Allison’s October Favorites!

There are way too many great books coming out in October, and here are some of my favorites (besides Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, which should be great, but which I have yet to get my greedy little hands on).

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley 

Still reeling from the death toll* in this one.

*ASoIaF is for THE WEAK (had to tone down my stronger wording from my Goodreads review….)

One of those second-in-series that blows the first book (which I also loved) out of the water. Empire Ascendant really DELIVERS on the many things The Mirror Empire promises. More world(s)-building, more points-of-view, more Tarantino-style action, more blood magic. Sadly, not more cannibalism. Some of your faves die (maybe), some of your faves torture each other. You cry. Just another day being a Kameron Hurley fan.

If you haven’t read any of Hurley’s work, now is the time. She experiments and shocks in some truly delightful ways. A lot of “WOAH” moments, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

This is a good time to plug the fact that she has a bad-ass sounding space opera coming out next year (THE STARS ARE LEGION– isn’t the title alone just #@!$ing awesome?) Anyways, get on it. Read all her stuff.

Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson

What a weird and wonderful novel! I requested a review copy based solely on seeing the “An Illuminated Novel” subtitle, and didn’t even know what it was about until I received it! Bats of the Republic is a back and forth and twisting and turning narrative between an amateur naturalist in the 1843 Republic of Texas and a Senator’s heir in a 2143 dystopian steam-powered Republic of Texas.

Throw in a dash of mysticism and oodles of maps, notes, letters, transcripts, naturalist sketches, and even portions of another novel, and this became exactly the book I didn’t know I needed right now!

There are a few twists, some that I saw coming (including perhaps the ~big~ one), and plenty of action and monentum for a novel of this format.

Should appeal to fans of Danielewski and “S.” but is much more lucid than either.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

First things first, Johnston is a hell of a writer. I’m definitely a plot-over-writing-style person, but I will always give kudos where they are due (and where they don’t bore me to tears), and this was just so finely crafted. I knew around the halfway point that this would go right up there with Valente’s “The Orphan’s Tales” as one of my favorite takes on “One Thousand and One Nights”.

Our nameless narrator uses her unwavering bond with her sister to survive her tyrant husband, Lo-Melkhiin, for more nights than any of his previous wives. The tales she weaves for him and for the other palace inhabitants aren’t just regurgitations of known stories or fables. They’re tales of the desert in which she grew up, tales of her sister, tales that are beautiful in their simplicity. She has conversations with the needlewomen, with her henna mistress, with one of the Skeptics (scientist-philosophers).

The inspiration may be an oft-used one, but the execution is very original.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

True Blood meets American Vampire meets Pretty Deadly?

I really love the current wave of Old West-inspired fantasy, steampunk, and horror, and Wake of Vultures is such a great addition to my current list of favorite dark fantasy novels. Although populated by vampires, sirens (yes, in the desert), and dread figures from Comanche folklore, Wake of Vultures is, at its core, a searing coming-of-age narrative. Nettie is a girl of mixed heritage and unsure sexuality struggling to carve a place for herself, both in the world of monsters and in the world of normal (but still crazy, as she often thinks) people.

Humorous, terrifying, and oddly heartwarming at times.

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

What an absolutely awesome novel. I was trying to think of things to compare it to, and Blade Runner immediately comes to mind, as does the Bioshock series of video games (especially the abandoned amusement park bits).

Action-packed, character-driven, and featuring some really intriguing world-building, Our Lady of the Ice is the next level in artificial intelligence-themed novels, which I’m a huge fan of.

This was told through four point-of-view characters, all compelling in their own ways, all flawed, all sympathetic. It was interesting to see how the four converged, came into conflict, and sometimes supported each other.  I found the setting wholly original. Hope City (an alternate world expansion on the real-world Esperanza Base) is a city in Antarctica, protected by domes, controlled by politicians and gangsters, and maintained by robots.

If I had to label this, I would call it dieselpunk retrofuturistic neo-noir/sci-fi, but that’s a mouthful, so I’ll stick with “absolutely awesome”.



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