Tuesday, October 31, 2023

System Collapse by Martha Wells

We all love Murderbot, right? Murderbot is one of the absolute best characters to come out of SF in years. I remember when I read the description of Martha Wells’s All Systems Red and thought to myself “I’ve got to put that on hold at the library!”  And I was right - it was excellent. I have eagerly awaited each new Murderbot book and also have been reading some of Ms. Wells’s other fantasy books. The Witch King was good, but my heart belongs to Murderbot. 

So I was very excited when NetGalley and tordotcom gave me an eARC of System Collapse, the new Murderbot book, in exchange for an honest review. 

This was stellar. Before this, Fugitive Telemetry was my favorite Murderbot book, but this one surpassed it. I was so excited to see the fallout from Network Effect and to see what else was going on on that planet. And more ART is always appreciated. This book moved the story forward while simultaneously giving us a close look at Murderbot’s emotional state and it was very satisfying. 

This book is a must buy!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


I’d seen the name Silvia Moreno-Garcia around on best of lists and upcoming books to look forward to, but it wasn’t until the Hugo nominations this year were announced that I decided it was time to put her to the top of my to-read pile. I started reading the Daughter of Dr. Moureau while on vacation in Mexico this summer, which felt fitting. I enjoyed it and was excited when I got an eARC from NetGalley of her newest book, Silver Nitrate, in exchange for an honest review. 

This book reminded me of 11/22/63 by Steven King strongly - I really enjoyed both books, and for both books I really would have liked to see how the author would have written the story without anything supernatural going on. 

This book is set in Mexico in the 90s and our focus is on a woman who is a film editor and her best friend, a mostly washed up actor. Their lives and their difficulties feel so real and so poignant that I was almost sad when the Nazi magic started coming to the fore. 

The horror is creepy and interesting but not so scary to be off putting to me (I don’t usually do horror) and I really enjoyed this book. I was a little disappointed that the author didn’t delve a little deeper into what it meant that the villains were literal Nazis. In the current state of the world, ignoring the actual victims of the Holocaust, even in fiction, feels like the first step on the road to antisemitism. But maybe I’m feeling especially sensitive due to current events. 

I enjoyed this book and I think even people that don’t love horror could enjoy it. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

Can you capture lightning in a bottle twice? This book suggests that the answer is yes!

I first heard about Travis Baldree’s Legends and Lattes from Seanan McGuire’s Twitter account. She often will talk about upcoming books that she loves, and she described it in such a way that I was very much looking forward to reading it. 

It didn’t disappoint- it was a very nice, sweet, cozy story, and I really enjoyed it. It might have bordered on being too twee, and the inventions of cinnamon rolls and other coffee shop staples felt a tad too convenient at times, but that didn’t detract from the joys of the book. 

So I was overjoyed when Tor and NetGalley gave me an eARC of the prequel, Bookshops and Bonedust. Set years before L&L, this book focuses on a Viv who is just starting out in the mercenary business when she gets injured and stuck in a seaside town to recuperate. The cast of characters was even more fun than the last book, and Viv seemed either to be more well rounded or just better written in this volume. 

I loved revisiting this world and I cannot wait for Mr. Baldree to let us know more of what’s happening with Viv. This is a must buy for anyone who enjoyed the original. 

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, which was narrated by the author, and it is always interesting to see how an author interprets his own work. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Innocent Sleep by Seanan McGuire


What a fascinating book! 

I love Seanan McGuire. (Note: I review a bunch of her books so I am copying part of some of my other reviews here to save time.). She has quickly become my favorite living writer and I feel very lucky that she is so prolific. I was first introduced to her work when her book Parasite, written as Mira Grant, was nominated for a Hugo Award. I loved it and quickly devoured the Newsflesh series before I realized that Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire were the same person. 

I started reading her works under her own name, starting with Sparrow Hill Road, which is amazing, but I picked it because I was intimidated by her long running October Daye series. I had read some Urban Fantasy before, and I fondly remember Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde books, but my tastes run more to science fiction and then secondary world fantasy, so I was hesitant to dive into such a long series. I picked up the first book, Rosemary and Rue, when it was on sale as a kindle daily deal, and I found it somewhat disappointing compared to her other work. I reminded myself that it was her first published novel, so I cut it some slack. Then Incryptid was nominated for the Best Series Hugo in 2018 and I dove into that instead. I loved it! So I vowed to give Toby another chance. And I was so glad that I did! It is no one of my favorite series. 

I was overjoyed when The publisher and NetGalley awarded me an eARC of Sleep No More - I couldn’t stand waiting any longer to find out what happened after Toby was ensorcelled to believe that she had never left her mother.  It turns out that Toby wasn’t the only one affected (or is that effected?). A large chunk of Faerie was totally rewritten and it was a thrill to see our characters acting familiarly yet differently based on their new roles in this revised timeline.  It reminded me of the TNG episode Condundrum in all of the best ways.  As the book progressed, the cracks in the illusion start to show in interesting ways.  I was very excited to see January, the cyber-dryad show up in a pivotal role.  That was a stellar entry in this series. 

But! It was not the only one this year! For the first time ever we get a mainline novel from the POV of someone other than Tobey! This book, which I also got an eARC of from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (and a physical ARC in an amazing influencer box, thanks again!) is from Tybalt’s POV. 

Tybalt is now October’s husband. In the first few books, he was on the frenemy to ally trajectory until I realized that he was the love interest! I disliked him alot at first but he grew on me over the years. His overprotectiveness went from irritating to endearing. And I’d recently started reading the short stories in this series that are from Tybalt’s POV so I was intrigued by this book. 

In addition, I’ve always enjoyed stories that went behind the scenes of stories we’ve already seen- I remember being amazed and in love with the 1955 redux section of  Back to the Future II and this book shares a lot of the fun stuff with that. It’s cool to see the events from a different perspective and Seanan McGuire does an excellent job here. You can see the meticulous attention to detail she puts into every part of the story. 

But I’ve had a tough time writing this review - while I enjoyed the book and thought it was well written, it made me dislike Tybalt in a way I haven’t since book 2.  His mind set and attitude are very off putting to me. I understand that his pregnant wife has been effectively kidnapped and, based on his personal history, that is especially traumatic for him, but his anger and unkindness and uncharitable attitude through much of the book make him a much less pleasant narrator to follow than October is. Maybe the difference is that October is a Hero and Tybalt is not? He’s the protagonist, sure, but he’s not out to save the day as much as he is out to save his wife. 

This book has made me think a lot about the characters I have known and loved for years and it is impressive that Seanan McGuire is able to do that in such a long running series. She’s clearly not phoning anything in and is at the top of her game. I just wish that I found Tybalt more likeable. 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Octavia E. Butler: The Last Interview and Other Conversations


I am so happy I read this book! Actually, I am happy and grateful. I first read Octavia Butler when my science fiction book club read Kindred a few years ago (we loved it but felt it was fantasy and not science fiction). I read her collection Bloodchild and Other Stories when I got it in a nebula award winning humble numbed and really enjoyed it. After that I would buy kindle editions of all of her series when the collected editions went on sale and I read and loved the Xenogenesis trilogy. But her other books stayed on my TBR shelf, getting passed over for newer things. 

So I was intrigued when I saw this collection of interviews with Octavia Butler on NetGalley - it seemed like a real sign from the universe. 

I have a secret to confess. I love afterwards/acknowledgments in books. I often (actually always) read them first because I love to know what an author was thinking when they wrote their book. So this collection was fantastic for me! It was like an entire book of acknowledgements!!! It helped me remember why I loved Ms. Butler’s writing and her way of thinking about the world. Since I finished this I’ve read Wild Seed and Parable of the Sower and I can’t wait to dive into the next Octavia Butler book on my virtual shelf. I highly recommend this book.