Book review: The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

A fast-paced heist on a galactic scale, a universe full of wildly imaginative human variants, and a narrative with a tight internal logic all combine to form a very entertaining book, which almost reaches my imaginary rank of a modern classic. Almost. There are a few elements that hint that this is the author’s debut novel, but they are completely understandable. I still recommend this wild ride to anyone, but in particular (and perhaps surprisingly) to fans of the quintessential heist-in-space novel, William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

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Flash review: Quandary Aminu vs The Butterfly Man by Rich Larson

Sometimes I don’t even realize I need a change of pace until it happens. After months of science fiction that was either slow and ponderous, or fast on a galactic scale (where everything is slow anyway), a story that takes place in a single city, on a single day, choke-full of action, biohacking, collateral damage and unapologetically awful characters was just the kind of a wild ride I’ve been missing. Quandary is an irreverent, fun, and fast-paced novelette that I couldn’t drop until I finished it.

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Book review: Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire 1) by Yoon Ha Lee

This short and relatively inoffensive book has become quite polarizing in the SF circles. Some fans loved the novel enough to nominate it for the Hugo award. Others were dismayed by the needlessly difficult writing style. I see it as an object lesson on how not to write a book, and a point of comparison on what makes similar books work much better.

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Modern classic: Seven Surrenders (Terra Ignota 2) by Ada Palmer

A book of the caliber of Too Like the Lighting is difficult to emulate, especially with a sequel that is designed to be a direct continuation of the first book. Palmer manages to do just that with yet another exceptional novel, which succeeds to seamlessly integrate the continuing narrative, new and fresh spins, and a prose that is more approachable to the readers. Seven Surrenders is yet another gem of the 21st century.

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Book review: VALIS by Philip K. Dick

Let me begin by saying that VALIS is not science fiction. It is not a good book, either. It barely holds a plot, and instead contains little less than incoherent ramblings and conspiracy theories from a very disturbed mind, which goes off tangent even before a narrative line is established. And yet, the book has an almost hypnotic quality for the average reader, and as I’m told (I’m no expert), it provides for a great insight into certain mental illnesses.

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Flash review: Victory Citrus is Sweet by Thoraiya Dyer

This short story (missing the novelette category by a mere 15 words) has an interesting premise, a quirky central character and a hint of a redemption arc. It is a fun, quick read. However, if one thinks about it a little longer, the narrator grows increasingly unlikeable, and the moral story comes out very wrong. I like to point your attention to this story precisely for this reason. It reads like a condensed version of Andy Weir’s Artemis, but the story obfuscates the narrator’s character long enough to finish reading without feeling disgust with the protagonist.

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Book review: The Galaxy and the Ground Within (Wayfarers 4) by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers has become a household name for those who look for light, uplifting science fiction reading. Her style has been coined “Cozy-Punk” by some, and I wholeheartedly agree. Readers who pick up her latest Wayfarers novel know very well what they are getting into, and they will not be disappointed. The book is very light on story, but heavy on exposition of a rich and varied universe, through the eyes of the most agreeable characters.

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Book review: Inhibitor Phase (Revelation Space 4) by Alastair Reynolds

Nearly two decades after the last novel from the main Revelation Space storyline, Reynolds returns with a book that’s even more expansive and bleak than the ones before. With new and some very old characters, Inhibitor Phase can be read as a standalone book, but old fans of the series will find enough familiar elements to trigger bouts of nostalgia. Most importantly, however, this book shows how much Reynolds grew as a writer over this century. The characters are almost likeable, and the story seamlessly merges the intimate with an expansive setting.

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Modern Classic: Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota 1) by Ada Palmer

This tour de force has easily become my favorite science fiction book of the 2010s, and it restored my faith that classic literary science fiction would thrive in this century. Don’t get me wrong: I have other favorite authors, from Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson and Alastair Reynolds, to Catherynne Valente and Becky Chambers, all of whom produced some incredible books in the past decade, but in my opinion, Too Like the Lightning stands head and shoulders over any other books I’ve read from that time period. It combines an intriguing story, elaborate worldbuilding that meshes the past and the future, as well as powerful writing, into a very dense and complex work that may not suit everyone, but which fit my literary tastes like a glove.

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Book review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

As far as modern retellings of classic fairy tales go, Harrow’s take on The Sleeping Beauty is quite original, emotional, and featuring one of the most efficient writing I’ve seen among this year’s Hugo nominees. The characters are highly relatable, and unlike so many recent works I’ve read, they have their own agency. And in addition to all this, the title is a work of genius. Seriously, try to say A Spindle Splintered five times in a row, without injuring yourself.

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