This year saw lots of travelling and some intense deadlines that got in the way of me writing reviews in a timely fashion for everything I read. Still, it’s never too late for a quick look back at the ones that got away!
Water into Wine – Joyce Chng ★★★
When Xin inherits a vineyard on a rural planet, they relocate to make a go of it. This emotional novella eschews space opera scope to zoom in tightly on the drama of learning a business, transitioning, and surviving the interstellar war that breaks out shortly after their arrival. Chng captures the helplessness of a civilian population, contrasting desperate acts with Xin’s determination to stay on their land whatever comes. It makes for an interesting read, although I think it would have worked better for me as a full novel to better explore its themes and characters.
The Prey of Gods – Nicky Drayden ★★★☆
Big, bold and unabashed, Nicky Drayden’s debut novel is the most extravagantly bonkers concoction since Laura Lam’s False Hearts. Fast-paced and wildly inventive, this Compton Crook award winner (and Subjective Chaos finalist) is set in a near-future South Africa where demi-gods stalk the streets, a new drug is imbuing its users with psychic powers, genetic engineering is rampant and household robots are achieving sentience. Yes it’s chaotic, yes some of the characters don’t always ring quite true, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
Rosewater – Tade Thompson ★★★
Another award-winner, Rosewater is a very, very different organism, but it doesn’t disappoint. Inscrutable aliens. Psychic government operatives. Political activists with super powers. I struggled to keep track of what was happening when through the frequent time shifts, but this unnerving slow-burn thriller proves you don’t have to like a protagonist to be drawn into a story. Don’t ask me what was going on: I need to reread it (but I want to!) – I just know it’s all going to end badly if you think maintaining the status quo is a good thing. Not so much? Well, then buckle up.
I read the Apex edition; the new edition has been revised.