Monday, December 28, 2015

All the Birds in the Sky

A short review of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Patricia finds that she can talk to animals, and learns that they have unsettling things to say. Laurence invents high-tech gadgets, and is unprepared for the side effects. They meet as school children, become friends, and help each other survive their horrible childhoods. They meet again as twenty-something adults in San Francisco. Patricia belongs to a society of witches. Laurence works for a high-tech innovation company. In a lovingly detailed San Francisco, Patricia and Laurence navigate the dating scene, while disasters scar the world around them and they participate in high-risk, misguided solutions to the world's problems. They must find a way to make their incompatible worldviews mesh or all of humanity will pay the price. This is a wild, off-kilter, funny book about our society careening toward catastrophe. There are high-flying wondrous adventures and down-to-earth human relationships. Oh, and did I mention it was funny?

I was provided with an advance reading copy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Best of the Year: 2015

It's that end-of-the-year list-making time.

Over at the Coode Street Podcast there was an interesting discussion of the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015. Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe were joined by noted critics Paul Kincaid and Adam Roberts. Prompted to give their individual choices for their top five picks:

Adam Roberts:
Top book: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. In dialog with the backlist of science fiction. Might be Robinson's best novel. Resonant and deep, clever, sophisticated.
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (the conclusion of a trilogy)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (which appeared in 2015 in Britain)
Clade by James Bradley
Luna by Ian McDonald
Touch by Claire North
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson, sequel to Europe in Autumn, one of the best books of 2014

Paul Kincaid:
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, sequel to Life After Life (which was even better)
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
Where by Kit Reed
Luna by Ian McDonald
Slade House by David Mitchell

Gary K. Wolfe:
Wolfe said he didn't want to overlap too much with Roberts and Kincaid
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Clade by James Bradley
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (Roberts seconds this choice)

Jonathan Strahan:
Top book: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, most engaged, most timely
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
Clade by James Bradley
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Roberts seconds this choice)
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashanti Wilson
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Galapagos Regained by James Morrow

I've left out all the discussion around these lists, which was thought provoking and which I recommend listening to. I could quibble with some of the choices, having read several of these titles, yet on the whole these are strong lists. I agree that Aurora is the standout science fiction novel of 2015. (Listen to the Coode Street podcast here or on iTunes.)

Adam Roberts' sharp best of the year essay, with some additional titles, is on the Guardian website.

For a wider net that encompasses sf and fantasy, weird fiction and mainstream, especially international titles, I recommend Jeff VanderMeer's best books of 2015. His choice for best novel of the year is Animal Money by Michael Cisco. I've read an earlier novel by Cisco and I'm not sure I've recovered yet. I am definitely on board for this one.

For an example of poorly informed (or lazy?) list, there's BuzzFeed's 24 best sf books of 2015. About half of them are relevant and interesting. The other half look like someone randomly grabbed some books off a shelf.