Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 2021


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Light Chaser: Can two humans put the universe right?

Light Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton & Gareth L. Powell

2021’s Light Chaser novella is a collaboration between Gareth Powell and Peter F. Hamilton. This fast-paced story actually spans centuries, featuring a functionally-immortal woman, Amahle. The sole occupant of her AI controlled lightship, Amahle, the titular Light Chaser, is one of many of her kind, who travel a “circuit” of human-occupied planets, collecting the memory collars selected families wear for generations. In return, Amahle provides carefully chosen wealth and trinkets, careful never to provide something that might allow the stable (or stagnant) societies on these worlds to make any kind of leap forward in technology or political thinking.


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How to Mars: Solid but feels like a missed opportunity

Reposting to include Marion’s new review.

How to Mars by David Ebenbach

In David Ebenbach’s How to Mars (2021), humans have made it to Mars, but not via the usual major government initiative. Instead, a group of six was sent as a reality TV show produced by Destination Mars, a corporation whose owner is “pretty eccentric.” Sadly, Mars turned out to be kind of dull (lots of rocks, no life, monotone color) and as the six scientists grew bored so did the audience,


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The Secret Skin: So many scares!

The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner

There are so many scary things in Wendy N. Wagner’s short 2021 novella, The Secret Skin. There is the nasty housekeeper who gives the nasty housekeeper in Rebecca a run for her money. There is the leering, unpleasant overseer of the Vogel family sawmill. There is Abigail, a deeply disturbed little girl who may be telekinetic. There is the “community meeting” of the white men in the nearby town of Coos Bay, Oregon, and their white robes and hoods.


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The Necessity of Stars: A lyrical first contact story with teeth

The Necessity of Stars by E. Catherine Tobler

I continued my Neon Hemlock novella-reading binge with E. Catherine Tobler’s The Necessity of Stars, published in 2021. I always approach a Tobler story preparing to be bowled over by strange and stunning language, and this story did not disappoint. I was surprised to be reading a story that slots more comfortably into the “science fiction” category than “fantasy,” because this is about first contact.

Bréone Hemmerli is a highly placed United Nations official, in a world increasingly submerged by rising oceans or devoured by desertification,


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The Inheritance of Orquídea: A book filled with secrets, magic, and heart

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

2021’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina was practically a perfect book for me. It’s filled with fantastical magic that baffled me and thrilled me, and it brought to mind the early books of Isabel Allende. The Montoya family were complicated and realistic, in a real-world setting that simmers with magic and strangeness. While much of the story takes place in an undesignated “present” that seems very much like now (without pandemics), the history of Orquídea Divina’s life takes us to Ecuador in the late 1950s and early sixties.


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What Lives in the Woods: A mysterious MG haunted house story

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Ginny — or Gin — Anderson is looking forward to the summer writing workshop she’s going to attend with her best friend Erica, in their hometown of Chicago, until Dad upends the family’s plans because of a job. He’d going to restore a century-old house-turned-hotel, The Woodmoor Manor, in Michigan. The family will live there while he works.

This sounds terrible to Gin and her older brother Leo. While Leo is soon appeased by the news that Saugatuck, the nearby small town,


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The Final Girl Support Group: Good thriller if you are adept at suspending disbelief

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The title of Grady Hendrix’s 2021 novel might make you think it’s a horror story in the slasher-movie style, and there are plenty of nods to horror here. Actually, the book is a thriller, and as a thriller it works pretty well. Hendrix intersperses the thriller with some dark, zany humor, trauma-fueled angst, and toxic sisterhood rants, but the story’s at its best when our main character, Lynette, is on the run from, well, everybody.

The Final Girl Support Group opens with Lynette preparing to attend that very group.


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The Best of Walter Jon Williams: 12 smart stories

The Best of Walter Jon Williams by Walter Jon Williams

The Best of Walter Jon Williams (2021) is a 663-page tome containing, as its name implies, twelve of Walter Jon Williams’ best stories spanning four decades of his writing career. Fans will appreciate Subterranean Press’s beautiful hardcover edition of this collection (there’s also an audio edition). And for readers who aren’t familiar with this prolific writer, The Best of Walter Jon Williams is a good place to start getting to know him.


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Noor: Okorafor weaves another stunning imaginary world

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s 2021 Noor is a short, fast-paced science fiction novel. The futuristic energy delivery system called Noor, and the “Red Spot” dust storm are innovative, made plausible by Okorafor’s grounded writing and her fine eye for detail.

Anwuli calls herself AO for Artificial Organism. Considered “wrong” even before birth, AO was seriously injured in a car accident when she was a young adult. An experimental process gave her prosthetic limbs and cerebral implants. She is an outsider, tolerated,


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The Ghost Sequences: Moody, thoughtful and disturbing

The Ghost Sequences by A.C. Wise

A.C. Wise’s 2021 story collection The Ghost Sequences delivers a sampler of her short fiction. As the name implies, nearly all are ghostly or eerie. Wise pays homage to North American (Lovecraftian) Gothic with two stories in particular, and examines the serial-killer/slasher genre in others. Despite the disturbing subject matter, Wise’s prose glimmers like a piece of abalone shell. The stories are disturbing and moody in the best way.

The book has sixteen stories; one, “Exhalation #10,” is novelette-length.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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