Book review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

Chambers has set a new trend in science fiction storytelling. Her works are usually very comfortable, inoffensive, full of hope, and light on technical details. She may not have been the first, but other writers are already being compared to her, and new terms, such as “cozypunk” are being thrown around her stories. This novella is no different. If anything, it feels even more pleasant, less burdened by realistic social sciences and technology, and a little more meditative.

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Book review: Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

A feel-good book that does its best to juggle multiple plot lines, Light from Uncommon Stars is best enjoyed when the reader leaves all preconceptions behind, before turning to the first page. Even though the book has been nominated for the Hugo Award, and the description reads like a mashup of fantasy and science fiction, the link to the speculative aspect of the story is so tenuous that it can be completely ignored. Ryka Aoki’s novel is best read as a travelogue and appreciation of music, rather than speculative fiction.

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Book review: The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Very few modern authors have the knack for presenting serious issues with so much light-hearted, yet insightful flair as Catherynne Valente. Her easy flowing prose is entertaining, inventive, and yet insidiously indoctrinates the reader into the author’s way of thinking. I can’t help but love her works, and The Past is Red is no exception.

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Book review: A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark

With his inventive worldbuilding and spectacular visuals, P. Djeli Clark has become a mainstay of the awards circuit in the recent years. His blend of alternative history, magic, urban fantasy and exotic locales resonates with me and many others, and his first novel-length work is no different. Taking place in a pre-World War I Egypt, the book is a wonderful throwback to pulp adventure paperbacks of the old, and to fantasy movies that have no right to be forgotten. Unfortunately, the novel also shares the same shortcomings: weak characters without agency and very predictable plot.

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Book review: Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A quick, entertaining read, Elder Race may appear fairly formulaic at the first glance.  Tchaikovsky’s idiosyncrasies in his writing style further enhance this perception.  However, the novella still includes a few hidden layers, which push it from a light evening read to an insightful work, which may present a few ideas that will stick with the reader for a while.

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Book review: A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

It’s often challenging to keep a sequel as interesting and engrossing as the first book in the series.  The wonder of worldbuilding may be largely gone, and the tedium of more of the same may creep in, as the author tries to keep the fans of the first book interested.  Adding enough novelty, yet continuing the same narrative, can be a very delicate balancing act, which Martine performs perfectly and delivers a sequel that is just as good as its predecessor.

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Opinion: How the Ukraine War Changed My Perception of Science Fiction

Science fiction is fiction, not a textbook or current affairs work.  Still, there are many subgenres, some of which are set in the real world, while others draw their timeline from the present time.  Of course, there are plenty of works, a vast majority of them, that have nothing in common with the world we live in right now.  However, I often pick up a book where the setting is familiar, either directly based on real world, or extrapolated from it.  The Ukrainian war has made some of these books age like milk…

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TV Review: Star Trek: Picard, Season 2

The second season of Picard is quite divisive.  Critics seem to love it, while the audience hates it.  Those who enjoyed the first season can’t seem to find anything positive about the second, and vice versa.  It’s small wonder: the mood, writing and setting couldn’t be different between the seasons.  And yet, there are similarities.  Just like the first season, this one is also a hot mess with too many stories that lead nowhere, but it also remains interesting to watch, thanks to another deep dive into Picard’s psyche, and the redemption for the most unlikely of characters.

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Book review: Angles of Attack (Frontlines 3) by Marko Kloos

The Frontlines series is somewhat original by portraying its protagonists as human, with their failings, desires and small joys, and by strictly using the point of view of its central character.  There are no supermen, no overall strategic landscape from a God’s eye perspective, and no military leaders who could ramble out an exposition for fifty pages.  This makes the books very relatable to the readers, but also susceptible to pacing issues.  This is the problem of the third book in the series.

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Hugos 2022 – Novelettes

This year’s nominated novelettes are thematically all over the place, from mythology, through vampires, to spaceships and robot swarms.  Stylistically, however, they are quite similar: most of them are very eloquently written, subtle, and with hidden meanings.  It was very difficult for me to rank the top four novelettes, and I still believe all four of them have a good chance of winning the Hugo award.  On the other hand, I was bitterly disappointed that the last novelette was even nominated.  It was the only one I would not vote for.

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