5 New Science Fiction Books to Watch Out For

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The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (18 April 2017)
The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offer a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine a reimagined Joan of Arc poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history, in this provocative new novel.

In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places even at the extreme end of post-human experience Lidia Yuknavitch s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (25 April 2017)
Am I a person or a weapon? Borne asks Rachel, in extremis.
Yes, you are a person, Rachel tells him. But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.

In Borne, the epic new novel from Jeff VanderMeer, author of the acclaimed, bestselling Southern Reach Trilogy, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined, dangerous city of the near future. The city is littered with discarded experiments from the Company a biotech firm now seemingly derelict and punished by the unpredictable attacks of a giant bear. From one of her scavenging missions, Rachel brings home Borne, who is little more than a green lump plant or animal? but exudes a strange charisma. Rachel feels a growing attachment to Borne, a protectiveness that she can ill afford. It s exactly the kind of vulnerability that will upend her precarious existence, unnerving her partner, Wick, and upsetting the delicate balance of their unforgiving city possibly forever. And yet, little as she understands what or who Borne may be, she cannot give him up, even as Borne grows and changes . . . He was born, but I had borne him.

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Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (25 Apr 2017)
Hubert, Seth and Natalie are way too old to be at a Communist party. But in a world wrecked by climate change, in a society owned by the ultra-rich, in a city hollowed out by industrial flight, they have nowhere else to be and nothing better to do.

But there is another way. After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter – from a computer, there is little reason to toil within the system. So, like thousands of others in the mid-21st century, the three of them turn their back on the world of rules, jobs, the morning commute and … walkaway.

It’s a dangerous world out there, the empty lands are lawless, hiding predators – animal and human alike. Still, when the initial pioneer walkaways flourish, the thousands become hundreds of thousands, building what threatens to beome a post-scarcity utopia. But then the walkaways discover the one thing the ultra-rich have never been able to buy: how to beat death.

And now it’s war – a war that will turn the world upside down.

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Void Star by Zachary Mason (27 April 2017)
Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall, and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from ageing.

Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built favelas on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely – the mathematically-inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead.

A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. None are safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight.

Vivid, tumultuous and propulsive, Void Star is Zachary Mason’s mind-bending follow-up to his bestselling debut The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

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The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey (4 May 2017)
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.
The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.
To where the monsters lived.

In The Boy on the Bridge, M. R. Carey returns to the world of The Girl With All the Gifts, the phenomenal word-of-mouth bestseller which is now a critically acclaimed film starring Sennia Nanua, Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine.

Joint Review: O Human Star Volumes 1 and 2 by Blue Delliquanti

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Readers of this blog will know that I review a lot of LGBT-interest books, and I’m back with another. Lately, I’ve been getting back into reading comics. Comixology is Amazon’s digital comics service and one thing I like about them is all the releases are tagged with genre and description tags, and this book was tagged as LGBTQ (a tag that I completely stalk and have read most of the books on there. It’s great because I found books like this that I may never have heard of otherwise).

O Human Star is a webcomic that has been running since 2012. Set in the near-future, Alastair Sterling was one of the pioneers in robotics, however, he didn’t live to see the fruits of his labour and the effect they would ultimately have on society. That is, until he awakes as a robot that’s an exact replica of his human form with his memories. It promptly drops his home, to his business and life partner Brendan, where he meets another young robot, Sulla, who looks a lot like Alastair.

This is wonderfully intelligent and beautifully written piece of work. When I finished Volume 1 (which collects the first three chapters), I involuntarily shouted at my tablet when I realised the book was over and I was left hanging – luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long for Volume 2 (collecting chapters 4, 5 and a side story) and that’s why this is a joint review.


This is a near-future sci-fi story with a beautiful gay romance at the centre, and without saying too much, it will definitely also appeal to trans readers (my favourite character in the whole book!) but it shouldn’t be limited to these readers – anyone who likes comics, sci-fi or both should like this.

It’s also beautifully drawn – Delliquanti’s style is clean, crisp and gorgeous; this is simply an artist at the top of her game. Both volumes are available on Comixology, or direct as ebooks from Delliquanti (there’s also paperbacks which you can buy on her site). Looking forward to and a little sad that Volume 3 will be the last. Also, new pages are posted weekly on her site where I will be very, very impatiently waiting for more!

Since it’s a webcomic, you can read the entire thing, for FREE, here. But if you love it like I do, please support the artist (she has a Patreon here)!

 

5 New LGBT Books

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Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall edited by Curtis Evans (30 Nov 2016)
Analysis of LGBTQ life before the Stonewall Riots of 1969 traditionally has been dominated by the powerful negative image of the closet, the metaphorical space where that which was deemed “”queer”” was necessarily sheltered from hostile, heteronormative public view. Literary studies of queer themes and characters in crime fiction have tended to focus on works published in the freer environment that has existed in the years since Stonewall, queer material, so the traditional belief runs, having been, for the most part, only negatively or obliquely presented in crime fiction of the closet-bound pre-Stonewall era. This book tempers this traditional view, offering readers a groundbreaking collection of twenty-three essays, in which the authors investigate queer aspects to crime fiction published over eight decades, from the corseted Victorian era to the unbuttoned Swinging Sixties, on the very eve of Stonewall. “”Murder will out,”” so the saying goes, and this is true as well of queer material in pre-Stonewall crime fiction, if one but follows the clues.

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Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (1 Dec 2016)
The closeted son of an ultra-conservative president must keep a budding romance secret from his father while protecting himself from a sentient computer program that s terrorizing the United States and has zeroed in on him as its next target in this socially conscious sci-fi thriller to shelve between “The Terminator “and “Romeo and Juliet” (“Kirkus Reviews,” starred review).
In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.
Charlotte s attacks have everyone on high alert everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.
But when attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he s Charlotte s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte s plan too.
As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive and what makes life worth living.

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Room for Milk: Doodles by Cole Escola (1 Dec 2016)
If “The Far Side” had a gay little brother with borderline personality disorder, it might look something like this book. Sometimes absurdly funny, sometimes just absurd, Room for Milk by Cole Escola will take you on an acid trip through children’s books that don’t exist and other weird illustrated fever dreams.

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In the Eyes of Mr Fury by Philip Ridley (6 Dec 2016)
On the day Concord Webster turned eighteen, the Devil died. The Devil’s real name was Judge Martin, but Concord’s mother called him the Devil. She said he boiled babies for dinner and made lampshades out of human skin. So why did she, who hated him so venomously, have a key to his house?

The key will unlock more than just Judge’s front door. It will also unlock a multitude of stories – where magic children talk to crows, men disappear in piles of leaves, and James Dean lookalikes kiss in dark alleys – and reveal a secret history that will change Concord’s life forever.

Philip Ridley’s second novel (following the sexually charged tour de force Crocodilia) was an instant cult classic when originally published in 1989. Now, for this new edition, Ridley has reimagined the story, expanding the original novel into the world’s first LGBT magical realist epic. A vast, labyrinthine, hall-of-mirrors saga, its breathtaking imagery and stunning plot twists – covering over a hundred years – reveal Ridley to be one of the most distinctive and innovative voices in contemporary fiction.

‘Philip Ridley’s stories compel attention.’ – The Times (London)

‘Ridley is the master of modern myth.’ – The Guardian

‘Ridley is a visionary.’ – Rolling Stone

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Pathogen by Jessica Webb (13 Dec 2016)
When a deadly virus surfaces in the small, wealthy town of Hidden Valley, British Columbia, Dr. Kate Morrison and Sergeant Andy Wyles work together to uncover the source of the outbreak. As the two women navigate their new relationship, Kate and Andy are also forced to navigate a highly political and increasingly panicked community. Still bearing the scars of her recent abduction, Kate is driven to discover how this virus attacks her critically ill patients while Andy investigates suspicions of bioterrorism. As the death count rises, Kate struggles with a crushing sense of helplessness, the pressure to keep the residents of Hidden Valley alive, and Andy s growing concern that maybe Kate hasn t yet dealt with her troubled past.

Static by L. A. Witt

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Well, as premises for a book goes, this is definitely something that I’ve never read before. Alex has been with Damon for two years but has never told him that he’s a shifter: he can switch genders at will. Damon has only ever known Alex as a girl but Alex’s staunchly religious parents have forced Alex to get an implant that will make him static, and unable to shift. Such implants are not only incredibly costly to remove but are also major surgery, with serious health risks.

There’s a lot of great ideas going on in this book. The parallels between shifters and trans* people is something that is explored (but also differentiated with, at times, which is nice) as is the hatred that such people get in everyday life.

Really like the supporting cast, such as Tabby, Alex’s employer, owner of bar The Welcome Mat, who is trans* and saving up for the operation – there is a gorgeous set of parallels when Alex has lost his ability to shift genders and he realises that such an ability is something that Tabby would kill for.

His boyfriend, Damon, is incredibly supportive and I liked their relationship. I felt though that when Alex in his male form and Damon and Alex get physical that its ease was a little unbelievable – I know that Damon loves Alex but he’s never even thought of being with another guy before. I would’ve like a bit more buildup with that BUT that said, I really liked the book and that was only a minor quibble.

An enjoyable, easy read that I read rather quickly, this is one of Witt’s better books.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Science Fiction Novels to Watch Out For

Bored of the here and now? Dream of distant planets and new technology? Try these:

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Doctor Who: The Legends of River Song (2 Jun 2016)
‘Hello, sweetie!’

Melody Pond, Melody Malone, River Song…She has had many names. Whoever she really is, this archaeologist and time traveller has had more adventures (and got into more trouble) than most people in the universe.

And she’s written a lot of it down. Well, when you’re married to a Time Lord (or possibly not), you have to keep track of what you did and when. Especially as it may not actually have happened to both of you yet.

These are just a few of River Song’s exploits, extracted from her journals. Sometimes, she is with the Doctor. Sometimes she’s on her own. But wherever and whenever she may be, she is never far from danger and excitement.

This is just a tiny portion of her impossible life. But it will reveal more than you’ve ever known about the legend that is River Song.

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The Nightmare Stacks: A Laundry Files Novel by Charles Stross (23 Jun 2016)
Alex Schwartz had a great job and a promising future – until he caught an unfortunate bout of vampirism, and agreed (on pain of death) to join the Laundry, Britain’s only counter-occult secret intelligence agency.

His first assignment is in Leeds – his old hometown. But the thought of telling his parents he’s lost his job, let alone their discovering his ‘condition’, is causing Alex almost as much anxiety as his new lifestyle of supernatural espionage.
His only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a student from the local Goth Festival who flirts with him despite his fear of sunlight (and girls). But Cassie has secrets of her own – secrets that make Alex’s night life seem positively normal . . .
James Bond meets H. P. Lovecraft in the latest occult thriller from Hugo Award winner Charles Stross, in a series where British spies take on the supernatural.

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The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese (28 Jun 2016)
Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her – and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected – and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

Kroese’s” The Big Sheep” is perfect for fans of Philip Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” Terry Pratchett’s “Guards! Guards!, “and Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War.”

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The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (30 Jun 2016)
2070-71. Nearly six decades after Step Day and in the Long Earth, the new Next post-human society continues to evolve.
For Joshua Valienté, now in his late sixties, it is time to take one last solo journey into the High Meggers: an adventure that turns into a disaster. Alone and facing death, his only hope of salvation lies with a group of trolls. But as Joshua confronts his mortality, the Long Earth receives a signal from the stars. A signal that is picked up by radio astronomers but also in more abstract ways – by the trolls and by the Great Traversers. Its message is simple but ts implications are enormous:

JOIN US.

The super-smart Next realise that the Message contains instructions on how to develop an immense artificial intelligence but to build it they have to seek help from throughout the industrious worlds of mankind. Bit by bit, byte by byte, they assemble a computer the size of a continent – a device that will alter the Long Earth’s place within the cosmos and reveal the ultimate, life-affirming goal of those who sent the Message. Its impact will be felt by and resonate with all – mankind and other species, young and old, communities and individuals – who inhabit the Long Earths…

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Star Wars: Aftermath – Life Debt by Chuck Wendig (12 Jul 2016)
The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush―resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward Kashyyyk, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them―or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.