As publishing schedules gather pace for the autumn, there are some cracking sf books due out this month. These are some of the titles that look particularly enticing.
A Night Without Stars: A Novel of the Commonwealth by Peter F. Hamilton
This is the sequel to The Abyss Beyond Dreams and completes Hamilton’s Chronicle of the Fallers. The mysterious Warrior Angel is leading a desperate resistance against the Fallers who are intent on destroying all sentient life. She has the help of some forbidden Commonwealth technology, but this sets the human government against her so she is fighting on two fronts. Then one of her allies makes an unexpected discovery, a Commonwealth baby, which could make all the difference in their desperate fight against the odds. in other words, this is exactly what we have come to expect from Hamilton, a big, brash, bold adventure story stuffed full of gosh-wow moments.
The Complete Orsinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
Okay, all of us who read science fiction have long recognised that Ursula K. Le Guin is truly one of the greats; but now she is being recognised by the mainstream also. One sign of that is inclusion in the prestigious Library of America series, an honour that is very rarely extended to still-living writers. This is the first Le Guin volume from the Library of America, and it brings together everything she has written about the tiny middle-European principality of Orsinia just at that point when revolution and nationalism were combining to sweep away the old order and usher in the modern world. The volume includes her novel, Malafrena, which was first written in the 1950s though it wasn’t published until 1979, plus all the stories from the collection Orsinian Tales, and in addition a handful of poems or songs that are, I believe, previously unpublished. If you haven’t read Malafrena in particular, go out and buy this right away, believe me you won’t regret it.
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem was the first translated work ever to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and deservedly so. The sequel, The Dark Forest, which came out last year had a different translator, and really wasn’t as good (a fairly dramatic illustration of the importance of a good translator). Now the third and final volume of the trilogy is translated by Ken Liu again, so it should be well worth reading. There’s an uneasy balance between the humans and the Trisolaran invaders: human science is advancing rapidly thanks to Trisolaran knowledge, while the Trisolarans are starting to adopt earth culture. It is possible that the two sides could learn to coexist peacefully. But then a 21st century engineer is awakened from hibernation, and brings with her knowledge that could upset the delicate balance of power.
Jerusalem by Alan Moore
There have been rumours of this novel for a long time now, and finally it is here. And it is 1,200 pages long, which may e why it has taken so long. Moore is the author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and he brings all the wild invention that those comic books are famous for to this immense novel. It is set in his native Northampton, but within the novel Northampton is transformed into a sort of everycity, the mythological heartbeat of Britain. The book ranges backwards and forwards into the past and the future, it incorporates the visionary poetry of William Blake, the literary invention of James Joyce, it involves myths and ghosts and a post-Einsteinian world. It is big and sprawling and full of invention.
The Gradual by Christopher Priest
Once more, Christopher Priest ventures into that extraordinary landscape of desire and threat that is the Dream Archipelago, an uncountable scatter of islands that offer dreams of liberty, but at a cost. In The Gradual, a successful composer living and working in one of the authoritarian states of the northern continent, gets the chance to tour some of the islands of the archipelago. He sees it as a place where he can enjoy the creative and personal freedom he has always dreamed about, and when, on his return home, the fascist state starts to lean on him, he takes the chance to escape. But back in the islands he discovers that everything, including time, is different. if you have read any of Priest’s other novels of the Dream Archipelago, The Affirmation, The Islanders or The Adjacent, this will already be at the top of your must-read pile.
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
In today’s interconnected world, it seems extraordinary that there can still be massive differences between the publication of books in Britain and America. But we have already seen that China Mieville’s new book, The Last Days of New Paris, already available in the US, won’t be published in Britain until next February. Now there’s the same situation in reverse with Alastair Reynolds’s new novel, which comes out in Britain in September, but doesn’t appear in the US until February. Revenger is the story of Captain Rackamore and his crew, who make a living seeking out the relics of dead alien civilisations, but where there is buried treasure there are enemies and space pirates, and dangers galore.
Women of Futures Past edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Every so often we get anthologies that help us to revisit science fiction’s past and see it in a fresh light. That’s what this anthology, put together by the former editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, does. It shows us just how important women writers have been in the history of science fiction, with a selection of stories by Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Nancy Kress, Ursula K. Le Guin, Pat Cadigan, and Zenna Henderson.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Even among the horrors of European colonisation, the story of the Belgian Congo stands out as one of atrocity piled upon atrocity. The cruelty of the Belgian colonists towards the Congolese natives was extraordinary, but what if the natives had been in a position to fight back? In Nisi Shawl’s steampunkish alternate history, that’s just what happens. The Congolese acquire steam technology, which gives a group of British socialists and American missionaries the opportunity to purchase a parcel of land from the Belgian crown and establish the utopian Everfair, which in turn becomes a refuge for escaping slaves from America and for the victims of European colonialism throughout Africa. The result is a very different view of colonial history.
Cloudbound by Fran Wilde
Fran Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, caused quite a stir when it came out last year, finding itself on a number of award shortlists. The companion volume follows Kirit’s wing-brother, Natan, whose attempts to restore order to the Towers leads him down-tier, and to uncovering more secrets, and more dangers. With attractive characters, an intriguing location, and an engaging writing style this new novel could well match the success of her debut.
Plus a non-fiction book that’s sure to be of great interest to every sf reader:
Time Travel: A History by James Gleick
Back at the end of the 19th century, when H.G. Wells achieved international success with his first novel, The Time Machine, our understanding of time was undergoing a radical transformation. Steam trains necessitated the use of a consistent time across the networks; clocks were becoming more reliable, and philosophy was beginning to view time as a dimension on a par with height and width and depth. Gleick, the author of such successful popular science books as Chaos, here turns his attention to the idea of time travel as it is explored in fiction and in modern physics.
Together, these books suggest it is going to be an exciting literary autumn. But keep reading; October looks like it is going to be every bit as fascinating, and I’ll be introducing the pick of the October publications later in the month.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.