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How Long 'til Black Future Month reviewed by Sophie:

N.K. Jemisin is one of those authors that you find yourself telling everyone about: Do you like sci-fii? Read Jemisin. You like fantasy? Read Jemisin. You’ve never read SFF before? Read Jemisin!

And every person I’ve recommended her to has gone on to recommended her to others. It’s like The Ring. Just not on VHS.

How Long ’til Black Future Month is an incredible collection of short stories by an incredible three-times-consecutive-Hugo-Award-winning author. It has short short stories, like ‘The Elevator Dancer’ that gives you all the highs and lows of Orwell’s 1984 in four pages; and longer short stories, like ‘The Storyteller’s Replacement’: a gripping classic fantasy that tells of a king who eats the heart of a dragon and the unexpected effects of power. She masterfully plays with form in ‘Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows’ that looks at digital connection in an unconnected future world, and haunts you with a beautiful and reflective piece called ‘The You Train’ in a world familiar to us. And Lovecraft fans must read ‘The City Born Great’ for her depiction of the living beast that is New York.

Jemisin flays apart power structures and exposes the raw guts of humanity in a way that makes you desperate for more. A perfect holiday book, if you have five minutes or five hours, you’ll find something in here to keep you entertained.

Skyward reviewed by Whitney:

Once again demonstrating his savvy knack for being able to switch between swords and spaceships, Brandon Sanderson returns to the world he created for Defending Elysium and brings us Skyward, the first book in a brand-new series!

Skyward introduces us to Spensa. Home planet: Detritus, the last refuge in the universe for what remains of humankind. Spensa longs to be a pilot like her father and join the never-ending aerial war against the Krell, an alien race hell-bent on wiping humanity from existence if only she could escape from under the shadow of his legacy. Having deserted his team mid-battle, he was killed in action and branded a coward, a label which has stuck to Spensa ever since. The Defiants won’t forgive her father, they refuse to let her forget and the certainly won’t let her fly. But now the battle’s tide has turned, and this might just give Spensa a chance to claim the stars…

If you have a sci-fi nerd in your life that hasn’t already devoured Skyward- here is the perfect present. If they’ve already read Skyward but they still want more Sanderson (understandable)- he’s got plenty more to choose from! Do YOU like space-based stories full of adventure, well-written and engaging characters, and the occasional musical slug? Treat. Yo. Self.

Books are rectangular and easy to wrap, and therefore always an excellent gift idea.

Rosewater reviewed by Tom

How to explain Rosewater when there is a hell of a lot going on? Cyberpunk, biopunk, and Afropunk as a reader you know you’re the future of science and speculative fiction in your very hands. Author Tade Thompson won the inaugural Nommo Award for Best Novel, Africa's first award for speculative fiction.

Like I said there’s a lot going. It is the year 2066 and we have made First Contact. Aliens of indeterminate nature have arrived and annihilated London in the process, the United States has gone “dark”. After these key events, these aliens don’t interact with the human race but have released spores into the atmosphere creating something called the “xenosphere”. It’s a place where “sensitive” humans can tap into and read the thoughts of others or communicate with others.

Enter Kaaro, our narrator but not necessarily our hero. A former thief, a spy and a bit of a sex pest really. He uses his abilities to interrogate criminals and terrorists for a branch of the Nigerian government. Kaaro lives in the town of Rosewater which wraps around an alien biodome. Once a year the biodome opens and anyone nearby is cured of all their sickness, but not always perfectly. The results can leave a person more deformed than they were before. It even reanimates the dead!

There is the mystery of the biodome, the mystery of Kaaro’s new lover and the mystery surrounding the deaths of sensitives. Through it all Kaaro’s apathetic and sarcastic voice is there to charm you and ground the sheer weirdness of what’s happening around him.

This is one of the strongest debuts I’ve read in some time and the perfect first entry in a trilogy. Thrills, romance, action and a mystery in the air – that mystery is, of course, a tiny unseeable alien fungus. What more could you possibly want?

Books of Earthsea review by Chloe:

If you haven’t yet discovered the delight that is Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, you are in for a treat.  In fact, I’m always a little jealous of people who tell me that they’re reading Earthsea for the first time.

Have you ever wondered what wizards are like when they’re younger, before they become wise old magical dudes with white beards? These books are for you.  Are you keen to encounter some truly majestic and terrifying dragons? These books are for you.  Do you love it when fantasy is more than just fantasy, but full of real people with real problems, not just magic for magic’s sake?  I’m going to say it again: these books are for you.  I’m actually fairly convinced these books are for everyone –  50 years after the original publication, the Earthsea Cycle is still one of the most beloved favourites you’ll find.

This complete illustrated edition is particularly special.  It’s the perfect gift for your favourite Earthsea nerd, or for that poor soul in your life who’s been deprived of these stories until now.  Featuring new Earthsea stories never before printed, as well as ridiculously gorgeous illustrations by Charles Vess (commissioned by Le Guin herself), it’s truly a book – and a gift – that will be treasured.


The Broken Earth trilogy  reviewed by Suzy:

I took The Fifth Season with me to Italy excepting not too much reading time and for it to last me my three weeks. Well, when I started it, I utterly devoured it and read it in two days. Then because I needed to read the rest IMMEDIATELY I bought the e-books of The Obelisk Gate (book2) and Stone Sky (book 3). Let me iterate something unusual here - I bought my own company’s books because I had to find out what happens.

Like a few of the reviews I have read, it took me a while to finally start the series, but people, don’t do as I did and wait – just get into it! N K Jemisin completely deserves her consecutive wins of the Hugo Award’s Best Novel category, three years in a row plus her Nebula and Locus awards too.

All I can say is this is one of the best series I have ever read; it’s smart; it has a brilliant commentary running throughout it on slavery, prejudice and human love and foibles. But not only that I love the characters; I love the world; I love the complexity; I love the science behind the fantasy. If there is one series to gift yourself or your sci-fi reader in your life – then it is this one!

Red Moon reviewed by Sean

Red Moon is as much an international thriller as it is a sci-fi novel. The Moon has been colonized and the Chinese and Americans are jockeying for supremacy. The story follows the plight of two young people as they try to stay one step ahead of warring factions in the Chinese government.

Fred is on the moon to delivery an advanced piece of tech which will allow a secure communications line with its sister device on Earth. He is framed for murder, arrested, abducted, rescued, smuggled back to China where he is arrested again, escapes and then goes on the run with a Chinese political runaway.

Chan Qi is the beautiful enigmatic daughter of a high ranking Chinese politician. She is also an activist and the face of a movement pushing for change in China’s political system. And she is also on the Moon and is pregnant, which is illegal. Helped by the Ta Shu, a famous Chinese cloud show star, Fed and Qi are thrown together as unlikely allies as they run and hide from various Chinese factions that want to kill them.

This is Kim Stanley Robinson at his best, political intrigue, great character building and, despite our mistreatment of the earth, a positive outlook for humanity. It is highly enjoyable.

Someone Like Me reviewed by Louise

Someone Like Me is very different to the viral apocalyptic wasteland epic that M.R. Carey is so well known for. This story is instead an exploration of the trauma and recovery of domestic violence, family bonds, and identity, with all the trademarks that M.R. Carey is so well known for, such as incredible characters, elements of mystery and the supernatural and breakneck-paced narrative, you’ll be in for a 1000% gripping holiday read!

The story looks at the separate but intertwining stories of two main characters, the first being Liz Kendall, mother of two and a victim of abuse. She is in the midst of a divorce from her abusive partner, but shared custody of the children means she still must interact with him on a somewhat regular basis. In an instance where an exchange of the children is being made, a violent and physical argument arises. For the first time in her life, Liz finds herself fighting back and hurting her husband but with the distinct unsettling feeling that she was being controlled by something else. The result of this was the liberation of her family from the grips of this man.

Enter the young teenager, Fran Watts, who suffers from PTSD from a childhood abduction. The extensive psychological rehabilitation she has undergone hasn’t been able to eradicate the trauma from this experience. Her reality is constantly in flux and she experiences hallucinations including a companion fox named Jinx.

Liz tries to rebuild her life with her children but she finds the dark ‘something’ that has been awoken becoming stronger and louder. Fran tries to resolve her trauma by seeking answers she needs only to find shocking answers. As these women follow their distinct paths their lives start to come together taking us down a thrilling revelatory path that the author seems to write so well.

This novel is just another example of M.R. Carey’s originality, his talent in telling this hard story gave it a level of emotional depth I haven’t read in his previous writing – I was so invested in the characters and their suffering and had an intense desire to see them succeed. Of course, he also executes his talent in building suspense and surprise throughout (as he always does!) – I think you’ll find yourself glued to these very sticky pages.

 

 

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