Review: Neom

Title: Neom (November 8, 2022)
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Pages: 256
Series: Central Station


Every time I turn around Lavie Tidhar has published another novel. I’ve only had the chance to read Unholy Land, which I loved, but each book he puts out sounds imaginative and entirely original. With Neom, Tidhar returns to the world of his most popular book, Central Station. Having not read it, I was unsure if I’d be missing the proper context to evaluate this one, but Neom works perfectly well as a standalone story.

Neom is (or at least was) a techno-paradise in the Arabian Peninsula, surrounded by remnants of the endless wars that once ravaged the desert. We’re introduced to several inhabitants of Neom and its surrounding environment. These folks, both human and robot alike, grapple with surface level post-war scars/memories and ones that must be, both literally and figuratively, dug up.

This was superb and I’m in awe of Tidhar’s vision. He’s conjured up a futuristic city that feels simultaneously ultramodern and also run down. The rich histories of the region and its cultures are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of this fully-realized world. Tidhar writes beautifully, as well. The chapters fly by as the seemingly disparate lives and motivations of the characters tidily intertwine, as Tidhar explores the nature of belief, memory, and love.

I’ll surely seek out more of Tidhar’s back catalog, including Central Station, as well as whatever he thinks up next. He’s clearly producing some really outstanding science fiction right now.

★★★★½

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fevered Star

Title: Fevered Star (April 19, 2022)
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Pages: 384
Series: Between Earth and Sky #2 (Series Tracker)


Fevered Star is a worthy follow-up to Black Sun, one of my favorite books of the last few years. This is epic fantasy of the highest order and Roanhorse’s writing is a joy to read. 

While Black Sun was constructed like a ticking time bomb with a narrative structure that built towards an epic conclusion, Fevered Star is a quieter tale. It’s the calm after the storm that that hit in book #1. It’s a transitory time in the Meridian as factions grow, contract, splinter off, or soldier on. The characters scramble to consolidate power and lines are drawn in the sand.

Despite the more subdued action, I’m fully invested in these characters. Each POV brings something interesting to the table and Roanhorse uses this novel to position her chess pieces for the coming conclusion/confrontation/clash to decide the fate of this world. Several fuses have been lit, but we’ll have to wait until the third book to see them pay off. I know I’m looking forward to it.

★★★★

Review: The Art of Prophecy

Title: The Art of Prophecy (August 9, 2022)
Author: Wesley Chu
Pages: 544
Series: The War Arts Saga #1


After a very promising start, this one lost its hold on me along the way, as I struggled to stay invested in the secondary characters and plotlines. That said, The Art of Prophecy is action-packed, funny, and puts a fresh spin on the prophesied chosen one trope. Others will surely enjoy this more than I did, as there were a lot of elements to like here.

★★★¼

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Title: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (July 12, 2022)
Author: Becky Chambers
Pages: 160
Series: Monk & Robot #2 (Series Tracker)


A heartwarming continuation of the adventures of our beloved robot and human companions, Mosscap and Dex. Much like the first novella, I so enjoyed the time spent in this world and with its inhabitants. The shared bond between this unlikely pair is wonderful, as is the throughline exploring the nature of humanity. I hope this is not the end of their travels, because Becky Chambers has created a winning formula here – further cementing herself as a beacon for hopepunk storytelling.

★★★★¼

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Venomous Lumpsucker

Title: Venomous Lumpsucker (July 5, 2022)
Author: Ned Beaumont
Pages: 336


This is the most delightful book about mass species extinction that you’ll ever read. Ned Beauman employs pitch-perfect gallows humor to engage with human-caused environmental destruction in a fresh and exciting way.

I was quite charmed by Beauman’s madcap storytelling and clever writing and I lost count of the number of times I highlighted an amusing passage or chuckled to myself whilst reading this book. It’s very, very funny. 

The highest praise I can give a book is that it has “readability” and Venomous Lumpsucker has this in spades – fast paced, an engaging story, smart humor, and interesting characters. This book is a winner.

★★★★½

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Bone Orchard

Title: The Bone Orchard (March 22, 2022)
Author: Sara A. Mueller
Pages: 432


The Bone Orchard is an ambitious and inventive novel about the lengths someone will go for self-preservation amidst extreme trauma. 

While the main plot concerns a poisoned emperor and the subsequent whodunit – the real stars here are Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. These five “boneghosts” are richly drawn and complex characters who answer to Charm, our central protagonist. Their relationship to Charm is fascinating and evolves in unexpected ways throughout the course of the novel. And, once I could keep all of the characters straight, I really enjoyed the world Sara A. Mueller conjured up – even if sometimes it felt like the narrative could have been tighter. Bonus points for an outstanding cover!

★★★¾

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Siren Queen

Title: Siren Queen (May 10, 2022)
Author: Nghi Vo
Pages: 288


Luli Wei was overlooked by the masses until she made it impossible to look away. After striking a brutal bargain to achieve her dreams, Wei finds her home on the silver screen. What follows is a mesmerizing (and hair-raising) coming of age tale about Luli’s rise into the spotlight.

Nghi Vo’s Old Hollywood is painted with a dreamlike brush. There’s a phantasmagoric haze over every event and every interaction. It’s mesmerizing and disturbing in equal measure. And, as impressed as I was with the tone and prose – I struggled to stay invested in Luli’s story as I found it a bit overstuffed and all over the place. Others will surely love this, but it was not quite my cup of tea when all was said and done.

★★★

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sea of Tranquility

Title: Sea of Tranquility (April 5, 2022)
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Pages: 272


It’s easy to get swept away to Emily St. John Mandel’s far flung settings as the story briskly moves from moment to moment, character to character, and timeline to timeline. St. John Mandel’s writing is clean and the plot never lingers long enough for inertia to set in. And while that makes for a quick read, there’s a certain slightness to the story that’s hard to shake. St. John Mandel raises interesting questions and ideas, but doesn’t really explore them in any deep, meaningful way. 

I was lukewarm on Station Eleven, even though I loved the vibe and world St. John Mandel had crafted. I felt similarly about this book. I wanted to be more invested than I was and the major moments did not hit me as hard as I hoped they would.

HBO’s adaptation of Station Eleven is one of the best shows I’ve watched in years, so perhaps I just need to wait for Sea of Tranquility to get the same treatment someday.

★★★¼

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Witchwood Crown

Title: The Witchwood Crown (2017)
Author: Tad Williams
Pages: 990
Series: The Last King of Osten Ard #1 (Series Tracker)


It was so wonderful to be back in Osten Ard and to see what has changed and, interestingly, what has remained the same. The Heart of What Was Lost and Brothers of the Wind turned out to be great primer novellas to the start of this new series.

I felt a certain Star Wars: The Force Awakens vibe from this book – similar story beats as the original Osten Are trilogy, a familiar foe, characters we know and love, and a new group of dynamic, young upstarts. 

I was pleased to see Williams’s writing style has become somewhat less opaque than in the decades old original trilogy. And while this book does not work at all as a standalone (nor does it try to), I have full trust that Williams will neatly tie everything together when all is said and done. I am fully on board for the ride.

★★★★