August 10, 2018

Review: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For me, a good science book does several things. It tackles its subject with a wide-eyed sensawunda and enthusiasm; it explains complex scientific concepts in understandable layman's terms without talking down to its audience; and it tells me something I haven't considered or heard of before. With as many books as have been written over the decades about dinosaurs, that's a pretty tall order. Nevertheless, this book pulls it off.

I've never heard of him, but apparently Stephen Brusatte is a rising young star in the paleontology world. There's little bits of autobiography sprinkled throughout this book, and while some readers may find this annoying, I like to know something about my nonfiction authors. Brusatte's enthusiasm for his topic shines through on every page, and if he comes off as more than a little bit obsessive here and there, well, that's to be expected of a good scientist. In several places he lays out the process he used to make his discoveries in detail, which I found fascinating.

This book covers the entire 150-million-year history of the dinosaurs, from the beginning of their evolution to their extinction, and does so in an eminently readable fashion. Of particular interest to me were the chapters on how dinosaurs evolved into birds; the chapter devoted to Tyrannosaurus Rex, the largest and most successful carnivore ever to stalk the earth (and to think those monsters hunted in packs! It's enough to make one burrow into the earth screaming); and of course, the chapter on the dinosaur extinction at the end of the Crecateous as a result of the Chicxulub asteroid impact (or possibly in concert with the eruption of the massive Deccan Traps volcanoes in India). I was very sad to see them go, but on the other hand...without their extinction, humans wouldn't be around today.

The author ends his book with a bit of a cautionary tale.

We humans now wear the crown that once belonged to the dinosaurs. We are confident of our place in nature, even as our actions are rapidly changing the planet around us. It leaves me uneasy, and one thought lingers in my mind as I walk through the harsh New Mexican desert, seeing the bones of dinosaurs give way so suddenly to fossils of Torrejonia and other mammals.

If it could happen to the dinosaurs, could it also happen to us?

Well, unless we stop burning fossil fuels, it's probably going to happen to us. But that's another book. In the meantime, enjoy this one, for its fresh look at a lost world.

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August 7, 2018

Review: Honor Among Thieves

Honor Among Thieves Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish Goodreads had half-star ratings. This definitely ends up between a 3 and 4 for me. Parts of it I really liked, but I had some reservations as well.

This is the story of Zara Cole, a rebellious teenage girl who inadvertently ends up on a trip across the galaxy, aboard a sentient living spaceship named Nadim. (There's a picture of Nadim as the book begins, which doesn't match how I see him at all. He's basically shown as a space whale, but from the book's descriptions I think of him as more of a manta ray.) This takes place a little more than a hundred years from now, when the sapient ships known as the Leviathan have basically saved humanity, granting them the technology to cure climate change and many other of society's ills. In return they ask for a hundred Honors each year, fifty sets of young men and women to travel aboard the Leviathan to various star systems. Most Honors return to Earth after their year, but a few are selected by the Elder Leviathan to go on the Journey, an extended voyage about which little is known.

Zara is shocked to be chosen, and of course there is far more here than meets the eye. A good portion of the book is setup, revealing her character and her struggles on Earth. Some readers may think this is dragging, but it turns out to be necessary backstory and character development. On Earth, Zara was a thief and a bit of a grifter, a smart and determined scrapper, living on the fringes of society, refusing to conform. This becomes extremely important later on, and indeed is why she was chosen. I won't reveal anything further because of spoilers, but let's just say the Leviathan chose well.

The characters are the highlight of this book. Zara and Beatriz, Nadim's Honors, are well-drawn, layered people. I liked Nadim's voice, but I wish the author had made him a bit more alien--sometimes he comes across as a whiny teenage boy (which I suppose he is). This book is pretty much his coming-of-age story. And may I say how refreshing it is that there is no romance? (At least between any of the human characters, although there's a sort of intellectual romantic connection between Zara and Nadim.) Both Zara and Beatriz have their own goals and agency, and once the story starts crackling romance is the furthest thing from their minds.

The reservations I have about this book are the science. Yes, I can accept the sentient space whale/ manta ray. However, I guess being a fan of The Expanse has spoiled me for any SF that doesn't recognize space as being a BIG place, and the distance between planets requiring weeks and months of travel. This book, unfortunately, depicts going to Mars as a quick trip down the block, and traveling from our solar system as a moderate jaunt on the freeway. Sorry, it doesn't work like that. If the Leviathans can actually slip past the speed of light, it seems to me this should be written as a far bigger deal, and maybe a price to be paid for doing so as well. Your mileage may vary, of course. This wasn't a dealbreaker for me because I liked the characters so much, but it did jolt me out of the story a bit.

However, when the action kicked in, I couldn't put the book down. There were some truly memorable battle scenes, and the suspense wound the last half of the book tighter than a spring. The world has been expanded and the stakes have been raised, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

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August 5, 2018

Review: Afterwar

Afterwar Afterwar by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was hard to read, and I can only imagine how tough it was to write. It's basically the American politics of today set 80 years in the future, with the widening divide and heightened polarization that has exploded into an all-out Second Civil War. There is eugenics and "Firsters," "kamps" (with all the attendant, Nazi-era horrors) holding "immies" and "partisans," and the last dying gasp of a white-supremacist culture that has been beaten back yet again, as this country seems destined to do over and over. It's unfortunately all too plausible, and it's scary as hell.

This is the story of Swann's Riders, a mercenary team of raiders at the very end of the war, tasked with hunting down a war criminal with information the Russians, among others, are also hot on the trail of. This information concerns genetic and medical experimentation in a certain kamp, with unwilling victims given what amounts to psychic powers, in an attempt to create a deadly new breed of Firster soldier. Our nominal protagonist, Lara Nelson, was also at said kamp, a victim of those experiments. She manages to escape from there, only to land in another kamp, where she is forced to work in the brothel as the favorite of one of the kamp kommanders, Eugene Thomas...the same monster the Riders are now hunting. (We spend a few chapters in Thomas's POV, which was a deeply unpleasant experience. It's chilling how the philosphies of hierarchies and "knowing one's place" inevitably lead to some people being regarded as less human than others, and making the atrocities described here oh so easy.) The fight scenes are brutal; Saintcrow gets right down into the blood and guts and mud, and while that was necessary for this story, just be aware that she pulls no punches.

There's a remoteness about many of the characters, a thin veneer of distance from the reader and what the characters suffered, in the writing style. For instance, I wish there could have been a tighter focus on Lara, but at the same time, I don't know if as a reader I could have taken it. This is a harrowing book, even with the sliver of hope at the end, after the Riders have tracked down Thomas and destroyed his information. I wish I could say that something like this couldn't happen here...but unfortunately, I know that's not true.

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August 1, 2018

Review: Dread Nation

Dread Nation Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is summed up perfectly on the jacket copy: "This is not your mother's Civil War-era zombie story."

Ah, zombie stories. A more straight-jacketed genre I cannot imagine. World War Z was the last book I read that really stretched its boundaries, and even it settled into the endless hamster wheel of the genre: run fast if they're fast zombies, slower if they're rotting ones, blow zombie heads apart/chop zombie heads off, and kill your fellow zombie slayers if they're bitten. Lather, rinse, repeat. The cycle is never ending, because the zombie can bite a helluva lot faster than humans can reproduce. Just about any zombie tale taken to its logical end has only that one end: Planet Zombie, until the sun expands to a red giant and swallows the Earth.

Therefore, the zombie apocalypse is not about the zombies...but about the humans fighting them. The better ones use the narrow confines of the story to speak not about the monsters our plucky zombie slayers are fighting, but about the monsters of our present day. Which is what this damn near perfect zombie story does, with its piercing commentary on racism, colonialism, and white supremacy.

The zombie apocalypse started at Gettysburg, when the dead soldiers rose again. As one might imagine, this pretty much curtailed the Civil War, as both the North and the South had to concentrate on killing the dead rather than each other. (Even in this alternate history, I gather Lincoln still issued the Emancipation Proclamation, although later on in the story, unsurprisingly, we find many white men in their little [supposedly] zombie-proof fiefdoms aren't paying any attention to it.) Typical of the white supremacist thinking of the day, white people aren't forcibly recruited into this never-ending war: freed slaves and Indigenous people are, under the Negro and Native Reeducation Act. Our protagonist, Jane McKeene, is one of them, a teenage girl training at Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls in Baltimore, to be a zombie (or rather "shambler") slayer and Attendant, protecting her white charge both from the undead and overeager suitors.

Jane is a marvelous character: clear-headed, pragmatic and ruthless. She knows what it will take to survive, and she does not hesitate. I don't know if I would call her likable, especially with some of the revelations at the end of the story, but she is riveting. The secondary characters, especially Katherine, the light-skinned black girl who gradually develops a close friendship with Jane, are equally well drawn. One thing I noticed right away is that every character is described, not only by the usual qualifiers of clothing/hair/eye color, but skin color, and this is just as much a part of the book as being able to chop off zombie heads. Indeed, as the story progresses, the real horror is not the zombies, but the racist and white supremacist culture Jane and her friends are struggling to navigate.

Like the best SFF novels, this book is using the tropes of genre to deliver a scathing commentary on today's society. If parts of it make (white) readers uncomfortable...well, that only shows how far we still have to go. This is a fantastic story, and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets nominated for awards.

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July 31, 2018

Hugo Reading 2018: Best New Writer

This award is also called the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is stubbornly, defiantly Not A Hugo. (It's just a quirk of the system. Roll with it.)

The nominees:

Katherine Arden
Sarah Kuhn
Jeannette Ng
Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Rebecca Roanhorse
Rivers Solomon

My ballot:

Heroine Complex (Heroine Complex, #1)

6) Sarah Kuhn

The first chapter of this almost read like a parody of urban fantasy, with an Asian-American superheroine fighting off fanged demon cupcakes. A bit too absurd for me, unfortunately.

An Unkindness of Ghosts

5) Rivers Solomon

I didn't care for their book too much--a bridge too far on the handwavey science for me--but this author excelled with their characters, particularly the protagonist. A writer to keep an eye on.

Under the Pendulum Sun

4) Jeannette Ng

Now this is an intriguing book--a Fae gothic, the story of the first Christian missionaries to Arcadia, the lands of the Fae. It's an idea that's obvious and delightful, and made me wonder why on earth someone hadn't written this book before now. That I didn't rate the author higher testifies to the tough competition in this category.

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)

3) Katherine Arden

I believe Arden was actually nominated on the strength of her first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, a Russian folklore fantasy. I preferred her second book, pictured here.

Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience

2) Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse just won the Nebula for what I believe was her first published story, "Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience." I wouldn't be surprised, and would be delighted, if she duplicated that hat trick with the Hugos.

1) Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Prasad made quite a splash this year, with two stories on the Hugo and Nebula ballots. The story of hers that most impressed me, however, didn't make either ballot--it's the funny and surreal "Portrait of Skull With Man," from Fireside Fiction.

This one was tough. I would be happy with any of the top 4.

July 29, 2018

Hugo Reading 2018: Best Fan Writer

Fan Writer is kind of a catchall category: in it you find professional writers and reviewers and artful amateurs. Just about anyone can qualify if you can establish a voice and an audience, which is nice.

The nominees:

Camestros Felapton
Sarah Gailey
Mike Glyer
Foz Meadows
Charles Payseur
Bogi Takacs

My ballot:

6) Bogi Takacs

I'd never heard of or read em before, although e has been involved in the recent Worldcon kerfluffle (which I am not commenting on here). In checking out eir blog, I decided some of the pieces I read there worked better than the ones included in the packet. Still, in the overall scheme of things, I thought e was just so-so. 

5) Mike Glyer

Mike runs File 770, a place where I hang out regularly. Both Mike and File 770 have won this award in the past. However, I don't think last year was his strongest. 

4) Camestros Felapton

Cam is one of the "artful amateurs" I spoke of. I also hang out at his place, and read a lot of the pieces in his packet in their original form, on the blog. Cam tends towards humor and whimsy in his writing, which I enjoy, but his pieces aren't quite up to the quality of some of the others. 

3) Charles Payseur

Charles runs Quick Sip Reviews and also writes for the Book Smugglers. His packet entries go a little deeper into his subjects, in particular making me re-evaluate a book I didn't like at all when I first read it, Sam J. Miller's The Art of Starving

2) Sarah Gailey

Sarah takes a little different tack with her included pieces that is very interesting. In "This Future Looks Familiar: Watching Blade Runner in 2017," she uses simple (but not simplistic) language to talk about the film. It's a marvelous review, and forces the reader to completely re-think the film, as well as the meanings of the words "empathy" and "human." Another piece, the riveting "City of Villains: Why I Don't Trust Batman," turns the character of Bruce Wayne inside out, showing that he is not the "hero" but is indeed a villain, this billionaire who has the money and power to make things better but throws it away with his vigilante's ego. It's really a flash story, Hugo-worthy in itself. 

1) Foz Meadows

This was a tough choice, picking Foz over Sarah. In the end, I went with Foz Meadows because of her gift for insightful and even-keeled analysis. This is shown in this lengthy article on HBO's Westworld, as well as this thorough deconstruction of Alien: Covenant. I love reviewers who can dig into theme and subtext and bring all sorts of interesting ideas to the light. Foz does this very well; her articles always make me think. 

Hugo Reading 2018: Best Graphic Novel

The nominees:

Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

My ballot:

Consumer Grouch | The wonderful world of Consumerism

6) My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris

This made a pretty big splash last year (it also just won three Eisner Awards, the comics industry's Oscars), but I couldn't get into it. The story was too big, too slow, and too sprawling, and the page layout (lined notebook paper) while appropriate for the story, began to grate on me after a while. Nope, not for me. 

5) Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles

I know next to nothing about Marvel's Inhumans, and this volume did little to enlighten me. It was a pretty self-contained story, about the king of the Inhumans waking up on an interstellar prison, his powers stripped from him. The art was interesting, bordering on the surreal at times. Okay, but not outstanding. 

Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch TP | Releases ...

4) Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles

Now we get into the better stuff. I actually prefer (and have bought) the individual issues of these, as they have extra content that fleshes out the world and the story. Either way, this is a frightening portrait of a hyperpatriarchal future society that is unfortunately all-too-plausible. 

Paper Girls, Vol. 3 TP

3) Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher 

I call this the Little Series That Could. It surprised me last year when I first read it (never having heard of it until it appeared on the 2017 ballot) and it's still surprising me. This particular volume, with its time travel (back to 11,000 BC), is more firmly rooted in the SFF tradition. The characters are well developed and the unfolding mystery is fascinating. 

On The Shelf: @ImageComics Set To Release Volume 7 of # ...

2) Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

For me, this series takes the biggest jump of all the finalists. The last time I tried to read this, I couldn't get into it at all. This time around, it impressed me greatly. The story made more sense (well, as much as this wacky, surreal universe ever does), and the greater emphasis on Hazel helped. The end is just chilling. 

1)  Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

Marjorie Liu just won an Eisner for Best Writer (tied with Tom King), and Sana Takeda won two Eisners (Cover Art and Best Painter/Multimedia Art) for this series, and for very good reason. This is a richly imagined and fascinating world, and the art is gorgeous. The first volume of this won the Hugo last year. I don't know if Liu and Takeda can pull off the hat trick again, but I certainly hope so. 

July 28, 2018

Hugo Reading 2018: Best Related Work

(Note: Some of these books were not available at my library, so I had to rely on the limited excerpts included in the Hugo packet. This is not ideal, obviously, but was the best basis for comparison I had.)

The nominees:

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sleeping With Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

My ballot:

6) Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), Paul Kincaid

This was, I gathered, intended to be a scholarly, academic study of the man and his books. Unfortunately, it was way too scholarly and academic for this reader. The excerpt was hard to get through, and I can't imagine slogging through the entire book.

5) A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, Nat Segaloff

Due to Ellison's recent death, I think this has a better chance of winning than it might otherwise have had. For me, it was just okay.

4) No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin

I'll be honest: I liked this book, but I didn't think it was top-tier, and I hope it doesn't win. For one thing, Le Guin won this category last year with Words Are My Matter, which I think is the superior work. Also, we gave the award to her while she was still alive, which is the better thing in my book.

3) Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, Zoe Quinn

This was actually a pretty harrowing tale of Twitter mobs, harassment, and online hate. But Zoe Quinn is a survivor, and I liked how she came out on top, and used her experience to help other women.

2) Sleeping With Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Liz Bourke

One mark of a good book, for me, is if reading a sample or excerpt makes me want to own it. That's what happened with this book. I like Bourke's conversational writing style, and I appreciate that she states her viewpoints and biases up front. They happen to fairly mirror my own, but if they didn't, reading her reviews would still be rewarding, which is a mark of their quality.

1) Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal

I loved this. All those essays, from writers of many different backgrounds, expounding so eloquently on what Octavia Butler meant to them. It made me sad and angry all over again, knowing what we lost by her untimely death.

This is my last full weekend of reading (the voting deadline is Tuesday, July 31), so I may be throwing out quite a few entries over the next several days. I'll get through as much as I can. Onward.

July 22, 2018

Review: The Freeze-Frame Revolution

The Freeze-Frame Revolution The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter Watts is one of the hardest of hard SF writers, and one of my favorite authors, and Blindsight is one of my all-time favorite books. This new novella rides the cutting edge of physics and artificial intelligence, in telling the tale of a far-reaching journey into deep time (literally, 66 million years) and what that does to the people who take it.

The Eriphora, an asteroid turned spaceship, is bound on a road to infinity--or maybe the heat death of the universe--constructing gate wormholes on an endless circuit spiraling around the galaxy. Sent out from Earth millions of years ago, it is run by an artificial intelligence named Chimp, and staffed by thirty thousand people, the overwhelming majority of whom remain in suspended animation for centuries between builds. Chimp handles most builds itself and only wakes up a few humans at a time, as needed. Our protagonist, Sunday Ahzmundin, is one of those people, awake for a few days every thousand (or thousands, plural) years.

This is the quintessential story of rats on an endless treadmill, and what happens when they want to break free. There is no settling on a habitable planet on this trip; Chimp will not halt the mission to let anyone off, and Sunday and her cohorts must go back into their cold sleep if they don't want to die during the hundreds and thousands of years of sublight travel between builds. Needless to say, this state of affairs begins to affect members of the crew, and a revolution starts to ferment. But how can any resistance come to fruition when the mutineers are awake only, as the back cover copy says, "one day in a million?"

Peter Watts' books are not easy reads, and this is no exception. They're full of crunchy, chewy, hard SF ideas, rigorous physics, and meditations on, in this tale, the nature of deep time and artificial intelligence. His books demand the reader's full attention and reward more than one pass. (In this case, even more so as there's apparently a hidden message in the text--just look for the periodic red letters. I'm decoding it now.) His work is also very dark--I don't think he could write a light fluffy tale to save his life. This certainly doesn't qualify, and in fact that's the only knock I have on it (though I should be used to Watts' unrelenting bleakness by now). The ending is rather abrupt, as the mutineers strike during the attempt to build a Hub, a central point for the branching of several wormholes. The artificial singularity at the ship's heart, used to generate the micro-sized black holes that then serve as the gate wormholes (see, I told you: physics way over most people's heads), is deliberately sabotaged by the head conspirator, with the immediate result that all hell breaks loose. The newborn black hole rips through the ship itself, breaching many of the asteroid's pocket ecosystems, spewing atmosphere, destroying several thousand "coffins" of sleeping crewmembers, and threatening to tear the Eriphora apart.

And...that's it. Sunday is forced back into her crypt, and we don't know who lives or who dies, or if the ship can repair itself. Supposedly there are some companion stories on Watts' website. Normally I would be, shall we say, a wee bit irritated at such an ending? But what came before is so good, so thought-provoking, that I think I can forgive Watts the ending, with perhaps only a bit of side-eye. Certainly the last few pages hint at, though probably not a happy ending, at least a...continuation? Sunday is talking to someone, a combination reader/character in the story, so maybe the ship didn't tear itself apart. At any rate, this is brilliant science fiction, and well worth your time.

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July 21, 2018

Review: Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a genre, urban fantasy has been on the decline lately. A few years ago, it was all the rage. I know, because I bought a LOT of it. It didn't take long for it to settle into an all-too-predictable trope--the tough white chick with a troubled past and a huge chip on her shoulder, fighting vampires/werewolves/Fae and various other mythical beasties, spouting sarcasm and snark all the while.

Now, we have Indigenous author Rebecca Roanhorse, turning that collection of cliches upside down.

In some ways, this fits squarely in the urban fantasy tradition. The protagonist has a troubled past and spews some delightful snark, and hunts monsters. What sets this book apart, however, is the main character and setting. Maggie Hoskie is Navajo, and this book is set on the Navajo reservation, or Dinetah. With worldwide flooding brought about by climate change, the reservation has been reborn into what their culture calls the Sixth World--and because of this, all their gods, myths and monsters now walk the earth in physical form.

That makes this book unique. It's a delight to read an urban (or rather rural, I guess) fantasy that is the polar opposite of the generic white American tradition. Almost every character we meet is a person of color, and we take a deep dive into Navajo culture, language and clans. We meet Coyote, who is far from the playful trickster I've read elsewhere (mostly written by white authors); here, he is nasty, mercurial and backstabbing. There are Navajo ghosts, zombies and immortal beings, and the tug-of-war between these creatures of myth and a dying technological culture makes for an interesting read.

This is a first novel, and like most first novels, it has a few rough edges. The plot is meandering in spots, the pacing could be tightened up, and some of the characters--particularly the villain--need a bit more depth. But Rebecca Roanhorse is a writer to keep an eye on, and I fully expect her to improve. I'll certainly check out the other books in the series.

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