The Will To Battle (2017)
Like book two, progresses the story and escalates everything to the brink of chaos. Some of the unfolding events and reveals, which feel like they should be of great consequence, feel a little like they aren't given the attention deserved due to the complexity of the plots. The narrator remains the key voice, but all the characters are fascinating.
Seven Surrenders (2017)
Continuing the Terra Ignota series, less successful than book one, but mainly because it doesn't have the luxury of the mind-opening 'first book in this universe' read. The politican machinations and philosophy get deeper, whilst some of the mystery necessarily becomes less mysterious - and it is sometimes difficult to understand why some of those mysteries have had the impact they do. Still page-turningly satisfying.
Too Like the Lightning (2016)
A second read, and a second time to be shocked by how good this book is. One of those reads where you can't quite understand how someone could conceive and then write something this dense and intellectual, whilst also making it readable and compelling. An amazing amalgam of philosophy and science fiction, gender, politics and religion. There's a moment where the narrator suggest the reader abandon the text based on a revelation they offer, and both times I've read it I've almost put the book down and walked away. That's some writing.
The Seeds (2021)
Ann Nocenti / David Aja★★★☆
David Aja, who brilliantly illustrated the magisterial Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, takes on Ann Nocenti's odd tale of a future dystopia. The story is a smart observation of environmental destruction and over-reliance on technology, but I struggled to find a solid thread or message. Aja's art is still lovely, and his ability to capture a personality near-instantly is uncanny.
Utterly compelling retelling of the Circe legend. The Greek mythos is so powerful and vivid, the gods flawed, imperious, arrogant, and present. I love how they're not untouchable unknowable beings, they're in amongst the mortals. Beautifully written and transfixing.
This Is How You Lose The Time War (2019)
Amal El-Mohtar / Max Gladstone★★★★★
Short and full of clever ideas, starting as a whip-smart dialogue betwen opposing time-agents one-upping each other before slowly but surely developing into an story of overwhelming love.
A Memory Called Empire (2019)
A 'barbarian' visits the centre of a galactic empire, though in this case the barbarian has technology that outstrips the monolith in the form of a 'imago' device that implants the memories of a forebear into the carriers mind. The internal dialogue with the hosted persona sometimes felt a bit like a dungeonmaster having a conversation between two NPCs - a little uncomfortable and something you want to get out of quickly. I think this wanted to be about the outsider experience, but suffered a little because we never find out much about the outsider's world, so we're outside both cultures. As a result it was hard to get too emotionally concerned with the political intrigue, and the rapid ascension (and threat) of the visitor to the heights of power was not entirely believable. The diplomatic wrangling was fun to read, with some sharp dialogue and a core of good characters.
Children of Time (2015)
Interesting but not entirely satisfying study of what might happen if arachnids were seeded with human intelligence. I found it hard to accept the spiderverse created, almost like it was arrogant for humans to think they could understand spider psychology. Which is silly, this is sci-fi, but I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough. The side-story of remnant humanity searching for a home was more compelling, the large swathes of time passed in cryo-suspension made for interesting implications, but ultimately forgettable in the face of the spiders.
Mister Miracle (2018)
Tom King / Mitch Gerads★★★★
Excellent storytelling delivered through a second-string character in the DC universe, somewhat akin to what Matt Fraction and David Aja did with Hawkeye. King and Gerads take Scott Free and Big Barda and make them 'human' via family, gods, war, and love, all delivered with a cutting vein of absurdist humour. The illustrating is great, particularly the characterisation of the two leads and the reflection of Scott Free's fragile mental state. And all of his DC universe t-shirts!
Harrow the Ninth (2020)
Whoa does this sequel upend everything from the first book. It's written from alternating second and third person perspectives, and the current time-line and alternate history being told bamboozles in a wonderful way - the second person narrative in particular. You slowly grasp what is going on, or think you do, then some lovely almost single word reveal will completely change your understanding. Chaotic and rewarding.
Gideon the Ninth (2019)
A crazy amalgam of space-skeletons, necromancy, swordplay, mirror-shades, and antipodean slang. No po-faced prophecies here. Fun to read, and even when it turns into a murder-mystery more than a sci-fi fantasy Muir maintains the off-kilter strangeness. The main oddity is how the protagonist throws out idiomatic one-liners like an modern-day teen. "You don't talk like-how I thought you might", another character observes, and never a truer word was written. Edit: Upped this to four stars having read the sequel. Seriously clever writing.
The Year's Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 (2020)
Jonathan Strahan (Ed.)★★★☆
Like all short story collections, contains some good and some bad, but overall an interesting selection, and Strahan deserves credit for creating a list from an eclectic selection of diverse authors. Unsurprisingly many concern themselves with post climate change landscapes. Favourites include Kali_Na by Indrapramit Das, Contagion's Eve at the House Noctambulous by Rich Larson (a good companion for Gideon the Ninth), The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore, Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, At the Fall by Alex Nevala-Lee, and The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim.
X-Men Vol.1 (2020)
Hickman / Yu / Alanguilan / Gho★★★
One of the first X-Men books I've read where the team is muddy. I'm not sure who is core and who is extraneous, and the core doesn't seem particuarly active. The sentient isle of Krakoa dominates the story more than the characters do, but it still has that classic X feel.