Baker, Mishell. Phantom Pains.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

This is only the author’s second novel, the close sequel to last year’s urban fantasy Borderline, but it doesn’t suffer one bit from the dreaded “sophomore-novel-itis.” And by “close,” I mean it picks up almost exactly where the first volume ended, and without a lot of explanation of what went before, so you really have to read them in order.


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Baker, Mishell. Borderline.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

I’ve been a heavy reader of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’m much pickier about fantasy. Tolkien, for instance, doesn’t do a thing for me. I do like a lot of “urban fantasy” though, and Baker, whose first novel this is, is a welcome new addition to that sub-genre. Here she tells the story of Millicent Roper, who is barely getting along a year after a badly failed attempt at suicide when she was a film student at UCLA. Millie went off a seven-story building and survived (unintentionally) by crashing through a tree, but the fall cost her all of one leg and half the other one, and now she has to deal with prosthetics and a cane and a wheelchair. On top of the that, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and some days she can barely hang on. And she’s in a private therapeutic facility but the money’s running out.


Storm, Matthew. Interesting People.

np: Cranberry Lane Press, 2015.

This final volume of the “Interesting Times” trilogy is definitely a rouser. At the end of the previous installment, Sally Rain, who caused most of the trouble (but with the best of intentions), had been exiled to The Island indefinitely by the ancient little girl Artemis,


Storm, Matthew. Interesting Places.

np: Cranberry Lane Press, 2015.

At the end of the first volume, Interesting Times, Oliver Jones had traded in his dull life as a stock analyst for a sometimes too-exciting job with the Araneae Group that involves carrying firearms and taking on problems ranging from free-range vampires to alternate Earths.


North, Claire. Touch.

NY: Redhook, 2015.

This author has certainly hit the big time with a bang, first with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August last year, and now this one. Both of them deal with variations on the same idea, too: The ability to survive indefinitely by escaping death. Harry August was able to go back in time and be reborn with full memories and adult knowledge of his previous lives, while the nameless narrator of Touch (whom some call Kepler) is one of a tiny, tiny fraction of the human race who can jump from one body to another — any age, any gender — simply by touching a bit of exposed flesh.


North, Claire. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

NY: Redhook, 2014.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

Harry August, born New Year’s Day, 1919, is a bastard, the result of the young lord of the manor raping a kitchen maid. She dies in a railway station giving birth to him and he’s adopted by the gardener and his wife. His first life, before he knows there will be another, is entirely ordinary and he spends it assisting his father on the estate, with time out as an infantryman in World War II. And then he dies in his seventies — and is immediately reborn, back at the beginning of 1919.


Cherryh, C. J. Peacemaker.

NY: DAW, 2013.

This is the fifteenth volume is what has become the masterwork of one of the best science fiction authors around. It’s also the close of the fifth trilogy, or story arc, within the series, so lots of loose ends are tied up. Ordinarily, when I review an entry in an ongoing series, I’ll say a word or two about the overarching theme, or setting, or continuing characters, or something.


Grahame-Smith, Seth. Unholy Night.

NY: Grand Central, 2012.

This author is also responsible for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I frankly wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up the book. But the flap copy got my attention. It’s sort of a “what if” story. What if the Three Magi weren’t the “wise men” we know from the Christmas pageants?


Barry, Max. Lexicon.

NY: Penguin, 2013.

Barry isn’t a terribly prolific author (more’s the pity), this being only his fifth novel in fourteen years. Every one of them is a good yarn and highly original and each has a strong streak of the satirically bizarre — but this one is his best yet, hands down.


Powers, Tim. Salvage and Demolition.

Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2013.

Powers is one of my “automatic” authors; anything he writes, I want to read. He’s published several novellas recently (this one is 155 pages) and this complex time-travel yarn is one of the best he’s written.