Happy Friday, robots and rogues! Today I have for you a bunch of book to screen news, some Robin Hood reading, reviews of Autonomous and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, and more.
This newsletter is sponsored by Haven by Mary Lindsey.
Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.
Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.
Last call to enter our bookstore giveaway! You could win a $500 gift card to the bookstore of your choice, and it’s open worldwide. Get clicking, it closes on November 26.
Our resident medievalist is back, this time with Robin Hood retellings! So is that Robins of the Hood or Robin Hoods or….
The latest Wrinkle In Time trailer is here and it is INTENSE. We finally get a look at the Mrs. Ws’ flying form, and it’s not at all what I was expecting or had pictured, but I’ve already decided to give this adaptation lots of detail leeway in exchange for (hopefully) awesome.
Do you need more space operas in your life? Here’s a list of 10 that Unbound Worlds recommends you read before you see Star Wars: The Last Jedi; I feel like you should read Lightless, Empress of a Thousand Skies, and On A Red Station, Drifting whenever and preferably as soon as possible.
Speaking of even more movie franchises and in case you missed it, the ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ official cast photo has been released!
Ok one more: the folks over at Tor.com did a recast for the Lord of the Rings TV series, and BOY DO I APPROVE OF THIS. Most particularly of “Tatiana Maslany plays everyone.”
Technically today’s reviews are science fiction and science fiction AND fantasy, but I didn’t think you’d mind.
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
This is a story about artificial intelligence, submarine pirates, and Big Pharma. It’s also about human trafficking, gender perceptions, and what choice looks like in constrained circumstances. There’s a lot going on here, and Newitz doesn’t shy away from asking provocative questions or creating ambiguous situations. Which wasn’t a surprise to me, knowing her work; Newitz is the co-founder of io9, along with Charlie Jane Anders, and when I interviewed her for our Recommended podcast ambiguity in particular was on her mind.
The story follows two main narrative threads. Jack, our submarine pirate, has made it her life’s work to create open-source drugs for people who can’t afford the patented, Big Pharmacy-controlled ones. She’s also not above selling some for recreational use as well as medicinal, to help fund her operations. When a batch of a new productivity drug she sold starts claiming victims, she has to do her best to put things to right. On her trail are Eliasz, an operative hired by the pharmaceutical company, and his robot colleague Paladin. As they work together, Paladin — whose sentience is never in question — becomes increasingly confused and increasingly engaged by his relationship with Eliasz.
Each character introduced throughout the novel is working through a major trauma or life moment, and I found my sympathies morphing and changing with each new revelation. Characters I thought I despised suddenly became not only relatable but important to me, and some I thought I completely understood became much more complicated. And then there’s the actual (and very action- and gore-packed) plot! There’s nothing straightforward about Autonomous, but there’s a lot to enjoy and a lot to ponder.
Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, edited by Charles Yu and John Joseph Adams
I’ve mentioned Charles Yu before in this newsletter; I’m a fan of his work, so I was excited to see that he was curating this year’s Best American SFF! Having finished it this weekend, I’m happy to say that while it’s not my favorite collection of the year — that honor goes to The Djinn Falls In Love And Other Stories — there’s a lot of great work here.
Before I dig into it, it bears mentioning that if you’ve ever uttered the words “Why does everything have to be political? I just want a good story!”, this collection is not for you. (Also, no art is apolitical.) The frustration, anger, and anxiety of the last two years in American politics are strongly present and strongly represented here, and several of the most clearly political were also my favorite stories. The authors herein tackle everything from police brutality to medical insurance, pollution and climate change to gender fluidity, the prison industrial complex to class inequality. There are also wardrobe portals, werewolves, aliens, lake monsters, and much more.
Some favorites: Leigh Bardugo’s “Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” opens the collection with a sweet and eerie piece about summer friends and first love, plus the aforementioned lake monsters. Genevieve Valentine’s “Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home” is impossible to describe without giving away the twist, but suffice it to say that I will be thinking about it for a long time to come — it manages to be both wistful and bitingly observant of contemporary society. Nisi Shawl’s “Vulcanization,” which follows a haunted King Leopold, is particularly satisfying if you’ve read her novel Everfair (which you should). Catherynne Valente’s “The Future is Blue” is simultaneously one of the most whimsical and the most violent stories — no small feat. N.K. Jemisin’s “The City Born Great” is, unsurprisingly, fantastic and delivers a whole new spin on urban fantasy. Werewolf fans like myself will be tickled by all the references in “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” by Dale Bailey. And the final story, “The Venus Effect” by Joseph Allen Hill, is here to burn everything down. A pointed meditation on black characters in sci-fi and on the literally life-threatening dangers of being black in America, it’s funny and a punch in the gut all at once.
Many of these authors will be familiar to you; but as with any good collection, there are newcomers like Hill that you’ll want to add to your radar.
And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.
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