To Elsewhere: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow


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January Scaller walks through a Door standing alone in a field and for a single moment enters another world—a chance encounter that will change the course of her life. While her father explores the globe, procuring treasures from far-off lands for his employer (and January’s foster-father of sorts) Mr. Locke, January learns to participate in high society, her willfulness crushed out of her one punishment at a time… until she happens upon a book: The Ten Thousand Doors. As the truth of her childhood experience begins to seem more and more real, she must question the world she lives in and her role within it.

The turn of the 20th century is a fraught, fruitful time to set a novel concerned with social change, gender, and colonialism. The Ten Thousand Doors of January occupies a world in transition, a precarious world, where institutional forces are in open conflict with ...

Skeletons All the Way Down: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir


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Gideon the Ninth cover reveal header

Tamsyn Muir’s debut novel, Gideon the Ninth, kicks off a weird-wild-and-wonderful trilogy full of politics, lesbians, and undead bullshit set in a solar system that has scientific advances like space travel but also necromantic magic pushing the crumbling worlds along. From the first line of the book, Muir makes no bones (ahem) about the style of her protagonist Gideon’s approach: “In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

Gideon Nav is a dedicated swordswoman, a fan of pornographic fiction particularly that featuring other dedicated swordswomen, and an escape artist with almost one hundred failures under her belt trying to get off-planet from the sepulcheral haunts of the House of the Ninth. Her sole same-age companion ...

Where Good Work Would Grow: To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers


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“If you read nothing else we’ve sent home, please at least read this,” begins Ariadne O’Neill, the narrator and protagonist of To Be Taught, if Fortunate. At the final planet of her ecological survey, Ariadne is writing home to share her human experience of space travel—and, ultimately, to make a request of her potential listener. As she continues, her message is not necessarily urgent in the most literal sense; communication takes fourteen years to travel one direction between Earth and the habitable system her team is studying, another fourteen to return. But it is, nonetheless, a matter in urgent need of response despite the gap of decades.

Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena, and Jack are a small team of scientists (and engineers) dedicated to space exploration as funded via a global nonprofit, a grand human network devoted to science for the sake of itself outside the pressures of capital and nation. The ...

Just Out of Sight: Echoes, Edited by Ellen Datlow


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“I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories,” opens esteemed editor Ellen Datlow in her introduction to Echoes. The anthology’s central focus is the ‘ghost story’ but within that framework it ranges wide, across the world and through the decades, from familial dramas to wartime haunts and more. Echoes is an absolute behemoth of an anthology, with all pieces minus three reprints original to the book.

That makes for roughly seven hundred pages of never-seen-before spooky stories by writers ranging the gamut from Nathan Ballingrud to A. C. Wise, Stephen Graham Jones to Indrapamit Das, and so on. Stories are set in India, in Britain, in the US. Some are ghost stories with science fictional settings, others purely fantastical, others still realist—but there’s always the creeping dread, a specter at the corner of the story’s vision. The sheer volume of work Datlow has collected in Echoes fills out ...

A Sword-and-Sorcery Romp: The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain


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Djinn king Melek Ahmar, one of the Seven and the titular Lord of Tuesday, awakens from his imprisonment in a stone sarcophagus to find the world has moved on. It’s been somewhere between three and four thousand years since he was hit over the head and stashed up a holy mountain, and in the meantime, humanity has poisoned the globe with fatal nanotech and the requisite counter-nanites. The city of Kathmandu still exists as a cut-rate paradise, run by an AI called Karma, full of content if not happy citizens whose needs are all more or less met.

Except for one: recidivist and mass murderer Bhan Gurung, who is quite on board with Melek Ahmar’s plans to conquer the city (because what else is there for him to do but a little conquest?)—however, Gurung has his own plot running, one that spans forty years back to a time before ...

Hugo Spotlight: The Glitz, Glam, and the Heart of Cat Valente’s Space Opera


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In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

With the delightfully garish neon tagline “In space, everyone can hear you sing” emblazoned across its cover, Catherynne M. Valente’s novel Space Opera is a marked shift from the seriousness of Deathless (2011) or Palimpsest (2009). It is, in fact, nothing less than intergalactic Eurovision in the fine stylistic tradition of Douglas Adams—madcap, bizarre, comedic, and shot through with a certain wholesome kindness.

After the near-fatal cosmic consequences of the Sentience Wars, the universe at large decides who gets a seat at the table of sentient species—and where the resources get distributed—via a pop music competition. If a petitioning new species comes in dead last, their artifacts and culture will be recorded and they will be summarily scrubbed from existence to let ...

Fine and Cruel Threads of Fortune: The Ascent to Godhood by JY Yang


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The Protector is dead. For the prior three Tensorate novellas, her reign was the source of infinite conflict, concession, and intrigue. However, at the start of The Ascent to Godhood, her passing has already dealt its blow to the organization of the Protectorate. Her enemies and her loyalists both exist in uncertain times, now, striving toward a future she does not influence—but in one pub, in rebel territory, a seeker comes to speak to the head of the Machinist rebellion about the past and potential future. Lady Han is the one person left who has stories of Hekate before her ascent to the throne, and is also the one person who misses her most bitterly, despite the Protector’s death cementing her own success as an opposition force.

The Ascent to Godhood is both prequel and post-script, leaving a surprising narrative gap around the death of the Protector and the ...

To Encourage Reach Exceeding Grasp: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone


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Two far-flung future societies—called Garden and the Agency, respectively—toe through timelines seeding potential, nudging some lives forward and decimating others, with the ultimate goal of preserving their own existence as the inevitable outcome of human culture. As elite agents for their opposing sides, Red and Blue bite at each other’s heels across time and space through dying worlds, long cons, strange pasts and stranger futures. One chance outreach between them, forbidden but irresistible, forges a connection neither could’ve anticipated. Impossible letters wait through centuries for discovery as the pair of them communicate about their goals, their missions, their shared distastes and pleasures—taboo informational liaisons that lead to far more.

One the one hand, This Is How You Lose the Time War is about that titular war: the protagonists are agents undertaking missions to stabilize (or destroy) certain strands in time to benefit their own potential future. On the other, the ...

Now and Forever: Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee


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The Machineries of Empire trilogy wrapped up last June—bringing to a close one of the most engaging, provocative high-concept sf series I’d read in some time. Yoon Ha Lee, however, has not finished with that sprawling universe at large. Hexarchate Stories brings together a set of stories that spans over four-hundred years of worldbuilding and a handful of regime changes, shifting in style and tone from intimate (sometimes sexy!) flash fiction to plot-rich, dramatic tales of intrigue and violence.

Three of the stories in the collection are previously unpublished, including the closing novella “Glass Cannon” (set after Revenant Gun, the third Machineries of Empire novel), while the earliest reprinted piece is from 2012. The scope of initial publications ranges from magazines like Clarkesworld to Lee’s blog, and as such, the length and style of the stories also varies significantly throughout. That level of variation makes for a fast, ...