Archive for science fiction

Rajan Khanna – Falling Sky

rajankhanna-fallingskyBen Gold lives in dangerous times. Two generations ago, a virulent disease turned the population of most of North America into little more than beasts called Ferals. Some of those who survived took to the air, scratching out a living on airships and dirigibles soaring over the dangerous ground.

Ben has his own airship, a family heirloom, and has signed up to help a group of scientists looking for a cure. But that’s not as easy as it sounds, especially with a power-hungry air city looking to raid any nearby settlements. To make matters worse, his airship, the only home he’s ever known, is stolen. Ben must try to survive on the ground while trying to get his ship back. 

This brings him to Gastown, a city in the air recently conquered by belligerent and expansionist pirates. When events turn deadly, Ben must decide what really matters—whether to risk it all on a desperate chance for a better future or to truly remain on his own.

I was excited to learn about Falling Sky, Rajan Khanna’s debut novel. I’ve really enjoyed Khanna’s short fiction in the past and he’s also one of my favourite narrators over at the Escape Artists podcasts. In addition, Falling Sky just seemed like a really cool story. It was. On the relatively short side – my ARC clocked in at 261 pages – the story still managed to cover plenty of ground, yet never felt rushed.   Continue reading »

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Liu Cixin – The Three Body Problem

cixinliu-thethreebodyproblemWith the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day, Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Diversity and giving space to voices other than those of the privileged majority have been a huge talking point in SFF in the past year. One way to achieve this is through translating foreign-language titles into English and to introduce these new perspectives to English-speaking readers. Yet this is still a very rare occurrence, as few foreign-language titles are translated and published each year. Off the top of my head the only authors I can think of in speculative fiction are Haruki Murakami, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Pierre Pevel, and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, and of course, Thomas Oldeheuvelt’s Hex series that will be published in English in the autumn of next year. So  it was really exciting to see this novel brought to print in English by Tor. It’s the first Chinese SFF series ever to have been brought over, at least by one of the big Five, as far as I’m aware. This is exciting because China is one of the biggest and fastest-developing countries in the world, where there is some great voices we’ve never heard of and we finally get to discover one of them. Liu Cixin is one of the best-known and most successful SF writers in China, so his being the first to be translated into English isn’t actually that surprising.  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Science Fiction & Horror

2015Welcome to the third post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. Today I bring you both my science fiction and my horror picks. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Robert Sharp – The Good Shabti

robertsharp-thegoodshabtiThe Good Shabti is a story that spans thousands of years.

In the twilight days of Pharaoh Mentuhotep, a slave stumbles into the path of imperial ambitions. And in contemporary times, a brilliant scientist and her ruthless companions come close to achieving the impossible: the revivification of an ancient mummy. The two stories weave together in a tale that combines science and myth, anticipation and horror…

I only discovered an appreciation for a good mummy tale with last year’s Jurassic London anthology The Book of the Dead. I still think it is their best anthology to date and I absolutely adored it. So when I received this novella by Robert Sharp for review, I was immediately enthused, because yay more Jurassic mummies, which is less anachronistic than it sounds. The Good Shabti also featured a cool and unexpected mix of historic fantasy and SF. Unexpected because I hadn’t expected to find SF mixed in with traditional Egyptian mummies.  Continue reading »

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Ian Whates (ed.) – Solaris Rising 3

ianwhates-solarisrising3Following the exceptionally well received Solaris Rising 1, 1.5 (e-only) and 2, series editor Ian Whates brings even more best-selling and cutting-edge SF authors together for the latest extraordinary volume of new original ground-breaking stories.

These stories are guaranteed to surprise,thrill and delight, and continue our mission to demonstrate why science-fiction remains the most exciting, varied and inspiring of all fiction genres. In Solaris Rising 1 and 2 we showed both the quality and variety that modern science fiction can produce. In Solaris Rising 3, we’ll be taking SF into the outer reaches of the universe. Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne and Sean Williams are just three of the exciting names to appear.

Solaris Rising 3 is officially the fourth instalment in the reboot of the New Solaris Book of Science Fiction. This anthology series is one of my favourites. Whates finds a nice balance between easily accessible stories and the somewhat harder to parse, making the Solaris Rising series interesting to both relative new readers of SF and those more veteran readers. It is also the series that first made me realise that I might really like SF and short fiction after all, so I admittedly have a soft spot for it.  Continue reading »

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Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak (eds) – War Stories

gatesliptak-warstoriesWar is everywhere. Not only among the firefights, in the sweat dripping from heavy armor and the clenching grip on your weapon, but also wedging itself deep into families, infiltrating our love letters, hovering in the air above our heads. It’s in our dreams and our text messages. At times it roars with adrenaline, while at others it slips in silently so it can sit beside you until you forget it’s there.

Join Joe Haldeman, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Jay Posey, and more as they take you on a tour of the battlefields, from those hurtling through space in spaceships and winding along trails deep in the jungle with bullets whizzing overhead, to the ones hiding behind calm smiles, waiting patiently to reveal itself in those quiet moments when we feel safest. War Stories brings us 23 stories of the impacts of war, showcasing the systems, combat, armor, and aftermath without condemnation or glorification.

Instead, War Stories reveals the truth.

War is what we are.

Conflict is part of the human condition. In every age, at any moment, conflict has been present in our history. Be it on a large or a small scale, people have always picked sides against each other, whether on political or religious grounds. And conflict unfortunately turned to war more often than not. War is devastating on many levels; whether it’s material damage like shot-up buildings, physical damage such as war wounds for both civilians and combatants, or psychological trauma for those involved, no human is unchanged by the experience of war. As such, it’s unsurprising that war and conflict are huge wellsprings of inspiration for authors in any field, not least that of SFF. Ranging from military SF, such as David Weber’s works, to fantasy, like Erikson’s Malazan series, from the epic to the intimate, war is told in many guises. But it’s easy to glorify war and violence and not think beyond the adrenaline of battle. In War Stories, Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak do just that. They chose stories dealing with the human cost of war, with the aftermath, and with those left behind. This doesn’t mean there aren’t battle stories here or those showing the brotherhood of soldiers, because there are, but they aim to go beyond the usual and look to the human element of war.   Continue reading »

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David Moore (ed.) – Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets

davidthomasmoore(ed)-twohundredandtwentyonebakerstreetsThe world’s most famous detective, as you’ve never seen him before! This is a collection of original short stories finding Holmes and Watson in times and places you would never have expected!

A dozen established and up-and-coming authors invite you to view Doyle’s greatest creation through a decidedly cracked lens.

Read about Holmes and Watson through time and space, as they tackle a witch-trial in seventeenth century Scotland, bandy words with Andy Warhol in 1970s New York, travel the Wild Frontier in the Old West, solve future crimes in a world of robots and even cross paths with a young Elvis Presley… 

Sherlock Holmes. He’s the ubiquitous detective; the first of his kind and a continual inspiration for modern creators.  While I’ve read many of the short stories, both for pleasure and for classes, my favourite incarnations are the more recent ones — Robert Downey Junior in the recent Guy Ritchie films and Johnny Lee Miller in the TV show Elementary. They are more gritty, less refined versions of this Victorian detective, unlike the more gentlemanly versions of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. A collection of stories centred on reinterpretations of this iconic character and his companions will always be defined by the area of tension between retaining the classic Holmesian characteristics enough to keep it recognisably a Holmes tale and by giving it a unique spin and an author’s own flair and flavour. In my opinion, Moore and his contributors have reached a wonderful balance between these elements in the stories contained in Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets, though perhaps a true Sherlock Holmes aficionado, who is more invested in the character, might disagree.   Continue reading »

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Scott K. Andrews – TimeBomb

scottkandrews-timebombNew York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

When I first learned of TimeBomb, I thought it sounded really interesting, which meant I was stoked to have won an ARC via Twitter. Described as a YA trilogy featuring time travel and Roundheads and Cavaliers, it sounded like it should be a tremendous amount of fun and that is exactly what it was. TimeBomb was a page turner of a story, with a cool premise and fabulous characters.   Continue reading »

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Eric Brown – Jani and the Greater Game

ericbrown-janiandthegreatergameIt’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist – and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite – discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russian and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology… This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.

Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durga Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever.

Jani and the Greater Game is not your usual Eric Brown, at least not at first blush. There are no huge space ships, or alien invasions or travel among the stars, at least not judging from the synopsis on the back of the book. Instead, we’re given a YA steampunk adventure set in an alternative 1910 British Raj. Yet it turns out Jani and the Greater Game actually is classic Eric Brown: the book explores societal change and how his characters react to this, though in this case the change isn’t brought about through alien occupation, but through the rise of Indian Nationalism and the threat of invasion from places unknown.   Continue reading »

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Jared Shurin (ed.) – Irregularity

shurin-irregularityIrregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover… but what if they were wrong?

Irregularity is about the attempts to impose our order on nature’s chaos, the efforts both successful and unsuccessful to better know the world.

From John Harrison to Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton to Émilie du Châtelet, these stories showcase the Age of Reason in a very different light.

Reading Irregularity, Jurassic London’s sixth full-length anthology and the second edited solo by Jared Shurin, was a strange reading experience, as I’ve read a lot of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature at university. Much of that was in the Penguin Classic editions (the ones with a black spine and a red bar at the top) and while the cover is in no way reminiscent of those, the font used for Irregularity really resembles the look of those editions. Add to that the fact that a lot of the stories are written in the same language and with the same sensibility as those classics and for a moment it seemed as if I’d traveled back in time to my student days. Thankfully, reading Irregularity in no way felt like an essay assignment, in fact it was fantastic fun.   Continue reading »

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