reaperofstoneIf the goal of a short story is to leave you wanting more, A Reaper of Stone is a stunning success.

Elinor is the King’s Reaper, duty-bound to demolish the ancient keeps of the marches to prevent them falling into hostile hands. When the Lady of Timberline dies, Elinor is sucked into the vicious politics of Resa’s grasping nobility. Will she confirm the new Lord who seeks the title, or investigate the Lady’s unexpected death?

Book Cover: The Apex Book of World SF 4I received this as a LibraryThing Early Reviewer title – it’s the latest in a series of collections of speculative / science fiction shorts from around the world. I took it as a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and get to know the works of non-Anglo/American authors, many of whom I hadn’t previously heard of. And generally, the quality here is very good – even the stories that weren’t to my taste were well-written and accomplished.

Ok, I’ve taken the hit so you don’t have to. The rumors about this being oh-so dry? They aren’t lying.

Three-Body started well, with a fascinating glimpse into the crimes against science committed during the Cultural Revolution. It continued well, setting up a mysterious ‘why are our top scientists committing suicide?’ thriller set in the modern day. It’s an interesting cross-cultural experience with the seeds of good characters and interesting stories.

Red Planet RunA reluctant Star  and her sulky twin teenagers are sent to Mars by her Machiavellian boss to investigate the traces of a possible past civilisation. A botched landing leaves them on the wrong side of the planet, and they soon realise a vicious enemy from the Belt is hard on their heels. Can Star fix her relationship with her kids, survive a loony and solve the mystery of the Cydonian ruins? Of course she can. She’s Alaskan.

Book cover: Zoo CityZinzi December is a ‘zoo’: she has an animal familiar. Relegated to the violent slums of Zoo City when she is released from jail, she and her Sloth survive on her talent for sensing the invisible threads that bind us to things we’ve lost – retrieving them for a fee. Her only rules: no lost persons cases, no emotional ties. When a client dies unexpectedly, she gets sucked into a case to find one of South Africa’s biggest pop stars, and everything gets very complicated quickly.

Book cover: Sedition by Katharine GrantBilled as ‘the bastard child of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Sarah Waters‘, this more or less lives up to that promise in terms of plot: some City businessmen wish to purchase titled husbands for their daughters, and come up with a hare-brained scheme involving piano lessons to show off the girls’ wealth and accomplishments. Unfortunately, their French music master has been incentivised to seduce each girl before they master Herr Bach.