Come As You Are by Jennifer Haupt (Literary Fiction)

Writing: 4/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4.5/5
An engaging family drama that bounces between the present (2002) and the teenage years of two best friend misfits from the Seattle grunge scene who managed to inadvertently make a baby. Zane and Skye are such well-drawn characters that I can’t sum them up with one-line quirk descriptors — suffice it to say that while they are appealing as characters, their depth exposes the intentions, confusions, mistakes, and self-doubts that all real humans experience. Definitely character driven, the plot nevertheless keeps up and holds together through episodes of grief, indecision, love, and growing self awareness.

Thank you to Central Avenue Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on March 1st, 2022.

The Flavors of Other Worlds by Alan Dean Foster (SF)

This new collection of short stories is classic science fiction. Updated for modern times in terms of access to social media, etc, it nevertheless focuses primarily on old themes: how would human beings react and adapt to new situations.  Stories range from alien takeovers so subtle that nobody notices … to a dangerous addiction to knowledge… to a way of channeling the aurora borealis for unlimited power… to the reaction of a colonized world that is none too happy about receiving the “benefits” of a conquering race (us).

Each story is prefaced with a note from the author about the origins of the story — these are almost as interesting as the stories themselves. The writing is concise and clear — reminiscent of, well, Foster himself — the guy has been around for a long time! Like a lot of good science fiction, the stories allow us to think about many of today’s issues in the guise of “other” worlds, people, and cultures. A nice addition.