Book Review: Someone Should Pay for Your Pain by Franz Nicolay

Book Cover

In his first novel Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Franz Nicolay comes at his story with a lyricist’s love of beauty and a seasoned performer’s world-weariness. The resulting tension creates a story with a sticky floor and a hazy smell, where moral ambiguity abounds. You could tell a young, starry-eyed scenester “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be”, or you could just hand them this novel. Both rough-edged-honest and blithely cynical, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is an ode to all the acts who never made it big, fell in love too hard with the life to let it go, and are scheduled to play a weeknight basement show somewhere in Ohio, wondering what it all means now.

Book Review: Appleseed by Matt Bell

Appleseed by Matt   Bell

Appleseed by Matt Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Appleseed by Matt Bell is a staggering feat of storytelling woven from threads of the possible, the forgotten, the fierce, and the free. I love the exuberance and wondrous vision of Bell’s writing; he can make a colonial apple-planting faun make sense in the same book where a semi-bionic human remnant pilots something called a photovoltaic bubble across a far-future icescape.

Does that sound insane? That’s because it is. It is absolutely insane.

But the most insane thing about this book is its ability to sing all at once to every past, present, and future moment of the human relationship with our planet, this story we are all part of. Human beings have always and will always continue to worship, disrupt, invent, sabotage, and mythologize the earth that they call home. Bell explores these tendencies as a unified and recurring cycle of stories that reveals the best and worst of what we are, and what we could be.



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Book Review: In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


For those of us who automatically punch “buy” on any fiction related to astronauts, In the Quick is a delight. It’s especially wonderful seeing a female hero in a realistic hard science fiction title that is also written by a woman. (Has this ever happened?) The structure of this novel is a double-tiered one, where we get to see both an origin story and a mission. It’s really nuanced how elements of these two pieces of the book echo one another. Kate Hope Day gives us some extraordinarily beautiful scenes in the novel, and above all creates an ode to the combined power of gut instinct and dogged intellect.



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Book Review: The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy

The Ninth Metal (The Comet Cycle, #1)

The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal is something that every reader secretly and desperately craves: fast-paced. Percy’s mastery of plot is on display in this intricately cast sci-fi thrill ride. The high concept is overlaid by a rocketfuel stortyline that is, among other things, an unabashed homage to comicbook superheroes and supervillains. You’ll find plenty of both in the fictionalized Northern Minnesota of The Ninth Metal. (A region which, by the way, Percy culturally nails down to every detail.)



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Book Review: Fauna by Christiane Vadnais (Translated by Pablo Strauss)

Fauna

Fauna by Christiane Vadnais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Eerie, slippery, lush, and dark, the distinct stories in this collection are jointed together by their setting and recurring characters. Vadnais’ writing (by way of Strauss’ translation) does dreamlike horror very well, while imagining how the near-future world, rather than being humanity’s victim, may very well reckon with us. Fascinating stuff.



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Book Review: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Vanished Birds is nothing short of stunning. Simon Jimenez manages to cover a thousand years of history on a galactic scope and somehow still tell a story as intimate as a lullaby. The planets, cultures, and personalities are richly envisioned. Everything feels immediate. Jimenez’s prose is perceptive, agile magic. The unique longing and wonder of this novel is hard to articulate beyond this: I will never forget it.



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Book Review: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sorrowland is difficult to classify, and (as I’ve probably mentioned before) that is something I always enjoy. This book is horror, it’s a motherhood story, it’s a political allegory, it’s erotic, it’s fantastical… it’s wild, just like its protagonist Vern. And I think that’s part of Solomon’s point with this story, that there’s no such thing as too much, that we limit the power of others and the possibility of the world when we say “no, that’s too different; no, that’s not allowed; no, that’s not normal; no, that’s too far.” These are the questions of this novel: Why can’t we do away with limits? Why can’t we reinvent reality? I deeply respect Solomon’s boldness with this nightmarish, fabulist piece of social criticism.



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