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2001 Science Fiction Novels

Recently Published

  • Ken MacLeod, Dark Light (UK: Orbit, Nov)
    Second volume in the ''Engines of Light'' series that began with last year's Cosmonaut Keep; humans on a distant planet in a region dominated by manipulative aliens adjust to the return of interstellar travel and trade. The book mixes political battles with cosmic questions, though as Gary K. Wolfe notes in the January 2002 Locus, MacLeod's allusions to earlier SF traditions "illustrate an important principle of MacLeod's appeal: namely, that the delight is in the details", while Jonathan Strahan in the same issue finds the book "fascinating and rewarding". (The US edition will be published in January by Tor.)

  • Candas Jane Dorsey, A Paradigm of Earth (Tor, Oct)
    Childlike, telepathic, blue-skinned aliens come to study Earth, and a grieving woman living in a chaotic household takes one of them in. This complex exploration of communication, compassion, and our own inability to understand ourselves "finds a powerful synergy between SF's classic theme of alien contact and deeper questions of human compassion" writes Gary K. Wolfe in the October Locus.

  • Paul McAuley, Whole Wide World (UK: HarperCollins Voyager, Sep 2001; US: Tor, May 2002)
    McAuley's second recent novel in near-future thriller mode, this is a tale set in 2010 London where climate change and Infowar terrorist attacks have left all of London under constant surveillance by AI-linked security cameras; the book is "an intriguing speculation as much as it is a finely-paced thriller" writes Nick Gevers in the November Locus.

  • Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis (Eos, Sep)
    In a 22nd century Muslim society, a young woman is biochemically enslaved into a wealthy household in this dramatic tale of star-crossed lovers. The novel's multiple viewpoints, writes Faren Miller in the September Locus, "work brilliantly to build a larger picture of a world, as they reveal what it means to be an individual - a young woman, an old woman, a specially created man - in a place and time very different from our own." And Nick Gevers (November) writes that this "Third World novel" is "a salutary corrective to SF's countless, heedless, fantasies of power."

• References are to reviews in Locus Magazine, unless otherwise indicated. Reviewers are Gary K. Wolfe (GKW), Nick Gevers (NG), Faren Miller (FM); Jonathan Strahan (JS); Ed Bryant (EB); Carolyn Cushman (CC); Russell Letson (RL).
• A comprehensive list of recommended 2001 books is being compiled for Locus's February 2002 issue.
• This online list includes 2001 US and UK first editions, as well as (+) 2001 first-US editions of novels published earlier in the UK or elsewhere. Criteria used to compile other lists may differ.

Published Earlier in 2001

  • Iain M. Banks, Look to Windward (UK: Orbit, Aug 2000; +US: Pocket, Aug 2001)
    People of the far-future interstellar Culture are haunted by death and loss as they prepare to view the last light of stars destroyed in a war 800 years earlier. The theme is solemn, but there's enough humor, spectacle, and intrigue to make this a space opera on the grand scale. "Perhaps no other contemporary SF author can match the skill with which Iain M. Banks moves amongst vertiginously changing perspectives and moods, from the galactic to the individual, from social commentary and social satire to far-future metaphysics, from the grand results of hard science to the sometimes ludicrous products of nature on distant worlds - and, most of all, the true frailty of sentient life." (FM, March)

  • Stephen Baxter, Origin: Manifold 3 (UK: HarperCollins/Voyager, Aug; US: Del Rey, Feb 2002, as Manifold: Origin)
    Third and last of Baxter's triptych of novels that, paralleling each other, develop alternate explanations for the Fermi paradox: if intelligent aliens exist, where are they? In this one Reid Malenfant is largely confined among primitives on a mysterious red moon; still, writes Gary K. Wolfe (Sept) "it's a complex and ambitious novel that never forgoes its human scale, and containts some of Baxter's most viscerally powerful writing to date". And "Origin carries with it Baxterís ultimate answer to Fermiís Paradox, and it is almost more than the narrative can bear. But it is an answer worth discovering, and the echoes of 2001 confirm Baxter as the real heir to Arthur C. Clarke as the best writer of classic hard SF writing today." (JS, July)

  • Stephen Baxter, Manifold: Space (UK: Voyager, Aug 2000, as Space: Manifold 2; +US: Del Rey, Feb 2001)
    In the second volume of this hard SF triptych, space explorer Reid Malenfant goes through an alien gateway for a fascinating grand tour of the universe, while back in the Solar System mankind is spreading out among the planets and encountering aliens. "Baxter is a master of the zoom-out perspective, the gloomy catastrophe (there's a dandy ice age in here), the spectacular set-piece..." (GKW, Jan)

  • Terry Bisson, The Pickup Artist (Tor, April)
    A hilarious and provocative satire of 21st Century America when old works of art (movies, books, etc.) are 'deleted' to make room for the new. "Exactly the sort of demented and provocative treasure we've come to expect from Bisson." (GKW, Apr)

  • Pat Cadigan, Dervish is Digital (UK: Macmillan Oct 2000; +US: Tor, Jul 2001)
    In this sometime surreal Artificial Reality caper, detective Dorť Konstantine (introduced in prequel Tea from an Empty Cup) chases a dangerous stalker. "Itís a genre space and an SF milieu rich in possibilities for both satire and absurdist nightmare, and Cadigan exploits it for all itís worth, with wit, gusto, and fine sense of the oddball." (RL, March)

  • Orson Scott Card, Shadow of the Hegemon (Tor, Jan)
    This latest novel in Card's popular "Ender's Game" series is a "fast-moving, well-plotted capture-and-rescue adventure ... [N]ot only a solid entertainment, but a far more substantial one than Ender's Shadow..." (GKW, Feb)

  • John Clute, Appleseed (UK: Orbit, April)
    A revisionist space opera for the 21st century, by the erudite SF critic. "Renaissance philosophy, the complicated evolution of religion, art history, even alchemy, get a heretical new spin as Clute keeps bursting through the confines of space opera, heading someplace different." (FM, May)

  • Tony Daniel, Metaplanetary (Eos, April)
    In a spectacular, nanotech-webbed future solar system, the human race faces impending war in a complex system of virtual personalities, artificial intelligences, and high-tech weaponry. "[R]emarkably fresh and alluring, yet [the book] deliberately speaks to the past work of a handful of major authors, continuing that tradition of cross-generational dialogue for which SF is justifiably famous." (Paul Di Filippo, SF Weekly)

  • Stephen King, Dreamcatcher (Scribner, March)
    This tale of four friends in Maine who battle alien bodysnatchers is "perfectly straight-forward SF... [I'm] tempted to cite the sainted shades of Robert A. Heinlein and Eric Frank Russell." (EB, April)

  • Nancy Kress, Probability Sun (Tor, Jul)
    In this sequel to Probability Moon, humans face war with aliens whose mental bonds unite them in a single, shared reality. This book is "at once dark and hopeful"; it and its predecessor "are both thoroughly science fictional in their pursuit of the implications of ideas and novelistic in their presentation of complexities and contradictions, and they confirm Kress as one of the best hard SF writers around." (RL, Sept)

  • Ken MacLeod, Cosmonaut Keep (UK: Orbit, Nov 2000; +US: Tor, May 2001)
    Twin narratives in an alternate-historical future follow the discovery of aliens in our solar system - and humans, generations later, trying to navigate back to Earth from an alien system. First in a new "Engines of Light" sequence; "The complex of romantic and political entanglements of the characters is far more fully realized than we'd normally expect in a hard SF tale." (GKW, May)

  • Paul McAuley, The Secret of Life (UK: HarperCollins Voyager, Jan 2001; US: Tor, Jun 2001)
    This novel about government conspiracies, a renegade scientist, incipient ecological disaster -- and an expedition to Mars -- is "Exactly the sort of book you might want to hand someone who's just asked you what sorts of things SF writers are up to right now, in the first half of the year 2001." (GKW, May)

  • Sean McMullen, Eyes of the Calculor (Tor, Sep)
    This third volume of McMullen's acclaimed ''Greatwinter'' far-future SF series is set in Australia after the collapse of technological civilization. "Not many thousand-and-a-half-page adventure epics have managed to hold my attention for the whole span, but this one has even left me willing to read more" wrote Russell Letson (Nov).

  • Alastair Reynolds, Chasm City (UK: Orion/Gollancz, May)
    Following his well-received debut novel Revelation Space, this far future space opera of pursuit and revenge is "Much more impressive than its predecessor... Chasm City confirms Reynolds as the most exciting space opera writer working today." (JS, June)

  • Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space (UK: Gollancz, Mar 2000; +US: Ace, Jun 2001)
    Humanity in the far future questions why no other intelligent species exist - but finding the answer could have deadly consequences. A refreshing space opera and an impressive first novel.

  • Brian Stableford, The Cassandra Complex (Tor, Mar)
    This prequel to Stableford's excellent "Emortal" future history series is a thriller about a scientist's accidental discovery that leads to murder. "Stableford is one of the most considered, intelligent, and topical science fiction writers working today, and yet despite, or possibly because of, his prodigious output, he is also one of the most overlooked." (JS, Apr)

  • Peter Watts, Maelstrom (Tor, Oct)
    This stand-alone sequel to Watts's debut novel Starfish, in which the west coast of North America has been devastated by a huge tidal wave, set off by an explosion meant to stop a deadly disease, "delivers on all the promises hard SF has ever thought to make, bundling future science and a suspenseful story into a single thrilling package." (Alyx Dellamonica, Dec)

  • Jack Williamson, Terraforming Earth (Tor, Jun)
    In the aftermath of a meteor's impact with Earth, cloned survivors on the Moon attempt to terraform the mother planet and bring it back to life. "The prose and the imaginings are as vigorous as anything he has written over seven decades." (RL, Oct)

  • Connie Willis, Passage (Bantam, April)
    Brain researchers investigate near-death experiences in a serious narrative examining issues of science and faith. "A compelling story on an irresistible theme ... may not be her altogether most perfect work, but it certainly stands as her most courageous." (GKW, Mar)

  • Robert Charles Wilson, The Chronoliths (Tor, Aug)
    Huge stone monuments appear around the world, apparently from the future, foretelling the imminent arrival of a conquering hero. "A fascinating look at the nature of causality, imbued with a sense of humanism strongly reminiscent of the best work of Clifford D. Simak ... a major novel." (JS, Jul)

  • Gene Wolfe, Return to the Whorl (Tor, Feb)
    Final volume in Wolfe's trilogy "The Book of the Short Sun", itself the conclusion of one of modern SF's most grand, enigmatic epics, that began with the four (or five) volume "Book of the New Sun" and four volume "Book of the Long Sun". "Wolfe reconfigures space opera's standard grand adventure into something as defiant of everyday logic as the alternate/simultaneous waves and particles of quantum physics." (FM, Feb)

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