Steven Brust's "Good Guys," a hardboiled noir urban fantasy, with everything great about Brust on proud display

Steven Brust is a literary treasure and his longrunning Vlad Taltos series, now nearing its final volume, is a good example of where his strengths lie: hardboiled plotting, snappy dialog, weirdly realistic and plausible depictions of magic, and a sensitive eye for power relationships and their depiction, all of which are on display in his latest, outstanding novel, Good Guys, about the minimum-wage sorcerers who investigate magical crimes on behalf of a secret society.

Monsters Beware! is the long-awaited sequel to Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! and it is AAAAAAMAZING!

Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre's middle-grades graphic novels Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware! are two of my family's favorite books: Rosado and Aguirre's character design, comedic dialog, plotting, and scenarios are so charming, so funny, so overwhelmingly, compulsively great that we've re-read these dozens of times; now we've got Monsters Beware, the third volume in the series, where the mysteries of Mont Petit Pierre and the intertwined lives of the huge cast of characters from the previous volumes come together.

Thinking in Bets: a poker-master's Jedi mind-trick for being less wrong

Annie Duke dropped out of a PhD in cognitive psychology to become a professional poker player; now she runs a nonprofit devoted to improving decision quality by merging the practical cognitive tools of the world's greatest poker players with the leading edge of cognitive psychology, a method she describes in an excellent and charming new book called Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts.

Briggs Land 2: Lone Wolves, in which Jim Briggs tries to seize control with neo-Nazi funding

In the first volume of Briggs Land, DMZ-creator Brian Wood set up a gripping scenario: a leadership struggle in a far-right separatist cult whose leader has languished in prison for decades. Now, in the second collection Wood and his collaborators are playing out the story for all it's worth.

The Warrior Within: a tight science fiction novella about a warrior who contains multitudes

We've featured Angus McIntyre's short fiction here before (see 2015's Someone to Watch Over Me), and now I'm delighted to recommend his debut between covers: a Tor.com novella called The Warrior Within.

Jen Wang's "The Prince and the Dressmaker": a genderqueer graphic novel that will move and dazzle you

I love Jen Wang's work: her debut graphic novel Koko Be Good was thought-provoking and challenging and beautiful; "In Real Life," her adaptation of my story Anda's Game took the tale to places that delighted and surprised me -- today, Firstsecond publishes The Prince and the Dressmaker, which I believe will be her breakout graphic novel.

Charles Stross's "Dark State": transdimensional, nuclear-tipped mutually assured destruction by way of a first-rate spy novel

Dark State is the sequel to Empire Games, a reboot/latter phase of Charles Stross's longrunning, excellent economic science fiction/high fantasy Merchant Princes series.

All's Faire in Middle School, a wonderful graphic novel about misfits, middle school and the middle ages

In 2016, Victoria Jamieson won the prestigious Newberry Honor Award for Roller Girl, a beautiful, moving, hilarious middle-grades graphic novel about friendship, girlhood and roller-derby; her 2017 followup All's Faire in Middle School will delight everyone who loved Roller Girl with a tale of Ren Faire, misfits, forgiveness and resilience.

Automating Inequality: using algorithms to create a modern "digital poor-house"

Weeks before the publication of Virginia Eubanks's new book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, knowledgeable friends were already urging me to read it, which was a no-brainer, having followed Eubanks's work for years.

Starlings: razor-sharp stories and poems from Jo Walton

Stephen King once wrote that "a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger" -- that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous and exiting, and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton, contained between covers in the newly published Starlings, is exemplary of the principle. Walton, after all, is one of science fiction's major talents, and despite her protests that she "doesn't really know how to write stories," all the evidence is to the contrary.

Soonish: exciting technologies on the horizon, with excitement-preserving nuance

Kelly and Zach Weinersmith's Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything is an exceptional science book: it concerns itself with ten(ish) coming technologies that hold enormous, potentially world-changing promise (and peril), and it delves into each of those subjects with admirable depth, including all the caveats and unknowns, and still keeps the excitement intact.

Review: Bright (2017)

The introductory sequence of Bright is enchanting: signs and street art in Los Angeles that describe a world where the races of historical high fantasy stuck around into the present day to become the mocked or honored subjects of political graffiti.

But once characters start talking, this geeky cool evaporates into a mediocre buddy-cop movie. The swirling fantasy tropes are a trash gyre on the seas of racial allegory.

Bright's contemporary LA is also anchored in the past, all sterotypical gang violence, decrepit public services and despotic crime lords. At the top of society are elves, whose fortified enclaves echo South African apartheid more than Jim Crow. At the bottom are orcs, an underclass repressed due to their former allegiance to a long-defeated Dark Lord.

In the middle is humankind, whose own internal racial consciousness and strata are supposedly absent or muted in the world of Bright—but whose humans constantly exhibit our world's racial conscioussness and strata.

When star Will Smith's character kills a verminous bat-like fairy, for example, he declares that "Fairy lives don't matter today." The "today" warps a quip into darker territory: it suggests that fairies are sentient enough for there to be a slogan opposing the moral insignificance of their lives and that he is sick of hearing about it. Smith apparently ad-libbed the line, and offers a similar one later, telling an Orc to get his "Shrek ass" out of the way.

Imagine the cultural signifiance of Shrek in the world of Bright! Read the rest

Liartown: the First Four Years, a tour-de-force of killer shooping and acerbic wit

Sean Tejaratchi's amazing Liartown, USA (previously) is a bottomless well of astoundingly good photoshops from a parallel universe of bitter, ha-ha-only-serious sight gags, minutely detailed, lovingly crafted and often NSFW; Tejaratchi's new 248-page color, 8.5"x11" anthology, LiarTown: The First Four Years 2013-2017 is a powerful dose of creepypasta in its purest form.

Lumberjanes 7: friendship, courtship, gender conformity, and kittehs!

Lumberjanes is the hilarious, sweet, exciting series of graphic novels created by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen and energized by a roster of brilliant collaborators. The latest collection, Lumberjanes Vol. 7: A Bird's-Eye View, is a delight to read, brought a tear to my eye, and features intergenerational conflict, giant mythological birds, some great genderbending, and a whole menagerie of superpowered, supernatural kittens.

I Can't Breathe: Matt Taibbi's scorching book on the murder of Eric Garner and the system that let the killers get away with it

Matt Taibbi is one of the best political writers working in the USA today, someone who can use the small, novelistic details of individuals' lives illuminate the vast, systemic problems that poison our lives and shame our honor; his 2014 book The Divide conducts a wide-ranging inquiry into the impunity of corporate criminals and the kafkaesque injustices visited on the poor people they victimize; in I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, Taibbi narrows his focus to the police murder of Eric Garner, a Staten Island fixture and father, and the system that put murderers in uniform in his path.

Hamster Princess: charming, funny, subversive middle-grades illustrated fantasy about a totally ass-kicking hamster princess

When Princess Harriet Hamsterbone was born, her royal parents naturally didn't invite the evil fairy, and so of course the evil fairy cursed her to prick herself on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday and die; and of course the three good fairies softened the curse -- and that's where things get really funny in Ursula Vernon's 2015 middle-grades fantasy Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible, the first in a wildly successful series.

Tim O'Reilly's WTF? A book that tells us how to keep the technology baby and throw out the Big Tech bathwater

Tim O'Reilly has his finger on the pulse of technology and the people who make it in a way that is unmatched by anyone in the world; the publisher of the world's best-loved computer books, the host of technology's best-loved conferences, the convenor of the most important conversations about tech and its people, O'Reilly is literally uniquely situated to understand the arc, trajectory, and possible destinations of technology and its impact on real people, which is what separates his breakout business book, WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us, from rest of the field.

More posts