Since I find myself with bunches of time, but not a lot of brain power, I’ve been working through the stack of TorDotCom novellas that has been piling up on my bedside table for…uh… a While. There are just so many of them! (And they are all so amazing!) Anyway, I’ve been working my way through a backlog and a forelog? of both published novellas and ARCs for ones coming out later this year, and I thought I would do a post highlighting some of my favorites that I’ve read so far in this period of isolation!
Asian-inspired second world fantasy is having a Moment these days, and this book very much proves why that’s a good thing. There’s an empire at war, and the bandits taking advantage of that chaos meet their match in an ex-priestess who hitches herself to their star to protect the sacred relics they’re trying to sell. And it is marvelous. These characters are absolutely fantastic, and there wasn’t one of them who I didn’t want to shake and also hug at the same time. There was some excellent trans rep, too. And stunningly beautiful prose. Not that I expected different from Zen Cho, but this was particularly gorgeous. Not to be missed.
Silver reads like soft moss and misty afternoons; it feels like walking though leaf mold in the forest in mid-October when everything is chill in the sunlight, it glimmers like fog curling around the trees in your backyard and makes you want to go run your hands through it even though you know you can’t touch it. This book made my heart feel a little bit like it has a deep, soft-edged abyss sitting just beneath it that makes breathing difficult, but it’s the satisfying kind of soreness that means you loved. I love achy books, but no book has ever quite achieved “achy” like Silver in the Wood.
Soft and dreamy, but with so many teeth, Drowned Country is just a beautiful as Silver if not moreso. It’s like the ragged, raw edges of old, soft tweed; it’s full of filtered light and misted rain, eldritch gods whose magic pales against that of the humans who wander this mystical setting. It aches and I love both these books with my entire soul.
No other book I have ever read has quite managed to so perfectly capture the absolutely soul-sucking, draining, overwhelming numbness of working for a corporate retail chain. Except this corporate hell comes with fresh new horrors, like wormholes to other dimensions, carnivorous furniture, a hive mind, submarine pirates, and the fraught and delicate navigations involved in having this unpaid adventure with your ex. Who you still kinda love. With queer rep and a singular understanding of minimum wage work, Finna is a piece of vaguely nauseating horror that will leave your spine tingling not just from the sentient chairs, but also from the reflection of real-world truths thrown into harsh light by the absurdity of the wormholes.
I fully admit that when I finished this book, I was properly speechless. I’m still not quite sure what to say about this book, because it’s not really for me. It’s not my place. This book is deeply rooted in the Black American experience, and while that is something I can never understand, this glimpse into it is powerful, intense, and absolutely heart-wrenching. In a world that is so much like our own but with slow hints and bits of description that reveal that this is a little bit more dystopian than where we’re at now (though honestly, a terrifyingly believable progression), the slow build to the revolution in this book is masterful. With a lot to say about family, power, struggle, and transformation, Riot Baby is full of rage, full of love, and full of holy $&@% this is good.
Okay, truly, ANYTHING written by Clark is frikkin amazing (I believe I have, in the past, waxed poetic about both The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015) but, Ring Shout is something completely different. Maryse, a woman with a lot of anger, a lot of love, and a magic sword, has to face the demons created by hatred–not just external demons, but the ones in her head, too. Not for the squeamish (there are a lot of mouths and…fleshy bits. A lot of body horror, basically.) but absolutely for anyone who’s here to read a book that digs deeply into the nature of hate, vengeance, and justice, Ring Shout is a gorgeously, gruesomely crafted tale that is poised to take up residence in your mind and keep you thinking about it for days after you close the covers. It is here to make you feel uncomfortable, and it takes no prisoners, and you–yes you–should read it as soon as it comes out in October.
All right, all right, you all know how much everyone at the store loves Murderbot: this cranky, antisocial human/bot construct, security consultant, and media aficionado stole our hearts years ago and with each new installment, our love has only grown (much to Murderbot’s horror, we’re sure). But all four of these novellas (and the new novel!) fill my heart with such intense joy that I’ve found myself rereading them while my brain can’t process anything else. I’ve been reading them out loud to my girlfriend, and the process of sharing this story has been genuinely restorative. I highly recommend you find a friend and buddy-read these poignant, humorous, moving, deeply human books about a character that strives at every turn to prove just how inhuman it is. (We know better, Murderbot, but whatever makes you happy, we’ll go with it.)
I’m going to keep plugging away at this stack, so I’m sure I’ll be doing another novella spotlight blog post soon. If you, like me, are having trouble concentrating on anything longer than a Netflix episode, I highly recommend you check out any or all of these novellas–they’ll grab you and hold on until you finish them, and every one of them is a great way to spend an afternoon.
You can purchase or pre-order them by clicking on their titles above, or by calling the store between 10am and 2pm!