Greetings, Earthlings and visitors from other realms. This week we’re talking Want and Labyrinth Lost, plus adaptation news, a bunch of themed reading lists, and more.
This newsletter is sponsored by The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy.
The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew. Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.
What can corporations learn from sci-fi? There’s a whole company dedicated to the answer, “A lot actually.” (I’ll be over here cackling about the kangaroo thing.)
Do you love Jane Austen and also love magic? Here are four fantasy novels that might be just what you’re looking for. Definitely read the comments (SHOCKING, I know) as there are lots of great additional sections there!
It turns out author Martha Wells loves a good magic/science combo as much as I do, and has written a list of eight books that do it well (and ditch most of the tropes!). Hardest of cosigns on JY Yang’s Tensorate books, GO PREORDER NOW.
Got a short attention span, a limited amount of reading time, or just really love short stories? Here are an actual hundred SF/F short story collections, including both single-author and multi-author collections.
I am generally restrained in the face of enamel pins, but these Harry Potter ones are VERY TEMPTING. (Luna’s glasses! Felix felicis!)
And now, on to our reviews: a quest in the future, and a quest that is out of this world.
Want by Cindy Pon
In the Taiwan of Want‘s future, air pollution has gotten so bad that the wealthiest members of society go outside only in suits that filter their air, connect them to the network, regulate their temperature, and any other bells and whistles they can think up. For the rest of society, life expectancy is down to 40 and disease is rampant, and blue skies are just a story from the past. There are people trying to change things, but they’re up against corporate money — and corporate violence.
When his best friend’s mother is murdered for working to get environmental legislation passed, Zhou and his friends hatch a plan to take down Jin Corp, the sole maker of suits and the force behind her death. To take them down, someone will have to go undercover. From life as a mei (or have-not), Zhou will have to learn how to walk, talk, and act like a rich boy to infiltrate high society and get the access they need to execute their plan. If only he wasn’t falling for their primary target, Daiyu, daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO…
I was prepared to love this book, having read Cindy Pon before. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much! From simple, classic premises — star-crossed lovers, a grim ecological future — Pon creates a vibrant story with depth and heart. Zhou and his friends feel more mature than their years, having grown up too quickly in trying circumstances. The rich kids Zhou befriends as he goes undercover are more than just cardboard cut-outs of privilege (although some of them are as bad as you’d expect). And Daiyu is far from just another pretty girl. By taking the tropes of near-future YA and tweaking them in her own way, Pon has delivered a book I would recommend to every and any person looking for a good story, a realistic future scenario, and a touch of hope.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Labyrinth Lost follows the adventures of Alex, for whom magic is both everyday and hugely unwanted. Her family, who live in Brooklyn, are part of a magical community and her Deathday Celebration, when she is supposed to come fully into her magic, is approaching. But magic has brought her nothing but pain and terror, and all she wants is to get rid of it. So she decides to do her own spell — a spell to take away her magic.
Of course it backfires, and instead sends her entire family into Los Lagos, an in-between world full of supernatural creatures and terrors. Now she has to use her largely untested magic to try to defeat an enemy who has been plotting for generations. And while she finds some help along the way, nothing is what it seems.
Córdova has created a fully realized magical system and realm in this first installation of the Brooklyn Brujas series. Reminding me at various moments of The Princess Bride, The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and other portal fantasies, it is ultimately all her own. If you’re ready to visit a new world and cheer on a heroine who has a lot to learn, but isn’t afraid to try, then you’re ready for Labyrinth Lost. Join me in waiting for the next installment! (Not out until April 2018, WOE IS US.)
That’s a wrap: Happy reading! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the new SFF Yeah! podcast.