Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker. ★★★★
Phantom Pains is the sequel to Mishell Baker’s phenomenal debut, Borderline, which dealt with issues of disability and mental health as well as being a really fun urban fantasy novel. While it would be possible to read Phantom Pains on its own, I recommend reading the books in order. Spoilers for Borderline will be included in the rest of this review.
Fourth months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project to work for Inaya West and her new studio. She’s finally gotten around to trying to clean up magical residue from Stage 13 with her old boss Caryl, when she sees the ghost of Teo. Except, ghosts don’t exist and that shouldn’t be possible. To make matters worse, a Project agent is murdered and Caryl is accused. If she wants to save Caryl, Millie will have to take it upon herself to investigate.
A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows. ★★★★
A Tyranny of Queens is the sequel to the portal fantasy novel, An Accident of Stars, and I’m happy to report that I liked it even more than the first book! If queer feminist fantasy sounds at all your thing, I suggest you start reading this series. This is a series that should really be read in order – A Tyranny of Queens picks up almost directly from where An Accident of Stars left off. If you haven’t read the first book, I doubt you’d be able to make sense of this one. Forewarning, this review may contain spoilers for the first book.
This Other World by A.C. Buchanan. ★★★★
What a lovely science fiction novella! It’s a quiet story, and a short read (I read it in under an hour). Because of that, this review will be a bit shorter than normal.
Vonika’s an autistic engineer who chose to immigrate to an alien planet. She has built a career and life for herself there, complete with a marriage to an alien woman. In Temia, older citizens go through a process where they transition away from individuality and towards a group consciousness. Vonika is still deciding whether or not she’s willing to go through the process when she begins to get flashes of memories that don’t belong to her… At the same time, Temia is on the brink of war with a neighboring country, so Vonika’s life may be changing in more ways than one.
This Other World is intimately focused on Vonika’s life. While she is effected by larger events and affects them in turn, This Other World is no the sort of story that has a large scope or a heavy focus on action. It’s the sort of book I’d imagine would be perfect for curling up with a cup of tea on a cold day.
Vonika never felt like she fit in on Earth, and she still doesn’t really fit in in Temia. But as one of the only humans in the nation, her differences are presumed to be a feature common to her species and she finds herself more readily accepted. I can’t speak as to how her autism is portrayed, but I’ll note that this is own voices – the author is autistic as well.
I suggest This Other World for anyone looking for charming sci-fi novella with a bit of a mystery element.
The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★1/2
In Chameleon Moon, RoAnna Sylver introduced the dystopic city of Patrol, who’s citizens lived a precarious life above eternally blazing fire, governed by the nefarious Eye in the Sky. Oh, and most of these citizens also had some form of superpower – the reason they were trapped within Patrol.
In this sequel, Slyver takes us outside the city of Patrol. But as it turns out, the world beyond isn’t all sunshine and happiness. A poisonous wasteland named Tartarus has infected much of America with noxious fumes and eerie ghosts. Three teenagers will have to brave this danger zone to bring hope to Patrol.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. ★★★★
I loved Chameleon Moon so much, and I think it would hold a strong appeal for fans of Welcome to Night Vale.
Patrol is a true dystopian – a city where the sky is chocked with smoke and ash and the ground is just one step away from crumbling into the fires below. And above everything the helicopters of Eye in the Sky survey the super powered citizens, making sure no one can escape. But within this hellhole, the citizens of Patrol have found love, families, and the will to resist. Among them is Evelyn Calliope, a singer with a sonic voice who is the heroine that Patrol needs.
After Atlas by Emma Newman. ★★★★
After Atlas is a novel set in the same universe as Newman’s stellar science fiction novel, Planetfall. However, the two books are completely distinct and can be read independently. In fact, After Atlas is actually a mystery novel in addition to a science fiction story.
After Atlas presents a very dark vision of the future. Democracy has failed, and the world is ruled by hybrid government/corporations – govcorps. Carlos Moreno, who’s mother left aboard the spaceship Atlas, had the misfortune of being rounded up and sold as a debt slave. For the next thirty years, he’ll belong to the Ministry of Justice, where he works as a detective. But a new case threatens the fragile boundaries he’s constructed to preserve his mental state. His uncle, Alejandro Casales, and leader of a religious cult has been found dead in a hotel room, and Carlos will be forced to examine his past.
Borderline by Mishell Baker. ★★★★
Trigger warning: self harm
Borderline is one of the best urban fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. Having been reading urban fantasy for a while, certain elements feel familiar. The protagonist is usually snarky, and if female, conventionally attractive and probably wears black leather. The protagonist is likely to be some sort of detective, and there’s a mystery to be solved.
Mishell Baker’s Borderline both uses genre conventions and yet is unlike almost other urban fantasy novels out there. There’s fey, which are probably third most popular UF creatures after vampires and werewolves. There’s a mystery to be solved. The heroine can be snarky at times. However, it is this very heroine who makes the book so distinct.