The All-Consuming World is a queer science fiction novel about a splintered group of mercenaries trying to unravel what went so wrong on a job decades ago. But it’s also about the cost of functional immortality and surviving an abusive relationship. The balance between heart-wrenching prose and awesome action set pieces with sci fi tech sprinkled throughout is impeccable Several weeks before its release, I’m thrilled to feature author Cassandra Khaw to talk about the craft behind this multi-layered work and what you can look forward to reading next.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: gore, partner abuse, self-surgery,gun violence, death
A small fraction of a band of mercenaries called the Dirty Dozen get together for one last job which will hopefully bring closure to the disaster which tore the group apart several years ago. Rita leads, but it’s unclear if she can be trusted. Maya wants to, though everyone else seems to disagree. Meanwhile, an AI searches for the same planet and an epic clash is on the horizon.
Aesthetically and thematically science fictional with profane prose that pulls and prods the feelings, Cassandra Khaw’s debut novel is a queer treat.
Excuse me, but where did April go? This month went by so quickly, I cannot wrap my head around it. And what a roller coaster of a ride it was.
The big thing that happened to me was that my beloved Eclectus parrot, Investor, had to be put to sleep due to poor health. He was in our family for 20 years. I try to smile through the happy memories, but mostly it’s just tears.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: parental death, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, hate crimes, discrimination
Physicist Elsa Park returns from a research trip to Antarctica when she founds out that her catatonic mother had died. All Elsa has left of her is a collection of stories and an uncanny ghost who follows her around. Then begins a search for discovery as Elsa reconnects with the stories she inherited from her mother and what it means for the rest of her adult life. There’s physics, there’s ghosts.
Hypnotic in its exploration of mythology, culture, and family, this literary contemporary fantasy shows how family and mythology have lines that might not at all be clearly defined.
Read an ARC from the publisher Content warning: violence against children, plague, medical experimentation, violence
Set in South Asia, this cyberpunk science fiction dystopia has everything: a ruthless technocratic government, a deadly plague, mechanical augmentations, mechs, a shiny chrome utopia for the upper class, crowded slums for everyone else, a splinter group of revolutionaries, and hackers working from the inside.
Told in crisp, matter-of-fact prose by complex characters, this science fiction debut is not one to miss.
Read a physical ARC from Erewhon Books
Content warnings: Parental death (in flashbacks), blood magic
Outcast teenage lesbian Sideways Pike performs magic at a killer party and gains a coven. What ensues is an exploration of identity, magic, and female friendship while trying to do normal teen things like go to class, have crushes, and run away from witch hunters.
The voice in this novel is powerful. There’s a bit of stream of consciousness, but Sideways has such a distinct POV and way of phrasing that feels authentic. Clarke makes this look effortless, especially as bits of witch lore and plot have to happen. The way Clarke depicts Sideways griefs and traumas don’t flinch from either the details or the underlying emotional journey. It’s so raw. And I liked the way it showed up within the narrative. What really stuck with me was how Sideways opens up to the reader as her new friends let her further and further into their circle. It’s endearing, it’s powerful, it gave a kind of joy that can only come from finding family-like friendships.
Magic within this novel implied stricter rules and more world-building, but since we’re discovering it as Sideways uses it for party tricks and later, teaching Daisy, Jing, and Yates how to cast spells, it made sense to me that it was mostly shown through the experience. The way Clarke ties it into the experience of queerness and teenhood felt powerful, especially as it relates to the trials and tribulations of leaving oneself vulnerable to let friends in. There was never a doubt that her friends would be her life line, even if Sideways herself didn’t quite know it yet.
On September 15th, join a coven of queer disasters as they discover magic and the power of friendship, told through a ferocious, fun voice all its own.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Physical ARC from Publisher
Received an ARC from the Erewhon Books, the publisher
Trigger warnings: violence, sex, abuse, child sexual assault (not shown, but mentioned), corporal punishment, acid attack
Some stories you read and you enjoy it for the story. Others you read, and you can see the author trying to process things going on the real world. In The Fortress, Jonathon Bridges pledges himself to one year of servitude to the Vaik, an all-women population living on their own land separate from the rest of society. The story follows his year and describes the litany of sins and penance.
What Jones masterfully pulls off is the kind of tale where I found it hard to critique in ways one would normally engage in a story. The prose is sharp. The world-building doesn’t quite fade into the background as immersion, but it’s there enough to contextualized everything happening to Jonathon. I found myself wishing him to get a hold of himself and nigh-yelling about how much of a piece of shit he is, but not in the way of a character in a story, but a person in real life. How he could be so complicit to so many heinous things. It seems that Jones herself is trying to understand men like Jonathon. Instead of going a revenge route—and there were so many opportunities—Jones chooses compassion. The choice of service as opposed to violence left such an impression. Did I read this book or did its thesis just happen?
A unique tale in which the path to anything resembling redemption means letting go of your ego and giving over completely to servitude.