Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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In Other Lands: A bisexual character comes of age in a paper-thin fantasy world

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Thirteen-year-old Elliot is pulled from his geography class one day, packed into a van with three other students, and driven to a random field in Devon, England, where he watches his French teacher exchanges money with a woman standing next to a high wall.

The woman in odd clothing “tested” him by asking him if he could see a wall standing in the middle of a field. When he told her, “Obviously, because it’s a wall. Walls tend to be obvious,” she had pointed out the other kids blithely walking through the wall as if it was not there,


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Blood of the Four: Dangerous magic and brutal conspiring

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Magic is an elusive and dangerous thing in the kingdom of Quandis, forbidden to all except a few select priests who spend their lives preparing to handle the ancient magic, and even then inhale only a few smoky tendrils of the powerful magic. Princess Phela thrives on sneaking through hidden passages of the castle, seeking to overhear others’ information and secrets. When Phela hears her mother, the queen, confessing (in a drug-induced haze) to her lover Linos Kallistrate that she, the queen,


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Dayfall: Did Not Finish (couldn’t get past the writing)

Dayfall by Michael David Ares

Dayfall (2018) is set in a near-future after a short nuclear war between India and Pakistan created a partial nuclear winter, casting part of the world, including New York City, into perpetual darkness. Crime has risen and Jon Phillips, a PA cop who takes own a serial killer early in the book is sent to deal with another one in the city known as the Dayfall Killer. Complicating things is the immanent return of the sun (the titular “dayfall”) and predictions of chaos and panic (think Asimov and Silverberg’s Nightfall,


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The Dinosaur Knight: Dinosaurs weren’t enough (somehow)

The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milan

I’m always a bit iffy about reading a second book in a series whose first book I didn’t much care for, but I guess it’s the optimist in me that overrules my better judgment. Optimism, and the fact that while rare, occasionally the second book does reward that optimism. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Victor Milan’s The Dinosaur Knights (2016). As I noted in the review of book one, The Dinosaur Lords,


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The Waking Land: Too many issues

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

I’m sure there’s an audience for Callie Bates’ debut novel The Waking Land, but after reaching the halfway point (53% to be precise), I also became sure that I was not it, leading to a DNF review.

The story, which has some clear (at times perhaps too clear) historical referents, is set in a world where hundreds of years ago the nation of Caeris conquered the neighboring nation of Eren, while much more powerful than either of them is the empire of Paladis.


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The Dark Mirror: Did Not Finish

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

As a rule, I love Juliet Marillier’s work, but I’ve tried several times to read The Dark Mirror and have never managed to get very far.

Marillier’s prose is as beautiful as ever, but the story doesn’t hook me. It just feels like such a slow beginning, and the protagonist Bridei is very young and nobody tells him anything. Events occur, but we often don’t see them; a secondary character will exit stage left, come back having obviously had a perilous adventure,


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The Swan Book: Moments of brilliance, but never engaged me (Did Not Finish)

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

I really wanted to like The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. I mean, it has so many elements I would usually find enticing by themselves or a few at a time, let alone all at once: magical realism, non-linear structure, multiple POVs, moments of high-flying lyricism, biting wit and satire, dystopia, sharp dialogue, a social conscience. But man, did I struggle with this one from just about the beginning. But I kept going. Like I said, all those elements.


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Supervillains Anonymous: Cool premise, confusing plot

Supervillains Anonymous by Lexie Dunne

I really wanted to like Supervillains Anonymous, by Lexie Dunne. The first book in the series, Superheroes Anonymous, was pretty fun and I was looking forward to seeing what happened after its cliffhanger ending, when Hostage Girl (aka Gail Godwin) was falsely accused of the murder of her close friend and superhero mentor, Angelica. Unfortunately, this second installment wasn’t as satisfying as the first; in fact,


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Echopraxia: Nowhere near as good as Blindsight

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

I was extremely impressed by Peter WattsBlindsight (2006), a diamond-hard sci-fi novel about first contact, AIs, evolutionary biology, genetically-engineered vampires, sentience vs intelligence, and virtual reality. It is an intense experience, relentless in its demands on the reader, but makes you think very hard about whether humanity’s sentience (as we understand it) is really as great as we generally think it is.

The short answer, according to Watts, is no. It’s an evolutionary fluke, was never necessary for survival,


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Snakewood: Interesting premise that needs more work

Snakewood by Adrian Selby

I picked up Adrian Selby’s debut novel, Snakewood, after hearing a lot of good things about the book. Promising a dark world of realpolitik in the tradition of Glen Cook, Snakewood tells the story of the company once known as Kailen’s Twenty. While the company is long disbanded, many of its members still live and thrive in various occupations, until they turn up with throats slit and a black, stone coin on their bodies — the mark of a traitor.


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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    Words fail. I can't imagine what else might offend you. Great series, bizarre and ridiculous review. Especially the 'Nazi sympathizer'…

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