Reviews of the Week with Geoff Rodkey, K. Eason, Tochi Onyebuchi, 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 nonbinary hero’s attempt to save humanity, extraordinarily narrated; the edgy adventures of a not-in-distress princess who has the ability to see through façades; a sci-fi adventure about two sisters biologically augmented for battle set in a future Nigeria; a swordswoman’s struggle to break free from an oppressive emperor in a stark universe; bizarre antics that occur in a town populated with peculiar creatures. The SF/Fantasy & Horror spotlight shines brightly on this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between August 12 and August 16, below.

Monday, August 12

We’re Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey and narrated by Dani Martineck

Don’t be alarmed! Earth has been destroyed and the human race is seeking refuge on the alien planet Choom. The remaining humans make the 20-year bio-suspension trip to Choom only to be told by the new government that humans have been deemed too violent to live with Choom’s citizens. However, not all resident Choom species agree on this, and one human family is invited to Choom for a test-run of sorts. The main character, Lan (who is never distinguished as male or female) tries various ways to ingratiate the family to the other aliens. This is a humorous story, yet it is quite relevant with hard to ignore parallels like “fake news” and exclusion. This audiobook is truly brought to life by non-binary actor Martineck, whose ability to create voices for the multitude of characters (most of them aliens) is an amazing feat.

Tuesday, August 13

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, by K. Eason

Eason’s sf fairy tale begins a lot like Sleeping Beauty, except that, in this instance, the “evil” fairy (who has pink hair and wears fishnets) does not curse Princess Rory Thorne with eternal sleep. Rather, she bestows upon Rory the ability to see through façades. When people lie, Rory hears their real thoughts. When they flatter, she can discern their true motivation. Thus, when Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant space station, she realizes the local regent is truly in charge and attempting to usurp the throne. To avoid involvement in the regent’s nefarious scheme, Rory must rely on her wits, fairy gifts, a ragtag group of allies, and hexing (magical and hacking) abilities. This has been pitched as Princess Bride meets Princess Leia, which is a tall order to fill, but, by golly, does it succeed!

Wednesday, August 14

War Girls, by Tochi Onyebuchi

In a futuristic Nigeria torn asunder by civil war, catastrophic battles are fought using soldiers augmented with bionic limbs and artificial organs. Sisters Onyii and Ify find themselves on opposite sides of the war. Eldest sister Onyii is the practical one. She’s a caregiver and leader who will stop at nothing to see Ify have a better life. However, Ify doesn’t necessarily like being coddled. When a years-long civil war rips the sisters apart, they will do anything to fight their way back to each other. Onyebuchi (Beasts Made of Night2017) uses a sf setting to explore very heavy, real-world issues, like climate change, nuclear disasters, and child soldiers. Onyii and Ify both face horrors as children of war and live with the traumas induced by being exposed to such violence at a tender age. The story also explores bioaugmentation and what it means to be human while asking whether we should use a technology just because we have it.

Thursday, August 15

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

In a universe ruled by an undying emperor, nine houses struggle for power through their necromantic rulers. The crumbling Ninth House, that of the Keepers of the Locked Tomb, is home to Gideon: swordswoman, malcontent, loveless lesbian. Gideon has spent most of her life attempting to escape the drudgery of the Ninth and its creepy nuns, oppressive darkness, and vicious heir, Harrowhark. But Harrow has been invited to enter a competition among the houses for the honor of being selected Lyctor, and Gideon finally has an opportunity to escape the Ninth—as long as she agrees to serve as Harrow’s cavalier and bodyguard. When members of other houses start dying mysteriously after the competitors have been stranded together in the haunted and moldering First House, it’s up to Gideon and Harrow—uneasy allies at best—to figure out who to trust and how to survive the deadly game.

Friday, August 16

Malamander, by Thomas Taylor and illustrated by Tom Booth

The resort of Eerie-on-Sea makes an appropriately named setting for the scary adventures of two orphaned (or seemingly orphaned) children who find themselves swept up in a scheme to seize the wish-granting egg of a legendary mer-creature (“half man, half fish, half goodness-knows-what”). Whether the Malamander even exists is a matter of much conjecture, but along with heavy fogs, weird howls, and spooky yarns spun around the sunken old battleship rusting just offshore, Taylor assembles the sort of supporting cast that makes anything seem possible—from Lady Kraken, enigmatic proprietor of the Grand Nautilus Hotel, who spies on the whole town through a moon-powered “cameraluna,” to oily, murderous author Sebastian Eels and a crazed undead mariner who “smells like something bad is about to happen.” That’s to say nothing of the talking cat or the mechanical mer-monkey in the window of the Eerie Book Dispensary that will, for coins, recommend peculiarly useful titles.

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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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