The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup


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One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence; Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili; The Ice House by Tim Clare; Big Cat by Gwyneth Jones; Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphreys

After publishing a string of fantasy novels, Mark Lawrence rings the changes with One Word Kill (47North, £4.99), a short and punchy science fiction novel set in the mid-1980s featuring quantum physics, role-playing games and meditations on life and death. Nick Hayes is just 15 when he’s told he has an aggressive form of leukaemia – the disease that killed his father – and only a 50% chance of surviving for five years. Lawrence hooks the reader on the first page with the line: “But as it turned out, I would die even before February ... ” The novel shuttles between Nick’s hospital visits, school life and weekly Dungeons & Dragons sessions, which serve as his escape from an overwhelming reality. Things ...

The best recent science fiction – review roundup


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Beneath the World, a Sea by Chris Beckett; From the Wreck by Jane Rawson; Zero Bomb by MT Hill; Poster Boy by NJ Crosskey; and A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Chris Beckett brings literary flair and sociological insight to his award-winning science fiction, and his seventh novel, Beneath the World, a Sea (Corvus, £17.99), is no exception. Repressed London policeman Ben Ronson, a specialist in “culturally sanctioned crimes”, is sent by the UN to the strange realm of the Submundo Delta, in South America. With its own flora and fauna and a zone that induces amnesia, the Delta is unlike anywhere else on Earth: visitors find themselves stranded in an affectless psychological Sargasso. Creole settlers have been killing the native lifeforms known as duendes, humanoid creatures who have a destabilising psychic effect on the minds of observers. Ronson is tasked with bringing an end to the killings, ...

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup


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The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie; The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson; The Migration by Helen Marshall; The Autist by Stephen Palmer and Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

Ann Leckie’s first four novels were award-winning space operas, which brought something refreshingly different to the genre with her examination of gender, politics and power – not to mention narrative technique. Her debut fantasy novel, The Raven Tower (Orbit, £16.99), is similarly groundbreaking. It may seem familiar, with its dispossessed lords, vengeful gods and soldier heroes, but Leckie’s central character is a transgender warrior, and the complex narrative is told partly in the second person. The warrior is Eolo, a loyal servant of Mawat, heir to the throne of Iraden. On returning from battle, the pair discover that Mawat’s father has vanished and his uncle has usurped the throne. It falls on Eolo to investigate the ...

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup


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Golden State by Ben H Winters; Foe by Iain Reid; The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon; The Chosen from the First Age anthology and The Revenant Express by George Mann

In Golden State (Century, £14.99), Ben H Winters posits a dystopian future California where the notion of truth is all important; anyone caught lying faces a lengthy jail sentence or exile. Citizens document their daily lives, state surveillance is ever present and recreational fictions have ceased to exist: instead people watch documentary TV. Laszlo Ratesic is a jaded fiftysomething with a talent for sniffing out lies in his role as a law enforcement agent with the Speculative Service. When he is called on to investigate after a worker falls from a roof, it looks like a simple case of accidental death – but Laszlo soon finds himself involved in a complex plot where the truth ...

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup


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Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox; The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan; The Girl King by Mimi Yu; AfroSFv3 edited by Ivor W Hartmann and All the Lonely People by David Owen

Our Child of the Stars (Quercus) by first-time novelist Stephen Cox takes a number of well worn science fiction tropes – a crash-landed starship, an alien survivor up against the odds, and a big, bad government out to quash the rights of the individual – and invests them with a new energy thanks to some sympathetic characterisation and fine storytelling. What is thought to be a meteor falls to Earth near a US town; nurse Molly Myers is called on to help an injured child who turns out to be the only survivor of a crashed extraterrestrial vessel. When government officials arrive to investigate the crash site and arrest a colleague of Molly’s for hampering their ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup


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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils by James Lovegrove, The Subjugate by Amanda Bridgeman and The Dark Vault by VE Schwab

In a genre replete with stock Arthurian templates, it’s refreshing to see myths and legends taken from a different culture, in this instance Malay. In Natasha Ngan’s third YA novel, Girls of Paper and Fire (Hodder, £14.99), the citizens of the lavishly portrayed world of Ikhara are divided into three castes: Moon, the ruling demons; Steel, demon-human amalgams; and Paper, subjugated humans. Narrator Lei is a Paper girl, taken from her family to become a concubine, with eight other girls, of the Demon King. What follows her initial submission is the slow-burning story of the iniquity perpetrated by the ruling elite and Lei’s affecting love affair with her fellow Paper girl Wren, a liaison ...

The best recent science fiction novels – review roundup


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Salvation by Peter F Hamilton; Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce; Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente; Early Riser by Jasper Fforde; and Supercute Futures by Martin Millar

It’s not hard to work out why Peter F Hamilton’s books are bestsellers: he writes long, complex, absorbing novels crammed with cutting-edge ideas and multiple storylines and utilises a number of popular sub-genres to great effect. What we have in Salvation (Macmillan, £20), the first in a new series, is an investigation into a crashed alien starship, corporate and political intrigue, espionage, murder mystery and a far-future war story. When the ship is discovered at the edge of human space, the authorities send an undercover team to investigate the vessel and its mysterious contents. What follows is the revelation of what they find, the complicated backstories of the principal investigators and their tangled personal and political motivations, and a superbly atmospheric series of ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett; Tommy Catkins by Stephen Palmer; Sam Hawke’s City of Lies; One Way by SJ Morden; and Candas Jane Dorsey’s Ice and Other Stories

After recent forays into science fiction and magic realism, Robert Jackson Bennett tackles epic fantasy in Foundryside (Jo Fletcher, £14.99). The ancient city-state of Tevanne is ruled by four merchant houses who have mastery of a powerful form of magic known as scriving: the ability to effect change through the control and manipulation of objects. Sancia Grado, a young girl scraping a precarious living in the teeming city, has a special ability that is both an asset and a curse: when she touches an object, she instantly comprehends its fundamental nature and recalls its history. She has to keep her body covered at all times to protect herself from sensory overload, but her ability helps in her profession as a thief; when ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri; 2001: An Odyssey in Words edited by Ian Whates and Tom Hunter; Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi; The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer and One of Us by Craig DiLouie

Francesco Dimitri’s The Book of Hidden Things (Titan, £8.99) rapidly draws the reader into the story of four childhood friends, now in their 30s. Every year for almost two decades they have met up in their hometown, the small Italian village of Casalfranco. When Arturo, at whose insistence this pact was formed, fails to show up, the three concerned friends investigate and discover that he’s been leading a secret life: not only has he been growing marijuana on a large scale, but he has supposedly cured a young girl of leukaemia. They also learn that he’s written a manuscript entitled The Book of Hidden Things, which suggests that he has access ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn, The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, Pandemic by AG Riddle, The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey, Awakened by James S Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Kaethe Schwehn’s gripping first novel The Rending and the Nest (Bloomsbury, £18.99) is an addition to the overflowing post-apocalyptic subgenre. In the aftermath of the Rending, which caused 95% of Earth’s population, animals and food inexplicably to disappear, a remnant of humanity scratches a living in scattered enclaves. Seventeen-year-old Mira lives with a disparate group of survivors in a midwestern settlement called Zion, where the sky is continuously grey and the temperature a cool 55F, strange new plants provide fruit for sustenance, and humans scavenge through the Piles – mysterious drifts of debris left over from the Rending. Mira is a complex, well-drawn character, by turns vulnerable and adolescent, then tough and resourceful, as everything she ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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Everything About You by Heather Child, Hunted by GX Todd, The Body Library by Jeff Noon, 84K by Claire North, The Rig by Roger Levy

Heather Child’s debut novel, Everything About You (Orbit, £14.99), reads as though the author has travelled to the future and returned with an itemised report. We are in near-future Britain, and Child has extrapolated from current trends in social media to catalogue the pitfalls and benefits of a world in which most citizens take part in various forms of virtual reality and smartware curates everyone’s identity. The novel begins eight years after Freya’s 17-year-old stepsister, Ruby, vanished without trace, and Freya has been living with a burden of guilt and grief. When she borrows her ex-boyfriend’s Smartface hardware, its algorithms trawl the datasphere and provide Freya with a default virtual helpmate – a construct based on her sister’s old online presence. The novel is ...

The best recent science fiction and fantasy novels – reviews roundup


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Autonomous by Annalee Newitz; Blackfish City by Sam J Miller; The Wolf by Leo Carew; The Silenced by Stephen Lloyd Jones and The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S Buckell

Autonomous (Orbit, £8.99) is the debut novel from Annalee Newitz, a science journalist and co-founder of the SF website io9. It’s 2144 and in a hi-tech, down-at-heel US – a hybrid of Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy – “Jack” Chen manufactures illegal drugs for the poor. She also pirates a drug known as Zacuity, designed to aid concentration. When she learns that it has lethal side-effects undisclosed by its makers, the Zaxy Corporation, Chen turns whistleblower and must flee the ruthless agents of the International Property Coalition. What could easily descend into a routine run-around chase caper is given moral and intellectual depth by Newitz’s examination of corporate behaviour and the limits of personal freedom. A ...

The best recent science fiction and fantasy novels – reviews roundup


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The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch; Embers of War by Gareth L Powell; The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams; Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin; All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

In The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch (Headline, £14.99), NCIS agent Shannon Moss looks into the murder of a family and the abduction of their teenage daughter: the prime suspect is a Navy Seal who was lost on a deep space mission years earlier. Agent Moss works on a black ops programme that utilises time travel as an aid to its investigations, and she journeys into the future in order to track down the kidnapped girl and the killer. As if this were not a thrilling enough premise, Sweterlitsch stirs an intriguing end-of-the-world scenario into the mix. In every possible future investigated by naval agents, the world has come to an end – and the ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds, Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, Spring Tide by Chris Beckett, The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Alastair Reynolds excels at world building – his impressive backlist attests to that – but he’s also a master at constructing complex technological, far-future societies peopled by fully rounded characters. In Elysium Fire (Gollancz, £14.99), the Glitter Band is a vast ring of spatial habitats orbiting the planet of Yellowstone. Each is a self-governing autonomy, where citizens vote instantly via brain implants on matters political and social. Violent crime is rare in the affluent Glitter Band, and the judiciary known as the Prefects instead investigate crimes related to voting. When brain implants cause a series of deaths across the habitats, it’s down to Inspector Dreyfus, ably assisted by sidekicks Parver and Ng, to track down the killer. Elysium Fire is a tremendously assured ...

The best recent science fiction – reviews roundup


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Sealed by Naomi Booth, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities by James Lovegrove, Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Sweet Dreams by Tricia Sullivan, Austral by Paul McAuley

Naomi Booth’s Sealed (Dead Ink, £15.99) fuses near-future eco-catastrophe with psychological horror to produce an accomplished, slow-burning meditation on motherhood, pregnancy and love. Reeling with grief after the loss of her mother, and horrified at the onset of a worldwide epidemic, pregnant Alice flees Sydney for the safety of a remote Blue Mountains settlement with her childhood sweetheart Pete. Far from finding a refuge from her nightmares, however, Alice discovers that the epidemic has followed her. “Cutis” afflicts victims with outgrowths of skin covering all external orifices: is it humanity’s way of protecting itself, Alice wonders, from the deadly poisons polluting the planet? Booth strikes a fine balance between portraying her as a paranoid obsessive and as a concerned mother-to-be reacting ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror novels – reviews roundup


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The Rift by Nina Allan; Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer; Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait; The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Nina Allan excels at creating subtle, shifting narratives straddling the mundane and the bizarre, the real and the unreal. In her second novel, The Rift (Titan, £7.99), she has produced a lyrical, moving story beautifully balanced between the reality of contemporary England and the ethereal otherness of the alien world of Tristane. Selena and Julie were not only sisters but best friends, and when Julie vanishes aged 17 – the victim of a killer? – Selena’s life and that of her family changes forever. Two decades later, Julie reappears, claiming to have spent the intervening years in an alien world, supporting her story with a highly detailed account of her life there. The Rift is what Allan does best, exploring contemporary society, and what ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror novels – reviews roundup


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Shattered Minds by Laura Lam; Lost Boy by Christina Henry; Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory; Mormama by Kit Reed; The Truants by Lee MarkhamIn Shattered Minds (Macmillan, £12.99) Laura Lam combines William Gibson’s noirish cyberpunk vibe with Kim Stanley Robinson’s social concern and world-building to produce a gripping, fast-paced hi-tech thriller peopled by flawed but believable characters. In a near-future US west coast state known as Pacifica, ex-neuroscientist Carina was the subject of an experiment carried out by Sudice Inc. It left her with violent urges and an addiction to a drug called zeal. With her memory of the experiment wiped, she begins to hallucinate a dead girl, a fellow victim of Sudice’s sinister mind-mapping operation. Together with a team of hackers, she works to bring down the organisation, restrain the homicidal urges in her own shattered mind and come to some understanding of her fraught past. The novel ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror novels – reviews roundup


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The End of the Day by Claire North, The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde, From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters, The Apartment by SL Grey, Cold Welcome by Elizabeth MoonClaire North, the pseudonym of Catherine Webb, has earned a reputation for tackling serious subjects with a lightness of touch, enviable readability and an assured narrative control. The End of the Day (Orbit, £16.99) is her most ambitious novel, taking on a plethora of major issues and offering hope. Charlie is the Harbinger of Death – whose office is based, prosaically, in Milton Keynes – and he travels the world meeting those about to be visited or merely brushed by Death, and observing events and cultures about to pass from existence. His fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, War and Famine, are normal men and women like Charlie who also jet around on business. It’s a surreal, whimsical conceit that allows ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror novels – reviews roundup


This post is by Eric Brown from Books | The Guardian


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The End of the Day by Claire North, The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde, From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters, The Apartment by SL Grey, Cold Welcome by Elizabeth MoonClaire North, the pseudonym of Catherine Webb, has earned a reputation for tackling serious subjects with a lightness of touch, enviable readability and an assured narrative control. The End of the Day (Orbit, £16.99) is her most ambitious novel, taking on a plethora of major issues and offering hope. Charlie is the Harbinger of Death – whose office is based, prosaically, in Milton Keynes – and he travels the world meeting those about to be visited or merely brushed by Death, and observing events and cultures about to pass from existence. His fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, War and Famine, are normal men and women like Charlie who also jet around on business. It’s a surreal, whimsical conceit that allows ...

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror novels – reviews roundup


This post is by Eric Brown from Books | The Guardian


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The End of the Day by Claire North, The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde, From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters, The Apartment by SL Grey, Cold Welcome by Elizabeth MoonClaire North, the pseudonym of Catherine Webb, has earned a reputation for tackling serious subjects with a lightness of touch, enviable readability and an assured narrative control. The End of the Day (Orbit, £16.99) is her most ambitious novel, taking on a plethora of major issues and offering hope. Charlie is the Harbinger of Death – whose office is based, prosaically, in Milton Keynes – and he travels the world meeting those about to be visited or merely brushed by Death, and observing events and cultures about to pass from existence. His fellow Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, War and Famine, are normal men and women like Charlie who also jet around on business. It’s a surreal, whimsical conceit that allows ...