New & Notable Books, July 2020

Neal Asher, The Human (Night Shade 5/20; Mac­millan UK 4/20) The master of weird SF returns to the Polity universe in this concluding volume of his Rise of the Jain trilogy, “full of outsize heroes and monsters, gigantic spacecraft, godlike artificial intelligences, and horrific large-scale and close-up combat sequences…. I declare myself satisfied and entertained and impressed.” [Russell Letson]


Algis Budrys, Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996 (Ansible Editions 4/20) The late author’s wide-ranging and incisive critical mind is on display in this collection of 45 essays, most not previously collected, with an introduction and notes by publisher David Langford.


Meg Elison, Big Girl (PM Press 5/20) The latest installment in PM’s “Outspoken Authors” series of slim collections showcases the Philip K. Dick Award winner with five stories (two original), plus an es­say and the traditional unusual interview conducted by Terry Bisson. “Both in fiction and non-fiction, Elison is clear-eyed, unsentimental, funny, furious, and exactly the sort of ‘outspoken author’ that this PM series seeks to celebrate.” [Gary K. Wolfe]


Jeffrey Ford, Out of Body ( Publishing 5/20) One of our finest practitioners of fantasy (with seven World Fantasy Awards to prove it) delivers a dark fantasy thriller about a librarian who battles an evil force on the astral plane. “A dark and lyrical fable of unexpected courage and unwanted responsibility, set in the sort of evocative town that already seems to be fading into memory.” [Gary K. Wolfe]


Sarah Gailey, When We Were Magic (Simon Pulse 3/20) In this darkly humorous YA fantasy romance, six teenage girls dabble with magical forces and inadvertently cause the death of a boy on the night of senior prom. “The girls are standouts, both individually and as a prickly but loyal group, and the many personal dramas all read as sharply realistic…. Score another one for Gailey.” [Colleen Mondor]


David C. Kopaska-Merkel, ed., The 2020 Rhysling Anthology (Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry As­sociation 4/20) The annual anthology showcases the best SF poetry from 2019, as nominated by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Associa­tion. These 126 pieces comprise the ballot for the SFPA’s Rhysling Awards, honoring the best long and short speculative poems of the year.


Nancy Kress, The Eleventh Gate (Baen 5/20) This space opera chronicles an epic clash of dynasties and ideologies as the uneasy peace between the planets wholly controlled by the Peregoy corporation and the Libertarian systems ruled by the wealthy Landrys falls apart, following the discovery of a new jump-gate leading to an undiscovered (and unexploited) world… which might have its own inhabitants.


Laura Lam, Goldilocks (Orbit US 5/20; Wildfire UK 4/20) Character comes first in this SF novel about five women who steal a ship to investigate a planet in the Goldilocks zone of another star, where conditions could be “just right” for human life. Family drama combines with adventure and political commentary as they leave behind a dystopian Earth where the rights of women are increasingly restricted.


Lydia Millet, A Children’s Bible (Norton 5/20) One of our most ambitious literary writers gives us a tale of near-future climate change catastrophe, cleverly structured around allusions and parallels to various Bible stories (not just the one about a big flood). “It makes sense to draw a link between the apocalyptic tendencies of the Bible with the impending climate catastrophe… a very funny and moving novel.” [Ian Mond]


Christopher Moore, Shakespeare for Squirrels (Morrow 5/20) This hilarious historical fantasy con­tinues the trilogy about the jester Pocket that Moore began in Fool and The Serpent of Venice, wringing laughs from the works of Shakespeare (among other allusions). This time he combines A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a murder mystery – and Puck is the victim.


Sheree Renée Thomas, Nine Bar Blues (Third Man Books 5/20) Thomas may be best known in the field for her editing, winning World Fantasy Awards for both volumes of the Dark Matter series featuring sto­ries by African diaspora writers, but she’s no slouch as a writer, either; a previous collection, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life (combining fiction and poetry), was longlisted for a Tiptree award. This is her first all-prose collection, and features 16 stories, fully half of them original.

Adrian J. Walker, The Human Son (Solaris 4/20) The Erta have vast intellect unburdened by strong emotion, and their interventions saved planet Earth – but they did so by eliminating human life. Now, 500 years in the future, they’re considering reintro­ducing our species… beginning with a single child, reared by a scientist who is wholly unprepared for the challenges of raising a human.


Martha Wells, Network Effect ( Publishing 5/20) Murderbot fans rejoice! We came to know and love the security android with the hacked governor module over the course of four novellas (winners of two Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award), and now there’s a full-length novel. What begins as a standard mission guarding squishy humans on an exploratory mission gets complicated when humanoids with alien tech show up. “An ultimately affecting tale of Murderbot’s continuing efforts to figure out who it is and what it wants.” [Carolyn Cushman]

This and more like it in the July 2020 issue of Locus.

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