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J.S. Dewes’ latest science fiction novel, Rubicon, opens with a bang as our protagonist is forced to kill her three squad mates and then herself. Specialist Adriene Valero wakes up almost immediately afterward, her consciousness having been automatically downloaded into a new body back at headquarters.

Rezoning, as the process is called, has been standard procedure for soldiers fighting on the front lines against the Mechan forces. It allows humanity to avoid being captured and utilized as a host for a Mechan unit, a process called hybridization. If you’re under imminent threat of capture, zone out. Better to die by your own hand (or a fellow soldier’s) than to play host to an alien robot consciousness until your body gives out.

After rezoning into her 96th “husk” since the beginning of her service, Adriene is ready for it to all end. Anything for a chance to be mortal again. But instead of being sent back to the front lines with the rest of her squad, she’s pulled out of her company, promoted, and shipped off to a new unit. She’s been deemed a good fit for an elite crew of soldiers outfitted with special Virtual Intelligence implants called Rubicons, and assigned to be the pathfinder of one of their advance recon squads.

After a quick training on the use of the Rubicon implant in her brain, Adriene has to adjust to the idea of someone else sharing her head, privy to her thoughts whenever the unit is active. On the squad’s first mission out together, they’re ambushed by Mechan drones. With yet another rezone on the line, Adriene taps into an unknown function of her Rubicon implant, accessing functions that shouldn’t be possible.

With the knowledge that her Rubicon implant may be unique, Adriene is soon forced to face a choice. On the line: her chance to finally end her rezone cycle and the fate of all that remains of humanity under the unsleeping eye of the Mechans. Then again, Adriene may have more in common with the Mechans than anyone has ever realized.

Rubicon is a phenomenal piece of military science fiction that’s perfect for fans of Halo, Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein), Old Man’s War (John Scalzi), The Light Brigade (Kameron Hurley), or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s out on shelves today, and you should most definitely check it out. Dewes has done a great job of hooking me with her writing, and I’m eager for more.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Some family secrets are supposed to stay buried.

Sam’s having a rough time. Her post-graduate fieldwork in archaeological entomology is on hold, and so she makes the long trans-Texas drive from Arizona back to North Carolina to live with her mother until the work has funding again. Sam’s mother is living in her own mother’s old house now that Gran Mae is dead, and is happy to have Sam come back home for however long it will last.

The problem is that the house no longer feels like home for Sam. With blandly-painted walls (ugh, ecru), and familiar knickknacks out of sight, the house itself seems to be telling her that something is wrong. Never mind her mom’s behavioral regressions to the days of Gran Mae’s life, or the vultures that are hanging out in the neighborhood. There’s also Gran Mae’s rose garden, which, while stunningly beautiful as ever, is suspiciously devoid of insect life (trust Sam on this one, she’s an entomologist, after all).

Before long, Sam begins to have dreams of her grandmother, and remembers things she said. “The roses say to say your prayers,” and “the underground children will get you…” and not-so-startling fatphobia linger in her memory. But how much of that was real? All is clearly not well on Lammergeier Lane, and Sam is determined to find the answers. Negotiating Southern hospitality and prejudices and overcoming her own fears will be critical.

A House With Good Bones is a quick, fun horror read, y’all. T. Kingfisher has put together one fantastic ride. I loved following Sam on her journey through her family’s past as she strove to save her mom and herself from a disturbing legacy. Not to mention that I will never look at ladybugs (Coccinellidae) the same way again.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and to the folks at MacMillan/Tor for an eARC of A House With Good Bones in exchange for a fair review. You can snag a copy for yourself starting on March 28th.

I’ve followed Sim Kern on Twitter for a while, and so when they put an open call out for ARCs of Seeds of the Swarm last year, I jumped at the chance. What a perfect companion piece to Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers. Climate change fiction (or cli-fi), is a hot topic, and Sim handles it marvelously.

Sassparylla “Rylla” McCracken lives in The Dust, a dried-out portion of the United States devastated by manmade climate disasters. Specifically, Rylla and her mom live in a trailer house in Texas, near what remains of the Guadalupe River outside of Austin. Rylla is a high school senior, attending virtual classes and spending her free time studying the insects and other wildlife that are managing to survive in the harsh, dry climate. When she learns that a new piece of corporate legislation is aiming to dam up what’s left of the river, Rylla begs her brother Tyler for a ride to the state capitol, where she delivers an impassioned speech to the apathetic legislature.

Thanks to a video edit of her speech at the capitol going viral, Rylla is approached by representatives from Wingates University, a school located deep in the Lush States where water and other resources are still abundant. Before she knows it, Rylla is whisked away to Michigan, where she is quickly overwhelmed by how different of a world her classmates come from. Rylla is placed in the Humanities department at Wingates, where she is tasked with studying the behaviors that lead to the current state of the world. She also befriends a group of engineering students working on different types of new technologies that they believe can save the planet and the human race.

After a trip through the campus transport system goes wrong, the existence of a secret series of laboratories deep beneath Wingates is uncovered. Soon, Rylla and her classmates finds themselves caught up in a conspiracy of nanotechnology, bioengineering, and political intrigue that could very readily lead to a new civil war, with Rylla’s mother and brother stranded in The Dust. As if just going to college and juggling a social life and homework wasn’t stressful enough…

Seeds of the Swarm is a brilliant piece of climate-focused science fiction, taking an unflinching look at what our world could look like in a few short decades. Rylla is a delightfully and frustratingly human protagonist, reminding me of many of my own college friends (though we didn’t have world-ending tech at our fingertips). Her struggles to fit in among her fellows at school are fantastically well-rendered and realistic. Kern’s vision of the near-future manages to still stay hopeful, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Seeds of the Swarm is available from Stelliform Books on Wednesday, March 1st. Get it from your library or bookstore of choice, and enjoy.

My utmost thanks to Sim and to Ren Hutchings at Stelliform Books for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

I am utterly broken by this book.

Maybe it’s because I was the farm kid who left that life behind. Maybe it’s because I’m a parent, and I can’t help thinking that I’m not doing enough for my children. Maybe it’s because Kelly Barnhill just has a way with words that makes me want to weep.

The Crane Husband is a fairy tale set in the near future of the midwestern US. The protagonist, a young girl of fifteen, is doing her best to help manage what’s left of the family farm, raise her nine-year-old brother, Michael, and promote and sell her mother’s art. She misses her father, who died several years before, and wonders about the life she might’ve had if he hadn’t succumbed to illness.

Everything about her life changes drastically when her mother brings home a crane dressed in a hat and glasses and her dad’s shoes, telling her and Michael that they can call the crane “Father.” Soon, their mother’s life is upended by the arrival. Their mother has taken lovers in the past, but none of them stayed long. The crane is different, and not just because he’s a bird. She withdraws from her time with her children, leaving her daughter to cope and take care of Michael. She stops helping around the farm, and neglects her own health, all to please the crane’s whims. Our protagonist must learn the hardest lessons about what she’s willing to tolerate and what sacrifices can or should be made for family.

This novella is beautiful, and haunting in the best way. It’s a powerful retelling of the story of the crane wife, but it transcends the bounds of the original story and encompasses a new view of heartache, labor, gender expectations, and love.

The Crane Husband will be in stores on February 28th. You’ll want to read this one, but brace yourself. Nothing is what it seems. My thanks to both NetGalley and Tordotcom for an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.

Dear readers, I have done myself a disservice by not reading Annalee Newitz’s work before now. I had picked up a copy of Autonomous from my library back in 2017, but I never managed to get around to it. Now, I know that I have to come back. Newitz is a phenomenal world builder, and in their latest book, The Terraformers, they do it literally.

The Terraformers tells the story of Destry, a sort of forest ranger of the future. Destry lives on the planet Sask-E (or Sasky, as most of the locals have taken to blending the name), and along with her partner, a moose named Whistle, she has spent centuries carefully guiding the ecosystems into an Earth-like state. Destry and Whistle are members of the Environmental Rescue Team, or ERT, and on Sasky, they work under the corporate authority of Verdance, a real-estate company that deals in planets.

Destry and Whistle are used to working on a slow scale, shaping a world in a way that maintains its harmony. Neither of them is expecting the sudden shift in Sasky politics when a city full of older ERT rangers is found, hidden away from Verdance’s knowledge. Soon, the two are caught up in a storm of corporate ideology, civil rights, and what it means to be a person on a planet that’s isolated from the rest of the universe. After all, terraforming is long series of violent actions, forcing a world into the condition you desire. The tools that are used can be deadly in the wrong hands.

The Terraformers is a deep dive into politics and relationships the likes of which I haven’t read since Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. It’s the story of a planet that spans centuries and generations. It’s dense, queer, sad, and beautiful. My utmost thanks to the folks over at NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a fair review. It’s out today. Go check it out.

The Beyond is ever-shifting, a fluctuating space of deadly light and impassible dark, filled with dangerous creatures. An adventuring party must consist of six members in order to venture across the Beyond. One Gate (to open the way and find the paths in the shifting wilderness), one Ghost (who becomes a silent, intangible scout once in the Beyond), one Shotgun (the party’s primary combatant), one Voice (the polyglot communications specialist), one Lantern (to light the way), and one Keeper (who remains behind at the group’s Keep, maintaining a stable entry platform that bridges the Beyond and the solid reality of the Realms. These six members make a Hex. Why six? Something about the magic that the dragons use to travel through the Beyond on their own can only be replicated by a group of six. Too many more than that, and the Beyond can destabilize even further. Too few, and you can’t be protected from the various monsters that call that nightmare place home.

Esther is a Lantern, but she’s semi-retired. Her Hex was suspended from operating a year ago, leaving the rest of her closest friends out of work. One night, a mysterious phone call wakes Esther, a single word from David, her son and the Keeper of the Hex. Immediately, she springs into action to gather the other members of the Hex and rally at the Keep to gather information. David, it seems, has been kidnapped, leaving his spouse Kai and their children behind in the unguarded Keep. Someone has captured him, and Esther must journey across the Beyond to find the party responsible. While Marianne, Gus, Lydia, and Faye all answer Esther’s summons, not all of the Hex is happy to see her again, especially since their suspension means that they’re not technically supposed to be operating in the Beyond at all.

So begins a covert mission to find David and bring him safely home. After all, what wouldn’t a parent do to protect their child?

Kate Elliott has crafted a phenomenal sci-fi novella with group mechanics reminiscent of a Dungeons and Dragons party. I’m fascinated by both the Beyond and the many Realms that it links, and I’m honestly sorry that this is my first time tackling one of her stories. I hope that she revisits this world again soon.

The Keeper’s Six is out today. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

My utmost thanks to Tordotcom for providing an eARC of this novella in exchange for a fair review.

It’s no secret that I love Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series. I’ve reviewed his books before, and I even had the honor of meeting him in person earlier this fall.

Photo of me (left) with Neal Shusterman (right) at a local book signing.

Now I was surprised partway through Thunderhead when I learned that the series wasn’t a duology, but in fact had a third book announced just a few days prior. I was even more excited when I found out that he was returning to the setting with a new collection of short stories. Gleanings hit store shelves yesterday, and folks, it is fantastic.

It feels so good to be back in this dystopia. Shusterman’s worldbuilding is second to none, and even through brief snippets of poetry and prose, it all came rushing back. A planet full of immortals, a small order of people who can render others permanently dead (and in fact are required to do so), and an artificial intelligence that oversees everything but doesn’t interfere with the business of Scythes: all of these components are now familiar. This anthology presents a wide array of new stories, from Scythe Curie’s first conclave after her apprenticeship and her earning of her legendary title to a Halloween party that echoes Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. Shusterman and his various co-authors are bringing even more depth to an already expansive world. I can’t thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster enough for an eARC in exchange for a fair review. Gleanings is out on shelves as of yesterday. Enjoy!

Last July, fans of Tamsyn Muir’s delightful Locked Tomb books were informed that they wouldn’t be getting Alecto the Ninth in the fall of 2021 as they had previously expected. Instead, the Locked Tomb trilogy was going to be expanded into four books, with Alecto still set as the final entry, and Nona the Ninth filling in a gap in 2022.

So we waited, albeit not particularly patiently, for an extra year and a half. Three days ago, that wait came to an end, and last night I finished my preliminary time with Nona. Y’all.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, okay? This is the 3rd book in a series, and as such, some spoilers for books one and two (Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, respectively) are unavoidable. You have been warned.

SPOILERS FOR GIDEON THE NINTH AND HARROW THE NINTH MAY FOLLOW BELOW:


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Okay. Ready? Here we go.

Nona is an unexpected character, headlining an unexpected, but long-awaited book. The book opens a few months after the end of Harrow the Ninth and the destruction of the Mithraeum. John “God” Gaius has vanished following His betrayal by two of His Lyctors. Gideon the First has been lost to a Resurrection Beast, and his cavalier, Pyrrha Dve is now the sole inhabitant of his body. Camilla Hect has been trading time in control of her body, swapping with the soul of her necromancer, Palamades Sextus (last seen possessing his own skull, which was transformed into a hand by Harrow in Book 2). Together, Pyrrha, Camilla, and Palamades watch over Nona and try to avoid direct conflict with Blood of Eden, a group that stands in opposition to God and the Nine Houses. But who exactly is Nona?

On the outside, Nona is Harrowhark Nonagesimus, whose body was last seen alongside Pyrrha Dve as Augustine the First threw the entirety of the Mithraeum into the River in an attempt to kill God. But the River is full of lost souls, and something happened to the soul of Gideon Nav, who was piloting Harrow’s body. While Harrow’s own soul appeared to have made its way through the River to the Locked Tomb back in the Ninth House at the conclusion of Harrow the Ninth, her body didn’t go along for the ride. Now the body, Nona, has woken up on the world of New Rho. She and her guardians/teachers are busy trying to figure out just which soul (or souls) reside within her. Is she a necromancer? Is she a cavalier? Is she neither or both?

Right now, Nona is a girl looking forward to her first birthday party; a toddler’s attitude in a teen’s body, new to the world and learning quickly about how complicated her life actually is. She’s working as a teacher’s aide at her school, trying to make friends and to fit in with the students. She walks the science teacher’s six-legged dog, Noodle. She loves Noodle. She’s unbothered by the blue light in the sky that seems to be wreaking havoc on any necromancers who wander outside, and she heals almost instantly from any wound, but she shows no aptitude for any other necromancy. She practices with a sword, but has none of a cavalier’s familiarity with the weapon.

Meanwhile, Camilla, Palamades, and Pyrrha are trying to find the rest of the Sixth House, who fled from their former home in an attempt to evade God’s wrath and are now being held captive somewhere on New Rho. Blood of Eden is threatening to destroy a Cohort facility and kill the soldiers and necromancers of the Nine Houses who have taken shelter there. Tensions are rising, and time is running out. Solving the mystery of Nona’s identity is the key to everything, but no one is making it easy. Will God return to New Rho? Will the Resurrection Beast lurking nearby destroy the planet? What other characters will get cameo appearances this time around? Will Nona get to celebrate her first birthday? Is Noodle a good boy? So many questions, so little time.

Nona the Ninth is beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a perfect addition to The Locked Tomb series. Tamsyn Muir continues to weave plotlines, juggle bodies and souls, and blend humor and horror in a way that boggles my mind. While the finale is still (hopefully only) a year away, Nona is a wonderful treat for readers. Plenty of twists and turns will keep everyone guessing right up until the end, and then the wild theories can begin again! I can’t wait for Alecto, but I’m so glad to have Nona to keep me company between now and then.

I’m going to go read it again.

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution is not only a hell of a title, it’s a hell of a book. Author R.R. Kuang (The Poppy War) has produced a brilliant alternate history in which The British Empire rose to power utilizing magic based on silver and linguistics. In the 1820s, a young man from Canton (Guangzhou) is taken from his life on the docks where he picked up bits of language from sailors and raised in London by a man named Professor Lovell. Re-named Robin Swift by his own love of English literature, the boy is drilled with lessons on Greek and Latin, preparing him for a new life at Oxford University.

When Robin arrives at Oxford to take his place at the Translation Institute, however, nothing is what he expected. His neighbor, Ramy, is immediately welcoming (perhaps because they’re both outsiders by virtue of their foreign birth), while the rest of the residents of their hall are less so. A dark conspiracy seems to be building involving a looming war between England and China, and Robin’s skills in the languages of both nations will play a part, whether he wants them to or not.

Kuang’s latest work is a brilliant novel exploring the dark sides of academia and colonization. Robin’s conflict between his heritage and his upbringing mirror the greater struggle between England and China. Class warfare and linguistics blur together as Robin navigates a world that is simultaneously much larger than he knew and much smaller than he could have imagined. You’ll have to read it to believe it.

Babel is out on store shelves as of yesterday. Check it out.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

How far would you go to protect your children?

For Devon and her son, Cai, there doesn’t seem to be a limit. She’s prepared to leave every other member of her extended family behind, betraying everything she’s ever known to ensure that her son will be able to live. She’s even willing to bring strangers home for Cai to feast on when he’s hungry. See, Devon and her son aren’t quite human, despite their appearance. They’re members of a species known as Book Eaters. They are sustained not by food and drink, but by paper and ink. Devour a book and immediately know all of the contents of it. Memorize a document in seconds by digesting it. And Cai? Cai’s not a standard ‘eater. Unlike most members of his species, he craves memories and personalities eaten directly from a victim’s brain.

The Book Eaters are endangered, though, with girls being rare. Women in the Six Families of Book Eaters are married out of their manors into arranged weddings in order to provide genetically viable heirs. Two births per mother, then they can live a comfortable existence in one of the family manors. That’s the way it has to be. But Devon’s separation from her first child left her traumatized, and she was unwilling to go through that pain again.

When Cai is born, it’s expected that he’ll be drafted into the family’s enforcement division as a “dragon” after his limited time with his mother passes. Instead, Devon takes her young son and flees the other Book Eaters, hoping to find a source of a drug that will allow Cai to subsist on books as she does. How long can she make it when a team of dragons is chasing her? How will she cope knowing that her own brother is leading them? You’ll have to read Sunyi Dean’s The Book Eaters to find out.

The Book Eaters is out in stores as of yesterday. My utmost thanks to NetGalley and Tor/Forge for an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.