Reviews of the Week with Annalee Newitz, Mary E. Pearson, Joe Hill, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

A progressive time-traveling journey that could save the world from a permanent sexist dystopia; an astonishing sequel to a popular YA adventure; the refreshingly idiosyncratic story of two towns at odds in their beliefs; a new collection of short stories from a master of bizarre fiction; the struggles of a gifted teen and her attempts to save her family. Possibilities abound as we highlight the fantastic in fiction with this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between August 5 and August 9, below.

Monday, August 5

The Future of Another Timeline, by Annalee Newitz

Tess is a cultural geologist in an alternate world with access to ancient time machines. She and the Daughters of Harriet are embroiled in a secret time-editing war to achieve a world where abortion is legal in the U.S. They are fighting a group of men who are trying to create a permanent sexist dystopia rooted in male control of reproduction. Meanwhile, a teenage riot girl named Beth is set adrift when she and her friends murder a man in self-defense. Beth struggles to control her own future while Tess works to edit history by jumping to the Algerian Village of Chicago’s World Fair, with the goal of striking down the Comstock Laws. Newitz’s carefully built narrative of time travel and conflict is rooted in the drive and joys of intersectional feminism, sex positivity, and acceptance.

Tuesday, August 6

Vow of Thieves, by Mary E. Pearson

This breathtaking sequel to Dance of Thieves (2018) delivers on the ominous promise made in its predecessor’s final pages. Having reached happy arrangements both politically and romantically, soldier-thief Kazi of Brightmist and outlaw leader Jase Ballenger return to the Ballengers’ independent kingdom of Tor’s Watch only to find it under siege. Within moments, Jase is shot and Kazi captured, and their bright hopes for the future have slipped away. Separated, each not knowing the fate of the other, Kazi and Jase find themselves navigating two very different, treacherous worlds and facing down an enemy they never saw coming. Like Dance of Thieves, this sequel delivers layers of political intrigue and twist after twist; while Jase and Kazi spend much of the book apart and readers may miss their banter, this second volume improves upon its predecessor when it comes to pacing, and both its stakes and its villain are even more ominous.

Wednesday, August 7

Gods with a Little G, by Tupelo Hassman

In a dusty, sort-of present, Rosary, California, is divided by a long bridge and a whole lot of religion from its science-focused neighboring town, Sky. There was a rupture, and now “there are no metaphors left for all the ways that Sky is done with Rosary’s bullshit.” After school, Rosary teen Helen drinks beers with her fellow Dickheads, who call her Hell, and keeps the books at her aunt’s psychic-encounter shop, a place as often relied-upon as hated-on by locals. Mostly, Helen avoids her religious mailman dad, a shell of himself since her mom died. As she did in her striking debut, Girlchild (2012), Hassman imaginatively parcels out her second novel in titled chapters, like “Beat Cute,” in which Helen meets new kid Winthrop when bad boy Bird bashes their heads together in the school hallway.

Thursday, August 8

Full Throttle, by Joe Hill

Hill returns to short stories (after the novella collection Strange Weather, 2017), where his terrifying genius most brightly shines. The stories that follow the heartfelt introduction, most of which were first printed elsewhere, including one previously only available on LP, incorporate tropes of psychological suspense, science fiction, dark fantasy, and of course horror. Every piece is driven by anxiety and unease and features Hill’s trademark characters, who feel absolutely real. But it is also the sense of place that dazzles, whether it’s a sinister version of Narnia in “Faun,” on a coastal pier in “Dark Carousel,” or on a plane as WWIII breaks out in “You Are Released.” Hill lulls the reader into deep enjoyment, even as terror lies just around the corner. He rounds out this superb collection with insightful notes and a surprise fourteenth story hidden in “About the Author.“ The tale that will be the biggest hit with library workers and patrons is the beautiful, elegiac “Late Returns,” featuring a grieving bookmobile driver who sometimes delivers books to ghosts.

Friday, August 9

Caster, by Elsie Chapman

The world is falling apart. Real magic, rare and potent, drains energy from the earth every time a spell is cast, leaving behind charred land, frozen oceans, and smog heavy in the air. Aza is secretly a full caster, but she hides her powers, pretending to be someone who can only do small, leftover magic. She’s trying desperately to pay her family’s debt to sector boss Saint Willow before goons come to bust up her home and torture her family. Stuck in the shadow of her now-dead sister, Shire, Aza has one week left until Saint Willow’s people come for her parents. When a note left by an old tutor leads her to an underground magic-fighting ring, she realizes she has the chance, the power, and the skill to get out from under Saint Willow’s thumb—possibly for good.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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