RJ Barker’s world in The Bone Ships is a rich, vibrant tapestry. The reader is immersed from the start, drowned in the sheer audacity of the writing. Each sentence had a lot of love poured into it, and it comes across clear as a clarion. The prose is dense with strong slice-of-life elements and creates a sense of “otherness” without crossing over into inaccessible. The use of vernacular is masterful, neither too extreme nor too campy, contributing to the je ne sais quoi that pervades the novel as a whole. The world is strange, disturbing, and filled with dangers the characters must navigate at every step… yet which is entirely normal to them in context.
The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes is hands-down the most imaginative, fresh, and kind book I’ve read this year. It is absolutely unlike anything else I’ve read, combining the innocence and creativity of a middle grade novel with the darkness and trauma of adult fantasy. At a glance, that makes it tempting to label this book as YA or middle grade, but upon reading it, that’s clearly not the case. It deals with loss of innocence, growing up, trauma, PTSD, identity, and abuse in a way that is both genuinely kind and genuinely heartbreaking.
Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel reaches out and grabs you in its skeletal fist from the very first page and doesn’t let go. Gideon The Ninth is witty, irreverent, and fresh as hell. It’s fucking delightful. It’s not all glitz, glam, and bones though – this is a book with a big ol’ heart hiding underneath the aviator glasses, laugh-aloud banter, and, of course, the mountain of corpses. This is a tight, polished narrative with twists and turns that were hinted at heavily in retrospect, yet take the reader completely by surprise as they unfold.
Although there are many elements which should have worked well for me, this novel didn’t quite pull together the way I might have hoped. At only about 10% in to the Kindle edition, I could already tell that Caligo was not Caligoing well for me. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend The Resurrectionist of Caligo, I will say that I would happily give this author duo another shot in the future. Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga show promise in this debut even if it could have used a bit more polishing and editing.
My heart broke for the team of the Merian, even as it was flooded with optimism and hope for humanity. Becky Chambers is a master of delivering sadness and devastation right alongside a true and genuine love for humanity, and that is something that illuminates everything she’s written.
I didn’t go in to this book expecting to find happiness. I came in knowing this was a dystopian novel. I knew this would be a soul-crushing and painful depiction of an all-too-possible future. However, somewhere between the first page and the last, I was lulled into a sense of complacency, and I was caught off guard by what a damn punch to the gut this book ultimately ended up being.
Marie Brennan is back once more in the world of Lady Trent with her newest novel, Turning Darkness Into Light. While TDiL follows the granddaughter of the famous Lady Trent, this is not merely a rehash of the same themes we saw in the first series. Audrey is her own person with her own goals… and a heavy familial legacy to live up to. I was impressed not only by Audrey, but also the side characters: Kudshayn and Cora. Told in the form of letters and journal entries, this book has drawn me in from the first page – Brennan has not only met the standard her original series set, but surpassed it.
In Egan’s version of the future, society has developed technology which allows one to create a precise one-for-one digital Copy of themselves. This Copy is identical in every way to the original person, and is often used by the rich and wealthy as a way to obtain partial immortality following death. Those of the upper middle class may be able to afford a scan on their deathbed… but may not be able to afford to actually be simulated due to the price of computing power and server time, or may have to “live” with extremely slow processing speeds.
R. F. Kuang returns to the world of The Poppy War with this stunning sequel, The Dragon Republic. Everything I enjoyed about The Poppy War is not only present once again in The Dragon Republic, but amplified.
The Therapist by Nial Giacomelli was more than a bit of a let-down. I’d been hoping for a thoughtful character-driven plague survival story, but unfortunately mostly ended up with a middle-aged white man whining about how his wife was depressed and about how he thinks the (somewhat mysterious) therapist they’re visiting isn’t worth the money.