Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. ★★★
I picked up this YA science fiction because I heard it had asexual representation. That turned out to be the only memorable thing about it.
Isaak is a teenage boy living on a future Mars colony. Then he sees a strange arch formation that almost exactly matches the depiction on an ancient coin belonging to his missing father. But how is that possible? There’s no such thing as ancient Martian civilization… right?
Final Girls by Mira Grant. ★★★
I’ve read some of this author’s work under the name Seanan McGuire, but I’d never read one of the stories she wrote as Mira Grant. I had very little idea of what to expect going into Final Girls. I knew that it involved a virtual reality program being used for therapy, that it focused on sisterly bond between two women, and that it may involve horror aspects. All of those were true, but it also turned out to be a novella. So I read this one a lot quicker than I expected!
Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented the method and technology for using virtual reality for therapy. To heal her clients of old wounds, she’ll send them through a virtual reality horror simulation, where they’ll feel completely immersed in the narrative. This therapy is usually used to rebuild strained family bonds, but she’s giving journalist Esther Hoffman an exclusive look at her techniques, which include Esther taking a trip via Dr. Webb’s proprietary VR tech. Esther has built her career debunking fraudulent therapy techniques, and she just can’t wait to disprove Dr. Webb. However, as she and Dr. Webb undertake a VR journey, events in the outside world influence them in ways they could never have expected.
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 Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie. ★★★★
The Edge of the Abyss is the high octane sequel to the fabulous The Abyss Surrounds Us. Bad news? You have to read the books in order. So if you aren’t familiar with The Abyss Surrounds Us, grab yourself a copy before diving into The Edge of the Abyss. And do pick up a copy, particularly if sea monsters, pirates and f/f romance sound at all up your alley.
Also, spoilers will follow for The Abyss Surrounds Us. So beware!
The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★
This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.
This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.
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.
The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.