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  • 16/02/2024 08:53 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Mores Voices from the Radium Age cover

    Mores Voices from the Radium Age edited and introduced by Joshua Glenn

    (MIT Press, 2023)

    Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

    Joshua Glenn’s concept of the “Radium Age”—that period (roughly the first three decades of the twentieth century) before sf’s post-1935 “Golden Age”, points away from what Hugo Gernsback was pointing to when he identified, in 1926, the “new” wave of writing he dubbed “scientifiction”—towards a wider field. Glenn’s alternative, “proto-sf” is, for me, less happy, because it implies even more of a sweeping-up of material which we can now identify as sf rather than the kind of iconic wonder-story such as Gulliver’s Travels, or post-Copernican moon-voyages, which later writers drew upon. Perhaps it is safer to simply take the nine stories here, published between 1901, and 1926 and ask what they bring to us.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 14/02/2024 19:04 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Desert Creatures cover

    Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister

    (Titan, 2023)

    Reviewed by Niall Harrison

    It’s a little unfortunate for Kay Chronister that in between last year’s US edition of Desert Creatures and this year’s UK edition a lot of people will have watched the TV adaptation of The Last of Us, and will as a result have in their minds vivid imagery of a father-daughter team, traversing wilderness and confronted with human bodies that have been transformed by other biology, to compare with this:

    They came suddenly to a forest of cactus arms wrapped around each other: thin and sinewy and curling from the trunk of a limbless human form in a dust-crusted denim shirt. Rising from the arms were red flowers with wide yellow stamens […] Even from a distance the smell of the vegetation was bright, rusty, palpable […]

    “Never seen one still rooted,” he murmured.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 09/02/2024 13:30 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lessons in Birdwatching cover

    Lessons in Birdwatching by Honey Watson

    (Angry Robot, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    Billed as ‘darkly comic’, this novel of political intrigue, magic and murder is certainly dark, with bloody chunks of body horror scattered liberally throughout but I have to admit, I found it hard to spot the comedic elements. Set on Apech, a planet whose leaders aspire to union with the Crysthian Empire, it features as its central protagonists five young emissaries of the empire, representing its four symbiotic factions, ‘Red’, ‘Military’, ‘Green’ and ‘Ethicist’, each of which has its own imperial figurehead. ‘It works’ is all we are told about the functional arrangements. Bored and dissolute, serving their time in this backwater before—they hope—entering the highest levels of the empire’s civil service, the five suddenly find themselves plunged into a violent maelstrom of conspiracy and insurrection after one of Apech’s leaders is brutally slaughtered, her body displayed alongside what could be an anti-Crysthian slogan. Inexperienced and woefully unprepared, four of the five flounder but not Wilhelmina Ming, in line to be the next Ambassador and already planet-side when the others arrive. Following her own agenda, her actions threaten to plunge not just Apech but Crysth itself into deadly chaos.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 07/02/2024 19:05 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The First Olympians cover

    The First Olympians by Graeme Falco

    (Independently published, 2022)

    Reviewed by John Dodd

    Gordon is a nine-year-old who has just begun to find his way in the underground mining colony. As he comes of age, he’s assigned a position in the workforce, only to find that the robotic overseers of his world are looking for his mother for crimes against the state.

    And this is just the beginning.

    Older and wiser by far, having lived under the yoke of the oppressive robots all her life, Dalrene has been building towards a revolution with her husband Mickey. The time is now, the place is here. Except the place isn’t what they thought it once was, as Gordon finds when his first act in the revolution finds him isolated from everyone else, in a place that was thought to only exist in myth and legend.

    The Surface…

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 05/02/2024 19:09 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Conquest cover

    Conquest by Nina Allan

    (Riverrun, 2023)

    Reviewed by Nick Hubble

    On a panel, ‘Thirty-four Years, and An Interim Survey’, at this year’s Eastercon, Nina Allan said that, while she used to consider herself as belonging to the post-New-Wave alongside writers such as M. John Harrison, since living in Scotland she has found herself moving beyond that British anti-novel tradition and writing in a more Scottish speculative style. This is not entirely surprising as her work often displays a strong sense of place. For example, The Race, first published back in 2014, was almost uncanny in its evocation of a bleached-out south-coast Englishness (sections of the novel being set in Hastings), whereas the Scottish-set The Good Neighbours (2021) feels simultaneously softer-edged but with a deeper incursion into fantasy. While the setting of Conquest moves between England, Scotland and France, allowing it to combine perspectives, it feels by the end that reality has been totally subsumed within the fantastic. I would be tempted to describe it as a changeling story, if it wasn’t so obviously also an alien invasion novel, but perhaps it might be both.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 02/02/2024 11:07 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Suborbital 7 cover

    Suborbital 7 by John Shirley

    (Titan, 2023)

    Reviewed by Dave M. Roberts

    Three scientists have been kidnapped by a shadowy terrorist organisation called Thieves in Law. Not only that, they have been kidnapped not for their ability to secure a sizeable ransom, but for their knowledge. Obviously, a rescue mission is required, and in a not at all over the top move, a crew from a suborbital vehicle, the titular Suborbital 7, is sent under the command of Lieutenant Art Burkett. Art is briefly portrayed as homely man, wondering if he can move away from the dangers of his job, his wife is considering her position as a faithful wife to a US ranger and never knowing if he’s going to be coming home after a mission. The back story really contributes little to the story, apart from an attempt to give at least one of the characters some sort of rounded personality, something that is notably lacking from pretty much all the others. However, this is not a novel concerned with character development, this is an all-out action thriller, and so the characters backstory is really little more than set dressing.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 31/01/2024 16:47 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tomorrow’s Parties cover

    Tomorrow’s Parties: Life in the Anthropocene edited by Jonathan Strahan

    (The MIT Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven

    If these are Tomorrow’s Parties, then those of you who (like me) have largely given up on parties will find your decision validated. If this life in the Anthropocene, as veteran editor Jonathan Strahan’s pitch would have it, then we can safely say that, for these authors at least, the Old SF cliché—a future that’s in most respects better than the present—is the deadest letter of the lot.

    That’s not a bad thing, to be clear—at least not for me, as someone who has watched from the sidelines while Alexandra Rowland’s “hopepunk” concept got hollowed out and filled with something which seems more often consolatory than hopeful. But in the name of expectation management as much as content warnings, wow, does this book end on a bummer: while it does at least offer the prospect of unexpected human companionship and solidarity in a world that is literally trying to kill you—a very hopepunk vibe, at least as I understand it—James Bradley’s closing story “After the Storm” is pretty bleak, and I wish I hadn’t read it just before lights-out. That said, it is one of the best stories in the book, and not only for its refusal to offer any of the easy endings to its protagonist (or, by extension, to us).

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 29/01/2024 16:48 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A Market of Dreams and Destiny cover

    A Market of Dreams and Destiny by Trip Galey

    (Titan Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    These days Covent Garden is a well-known tourist destination, famous for its craft market, buskers, bars and restaurants. A hundred and fifty years ago it had a much seedier reputation, subsequently leavened somewhat in the popular imagination by Shaw’s flower-seller, Eliza Doolittle. And it is around this time that Galey’s rich and engaging fantasy novel is set, albeit in a very different London than that of Shaw or Dickens. This is the metropolis that was shaped by a treaty signed between two powerful queens: Elizabeth I and Tatiana, the Faery monarch. And so, underneath Covent Garden Market lies another, the ‘Untermarkt’, where dreams and desires, power and abilities are for sale, all for the right price of course, where that may not be measured in pounds, shillings or pence. Ducking and diving through this goblin market on a daily basis is Deri (Welsh for ‘oak’), the indentured servant of Maurlocke, a renowned and powerful merchant whose grip on Deri’s activities is firm, occasionally brutal but not so tight that the lad can’t find ways to make a little for himself on the side, with the aim of buying out of his contract in a year or two. That aim suddenly appears much, much closer when Deri is faced with an opportunity he really can’t turn down: the chance to acquire the destiny of a Crown Princess.

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    Review from BSFA Review 22 - Download your copy here.

  • 26/01/2024 09:36 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Trees Grew Because I Bled There cover

    The Trees Grew Because I Bled There: Collected Stories by Eric LaRocca

    (Titan Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Steven French

    Eric LaRocca is the author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke which ‘went viral’ and garnered considerable praise. This follow-up volume brings together eight disturbing short stories, several of them containing elements of body-horror.

    All are about relationships, in one form or another and are also straightforward narrations, except for one—‘The Strange Thing We Become’, presented as a series of forum posts that relay the decline of the author’s partner, Evie, following her cancer diagnosis. As Evie retreats to the attic, at first to meditate, then to self-mummify, an atmosphere of paranoia and desperation builds up, which breaks in an ending that is not so much horrific, as just very weird.

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.

  • 22/01/2024 17:13 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Brian W. Aldiss cover

    Brian W. Aldiss by Paul Kincaid

    (University of Illinois Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Dev Agarwal

    Neither Brian Aldiss nor Paul Kincaid needs any introduction here. These two titanic forces don’t collide so much as combine in critical symbiosis in Kincaid’s analysis of Aldiss’s work, Brian W. Aldiss (2022).

    Aldiss was a SFWA Grand Master (in 1999) and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2004. He won the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the Hugo twice. As part of the BSFA’s accepted lore, at one time Brian Aldiss held membership 01 in the Association, so it’s fitting that Kincaid, a voice so central to both science fiction and to the BSFA, should write this key appraisal.

    Aldiss (1925 to 2017) had a writing career spanning sixty years and is famed for a range of his works. Mentioning them runs the risk of leaving seminal works out, but obvious highlights include Hothouse (1962), Frankenstein Unbound (1973), The Malacia Tapestry (1976), Brothers of the Head (1977), The Helliconia Trilogy (1982 onwards), and his own critical appraisal of our genre, Billion and Trillion Year Spree (1973 and 1986 respectively).

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    Review from BSFA Review 21 - Download your copy here.


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