Monthly Round-Up

August 2023 Round-up and Short Fiction Miscellany

It has been a big month outside of reading. Multiple birthdays, the start of school for the kids, and. . . oh yes, moving. I probably haven’t been reading quite as much as usual. But what I have read have included a few absolutely tremendous pieces of sci-fi and fantasy. So let’s get to it, starting as always with short fiction.

Short Fiction

I did read Ten Planets by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman, but that will get its own review–anything that isn’t on my favorites or strong contenders list will be saved for later.

August Favorites

As always, I posted a review of my regular magazine reading, and this month’s Clarkesworld had a particular favorite: “Window Boy” by Thomas Ha. Elsewhere?

  • Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold” (2022 novelette) by S.B. Divya. This would’ve been a Hugo finalist for Best Novelette if Divya hadn’t withdrawn the nomination, and it would’ve deserved it. I’m not big on retellings, but it casts Rumpelstiltskin as an Indian immigrant with a Midas touch. It puts a remarkably human touch on a classic fairy tale, while still hitting a surprising number of beats from the familiar story. Excellent work.
  • Over Moonlit Clouds” (2023 short story) by Coda Audeguy-Pegon. Stories about airline passengers trapped in the sky with something dangerous are nothing new, but this fantasy take on the theme is just wonderfully executed. It’s a tragedy from the word “go,” with a response that’s worse than the initial danger and plenty of parallels to real-world tragedies. As far as I can tell, this is a debut, and it’s a tremendous one that’s going to put Audeguy-Pegon on my “remember for the Astounding Award” list.
  • How to Be a True Woman While Piloting a Steam-Engine Balloon” (2022 short story) by Valerie Hunter. A chase scene in the sky is pretty well-written, but what really makes this story is the lead learning to move past her parents’ messages about being an independent woman and learning the importance of relying on people.

Strong Contenders

  • Memoirs of a Magic Mirror” (2022 short story) by Julia Knowles. It’s a Snow White retelling from the perspective of the mirror. Not necessarily breaking new ground, but it’s sure a whole lot of fun.
  • Behind Colin’s Eyes” (2023 short story) by Shane Hawk. I’ve said many times that I’m not a big horror guy, but this excerpt from a new anthology of indigenous horror and dark fantasy sure makes me want to try Never Whistle at Night.
  • “The Obituarist” (2023 flash fiction) by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman. A short piece about a man who remembers the dead. I struggle with things under 1500 words, but there was some power on the importance of remembrance and memorial.
  • “Obverse” (2023 flash fiction) by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman. Only two pages long, but the ending is very fun.
  • You Will Not Live to See M/M Horrors Beyond Your Comprehension” (2023 flash fiction) by Isabel J. Kim. I am extremely not the target audience for this, as a cishet man with only passing familiarity with fanfiction. But I love it when Kim gets weird and meta, and even though I’m not the target audience, I still found myself smiling at this story of Achilles visiting an oracle who may or may not be a fanfic author.
  • Just One Last Mango” (2022 short story) by Chaitanya Murali. An engaging story featuring what I take to be Indian mythology, about a couple kids picking mangoes and getting into much more than they’d bargained for.

Novels and Novellas

Reviews Posted

  • Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon (2023 novel) by Wole Talabi. A heavily Nigerian-inspired urban fantasy, with a nightmare god and a succubus executing a heist of stolen artifacts in London.
  • Tigerman (2014 novel) by Nick Harkaway. A real Bingo success story, with a superhero novel that reads nothing like a superhero novel–a fantastic character study with plenty of reflection on various forms of authority and post-colonialism. And caped crime-fighting.
  • Thornhedge (2023 novella) by T. Kingfisher. What if Sleeping Beauty were evil and the poor fairy were just trying to protect the world? A really fascinating premise with Kingfisher’s typical endearing characters, though perhaps too easy an ending.
  • He Who Drowned the World (2023 novel) by Shelley Parker-Chan. A satisfying sequel to She Who Became the Sun with another fascinating perspective character and more than one figure spiraling downward while haunted by internal demons. It’s heavy–though not without a glimmer of hope–but it’s good.
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society (2022 novel) by John Scalzi. A popcorn sci-fi novel with lots of monsters, explosions, and poop jokes. Reasonably well-paced, but grating at times.

Other August Reads

  • The Spare Man (2022 novel) by Mary Robinette Kowal. A pretty fun murder mystery in space, though not one that hits the highs of some of Kowal’s previous books. Full review to come.
  • A Mirror Mended (2022 novella) by Alix E. Harrow. The sequel to A Spindle Splintered sees alternate universe Sleeping Beauty hopping into Snow White and trying to fix the Queen’s story. Tries to do a bit too much, with the accompanying unevenness, but the main plot line is solid. Full review to come.
  • Nettle & Bone (2022 novel) by T. Kingfisher. A fairy tale that isn’t a retelling, with a woman on a quest to kill the prince that’s abusing her sister. A fun story that’s not quite as dark as the premise may suggest. Full review to come.
  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau (2022 novel) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Officially a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau, but it’s a good read without the original, with lush descriptions, engaging characters, and interesting themes. Full review to come.
  • Mammoths at the Gate (2023 novella) by Nghi Vo. The fourth book in the Singing Hills Cycle goes back to the Singing Hills abbey itself, with a story all about loss and remembrance. Might not all come together like some of the previous ones, but it’s all good, and some is outstanding. Full review to come.
  • Spear (2022 novel) by Nicola Griffith. An Arthurian novel in which Arthur feels like a B plot. Gorgeous prose and an interesting plot, though suffers a little from the lead’s magic feeling a bit too powerful to create the tension. Emphasis on “a little”–this is very good. Full review to come.


SPSFC is back! I have a team read for the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC3). Keep your eyes out for information on my teammates and our initial allotment.



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