Sunday, 19 May 2019

New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl is, like it says on the cover, an anthology of original speculative fiction by people of colour. Aside from that commonality, there is quite a diverse group of stories contained within. On the one hand, this means there should be a story for every type of speculative fiction reader, but perhaps that not every story will work for every reader.

Anthology of contemporary stories by emerging and seasoned writers of many races

There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns,” proclaimed Octavia E Butler.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlappings. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

I found this anthology to be quite the mixed bag. There were some cute stories, some dark stories, some stories dealing with very interesting ideas, some that I didn't feel I "got" but that I'm sure will be meaningful for other readers. As such, I'm finding it hard to have an opinion on the anthology as a whole. As usual, I recorded my thoughts on each story as I read it — and you can find these below — but an overall impression is difficult. I also ended up reading New Suns over a long period of time, which doesn't help.

A few of the stories which stand out for me are:

  • "The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations" by Minsoo Kang, which was based on a delightful premise. It wasn't the easiest read, but absolutely worth putting the effort in for.
  • "The Freedom of the Shifting Sea" by Jaymee Goh was a meatier read than some of the others and featured a memorable cross-species romance.
  • "One Easy Trick" by Hiromi Goto was cute and entertaining.
The above is not an exhaustive list, so I do encourage you to read the mini-reviews below if you haven't already.

Overall, New Suns is an anthology filled with diverse perspectives and written by diverse authors. If you are looking to branch out a bit in your short story reading and try some new authors, this would be a good place to start. 


~

The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex, Tobias Buckell — What if a lot of different aliens all decided that Earth was a perfect tourist destination? Find out how mere humans live on the edges of a society that mainly relies on tourist income to Manhattan. Interesting parallels as well as interesting aliens.

Deer Dancer, Kathleen Alcalá — A story about a collective living arrangement in some sort of post-apocalyptic future (climate change I think). It was mostly slice-of-life, interesting but lost me a bit towards the end.

The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations, Minsoo Kang — I originally started reading this story on the second of two long-haul flights and it transpired that I was far too tired to take the story in. When I restarted it later, better rested, I realised I had had no idea what it was about from the first attempt. It doesn’t help that it’s written in a very dry style, in the manner of a non-fictional historical essay, and that the story itself emerges gradually. Once established, it was a very interesting and amusing read, if not exactly an exciting one.

Come Home to Atropos, Steven Barnes — Told in the form of a horrifyingly unsubtle infomercial, this story is about assisted dying and euthanasia tourism. The overtones of historic and modern slavery seemed a bit gauche for an infomercial but certainly added to the plausibility of the story overall. (Also, the story was more a a take on racism than an interrogation of the concept of assisted dying.)

The Fine Print, Chinelo Onwualu — The premise of the story was a bit unpleasant (from a feminist point of view) and I didn’t feel the story itself really made up for that, despite acknowledging it. The writing was fine but I didn’t really enjoy the plot.

unkind of mercy, Alex Jennings — A slightly creepy story. It reminded me of the episode of Doctor Who with the ghost angels that was part of the Tenth Doctor’s last season finale. With a very different ending, of course.

Burn the Ships, Alberto Yáñez — A story of conquerors from the east colonising an empire in southern America. There is oppression and slaughter and vengeful magic. I think the setting is an alternate world rather than a precisely real historic setting. It was a longer story and featured culture that I have not come across too frequently in stories.

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea, Jaymee Goh — One of my favourite stories in the collection. A multigenerational epic featuring a mermaid/mermillipede (any description from me isn’t going to do her justice, I suggest just reading the story). I liked the twist on the traditional mermaid idea and the way the story spanned many years, in bursts.

Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire, E. Lily Yu — As the title says, variations on the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. It adds to the obvious take and was written in a very readable voice.

Blood and Bells, Karin Lowachee — This story was a slog to get into and I ended up setting it aside for quite a while. When I came back to it and read further it was more interesting (to see the actual plot develop). Gang warfare and a father trying to protect his kid in the middle of a murder investigation.

Give Me Your Black Wings Oh Sister, Silvia Moreno-Garcia — An enticing story about a witch living in a city and attempting to lead a normal life. I enjoyed the time and writing style especially.

The Shadow We Cast Through Time, Indrapramit Das — A dark and fantastical take of a far future but lowish-tech colony on some alien planet. The story evoked a compelling mood, but I found it a bit too slow to draw me in effectively, for all that it was interesting during sufficiently long bursts of reading.

The Robots of Eden, Anil Menon — A dystopian/utopian future in which most affluent people have implants that regulate their emotions and protect them from life’s emotional struggles. I was quite intrigued by the story of a banker dealing exceptionally well with divorce and even befriending his ex wife’s new husband, with the dark realities of the world lurking beneath the surface.

Dumb House, Andrea Hairston — A bit of a slice of life story set in a dystopian rural US. A woman living in a “dumb house” fends off salesmen trying to upgrade her to a smart house. The character development was interesting but I felt that a bit more of the worldbuilding details could have been included; some aspects were clear, some foggy.

One Easy Trick, Hiromi Goto — A cute story about a woman, her belly fat, and a forest. I quite enjoyed it and found it a bit unexpected, in a good way.

Harvest, Rebecca Roanhorse — A kind of creepy story. I found aspects of the ending a little too ambiguous but, nevertheless, it was well written.

Kelsey and the Burdened Breath, Darcie Little Badger — A bit of a mystery but mostly a ghost story. I enjoyed the mythology of it and wouldn’t have minded a longer/meatier story.


3.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2019, Rebellion Publishing
Series: No
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Friday, 17 May 2019

#ReadShortStories and travel in mind as well as body (66–70)

As I mentioned in the last batch, I decided to make a concerted effort to finish New Suns after having neglected it for a little while. Once I did that (the last few stories were enjoyable, I had just stalled after one or two stories I didn't enjoy in the middle-ish of the anthology), I moved on to making my way through Uncanny's special issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. That's where the latter stories in this batch have come from.

One Easy Trick by Hiromi Goto — A cute story about a woman, her belly fat, and a forest. I quite enjoyed it and found it a bit unexpected, in a good way.  Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Harvest by Rebecca Roanhorse — A kind of creepy story. I found aspects of the ending a little too ambiguous but, nevertheless, it was well written. Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Kelsey and the Burdened Breath by Darcie Little Badger — A bit of a mystery but mostly a ghost story. I enjoyed the mythology of it and wouldn’t have minded a longer/meatier story. Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Abigail Dreams of Weather by Stu West — Cancer kids (or similar) living on a space station during a meteor shower. A cool scene-setting story, although there wasn’t very much to it beyond the worldbuilding. Also opened with a lot of vomit, which I could have lived without.  Source: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/abigail-dreams-of-weather/

Disconnect by Fran Wilde — This story was about a woman with wandering joints (literally they seem to disappear and reappear in space) who is also a physics lecturer (well, adjunct, since it’s set in the US). Since I have stupid joints and am an astrophysicist, it seemed like I should have enjoyed this story. Alas, instead I got the very strong feeling that the author only had a passing knowledge of physics at best, which was very frustrating. Ultimately, this story did not work for me at all.  Source: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/disconnect/




Wednesday, 15 May 2019

#ReadShortStories on trains in other countries (61–65)

This batch starts off with a bit of randomness, but then I started on a concerted effort to finish off New Suns (which is a few more stories beyond those shown here). It helped that I did a bit of recreational travelling and actually had time to read without worrying about work stuff. (I didn't get much reading done on my last trip, partly because it was for work and partly because I had a lot of deadlines around the same time, so this was a nice change.)


The Fast Stuff by George Zebrowski — A surprisingly incoherent story that felt like a bit of a slog despite being flash (really, it’s one page, I should not have gotten bored) and despite the author’s noted accolades (not that I’d heard of him before). A pilot yearns to fly impossibly fast. (And then he does, because aliens.) Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01180-z

Act of Kindness by Emma Newman — A nice little Planetfall universe vignette. Showing another character’s point of view during a scene from After Atlas. Source: Emma Newman’s newsletter

Gulliver at Home by Anatoly Belilovsky — Flash concerning aliens and astronauts, written in a more interesting way than I might have expected. Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01249-9

The Robots of Eden by Anil Menon — A dystopian/utopian future in which most affluent people have implants that regulate their emotions and protect them from life’s emotional struggles. I was quite intrigued by the story of a banker dealing exceptionally well with divorce and even befriending his ex wife’s new husband, with the dark realities of the world lurking beneath the surface. Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Dumb House by Andrea Hairston — A bit of a slice of life story set in a dystopian rural US. A woman living in a “dumb house” fends off salesmen trying to upgrade her to a smart house. The character development was interesting but I felt that a bit more of the worldbuilding details could have been included; some aspects were clear, some foggy. Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl


Friday, 10 May 2019

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a standalone novella centred around a “big dumb object” in a science fictional sense. I haven’t read any of the author’s novels, but apparently did read his novella in Monstrous Little Voices, which was not very memorable. I think Walking to Aldebaran is a definite improvement on memorability, if nothing else.

My name is Gary Rendell. I’m an astronaut. When they asked me as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “astronaut, please!” I dreamed astronaut, I worked astronaut, I studied astronaut.

I got lucky; when a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud found a strange alien rock and an international team of scientists was put together to go and look at it, I made the draw.

I got even luckier. When disaster hit and our team was split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, I somehow survived.

Now I’m lost, and alone, and scared, and there’s something horrible in here.

Lucky me.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

This book starts a little slowly with our first person protagonist walking through crypt-like passages in space. We get a feel for the crypts and the backstory is slowly meted out over the course of the novella. At one point I started to wonder whether there would be much plot to it or whether we would just a description of the space-bending alien artefact from the inside. But then we get some fresh hints about backstory still to come and the plot progresses. By the end, I found myself enjoying the book more than I expected to.

We get a reasonably detailed description of the crypts and the weird physics inside them. We get enough backstory to understand why the astronauts went there and (eventually) why Gary ends up alone. There was a reveal that came right after I thought “wait, was that <spoiler redacted>?” But another similar thought was not followed up my confirmation either way, since it’s not something Gary could have known and was not in a position to guess. Things like that open the text up for a lot more discussion and speculation than I would have expected, making this all the more satisfying a read.

Overall, Walking to Aldebaran was an interesting read, exploring a nifty alien artefact. Where it shines is towards the end, where the true story is revealed and we see Gary’s journey as a whole. I found myself pleasantly surprised although I wasn’t bored by the first half of the book either. I recommend Walking to Aldebaran to fans of philosophical science fiction or fans of big dumb objects.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2019, Rebellion
Series: No
Format read: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley

Monday, 6 May 2019

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is a standalone novel set in a world similar to the real world, but bursting with alchemy. As far as I’m aware, it is not linked to any of McGuire’s other books or series.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

The opening of this book grabbed me immediately with the in media res working particularly well thanks to the unusual timeline structure of the book. While we do get a lot of the main story in chronological order, it is interspersed with bits that come out of order, as well as the point of view sections of the antagonist and a thematically-linked children’s fairytale. Overall it makes for an interesting reading experience. That said, I did feel like the book dragged a little in the middle and to me it felt quite long, which is the worst thing I can say about it. (Note, also, that it is objectively on the long side, but it still should not have felt that way.)

Back to the content, this is a story of alchemically created twins, separated by the length and breadth of the USA, and left to grow up in isolation. They were created to channel immense power for their maker but a lot of their upbringing was left to chance. We follow them through their lives as they learn about each other, push each other away, meet by chance, push each other away and so forth. At first I found the story a little confusing — while the start grabbed me, it took a little while to fully understand what was happening. Then I grew more invested in the characters and wanted to know what would happen next, despite the slower middle section. The climax came not a page too late, to kick off the last portion of the book.

This is a dark fantasy book, shading to the horrific, that I expect fans of McGuire’s other books will enjoy. In general tone I found it most similar to the Wayward Children books, although the story structure (and length) was quite different. It’s certainly not science fiction horror like the Mira Grant books are, though this was not immediately apparent to me when I started reading. All in all, a structurally interesting read that I recommend to fans of dark fantasy.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2019, Tor.com
Series: No.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Hugo Short Story Round-up

Those of you who have been following along with my blog and my #ReadShortStories posts will have seen my mini-reviews of the Hugo-nominated short stories as I read them. But I did not read them in a group, so I am collecting them here together in a single blog post.

I found this to be a strong category and there were no stories I actively disliked. "STET" is definitely the story I have the most mixed feelings about, and that is mainly due to its structure, which is also sort of the point. The ranking of the rest of the stories felt a lot more subjective to me; none of the stories stood out as especially better or worse than the others and my ordering of time comes down to personal preference more than anything else. So, although the voting is not yet open, I include the stories and my mini reviews of them in the order I expect I will put them on my ballot. Although I reserve the right to change my mind, especially if I end up engaging in some interesting discussions about them that change my mind.

If you've already read the stories, what's your opinion of them? How much do you disagree with my ranking?

(Story title links below go to where they can be freely read online.)


The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” by Brooke Bolander — I found this dinosaur-esque fairytale very entertaining. I even laughed a few times. From the chatter in the podcast around it, I gather the rest of the Uncanny dinosaur issue, which I haven’t read, is set in a shared world. But this story absolutely stood alone. It also wasn’t what I expected, since it also contained humans, not just raptors. And a witch. Anyway, very entertaining.

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow — A lovely story about a witchy librarian, who just wants to help her patrons, and one patron in particular who hasn’t been dealt the best hand by fate. I quite enjoyed it.

"The Court Magician" by Sarah Pinsker — An unexpected but interesting story about a poor boy, street magic and the more powerful real magic he eventually learns about. I liked it.

"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" by P. Djèlí Clark — A story told in nine snippets pertaining to the lives of nine black slaves, set in a parallel world where magic and magical creatures exist. It was an interesting read, but felt a little long because of its structure.

"The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society" by T. Kingfisher — An amusing story about the tables turning on a group of fairies who usually get their way and enjoy leaving humans to pine after them. Short and sweet.

STET” by Sarah Gailey — Hands down, the most interesting thing about this story is the form in  which it’s presented. The actual story is sad and all, but I do think the impact is lessened by the format. An interesting experiment but I didn’t feel as drawn into the story as I would a more conventional narrative, though it was still heartbreaking.




Sunday, 28 April 2019

#ReadShortStories, even if only because they're Hugo shortlisted (56–60)

I spent some of my weekend making a push on the Hugo ballot and the last three stories in this batch are the result. I've now finished the short story ballot, so a comparison of all the Hugo short story nominees will be coming soon. Stay tuned.



The Shadow We Cast Through Time by Indrapramit Das — A dark and fantastical take of a far future but lowish-tech colony on some alien planet. The story evoked a compelling mood, but I found it a bit too slow to draw me in effectively, for all that it was interesting during sufficiently long bursts of reading. Source: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

A Billion Dots of Light by Matt Thompson — Flash about a very dehumanised pod-generation ship. Pretty horrifying and with a bit of a clichéd ending. Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01105-w

The Court Magician  by Sarah Pinsker — An unexpected but interesting story about a poor boy, street magic and the more powerful real magic he eventually learns about. I liked it. Source: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/the-court-magician

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth by Daryl Gregory — The story was OK but I found it a bit old fashioned. I’m also not sure that the title made sense in the end with the direction the story took, but I don’t want to spoil it by explaining. I was weirded out by how often the (gay!) protagonist described how beautiful his mother was. That was super weird, and only got more so with repetition. Overall, the science parts with the apocalypse were interesting, the rest was fine. Source: https://www.tor.com/2018/09/19/nine-last-days-on-planet-earth-daryl-gregory/

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander — I found this dinosaur-esque fairytale very entertaining. I even laughed a few times. From the chatter in the podcast around it, I gather the rest of the Uncanny dinosaur issue, which I haven’t read, is set in a shared world. But this story absolutely stood alone. It also wasn’t what I expected, since it also contained humans, not just raptors. And a witch. Anyway, very entertaining. Source: https://uncannymagazine.com/article/the-tale-of-the-three-beautiful-raptor-sisters-and-the-prince-who-was-made-of-meat/


Monday, 22 April 2019

The Disasters by M K England

The Disasters by M K England is a YA space adventure story, in which a group of teens are the only hope for most of humanity. It was mostly a fun read, but there were some physics issues that I found quite distracting.

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

In many ways this was a fun book. The characters were entertaining and diverse which was fairly refreshing to read. The narrating character, Nax, ends up being the de facto leader of the little team and being inside his head wasn't terrible. It was a good mix of uncertainty, some silly teenage stuff and world-saving plans.

The worldbuilding of this future was based on some sort of magically fast jump drives (that weren't described in detail), which allowed for the colonisation of several habitable planets spread around the galaxy. A bit confusingly, the law is that once someone leaves Earth they can never come back to the planet. The closest they can get is in orbit if they want to talk to their loved ones over live video chat. This wasn't really explained in depth and, while it seems like the kind of thing that might be subverted in this sort of book, it was not. A little baffling, overall.

The biggest problem I had with this book, however, was the complete disregard for the laws of physics. Starting with the part where the space ships had rudders (overall, they behaved a little too much like planes, even when they were in vacuum). There was just so much that didn't make sense on that front that I couldn't ignore it and I couldn't enjoy the book. Every action scene generated a lot of "WTF" for me. Very disappointing. Perhaps if the book overall had been a little bit tighter and faster-paced, I could have ignored more of the physics gaffes. But as it was, I did not enjoy The Disasters and dragged out my reading of it because I just wasn't keen to get back to it. Alas.

So I would recommend this to fans of YA and action adventures in space, but the physics was appalling and I can't recommend it on that front. Obviously, that's not something that will bother everyone, but since it's a YA book and potentially influencing the understanding of space and physics in young minds, I cannot approve.

3 / 5 stars

First published: 2018, HarperCollins
Series: I don't think so
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Friday, 19 April 2019

#ReadShortStories for whatever reasons (51–55)



Some miscellaneous reading in this batch, somewhat driven by the Hugo shortlist. I will also be posting Hugo roundups by category once I get through an entire category. I am close to finishing short stories, but I am waiting for the Hugo packet for novellas and longer.


The Madness of Memory by Kameron Hurley — On a world with two races, not only the slave race is enslaved. But there are other problems for the ruling species. A thought provoking read with an expected resolution to an unexpected problem. Source: Kameron Hurley’s Patreon

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark — A story told in nine snippets pertaining to the lives of nine black slaves, set in a parallel world where magic and magical creatures exist. It was an interesting read, but felt a little long/slow because of its structure. Source: https://firesidefiction.com/the-secret-lives-of-the-nine-negro-teeth-of-george-washington

STET by Sarah Gailey — Hands down, the most interesting thing about this story is the form in which it’s presented. The actual story is sad and all, but I do think the impact is lessened by the format. An interesting experiment but I didn’t feel as drawn into the story as I would a more conventional narrative, though it was still heartbreaking. Source: https://firesidefiction.com/stet

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow — A lovely story about a witchy librarian, who just wants to help her patrons, and one patron in particular who hasn’t been dealt the best hand by fate. I quite enjoyed it. Source: https://www.apex-magazine.com/a-witchs-guide-to-escape-a-practical-compendium-of-portal-fantasies

Amped Life by John Cooper Hamilton — Creepy and sort of funny flash piece about astronauts kept awake for maximum productivity with pills. I liked the twist. Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01042-8

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman

Atlas Alone by Emma Newman is the latest standalone novel set in the Planetfall universe. In some ways it makes most sense as an almost-direct sequel to After Atlas, but it certainly stands alone just fine. There is a new protagonist, who did appear in After Atlas but whom I have very little memory of from that book. In fact, After Atlas is the book I remember least of the series (not entirely sure why) and despite that I had no problems getting into Atlas Alone. It does contain a pretty major spoiler for events that happen at the end of After Atlas and near the end of Before Mars, however, so beware on that front. That massive spoiler is also in the blurb below.

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.

A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth.

Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realizes that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to do something that risks losing her own.

This was an excellent book and different again from the earlier books in the series. The new protagonist, Dee, did show up in After Atlas and the events of that book are why she is now on an American-built starship following the Pathfinder on a twenty-year journey to another planet. What does one do to kill time on a space ship? Play lots of full-immersion games and try to get an idea of who else is on the ship. Then get an invite to a leet gaming server, get suspicious of the people on board and strike up a conversation with a game designer who does not respect personal boundaries.

At first I was surprised at how much of this story took place in immersive games, especially when I also realised how far I had gotten in terms of pages read. But then the true story became clear and turned out to not be quite what I had expected. (Trying not to spoil here.) Although I very much guessed something that wasn't revealed to the main character for some time, the story took a lot of unexpected turns, right up to the dramatic and powerful ending (which only caused me to loose a little sleep, thanks to the timing of when I got up to it). Overall, Atlas Alone was a remarkable book in what has been a remarkable series.

As I said in my preamble, Atlas Alone does follow most directly from After Atlas, and the other books in the series aren't required reading. But they are all excellent and I don't think reading them in publication order is a bad thing either. Also, I think After Atlas is the most depressing book (for all that I don't remember it too clearly) while I found the others more enjoyable reading. Don't get me wrong, this isn't exactly a "fun" series. It deals with some heavy issues, most notably death and mental illness. I laughed aloud a few times reading Atlas Alone, but that was more at sarcasm or outrageous developments than actual humour. None of which stops me from loving this series.

To reiterate, this continues to be an excellent series and I hope it gets some more recognition, preferably in the form of a Hugo nomination for Best Series (hint to Worldcon members who are eligible to nominate). I look forward to more Planetfall novels in the future. They have all had very different but deeply psychological takes on their protagonists and I would love to read more.

5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2019, Gollancz
Series: Planetfall, book 4 of 4 so far but sort of a direct sequel to After Atlas
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley