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13May

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup

Appliance by JO Morgan; Book of Night by Holly Black; The Pharmacist by Rachelle Atalla; Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima; Eversion by Alastair Reynolds

Appliance by JO Morgan (Vintage, £16.99)
The first work of prose fiction by the award-winning poet whose previous book, The Martian’s Regress, revelled in science fictional tropes, this is a collection of thematically linked short stories about the development of a matter transmitter from a cabinet resembling a refrigerator into a vast network of stations transporting not only goods but people all over the world. The approach is almost primitive, focusing on a single idea which is seldom dramatised, only discussed. But the very ordinariness of the characters and their conversations has a demystifying effect: in this context transporters could as well be aeroplanes or the internet. The notion of progress, and where new technologies may take us, is a consistent concern in SF, whether utopian or dystopian. Morgan takes neither approach as he gradually builds a picture of the ease and speed with which some people embrace new ways of living, while others, regardless of objections, eventually have it forced upon them: living off-grid is a fantasy few can afford.

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