These end-of-the-year lists always make me uncomfortable, if only because I know I haven’t read even a plurality of titles published in any given 365 days. Not only that, I haven’t yet read a bunch that have been highly praised, like Blackfish City, Revenant Gun, and Unholy Land. Having said that, what I do feel comfortable with is flagging a few titles that I’m mildly infatuated with, that happened to ...Read MoreRead more
Tell the Machine Goodnight, Katie Williams (Riverhead 978-0-525-53312-2, $25.00, 304 pp, hc) June 2018.
Katie Williams may win Best Title of 2018 with Tell the Machine Goodnight. In many ways, those four words tell you exactly what you need to know about this book, which seems to have slipped under the SFnal radar despite being most definitely science fiction.
The fictional science in question is the Apricity machine. Once your ...Read MoreRead more
Confessions of the Fox, Jordy Rosenberg (OneWorld 978-0-399-59227-0, $27.00, 352pp, hc) June 2018.
Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox lives in that liminal space between fantasy and straight-up fiction. Many have taken to labeling the novels that live here “interstitial” – and the whys of that term are best discussed in another column or, better yet, at a bar. If you’ll allow it, let’s take it as read that Rosenberg’s ...Read MoreRead more
The Stars Now Unclaimed, Drew Williams (Tor 978-1-250-18611-9, $24.99, 448pp, hc) August 2018.
Drew Williams’s The Stars Now Unclaimed is not deep but is a bucket of fun that hews close to the space opera spirit of Star Wars and Firefly.
Jane, our hero, is one of the Justified, a band of beings whose goal is to protect the rest of the universe from the Pulse, a technology destroying burst ...Read MoreRead more
Apocalypse Nyx, Kameron Hurley (Tachyon 978-1-61696-294-4, $15.95, 288pp, tp) July 2018.
Kameron Hurley’s Apocalypse Nyx isn’t a stand-alone novel in her God’s War series, AKA the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, depending on which internet oracle you ask. And I had to ask, because the world Hurley illustrates in the five works of short fiction collected in Apocalypse Nyx is a world I want to return to again and again.
The ...Read MoreRead more
The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/John Joseph Adams 978-0-544-94731-3, $14.99, 272pp, tp) July 2018.
Carrie Vaughn’s The Wild Dead is set in the same universe as her Bannerless, where there has been a cataclysmic Fall of the society and technology we’d recognize now. Those who survived from Vaughn’s version of 100 years ago had to make hard choices. They saved the knowledge to make pharmaceuticals but not refrigeration, solar power ...Read MoreRead more
Before Mars, Emma Newman (Ace 978-0-399-58732-0, $16.00, 352pp, tp) April 2018.
Emma Newman adds more perspectives to the universe she created in both Planetfall and After Atlas with Before Mars, which shares a timeline with After Atlas but is set on the red planet rather than in a future England. Rather than a straight-up who-done-it like After Atlas, Before Mars is a Memento-esque mystery.
Anna Kubrin is a geologist/painter who ...Read MoreRead more
The Fated Sky, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-0765398949, $15.99, 384pp, tp) August 2018.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Fated Sky is the second half, mostly, of The Calculating Stars, which I talked about in more depth a couple of months ago [review here]. While The Fated Sky could stand alone if a reader is really good at picking up context clues, it doesn’t feel like it was intended to do so. ...Read MoreRead more
Clockwork Boys, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions 978-1614504160, $12.95, 262pp, tp) March 2018.
The Wonder Engine, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions 978-1614504177, $24.95, 318pp, hc) March 2018.
In case like me, you didn’t know: the Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer/artist/chicken wrangler Ursula Vernon reserves the name T. Kingfisher for her works that are better suited to an adult audience. Her Clocktaur War books are decidedly that – but not in a ...Read MoreRead more
Leech Girl Lives, Rick Claypool (Spaceboy Books 978-0-9987120-7-9, $13.95, 322pp, tp) September 2017.
Art Inspector Margo Chicago (named in honor of boundary-pushing art creator Judy Chicago) is in a pickle. She’s trapped outside of the Bublinaplex, a geodesic dome city that protects its residents from the giant fungi and other unsavories that slither and ooze through the landscape. Outside is not a great place to be, if you are a ...Read MoreRead more
The Expert System’s Brother, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor.com 978-1-25019755-9, $14.99, 176pp, tp) July 2018.
It’s amazing how much world building Adrian Tchaikovsky packs into so few words in The Expert System’s Brother. In other hands, this story of a young man, Handry, who is forced out of a world that literally no longer recognizes him, could be the work of a trilogy, yet, here, it is the perfect length. ...Read MoreRead more
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor 978-0765378385, $15.99, 432pp, tp) July 2018.
Mary Robinette Kowal was writing about midcentury female NASA workers before they hit the pop culture mainstream. While Hidden Figures – both book and movie – brought our collective attention to the women who worked as ‘‘calculators’’ at NASA, Kowal started noodling around with the idea in 2012. Her ‘‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’’ started life as ...Read MoreRead more
Space Opera, Catherynne M. Valente (Saga Press 978-1-4814-9749-7, $19.99, 304pp, hc) April 2018.
Strap in, kiddos. Cat Valente wants to take you on a wild, glitter-filled ride. You’ll know if you’re ready for it after you read the first sentence of Space Opera:
Once upon a time on a small, watery, excitable planet called Earth, in a small, watery excitable country called Italy, a soft-spoken, rather nice-looking gentleman by the ...Read MoreRead more
Head On, John Scalzi (Tor 978-07-6538891-9,$25.99, 336pp, hc) April 2018.
John Scalzi’s Head On picks up where Lock In left off, for the most part. FBI agent Chris Shane still has Haden’s Syndrome, a condition where an infected person’s body remains inert while his or her mind roams free in a robotlike machine called a threep. Chris’s partner Leslie Vann, who does not have Haden’s, still remains the more impulsive ...Read MoreRead more
The Sky Is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith (Hogarth 978-0-451-49626-3, $27.00, 462pg, hc) January 2018.
In Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky Is Yours, Empire Island is falling apart, mostly (but not entirely) because two dragons circle above it. They never land. They can’t be killed. And, just for fun, they randomly set part of the island on fire. Those who could leave have left. Still on the island are the very ...Read MoreRead more
Paradox Bound, Peter Clines (Crown 978-0-553-41833-0, $26.00, 374pp, hc) September 2017.
In Peter Clines’s Paradox Bound, Eli Teague was an average kid growing up in Sanders ME. It’s about as small a town as you can get and is one of those places where time just seems to move more slowly. One day, when he’s still a younger kid, a woman driving a Ford Model A shows up on his ...Read MoreRead more
Semiosis, Sue Burke (Tor 978-0-7653-9135-3, $25.99, 336pp, hc) February 2018.
Beyond all else, Sue Burke’s Semiosis is a book about biochemistry and about the subtle dance that all living things perform to get the chemical building blocks they need to survive.
On this planet and in our actual reality, humans have the brains to think through how to get what they need. We’re experts at exploiting our environment, which is, ...Read MoreRead more
The Gone World, Tom Sweterlitsch (Putnam 978-0-399-16750-8, $27.00, 400pp, hc) February 2018.
Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World kept me up at night. My awakeness wasn’t caused by the ideas contained within this moody novel, but from a hunger to know what would happen next to NCIS Special Agent Shannon Moss, whose investigation into the gruesome murder of a Navy SEAL’s family takes some science fictional turns.
In Sweterlitsch’s world, the ...Read MoreRead more
The Genius Plague, David Walton (Pyr 978-163388-343-7, $14.95, 400pp, tp) October 2017.
David Walton, who wrote the stellar Superposition and Supersymmetry, deserves to be a lot better known than he is. The tightly plotted and smoothly written The Genius Plague proves that.
Walton took on quantum physics with the Super duo. Here he takes on biology and code-breaking. Paul Johns is a mycologist collecting fungi in the Amazon; Neil Johns, ...Read MoreRead more
2017 by Adrienne Martini
Speaking only as myself (rather than for Locus as an entity), 2017 has been the year when reading anything too full of conflict or featuring dark and complicated conspiracies hit far too close to home. When the non-fictional world starts to read like fiction, it’s hard to have much resilience left for the same in a made-up world. Again, I’m speaking for a sample size of ...Read MoreRead more
Artemis, Andy Weir (Crown 978-0-553-44812-2, $27.00, 320pp, hc) November 2017.
The Wrong Stars, Tim Pratt (Angry Robot 978-0857667090, $7.99, 400pp, pb) November 2017.
How do you follow-up on a runaway success like The Martian? If you’re Andy Weir, you go to the moon.
Artemis, his sophomore story, takes place in the titular habitat on the moon. The plot revolves around Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, a porter/smuggler who is getting by as ...Read MoreRead more
Sourdough, Robin Sloan (MCD Farrar, Straus and Giroux 978-0-374-20310-8, $26.00, 272pp, hc) September 2017.
In Robin Sloan’s Sourdough, Lois is a software engineer at one of San Francisco’s hottest tech companies. She’s just moved to town from a perfectly fine hometown in the Midwest, lured out to the coast by money and a tiny urge for change. And change she does.
The catalyst is a crock of sourdough starter given ...Read MoreRead more
Provenance, Ann Leckie (Orbit 978-0-316-38867-2, $26.00, 448pp, hc) September 2017. Cover by John Harris.
Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch Trilogy won more or less every genre award there is – and for good reason. The Ancillary books played with gender and civilization, while still hewing close to a space opera framework. The plot burned along and the characters felt alien, somehow, while remaining familiar.
Provenance returns to that same universe, but ...Read MoreRead more
The Stone in the Skull, Elizabeth Bear (Tor 978-07-6538-0135, $27.99, 368pp, hc). October 2017. Cover by Richard Anderson.
Full disclaimer: I haven’t read Elizabeth Bear’s first trilogy set in the Eternal Sky world (Range of Ghosts, etc.) but am also not sure it matters. While I’m sure a reading of The Stone in the Skull would be enhanced by knowing about this world before dropping into it, that knowledge is ...Read MoreRead more
The Real-Town Murders, Adam Roberts (Gollancz 978-14-73221-45-1, £16.99, 234pp, hc). August 2017.
Adam Roberts’s The Real-Town Murders is his version of a locked-room mystery, which is to say, it is both familiar and strange by equal turns. It is also delightful.
What is familiar is the set-up. Alma, a near-future private investigator, is delivered a case about a body found in the trunk of a car. Given that these particular ...Read MoreRead more
Upon This Rock: Book 1 – First Contact, David Marusek (A Stack of Firewood Press 978-0-9988633-0-6, $9.99, 574pp, eb). June 2017.
David Marusek’s first big impact on the SF/F landscape was 2005’s Counting Heads, a book about genetic engineering peopled with strong, interesting characters and a meandering yet purposeful plot. The sequel Mind Over Ship dropped four years later. Then, apart from publishing a couple of quiet short story collections, ...Read MoreRead more
The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch (Subterranean 978-1-59606-833-9, $40.00, 146pp, hc) June 2017. Cover by Stephen Walters.
I’m already in the tank for Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot series of books, which follows the trials of one Peter Grant, a police constable in London’s Metropolitan Police. He’s in a special unit, one that is charged with tracking down crimes that involve magic or, as his non-magical brothers in stab vests say, “weird ...Read MoreRead more
River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-7653-9523-8, $14.99, 176pp, tp) May 2017. Cover by Richard Anderson.
Here’s what is true: at the turn of the 20th century, a couple of American business tycoons (and wannabe tycoons) floated the idea of populating the swampy south with hippopotami. The beasts would make great eating, they thought, which means they could make some money. The whole story – and it’s a great ...Read MoreRead more
Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn (John Joseph Adams/Mariner 978-0-544-94730-6, $14.99, 288pp, tp) July 2017.
In Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless, the world as we currently know it has fallen, thanks to environmental and economic calamities. Humanity nevertheless persists – thrives, really, given the circumstances. People along the Coast Road, a temperate zone subject to seasonal devastating storms, have learned to live in harmony with the world. They’ve agreed to live by a system of ...Read MoreRead more
Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor 978-0-765-33263-9, $27.99, 352pp, hc) December 2016
The past, it has been said, is another country. If you’re August Kemp in Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year, that other country is one you can monetize.
Kemp, a billionaire businessman from something resembling our near future, has opened a resort of sorts in 1876. The writerly hand waving that makes this possible is mirror technology,...Read More
All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai (Dutton 978-1-101-98513-7, $26.00, 384pp, hc) February 2017.
‘‘So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.’’
So opens Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays and, indeed, main character Tom Barren comes from a 2016 we were supposed to have, the one that looks like the Space Age as imagined in the early 1960s, all Jetsons and flying cars...Read More
Martians Abroad, Carrie Vaughn (Tor 978-0-7653-8220-7, $25.99, 336pp, hc) January 2017.
Carrie Vaughn’s Martians Abroad clearly shares DNA with Heinlein’s juveniles, and is, the author states, and homage to Podkayne of Mars. There are young people filled with a can-do attitude about problem solving and space travel. There are kids trapped in an academic system that, while it feels it knows best, clearly doesn’t. The main character has...Read More