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reviewed The Seep by Chana Porter

The Seep (Hardcover, 2020, Soho Press) 4 stars

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is …

The Seep

4 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

The Seep (Hardcover, 2020, Soho Press) 4 stars

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is …

We can’t just choose to erase or ignore the past. We’re creating the future with everything from the past, at all times. We are all from the same Source, but our experiences have made us different, and that difference needs to be celebrated and remembered. You were right, Trina. Identity cannot be stepped into like pants or a pair of socks.

The Seep by  (Page 90)

Sometimes Sasha gets mistaken for one of the queens. She is thin and angular, tall for a girl. She puts her makeup on thick, wears her skin like a costume. In school she would study the other girls, trying to learn how to look like them, act like them. How to seem real. At the Moon Room, everyone is pretending and at the same time, no one is. It’s one of the only places Sasha has ever felt at home.

The Moon Room by 

The Moon Room

4 stars

This short story can be read here:

This is a short story narrated by a photographer and taking place mostly at a drag bar. Thematically, I love how it uses the drag bar setting as a metaphorical context for the narrator's own exploration of vulnerability and costume. The creepy horror/science fiction elements are subtly woven through the whole piece, and the ending of this story brings everything together so well. What a great last line.

(content warnings: alcohol, and alcohol misuse as coping mechanism)

I read this because it's on the Otherwise Award's 2020 Honor List:

City of a Thousand Feelings (Aqueduct Press) 4 stars

City of a Thousand Feelings

4 stars

Content warning minor spoilers

Custom Options Available

5 stars

Content warning mention of sexual content (not lewd), minor spoilers

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water (Hardcover, 2020, 4 stars

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water

4 stars

I read this as a part of the #SFFBookClub for March. I voted for this book largely because I had enjoyed Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown and wanted to read more from her.

To sum up the book, it's a wuxia novella that follows a bandit group along with ex-nun Guet Imm. Guet Imm in the first scene loses her job at a coffee shop because of said bandits and insists on joining said gang.  Very queer; some gender stuff going on; the gang itself is sort of a found family that sticks up for each other even when they don't get along.  It's hard to talk about too much more without getting into spoilers. It's far more about characterization and shifting identities due to wartime loss than about magical fight scenes.

I was not expecting to find this book so funny and to have such great banter.  Guet …

Into the Broken Lands (2022, DAW) 1 star

Into the Broken Lands

1 star

Overall this book wasn't for me. I found it heavy-handed and repetitive. Would not recommend.

Plot-wise, this is an extremely long fantasy quest novel about insecure heir Ryan, knowledge-seeking-at-all-costs scholar cousin Lyelee, and nearly indestructible magical "weapon"/actually a person Nonee going to find some fuel in a dangerous mage-torn land to keep a magical fire burning for ostensibly motivational reasons.

The book sets up a tale of Ryan following in the footsteps of the previous heir Garrett's journey to find fuel and intersperses the two journeys. Unfortunately, I don't feel like these scenes served the book very well. They didn't reveal much hidden backstory, didn't really develop Arianna and Nonee's relationship (which felt fixed from the moment they met), didn't reveal much about Garrett himself, and only served to draw out the journey by doubling its length.

The characters felt very flat to me. Sure, Ryan and Lyelee have a …

Bonsai Starships

3 stars

This short story can be read here:

A story about a monk cultivating her bonsai starships who is forced to look beyond her gardens into a larger world of space politics. In typical Yoon Ha Lee fashion, there are delightfully no details about how these bonsai are starships, they just are. It's hard to blame a short story for being too short, but the ending felt abrupt in a way that didn't quite resonate with the rest of the story for me.

reviewed The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

The Terraformers (Hardcover, 2023, Tor Books) 4 stars

From science fiction visionary Annalee Newitz comes The Terraformers, a sweeping, uplifting, and illuminating exploration …

The Terraformers

4 stars

This is a novel about a corporate-run terraformed world and the struggle of the people building that world to push back on their awful corporate owners and ultimately become self-governing.

Chapter one of this book really gripped me: a park ranger on a terraforming planet (who can connect to sensors in nearby trees and grasses) and her texting/flying moose buddy stop a rich camping tourist hurting the local ecosystem. Here's a small handful of other delightful worldbuilding details that I enjoyed, just for flavor: new people are built/decanted rather than born; sentient worms solve NP completeness; there's an endearing cat/train relationship. I think there's something fun about a novel that sets itself extremely far in the future and stuffs itself with neat ideas.

It's hard not to feel the echoes of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy in this whole book. Aside from the obvious bit that it's about the terraforming …

Lord of Emperors (Sarantine Mosaic, Book 2) (Paperback, 2001, Eos) 5 stars

The Thrilling Sequel To Sailing To SarantiumBeckoned by the Emperor Valerius, Crispin, a renowned mosaicist, …

Lord of Emperors

5 stars

Even on rereading, this book is a really satisfying conclusion to the duology. I feel like the strongest theme of these books is really the question of "what is a legacy" (art? children? conquest? etc).

Even though the larger historical picture of this duology is the arc of one particular emperor and empress, it manages to give plenty of side characters enough time on page to each have their own arc, intersect with each other, and get their own development and resolution in a satisfying way.

One thing that I liked in this series (that I also think Tigana is a great example of as well) is that this book's plot is a small number of very dense events. For example, there's a wedding at some point, but there's multiple points of views leading up to it for why people are there, how they ended up there at all, how …