Charlie is in a rut. His siblings are trying to sell the house he’s living in with his two cats, he’s divorced, and his only career prospect is substitute teaching. Then his estranged Uncle Jake dies and leaves him quite the surprise–his supervillain business complete with a volcano lair. Because grappling with that shock isn’t enough, Charlie discovers his cats are harboring secrets of their own. As Charlie goes toe to toe with other villains who were gunning for his uncle before his death, this hilarious novel gifts us with villain conventions in fancy hotels, angry cursing dolphins fighting to unionize, spy cats with side hobbies in real estate, and banter that made me laugh out loud on every single page. No one does funny like John Scalzi, and no one is able to inject big heart into a fish-out-of-water story like Scalzi, either. If you’re looking for light-hearted fun that tears techbros and corporate/venture capitalist greed machines a new one, Starter Villain is literal perfection.
The Best of All Possible Worlds is an original study of societies and culture, adaptation and change, and how that all impacts individuals and families. It is also one of the most satisfying love stories I’ve ever read. Two scientists with deep, abiding respect for one another gradually discover the complicated facets of love through their own cultural and anthropological lenses and meet each other in the middle. It’s beautiful. As the novel begins, we learn of the horrific destruction of the planet Sadira. The surviving Sadiri refugees settling on the planet Cygnus Beta must rely on scientific study of distantly related Cygnians to try to preserve their race’s existence and culture (a sort of matchmaking mission). From that starting point, Karen Lord weaves an anthropological quest through settlements in the furthest reaches of Cygnus Beta, led by the two main protagonists: Dllenahkh, a Sadiri official tasked with heading the mission to further the Sadiri line and way of life, and Grace Delarua, a Cygnian government official who is a languages expert. The world building is supreme, and the characters are lovable. I loved the deft balance of lighthearted comedy of manners with important questions about trauma and the layered relationships between living things. It is subversive but warm and hopeful.
The story is literally the best Wonder Woman origin, delving into the mythology of Themyscira, the INCREDIBLY BADASS goddesses, and how that led to the creation of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. But the AARRRRTTT!!!! THEEEE ARRTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! THE ART!!!!! You NEED this in your graphic novel collection, whether you’re a fan of DC or not, whether you’re a fan of Wonder Woman or not. It's FANTASTIC for fans of mythology fiction like Circe, Son of Achilles, or Kaikeyi.
First thing’s first: America’s beltway media has long been ill-equipped for handling fascist threats to our democracy. Our history reeks with that harsh truth. Democracy Awakening is the antidote in book form. Heather Cox Richardson is concise and fascinating, tying together far-right attempts throughout the past 250 years to dismantle the United States’ democratic foundations to regain and/or hold onto authoritarian Christian male white power. She does this sometimes by comparing language and slogans (“MaKe AmEriCa GrEaT AgAiN”), and sometimes by pointing out individuals who have whispered in the ears of multiple far-right leaders throughout the 20th/21st centuries (Roger Stone, anyone?). I needed the reminder that the bombers, mass-shooters, Jan. 6th rioters, Charlottesville neo-Nazis, and those who incite them have always been around, have always been clawing away at peace, progress, and our democracy. This great experiment has been fragile from its beginning, but the vast majority of America’s people have been its champion, guardian, and good troublemaker since then. It’s up to us to continue to do so. I feel equally hopeful and fiery after reading this. I needed it. Maybe you do, too.
An unlikely posse of societal outcasts get caught up in witch-hunter Tom’s mission to find and kill the witch Sadie Grace after a hefty bounty is put on her head. But this adventure holds more in store than just a harsh natural landscape and criminal gangs. Instead they find the road ahead paved with ghosts, mysterious storms, magic, and demons. Amongst scenes of unthinkable violence and terrors that push this book into the horror category, Grecian writes imperfect, deep characters with the poise of the best Western writers out there, and even the side characters you come across are so tangible you feel like they’re standing right in front of you (sometimes terrifyingly). But where this novel really shines is in its ability to find humanity and kindness juxtaposed with the consequences of the worst of human nature left unchecked, in which fear of the unknown crashes into powerful and mysterious magic. It’s rare you read a book that mashes this many genres together with so much success that none of them gets lost amongst the others, but that’s what this book does, all while asking fascinating questions about the worth of life, whether it be human…or monster.