Wednesday, December 9, 2020

SHAPERS OF WORLDS, edited by Edward Willett

Shapers of Worlds is an anthology based on the Worldshapers podcast, a science fiction podcast, by which I mean it is a podcast about science fiction, not a podcast that consists of science fiction. Instead of audio stories, it consists of interviews with SFF authors. This anthology consists of a mix of both new stories  and reprints. 

This collection feels rather uneven to me. Just a look at the contents list shows a vast difference in the types of authors included. Highlights are short pieces by John Scalzi and Seanan McGuire, two of my favorite authors and clearly superstars in the field. Surprising is the inclusion of a work by John C. Wright, a Sad Puppy who I think would be shocked to find himself in the same anthology as Scalzi. Frankly, I have no interest in reading anything of his and skipped his story entirely. Overall, a mixed bag of stories. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer

This book is like a warm hug!!!!

I first encountered Naomi Kritzer’s writing when her short story “Cat Pictures, Please” was nominated (and later won) the Hugo Award. It was just delightful in every way and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s about a benevolent artificial intelligence that just wants to help people and to look at pictures of cats. 

Later, Ms. Kritzer took this premise and turned it into the award winning Catfishing on Catnet, in which the AI hangs out with a bunch of teens in a chat room and helps out when the protagonist is pursued by her stalker of a father.  It is a delight and deserves every award it won. (And more!)

Ms. Kritzer follows it up with this novel, Chaos on Catnet, which follows up on some threads left hanging in the last novel, specifically, is there another AI out there and is it benevolent? 

I was so thrilled when Tor Teen and NetGalley approved me for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Steph, the protagonist of the last novel, is back l, and she and her mother are more stable this time around. A new character is also introduced, Nell, who has just left a cult and is having a hard time adjusting. Once again, the author creates a fast paced thriller suitable for a teen audience that celebrates found family and asserting one’s identity. 

I predict this book will be on the Lodestar ballot next year - it’ll certainly be on mine!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020


I’m beginning to think I like anthologies. 

I know Mur Lafferty from Six Wakes, her locked room clone murder mystery inspired by one of my favorite video games. So I was excited to see she had co-edited an anthology. I didn’t realize it was based on Escape Pod, her fiction podcast! This is chock full of excellent stores by many of the biggest names in SFF, from John Scalzi to Mary Robinette Kowal. I especially liked Kameron Hurley’s short story about time travelers trying to fix a future they no longer remember. N. K. Jemisin’s story felt more cute than good to me - I think I prefer her works long form when they have a chance to breathe. But that is the beauty of an anthology like this one - if a story isn’t to your taste, another one will be along in a few pages!

Thanks to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

 I love Peter F. Hamilton’s work. I love the Commonwealth Saga and I especially love the Great North Road. So I was excited a few years ago when the Salvation Sequence began. The first book was fun! It was like a hard sf Canterbury Tales, or reminiscent of Hyperion - a bunch of travelers telling their stories which contained an overarching narrative ending with a dramatic twist. Then, in book 2, it seemed to take an odd turn - a bunch of new characters were introduced and the alien invasion seemed to drag on way too slowly while the preexisting characters got short shrift. It felt like middle book syndrome, where not much could happen or it would rush the conclusion. 

Now we are at book 3, the conclusion. (And thank you to NetGalley for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.) So how was it? Disappointing. The story of the new characters from book 2, the last survivor of the criminal gang and his love interest, are quickly dispatched from the plot, their narrative purpose spent. The characters from book 1 have lost all of their nuance and individual voice. All except Yirella, a character from the far future time frame who has the most to do but without a huge amount of explanation why she is the only one who can see the problems, let alone the solutions. 

The other disappointing part of the story is that it felt over the first two books that there was something else going on with the alien invaders, the other alien species that opposed them from the shadows, and the mysterious deity at the end of time that the invaders worshipped. I was expecting a final book revelation that the aliens were all related, that humans in the future had sparked the entire alien pilgrimage, something! But no. The alien invaders remain two-dimensional, the mysterious plot threads are left unaddressed. 

I don’t regret reading this, because lesser Peter F. Hamilton novels are still enjoyable space opera, but I cannot say that I was fully satisfied when I finished this book. Til next time, Mr. Hamilton. I look forward to your next series.