So, a couple of days ago we gave you a whistlestop tour of some of the space operas and military sf due out this month. But that barely scratches the surface of the books being published in May. So here’s a bunch more books that you’re going to enjoy.
The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford
The Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, put a full stop to the Second World War, but by then Germany had been defeated and it was already obvious that Japan would eventually lose. But what if a scientist at Oak Ridge had discovered how to use uranium 235 to create a chain reaction much earlier? What if the atomic bomb was ready for use by the summer of 1944, with Germany still a formidable fighting force and millions more due to die before the war was over? That is the intriguing premise behind Gregory Benford’s thrilling alternate history adventure.
The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
The Girl With All The Gifts was one of the standout post-apocalyptic novels of recent years, and now Carey returns to the same scenario in this prequel. The cordyceps pathogen has transformed people into zombie-like “hungries”, and a truckload of scientists is touring the ruined landscape trying to find a cure. Aboard is Steven, a boy who may be more intelligent than all of the scientists put together, and when he encounters a girl who has the disease yet who remains intelligent, he knows this could change everything.
Nebula Awards Showcase 2017 edited by Julie Czerneda
It’s a time when the different best of the year collections start to appear, and one of the longest-running and most consistent of these is the annual Nebula Awards Showcase, which invariably includes the Nebula winners and many of the shortlisted works. This latest volume includes prize-winning stories by Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Pinsker and Alyssa Wong, an extract from Naomi Novik’s winning novel, Uprooted, plus contributions by Amal El-Mohtar, David D. Levine, N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie and many more.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Two strangers arrive in 19th century London, but they are not who they say they are. They are actually time travellers from the distant future here on a very special mission: to meet Jane Austen, and steal an unpublished novel. But as they grow closer to Jane, diagnosing her final illness, and as their window for returning to the future narrows, the two travellers find themselves tempted to defy the last and most important instruction they were given: to leave history unchanged. This debut is a romantic novel ideally suited to everyone who loves Jane’s incomparable novels.
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Another alternate history, but this one is rather more rollicking fun than the Benford. In actual history there really was a plan to import hippopotamuses into the bayous of Louisiana for their meat. It was a terrible idea, and it never happened, but in this novel Sarah Gailey imagines that it did. It is the 1890s, and rough and ready hippo wranglers from around the globe are drawn to the swamps along the Mississippi to try to control the powerful beasts. It’s a lawless time, and some of the wranglers are out to settle scores of their own.
Radiate by C.A. Higgins
The third volume in the Lightless series continues the story of Ananke, once a military spacecraft but now a sentient AI. Accompanied by her mother, the engineer who created her, Ananke is on a quest to find her father, the man who programmed her. But the programmer is on a quest of his own, and Ananke’s journey takes her across the galaxy, on a collision course with something immense and violent.
Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan
A freak accident has left Carys and Max adrift in space, with only 90 minutes of oxygen left to keep them alive. Tumbling above the Earth, they look back upon their rebellious lives and the circumstances that brought them to this point. Until finally, the chance is offered for one of them to survive. But will either of them take it? This is one of those elegantly-crafted novels that take a science fictional idea as the most vivid way of presenting the sort of dilemmas more normally found in the mainstream. In this instance it is a meditation on the way that the choices we make affect all of those around us.
Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
The most interesting single-author collections to appear this month is this one from Ellen Klages, who has a history of writing strange, slightly disturbing stories that are never quite all that they seem. They are often stories that hark back to a somewhat unsettling childhood, as here in “Woodsmoke” or “The Education of a Witch”. Most of the stories are fantasy, but she does include some out-and-out science fiction, in such stories as “Amicae Aeternum” and “Goodnight Moons”. From the haunting to the wickedly funny, from London to Mars, there a range of stories to suit every taste.
The Last Iota by Robert Kroese
This is a combination of hard-boiled detective story with gritty near-future science fiction, all set in a lawless Los Angeles that is effectively a third world country. An eccentric private investigator is hired to negotiate his way through the chaotic city on a quest to find a rare coin. But the coin is linked to a mysterious virtual currency used by terrorists and drug dealers, and the more he hunts the more he stumbles upon murders and kidnappings and massive conspiracies. Soon the PI is having to stay one step ahead of the police and the warlords while he seeks out the secretive criminal mastermind behind it all.
Netherspace by Andrew Lane & Nigel Foster
It is 40 years since the aliens arrived, and though we can’t communicate with them, we can trade. But their price for the faster-than-light drives that have allowed humanity to get into space, is living humans. Then a group of colonists are kidnapped by the aliens and taken to an uncharted planet. An unlikely team is assembled to get the colonists back, preferably by negotiation. But how do you negotiate when you cannot communicate? That’s the intriguing premise behind this novel from a pair of writers who never seem to have ventured into science fiction before.
York: The Shadow Cypher by Laura Ruby
These days, there’s always interesting stuff being done in YA literature, and this alternate history particularly catches the eye. It begins in 1798, when the Morningstar twins arrive in New York with a futuristic vision of a city full of glittering towers and strange technology. When they disappear, they leave behind a puzzle laid out in the very city they created. But now, centuries have passed and no one has solved the puzzle, or found the treasure reputed to lie at the end of the trail. When a group of kids find they are about to lose their home, however, their only hope of saving it is to prove that the old York cypher is real, and the only way to do that is to solve it.
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
The Dispatcher came out as an audio book last year, but now it is coming out in print for the first time. Imagine what the world would be like if it was impossible to kill somebody? Murder, war, domestic disputes, all are changed radically. No one knows how, or why, but in virtually every case anyone who is intentionally killed comes back to life. In this world, a Dispatcher is licensed to kill people who would otherwise die naturally, in order to give them another chance of life. But when a Dispatcher disappears, it opens up a disturbing underworld of black market dispatching and rich kids playing at killing each other, ad it turns out there are worse things than death.
Plus one novella that seemed to slip out last month without us noticing it, and we can’t have that because it’s really very good.
Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones
This is quite a short novella, but there’s so much packed into it that it could, maybe should, be a full-length novel. It’s a future when environmental collapse is out of control. People either live short, brutal lives scavenging in the ruins, or they huddle together in dystopian hives where freedom is a thing of the past. But one renegade scientist and an entrepreneur who produces this future’s equivalent of reality TV shows announce that they have a solution, a craft that can, virtually instantaneously, transport people to another unspoilt world. A trial run of the craft, known as the Needle, is set up in the world’s largest underground cavern, where a team is assembled while scientists attempt to attain proof of the concept. But once the team is sealed into the Needle, people start dying.
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.