I finally read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which everyone and all their cousins has been recommending as a terrific Found Family space opera since it came out. And it is that. For me, it had a slightly retro feel, which is by no means bad. I enjoyed it a lot.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine follows the new ambassador, Mahit, to the powerful Teixcalaan empire as she tries to figure out how and why her predecessor was murdered. So far as names go, and a tendency to honor willing blood sacrifice, and physical appearance, the Teixcalaanli seem roughly based on the Aztecs, except in space, and possibly with more poetry. There’s a succession crisis happening, and a looming threat near the ambassador’s home space station, and a mystery surrounding Mahit’s imago, which is a personality/memory impression of the previous ambassador. This may sound like a lot, but it’s all tied together and the plot clicks over swiftly and entertainingly. I really liked it, and though the ending isn’t exactly a cliffhanger, it very clearly sets up the next book.
Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a novelette, I think, but that was all I could handle, anyway. The first person narrator is stuck wandering a physics-bending alien space artifact out beyond Pluto, alone, while becoming more and more unreliable. It was not pleasant reading, exactly, but was gripping. I was left unsatisfied by the ending, but am not sure what I would have preferred instead. The setting was perfect for generating additional stories, though, so I’m curious if that was part of the intent.
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older is a Middle Grade fantasy set in an alternate version of Civil War-era New York City. The alternate part is there are dinosaurs living among people and being used as beasts of burden, though the possibilities aren’t as fully explored as they might have been in an adult novel; I got the feeling they were around because dinosaurs are cool, and dactyls are cool, and I think that’s cool, because why not? When I was a kid, I would not have blinked at this setup. (Adult me was wondering how the presence of dinosaurs would affect the Industrial Revolution and the development of associated technology, which appears to have happened here pretty much the same as in our world.) Magdalys Roca, the protagonist, is one of the kids from the Colored Orphan Asylum who get caught up first in the draft riots, then in a plot to rescue black people who’ve been captured to be sold in the southern states. The history is very beautifully integrated with the kid-focused action plot, and doesn’t shy away from the racism non-white people are facing. The assortment of kids have interesting characterization, even those with smaller roles. Trigger warning: early on, a kindly adult figure is discovered to have been lynched in the riots after heroically giving children time to escape. Recommended because dinosaurs.
Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold is set in an alternate universe Victorian London, where metaphysician is a common profession, at least for men. There’s an intriguing secondary female character, Miss Frost, whom I’d love to know more about, who’s been trained in metaphysics at a women’s college. Julian Lynes is a private detective and Ned Mathey a metaphysician; they’d been lovers while at a terrible boarding school, and are now figuring out their relationship as adults while solving a mysterious murder that involves cursed silver. As an added complication, one of their worst tormenters from school is related to the murder victim, and they have to deal with their feelings about that as well. I enjoyed both the romantic plot and the mystery.
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw is the second book about Dr. Greta Helsing, contemporary descendant of the Dracula Dr. Helsing, who is a doctor for supernatural beings. She’s traveled to Paris for a conference on supernatural medicine, as a last-minute replacement for someone else. Greta spends most of this book caught up in someone else’s revenge plot, but does quite a lot for other people (beings?) at the same time, which I found extremely satisfying. Winston was my favorite (I will not spoil Winston’s identity). I was happy to learn that a third book is now available for pre-order, and amused to learn that Shaw is married to Arkady Martine, whose book I read the previous week.
I also re-read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I ended up switching between the electronic version on my phone and the hardcover at home; sadly, print books do not automatically synch with e-books, but I managed! Enough time has passed since the book came out that I’d forgotten some plot twists, which only added to my enjoyment of revisiting Maia and his world. I’m so happy there is going to be a sequel. It was a good choice for a difficult week, with so many terrible things happening all over the world.
After the Storm (I Look Up) by HoneySempai looks at, if Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes got married in Wakanda, what their wedding might be like. It turns out, their wedding would be really lovely. The best part of the story is the appendix, in which we learn the author writes and officiates weddings in real life, and goes into great detail about how this fictional wedding was created. Neepery!
The Way to a Man’s Heart by Niitza and whatthefoucault is a Captain America story in which Steve Rogers grounds himself in the twenty-first century through eating and cooking, and then uses food to help Bucky Barnes regain memories. Nom.
The Persistence of Memory by st_aurafina takes the Moira MacTaggert from the X-Men: First Class movie and pairs her with Emma Frost on a spy road trip, with a bonus redhaired Russian spy, and do I really need to say anything else? It includes a little comics canon as well.
Love Stories for Tedious People by kristophine is a Captain America and the Winter Soldier AU in which Steve Rogers is a burned-out emergency room physician and Bucky Barnes is a recovering veteran he meets on duty. I think this would be a nice romantic read even if you were not familiar with canon, and portrays Steve figuring out what to do with his life that makes him less depressed, which is a plotline I highly approve of.