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Mon 14 Aug 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

Locus August 2017 (#679) coverThis month’s Locus includes reviews of a four-fingered handful of our books! As well as all the usual good stuff: interviews with John Scalzi and Justina Ireland; reviews by Faren Miller, Gardner Dozois, & more; the Locus Survey results, an SF in Finland report, Kameron Hurley’s column [“Did ‘Being a Writer’ Ever Mean. . . Just Writing?”], reports from the Locus Awards and Readercon; & obits (boo!). [Locus is available from Weightless and they’re having a subscription drive this month and there is a Patreon.]

Four-fingered handful? Hmm. Three books are reviewed by the one and only Gary K. Wolfe. The first is Christopher Rowe’s new collection Telling the Map:

“. . . it is no accident that Christopher Rowe dedicates his first story collection Telling the Map to fellow Kentuckians Terry Bisson and Jack Womack. It’s also no accident that Rowe, on the basis of no more than a couple of dozen stories over nearly 20 years (of which 10 are collected here), managed to gain a reputation as one of the most distinctive voices to emerge from this period. This is not only because he writes with lyricism and great precision of style, but because of his firm geographical grounding, which is reflected in all the stories here (as well as in his title), but is a key factor in several (‘Another Word for Map is Faith’, ‘The Voluntary State’, ‘The Border State’). This isn’t the geography of fake world-building, with all those Forbidden Zones and Misty Mountains, but rather the geography of locals who measure distances between towns in hours rather than miles, and who know which bridges you’ll need to cross to get there. It’s also a world in which agriculture and religion are daily behaviors rather than monolithic institutions. As weird as Tennessee gets in Rowe’s most famous story, ‘The Voluntary State’ (and that is very weird) it’s a Tennessee we can map onto the trails and highways that are there now.
“‘The Voluntary State’ and its longer prequel novella ‘The Border State’ (the latter original to this volume), take up well over half of Telling the Map, and together they portray a nanotech-driven non-urban future unlike any other in contemporary SF.”

Gary goes on to write of Sofia Samatar’s debut collection:

Tender: Stories includes two excellent new pieces together with 18 reprints, and one of them, “Fallow”, is not only the longest story in the collection, but also her most complex and accomplished SF story to date. On the basis of her award-winning debut novel A Stranger in Olondria and its sequel The Winged Histories, Samatar’s reputation has been mostly that of a fantasist, and her most famous story, ‘‘Selkie Stories Are For Losers’’ (the lead selection here) seemed to confirm that reputation – although once Samatar establishes the parameters of her fantastic worlds, she works out both her plot details and cultural observations with the discipline of a seasoned SF writer and the psychological insight of a poet.”

and Kij Johnson’s forthcoming The River Bank:

“The familiar figures of Mole, Water Rat, Badger, Mouse, and of course Toad are here, but the story opens with two new figures, a young mole lady named Beryl and her companion the Rabbit, an impressionable young woman described by Mouse as ‘‘right flighty,’’ moving into Sunflower Cottage on the River Bank. Beryl is a successful ‘‘Authoress’’ of potboiling adventure novels, and while Johnson has a good time giving us hints of these novels and of Beryl’s own writing process, her real significance is that she is not only one of the first female characters to move into the village, but one of the first who actually has a clear occupation. Both she and Rabbit are welcomed by the locals, although Mole himself seems oddly reticent to have any dealings with her, for reasons that become clear much later. Most of these residents are familiar in their dispositions, although Toad may if anything be a bit darker and more reckless and impulsive than in Grahame. One of the more intriguing aspects of The Wind in the Willows, maybe especially for SF readers, was the satirical manner in which it introduced technology into the world of the animal fable, and Toad’s famous passion for motorcars is here supplanted by an equally voracious and hilarious lust for the new motorcycles, after he sees a messenger riding one. That, of course, leads to the series of disasters – and attempted interventions on the part of Toad’s friends – that make up Johnson’s fast-moving plot. . . . The delicate balance of challenging the assumptions of a beloved classic while retaining the oracular charm of that classic seems almost effortless in Johnson’s hands, but it’s more of an achievement than it might at first seem.”

And then, turning the page, there is Colleen Mondor’s amazing review of Sarah Rees Brennan’s YA novel, In Other Lands — which comes out this Tuesday! The review begins thusly:

“I have rewritten the first paragraph of this review a half-dozen times, trying to find some way to make clear that Sarah Rees Brennan has created a nearly perfect YA fantasy without gushing. I can’t do it. In Other Lands is brilliantly subversive, assuredly smart, and often laugh-out-loud funny. It combines a magic-world school setting with heaps of snark about everything from teen romance to gender roles, educational systems and serious world diplomacy.”

It is pretty great when a book finds its reader!

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