Some Phoenixes Among the Ashes: Resurrections by Ada Hoffman

Posted 15th December 2023 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews, Sci-Fi Reviews / 0 Comments

Resurrections by Ada Hoffmann
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Autistic MCs, queer MCs, queer autistic MCs
Published on: 19th December 2023

This collection of short stories and poems by Ada Hoffmann traverses extraordinary universes packed with faeries, cyborgs, talking otters, punitive gods, lovestruck sea creatures, fossil hunters, extraterrestrials, and much more. Exploring themes of love and self-existence, community and otherness, and perseverance, Resurrections is a wondrous blend of genres and literary forms.

In “Jenny’s House,” a young girl brings a slimy souvenir from a playdate gone wrong to show-and-tell. “Variations on a Theme from Turandot” is the story of a devout slave’s struggle with a stubborn, ruthless princess, replayed as an epic opera every night. In “Transitional Chords,” an unmotivated conservatory student finally connects with music when he falls victim to an otherworldly voice. “Harmony Amid the Stars” chronicles a spaceship’s inhabitants’ descent into madness through a cleaning lady’s diary. “I Sing Against the Silent Sun” is about the unbreakable bond between a fugitive and his ship’s AI.

Each universe contains an intricately crafted history, cast of characters, places, and paradoxes. From layered magical realms to beauty supply storerooms, Hoffmann brings often-overlooked characters and perspectives to life and lets their unfettered reality expand our imaginations. Resurrections is a glimpse into the spectrum of human existence, flitting from world to world in Hoffmann’s spectacular style.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


~nonbinary sky-otters with anxiety
~so many flavours of autistic!
~i’m not smart enough for this poetry
~much meh, but oh the greats are GREAT

It’s almost always really difficult to rate short story collections; inevitably, some stories are better than others, so how do you spin a rating out of that?

Resurrections is especially difficult, because I really did not enjoy myself for most of it – I very nearly DNFed it – but the stories I liked (all in the second half of the collection) I really loved.


Resurrections is gathered into four parts; Dusk, Midnight, The Small Hours, and Dawn. I will be honest: I didn’t see or sense any rhyme or reason to the divisions. Or to the collection as a whole. And that’s really how I felt about most of the stories (and almost every poem): that I just wasn’t getting it. You know the feeling when you read something, and there’s the niggling suspicion that this is supposed to be very High Brow and you’re just not smart enough to grasp how clever it all is? That hit me with the very first story – Variations on a Theme from Turnadot, which is, as best I could make out, about the characters in an opera coming to life and manifesting through the actresses/singers who play them in order to, very slowly, change the opera’s ending. But I didn’t understand exactly what happened in that ending – did the characters swap hearts? something like that? – and I didn’t enjoy the story for itself; I was bored, for all that I recognised at least some of the Powerful Themes I ought to have been impressed by. Or at least interested in.

That was my experience with most of the collection; I was bored or confused or both. I didn’t see the point of stories like Jenny’s House or Back Room or Harmony Amid the Stars, and I really disliked the premises (although that’s a matter of personal taste – I don’t like stories with unhappy endings, or bad shit happening to kids). (A note: I was told there would be content warnings, but my copy didn’t have any. I’m pretty sure they’ll be in the finished copy, though.) Nightmare IV was a wishy-washy floaty thing that was barely a story at all, as was The Button. I had no idea what was happening in Rabbit Pulls a Magician Out of Her Hat, which is written in an experimental style I couldn’t figure out. And so on.

Some stories had interesting premises, but I was left unsatisfied; I wanted more, novellas rather than short stories, something with room to explore more and give me more answers about what was going on.

And let’s be real: I’m not a poetry aficionado. There are poets I adore, and some styles/modes I find fascinating or impressive, but it’s been a long time since I read a poetry collection. Most of the poems here, I couldn’t make head or tail of. I’m positive I missed the nuance and deeper meaning of the ones that did make some kind of sense to me. I’m not smart enough for this kind of poetry, and I don’t enjoy it.

But it’s not all bad! A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover From the Bottom of the Sea is a beautiful and strange tale of magic, love, and autonomy; The Herdsman of the Dead explores overcoming depression (I think?) through a wonderfully folkloric trip to the land of the dead; and Fairest of All takes the idea that the myth of the changeling is inspired by autistic children and runs with it – right into fairyland, and polyamory with a nonbinary sky-otter! Two stories return us to the world of Hoffman’s Outside trilogy, which was a nice surprise, and I Sing Against the Silent Sun, co-written with Merc Fenn Wolfmoor and set in Wolfmoor’s Sun Lords of the Principality series, is an aching masterpiece of resistance, love, and the power of words and voices. Queer and autistic rep abound throughout, in the stories I didn’t enjoy as well as the ones I did; I really appreciated that all of Hoffman’s autistic characters were different – their autism presented/manifested in very different ways, just like it does in real life. (But then, I’d expect no less from the writer of the Autistic Book Party!)

All in all, I think the Greats are more than worth the price of admission, and I think readers who more regularly enjoy short stories will probably enjoy more of the stories here than I did – I’m used to, and my preference is for, big thick doorstoppers, after all. I know I’m not the best person to be judging short stories!

But the Greats here really are amazing.

Grab your copy next week!

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