Still not quite shaken off whatever it is that has left me under the weather lately, but it’s time to get a few more posts up on this blog. And I’m going to start by noting a few of the books that have caught my eye lately, books that offer great science fiction for the holidays.
Let’s start with a handful of the 2016 summer’s most interesting and rewarding SF novels so far (hint: you don’t want to miss any of these outstanding reads).
Best Summer Science Fiction Reads of 2016
The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds
The last and best Nebula Award winning novella by Arthur C. Clarke becomes the starting point for a brand new novel which brings together Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds; what’s not to like? The novel charts the adventures of Commander Faulcon, part-man, part-machine, over centuries of space exploration, meetings with aliens, interactions with AIs and more. It’s the sort of big, bold sf adventure that’s perfect for a summer day.
Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod
The start of a brand new series by Ken MacLeod involves a reincarnated soldier, a mining robot that has achieved sentience, and a war between competing companies across the vast backcloth of space. It’s the sort of stuff MacLeod does so well, the sort of book that’s guaranteed to keep you gripped right through the sunniest day.
Into Everywhere by Paul McAuley
We’ve written about this novel already, but no harm in reminding you of it here. The second of his Jackaroo novels with plenty of mysteries that are sure to hook you.
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
An Assistant Professor of History presents a world that’s as strange to us as our world would be to an inhabitant of the 15th century. It’s a sort of utopia, with technological abundance and baffling social changes, but it’s a society that’s only maintained by strict rules, and a wild card could destabilize the entire world. This is one of the most talked about novels of the summer, so it’s definitely one you’ll want to read.
Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood
This is a debut novel that’s also getting a lot of very positive word-of-mouth, an alternate history set in a South Africa where Nelson Mandela was never released from prison, where the white regime retains an increasingly restrictive hold on the country, and where a device invented by a psychologist to help treat his patients could end up changing the country.
Zero K by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is not a stranger to science fiction, consider his early novel Ratner’s Star and the occasional short story, but he’s still so associated with the great American mainstream novel that a venture into sf like this comes as a big surprise. It’s about cryogenics, about the people who are about to be frozen and those who are left behind, and about the curious site in central Asia where it all takes place. If you like really literary sf, this is your best bet this summer.
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon was one of last year’s most intriguing debuts, and she follows it with this extraordinary tale of Scotland during a freak winter that feels like the end of time, and of the mismatched people who gather in a small caravan park while bodies freeze in the street and the economy collapses. A chilly blast for the middle of summer.
The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
Like DeLillo, Lionel Shriver is better known as a mainstream author, but here she ventures into genre with this scathing satire which follows one family over a period of 20 years in the near future as the American economy tanks, and they must find ways of surviving as their former fortune disappears.
Night of the Animals by Bill Broun
This is an extraordinary debut set set in a near-future London where a homeless man plans to release all the animals from the zoo while an autocratic right-wing government increases the power of the rich at the expense of the poor and homeless. In this post-Brexit summer, this is a startling novel for our times.
And we’ll follow that up with four great short story collections, and a couple of superb anthologies:
Hwarhath Stories by Eleanor Arnason
This collection brings together a dozen of the stories about the Hwarhath that Eleanor Arnason has been writing since the early 1990s. If you haven’t yet encountered these puzzling, disturbing aliens and the transgressive stories they tell about themselves, then this collection is for you. I promse, your summer won’t be the same.
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Ken Liu has become one of the great award-winners in modern science fiction, and this collection brings together 15 of his stories, including the title story which won Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards, along with “Mono No Aware”, “The Man Who Ended History”, “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” and others.
Invisible Planets by Hannu Rajaniemi
This is the first collection of short fiction from Hannu Rajaniemi, and it contains all the cutting-edge science and bizarre perspectives you’d expect if you’ve read novels like The Quantum Thief.
Beyond the Aquila Rift by Alastair Reynolds
This massive collection brings together 20 of the best short stories and novellas by Alastair Reynolds, including such brilliant piecs as “Troika”, “Minla’s Flowers” and seven previously uncollected stories.
Invaders: 22 Tales from the Outer Limits of Literature edited by Jacob Weisman
A few years ago, Jacob Weisman was instrumental in bringing us The Secret History of Science Fiction edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly, which showed how porous the borders between sf and the mainstream really are; now he follows up with a new collection featuring mainstream authors venturing into the genre, including pieces by Katherine Dunn, Steven Millhauser, Junot Diaz and Molly Gloss.
The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Finally a collection that really could take up the whole of summer all by itself. This anthology lives up to its name, with 1,200 pages and 105 stories ranging by writers ranging from H.G. Wells and Clare Winger Harris to Cory Doctorow and Johanna Sinisalo, and along the way you’ll meet a bunch of writers from right around the world, many of whom you’ve probably never heard of. This really is the book you need for a summer of wonderful sf discoveries.
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.