Reviews of FAMOUS MEN WHO NEVER LIVED:
The Quill to Live: “Chess creates vibrant, diverse characters who each provide a fascinating lens through which we can view and evaluate our own reality.”
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction: “a thoughtful meditation on what home means to those who have lost it forever.”
Locus Magazine: “nuanced, smart, and intimate … Chess asks us to see our reality from the point of view of the ‘other.'”
Strange Horizons: “Modern science fiction has benefited from repeated osmosis across the plot-character axis that allegedly demarcates literary from genre fiction. K. Chess crosses that border with wild abandon in her debut novel, Famous Men Who Never Lived, a surreal, down-to-earth science fiction story”
Split Lip Magazine: “Chess’ book succeeds … by delivering a captivating story that contains meticulous world-building and richly developed characters.”
The Maine Edge: “Chess has forged both a mirror in which we can look upon ourselves and our world and a lens through which we can more closely examine those aspects of the world that demand detailed inspection.”
New York Journal of Books: “Famous Men Who Never Lived is subtle and powerful. It deftly straddles literary and science fiction, and shrugs off its hybridity. … In its approach, in its thoughtfulness and style, Chess’ novel stands among the best works of hybrid SF.”
Shelf Awareness: “An allegory for refugeeism, othering and coping with staggering loss, Famous Men Who Never Lived will leave readers haunted by the UDPs’ broken past but hopeful for their future.”
Vol. 1 Brooklyn: “Perhaps it’s no surprise that a novel centered around a theoretical building would have such an impressive narrative architecture. Chess’s novel foregoes overt metaphor for something deeper, and it’s all the more moving for it.”
Tor.com: “Other reviewers have compared the novel to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and I have to agree, mostly due to its generous sense of ethics, and its hope in the role of art in society … a beautifully-written and conceived novel, and one whose message of empathy across lines of difference is much-needed.”
The Verge: “Famous Men Who Never Lived tells a powerful story of accepting one’s fate by putting one foot in front of the other, day by day.”
The Adroit Journal: “Although the premise promises high-speed adventure and high-concept science fiction, Chess’s writing delivers a more intimate and nuanced exploration than a reader might expect.”
Liminoid: “Chess’s worldbuilding is deep and careful without being tedious or self-indulgent, and the prose itself is often startling in its emotional clarity.”
The A.V. Club: “Like its imagined anti-colonialist narrative, The Pyronauts, or Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Famous Men Who Never Lived is science fiction executing its classic purpose of using a disturbing vision of the future to examine the real problems of the present.”
The Arkansas International: “The debut novel is absorbing and quick-paced, full of loss and surprising reversals, and with it, K Chess has crafted a story that is universally relevant.”
The Millions: “… the book’s focus on The Pyronauts—whose plot forms its own meta-narrative within the story—allows Chess to move beyond mere allegory to ask deeper questions about loss, integration, and belonging. Because what are we if not our culture, the stories we spent a lifetime consuming?”
Foreword (starred review): “… magnificent … an awesome and humbling literary achievement … The text is triumphant, darkly humorous, and mournful by turns … As its characters grasp for a concrete place to rest in a world that ever diverges from its set paths, Famous Men Who Never Lived is mesmerizing.”
Booklist: “Chess’ debut novel offers an intriguing and fresh spin on the parallel-worlds theme with its timely emphasis on the challenges facing migrants in hostile, unfamiliar surroundings, marking her as a promising new voice in speculative fiction.”
Lambda Literary: “Vikram and Hel’s plight finely illustrates one of our current time’s most pressing issues—how to deal with refugees, immigrants, and other displaced peoples—and creates a fictitious world that shows us, glaringly, how easy it can be to fail to serve them.”
Library Journal: “The plight of refugees gets a sf twist in this enjoyable debut from award-winning short story writer Chess.”
Kirkus: “Chess’ fantastic worldbuilding is convincing … Chess is a writer to watch.”
Publishers’ Weekly: “Musing on xenophobia, forced migration, and fear of the other … Chess has constructed a good premise.”
Lists and other mentions of FAMOUS MEN WHO NEVER LIVED:
Chicago Review of Books: 12 Small-Press Fantasy, SciFi, and Speculative Books You May Have Missed
The Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: 8 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books We Wish Weren’t Standalones
New York Review of Books: Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality
Writer’s Bone: 18 Books That Should Be on Your Radar
The Nerd Daily: March Book Releases: Fantasy + Sci-Fi
Locus Online: New Books: 5 March 2019
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly: Picks of the Week.
Vol. 1 Brooklyn: March 2019 Book Preview.
Lit Hub: 14 Books You Should Read This March.
The Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of March 2019
The Chicago Review of Books: The Best New Books of March 2019.
The Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: Say Hello to 25 Science Fiction & Fantasy Debuts That Will Transform Your 2019.
BookRiot: Read Your Way Across the Multiverse.
Books, Bones & Buffy: 14 Awesome Science Fiction Books Coming Out in 2019.
Press for other work by K Chess:
The Berlin Writing Prize included short story “Been Fighting Since” on their 2017 longlist. Read the full list here.
“’Milk and Cookies on the Other Side’ left me breathless. Brave, honest, and devoid of bourgeois pretension, the story—in a manner both graceful and unflinching—tackles systemic cultural patriarchy in the two modes through which said patriarchy manifests most resoundingly in America: religion, and rape. The story is also a tale of exodus: of departing the smaller place to move to the big city, and what one brings with them, and what one can’t leave behind. The narrative’s politics never waver, nor do they ever usurp. As one of the story’s characters, Rocky, pronounces, ‘you have to dedicate your suffering,’ and Chess makes that suffering beautiful and terrible and irrevocable on every haunting, marvelous page of this work.”
The Chicago Tribune named the short story “To Dismantle A Cake” (written as K Brattin) as a runner-up for the 2015 Nelson Algren Award.
K Chess appeared on a list of W.K. Rose Fellows.