Slow Horses by Mick Herron Apple TV+ is on a roll. Its content strategy seems to be the opposite of Netflix’s; whereas Netflix produces a ton of shows and movies and gives directors and writers essentially free rein, hoping something popular will happen, Apple TV+ is going for a much smaller, much more carefully curated selection. It seems to have paid off, with the first Best Picture Academy Award for a streaming service going to CODA and the universally beloved Ted Lasso.
The City We Became was a huge disappointment. N. K. Jemisin is a fantastic writer—I loved her Broken Earth Trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading her Inheritance Trilogy. But The City We Became, the first installment in her new Great Cities urban fantasy series, was just bad. It’s boring, not much happens, and the characters are bland and monotonous.
The novel’s basic premise has some promise. The fundamental idea is that to become truly alive, cities must manifest in the form of human beings.
Too Like the Lightning This book was interesting. “Interesting” can be used to mean a lot of things, and frequently to dissemble. But in this case I mean it simply—it was an interesting book because Palmer creates a fascinating world that the novel spends most of its time exploring. The book is also unflinchingly pretentious, very well-written, and quite slow. It’s often described as political science fiction, because the futuristic setting is mostly a vessel to explore how society and politics have changed.
Middlegame I hadn’t read anything by Seanan McGuire before discovering Middlegame, but she’s an accomplished author who’s published a number of very well-received novels. Middlegame is McGuire’s latest novel, and it’s best described as urban science fantasy. It follows the lives of protagonists Roger and Dodger, two brilliant children who live on opposite sides of the country. Roger is a gifted linguist, and Dodger a brilliant mathematician. At around five years old, they discover that they can communicate telepathically.
Book Cover Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel is a magical journey through fantastical worlds. January is the ward of the wealthy collector Cornelius Locke. She’s raised in Locke’s mansion, which is stuffed with rare treasures from every corner of this world (and others). January’s father is mostly absent; he’s usually off seeking new artifacts to add to Locke’s hoard. She never knew her mother.
As the book unfolds, we learn the stories of January’s parents.
Children of Earth and Sky I should have known Guy Gavriel Kay wouldn’t let me down. Kay’s books are often classified as fantasy, but I think they’re firmly historical fiction. I don’t have anything against fantasy—I grew up on J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, and I still love it—I just don’t think Kay’s books fit the description. Kay’s characters believe in mysticism, but I think that’s more a reflection of how people used to see the world than an effort to inject magic into the proceedings.
Darknet Cover Like Douglas E. Richards’s Infinity Born, Darknet is a near-future science fiction thriller about the dangers of artificial intelligence. But Darknet is a much subtler, more carefully crafted, realistic, and enjoyable novel.
Darknet follows several major characters through settings as diverse as Manhattan, Hong Kong, and rural Canada as they struggle against an artificial intelligence, created by a hedge fund, that’s gone rogue and is attempting to take over the world’s financial and political systems.
Infinity Born Cover I didn’t like this book. It has some interesting and promising ideas, but none of them are well-executed. Ultimately it’s a book with boring characters about computer science and espionage that seems to be written by someone with little understanding of either computer science or espionage.
Infinity Born is a near-future thriller about artificial intelligence. The concepts involved are fascinating. Unfortunately, it’s just not very realistic. The author has a master’s degree in genetic engineering, so I have no doubt he’s capable of understanding the computer science involved, but for some reason it just doesn’t come off that way.
I loved this book. It’s a really fun, fast-paced novel about a guy in a seemingly utopian future with an uhappy family who accidentally destroys the future utopia by using his father’s time machine to derail the technological developments that made it possible. But in the much-less-utopian present, our present, he finds that he’s a lot happier, his family’s a lot happier, and he has a shot at a life with the woman he loves.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a science fiction novel by Becky Chambers. It borrows some tropes of the genre that’ll be familiar to fans of Firefly and The Expanse. However, Angry Planet is light on world-building and plot; it’s almost entirely character-driven. I liked the first half of the book, when getting to know the characters—many of whom are alien species—and, for the most part, the characterization is well done.