The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Berry
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2021)
Reviewed by John Dodd
How do you kill the same person 22 times?
Usually with a knife it seems…
This starts with a reporter covering the death of an actress at the hands of an obsessive fan, a case that seems unremarkable, until a chance encounter with someone from another universe gives them the power to move between universes. But the first they know of this is when one day they come home and they find out that the person they live with is the same person, but they’re not the same person.
Others who do monitor the different universes make contact, and from there it’s established that this does happen, but there aren’t mechanisms in place to stop the movement from universe to universe. When Felicity, our heroine, finds out what’s happening, she’s new to everything, and she hasn’t developed the same lack of empathy demonstrated by most of those who know the truth. So begins a game of cat and mouse, not just one killer with one target, one killer with many targets.
Review from BSFA Review 18 - Download your copy here.
Momenticon by Andrew Caldecott
(Joe Fletcher Books, 2022)
Reviewed by Susan Peak
Andrew Caldecott, who is a barrister as well as a writer, published Rotherweird in 2017. This book, a mixture of historical fiction (1558) and a modern setting (the village of Rotherweird), depicted twelve strangely gifted children and the deliberately isolated place in which they and a small number of other people lived. Two characters, whom the story follows, want to reveal its secrets.
That book was the first of a trilogy, and now Caldecott has written Momenticon, a separate book. It is similar in style, both in terms of Caldecott’s writing, and in terms of the strange location and people.
Rotherweird reminded many readers of Gormenghast—a complex and fantastical place with odd people carrying out incomprehensible rituals. It also had echoes of The Prisoner TV series, with one of the outsiders, a teacher, trying to find out about the place and about what happened to his predecessor.
Nordenholt’s Million by J.J. Connington
(MIT Press, 2022)
Imagine, if you will, that someone a hundred years ago wrote a book on what would happen if there was a great plague, and the world turned to the super rich as its saviour. Imagine further, that the book then goes on to describe in great detail as to how the aforementioned rich would go about the task, how they would not look to the good of all, but to the preservation of the few, and all in the name of ensuring that everyone went on.
Imagine, that the only thing required to make the book relevant to these times would be to change the word Millionaire to the word Billionaire…
My Mother Murdered The Moon by Stephen Deas
(NewCon Press, 2022)
Reviewed by Stuart Carter
It’s not an easy life on Saturn’s moon Epimetheus: there are only three of you stationed there, each tour of duty lasts ten years (three years there, three years back and four years in the middle on Epimetheus); plus, it takes an hour for any communications to even reach Earth, let alone get back.
On the plus side, you’re doing vital and important work, watching over the mass accelerators stationed there ready to deflect any rogue comets or asteroids that might be inclined to pay Earth a visit. And, if you’re Roxy Micah, you’re also glad to be a long way away from your mother, the infamous General Micah, currently on trial for ordering the bombardment, six years ago, of the moon colonies, after they tried to secede from the home world. Or did they? Not everyone’s convinced they really blew up that old SpaceX Station and threatened to attack Earth with their lunar mass drivers, but hopefully the truth will come out during the trial. Hopefully. Anyway, you’ll soon find out: the long-overdue court verdict is due any day, and it’s not as though you’re close to your mother—you haven’t had a proper conversation with her for a long time now, thanks largely, but not entirely, to the time-lag. You were having communication problems with your mother long before that.
Vital Signals: Virtual Futures Near-Future Fictions edited by Dan O’Hara, Tom Ward, Stephen Oram
Reviewed by Duncan Lawie
The introduction to this collection left me with a heavy heart. It is full of sentences: “We are attempting to provide tentative situations that may be manufactured by the activities of the present.” So academic. Nevertheless, the idea of the book is intriguing. Vital Signals is a compilation of many short, short stories on the near future by writers from a variety of backgrounds, including some familiar SF names.
One of the advantages of stories of no more than four pages is that they are out of the way quickly. It’s no great effort to read several mediocre stories in a row. However, this also led to my gradual lowering of expectations as I worked my way through this volume. Perhaps tortured sentence structures or passive voice have their own tale to tell about disconnection from reality or the narrator’s own fears, but the multiple stories written in this way were difficult to enjoy or appreciate.
Resilient by Allen Stroud
(Flame Tree Press, 2022)
Reviewed by Dev Agarwal
My last review of a work by Allen Stroud ended with “And if you like Fearless, more is on its way as Stroud is currently at work on a sequel.” As promised, Stroud now delivers Resilient, second in his Fractal space opera adventure.
Fearless centred around life onboard the Search and Rescue spaceship Khidr. Its sequel pours kinetic energy into the opening, with a terrorist attack on Earth’s biggest power plant in Atacama, Chile. This is not just political violence, but an act of economic sabotage that imperils Earth’s population and those living off planet as well.
Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis
(Titan Books, 2021)
If you haven’t read Axiom’s End, there are things discussed in this review that will reveal parts of the plot, take the time to go and read that book before looking at this review.
What if aliens existed and they came down to Earth, what would first contact really be like? This was the question that was answered in Axiom’s End, the first book in this series.
Where this goes, is what happens after first contact, when you know aliens exist, but the truth of who and what they truly are is still unknown. At the end of the first book, when Ampersand bonds with Cora, a new perspective of life begins, where what was just a story of physicality goes further into the psyche than the first book ever considered to do.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2022)
Reviewed by Jamie Mollart
The Space Between Worlds was a Sunday Times bestseller, the winner of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle award and a New York Times Book review editor’s choice, so the question I asked myself as I settled down to read it was ‘does it live up to the hype?’.
Firstly, it doesn’t feel like the sort of book that gets this sort of fanfare. The blurb suggests space opera and deep sci-fi, but it is far from that. It’s actually an intimate novel with a small cast, exploring identity, class and family. It might be set in effectively a high concept situation, but the situation is the background, not the driving force.
Saved From The Fire by Mark Gallacher
(Ringwood Publishing, 2022)
Reviewed by Finn Dempster
Mark Gallacher’s debut, for all its flaws, never lacks ambition. We begin in a small village community, but the scale of the story is quickly set. This is a society rebuilding from the ashes of our own, having been knocked back to a second Neolithic era by a variety of disasters: the Culling, The Fire, and some dark era where knowledge in general and books in particular were blamed for humanity’s woes and destroyed in The Fire. But the written word is still alive, with the few surviving books carefully horded and protected by those who recognize their value. In an inviting twist, the narrator tells us we’re about to read some of the titular saved books—a history of those dark times.
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, Constance Verity Saves The World and Constance Verity Destroys The Universe by A. Lee Martinez
(Jo Fletcher Books, 2022)
Reviewed by Dave M. Roberts
Constance Verity saves the world. A lot. It’s something she’s been doing since she was seven years old, and after twenty-seven years she’s really had enough. This is not unreasonable, as she can barely even go out for a coffee without encountering some evil mastermind wanting to dominate the world or aliens bent on global destruction. Nowadays, she would give almost anything for a normal life and a dull office job. The Last Adventure of Constance Verity describes her efforts to throw off the demands of the universe and become what she perceives as a normal person. Unfortunately, this involves tracking down and killing the fairy godmother who cast a spell on her when she was born making her the carrier of a ‘caretaker’ spell. As could be expected, it was never going to be as simple as that. The nature of the caretaker spell and its purpose provide much of the unstated impetus for the books. As one adventure ends, the controlling power the spell has over Constance and her group of friends is ultimately what is driving the plot. Indeed, the fact it has been removed and part is lodged in one of the other characters becomes key as the trilogy progresses.
67, James St.
Stoke on Trent,