New & Notable Books, March 2018

Nick Harkaway, Gnomon (Knopf 1/18) The world of Gnomon is the ultimate panopticon surveillance state, with every word and action recorded, and the overarching authority of the System can even access the memories and thoughts of its citizens. When an alleged dissident dies during an interrogation, a state inspector delves into the victim’s mind, and discovers impossible memories of various lives… and a cipher that could reveal world-altering secrets. Harkaway never writes the same novel twice, but he can always be counted on for dark humor, mind-bending philosophical speculation, and wild inven­tion, all of which are on display here.


Leanna Renee Hieber, The Eterna Solution (Tor 11/17) The third installment in the Eterna Files series sees the paranormal investigators of the American Eterna Com­mission and the British Omega Department join forces to take on evil forces in Manhattan and Washington DC. It’s a rollicking conclusion to a memorable gaslamp fantasy series rich in Victoriana and supernatural thrills.

 


Alma Katsu, The Hunger (Putnam 3/18) This har­rowing tale of historical horror is rooted in a notorious real incident: the disastrous westward migration of the wagon train known as the Donner Party, who became trapped in the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevadas in 1846-47 and subsequently resorted to cannibalism to survive. Katsu adds a dimension of supernatural menace that deepens the horror, and contributes to a palpable sense of dread and unease about the very nature of the human condition.


Elizabeth Moon, Into the Fire (Del Rey 1/18) One of the most celebrated voices in military science fiction returns with another thrilling tale of Admiral Kylar Vatta in this second volume of the Vatta’s Peace spin-off series. Ky leads a group of crash survivors to safety, but the respite is short-lived as agents of a conspiracy against her family move against her – and prove even more powerful and influential than she’d imagined.

 


Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe, eds. Robots vs Fairies (Saga 1/18) This original anthology features 18 stories of fairies or robots (or both) by Jeffrey Ford, Sarah Gailey, Maria Dhavana Headley, Ken Liu, Seanan Mc­Guire, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Lavie Tidhar, Catherynne M. Valente, Alyssa Wong, and others. Story notes by the authors offer “insights that together add up to an inter­esting conversation about the nature of SF and fantasy… [a] disparate but highly enjoyable collection of tales.”


K.J. Parker, The Father of Lies (Subterranean 1/18) This hefty new collection includes a dozen breathtak­ing stories by the pseudonymous Tom Holt, showcasing the author’s affinity for charming scoundrels, brilliant individuals with fatal flaws, and scathing philosophical commentary. While Parker is best known for “fantasies without magic,” these stories are full of witches, demons, gods, a dragon, and even the Devil himself. Parker’s “narrators are acutely aware of human haplessness and incompetence, including their own, and the digressive, exasperated tone in which they tell their tales fairly begs to be read aloud.” [Gary K. Wolfe]


Alastair Reynolds, Elysium Fire (Orbit 1/18) Reynolds returns to the Glitter Band, a polity of ten thousand habitats around the planet Yellowstone, each with their own social rules and systems of government, from the mundane to the bizarre. A new plague of sorts – dubbed “wildfire” – is causing the implants of citizens all over the Band to malfunction seemingly at random, leading to an escalating series of grisly deaths. Agents of Pano­ply, the Band-wide police and regulatory organization, investigate and discover a bizarre conspiracy. “A mystery within a mystery… the threads converge on a revelation that satisfies the demands of the SF and mystery sides of the story.” [Russell Letson]


Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt, The Christmas Mummy and Other Carols (Merry Blacksmith 12/17) Locus‘s own Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt have been writing SF, fantasy, and horror holiday stories for various publica­tions, solo and in collaboration, for over a decade, and now they collect 15 of those alternately festive and fero­cious tales here. Includes the cult classic title story and an original sequel, “The Christmas Abomination from Beyond the Back of the Stars”, along with illustrations by Greg van Eekhout and Aislinn Quicksilver Harvey.


Charles Stross, Dark State (Tor 1/18) Stross returns to the world of his influential Merchant Princes series with this sequel to last year’s Empire Games, and continues to explore the next generation of worldwalkers – indi­viduals with the ability to cross into alternate timelines. This is a twisty tale of espionage and intrigue, with Miriam Burgeson, heroine of the original series, now a high-ranking official in one world, while her estranged daughter Rita is a neophyte spy fighting against a deadly sleeper cell. “Edgy entertainment and sideways political commentary wrapped in alternate-history what-iffery.” [Russell Letson]


Henry Wessells, A Conversation Larger than the Universe (The Grolier Club 1/18) This volume of 17 essays on “readings in science fiction and the fantastic” by the collector, scholar, and antiquarian bookseller is a companion piece to an exhibition of 70 eclectic items (most from Wessells’s collection) on display at the Grolier Club in New York through March 10. In a wide-ranging, conversational style, Wessells covers the history and development of SF, with insights along the way into horror and Gothic literature. A “clearly written and generously rewarding love letter to his long involve­ment with fantastika.” [Gary K. Wolfe]


This review and more like it in the March 2018 issue of Locus.

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