In 500 Words or Less: Midway 2022 Round-Up!
Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke, Mickey7 by Edward Ashton, and Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales
of Insatiable Darkness, edited by dave ring. Covers by Deranged Doctor Design, uncredited, and Robin Ha
Back by popular demand! As you might have noticed, I’ve been on a serious reviewing hiatus lately due to busy (and exciting) times in both writing and teaching. But I love discussing new books and signal boosting works I think deserve some more attention, so I’m back!
With a caveat, however, that I’m changing my format slightly moving forward. Instead of a regular column discussing one book in five hundred words or less, I’ll be doing a round-up a couple times per year, similar to what I’ve done for my year-end posts. How many books can I mention in five hundred words…? We’ll see. And nobody count, in case I go over.
Thanks as always for reading and for the folks who asked, “when’s your next column, dude?” If you enjoy any of the books I mention, be sure to give them a review of your own on your platform of choice and feel free to let me know here.
In alphabetical order, please enjoy my reading picks for the first half of 2022!
Edited by Jonathan Maberry and Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Titan Books (448 pages, $15.95 paperback, $9.99 eBook, March 2022)
How many times can you spin a tale involving unfortunate humans caught between Predators and Aliens, and keep things fresh? A lot, apparently. Curtis C. Chen and Delilah Dawson delight as always with respective tales of a high school science fair gone awry and a rural homesteader desperate to protect her unborn child. New-to-me David Barnett brings Netflix ghosthunters into the mix in a way that’s genuinely delightful. If you’re looking for a fun distraction, highly suggest Ultimate Prey.
Becoming Crone by Lydia M. Hawke (The Crone Wars Book 1)
Michem Publishing (244 pages, $12.99 paperback, $4.99 eBook, June 2021)
I thought I was done with “regular person discovers they have magic” stories until I read this. Hawke flips familiar tropes on their head with sixty-year-old Claire, who’s passionate, punchy, and realistic without falling back on stereotypes surrounding people of a certain age. Every character jumps off the page, from Claire’s best friend neighbor to her snarky gargoyle guardian, and the action is thrilling. Can’t wait to read the next one.
St. Martin’s Press (304 pages, $17.99 paperback, $14.99 eBook, February 2022)
Gods this was a fun read. Ashton begins with protagonist Mickey stuck at the bottom of a pit and certain he’s going to die, since he’s the Expendable and his colony will just regenerate him. Except things take various turns from there, due to the threat of alien attack, the idiosyncrasies of the colonists, or the bizarre experience of being the seventh iteration of yourself. If you’ve ever spent nights thinking Okay, but the transporter really kills folks and then duplicates them, right, this is most definitely a book for you.
Soulstar by C.L. Polk (The Kingston Cycle Book 3)
Tor (304 pages, $17.99 paperback, $15.99 eBook, February 2021)
There’s so much to love about the Kingston Cycle trilogy, and honestly Soulstar deserves a full review. Soulstar brings previous background character Robin Thorpe to the forefront, and taking this trilogy out of the halls of power (somewhat) to follow grassroots organizers is the perfect way to conclude a phenomenal tale of connection, fighting for what you believe in, and trying to make the world a better place.
The Trials of Abyowith by Erik Buchanan (The Stalker Chronicles Book 0)
Erik Buchanan (114 pages, $0.99 eBook, February 2021)
We’ve all had that dream we want to accomplish, where being so close and then feeling like you might not measure up is almost too much to bear. What’s fun about this book is how Abyowith deals with the unexpected during her quest to become a knight-initiate, facing serious obstacles and figuring out how to overcome them. Buchanan has offered a seriously cool character and world here, and I’m excited to see where both go next.
Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness
Edited by dave ring
Neon Hemlock (442 pages, $24.99 paperback, October 2021)
The best short fiction anthology I’ve read this year. Every story packs a punch. Danny Lore crafts this beautiful tale of spiritualism and inheritance, plus dealing with a community that’s targeted your family for generations. Chelsea Obodoechina’s “Blood for Blood” starts with a young girl looking for witchcraft to use against her parents’ murderer, and only gets better from there. Plus there’s Jordan Shiveley’s story told through newspaper classifieds and Marianne Kirby’s via space station reports – I could go on and on, so really you should just pick this one up for yourself.
Can’t go into detail on every book I’ve read, but a few others that might strike your fancy:
- The Godstone by Violette Malan (epic fantasy – DAW, 2021)
- Let the Mountains Be My Grave by Francesca Tacchi (alternate history – Neon Hemlock, 2022)
- Silk & Steel, edited by Janine A. Southard (anthology – Cantina Publishing, 2020)
- To Each This World by Julie E. Czerneda (science fiction – DAW, 2022)
- We Only Find Them When We’re Dead: Volume 1 by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo (science fiction – BOOM! Studios, 2021)
An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon Crilly has been previously published by Daily Science Fiction, Fusion Fragment, PULP Literature, Flame Tree Publishing and other markets. In 2021, he co-founded Bag of Giving, a monthly Twitch series where authors play TTRPGs for charity. He’s also an Aurora Award-nominated podcaster, conference organizer for Can*Con, a reviewer, and regularly has too many D&D campaign ideas than he could ever fit into his schedule. His debut novel Catalyst will be published by Atthis Arts in Fall 2022.