Showing posts from June, 2023

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky's City of Last Chances begins with a game of chaq. In the back room of the Anchorage inn, overlooking the Anchorwood in the city of Ilmar, now in its third year of occupation by the fascistic, autocratic Palleseen, sit a motley crew representing many of the city's dominant forces. Blackmane, a leader among the despised Allorwen minority, themselves refugees from a previous Palleseen conquest. Ivarn, an illustrious professor at the Gownhall, self-proclaimed keeper of the Ilmari cultural flame. Representatives of the city's three resistance factions: Vidsya for the Crows, the group representing the Armiger, the Ilmari aristocracy; Ruslav for the Vultures, the group run by the city's crime families; and Fleance for the Herons, the watermen who smuggle illegal items under the Pals' noses. At the same moment, a Palleseen officer, Ochelby, enters the wood—protected, as he thinks, from its beastly denizens by a powerful ward. It's around the time th

Goliath Roundtable at Strange Horizons

I've written already about Tochi Onyebuchi's Goliath on this blog , but even after publishing, I wasn't sure that I'd given the novel the full consideration it deserves. The further I get away from it, the more obvious it seemed that Goliath is one of the major science fiction novels of 2022, and that the community as a whole has failed to fully appreciate it. I was thrilled, therefore, to be able to participate in a roundtable about the novel at Strange Horizons , alongside A.S. Lewis, Archita Mittra, and Jonah Sutton-Morse, and with the impeccable guidance of Dan Hartland. This is a long, detailed discussion that gets into how we define science fiction, how "difficult" novels engage us, and how Goliath is in conversation with own genre. Jonah Sutton-Morse: Thanks for gathering us—I'm really looking forward to this. I have, I think, an answer to what the book is "about," and moreso to "where did your focus wind up landing," but I’

Recent Reading: Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

Angered by an unauthorized, inaccurate biography of her late wife, the multi-disciplinary artist, public intellectual, and provocateur known only as X, journalist C.M. Lucca sets out to correct the record by writing her own biography.  Biography of X  is a metafictional exercise that is absolutely committed to the bit, complete with second, internal copyright and About the Author pages, copiously documented (invented) sources for all its quotations, and photographic "evidence" of the events and people it describes. As if that were not enough, the novel takes place in an alternate US, where after the second World War the southern states seceded, forming a dictatorial theocracy which lasted for decades.  This is such a weird and distinctive project, one that touches on so many topics and tropes that I have always been drawn to, that it seemed inevitable that  Biography of X  would be one of my favorite reads of the year. But to my dismay—and despite the obvious effort Lacey has

Recent Reading Roundup 58

2023 is proving to be a whirlwind reading year—by the end of this month, I will probably have read as many books in six months as I do in most years. One reason for this is that I'm being sent a lot more review copies lately (all but one of the books discussed in this post were read as NetGalley ARCs), which produces an impulse to not only read but discuss, and thus become part of the cutting edge of conversation. Happily, quality seems to be keeping up with quantity. Though I have reservations about most of these books, I enjoyed reading all of them, and I can already tell that some of them will be among my favorite books of the year. The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr - There's something of a throwback quality to Mayr's novel, winner of last year's Giller prize. The tight third person narration, the dreamy, sensual quality of the prose, the focus on physical sensation, all put one in mind of early modernist novels. That impression is only intensified by the nove

Five Things I Loved in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and One I Didn't

Well, hot damn. I actually wasn't keen on the idea of a sequel to 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse . The first film was so remarkable, so brilliant on so many different levels, that it seemed impossible for its achievement to be reproduced. I wasn't eager to watch it transformed, like so many other exceptional pop culture events, into fodder for endless sequels and imitations—especially since the latter happened almost immediately, with Hollywood instantly embracing the film's most notable innovations, its deliberately skewed, not-entirely-realistic animation style, and the idea of the multiverse, both of which have become almost ubiquitous in a mere five years. A Spider-Verse sequel, I thought, couldn't help but feel like it was playing catch-up with the film's own imitators. So I guess that's me told, then, because Across the Spider-Verse is simply stunning. It's not just a step forward from the original film in practically every respect, but