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07May

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon; Dark Lullaby by Polly Ho-Yen; We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker; The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley; and The Cottingley Cuckoo by AJ Elwood

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon (#Merky, £12.99) is an exhilarating journey to the outer limits of science fiction, steeped in the southern gothic tradition and grounded in the physical and social realities of being poor, powerless, black and female in America. It begins with teenage Vern giving birth alone in the woods to twins she names Howling and Feral. She has escaped from Cainland, a religious compound ostensibly set up to allow black people to live free from white oppression, but with strict rules that make it a prison. She is determined her children will grow up truly free. Their life in the woods is hard, but also idyllic – unfeasibly so, but there’s a reason for that, revealed when she makes an impossible escape from an armed stalker, and realises that her body is in a process of transformation. She is becoming superhumanly strong and quick, but there are other changes, physical and mental, which frighten her into returning to civilisation to search for answers and find safety for her babies. After many struggles, she uncovers the terrible truth behind Cainland. A furious, justified anger drives this novel, drawing on the US history of racial oppression, but it’s also joyful and wildly entertaining.

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