The Curie Society by Heather Einhorn, Adam Staffaroni, Janet Harvey and Sonia Liao
(The MIT Press, 2021)
Reviewed by David Lascelles
‘Charlie's Angels but more intellectual’ is my initial reaction to this fascinating experiment in female led comics. Three students—Maya, Taj and Simone—start their first year at Edmonds University in Virginia. Simone is a 16-year-old Biology prodigy with a fascination with ant colonies, Maya is an overachieving maths genius with pushy parents who want her to join MENSA and Taj is an engineer and computer scientist. Our three heroes end up together in the same dorm room and, very soon after arriving, a note is delivered to each of them with a puzzle to solve. The puzzle requires them to work together to find the location of the Curie Society headquarters in the grounds of the University where they discover they are the newest recruits.
Review from BSFA Review 14 - Download your copy here.
Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology edited by Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
(Titan Books, 2020)
Reviewed by Ivy Roberts
Genre boundaries are blurred in this spinoff of the popular SF podcast. Editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya compile 15 stories consisting mostly of tried-and-true Escape Pod contributors. Escape Pod brings together short stories old and new in this science fiction anthology, featuring authors John Scalzi, N. K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, Cory Doctorow, and Kameron Hurley, many of whom have been with the podcast since its inception in 2005. A foreword by Serah Eley, founder of the Escape Pod podcast, provides helpful context and background to the project. Helpful editor’s introductions precede each entry, providing context to the contributor’s individual style.
James Cawthorn: The Stormbringer Sessions: Sketches for a Graphic Novel compiled by John Davey
(Jayde Design/Savoy Books, 2021)
Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
It must be difficult for contemporary readers—even those who are fans of the work—to get their heads around what reading Michael Moorcock’s “Elric” series in the 1960s was like. The sudden flash of discovery in the mid-1960s was largely created by the fact that there really was comparatively little of that kind of fiction available, but it was quite clear to even the most naïve reader that Moorcock was picking up a genre and trying to pull it into the modern world. In 1965 J. G. Ballard—that’s J. G. Ballard, the darling of ‘experimental’ literary theorists—called Stormbringer “[a] work of powerful and sustained imagination which confirms Michael Moorcock’s position as the most important successor to Mervyn Peake and Wyndham Lewis… a world as fantastic as those of Bosch and Breughel…vast, tragic symbols… [a] metaphysical quest.” Not bad for a sword-and-sorcery novel. Moorcock’s ‘Eternal Champion’ series (of which the Elric sub-series is but a part) is perhaps too hastily constructed from its individual units to be entirely successful as epic, but if it has the feel of epic it’s in the doomed anti-hero Elric himself, who in these earlier works is like the heroes of Homer or the Norse sagas, self-aware enough to know that he is a tool of greater powers even as he shatters the world around him.
Nature’s Warnings: Classic Stories of Eco-Science Fiction edited by Mike Ashley
(British Library, 2020)
Reviewed by Graham Andrews
“Today we understand that the future of humanity very much depends on our planet, and that the future of our planet very much depends on humanity.” Mike Ashley chose that apposite quote from the Dalai Lama (My Tibet, 1990) to head the Introduction (‘Total Dependency’) to his eco-themed British Library retro-tome. Eleven stories, eleven warnings, with one minatory message: There is no cosily habitable planet for us in the Solar System, so—barring the development of cheap and cheerful FTL travel—we’ll either have to shape up or crap out, right here on Earth.
The Galaxy And The Ground Within by Becky Chambers
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2021)
Reviewed by Stuart Carter
Embarrassingly for me, it’s taken over 40 years, and the wisdom of Becky Chambers, to question why carrying a gun—or piloting a spaceship with them—is so normal in science fiction.
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
(Penguin Random House, 2020)
Reviewed by Kate Onyett
Welcome to an overcrowded, polluted, highly iniquitous Earth of the future where humanity plugs into a virtual reality called OASIS to be educated, socialise, trade, escape and explore, limited only by their imaginations. In Cline’s first OASIS novel, Wade, poor and unremarkable, undertook an epic gaming quest across multiple virtual worlds. He and his friends won, Willy Wonka-style, the corporation that created and maintained OASIS.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
(Del Rey, 2021)
Reviewed by Ben Jeapes
Andy Weir’s first two novels, The Martian and Artemis, established a distinct style: a loner who resolves their way out of one big crisis and a series of lesser ones armed with nothing but science and a sense of humour. His third novel starts almost in self-parody but goes on to have the most moving, redemptive and emotionally satisfying ending so far.
The Society of Time: The Original Trilogy and Other Stories by John Brunner
Reviewed by Nick Hubble
This is an entry in the British Library’s somewhat eclectic series of ‘Science Fiction Classics’. The book contains five novellas: ‘The Analysts’ (1961) and ‘Father of Lies’ (1962), both originally published in Science Fantasy; and the three ‘Society of Time’ novellas, ‘Spoil of Yesterday’, ‘The Word Not Writien’ and ‘The Fullness of Time’, first published in 1962 in successive issues of Science Fiction Adventures. The back-cover blurb is slightly misleading in that although it correctly states that the trilogy was abridged when first collected as Times Without Number in 1962, it does not mention that the cuts were restored in the expanded 1969 edition. Mike Ashley discusses this in his introduction, but it should be more clearly labelled on the cover.
Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki
Verso are best known for publishing fairly weighty tomes of left-wing politics, history and theory, but in September 2019 they launched Verso Fiction: ‘a new series of uncompromisingly intelligent and beautiful books with an international focus.’ Terminal Boredom ticks all these boxes but more importantly it has an authentic edgy feel to it that is a welcome reminder of the days when spikiness and attitude were not just marketing categories but a genuine challenge to post-war consumerist complacency. While this period feel is not surprising given that the seven short stories collected here were first published in the 1970s and 1980s, it is a shock that it has taken over 35 years to translate the work of Izumi Suzuki (1949-1986) into English. I suspect that any Anglosphere publishers who might have contemplated it found the complete lack of sentiment too bleak. The overall themes are suggested by the title of the recent review of this edition in the New York Times: ‘Where Every Coupling Depends on Lies, and Men Are Aliens’. However, such themes are now commercially attractive and, more fundamentally, the context of reception has changed now. For example, while themes revolving around androgyny were countercultural in the 1970s and 1980s, the existence of nonbinary genders is now widely accepted within society and I suspect that this is the context in which Suzuki would be understood today.
The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories by Eugen Bacon
(Meercat Press, 2021)
Eugen Bacon’s The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories invites readers into an eclectic world of Gods, demons, shape shifters, bounty hunters, and spirits. This loosely connected web of tales weaves together themes of death, memory, and relationships. Beneath stories of ancient beasts and heroes lie profoundly modern problems: how to deal with breakup, struggles to overcome trauma, surviving the death of a loved one… Bacon’s fantasies blend effortlessly with modern day contexts ala American Gods.
67, James St.
Stoke on Trent,