New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color by Nisi Shawl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm thinking really hard about what I want to say in this review because I do want to be supportive about spec fic by POC but I also want to be real. And honestly, either my expectations were too high (most likely) or I don't know what I want (I never know what I want), because I finished the book with a slight sense of discontent.
I guess as anthologies go, this is a proper mixed bag. There were 5 that I really liked and 4 that I liked but had some reservations about? So that’s already 9/17, which is more than half. There were only three that I found very confusing or weird, which I guess just goes to say that it was a nice, interesting read, but nothing especially spectacular, no matter how much I was hoping to be blown away. I guess I really did expect too much. (You can see that inconsistency here, don’t you?)
STUFF I REALLY LIKED, in no particular order.
The Fine Print - Chinelo Onwualu
Djinn! Always here for the djinn. This has a kind of Aladdin feel, but also a very lawyer-y thing going on. I’m looking for a term to describe it but can’t think. Like the smart, fast-talking guy trying to get out of a contract. Oh. I know what I was thinking of. I was thinking of that scene in the American Gods TV series with the djinn. (I can’t recall the book well enough now to remember if that was in it too? I know the TV series did add some scenes.)
Burn the Ships - Alberto Yanez
THIS IS THE CONTENT I'M LOOKING FOR. Lush, rich worldbuilding, magic oozing out of every pore. There’s this intricate weaving of faith versus lore, a juxtaposition of male priesthood and women's magic; both doing what they believe to be right, letting the other go in love. Beauty and death. Anger and life.
Dumb House - Andrea Hairston
I don’t really know how to explain why I like this one. Most of it is just the Cinnamon trying to chase off these two annoying salesmen who are trying to make her upgrade her dumb house into a smart one. Nothing really happens at the end. But it was amusing. I suppose I liked the humour.
Blood and Bells - Karin Lowachee
Though the first prologue (?) threw me, the story unfolded in beautiful ways. An utterly charming story (it has an adorable kid) that ended in an unexpected way.
Kelsey and the Burdened Breath - Darcie Little Badger
I love the concept in this. It’s kind of bittersweet plus nostalgic with a side of ghostbuster detecting. I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well.
STUFF I KINDA LIKE BUT I DUNNO?
The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations - Minsoo Kang
I liked this, like a little Chinese historical story, but it was a little too wordy and repetitive at places. I think there was this bit which felt like they backtracked and retold part of the story and then there was this addendum about omitting the female point of view which just felt a bit awkward. Stylistically on point, but could have done with a little editing down.
The Freedom of the Shifting Sea - Jaymee Goh
Storywise, I liked it, but it was a little gross, honestly. It would honestly be in my “really liked” section if it didn’t have the weird (mandible?) sex.
Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire - E. Lily Yu
A straightforward retelling of The Emperor's New Clothes. I see no lie here. Last variation sounded just a little bit too forced, but tone is a very easily misinterpreted thing, so it could just be my own biases.
The Shadow We Cast Through Time - Indrapramit Das
As much as I liked this, it was a little hard to follow. There’s a nice mythic storytelling feel to it, but it also came across like too much story in too few words. I had this overall feeling that I was missing something that maybe wasn’t being explained well enough? Or maybe like a myth that was just a bit too obscure and I’m too far distant to understand it.
I wasn’t going to mention the others I didn’t like, but I guess I’ll give
One Easy Trick - Hiromi Goto
a quick mention. I did like this in the beginning, but it got weirder and weirder until I was like.. uh, wth? So really, I’m quite ambivalent. I don’t know what to think.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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