Make no mistake, this is a fine collection, but it’s an unfortunate fact: If you bought and enjoyed the Strahan and your...

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THE YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY 2012 EDITION

A fourth annual anthology from this editor, and not to be confused with its rival, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, edited by Jonathan Strahan, which appeared in April 2012.

Of the 29 mostly top-quality offerings, no less than six of what are arguably among the best stories here—perhaps inevitably—also appeared in the rival volume: Karen Joy Fowler’s “Younger Women,” Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Paul McAuley’s “The Choice,” K.J. Parker’s “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong,” Robert Reed’s “Woman Leaves Room” and E. Lily Yu’s “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees.” That disappointment aside, there’s plenty of great writing and dazzling ideas among the rest: “The Silver Wind” by Nina Allan, a wonderful yarn of a strange genius in an alternate-world London; a Martian odyssey from John Barnes; a stunning take on the essential tragedy of the vampire condition, “Late Bloomer” by Suzy McKee Charnas; the riveting and surpassingly strange “Walking Stick Fires” by Alan DeNiro; a tale of World War II, Indian magic and a blacklisted writer, Bradley Denton’s “The Adakian Eagle”; historical time travel from Theodora Goss; “Ghostweight” (Yoon Ha Lee), an ugly war on a distant planet; a weird life-after-death yarn from Rachel Swirsky; a typically elliptical and engrossing tale of fairyland from Catherynne M. Valente; a woman under an evil enchantment, forced to bear children for her enemies (C.S.E. Cooney’s excellent “The Last Sophia”); urban fantasy from Kelly Link and other eclectic offerings from Jonathan Carroll, Alexandra Duncan, Neil Gaiman, Gavin J. Grant, Kat Howard, Vylar Kaftan, Margo Lanagan, Chris Lawson, Marissa Lingen, George Saunders, Lavie Tidhar and Genevieve Valentine. The duplicates are worth re-reading too, of course.

Make no mistake, this is a fine collection, but it’s an unfortunate fact: If you bought and enjoyed the Strahan and your budget is limited, you’ll probably think twice about this one.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60701-344-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Prime Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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