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Ray Nayler: The Mountain in the Sea (Paperback, 2023, Picador) 4 stars

Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and …

Asks many interesting questions, has the sense not to try to give pat answers

5 stars

So much to love about this book, how it weaves together unanswerable questions about consciousness and computation, together with a much more didactic message about humans' consumptive relationships with, well, everything including each other, and enough of a mystery story to keep the plot moving along. Also some great evocations of places (ahhh, multiple key scenes on Istanbul ferries), and of the ways peoples' reputations misrepresent their selves.

It's not a strongly character driven book - every character that is fleshed out seems to be a variant of "loner who wishes for connection" and largely a vehicle for the author's ideas - but there's enough depth to the characters to keep me reading. My one real criticism is that the ending felt a bit rushed. Not in the sort of too convenient, story-undermining way, but not quite satisfying either. It doesn't feel like a set up for a sequel, but …

Mark Shainblum, Andrea D. Lobel: Other Covenants (2022, Ben Yehuda Press) 5 stars

Is anything more Jewish than stories of alternate history?

After all, at the center of …

Many futures, some excellent

4 stars

I love the premise of this book, and like any multi author collection the quality of the content is all over the place. Many great stories, some that don't quite work.

I started it excited about having an alternate history collection that wasn't going to be about "what if the Nazis won". It actually doesn't quite meet that bar, though at least there are only a couple of stories that plumb that particular horror, and the more original of the two is perhaps the highlight of the book: a psychological study of the oppressor that I was mentally chewing over for a long time. Meanwhile, the story that mashes up Scottish and Jewish history was an unexpected delight - it started out looking like the whole concept was just going to be a few puns ("Moshe Ben Nevis"; "The Hebraides") but fleshed that out into a genuinely interesting fantasy.

The …

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kim Stanley Robinson: Ministry for the Future (2020, Orbit) 4 stars

Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the …

Gets a lot right, but with some painful blind spots

3 stars

Content warning Spoilers for the whole book; references to disturbing content

Malka Ann Older: Infomocracy (2016) 3 stars

It's been twenty years and two election cycles since "Information," a powerful search engine monopoly, …

Brilliant at times, but didn't stick the landing

3 stars

Content warning vague general spoilers

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T. Kingfisher: What Moves the Dead (Hardcover, 2022, Tor Nightfire) 4 stars

From T. Kingfisher, the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones, comes What Moves the Dead, …

Puts the right flesh on the bones of Poe's story

5 stars

Content warning mild spoilers for the whole book

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (Paperback, 2001, Pearson ESL) 4 stars

Not my favourite of Poe's stories

3 stars

[this review is about the title story only] I was surprised by how short this story was. The way I hear it talked about kind of gives it the status of a novel in my mind, and it's really just a sketch, almost a single scene. Which is a format Poe absolutely excelled at--I think his best stories are so effective precisely because they're so tightly focussed and written--but somehow this one felt too skeletal to me. Which makes it a perfect choice for Ursula Vernon to have built around, but not a story I found very satisfying in its original form.