shadow, Corey J. White

Received to review via Netgalley

Wow, it took me far too long to pick up the threads of the story again from the previous novella. I think this is probably my fault more than the novella itself, though, and it’s not as though a novella series has a lot of space to keep reiterating things in between installments. Void Black Shadow as a whole is… rather dark, really. The first book was already like that, of course, but it gets worse, with Mars heading into a high security prison where people are tortured in order to rescue someone who was endangered thanks to her.

The ending is particularly wrenching, with Mookie’s reactions to what’s happened to him hitting that perfect note of complicated devastation. I hope we’ll see more of Mookie and the rest of that crew, though I’ll also welcome more characterisation for Pale. (And a proper name would be good, too.)

A good read, if rather dark… as, I suppose, the title already suggests.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Red Threads of Fortune

Posted 7 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Red Threads of Fortune by JY YangThe Red Threads of Fortune, JY Yang

I might not like Mokoya as much as I came to like Akeha, but I did really enjoy getting to spend more time in this world and especially the character of Rider, who didn’t appear in the previous book. This is set after The Black Tides of Heaven, and deals with some of the fallout from what happens there. Mokoya’s grief and anger and failure to deal with everything is well done, though sometimes her husband seemed a little too good to be true. Who’s that understanding? Well, somebody I’d like to know — it just about worked.

There’s also a lot more of the magic, which is pretty fascinating, and I’d love to know more about where Rider came from and what that place is like. There’s so much hinted at and left to explore — I hope the next novella takes us somewhere new again!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Black Tides of Heaven

Posted 6 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Black Tides of Heaven by JY YangThe Black Tides of Heaven, JY Yang

I know that these are supposed to be stand-alone novellas, but honestly I would start with this one anyway. I didn’t like Akeha at first — they were so possessive of their twin, so reluctant to admit that maybe they’re not absolutely identical in the end, and I didn’t agree with his decision to stay away from Mokoya for so long. But nonetheless, as Akeha started to claim his own identity — first identifying as male, then going travelling, etc — I started to root for him, and in the end I was a little disappointed that this mostly felt like set-up for the second novella.

It’s a good introduction to the world, anyway, with its various social complexities (like people being genderless before whatever age they decide to declare what they choose, and people not choosing or at least not choosing entirely) and the magic. I would like to know more about both — about how the whole situation with choosing your gender and having your body altered magically to match arose, and more about the magic and Mokoya’s part in it.

But also I wish I had more time with Akeha, because I felt like I’d just really got into his story when it ended.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Semiosis

Posted 3 May, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Semiosis by Sue BurkeSemiosis, Sue Burke

I originally received this to review, but I felt bad for neglecting it and picked up the hardback at that most excellent bookstore, the American Book Center in Amsterdam. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, so that was the impetus to finally get going, and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. The idea is great, and the way it explores a different kind of intelligence, a different way of living, is really great. I enjoyed the character of Stevland; it was a little too human-sounding at times near the end, but I do think that was partially intentional, as Stevland and the humans grew to co-exist and help one another, and genuinely work together (rather than one thinking of training or compelling the other).

I also really enjoyed that though the plants being sentient and against you would make a really creepy and probably enjoyable sci-fi story, it was more complex than that. Nothing was as simple as some of the characters saw it — even Tatiana, whose narration I quite liked for her dedication to working out what was happening, didn’t get Stevland quite right.

I was less impressed with the narrative voice, which sounded too much the same between the different characters, but that was about my only quibble. Sometimes it rather deadened the impact of events, but nonetheless there were some excellent scenes — especially with Stevland, but also one with Tatiana and Jersey.

Overall, not perfect, but recommended!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Exiled from Camelot

Posted 29 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Exiled from Camelot by Cherith BaldryExiled from Camelot, Cherith Baldry

This was a reread of a book I read aaaages ago for my MA dissertation. Apparently I wanted to look back on more stressful times as I work on my BSc dissertation… In any case, I love what Baldry does with various strands of the mythology, drawing together a more modern Kay and a modern view of him with some of the chivalric world and some, even, of the Welsh mythology. I love what she does with Loholt and even though, per some of that stuff, Cai might end up in opposition to Arthur, and that definitely doesn’t happen here.

It’s also incredibly homoromantic. Kay says Arthur’s the air he breathes for goodness sake. This isn’t a criticism; I quite enjoy this book — but I wonder if it’s why the only copy I could ever find was second-hand and never republished…

Sometimes the emotional stuff does seem overblown to me, but it’s better than dudes who never say what they’re feeling, so why not? I love the value it gives Kay and his emotionality, his work to bring Camelot together and make things work that doesn’t involve pointy objects (other than cutlery).

Rating: 4/5

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Review – War for the Oaks

Posted 24 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of War for the Oaks by Emma BullWar for the Oaks, Emma Bull

Reading this was like meeting the grandmother of October Daye and Kate Daniels. Knowing it was one of the early books to really make urban fantasy a thing, per Naomi Alderman’s introduction, it’s amazing how fresh it must have felt back then — it stood up pretty well now, but I found some aspects of it predictable because I know later books in the genre. So many of the elements were in place as far back as this. I had a lot of fun, and the descriptions of Eddi’s band and the way they play, the fun they have, are really infectious. It’s surprisingly vivid, even for me (and I don’t have a visual imagination at all!).

Likewise, the plot with Faerie and even the character arc of the phouka are all fairly obvious if you’ve been hanging around in urban fantasy — but it’s still well done and Bull does a great job of making her faeries genuinely strange, genuinely different to the humans they interact with.

All in all, a lot of fun, and I recommend it, especially for those who enjoy urban fantasy, but not only for them!

Rating: 4/5

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