“The Summer Wives,” by Beatriz Williams
2018 Publication , 3 star , female author , novel / July 27, 2018

“The Summer Wives,” by Beatriz Williams, is the story of new money, old money, and no money colliding on an island in the north east coast, told primarily from the point of view of the wealthy (by marrying into it) Miranda. As she spends her first summer on Winthrop Island, among people who’ve been summering their for generations and among the people who live there year round, she’s swept up in the wake of her dramatic new step-sister Isobel. In the few short months she’s there, Miranda gets caught up in a secret of the island, and in the arms of a handsome fisherman/light house keeper. I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. The novel bounces around in time a bit to build a story around specific characters and maintain a sense of mystery. The “mystery” is blatantly obvious to anyone who’s picked up a book before, leaving the reader to do a bit of math to figure out exactly how old people are at different points in the story. That said, the descriptions of the island, the residents (mostly part time but a few full time), and the drinking culture of the era(s) are…

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito, is a fast paced thriller about a woman with Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). It’s an aggressively feminist book that looks at the many different ways rape culture is the status quo, enforced both actively and passively by both men and women. There’s also arson. I should note that I received this book as part of a GoodReads give away in exchange for my honest opinion. Every time I run into a book featuring Disassociative Identity Disorder, my hackles go up. It’s a flashy, vilified mental disorder often used cheaply and meanly to indicate someone is a villain or just flat out CRAZY!!!!!!!!!. It’s a cliche that further stigmatizes a very real mental illness that affects marginalized people. Esposito seems to have done her homework, however, and her protagonist Alice Leinenger is a person and a character with attributes outside of “just” living with DID. Alice is married to a lawyer and is a stay at home parent (with a nanny) to two young kids. They live in a condo that is impossibly expensive and have more money than I can realistically comprehend. She and her friends casually…

“Rivers of London,” by Ben Aaronovitch
3 star , novel / May 25, 2018

“Rivers of London,” by Ben Aaronovitch, has been described as adult-Harry-Potter unexpectedly tumbles into Terry Pratchet’s world, a description that usually means that a book is… really, aggressively bad but convinced it’s clever. This is a book that manages to carry it off, though. Young Peter Grant is a probationary constable eager to be promoted to an exciting department investigating murders or something. To his dismay, he’s told that he’s destined for a desk job instead. That is… until an Inspector named Nightingale hears he’s waiting around an abandoned plaza for a ghost and decides to take Grant under his wing. It turns out that ghosts exist, magic exists, vampires exist, and more. And Grant, as it happens, has the knack for seeing into this world and interacting with it. “Rivers of London” covers one of my favorite tropes: hidden rivers. Chicago has a river whose flow was reversed, so it has two currents that run in opposite directions. London has several rivers that were encased in brick, turned into sewers. It has rivers that bubble up out of nowhere, rivers that start out as fresh water and end up as salt. And in a world jammed with ghosts and…

“Last Shot” by DJ Older
2018 Publication , 3 star , novel / May 16, 2018

“Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel” by Daniel José Older, is an interesting look Han Solo’s past as well as a lovely bridge between the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens.” Why does he leave Leia and Ben? Why does he go off on his own? Why is he so unstable? Lando Calrissian gets examined as well. What happens when a ladies man and inveterate gambler starts growing up, or at least getting older? The book explores this against the back drop of an exciting story involving space battles and mysterious objects and gang cartels and a droid uprising, but that’s not the main focus of the book. The main focus of the book is on Solo and Calrissian being vulnerable and talking about their problems with each other. It’s not all conversations all the time, but their growth is very evident in the pages of the book, and they hash stuff out with each other a few times. I know. I didn’t expect that from a Star Wars novel, either. Not even with all the fan cannon (fannon!) about Poe Dameron and Finn hanging out and sharing jackets and hugging all the time. THAT is a book I…

“Sucks (to be you)” by Katherine Duckett

“Sucks (to be you),” by Katherine Duckett, appears in the May/June 2018 issue of “Uncanny Magazine” and is an interesting take on succubi. There are a lot of stories about Succubi, of course, and their brothers called Incubi. The oldest stories focus on the horror aspect of them. They come in the night! They make you DO THINGS! They steal your VITAL ESSENCE and/or GET YOU PREGNANT!!! More recent stories spin the whole sex thing into a positive and erotic thing, almost as through the Succubi themselves are writing them. Aren’t they sexy? Don’t you want them? “Sucks (to be you)” takes a slightly different view: an emotional one. Ducketts Succubi, at least the protagonist of her story, don’t just need sex. They need an emotional connection. What I want—what most of us want—is far simpler, and gender is immaterial in its pursuit. All I want is a little space in your head. A siphon, giving me a bit of you, ever-flowing: that bit of you that can’t seem to stop thinking about me. As sexual as these Succubi are, they’re also emotional. While some view the effort of getting this attention as a chore, the way that some humans…

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler, is from the 63th issue of The Dark magazine. This short story takes us to Red Bay in New Foundland, a settlement of Basque and Portuguese whalers, and the things that come up out of the sea. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night; I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosomed night! “…sea half-held by the night” is a quote from “Leaves of Grass,” a famed collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The volume of poetry, containing anywhere from 12-400 poems depending on its publication date, emphasizes the body and physical world, as opposed to spiritual, and nature and human kind’s place in it. It’s a lovely bit of poetry, it’s a lovely line, and it’s a fitting title for a story about humans and whales and death. The story is told from the point of view of Tota, a young woman married to a whaler. She works with the whales as well, harvesting spermaceti, the wax-life stuff found in a specialized organ of a sperm whale’s head. It was used in candles and lamps and to make medicines. It’s…

“Worth her Weight in Gold” by Sarah Gailey
2018 Publication , 3 star , female author , Tor / April 26, 2018

“Worth Her Weight in Gold,” by Sarah Gailey, is about a man and his hippo. Specifically it’s about Winslow Remington Houndstooth and his hippo, Ruby, who is his faithful companion and steed and who just isn’t cooperating when it’s time to high tail it outta there after one of his bloody but lucrative heists. And how do you MAKE a hippo do something that hippo doesn’t want to do? Hippos are huge, fast, and have big deadly teeth and also horns. Hippos can mess you up. Especially when they’re in pain. Which Ruby is. It’s a very short story, more a character piece than anything, about the love a man can have for his hippo and the price he’s willing to pay for his health. It’s also, a little bit, about kintsugi. But mostly it’s about love. I have a feeling that true enjoyment of this story requires having read Gailey’s novels “River of Teeth” and “Taste of Marrow.” This short story is a nice appetizer for them, leaving me wanting more.I was able to enjoy the story without having read the novels, which is always a plus. Leave a comment if you HAVE read the novels. What’d you think?…

“From a Certain Point of View,” Anthology
2017 Publication , 3 star , anthology / April 18, 2018

“From a Certain Point of View” is a Star Wars anthology covering the experiences of characters who are predominantly minor (but also Yoda is in there, is he really a minor character?). The title, of course, riffs on Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “from a certain point of view” line, the one that tries to spackle deep meaning over George Lucas’ make-it-up-fast writing. Vader as Luke’s (and Leia’s) father, of course, was a twist ending that he didn’t think of during the first movie. Kenobi is, narratively, an unreliable witness. Most people are. “From a Certain Point of View” shows us a bunch of other witnesses, to various things, that may or may not be reliable. Like most anthologies, it’s a little uneven. The good stories were very good, though. A few standouts include: “The Sith of Datawork” by Ken Liu, which explains why the escape pod containing the Death Star Plans was jettisoned without being immediately recalled, and goes into institutional paperwork and how it can really gum up an operation. It’s a good, fun story that digs into what really makes the Empire move: data and forms and paperwork, filled out in triplicate. “Stories in the Sand,” by Griffin McElroy, which…

“Where Would You Be Now” by Carrie Vaughn

“Where Would You Be Now,” by Carrie Vaughn, is a post-apocolyptic story about a group of medical professionals and amateurs who travel around patching people up and delivering babies while also defending their base of operations and looking for food and supplies. It’s a prequel to Vaughn’s novel “Bannerless.” “Where Would You Be Now” depicts what feels like a pretty accurate post-apocolyptic world. There’s a lot of filthy people banding together, some are opportunists looking to take advantage of others by any (violent) means necessary, there isn’t a lot of food, it’s hard to grow food, people are dying in child birth, and babies don’t tend to live very long because they starve. People also spend time both reminiscing (wow, I sure miss golfing on nicely manicured greens), and regretting (if only things hadn’t gone to hell, I’d be doing X, Y, or Z. What would YOU be doing?). It’s implied that a lot of people were killed (one guy’s concerned with “repopulating the earth”) but there’s enough people to strip stores bare of canned goods and various products. The clinic that the protagonist, Kath, and her partners live and work out of is protected by fences and barbed wire…

Deep Sea Fish by Chi Hui

“Deep Sea Fish,” by Chi Hui (translated by Brian Bies) is a novelet from the March/April 2018 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. At its core, it’s a story about what it means to be human, and what it means to reach for the stars. Many of us SFF nerds grew up familiar with “The Martian Chronicles;” stories about the inhabitants of other planets interacting with, or being discovered long dead by, humans are a staple of SFF. “Deep Sea Fish” features a galaxy spanning civilization (not carbon based!) that has flourished on other planets and then vanished. Human archeologists studying ancient alien artifacts and remains are absolutely a strongly present theme in this genre, and in “Deep Sea Fish” there’s a group that’s moving quickly to study an area of interest on Titan before a company comes in to terraform the area, and melt it all… as opposed to coming in to build a new high way or condo and bulldozing it all.. The science in this novelet is a little bit shaky, one of the things where you just have to nod and enjoy the substance of the story and the themes it contains. What…