A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman

by Gary Westfahl

Without a doubt, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman is the very best of the recent “DC Extended Universe” superhero films – yet the praise doesn’t mean as much as it should, inasmuch as its undistinguished precursors – Man of Steel (2013 – review here), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016 – review here), and Suicide Squad (2016 – review here) – set the bar ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Claire North

The End of the Day, Claire North (Redhook 978-0-316-31674-3, $26.00, 456pp, hc) April 2017.

Claire North seems to have emerged as the preferred pseudonym for high-concept adult fiction from the successful YA author Catherine Webb, and it earned her a Campbell Award for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and strong reviews and for the subsequent Touch and last year’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope. ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Robert Charles Wilson

Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor 978-0-765-33263-9, $27.99, 352pp, hc) December 2016

The past, it has been said, is another country. If you’re August Kemp in Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year, that other country is one you can monetize.

Kemp, a billionaire businessman from some­thing resembling our near future, has opened a resort of sorts in 1876. The writerly hand waving that makes this possible is ...Read More

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Stefan Dziemianowicz reviews Powers of Darkness

Powers of Darkness: The Lost Version of Dracula, Bram Stoker & Valdimar Ásmundsson (Overlook Press 978-1-4683-1336-9, $29.95, 320pp, hc) December 2016.

Question: When is Bram Stoker’s Dracula not Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

Answer: When it’s Makt Myrkranna, a book whose title translates from the Icelan­dic as Powers of Darkness and which, in the early twentieth century, was published as the Icelandic-language edition of Stoker’s vampire classic. ...Read More

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Contractual Obligations: A Review of Alien: Covenant

by Gary Westfahl

In contemporary Hollywood, the announced information about a film often conveys an implied contract – a covenant, as it were – between filmgoers and filmmakers: if you buy a ticket to see this movie, you are guaranteed to experience certain desired forms of entertainment. Thus, a picture with the word “Alien” in its title, directed by Ridley Scott, promises potential viewers that they will observe numerous images ...Read More

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Faren Miller reviews Brian Staveley

Skullsworn, Brian Staveley (Tor 978-0-7653-8987-9, $27.99, 318pp, hc) April 2017. Cover by Richard Anderson.

Brian Staveley’s Unhewn Throne trilogy followed separate plotlines for three royal siblings in tomes as massive as classic epic fantasy, yet with a very different tone, spiced with X-rated language and bad attitude. Though Skullsworn is just as brash, and takes place in the same world – where long-lived, almost godlike beings ruled ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews John Kessel

The Moon and the Other, John Kessel (Saga 978-1-4814-8144-1, $27.99, 600pp, hc) April 2017.

After what seems like decades of being sidelined as a bench player, with Mars and the outer solar system getting much of the action in novels by Paul McCauley, Alastair Reynolds, and others, and with Kim Stanley Robinson striving to convince us that generation starships are a Really Bad Idea, the moon is ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Penguin Random House/Broadway 978-0-553-41973-3, $16, 464pp, trade paperback) May 2017

When I reviewed Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs for Asimov’s a few years back, I said, in part:

City of Stairs is remarkably fresh and fun and well done, reminiscent of the work of Paul Park in The Starbridge Chronicles and Daniel Abraham in The Long Price Quartet ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Bud Sparhawk

Non-Parallel Universes, by Bud Sparhawk (Fantastic Books 978-1-5154-1020-1, $14.99, 268pp) May 2017

Publisher and editor Ian Randal Strock is a friendly and energetic indie-press presence at many conventions, hawking his suite of novels and collections under the imprint of Fantastic Books. You might very well have seen his table full of great books in one huckster room or another. If so, you should snatch up any titles ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Elizabeth Hand

Fire, Elizabeth Hand (PM Press 978-1-62963-234-6, $13.00, 118pp, tp) January 2017.

PM Press’s ongoing series of chapbook mis­cellanies of ‘‘outspoken authors’’ – basically appetizer-size collections of fiction, non-fiction, and interviews – can at their best convey a sense of meeting an old radical friend in a bar, sharing a few memories, and catching up on things. The authors featured so far are a stunning line-up – Le ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Eric Flint & Mike Resnick

The Gods of Sagittarius, by Eric Flint & Mike Resnick (Baen 978-1-4767-8212-6, $25, 336pp, hardcover) May 2017

In my recent review of Gordon Dickson’s Best of, I commented that classic one-on-one author collaborations, once a very popular mode of writing in our genre, seemed on the decline. I should have specified that a last flourishing redoubt of such popular partnerships is Baen Books. Given that they ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0316262347, $28.00, 640pp, hc) March 2017.

It’s been just a decade since Kim Stanley Robinson published Sixty Days and Counting, the final volume in his Science in the Capital trilogy (since updated in the one-volume version Green Earth), and during that time SF’s common approach to global warming seems to have shifted from cautionary tales to a general ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Poul Anderson

Question and Answer: The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson: Volume 7, by Poul Anderson (NESFA 978-1-61037-313-5, 550pp, hardcover, $32), February 2017

The meticulous, creative and hardworking editors at NESFA who assembled this seventh installment of Anderson’s stories, Rick Katze and Mike Kerpan, have selected tales that saw print from 1951 through 1967. Obviously, this series has not been merely reprinting Anderson’s work in chronological order, or ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Allen Steele

Avengers of the Moon, by Allen Steele (Tor 978-0-7653-8218-4, $26.99, 304pp, hardcover) April 2017)

Of the reviving of old franchises there is no end. No pulp hero is ever truly dead. I suppose that their unkillable nature is what made them true pulp heroes to begin with. And although some revivals seem crass and merely mercenary, we have no complaints of that nature when the result is ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Elan Mastai

All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai (Dutton 978-1-101-98513-7, $26.00, 384pp, hc) Febru­ary 2017.

‘‘So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.’’

So opens Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays and, indeed, main character Tom Barren comes from a 2016 we were supposed to have, the one that looks like the Space Age as imagined in the early 1960s, all Jetsons and ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Gordon R. Dickson

The Best of Gordon R. Dickson: Volume 1, by Gordon R. Dickson (Baen 978-1-4767-8217-1, 272pp, trade paperback), April 2017

It is generally acknowledged that SF/F/H publishing experienced a gigantic paradigm shift post-Star Wars, a transformation which has only accelerated, increased its magnitude, and further altered its unpredictable dimensions in the past decade or two of that tumultuous forty-year span. The old cozy world of a ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Kameron Hurley

The Stars Are Legion, Kameron Hurley (Saga 978-1-4814-4793-5, $26.99, 388pp, hc) Febru­ary 2017.

Kameron Hurley’s first full-bore venture into SF is described by both the author and the publisher as space opera, but it’s about the most claustrophobic space opera we’re likely to see. In place of the galaxy-wide canvases of the classic form, she takes us to a rather sad cluster of decaying artificial worldlets, called ...Read More

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Russell Letson reviews Ken MacLeod

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence, Ken MacLeod (Orbit 978-0-316-36365-5, $9.99, 349pp, pb) November 2016.

The Corporation Wars: Insurgence, Ken MacLeod (Orbit 978-0-316-36369-3, $9.99, 331pp, pb) December 2016.

Ken MacLeod’s new trilogy-in-progress bears the overall title The Corporation Wars, with US print editions of the first two volumes, Dissidence and Insurgence, appearing just a month apart late in 2016. (The third, Emergence, is due ...Read More

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Liz Bourke reviews Charles Stross

Empire Games, Charles Stross (Tor 978-0765337566, $25.99, 336pp, hc) January 2017.

Charles Stross has a habit of writing disturbing worlds. Sometimes, as with his Laundry Files, the horror comes side-by-side with humor; other times, as in his early science fiction, the implacable face of a hostile universe doesn’t wear much of a mask at all.

Empire Games is the start of a new trilogy, set in the ...Read More

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Back to the Retrofuture, Version 2.0:A Review of Ghost in the Shell

by Gary Westfahl

One personal revelation garnered from watching the new, live-action version of Ghost in the Shell is that it is possible to admire a film without really liking it. Director Rupert Sanders and screenwriters Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger have unquestionably crafted an intelligently-written, fast-paced, and visually stunning adventure, and as the events unfolded, I kept thinking that I should be enjoying the experience. Instead, I ...Read More

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Liz Bourke reviews Lara Elena Donnelly

Amberlough, Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor 978-0765383815, $25.99, 400pp, hc) February 2017.

Lara Elena Donnelly’s debut Amberlough and Kameron Hurley’s latest science fiction novel The Stars Are Legion are vastly dissimilar, but they share one thing in common: they’re both, in their own separate ways, stories about love, secrets, and fear.

Amberlough is a fantasy novel that in some respects reminds me of Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint. Like ...Read More

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John Langan reviews Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Thomas Dunne Books 9781250099082, $25.99, 336pp, hc) October 2016.

The world of Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s fast-moving new novel, is one in which the existence of vampires has been an established and accepted fact for the last four decades. Some countries met this revelation by expelling vampires from their borders, others, by placing them under strict control. In response, many ...Read More

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Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life

by Gary Westfahl

From one perspective, Life represents yet another example of a recent Hollywood trend that I find heartening – a renewed interest in realistic depictions of humanity’s probable future in space (which I term “spacesuit films”) that contrast sharply with the appealing fantasies of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. The film takes place on the actual International Space Station, and it involves a long-researched project – ...Read More

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Russell Letson reviews Cory Doctorow

Walkaway, Cory Doctorow (Tor 978-0-7653-9276-3, $24.99, 379pp, hc) April 2017.

In last month’s 2016 annual wrap-up essay, I mentioned the Nightmares Are Us side of SF, which was on my mind not (entirely) because of what was running on cable news at the time, but because my recent reading keeps pointing out various ways everything can go to hell in a handbasket. Now, it’s possible that in ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Cat Sparks

Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks (Talos 978-1-940456-70-6, $15.99, 380pp, tp) March 2017

The post-apocalyptic desert wasteland was a staple of SF long before the Mad Max films – think of Zelazny, Ellison, Walter M. Miller, Jr. – but I suppose anyone invoking such a setting these days is fated for the ‘‘Mad Max meets so-and-so’’ treatment, just as anyone invok­ing a rainy, overcrowded dystopolis is likely to get ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Caitlín R. Kiernan

Dear Sweet Filthy World, by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean 978-1-59606-819-3, $40, 296, hardcover) March 31, 2017

Although Kiernan has produced many fine novels, I think it’s safe to say that most of her fans think of her as one our finest and most productive writers of short stories. And so this new collection, her fourteenth, will certainly be received with much delight and acclaim. Containing nearly thirty ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit 978-0-316-26234-7, $28, 624pp, hardcover, March 2017

Although I have read almost everything written by Kim Stanley Robinson, I regret to say that one major gap in my coverage of his work exists: the Science in the Capital “cli-fi” series, which consists of Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting (recently updated and abridged into ...Read More

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Adrienne Martini reviews Carrie Vaughn

Martians Abroad, Carrie Vaughn (Tor 978-0-7653-8220-7, $25.99, 336pp, hc) January 2017.

Carrie Vaughn’s Martians Abroad clearly shares DNA with Heinlein’s juveniles, and is, the author states, and homage to Podkayne of Mars. There are young people filled with a can-do attitude about problem solving and space travel. There are kids trapped in an academic system that, while it feels it knows best, clearly doesn’t. The main ...Read More

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Paul Di Filippo reviews Paul La Farge

The Night Ocean, by Paul La Farge (Penguin 978-1-101-98108-5, $27, 400pp, hardcover March 2017

I initially became aware of the work of Paul La Farge with the publication of his first novel, An Artist of the Missing, which I reviewed for the much-missed Realms of Fantasy magazine in the year 2000. I followed that up with a discussion of his second book, Haussmann, or the Distinction, ...Read More

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Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island

by Gary Westfahl

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe reviews Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga 978-1-4814-2430-1, $29.99, 860pp, hc) October 2016.

In one of those enjoyable but pointless conven­tion barroom debates a few years ago, I found myself drawn into the question of whether the term ‘‘fantasy novel’’ is a redundancy or an oxymoron. The argument, as I recall it (and I don’t remember who started it, since alco­hol was certainly involved), was whether the ...Read More

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