We’re coming up on the half way point of the year. Already? Where did it go? And there used to be a time when publishers drifted off to Mediterranean beaches or Tuscan villas around this time of year, so it was something of a fallow time for new books. Well, there were always plenty of books designed to while away a tedious flight or help you through the time necessary to acquire an all-over tan. but that publishing model is definitely a thing of the past. The steamy days of July see massive blockbusters, challenging new voices, big name authors, and, yes, killer action adventure tales that are just right for the holiday.
Again, there’s so much coming up in July that we’ve split our list in two, so look out for the second part in a few days. Now, let’s begin, in alphabetical order:
The Rift by Nina Allan
Selena and Julie used to be as close as sisters could be, but as they grew older they grew apart. Then, when she’s just 17, Julie disappears. When she reappears, 20 years later, she tells Selena a fantastical story about having been on another planet. Should Selena believe her sister? Or is she mad? Or is this even really Julie? For the last few years, Nina Allan has been steadily building a reputation as one of the most interesting and innovative of new British writers, and with this, her second novel, she confirms her position as a writer you have to watch.
Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks
I suppose it had to happen. And if it was going to happen, I suppose that Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, was the person to write it. So here you go, the experience of playing Minecraft replicated in a novel. You are the castaway swept up on a lonely island, an island where everything seems to be made out of blocks. You have to find out who you are and where you are, and while you’re doing that you need to find food and shelter and at the same time avoid the zombies who come out at night. There are all sorts of secret places to explore, there are all sorts of dangers to overcome, there are treasures to accumulate, and there are rules that you have to work out as you go along. Much like a game of Minecraft, really, only here it is on the page.
Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown
Tania is a government agent trying to find her foster brother Sig, but Sig is on the run in the broken wasteland known as the Tropic of Kansas. He is trying to make it to the defences of revolutionary New Orleans, but before he gets there he has to avoid the autonomous drones, the militias and the criminal networks that patrol the desolate warring landscape of this fractured future America. Meanwhile Tania finds herself turning from hunter into hunted as she follows in his wake, carrying explosive secrets that could transform this shattered world.
Totalitopia by John Crowley
The latest in the Outspoken Authors series features the incomparable John Crowley. The volume features a brand new essay which describes how to build utopia out of the left-over bits of modern science fiction. There’s also an original story, “This Is Our Town”, and a reprint of “Gone” which turns an alien invasion story into something out of Kafka. Along with an interview, biography and bibliography, this has to be a must-read book for every fan of John Crowley.
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois
There seem to be more best of the year collections every year, but this is the one to beat. It’s the biggest, boldest and best of them, with no fewer than 39 stories included in this collection. As always with Dozois, you can expect some of the genre’s biggest names (Gregory Benford, Paul McAuley, Eleanor Arnason) alongside some of the brightest of the new generation (Nina Allan, Lavie Tidhar, Charlie Jane Anders, Ken Liu, Paolo Bacigalupi), not to mention some new names we’re going to be looking out for in future years (Samantha Henderson, Karl Bunker, Maggie Clark). Along with Dozois’s own exhaustive record of the year in science fiction, and an Honourable Mentions list that will keep most readers busy until this time next year, this really is the anthology to have.
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
A new book from Greg Egan is always an event, and this is another novel set in a universe where the laws of physics are different, and the aliens who inhabit that universe are consequently very different. In this case, Seth can only see if he looks to east or west; if he turns north or south there is simply a black cone. And should he attempt to turn to north or south, his body elongates and the turn becomes physically impossible. Like all of his kind, therefore, Seth is on a perpetual migration, looking only forward or back, while he relies on a symbiotic creature living inside his skull to let him know what is to his left or right. But when Seth is sent to survey the ground ahead of the migration he makes a terrible discovery: there is a crevasse directly across their route, and it is so deep and wide that there is no way they can get past it.
The Alexander Inheritance by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff & Paula Goodlett
Eric Flint’s long alternate history series, Ring of Fire, takes a new turn with this latest volume. A cruise ship in the Caribbean is struck by one of the time travel cataclysms we’ve seen before, and this one transports it to the eastern Mediterranean, and to just a couple of years after the death of Alexander the Great. The empire that Alexander built, stretching from Persia to Egypt, is about to undergo a devastating civil war as his various generals fight to secure their own power. And the crew and passengers of the cruise ship find themselves right in the middle of these devastating events.
Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia by Guy Haley
If you have a taste for sensitive souls who put on heavy armour and suddenly turn into super-efficient killing machines, if you have a taste for stories about military units bashing the shit out of anything that gets in their way, then this could be the summer book for you. It’s the fourth and final part of Guy Haley’s Horus Heresies: Primarchs series, and in this episode the primarch of the Iron Warriors returns to his home planet, only to find rebellion breaking out. So he lets loose his Iron Warriors on the rebels, with the instruction to crush the rebellion by any means, even if it means destroying his own home.
At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon
It’s never easy to tell where science fiction ends and fantasy begins. Over recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of science fictional alternate history stories, but in which the change in history has allowed in some form of the supernatural. The latest example is this intriguing conflation of spy story and superhero adventure. It is 1936, and a secret British research establishment is trying to discover how latent paranormal powers can be employed for the defence of the realm. One young woman is a test subject at the facility, where her power is to persuade people to reveal their secrets. Without training, she uncovers a Nazi plan to invade England, but the trouble is, no one believes her.
Raining Fire by Rajan Khanna
The third part of Rajan Khanna’s Ben Gold trilogy is a curious mixture of steampunk and zombies. Gold, our hero, is a former airship pilot who has lost everything, including the love of his life. It is a world where a global pandemic has turned huge numbers into the mindless, zombie-like Ferals, and now the evil scientists of Valhalla have found a way to use the disease as a weapon. When the massacre a town of innocents, it gives Gold a new purpose in life. But if he is to save the world, he has to find a way of reuniting with his old friends.
Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
A couple of years ago, Nancy Kress won both the Nebula and Locus Awards for her novella, Yesterday’s Kin. Now she has expanded that novella to form the basis for her new trilogy, and this is the first volume. Aliens have landed in New York. Their arrival has, inevitably, aroused strong emotions, both pro and anti, and it isn’t helped that the aliens will allow only a very few selected people access to their platform in New York harbour. Then an obscure young geneticist is invited to join those on the platform. What she discovers there will change everything, because disaster is on the way and Earth’s scientists have only ten months to find a solution.
And that’s just part of the story. Look out for more of July’s books in the next few days.
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.