Hello readers of the Berkeley Fiction Review Magazine! This Spring, the editorial team at the Berkeley Fiction Review wanted to highlight a selection of upcoming releases that we are especially looking forward to reading and viewing. These selections mean something special to each individual editor, so we hope this list inspires an interest in these works!


Courtesy of Tor Books

A Desolation Called Peace (Tordotcom Publishing): March 2nd

By the time this article runs, Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace will have already been out on the market for several weeks, but I couldn’t resist the chance to introduce a new group of readers to this breathtaking, immersive science fiction series. A Desolation Called Peace is the sequel and conclusion to a duology that begins with the 2020 Hugo Award-winning novel A Memory Called Empire. This space opera turned murder mystery teeming with political intrigue was quite possibly my favorite read of 2020. It follows protagonist Ambassador Mahit Dzmare as she seeks to represent her small, fiercely independent frontier planet in the beating cultural heart of the ever-expanding and poetry-obsessed Teixcalaanli Empire. The book is many things, but at its core it is a vivid plunge into an alien yet familiar culture, guided by Mahit’s quirky, loveable friends. When I picked this novel up at the beginning of yet another online semester at UC Berkeley, it reminded me of everything I had expected from my college experience: glamorous parties with mystery drinks, friends that thought about words as much as I did, the fine balance between ignoring home and letting it consume you. 

I’m still getting to experience many of those things online! (Minus the mystery drinks. Truly, such a shame.) But I admit, I never got to lie on the grass outside the library after an all-nighter, drowsily eating ice cream while I speculated about government conspiracy with my new best friend, Three Seagrass. Goals, for that magical vision of a post-COVID-19 world we’ve all been talking about recently. I can think of no better time to read the sequel. – Isabel Hinchliff


Courtesy of FantasyNewsLLC

Breach of Peace (Fantasy News LLC): March 30th

I am a huge fan of fantasy, so I was very excited to learn that YouTuber Daniel Greene will be publishing his first novella, Breach of Peace, right around the release of this article! Greene’s novella is a work of epic, dark, and military fantasy and will follow protagonist Inspector Khlid as she works to solve the gruesome and mysterious mass murder of an imperial family. Her work uncovering the crime will be complicated, however, when an even larger conspiracy is revealed—a conspiracy which I am intrigued to learn more about. Breach of Peace will be the first of an upcoming trilogy, Lawful Times, and will also be Greene’s debut as a published author. I found his YouTube account a few months ago during the thick of quarantine and was instantly pulled in by his video content critiquing contemporary works of fantasy and science fiction. It is obvious by watching his videos that he has a deep love for these genres as well as a deep desire to become an author. I am a huge fan of speculative fiction in general, and I am personally thankful to have gained a lot of insight and knowledge about the genre via his videos. It will be very exciting to see a new author’s career grow and I look forward to seeing what Greene contributes to the fantasy genre! I have already pre-ordered. – Noah Hernandez


Courtesy of Netflix

Shadow and Bone (Netflix): April 23rd

Netflix’s new show, Shadow and Bone, brings to life author Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling Grisha trilogy and her Six of Crows duology. A retelling and fusion of both of Bardugo’s young adult series, the show will follow orphan and soldier Alina Starkov who has discovered an incredible power within herself that could help unite her world. Upon her discovery, she is ripped away from everything she knows to hone her new abilities and train with an elite and magical army called the Grisha. However, the complicated politics and magic of this world threaten everything—including her survival. Although the premise and title of the show is largely based on the Shadow and Bone series, I’m far more excited about the integration of the charming but slightly devious characters from Six of Crows. I’ve read the duology so many times now that main characters Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, and Matthias feel like old friends who just so happen to also be a band of thieves and scoundrels. They plot, scam, and scheme their way through the two books, all while supporting and uplifting each other. I love them with my whole heart and seeing them on screen will be a dream come true for me. All eight episodes of the first season drop on April 23, 2021. With magic, monsters, heists, and of course romance, Shadow and Bone is sure to be a hit. Maddy Peterson


Courtesy of Disney

Cruella (Disney): May 28th

The trailer for Disney’s Cruella screeches into 2021 in a DEVIL-plated car. The film follows young Estella De Vil, played by Emma Stone, who comes to punk rock London to seize her place in the fashion world. Set in the 70s, this film is likely a prequel to the 1990s live-action 101 Dalmatians, rather than the animated film released in 1961. While the plot isn’t yet clear, the trailer suggests that Estella will go head-to-head with formidable fashion icon Baroness Von Hellman, played by Emma Thompson. I am excited that Thompson plays the antagonist because she is typically known for her natural goodness roles such as the wonderful Nanny McPhee in the Nanny McPhee film series and the Sense in Sense and Sensibility. From the trailer, Estella appears to split her time between upstaging the baroness at fashion events and committing nighttime crime. The trailer’s classic, old-time music punctuated by Emma Stone’s deliciously evil narration of “I was born brilliant. I was born bad,” is enough to make any Disney fan, most especially myself, rub their hands with sinister glee. With the closing shot of a building in flames and the unspoken knowledge of Estella’s penchant for puppy skins, it will be interesting to see how Disney manages to make this movie family-friendly. Despite having mixed reactions to Disney’s previous live-action remakes, I am excited for this one. I hope it will not show a woman’s descent into villainy but instead show the liberation of her world vision, the acquisition of her place in life, and of course, the manifestation of her fashion. – Catherine Ly


Courtesy of Riverhead Books

With Teeth (Riverhead Books): June 1st

If I’ve learned anything from following Kristen Arnett on Twitter for the past few years, it’s that technically any book of hers is a ravioli. Arnett understands her own books as raviolis and this is reflected in rare ability to craft a complete bite of literary flavor by drawing upon common themes of family relations while also developing unique characters that can stand alone. Her first novel, Mostly Dead Things, was a pocket of queer Florida, stuffed with bizarre taxidermy and a grimy kind of queerness that you don’t see in most contemporary LGBTQ+ media. I was thrilled by the work’s melancholic atmosphere, finally able to relate to a book where the main character wasn’t winning at lesbianism, or life. I’m hoping Arnett’s sophomore novel, With Teeth, will provide a similar mouthful of comforting discomfort. Centered around a woman named Sammie, her wife, and their struggle to raise an unruly child, Arnett is creating a cast of characters daring to grasp picture-perfect queerness. Arnett tweeted that With Teeth is “extremely lesbian very florida,” and I expect nothing less from her. Sometimes you just need to hear a bit of eye-widening gay gossip, and hopefully learn something about yourself in the process, especially after a period of time like the pandemic. When June 1, 2021 rolls around, my girlfriend can look forward to hearing my blow-by-blow of this book. God knows it’s time to upgrade from analyzing our friends’ text messages with their socially distant crushes. It’s time to start lavishing in the world of literary gays again, and if With Teeth is indeed another fictive ravioli, I look forward to seeing it encased in Kristen Arnett’s distinctive visceral descriptions and filled with another bite of thorny Floridian queerness. – Ella Gilbert


Courtesy of Counterpoint Press

The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc (Counterpoint Press): June 15th

I’m really excited for this release! The Natural Mother of the Child is a memoir by Krys Malcolm Belc, a nonbinary and transmasculine writer, who chronicles their experience of exploring parenthood and their own gender identity, while also navigating societal expectations of what a family “looks” like. The work delves into how Belc’s experience of gestational parenthood as a transmasculine nonbinary parent helped clarify his own gender identity, but legal documents named Belc as “the natural mother of the child.” With visual play on form by including documents like birth certificates and childhood photos in the memoir, I’m excited to read Belc’s perspective on parenthood and his criticisms of the overarching narrative that there is a clean cut between the “before” and “after” of transitioning. There are few memoirs out in the published world that center nonbinary voices so I am especially excited for its upcoming release in June! – Reg Lim


Courtesy of Netflix

Sex Education season 3 (Netflix): 2021

Laurie Nunn’s Sex Education is the reason I keep my friend’s Netflix account information stored in my phone’s notes—if you’re the friend that provides the login information to streaming services, keep distributing the wealth and know that you’re appreciated. Sex Education introduced audiences to the socially inept Otis, played by Asa Butterfield, in season one and brought viewers along for his immersion into a less-socially awkward dating phase in season two. And throughout watching the series, I found myself mentally-rewriting the plot: Tell her how you feel already; OK, this has to be the part where she tells him. If I had been writing the series, Otis would have been in a happy-ever-after relationship with friend and impromptu business partner Maeve, played by Emma Mackey, after the third episode. The cliffhanger concluding season two, the place where my mental-rewrites of the plot finally manifest, has me slowly decaying as I wait for season three to make its debut. I’ve gotten a little peace, however, after learning what Butterfield had to say about season three during his interview with The Guardian: “There’s a bit of a time-jump since the season two cliffhanger. Otis is back at school but he’s got different things on his plate. He’s grown up a bit and become slightly more sassy.” 

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what that time-skip has done to the Otis-and-Maeve romantic tension I had been rooting for throughout season one and two. Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic prolonging the upcoming season’s premiere, Sex Education is just one of the things I hope will make my 2021 better. Bryan Hernandez Benitez


Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Searchlight Pictures): 2021

I’ve been a mostly-unashamed Wes Anderson fan since I first saw The Grand Budapest Hotel at sixteen. A typical artsy kid, I fell in love with his whimsy, color schemes, and, most of all, perfect symmetry. His upcoming film, The French Dispatch, will certainly follow in the perfectly-framed footsteps of its predecessors, and the straight-A cast, as always, promises to delight. The usual Anderson suspects are here (Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton), but they’re also joined by some newcomers; most prominent is Timotheé Chalamet, whose razor-sharp cheekbones and cigarette nihilism are a perfect fit for Mr. Anderson.  I will be the first to admit that Wes Anderson has essentially made the same movie over half a dozen times, but that doesn’t make me any less excited for this upcoming feature. The routine of perfectly composed shots, deadpan humor, and silly-but-serious stories is a bit of a comfort food for me. I’ll probably marathon a few of my favorites in the lead up to this release (I’m thinking Budapest, Tenenbaums, and Moonrise Kingdom, if anyone wants to join me on Netflix Party) just to get fully excited before jumping back into his ornate, orchestrated world I’ve loved all these years. Aaron Saliman

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