Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Author: Mike Reeves-McMillan


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Magonia: What YA should be like

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Come for the wonderful voice (and attitude) of Aza Ray, the teenage narrator. Stay for a suspenseful plot, vivid characters, and fantastical worldbuilding.

Magonia (2015) is one of those books that, while still partway through the sample, I knew I wanted to buy. It’s difficult to create a truly original character voice, but Maria Dahvana Headley pulls it off with Aza Ray. She even pulls it off again with Jason, Aza’s best friend, though his voice is less distinctive (this shouldn’t be taken as a criticism;


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Heirs of Grace: Surprisingly satisfying and refreshing

Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt

Independent, modern young woman narrates, in First Person Smartass, how she was just an ordinary person with an ordinary life who didn’t believe in the supernatural, but then it turned out that the supernatural believed in her, and around about the same time she met this guy…

There are hundreds of authors writing that exact book at the moment, many of them very badly; and when I see an instance of it, I usually move on, sometimes with an eye roll, to the next book in the hope of something I haven’t seen dozens of times before.


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Peacemaker: A well-done bit of Weird West with a likeable protagonist

Peacemaker by K.A. Stewart

K.A. Stewart‘s Peacemaker gives us an alternate America (Kansas, to be exact) in which most people have magic, arcane-powered transports replace the horses they’re modeled on, and Native American magic is strong enough that the USA stops at the Rockies. The eponymous Peacemaker (think US Marshal), Caleb Marcus, brings his magic, his staff and his familiar (a cute jackalope named Ernst) to the town of Hope, where he has to deal with a Bad Wealthy Rancher.

I give that last phrase capitals because he’s a trope,


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Unexpected Stories: Challenging science fiction

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

The late Octavia Butler wrote brilliant, challenging science fiction along more or less the same lines as Ursula K. Le Guin: the speculations are often anthropological, and she’s fascinated by how people interact. I read one of her XENOGENESIS novels years ago and found it the kind of powerful, disturbing book that I can only read occasionally. I was excited to hear that a couple of her unpublished stories had been found and published under the title Unexpected Stories.


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Science Fiction Super Pack #1: A generally above-average anthology

Science Fiction Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Like the companion fantasy volume, Science Fiction Super Pack #1, edited by Warren Lapine, only has one story I didn’t think was good, and it’s a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction. H.P. Lovecraft‘s overwrought prose doesn’t do much for me even when Lovecraft himself writes it, and much less so when it’s attempted by imitators. And Lovecraft’s stories at least have something frightening that happens in them; these two stories (in this volume and the other) only have visions of aspects of the Mythos and crazy people ranting,


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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey‘s other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of “fabril” literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the “smith”


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Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you’re a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven’t read these stories before.


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Pratchett’s Women: An interesting perspective on a fantasy legend

Pratchett’s Women by Tansy Rayner Roberts

I discovered something about myself by reading Pratchett’s Women, which is always a worthwhile thing. What I discovered was that, although I rejoice greatly at the presence of strong female characters in a book, I don’t necessarily notice their absence as much. Now that I’m aware, hopefully that won’t be true so much.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, herself an award-winning fantasy author, analyses most (but not all) of Terry Pratchett‘s books from a feminist perspective,


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L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume 30

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: Volume 30 edited by Dave Wolverton

The Writers of the Future contest is held in high regard within the SFF field, largely because of the many fine writers who have had a boost to their early careers through it and the prominence of the judges (and despite its association with L. Ron Hubbard, of which more later). This volume contains some excellently-written stories and some which weren’t to my taste but were well done anyway.


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Blood of Tyrants: A world tour with plenty of dragons

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

I was concerned when Blood of Tyrants, the eighth volume of Naomi Novik’s TEMERAIRE series, began with three unlikely events, but I needn’t have worried. It soon improved.

The three unlikely things were:

1. A man wearing a heavy wool coat is swept into the sea and not drowned, but washed up on shore alive. This despite the fact that the reef where he started was far enough out to sea that it apparently couldn’t be seen from shore,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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