Close this search box.

Review Archive

Pirate Utopia – Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling’s Pirate Utopia is a delightful and odd read. It is a fine work of alternate history focused on a particularly odd time in a little-known city in Europe after the Great War. Because the story of Fiume is so obscure (or, at least was completely unknown to me prior to reading Pirate Utopia), it reads more like historical fantasy than alternate history, and had me pausing regularly to look up people and places I’d never heard of before. The Free State of Fiume (which is now Rijeka, in Croatia) was an incredible experiment, a strange city-state on the Adriatic run by artists and revolutionaries who were looking toward the future. From the ooze that was the meeting of minds and cultures, drugs and uncertainty, came ideas of socialism, fascism, and anarcho-syndicalism (wherein workers form syndicates in which they control their industrial manufactories; power of the collective in influencing

Read More »

Summerlong – Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle is best known for writing The Last Unicorn, which I haven’t read but heard of time and again as childhood-defining. For what it’s worth, I tried watching the animated feature but was vetoed by the other denizens of my household. I shall try another time, and crack open the copy of The Last Unicorn currently sitting on my shelf in due time. Knowing only about Unicorn was insufficient preparation for reading Beagle’s recent novel, Summerlong, published by Tachyon Publications in September of last year. I made assumptions about what Summerlong would be based on nothing, and that is a huge disservice to what is an extraordinary novel. Summerlong is on the outer fringes of fantasy, more a story of modern slipstream fiction like something by Haruki Murakami. It’s the kind of book where the boundaries of reality slowly erode and the characters’ realities unravel in consonance with

Read More »

Falling in Love with Hominids – Nalo Hopkinson

I’ve been fortunate, over the last year or so, to have had my horizons expanded as a reader. For a while, my bread and butter were long-form fantasy epics, or space operas dealing with political games and good-versus-evil as a central theme. Don’t get me wrong; I love those books still, and they can get plenty “deep” to satisfy any curious soul. But the more I read short fiction and speculative fiction like Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids (published by Tachyon), the more convinced I feel of the power of science fiction and fantasy to tell deeply human stories with the capacity to elicit change. The term “visionary fiction,” introduced by the editors of Octavia’s Brood, has stuck with me, and it’s appropriate that I followed up that collection with the spectacular fiction of Nalo Hopkinson. It shares many of the visionary qualities of the stories in Octavia’s

Read More »

Central Station – Lavie Tidhar

I thought it would be difficult to find a book at good as Hannu Rajaniemi’s Collected Fiction this year, but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, also published by Tachyon, has overtaken it for the top spot in my list this year. By a tiny margin. For me, Central Station was more than a good—or even great—book. It was an important book, for several reasons. The first is that it is some advanced science fiction that breaks through a number of barriers in the genre, which I’ll dig into below. The second is that it was written by an Israeli author and takes place in Tel Aviv. Representation in speculative fiction has been a hot topic for the last few years, and I’ve been rather appalled by the backlash in some areas of the community at the idea of  diversity in sci-fi and fantasy. I love reading fiction precisely because of the extraordinary opportunity

Read More »

Collected Fiction – Hannu Rajaniemi

  There’s just something about Scandinavia, I guess. Tachyon published a collection Finnish Author Hannu Rajaniemi’s short stories last year, and while (I believe) it is sold out everywhere, it’s well worth finding a used copy so that you can experience what it might’ve been like if Knausgaard wrote science fiction. While Rajaniemi isn’t quite as good as Knausgaard (is anyone?) he is extraordinarily good, and often employs similar style in his short fiction. Most of the pieces in the collection approach scifi from dystopian angles, and while they are occasionally superficial in a way—the end-game effects of data-hungry social media, for instance-they are nonetheless effective. Raja noemi builds worlds both believable and un-, equally compelling in their frightening proximity to things as they are now and in their far-flung and wild postulations. Rajaniemi has a way of describing even the most spectacular visions with eloquent simplicity, such that his

Read More »

Slow Bullets – Alastair Reynolds

When he was a graduate student in astronomy, Welsh writer Alastair Reynolds published four short stories that marked the beginning of his career as an author. While working at the European Space Agency, he began work on what was to be his debut novel, Revelation Space. He’s been a published writer for almost 30 years, with over forty published short stories and twelve novels. But I hadn’t heard of Alastair Reynolds until I saw the cover of Slow Bullets in Tachyon’s catalogue. The cover intrigued me—a spaceship seemingly in good repair that, when examined closely, exhibits signs of decay, over a planet covered in swirling storm clouds that shows no sign of advanced life: no lights twinkling from cities on the night side. No speckling of settlements on the light side. The description of the novella hooked me as well, with one line in particular: “Their memories, embedded in bullets,

Read More »