Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Jul 20

Happy Friday, krakens and Kryptonians! Today I’m reviewing An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim and Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas, talking about forthcoming books from Becky Chambers and NK Jemisin, musing about Robin Hood, and more.

This newsletter is sponsored by Penguin Random House.

a compound image of the covers of both Nyxia and Nyxia UnleashedEmmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Becky Chambers is writing a new series, and it’s going to be solarpunk! I am very here for this — her books are already what we’ve been calling “cozy” (a.k.a. feel good or optimistic) sci-fi, and I can’t wait to see what kinds of sustainable tech she comes up with.

Speaking of optimism! Here are books that will restore your faith in humanity, one spaceship or feral hippo at a time.

Y’all, I can’t help but enjoy this trailer for the newest, heistiest Robin Hood remake. It appears to be what you’d get if you mashed up Ocean’s Eleven, Robin Hood, and V for Vendetta.

Sometimes the universe wants us to have nice things, and I’m counting Noelle Stevenson’s take on She-Ra as one of them.

Also to be filed under “gifts from the universe” is NK Jemisin’s forthcoming, first ever short story collection! It’s called How Long ’til Black Future Month? and it will be out November 27, 2018.

Here’s a sci-fi poem: thanks to the excellent Pome Tinyletter I’ve become a poetry convert, and Quarto by Adrienne Rich delighted my SFF sensibilities when it showed up in my inbox.

Need some good, cheap summer reads? Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb are both on sale (for $3.99 and $1.99, respectively), and Amanda once jokingly described them as being about “a Superfund site plus dragons,” which is spot on. And Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber, which is a dark, brutal, and incredibly rich futuristic retelling of Caribbean folktales (trigger warnings: rape and child abuse), is on sale for $2.99!

Need a new Harry Potter quiz? This one will tell you what your wand would be! (I got laurel with a troll whisker core, which I definitely did not realize was an option.)

Reminder! We’re giving away $500 worth of the best YA books of 2018 so far, and you can enter to win right here.

Today in reviews, we’ve got a past-future time-travel novel and a sweetly supernatural graphic novel.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Trigger warning: sexual assualt

a sunset over water including an oil rig, with the horizon line tilted 45 degreesIt’s hard to believe this is a debut novel, for any number of reasons. The pacing; the execution of the ambitious concept; the character development; the balance of absurdity and realism — Lim handles all these elements so deftly, and with such insight.

Imagine a world in which a plague struck America in the 1980s. Time travel had just been discovered, but you can’t go back in time to stop the epidemic — just forward, in 12 year leaps. Let’s say the corporation that controls time travel offered you, with your useful skills, an opportunity to go forward in exchange for medical treatment for your loved one. Would you go?

For Polly, the answer is yes. She’s still young and 12 years is nothing (or so she tells herself), and her relationship with Frank is worth it. They make a plan to meet up in Texas in the future, and she signs the contract. She arrives in the ’90s to find that she’s actually 17 years in the future due to a “reroute,” she’s indentured, and the world is nothing like the one she left behind. Not only is the geography different, but Texas is now part of a separate country from the United States, the “rules” of society have warped, and no one seems to want to explain anything to her.

Polly navigates the pitfalls of race, class, and gender in this slightly absurd, all-too-real future in a quest to find Frank and her remaining family. Lim asks the biggest questions about love — what is it, really? Can it last in prolonged absence? — and finds no easy answers. The journey is well worth your time; this book belongs on your shelf next to On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, Pym by Mat Johnson, and Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.

Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas

an illustration of a young man wearing glasses turning to look back at the viewer, with many creepy eyes just barely visible in the dark backgroundI was visiting friends last weekend and I can’t remember the conversation that led to one of them shoving Volume One of this comic into my hands, but I’m so glad for whatever it was. This is a delightful, supernatural-hijinks-filled small-town story, and it is still ongoing!

Oscar Wilde (yes, that’s really his name) is a floundering young writer who decides to rent a house on Craigslist in Podunk (yes, that’s really what the town is called), Oklahoma. What seems like a quiet backwater is actually a haven for ghosts, shapeshifters, and the magically inclined — and Oscar will find out in the most dramatic ways possible. Volume One follows him from one revelation to the next, with both hilarity and danger along the way.

This comic has so much heart, and so much humor! Each character’s name is a wink and a nudge, Oscar is just the right mix of smart guy and naive noob, and the colors and style are engaging and a pleasure to look at. (I am still laughing about Clifford the big red …. dog?) Volume One ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I was delighted to see that the comic is fully online — I’ll be catching up ASAP, and keeping an eye out for future collections.

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.

Long days and pleasant nights,