Monthly Round-Up

June 2024 Round-up and Short Fiction Miscellany

Every month, I say that I read great things. It’s always true–with as much as I read, something is going to be good enough to shout about. But sometimes slumps happen, and June 2024 saw me in the middle of one. I was going through a disappointing Hugo shortlist (more on that in the coming weeks), I picked up a wildly popular novel that I really didn’t get on with (more on that later in this post), and my regular magazines were churning out fiction that I thought was almost all quite good but not quite next-level.

It took until the final week of the month for me to give my first five-star (I round up anything rated 17 or higher to five stars, so it’s not really a “once in a blue moon” occurrence). But it did come, and so as usual, I have some wonderful stories to share. And also some good ones. Don’t hate on the good ones.

Short Fiction

June Favorites

  • Loneliness Universe” (2024 novelette) by Eugenia Triantafyllou. I knew going in that Triantafyllou had a tremendous reputation, but so many of her stories lean more toward horror or retelling for my tastes, and I hadn’t joined the crowd of admirers. But this story about a world that fractures so that one cannot perceive their family and friends in real life, but only on social media? It’s fantastic. As you might expect from the premise, there’s not really going to be a plausible scientific explanation, but the emotions are on point. The efforts to figure out how to communicate in a strange sci-fi scenario ring true, and the story does a wonderful job delving into close relationships of all sort, through the lens of their irl loss. I have complained about a lot of the popular stories from Uncanny in 2023, but they’ve released some excellent work in 2024.
  • Behind the Gilded Door” (2024 short story) by Thomas Ha. To actually break the slump, I turned to an author I’d enjoyed a lot in the past, and it worked. This is a secondary world fantasy, which is a departure from Ha’s usual sci-fi, horror, and slipstream, but quite a few elements still struck me as Very Thomas Ha (compliment). The slowly building tension is unsurprising from an author with a horror background, and while I’d not say it’s an especially scary story, there is one scene that certainly wouldn’t be out of place in that subgenre. Of course, I love so much of his work because of the way he uses genre stories to delve into very grounded themes, and that comes through wonderfully in a story that is in so large a part about growing up and leaving home and finding yourself unable to comfortably return.

Strong Contenders

Ordinarily, my monthly magazine review features a few stories in my top category, but even if this month is a little down, there are at least three that I liked a whole lot and would fit in right here.

  • Mangrove Daughter” (2024 short story) by E.M. Linden. A short piece with some beautiful imagery, told in second-person to someone in the midst of a transformation, but perhaps not the same one as all her friends.

Others I Enjoyed in June

  • Harvest the Stars” (2023 short story) by Mar Vincent. It’s a story about (literally) farming starships, but more than that, about growing up in a small community that’s resistant to new ideas.
  • “Seeds of Mercury” (2002 novella) by Wang Jinkang, translated by Alex Woodend. A 2o year-old Chinese novella made eligible for the 2024 Hugo Awards in virtue of a 2023 translation, there is an absolutely fascinating story about a non-human sentience and their religion, but it’s mixed in with a fairly dry subplot set on Earth, and while I cannot read Chinese, I suspect it flows better in the original language.
  • “The Spirit of Bois” (2023 short story) by Karyn Díaz. It’s a plot-light slice-of-life about a spirit enjoying the world of humanity one Carnival.
  • Half Sick of Shadows” (2024 novelette) by Elle Engel. A girl grows up alone in a tower, isolated completely from a hostile outside world. But the longer she explores her surroundings, the more she questions the strict tenets she was raised with. It’s an engaging story from start to finish, though despite ending in a way that’s in keeping with a lot of other short fiction I like, I had hoped for a little more resolution.
  • Those Who Smuggle Themselves into Slivermoon” (2024 novelette) by Varsha Dinesh. A science-fictional fable about migration, featuring a city that promises riches yet takes the very bodies of its immigrants, leaving them scraping to buy them back piecemeal. It’s in large part a worldbuilding story, but also a story about relationships between two immigrants who choose very different paths in trying to make their living.
  • Her Neighbor’s Keeper” (2024 short story) by Jessica Snell. A compelling story about a fairy garden come to life, though with an ending that’s a bit too pat for my liking.

Novels and Novellas

Reviews Posted

  • Some Desperate Glory (2023 novel) by Emily Tesh. A thrilling space opera about a woman raised in a small rebel sect who devotes their entire existence to striking back against the alien alliance that destroyed their home planet. Too often takes the easy way out, but still compulsively readable and extremely worthwhile for the character study of a lead gradually pulling back the curtain on her childhood.
  • The Saint of Bright Doors (2023 novel) by Vajra Chandrasekera. A beautiful and often disorienting tale of prophecy, oppression, and sectarian violence, drawing heavily from Sri Lankan history and politics. This one is much more about the themes than plot or characters, but the themes are rich enough to explain how many people have been enamored by this book.
  • Starter Villain (2023 novel) by John Scalzi. A mostly lighthearted homage to superhero tropes–or in this case supervillain tropes–with a healthy dose of commentary on economic injustice sprinkled in. Easy to read and generally entertaining, though not a story that rewards dwelling too long.
  • Service Model (2024 novel) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Dark humor and social commentary in a bureaucratic dystopia featuring a robot valet who just wants to find someone to serve in a world where demand for valet services isn’t exactly skyrocketing.

Other July Reads

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015 novel) by Sarah J. Maas. This series has become a sensation, though after my reaction to this book, I was assured that it’s a sensation on the strength of the sequels and not the opening book of the series. The romance and fantasy is fairly well balanced in this installment, and I saw flashes of the readability that surely led to so many people giving the sequels a chance in the first place, but a frustrating climax ensures that I won’t be lining up among them. Full review to come.
  • Translation State (2023 novel) by Ann Leckie. Another first experience with an acclaimed author went better than the last, with a story that reads much shorter than its 400 pages and some fantastically alien aliens. There were times when I felt the story a bit too neat, but I’ll certainly be giving Leckie another read. Full review to come.
  • Echo of Worlds (2024 novel) by M.R. Carey. The closing story of the Pandominion duology that started with Infinity Gate moves–as expected–away from the slow building of characters and jumps straight into their attempts to save the world. A satisfying close to an entertaining duology, though not quite to the level of the opener for a reader who focuses on character over plot. Full review to come.


We crowned a championKenai by Dave Dobson took the victory in the third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition, in one of our closest decisions of all-time, edging Tim Hawken’s Thrill Switch by less than a hundredth of a point. My personal top choice, Three Grams of Elsewhere by Andy Giesler, finished third. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning my other favorite of the competition, Erin Ampersand’s Apocalypse Parenting, which was edged out by the eventual winner by just a sixth of a point in the second round.


Voting for the Hugo Awards closes in just over two weeks, and–as you may notice from the preponderance of Hugo finalists among last month’s reviews–I’ve been working hard on reading through the shortlists. I’ll be posting my evaluations of the Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story categories, hopefully starting next week.

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