Richard Chwedyk sold his first story in 1990, won a Nebula in 2002, and has been active in the field for the past thirty-two years.
BENDING, BLENDING, AND NEVERENDING
by Mur Lafferty
Mallory Viridian, P.I., has moved to a self-aware, alien space station because she happens to be too good at her job of solving murders. Her problem is the collateral damage that comes with her success: people close to her keep getting killed. She sees it as a jinx which she might only beat by living in an alien environment. But more humans arrive at the station, and more murders occur. What’s a private eye to do?
by Annalee Newitz
I’ve been fascinated with the notion of terraforming since I first encountered it as a very young SF reader. Newitz seems to share that fascination at a number of levels: the reasons for doing it, the practical approaches to accomplishing such a task, and the questions more recently bounced around concerning the ethical nature of terraforming: if we make a planet more “earthlike,” do we mess with the natural ecology of the planet we propose to transform? Or even the natural ecology of space itself? We might declare a proposed planet lifeless or barren, but is it? By what standards do we measure the suitability of a planet to be terraformed? There is a great quote from a made-up environmental rescue team handbook used as an epigram: “Rivers might turn out to be people. Don’t make any assumptions.”
And these questions are very much at the heart of the novel, explored mostly from the perspective of Newitz’s protagonist, Destry. Her family has overseen the terraforming of the planet Sask-E for generations, and the responsibility has now fallen upon her. At a crucial moment, it is discovered that a volcano contains more than the usual exogeological “stuff”: a whole city—a populated city, too.
The Daughter of Dr. Moreau
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I will not pretend that I “understand” this miraculous novel—not yet at least. But I may pay it what Vladimir Nabokov considered the highest compliment any reader can give any novel: I was—am—enchanted by it.
In no way is it a sequel or follow-up or updating, or even a retelling, of that darkest of H. G. Wells’s scientific fables, The Island of Dr. Moreau. The skeleton of the novel is there, moved to a different place and time. An eccentric scientist is conducting research on an estate in the secluded jungles, aided by an overseer named Montgomery Laughton. Moreau’s daughter, Carlota, also lives there. Moreau thinks the isolation is good for her nerves, though the evidence argues otherwise. Along with some servants and a couple of occasional visitors, the only other occupants of the estate are the “hybrids.”
by P. C. Hodgell
And in her latest novel, Deathless Gods, you can find yourself recognizing contemporary concerns and attitudes in the midst of a world that otherwise seems so far away from our own, yet does so without conceding to giving characters contemporary idioms or attitudes.
The plot, as usual, is too dense to be summarized here with any justice, but be assured that Hodgell’s storytelling skills will keep you from becoming lost.
by Lois McMaster Bujold
This book, however, seems a good place to start for uninitiated fantasy readers (science fiction readers will need to look elsewhere). Besides, it’s not a novel, but three novellas, and they’re not tied together like the old “fixups” of days of yore. I love novellas, and these especially.
This is the third collection (if I’m counting correctly) devoted to the sorcerer Learned Penric and his temple demon Desdemona. Penric may be no Miles Vorkosigan (but then who is?) but he is an affable, compelling, and fully engaging character. He doesn’t hold a candle to Desdemona, though. The interplay between them would make enjoyable reading enough, but Bujold has engineered these three novellas with more than requisite thrills and wit. Each novella builds on the previous one to expand upon our understanding and appreciation of “Pen and Des” and their world. I can only imagine new readers becoming thoroughly captivated with her storytelling here.
Gunfight on Europa Station
edited by David Boop
November 2022 (mass market; fp November 2021)
David Boop has gathered some fine work here. Funny, exciting, suspenseful, meditative—a great variety of styles and content. All good stuff. I’m especially fond of Boop’s own contribution, “Last Stand at Europa Station A,” and the stories by Elizabeth Moon, Jane Lindskold, Alan Dean Foster, Martin L. Shoemaker, and Alex Shvartsman. Also of note, as a special favorite, is the collaboration by Cat Rambo and J. R. Martin, “Riders of the Endless Void.”
There’s something here for everyone.
Except my mom.
Sword and Planet
edited by Christopher Ruocchio
September 2022 (mass market; first printing December 2021)
I started teaching a science fiction litf class last fall. Better late than never. One of the things I’ve discovered is that a significant contingent of my students believe that the term “science fiction” is indistinguishable, nay synonymous, with “space opera.” It has been my goal all term to disabuse them of this erroneous simplification.
However, if they’re going to read space opera, or a brand of it that resembles heroic fantasy with warp drives, and a copy of the David Hartwell- Kathryn Cramer-edited The Space Opera Renaissance isn’t handy, they can do worse than to dig into this compact and absorbing collection of original stories.
Yes, they are mashups of science and magic, but more often than not the science comes out on top, and in a satisfying (and often witty) way.
The Dabare Snake Launcher
by Joelle Presby
Joelle Presby’s novel is about the construction and initial operation of the first space elevator, and it’s located in west Africa. “Dabarre,” we are told at the outset, is a Fulani term that means a piece of machinery fashioned from repurposed parts that either works perfectly—or not at all. So, some sense of the “stakes” is pretty clear as well. The voice and structure of the novel are fairly traditional, but it has a great cast of characters and is an exciting story, filled with all the wit and neat ideas we love to find in good science fiction. This novel left me feeling very optimistic. If not for the planet, then for the form of literature we love so much.
Copyright © 2022 by Richard Chwedyk.
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