Book Review – Stranger Tales of the City ed. by Elizabeth Evershed

39331171

Goodreads Synopsis:

The knights hospitaller have just woken to a second life in a City the size of a galaxy. 

Two strangers from a far-distant future are flung together on Resurrection Day. 

A window-seller visits a claustrophobic suburb and finds it full of mystery. 

A Remake gunslinger seeks a new role from the one he was always meant to play… 

In this, the sixth anthology in the City of the Saved series, we meet a host of human and not-so-human characters getting to grips with life in the afterlife: alien adoptees with no previous experience of human cultures; Citizens permanently missing and not merely misplaced; priestesses of long-forgotten religions; posthumans with their own baffling version of the Civil Tongue; a viral strain of humankind that has never known community… 

The City is full of strangers and these are their tales.

Review:

This is the sixth book in the City of the Saved series which is based on the premise that “Everybody has died and woken up together in a huge city”. The short stories all feature different characters and how they deal with their new life. It’s a fantastic setting which gives a lot of freedom to the authors which is definitely shown in this collection where all the stories are very different from each other.

Now, I may be slightly biased here because my partner is one of the authors featured here (his is the story about a window seller in suburbia) however even without his story I still loved this collection. The stories were all so varied and dealt with a variety of themes.

The stories themselves are all linked by a frame tale featuring the Knights Hospitallers which I really enjoyed, and I loved the majority of the tales. Ironically, the one I enjoyed least was all about language (which, for those that know me, is very odd given how much I love studying languages and linguistics).

Despite not having read any of the previous books, I still found this very accessible. The only issue I had was understanding what a ‘remake’ was since they appear in several stories (one focusing heavily on them) but I was able to get enough information from context to understand the story.

I would definitely recommend this collection of short stories to Sci-Fi fans, although I need to point out that it’s not available on Amazon and you have to go straight to the publisher if you want an ebook which seems a bit of a strange marketing decision (and unfortunately means I won’t be buying any other books in the series as I make my purchases using Amazon Giftcards to control my spending on books)

Book Review – Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep ed. by Peter Öberg

25570578

Goodreads Synopsis:

26 short stories from the new wave of Swedish speculative fiction writers.

Forget about cheap furniture, meatballs and crime fiction. Sweden has so much more to offer. Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep contains twenty-six stories from the new generation of Swedish writers of science fiction and the fantastic. Stories ranging from space horror and post-apocalyptic nightmares to tender dramas. Stories with steampunk horses, android uprisings and cheeky goblins. Stories that are action-packed, wise, silly, beautiful, surreal and horrifying.

Review:

So, for those that don’t follow me on Twitter, I recently got back from a holiday to Denmark with a short day-trip to Sweden and so naturally it seemed like the perfect time to try and find some Danish and Swedish SFF to read. Thanks to the fantastic SF in Translation website, I was able to find this gem and it was only 99p on Kindle so I just had to get it. Plus it means I can now cross off Sweden on my Read Around the World challenge! Hurrah!

Given that there are 26 stories in this anthology, it’s to be expected that some would be much better than others but I was pleasantly surprised by the consistently strong quality of all the stories. Indeed, although I liked some more than others they were all fantastic. The range of stories included was also fantastic from one focusing on AI (which lends its name to the title of the collection) to another focusing on interpreting wisdom from an ancient music player (Jump to the Left, Jump to the Right). They were all fantastic and as with any collection, it’s hard to talk about them all without writing thousands of words.

If you have an e-reader and like SFF then I strongly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly cheap (I mean seriously you’re paying less than 4p per story) and is definitely worth it.

Book Review – New Voices of Fantasy ed. by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

35910450

Goodreads Synopsis:

What would you do if a tornado wanted you to be its Valentine? Or if a haunted spacesuit banged on your door? When is the ideal time to turn into a tiger? Would you post a supernatural portal on Craigslist?

In these nineteen stories, the enfants terribles of fantasy have arrived. The New Voices of Fantasy captures some of the fastest-rising talents of the last five years, including Sofia Samatar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Usman T. Malik, Brooke Bolander, E. Lily Yu, Ben Loory, Ursula Vernon, and more. Their tales were hand-picked by the legendary Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and genre expert Jacob Weisman (The Treasury of the Fantastic).

So go ahead and join the Communist revolution of the honeybees. The new kids got your back.

Review:

So my bf bought this book a while ago and was raving about how incredible it was after reading just a few stories and kept recommending it to me (partially because he knows how much I love Selkies and any story containing them but also just because I love Fantasy in general) and I was super lucky to get an ARC from the publisher a few days ago and I just devoured this collection.

It’s always hard to review short story collections, and it’s even harder to review this one because I absolutely adored every single story in it and just wouldn’t know where to start. They are all so creative and fantastic and well written and I’m definitely going to hunt down more work by all these authors! I’d heard of quite a few of the authors already, and indeed had actually already read the short story by Ursula Vernon (which is probably one of my favourites of the collection).

Really, my review for this is simply just “read them” because each story is so different and so magical that you can only experience it by reading. For those that don’t read much Fantasy, it’s also an excellent introduction to some of the authors to keep an eye on that might not be as well known as they deserve. For those that are keen Fantasy readers, you’ve likely also heard of a lot of these authors and these pieces are all fantastic introductions to their work and will definitely leave you wanting more from all of them. The editors did a fantastic job selecting all these stories with the result being an incredible book that is just overflowing with such fascinating and varied stories.

In short, I highly, highly recommend this book and indeed I enjoyed it so much I can see myself re-reading and reviewing some of the individual stories later just so I can keep telling people about how fantastic this collection is.

Book Review – Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction

25831873

Goodreads Synopsis:

The fifteen authors and nine artists in this volume bring us beautiful, speculative stories of disability and mental illness in the future. Teeming with space pirates, battle robots, interstellar travel and genetically engineered creatures, every story and image is a quality, crafted work of science fiction in its own right, as thrilling and fascinating as it is worthy and important. These are stories about people with disabilities in all of their complexity and diversity, that scream with passion and intensity. These are stories that refuse to go gently.

Review:

So this is the third book I’ve read so far for Sci-Fi month over on Twitter but I’ve decided to review it first just because it’s so fantastic. I bought this a while ago on Amazon when I had some money left on a gift card then forgot about it for a while until this month. I’ve been trying to focus on reducing my physical TBR pile for Sci-Fi month (especially as then I can take a photo at the end of them all in a nice stack) but I just had to make an exception for this as it sounded fantastic.

Before we even get to the stories, there is a fantastic introduction which discusses the fact that not only does this attempt to represent a diverse range of disabilities, but it wants to ensure the people portrayed are equally as diverse, acknowledging that a lot of disability awareness focuses on straight white people. I was very impressed with that and glad to know they were making a conscious effort to be as inclusive as possible.

The range of disabilities represented is very interesting ranging from physical to mental, including even discussing how many disabilities are due to culture and so one story is focused on imagining what a future would be like where grief is considered a disability. I won’t say too much about the stories themselves but there is a fantastic range and I really enjoyed them all. It’s hard to pick a favourite since all the characters are brilliant and well portrayed.

Along with short stories, there are also several pieces of artwork. Each piece of artwork is followed by a description of the image for those who are unable to see it, which I was particularly pleased to see in a collection focused on disabilities. Unfortunately, there is not an audiobook version yet but I hope there will be one eventually to make it even more accessible. Even though my sight is fine, there were details mentioned in the descriptions that I hadn’t noticed which helped enrich my enjoyment of the art. My favourite piece of artwork though is definitely the cover, which was one of the reasons I bought the book in the first place.

I highly, highly recommend this collection. It’s incredibly diverse and full of great sci-fi. I’ve already got several friends to buy it just because I’ve been gushing about it so much and if it was possible to gift Kindle books in the UK, I’d definitely have bought it for several more.

Short Story Review – Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang

35395539

Goodreads Synopsis:

Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages

Review:

Before I start reviewing this, I first need to say that this is a short story from tor.com which means that you can read it for free right here.

It’s SciFi month over on Twitter and what better way to get involved that reading some fantastic short fiction. I had some time to spare and so chose this randomly because the cover and the name really appealed to me.

This short story focuses on Xin who is an ansible that can create portals between herself and her partner Ren. However, as mentioned in the blurb, when a dead body comes through there is an investigation and Xin finds herself being drawn into the politics of the station. As it’s a short story, I obviously cannot say too much in regards to plot without spoiling it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story here.

As it’s a short story, we don’t have much space for worldbuilding but the author has managed to do this incredibly well. Their language use is brilliant and they paint a wonderful picture of the world that Xin lives in and the issues facing their colony. One particular use of language that I adore is that the song that Xin sings to create portals with Ren is in Chinese. You don’t need to be able to read Chinese to appreciate the novel, but from the comments on the story it seems that if you, it’s even more enjoyable. I’ve actually just started learning Chinese and so I’ve made it a goal to eventually be able to re-read this and understand the songs. It also really helps reinforce the fact that the characters in this story are clearly not white, although that should have been obvious just through the names.

Xin is our main character and I absolutely adore her. I would happily read many more stories focused on her, such as stories focusing on her time training to be an ansible or focusing on what happens next after this short story. I don’t know if the author has plans to write any more in this world, but I really hope they do because I would love to see more of Xin. One of the other main characters in this is Officer Ouyang Suqing who is a Starmage. She’s brilliant and the relationship between her and Xin is a treat to watch develop. Through them, we learn more about the powers of starmages and ansibles and about the growing rebellion. Xin and Suqing are also both not straight and one of my favourite scenes is where Xin is watching Suqing attempt to flirt with a man to distract him. It was hilarious

I absolutely adored this short story and I would highly encourage everybody to read it because it’s just an absolute delight. Indeed, as soon as I finished reading this I went and bought both of the authors novellas on Amazon as I adored their writing so much. I can’t wait to see what they write next, as they’re now added to my “Must-read” list.

Book Review – Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation

35300655

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is the first anthology to broadly collect solarpunk short fiction, artwork, and poetry. A new genre for the 21st Century, solarpunk is a revolution against despair. Focusing on solutions to environmental disasters, solarpunk envisions a future of green, sustainable energy used by societies that value inclusiveness, cooperation, and personal freedom. 

Edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland, Sunvault focuses on the stories of those inhabiting the crucial moments when great change can be made by people with the right tools; stories of people living during tipping points, and the spaces before and after them; and stories of those who fight to effect change and seek solutions to ecological disruption.

Review:

I’m a huge fan of Solarpunk, I really enjoy the aesthetics of it and so when I saw this anthology I knew I just had to get it. I consider myself very lucky to have received a copy of the ARC and it’s a book that took me a while to get through as I wanted to savour each story.Firstly,

Firstly, this is not just a collection of short stories. Poems and art also feature in this collection and so for that reason I would recommend a physical edition if possible. My Kindle is rather old and in black and white and so I was not able to fully appreciate the artwork although hopefully it’ll look better on newer Kindles. I’m also not a fan of reading poetry on Kindles as I feel the layout of the page is very important and I just prefer having it in physical form.

As this is a collection, I don’t want to discuss any of the pieces in too much detail as I feel that as with any collection, everybody will have different likes and dislikes and so if I focus on what I enjoyed, it might put some people off due to having different tastes. I will say that the stories covered a wide range of scenarios and I adored seeing all the futures that the authors had imagined. One in particular, involved living in shuttles in different layers of the atmosphere, was a setting I particularly enjoyed.

Indeed, I feel that the only complaint I can have about this book is that it has left me with a huge hunger for more Solarpunk stories which I know is going to be difficult to fill. If you know any, I would be more than happy to receive recommendations from you!

Anyway, this is a collection that I highly, highly recommend to anybody who enjoys Sci-Fi or is interested in Solarpunk. If you don’t know what Solarpunk is, then I highly recommend reading up on it because it’s by far one of my favourite genres and leads to some incredibly beautiful artwork.

Book Review – Iraq +100 ed. by Hassan Blasim

32695770

Goodreads Synopsis:

Iraq + 100 poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a century after the disastrous American- and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival? How might the effects of that one intervention reach across a century of repercussions, and shape the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens, or influence its economy, culture, or politics? Might Iraq have finally escaped the cycle of invasion and violence triggered by 2003 and, if so, what would a new, free Iraq look like? 

Covering a range of approaches – from science fiction, to allegory, to magic realism – these stories use the blank canvas of the future to explore the nation’s hopes and fears in equal measure. Along the way a new aesthetic for the ‘Iraqi fantastical’ begins to emerge: thus we meet time-travelling angels, technophobic dictators, talking statues, macabre museum-worlds, even hovering tiger-droids, and all the time buoyed by a dark, inventive humour that, in itself, offers hope.

Review:

First I’d like to thank Macmillan-Tor for the ARC of this book. It had been on my to-read list for a while as it looked perfect for my Read Around the World challenge and so when I saw it was being re-released I jumped at the chance to get an ARC.

This is a collection of short stories all set 100 years in the future and all written by Iraqi authors and translated by a variety of translators. It’s incredibly fascinating to see all the different ideas they have about what Iraq will be like in the future as they are all so different and varied – and I found it amusing that quite a few all ended up with the same ideas for the US.

Because it’s a collection of short stories, it’s naturally hard to discuss too much without spoiling them but I will say that I really enjoyed all the stories in this collection. Some were definitely stronger than others, but they were all excellent and it was very refreshing to read about Iraq from the perspectives of those who live there themselves rather than from a Western perspective.

This book is a perfect choice for those wanting to read more Muslim authors and I’m very pleased to use it as my pick for Iraq on my Around the World challenge. There is also a fantastic introduction to the collection which discusses the literary scene in Iraq which was very interesting.

Book Review – Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed

16034384

Goodreads Synopsis:

Stories to Captivate the Imagination: Welcome to the worlds of Saladin Ahmed
A medieval physician asked to do the impossible. A gun slinging Muslim wizard in the old West. A disgruntled super villain pining for prison reform. A cybernetic soldier who might or might not be receiving messages from God. Prepare yourself to be transported to new and fantastical worlds.

The short stories in this collection have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards. They’ve been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and other anthologies, recorded for numerous podcasts, and translated into several foreign languages. Now they are collected in one place for the first time. Experience for yourself the original voice of one of fantasy’s rising stars!

Review:

I was looking through a huge list of SFF short story collections and when I saw this, I just had to get it. I really enjoyed Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and so knowing he had a short story collection, I needed to read it. Even if I wasn’t already a fan though, that description is incredible. I read it aloud to my partner and he immediately got the book too. Did I mention the best thing about this collection? It’s currently free on Amazon so it’s super accessible to everybody!

As they’re all short stories, I’m not going to discuss them much as I find reviewing collections of short stories difficult as it’s hard to review a short story without spoilers. I will say however that his writing is absolutely delightful and I enjoyed every single story in this collection. It’s very difficult to choose a favourite too as they were all so brilliant. Two of the stories are set in the world of his novel, however even if you haven’t read it you will still be able to enjoy them as stand-alone short stories.

I would highly recommend this collection of short stories to anybody who enjoys SFF, it’s very diverse and presents stories from different viewpoints than we usually get to read in this genre. It’s especially useful for anybody who was interested in the #MuslimShelfSpace challenge on twitter.

Book Review – Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

17864397

Goodreads Synopsis:

Kabu Kabu – unregistered, illegal Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go, but Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations. This debut short story collection by award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor includes notable previously-published short work, a new novella co-written with New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster, and a brief forward by Whoopi Goldberg.

Review:

So, collections of short stories are always a bit difficult to review because there are obviously so many stories you can’t discuss them all (I mean you could, but that would end up with a very long review) and indeed in this I’m not going to be mentioning all the stories because I just wouldn’t have space.

First off though, if you’ve read any of Nnedi’s books before, then you’re going to enjoy this collection. It has short stories set in the worlds of several of her books although none of them contain spoilers so it’s also totally okay to read if you’ve never read any of her work before. There are several Windseeker short stories in here that I adored despite not having read Zahrah the Windseeker.

The collection starts off with a story entitled “The Magical Negro” and it’s fantastic. It’s then followed by the titular story, Kabu-Kabu which again I adored. Having started off so strong, I was apprehensive about the rest of the collection but it just kept amazing me. Usually in a collection of short stories there will be a few you adore and a few you’re indifferent towards (or even dislike) but I adored every single story in this collection. I can’t even pick my favourites as they are all so fantastic. I must however give special mention to Asunder due to the fact it’s a love story that I adored as I’m not a huge fan of love stories but this one, this one is so great and powerful.

Nnedi’s writing, like in all her books, is fantastic. It’s descriptive and magical and you don’t want to stop reading until you finish. Every book of hers I read makes me more determined to read the rest of her work because I enjoy reading her writing so much. Her ideas are fantastic, I adore her characters and all the stories are just such a joy to read.

I highly recommend this collection of short stories to everybody, as they would serve as an excellent introduction to her writing and they’re just a joy to read. I had to force myself to stop several times just so that I could properly enjoy each story instead of rushing through. This is also the first of my Fantasy Bingo challenges I’ve completed which is “A collection of short stories”.

Book Review – The Djinn Falls in Love & other stories

30753517

Goodreads Synopsis:

A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.

Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

With stories from: Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, Helene Wecker, Amal El-Mohtar, Catherine King, Claire North,  E.J. Swift, Hermes (trans. Robin Moger), Jamal Mahjoub, James Smythe, J.Y. Yang, Kamila Shamsie, Kirsty Logan, K.J. Parker, Kuzhali Manickavel, Maria Dahvana Headley, Monica Byrne, Saad Hossein, Sami Shah, Sophia Al-Maria and Usman Malik.

Review:

I received this from NetGalley and I was so excited as I’d heard of quite a few of the authors in this book and I loved the idea of reading a collection of short stories based on the Djinn.

Because it’s a collection of short stories, it’s difficult to discuss too much as they were all so different in such brilliant ways. One thing that struck me though was that I constantly kept adoring each and every story. There were some that were weaker than other, but there wasn’t a single story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy and all the interpretations of Djinn were fantastic. They took place in diverse settings, with diverse characters and were just a delight to read. I had to stop myself from rushing through the book so that I could stop and savour each story.

I would definitely recommend this collection of short stories as they were all fantastic and have given me a bunch of new authors to look up!