Book Review: “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” by Fran Wilde (five stars)

Magazine cover art is unrelated to the story.

Book Review: “Unseelie Brothers, Ltd.” by Frank Wilde (five stars)

She fled. Such disgrace, such a flighty girl. Not suited for this world.

Excellent. Appropriately published in Uncanny Magazine (May/Jun 2021). Unseelie draws the reader into a mysterious business, run by mysterious people. The novelette protagonist finds her vocation and more as she is drawn into the atelier which figured so prominently in her life.

“Remember, Sera, just because someone hires you doesn’t mean they can make you do anything they want. Or that you owe them.”

Wilde creates an inner tension in Sera which electrifies the entire story. Secret, craft, and family are all revealed at the right time and in the right way. Immensely satisfying.

Never accept a contract without knowing your own worth.

(2022 Hugo Award Best Novelette Finalist)

Book Review: Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

Book Review: Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

“If I hadn’t, if I had biked on through, would I have known that this was a cusp point in my life? Probably not. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, how many other cusp points you sail through in life without any awareness.”

Outstanding novelette of a not-too-distant future. Excellent storytelling. Kowal weaves an increasingly tight web of mystery and suspense drawing the reader into her logical but unsettling climax. Love the cover art.

“Have you tried to do this? Have you turned off your Lens, turned off your i-Sys, stepped away from the cloud, and just tried to REMEMBER something? It’s hard, and the memories are mutable.”

The intentional typos take some getting used to but if I were forced to compose on a manual typewriter the results would be even more incomprehensible. 

“I’d actually been asleep for nearly a day and a half. It was, indeed, lucky I hadn’t been killed when he shot me.”

Quibbles: 1. She has about the same body mass as a deer. The tranquilizer would not knock her out ten times longer, let alone risk killing her. 2.She knows how fast her electric bike goes and she was cut off for twenty minutes; she can figure the coverage of the disabling field. And, since he was stalling the deer as she approached, her i-Sys should have cut out long before she approached the deer.

“The lid cracked, and I remember being relieved that it was a sealed bottle, because that meant he wasn’t trying to poison me. As if there weren’t easier ways to do me in. Trust me, once you start having paranoid thoughts, everything becomes suspicious.”

Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Four Stars)

The Only Harmless Great Thing RD3_quote4_pms2_pink

Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

(Four Stars)

“We were shackled and splintered and separated; the Many Mothers could not teach their daughter the Stories. Without stories there is no past, no future, no We. There is death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

An extraordinarily original, well-told story. Bolander took two unrelated historical events and related them. It’s that simple. The voices of Topsy and Regan are especially good.

“It’s amazing I can breathe with my foot lodged in my windpipe the way it is.”

Sadly, the real Topsy was murdered in a publicity stunt by Thomas Edison to demonstrate Continue reading

Book Review: “The Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett

(Four Stars)

“Now the Kraylens were going the way of the others, straws swept before the great bloom of Progress.”

First published in 1943, this story reads well today, despite some anachronisms. Good plot and character development without data dumps and preaching. Yes, vintage SF authors were just as pulpit-prone as moderns. Brackett was sensitive to minority and native population rights.

“But Romany will be happier.” “We don’t ask to be happy. We only ask to be free.”

Some anachronisms: wooden ladder, cigarettes, the protagonist’s attitude toward the female lead. The idea that Venus might have a hot, wet atmosphere was common to older SF writers, just like canals on Mars long after we knew better.

“They take us and place us in camps in the great cities. Small groups of us, so that we are divided and split. We will die first.”

Trivia: Bracket wrote the first draft of Empire Strikes Back just before she died.

“Why do earthmen have to change everything they lay their hands on?”

(1944 Best Retro Novelette Hugo Award finalist)

Book Review: “The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer

(Four Stars)

“I think they’re the manifestation of people’s desire for answers about death and eternity. But I could be wrong.”

Excellent short story, told from the point of view of a young woman who researches ghost stories. Engaging and plausible, which is a tough sell for some readers. (The cover art is Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018, in which the story appears.)

“Brains are so weird.”

The denouement is obvious, but I’m not telling. Enjoy it for yourself.

“The thing about ghost stories is that even if you have one, the person is still gone.”

(Finalist 2019 Hugo Award for Novelette)

Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (One Star)


Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

One Star

“Bad things happens to men who marry the desert.”

Spoiler: Horror. Zombies. Shape-shifters. No, thank you. Can’t imagine why so much horror among 2017 Hugo Award finalists. This is a novelette.

“One time isn’t a pattern.”

Well-told from the point of view of the young shapeshifter. Good writing.

“Don’t pin your hopes on dreams.”

The cover art is of the magazine this appeared in, and has nothing to do with this story.

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Three Stars)


Book Review: “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Three Stars

“They wanted to be left alone. Nobody believed it.”

Intriguing take on an old science fiction saw. Good character and story development. A fun read. 2017 Finalist for 2017 Hugo Award novelette.

“It’s your conscious mind that’s the slave master, always worrying about control. Your unconscious only wants to preserve you.”

Quibble: There is no way an RV could surreptitiously approach, load, and depart an alien structure in the District of Columbia. Dozens–no, hundreds of private, corporate, and governmental cameras would record it and track the RVs every move.

“They don’t live in an imaginary future like most people.”

Big behavior shift by protagonist at climax not well presented. Nice cover art, though it has nothing to do with the story.

“There’s no death if there’s no self to be aware of.” “No life either.”

Book Review: The Tomato Thief (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Tomato Thief” (Jackalope Wives #2) by Ursula Vernon

Four Stars

“When someone in the desert asks for water, you give it to them. There weren’t many rules in the desert, but that was one of them.”

Good use of Arizona native and desert history and lore to add depth to this short story, a 2017 Hugo Awards finalist for novelettes. Another story with a mature–very mature–female protagonist. There must be a special on them this year. (They’re special every year.)

“There’d been a time, when she was young and immortal, when [redacted] she could have danced in the track that they left in the sand. She felt old and mortal now.”

Excellent slow slide from the mundane into the supernatural.

“‘I ain’t dying yet,’ and that may or may not have been a lie. She wasn’t quite sure.”

Book Review: “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (Four Stars)


Book Review: “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan

Four Stars

“It was time to shut up. For the first time in my life I was feeling another person’s pain like it was my own.”

Ah. A refreshing short story, which takes the reader deep inside a character in a recognizably near future. No fantasy; very little science, but pretty of good storytelling.

“What did fathers ever do for the world in any case, except saddle unsuspecting women with unwanted children?”

Another markedly feminist tale. This year’s Hugo Awards finalists include a host of socially-relevant (and some irrelevant) topics. This tale was among the best of them.

“When she goes, all her stories will go with her, the ones she makes up as well as the ones that happen to be true. Once she’s gone, I’ll never know which were which.”

Quibbles: Apparently Allan doesn’t understand what the deleted in depleted uranium means. There are issues, but not so dramatic as portrayed. “… ends with the doomed one taking off his or her helmet, making a quick and noble end of it.” It’s really, really hard to take off your helmet in a vacuum; if you bleed the air out you’ll be dead before you get it off.

“In leaving this world, she makes me feel more properly a part of it.”