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]: 2023


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Camp Damascus: Demonic possession meets summer camp horror

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle 

Camp Damascus (2023) starts off as a demonic thriller and ends up as a plucky-kids-fight-humancentric-evil story, in Chuck Tingle’s first non-erotica novel. The author, who had a large audience on X/Twitter, came to the attention of many of us during the 2016 Hugo awards (all scandals aside, don’t say the Hugos never did anything nice for us). Previously known for men/men (or in some cases, men/dinosaur) erotica online, with Camp Damascus Tingle successfully makes the jump to horror,


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Lone Women: The past is complicated

Lone Women by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle’s Lone Women (2023) is brilliant. It’s about connections, family, secrets, guilt and love. Yes, there is a monster in it. Yes, it is suspenseful, and yes, it is gory, and those are both horror trademarks, but Lone Women is filled with hidden history and restored triumphs. Is it horror? That depends on your definition of “monster.”

In 1915, Adelaide Henry flees her family farm in Lucerne Valley, California. She leaves behind a burning farmhouse and her two dead parents;


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City of Bones: A revised edition of Wells’s first novel

City of Bones by Martha Wells

Tordotcom Books has reissued Martha Wells’s 1995 fantasy novel City of Bones, updated and expanded. In an interview, Wells explained that she took a few opportunities to make the writing better but didn’t change the book substantially for this edition.

I knew who Martha Wells was, but until the MURDERBOT series I hadn’t read anything by her. This is the second fantasy novel of hers I have read. City of Bones is a pleasing read,


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Starter Villain: You’ll want to get your cat a keyboard

Starter Villain by John Scalzi

“It’s easier to be a villain than a pub owner, I’ll tell you that much.”

I think most people know the plot of John Scalzi’s 2023 novel, Starter Villain. Our protagonist, Charlie, is divorced. He’s been downsized out of his job as a business journalist, and is eking out a living as a substitute math teacher. When the story opens, his best or only friend is his cat Hera. Then Charlie learns that his enigmatic Uncle Jake,


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Crucible of Chaos: With apologies, as always, to the author

Crucible of Chaos by Sebastien de Castell

Estevar hauled up on his mule as Castle Aramor came into view through the dampening fog. The mule turned back with a baleful look.

“I know, I know. Do you think I’m enjoying this foul weather any more than you are?”

The mule dipped its head and turned it slightly aslant, looking upward at Estevar, as if to note that while they both shared the same weather, only one of them had the other’s weight as additional burden. A substantial weight at that Estevar had to acknowledge.


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North Woods: Wonderfully and precisely crafted

Reposting to include Marion’s new review.

North Woods by Daniel Mason

Daniel Mason’s North Woods (2023) is a wonderfully and precisely crafted collection of related short stories that greatly impresses with its varied styles, vividly detailed descriptions, sharp sentence constructions, connecting echoes, and a few unexpected twists and turns. I would have preferred a bit more emotional depth at times, though several of the stories, particularly toward the end, offer up some more than a few moving scenes. Between those moments and Mason’s consummate craftsmanship,


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The Truth Against the World: Dystopian, intriguing and deeply moving

The Truth Against the World by David Corbett

If you like Irish folklore and enjoyed Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and/or The Road by Cormac McCarthy, then you owe it to yourself to read David Corbett’s 2023 novel The Truth Against the World.

Corbett comes out of the crime novel tradition, and The Truth Against the World brings elements of that, and, as always, an interesting pairing of protagonists. In this case,


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The Pale House Devil: A must for Kadrey completists

The Pale House Devil by Richard Kadrey

The demon who inhabits Pale House in Richard Kadrey’s 2023 novella The Pale House Devil is the star of the show for me. Part of this short, fairly fast-paced story is centered in its point of view, and it is one fascinating, confounding creature. It also has a habit of eating people, so… that’s bad.

In this short outing, Kadrey introduces us to Ford and Neuland, paranormal mercenaries. Ford seems to be a more or less regular human with skills in magic,


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Thornhedge: You will sink into this story

Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

Thornhedge (2023), by T. Kingfisher, is a bittersweet fairy tale that starts off on familiar ground and shifts, making us consider who defines the monsters and the heroes. This brief novella reads as smooth as cream, and the story seems simple, but it is not.

Toadling is a fairy, left to maintain a hedge of thorns around a tower, where an enchanted maiden sleeps. From this, you might think you know the story. Toadling is dutiful, strengthening the thorn hedge to discourage the eager knights and princes who come at first,


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Jewel Box: Delightful startling points and beautifully honed sentences

Jewel Box by E. Lily Yu

The pleasure for me in reading E. Lily Yu’s collection of short stories, Jewel Box, was sourced in two of the book’s elements: its what-if premises and its, well, jewel-like language, which glittered precise and edged as any gemstone in a Tiffany’s case. The plots and characters, meanwhile, were more hit and miss for me, which is why I’m not giving it a five.

As is typical for collections, the individual stories varied in their impact,


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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