A new baby this month meant that reading was a bit on the sporadic side (and I think the new baby fatigue may be partially responsible for the dearth of five-star ratings, with apologies to the stories that were on the borderline), but there was still a lot of good in May’s reading, including the discovery of what may be one of my new favorite authors.
- “Two Truths and a Lie” (2020 Novelette) by Sarah Pinsker. For the second month in a row, my favorite read was written by Sarah Pinsker, who has moved to the top of my list of authors I need to read further. “Two Truths and a Lie” reads like a creepy small town urban legend, but it’s masterfully crafted, with edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and an ambiguous ending that just fits perfectly.
- “The Marriage Plot” (2016) by Tendai Huchu. After nearly four weeks without a five-star review, an old Nommo Award winner saved the day with a very short and very fun time loop.
- “The Trolley Solution” (2021) by Shiv Ramdas. An AI story featuring an infamous ethical thought experiment that was well-crafted and definitely didn’t go the way I expected.
- “Pros and Cons of Spending the First Weeks of Your Son’s Life in the NICU” (2021) by Timothy Mudie. An experimental format that’s simultaneously punchy and heart-wrenching, and pretty relatable even for regular hospital stays.
- “The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes” (2018) by Siobhan Carroll. A cleverly drawn epic fantasy starring a chef, as told to culinary students.
Other May Reads
- 2021 Hugo Finalists for Best Novelette. I had already read “The Pill,” but five of these were new reads this month, and there was a lot of interesting stuff, led by the previously mentioned “Two Truths and a Lie.”
- “Vampirito” (2021) by K. Victoria Hernandez. A multi-layered vampire story with a young vampire growing up with culture clashes all around.
- “A House Is Not a Home” (2021) by L. Chan. A nicely-constructed sentient house story.
- “I Wrote to My Queen” (2021) by Saswati Chatterjee. The first of a couple flash fictions I read this month–recommended if you like spider stories.
- “Proof by Induction” (2021) by José Pablo Iriarte. A mathematician seeking a career-making result in a story that’s really about legacy and the death of a loved one.
- “The Only Garden on Mars” (2021) by Paul English-Wolfe. Very short but well-crafted bit of microfiction.
- “Fanfiction for a Grimdark Universe” (2021) by Vanessa Fogg. In the midst of never-ending war, a distant universe discovers that their world is the subject of comic series on Earth, with plenty of fanfiction. A solid story that may hit better for fanfiction aficionados.
- “The Court Magician” (2018) by Sarah Pinsker. The first story I read by Pinsker that didn’t totally blow me away, but it’s still a quite good story about magic, choices, and consequences.
- “The Family in the Adit” (2021) by A.T. Greenblatt. A tense horror about escaping from a dinner party that’s trying to kill you.
- “Balfour in the Desert” (2021) by Fargo Tbakhi. A nightmare-like story (but still more fantasy than horror, as I read it) that’s powerfully-written in the details and tricky to put together as a whole, given the dreamlike quality. Surprisingly optimistic and powerful, I imagine this will be a huge hit for people who enjoy more ambiguous stories.
Novels and Novellas
- The Lost War (2019) by Justin Lee Anderson. The winner of SPFBO6 asked a lot of the reader, with a slow-building mystery plot hidden underneath a fairly standard fantasy adventure, but the payoff was worth it.
- Finna (2020) by Nino Cipri. My second Hugo Finalist novella has a really good interpersonal subplot but doesn’t work especially well as a portal fantasy.
Other May Reads
Am I behind on posting reviews? Yes. Am I going to continue blaming my offspring? Also yes. I’ll get them posted in June, I promise.
- Rosewater (2016) by Tade Thompson. A weird and ambitious first contact novel where an alien biodome appears in 21st century Nigeria. Full review to come.
- The Imaginary Corpse (2019) by Tyler Hayes. A noir-style mystery that takes place in the Stillreal, where imaginary friends go when separated from their person. The mystery aspect is so-so, but the interpersonal story and exploration of trauma is excellent. Full review to come.
- Crooked Kingdom (2016) by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows is more of what made Six of Crows so popular, with excellent character work and lots of convoluted heisting. Full review of the duology to come.
- The Hollow Places (2020) by T. Kingfisher. A portal fantasy/horror with an incredibly relatable main character and lots of atmosphere. Liked this one a lot. Full review to come.
- Grim Solace (2019) by Ben Galley. The sequel to Chasing Graves has a bit of middle book syndrome, with lots of action but no major story arcs started or finished. The pieces are in place for a thrilling finale, which I will read on the strength of the first, but this was much less my speed.
- Fugitive Telemetry (2021) by Martha Wells. More Murderbot is always welcome. This is a one-off, so the stakes don’t feel quite as high as in some of the previous books, but the character work is still tremendous. If you like the character Murderbot, you’ll want to give this one a read. Full review to come.
- I posted my ballot for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, which had three really enjoyable entries at the top.
- I also posted my ballot for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, which had a couple absolutely stunning nominees.