Review: The Spear Cuts Through Water

Title: The Spear Cuts Through Water (August 30, 2022)
Author: Simon Jimenez
Pages: 544


What. A. Novel. Simon Jimenez is operating on another level with The Spear Cuts Through Water. This is an evocative tale that beautifully blends fantasy, reality, and fable into a perfect package. To summarize the plot here would deprive you of the wonderful journey that awaits you once you crack open the first page. 

Jimenez simultaneously (and effectively) tells multiple nested stories, while exploring the nature of identity, love, and intergenerational trauma. The book is unwavering in its commitment to its characters, its story, and its structure. And it’s told with such fierce confidence and love that I was totally mesmerized from start to finish.

If The Vanished Birds (also excellent) didn’t put Jimenez on the map, The Spear Cuts Through Water definitely will. This is a special book.

★★★★★
✪ SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

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

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: 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: 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.

Top 10 Books of 2021

10. Elder Race

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The concept alone (and the gorgeous cover) drew me to this novella, but the plot gets turned on its head almost immediately with a delicious bait and switch…a good reminder of what an interesting writer Tchaikovsky has become.

FULL REVIEW


9. The Fall of Babel

The Books of Babel #4
by Josiah Bancroft

Bancroft’s prose continues to possess a unique flavor with dashes of charm, wit, biting humor, and heart that are unmatched by others in the genre…all of the elements coalesced into something wondrous and satisfying in the end…The Books of Babel is one of the greatest fantasy series I’ve ever read.

FULL REVIEW


8. The Bone Ship’s Wake

The Tide Child #3
by R.J. Barker

This final book is just the cherry on top of a thrilling and bloody pirate sundae. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a magnificent seafaring adventure trilogy.

FULL REVIEW


7. Notes from the Burning Age

by Claire North

This is a book of loss and devastation, what remains, and what grows from the ashes of a broken world. North brings this plausible dystopian world to life with stark imagery and elegant prose…I had not read any of North’s work prior to this novel, but I’ve come away impressed and excited to see what she writes next.

FULL REVIEW


6. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Monk & Robot #1
by Becky Chambers

Chambers storytelling style is straightforward and without frills, but the overall result is quite affecting. I’m eager for future adventures with Dex and Mosscap and learning more about the world of Panga.

FULL REVIEW


5. The Councillor

by E. J. Beaton

What an outstanding debut novel. Lysande is a gem of a main character in a high fantasy world that feels familiar yet fresh. Beaton weaves an intricate plot packed to the brim with tantalizing ingredients – underground secret societies, complex political maneuvering, passionate romance, dastardly treachery, and forbidden magic.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with E.J. Beaton


4. Brothers of the Wind

The Osten Ard Saga
by Tad Williams

This was a wonderful novella that I struggled to put down…This will be more rewarding for those with preexisting knowledge of Osten Ard, but I think this works really well as a standalone story, too. For me, this is one of my favorite books of the year.

FULL REVIEW


3. We Have Always Been Here

by Lena Nguyen

A gripping sci-fi thriller that twisted in unexpected directions and kept me hooked all the way to the end. There’s a real palpable tension and delirium infused into Nguyen’s writing that enhances what could have been a straightforward thriller into something much deeper, sharper, and stranger. I’m excited to see what Nguyen writes next, as this was an excellent debut.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with Lena Nguyen


2. Idols Fall

Iconoclasts #3
by Mike Shel

This is a masterful conclusion to an outstanding series. Shel is a truly gifted storyteller and he’s woven a trilogy-capping book that is dark, twisty, funny, wholly satisfying, and bloody brilliant…major emphasis on the “bloody.” There’s so much fantasy goodness packed into the pages here: demonic possession, talking swords, beasts from hell, false gods, geopolitical conflict, cults, and of course, a dangerous expedition into an ancient cursed ruin. 

FULL REVIEW


1. Jade Legacy

The Green Bone Saga #3
by Fonda Lee

Engrossing, unpredictable, and heart-wrenching through to the final page – Jade Legacy is a worthy capstone to an incredible trilogy. I can confidently say that Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is a modern fantasy classic and I feel lucky to have come across such a special series.

FULL REVIEW


Review: How High We Go in the Dark

Title: How High We Go in the Dark (January 18, 2022)
Author: Sequoia Nagamatsu
Pages: 304


A euthanasia theme park, a talking pig named Snortorious P.I.G., and a funerary hotel. There is no shortage of dark humor to be found among the increasingly macabre story beats of How High We Go in the Dark. Even so, some sections are just incredibly devastating to read and that’s a credit to Nagamatsu’s excellent writing. 

Not every vignette worked for me, but the ones that did were awfully affecting. My investment in each small story waned as we moved farther away from the “present day,” but the ever-evolving interconnectedness of the narratives was intriguing to track throughout.

If you’re looking for an escape from our current pandemic-ridden world, this is not the right book for you. If you can put that aside, there’s some really effective storytelling at work here. 

★★★¾

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

Review: A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Title: A Psalm for the Wild-Built (2021)
Author: Becky Chambers
Pages: 160
Series: Monk & Robot #1 (Series Tracker)


While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I breezed through this novella and it made for a very pleasant reading experience. 

Chambers storytelling style is straightforward and without frills, but the overall result is quite affecting. I’m eager for future adventures with Dex and Mosscap and learning more about the world of Panga.

★★★★

Review: Notes from the Burning Age

Title: Notes from the Burning Age (July 20, 2021)
Author: Claire North
Pages: 401


This is a book of loss and devastation, what remains, and what grows from the ashes of a broken world. North brings this plausible dystopian world to life with stark imagery and elegant prose. Although the premise has the components of a spy thriller, the story is definitely a slower burn. 

The overarching narrative never quite grabbed me, but the cat and mouse interplay between Ven and his on-again, off-again adversary/captor was really intriguing.

I had not read any of Claire North’s work prior to this novel, but I’ve come away impressed and excited to see what she writes next. 

As an aside, I hope Orbit sticks with Leo Nickolls and Siobhan Hooper for the cover art/design on future books. They did an outstanding job with this one.

★★★★

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