Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Winners, fiction categories

Belatedly, here's the list of the Hugo Award winners in the four fiction categories (there are many additional categories) for 2017.

These awards were presented in August 2017 at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.

The list of finalists or nominees can be seen in the previous post.
Best Novel

    The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Best Novella

    Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)

Best Novelette

    “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

Best Short Story

    “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Finalists, fiction categories

A little more than a week from now, on Friday, August 11, the 2017 Hugo Awards will be presented at this year's World Science Fiction Convention, Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland. The Hugo Awards ceremony is always a highlight of a Worldcon.

Here's a list of the finalists in the four fiction categories (there are many additional categories), offered without comment, just in case you, like me (Amy), need a little reminder of the works that are up for these awards this year. May good stuff win!
Best Novel

    All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
    A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
    Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
    Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
    The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
    Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella

    The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle ( Publishing)
    The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson ( Publishing)
    Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)
    Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
    A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson ( Publishing)
    This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette

    Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
    “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (, July 2016)
    “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde ( Publishing, May 2016)
    “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
    “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
    “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story

    “The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (, September 2016)
    “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (, March 2016)
    “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
    “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
    “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (, March 2016)
    “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Voices Without Voices, Words With No Words" by Amanda C. Davis :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for "Voices Without Voices, Words With No Words" by Amanda C. Davis, from Issue #73 of Cemetery Dance magazine.

Jeremy lives in a house inherited from his parents, a house with no power, no heat, no telephone. He has lost his job, his girlfriend, his life. Because he has time for nothing but his work. His work is: he picks up a dead phone and hears voices. He writes down names, numbers, and words that the voices give him. Then he goes to one of the few remaining pay phones in town with a stack of quarters. He dials the numbers, asks for the names, and tells them the words. Words like "Choose the green" or "Stop at two" or "Ask for Veronica."

So Jeremy is a loon, right? Except it's easy to believe he's not. For one thing, how come he can always reach someone with the right name at the numbers he dials? This is a guy who has devoted himself to work he didn't choose, at tremendous cost to himself, in the hope it's helping people he doesn't even know. He is a sad, pathetic, very noble character. Like someone who leaves a high-paying job to work with the homeless, or perhaps even a writer who devotes her life to telling stories she's not sure anyone else appreciates.

The story begins in earnest when Jeremy dials a number but it doesn't ring. He looks down and realizes it's his number, for his disconnected home phone. The message is for him: It ends. Be at the side of the lost queen at midnight. Twenty-five twenty-one. Will he puzzle out by midnight what that means?

This is a fairly simple story concept, executed cleanly and elegantly. I've been reading a lot of short fiction lately and I fear I've been getting a bit jaded – it's hard right now to get me to really care about what happens to a character in a short story. But Amanda Davis pulled it off. I was right there with Jeremy to the end of the story. I enjoyed "Voices Without Voices, Words With No Words" very much.

Amanda C. Davis writes horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Shock Totem, and many other publications. Incidentally, I think of Cemetery Dance as a horror magazine, but to me "Voices Without Voices, Words With No Words" is not a horror story. Good for them stretching their boundaries to publish such a terrific piece!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Vaseline Footprints" by Jeff Bowles :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for "Vaseline Footprints" by Jeff Bowles, from the November-December 2016 issue of Black Static magazine.

A sister magazine to Interzone, Black Static generally focuses on horror and dark fantasy, but I'd be more inclined to label "Vaseline Footprints" as bizarro fiction, with story elements at once absurd, surreal, satirical and grotesque. I like bizarro, and if you can appreciate offbeat fiction, I think you'll like this one a lot too.

From the opening line ("I keep dead women in my closet."), the narrator of "Vaseline Footprints" is oh so far beyond unreliable. He has a tough go of things, what with a boss he'd like to kill and the constant need to replace his bloody socks and his gallon container of Vaseline. But he tries to stay positive:
I love the dead women in my closet very much. I keep pictures of them on my phone. The dead women in my closet are my reason for living. I think I would probably go a bit weird if I didn't have them.
No doubt! This story may not be for everyone, particularly if you're sensitive about your religious imagery, but I thought it was a hoot and a half!

Jeff Bowles is a Colorado author, whose work has appeared in PodCastle, Stupefying Stories and other markets, and has been collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Mika Model" by Paolo Bacigalupi :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for Mika Model by Paolo Bacigalupi, which appeared at in April of 2016 (cover art by Lisa Larson-Walker).

Regular science fiction and fantasy readers know that Paolo Bacigalupi is awesome, but may not know to look at for good new SF. "Mika Model" is part of their "Future Tense" series of articles exploring how technology and science will change our lives.

The technology addressed in "Mika Model" is artificial intelligence. If we really are able to create a thinking machine, which learns from experience, what's the first thing we'll do with it? In "Mika Model," our protagonist Police Detective Rivera meets an artificially intelligent sex robot. It (she?) is constantly analyzing all available data to determine how best to turn on the men she encounters. She tells Rivera she needs a lawyer:
“What do you need a lawyer for?” I asked, smiling.

She leaned forward, conspiratorial. Her hair cascaded prettily and she tucked it behind a delicate ear.

“It’s a little private.”

As she moved, her blouse tightened against her curves. Buttons strained against fabric.

Fifty-thousand dollars’ worth of A.I. tease.

“Is this a prank?” I asked. “Did your owner send you in here?”

“No. Not a prank.”

She set her Nordstrom bag down between us. Reached in and hauled out a man’s severed head. Dropped it, still dripping blood, on top of my paperwork.

“What the—?”

I recoiled from the dead man’s staring eyes. His face was a frozen in a rictus of pain and terror.

Mika set a bloody carving knife beside the head.

“I’ve been a very bad girl,” she whispered.

And then, unnervingly, she giggled.

“I think I need to be punished.”

She said it exactly the way she did in her advertisements.
Rivera's first order of business is to decide whether this is a murder case, or rather a product safety failure. Mika tries to convince Rivera she is real, and he would certainly prefer to think of her as a person.

A lawyer does show up in the story, Holly Simms, and she promptly mocks Rivera for being a predictable male, so easily manipulated by what is, after all, a rather simple machine. And she is absolutely right. Then again, Mika had Rivera feeling like she understood him, while Simms just makes him feel small.

If people are so easy to manipulate, why is it we so seldom manipulate each other into feeling good?

This is Paolo Bacigalupi's third Story Recommendation of the Week. He joins Aliette de Bodard, Samantha Henderson, Rachel Swirsky, and Catherynne M. Valente as the only authors to receive SROTWs three times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"The Sound That Grief Makes" by Kristi DeMeester :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

"Caleb had been dead for two weeks when I started pretending to be his ghost."

I do love a great opening line!

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for Kristi DeMeester's The Sound That Grief Makes, from the October 2016 issue of The Dark magazine.

In "The Sound That Grief Makes," our narrator's husband has committed suicide. She and her son Hudson are devastated. In a dubious bid to help him deal with his loss, his mother begins lurking outside Hudson's room at night, knowing that he believes the noises she makes are his father's ghost:
Every night, I knocked on his door.

Every night, my son would talk to me from behind that thin wood.

And then I found a worm, Dad. Big as my arm. Swear. And Nathan dared Scott to take a bite of it, and Scott said he would do it if Nathan handed over his entire Punisher comic book collection. Nathan said okay because he thought there was no way Scott would do it. Nathan kept the worm to keep everything fair, and then Scott showed up the next day, and ate the entire thing.

Hudson poured out his life for his dead father, and I sat and listened and understood I would never be able to give him all that he needed. I couldn’t be his father.

Eventually, the knocking would stop. Eventually, I would have to stop haunting my son.
(Since we know who the "ghost" is, this story has no supernatural element. Some would conclude it's not a horror story, but in my view horror fiction does not always require a supernatural element, and this story is a great example.)

Surprisingly, his father's apparent ghostly appearances really seem to help Hudson deal with his grief. But who is going to help Hudson's mother?

"The Sound That Grief Makes" is a simple but sad, moving, and elegantly written piece.

Kristi DeMeester's short fiction has appeared in such markets as Black Static, Apex, Shimmer, and Shock Totem. Her first novel, Beneath, is due out in April 2017.

The Dark is a fairly new on-line horror magazine, which I am digging so far. Look for more SROTWs from this publication.

Monday, December 05, 2016

"An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition" by Ken Liu :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

My Story Recommendation of the Week goes to "An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition" by Ken Liu, from Liu's Saga Press collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (cover art by Quentin Trollip).

Science fiction and fantasy readers out there don't much need me to tell them that Ken Liu can write a decent short story. But you may not be aware that his new collection The Paper Menagerie has one new story in it (among all the reprints of award nominees and winners), and it's one you want to check out.

"An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition" alternates between brief passages explaining the systems of memory and cognition observed in various alien species and a scientist's love letter about his estranged wife, written to their daughter.

Every one of the descriptions of alien species is interesting and original enough to support its own story, but apparently Ken Liu comes up with good story ideas so routinely he can afford to toss off a half-dozen of them all at once. Show off!

The most telling of the alien passages describes a dying alien race that saved a few of their children by putting them on a near-lightspeed starship with no means of decelerating, thus ensuring that the children would live until the end of the universe—which they would experience in just a few short years. The passage concludes, "All parents make choices for their children. Almost always they think it's for the best."

In the main narrative, a husband and wife, both nerdy scientists, would each make a different choice for the future of their daughter. The parent who prevails has at least as many regrets as the parent who does not.

This is a well-constructed, emotionally charged story, right up to the sad and lovely closing line: "There are many ways to say I love you in this cold, dark, silent universe, as many as the twinkling stars."

Monday, November 28, 2016

"The Counsellor Crow" by Karen Lord :: Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week

We are between brackets of the Battle of the Books, so time to catch up on some story recommendations.

My Story Recommendation of the Week is for "The Counsellor Crow" by Karen Lord, from the anthology The Bestiary, edited by Ann VanderMeer and published by Centipede Press (cover art by Ivica Stevanovic).

The Bestiary is an anthology of short pieces, each describing a creature one suspects does not actually exist. The gimmick is that there is one strange animal with a name beginning with each letter of the alphabet, plus creatures called The Ampersand and The          .

The strength of this anthology is the array of writing talent Ann VanderMeer has assembled. How can you go wrong reading pieces by such authors as China Miéville, Catherynne M. Valente, Brian Evenson, Vandana Singh, Michael Cisco, Stephen Graham Jones, Karen Heuler, Karin Tidbeck, Felix Gilman, etc. etc.? The weakness is the pieces are similar enough that after a while the book can start to feel like a single gag repeated until it gets tiresome.

But the best pieces here are very good indeed. To me the funniest story in the book is "The Daydreamer by Proxy" by Dexter Palmer, about a genetically engineered parasite that your employer urges to try, because it will make you a wonderfully efficient worker! At least for a while. I think the most clever and elegantly done story is "Tongues of Moon / False Toads" by Cat Rambo, about an animal remarkably efficient at camouflage. ("One may go so far as to imitate an alchemist and thus fall prey to a recursive trap, lost in a mental mise-en-scène, seeking itself.")

And my overall personal favorite in the book is "The Counsellor Crow" by Karen Lord, perhaps because it has a rather more pointed message than most of the pieces. "The Counsellor Crow" describes a type of corvid whose appearances tend to coincide with human misery:
The turning point in the evolution of the Counsellor Crow took place not in Ildcrest, but in neighbouring Ilderland, where a new Prince and a resurgent nobility developed a strongly nationalistic and anti-modernist ideology that called for a return to old values and old ways. Modern technology was banned, foreigners were ousted, and the nobility tried a motley assortment of centuries-old garments, weaponry and rituals in an attempt to replace a Golden Age that never was with a New Age of their own devising. Naturally, with all the permutations and combinations of available customs, there were disputes, rebellions, and then civil war. The sacred battlefields of Ilderia returned, and the Counsellor Crows fed and grew fat.
The narrator of this scholarly article on the Counsellor Crow suspects the animal of using mimicry, speculating whether it is "the first recorded instance of a predator that mimics not the voice, nor the appearance, nor the scent of its prey, but their thoughts." The narrator ends with the alarming observation that the population of Counsellor Crows is now the highest on record.

Karen Lord, originally from Barbados, has only been publishing fiction since 2010 but already has amassed an impressive collection of awards. She does not often write short fiction, so "The Counsellor Crow" offers a rare opportunity to sample her writing in a single sitting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Battle of the 2015 Books, Bracket One :: Wrap-Up

We have completed Bracket One of the Fantastic Reviews Battle of the 2015 Books.  There were plenty of good book battles along the way.  Hope you enjoyed our reviews of samplings of these books!

Congratulations to The Just City by Jo Walton, winner of this Battle of the Books bracket!  Let's give a round of applause for all the participating books!

To see the whole completed bracket, click here.

Listed below are the sixteen books which were featured in this bracket, sorted alphabetically by author.  Click on the book title links to go that book's highest round book battle review.

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep
Infinity Lost by S. Harrison
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Firesoul by Gary Kloster
Blood Will Follow by Snorri Kristjansson
Human Monsters by Gregory Lamberson
Oathkeeper by J. F. Lewis
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Fortune’s Blight by Evie Manieri
Hexed by Michael Alan Nelson
Originator by Joel Shepherd
Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith
Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
The Just City by Jo Walton
The Banished of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

Some of these books and authors may be new to you, but after reading Aaron's book descriptions and battle reviews, I hope some of them sparked your interest.  Perhaps we introduced you to a few new books and authors.  Only one book can win each battle, and only one book can win the bracket, but there were many good books in the competition.

Battle of the Books match-ups are decided based on reading a sample of the book, most upon reading a mere 25 pages or 50 pages.  So if a good book starts slow, in this review format, it may face an uphill battle.  These matches are inherently subjective.  These battles were decided based on which book the reviewer, who was Aaron for this bracket, would rather continue reading.

Stay tuned for Bracket One of the Battle of the 2016 Books.  Another sixteen books are lined up for this competition.  Aaron will be the reviewer judging this bracket.  We'll be announcing the books which will be featured as our next group of contenders soon!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Battle of the 2015 Books, Bracket One, Championship Round :: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu vs. The Just City by Jo Walton

We have arrived at the championship round of our current bracket of the Battle of the Books. In one corner we have The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. In the other corner we have The Just City by Jo Walton. Two fine novels!  I (Aaron) have read through page 200 of both these books, and the one I most want to continue reading to the end will be the champion of Bracket One of the Fantastic Reviews Battle of the 2015 Books.

The Grace of Kings:   Saga, April 2015, 618 pages, cover art by Sam Weber. The Grace of Kings is Book One of the Dandelion Dynasty series. The second volume, The Wall of Storms, is just out. Ken Liu is a two-time Hugo Award winner for his short fiction, as well as accounting for two more Hugos by translating Chinese SF. The Grace of Kings is his first novel.

The Grace of Kings overwhelmed Infinity Lost by S. Harrison in the first round. Next The Grace of Kings conquered Fortune’s Blight by Evie Manieri in the second round. Then The Grace of Kings won out over The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro in the semifinals to reach here, the championship match.

The Grace of Kings is set on the Islands of Dara, an archipelago with a culture similar to ancient China. Dara has recently been unified under the rule of a single emperor, originating from the island of Xana. That emperor has just died, however, and his contemptible administrators have passed the crown to his younger, weaker son. Rebellions are breaking out throughout the empire in the resulting power vacuum. Our main characters, the clever but mischievous Kuni Garu and the massive Mata Zyndu, whose family was all but wiped out by the emperor, have become leaders of two of the rebellions. The turmoil is worsened by the fact that the gods in this universe play an active, if indirect, role in what is transpiring.

The Just City:   Tor, January 2015, 364 pages, cover art by Raphael. Jo Walton won a Hugo and Nebula for her novel Among Others, and has also won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and a Tiptree Award. The Just City is also the first book in a series. The second volume, The Philosopher Kings, was published in June 2015, and the third book, Necessity, is just out.

The Just City overpowered Towers Fall by Karina Sumner-Smith in the first round. Next The Just City got by Letters to Zell by Camille Griep in the second round. Then The Just City defeated Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz in the semifinals to reach here, the championship match.

The eponymous setting of The Just City is a city created by the goddess Pallas Athene, modeled on Plato's Republic, to see if it could be done. She has recruited a group of 300 scholars to run the place, including one of our heroines, Maia, a young woman who felt limited by her options in 19th Century England and prayed to Athene for a way out. Maia and the other city "masters" snatch 10,000 children out of ancient history to be the founding citizens of the city. Among these is Simmea, a young woman rescued from slavery, and a dynamic young man named Pytheas. As the young citizens mature, Simmea becomes more and more fascinated with Pytheas, unaware that he is actually an incarnation of the god Apollo. A recent arrival to the city is Socrates, the Socrates, who is of course asking a lot of questions that may throw the city's future in doubt, such as whether the robots who do all the labor would rather be doing something else.

The Battle: I am not supposed to pre-judge these battles before I finish reading. But I'm only human, and I can't help anticipating where a battle is headed. For this championship round, I didn't think I even needed to do the reading. Based on the first 100 pages of both books I had already read for the semifinals, I was sure I knew the inevitable winner. And I thought so as I was reading through 200 pages of both. Then I finished, and realized I had been wrong the whole time.

These are two quite different but each well-written and original fantasy novels, certainly both worth your time. But through 100 pages and then some, it seemed to me that the focus of The Just City was philosophical musings about Plato, which I was finding interesting but hardly compelling, while the focus of The Grace of Kings was on the storytelling, which is usually the best way to pull me into a novel.

But a funny thing happened by the time I got to page 200 in both books. Even though there's a lot more plotting in The Grace of Kings, I came to realize that The Just City would be the harder book for me to put down, for two reasons.

First, I feel more connected to the characters in The Just City. While I continue to enjoy The Grace of Kings, the main characters have not developed much since the early pages. Instead, we've visited a host of minor characters with tangential roles in the rebellion against the empire. Some of these sub-plots are nicely spun out; for example, here a young man named Jizu, recruited by self-serving ministers to lead a small kingdom joining the rebellions, saves his people from slaughter by the imperial army by offering himself instead. When the empire's representative, General Namen, accepts his proposal, Jizu promptly sets himself on fire:
General Namen shook his head. The smell of burned flesh nauseated him, and he felt very old and tired at this moment. He had liked Jizu's pale face, his curled hair and thin nose. He had admired the way the boy held his back straight, and the way he looked at him, the conqueror, with no fear in his calm gray eyes. He would have liked to sit and have a long talk with the young man, a man he thought very brave.

He wished again that Kindo Marana had not sought him out. He wished he were sitting in front of the fire in his house, his hand stroking a contented Tozy. But he loved Xana, and love required sacrifices.
This is a nice scene, especially when Jizu's sleazy ministers get their comeuppance, but it has already played out and so doesn't much pull me into the larger story arc. Overall, the book has something of an episodic feel through 200 pages, and I haven't gotten to know the key characters Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu as well as I would have liked.

In contrast, while the first 200 pages of The Just City tell a quieter story, they gradually combine to develop the main characters into people I feel I know and care about. For instance, here is a passage from the point of view of Pytheas, aka Apollo:
Being a mortal was strange. It was sensually intense, and it had the intensity of everything evanescent—like spring blossoms or autumn leaves or early cherries. It was also hugely involving. Detachment was really difficult to achieve. Everything mattered immediately—every pain, every sensation, every emotion. There wasn't time to think about things properly—no possibility of withdrawal for proper contemplation, then returning to the same instant with a calm and reasonable plan. Everything had to be done in time, immediately. Paradoxically, there was also too much time. I constantly had to wait through moments and hours and nights. I had to wait for spring to see blossom, wait for Simmea to be free to walk with me, wait for morning. Then when it came, everything would be hurtling forward in immediate necessity again, pierced through with emotion and immediacy and a speeding pulse. Time was inexorable and unstoppable. I had always known that, but it had taken me fifteen years as a mortal to understand what it meant.
On initial reading, this is an interesting thought about an immortal's perspective. But it comes back later, as Simmea is developing a teenage crush for Pytheas, and the reader realizes how impossible it is that things will work out for them on a romantic level.

The entire system that Athena and the masters have created seems at once admirable yet hopelessly unstable. The masters pride themselves on having rescued the young citizens from slavery, but they dictate to these adolescents where to live, what to eat, what work to do, even (as they get older) their sexual partners, all to conform to Plato's directions. At the same time, they're training their young citizens to be independent thinkers. Sooner or later, these youngsters are bound to have the independent thought, "Why are we putting up with all this shit?"

There are many such aspects of this tale that didn't grab me immediately, but have developed into storylines that I care about. How will the idealistic Simmea handle learning that people in this city are not what she believes? Which masters will be corrupted by the power they've been handed? Who will join in the inevitable rebellion? How will Maia (who won't rebel) handle being torn between the other masters and the youngsters with whom she identifies? How will the system adjust when the young citizens start having children of their own? What happens if Socrates prompts the robots to stop working for the masters? I want to keep reading to find all this out, even if some of the answers may not come until later volumes in the series.

The second reason I find it harder to put down The Just City is the story is so unique. Of all the countless people to read The Republic in the past 2,400 years, if it has ever occurred to anyone else to render Plato's thought experiment literal, I missed it. And I'm enjoying the return to a more philosophical style of science fiction, the kind the field used to get from authors like Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ. I am intrigued to see where Jo Walton plans to take this story and setting.

Meanwhile, the sprawling, secondary-world epic fantasy has been done a whole lot recently. The most distinctive aspect of Liu's approach to the subgenre is his Eastern setting and mood, but even this has already been done very effectively in the past few years, for example by Guy Gavriel Kay in Under Heaven and River of Stars and by Elizabeth Bear in her Eternal Sky series. (Hopefully this won't hurt Ken Liu's feelings overmuch. I know I'd be delighted to have someone criticize my writing for being similar to Guy Gavriel Kay and Elizabeth Bear!)

Much to my own surprise, after 200 pages, The Just City is the book I most want to keep reading to the end.

THE WINNER: The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just City wins Bracket One of the Fantastic Reviews Battle of the 2015 Books. Congratulations to our newest Battle of the Books champion!

To see the completed bracket, click here.

We've crowned a winner for this bracket, but soon we'll announce a whole new bracket of sixteen books. Aaron will judging the next bracket which will be full of 2016 books. Stay tuned for more book battles to come!