My weekly[-ish] list of speculative fiction novels that I think are worth looking out for. They are mainly – but not always! – new or forthcoming releases.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Radch are conquerors to be feared – resist and they’ll turn you into a ‘corpse soldier’ – one of an army of dead prisoners animated by a warship’s AI mind. Whole planets are conquered by their own people. The colossal warship called The Justice of Toren has been destroyed – but one ship-possessed soldier has escaped the devastation. Used to controlling thousands of hands, thousands of mouths, The Justice now has only two hands, and one mouth with which to tell her tale.
But one fragile, human body might just be enough to take revenge against those who destroyed her.
Orbit describes this as “inventive and intelligent space opera for fans of.” Now, I suspect that Banks fans are going to have a pretty high bar when it comes to standards for space opera – the Culture is simply inimitable, as far as I am concerned.
That aside, this first published novel by Leckie is garnering positive attention, and for me the stand out feature is this: in Leckie’s future, the default gender is female. Woah! And it’s a bit complicated. The protagonist Breq is physically female, but the distributed consciousness that inhabits is genderless. What does this to do language? There’s a link to be made to Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness.
I’m very excited about this one.
The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar
For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.
But there must always be an account…and the past has a habit of catching up to the present. Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism – a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields – to answer one last, impossible question: What makes a hero?
Lavie Tidhar has been nominated for loads of awards (and even won a few!) for his work, and he carried off the 2012 World Fantasy Award prize for best novel for Osama.
The press release for The Violent Century describes it as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets Watchmen”, a “thoughtful and intensely atmospheric novel about the mystery, and the love story, that determined the course of history itself.”
Dream London by Tony Ballantine
Captain Jim Wedderburn has looks, style and courage by the bucketful. He’s adored by women, respected by men and feared by his enemies. He’s the man to find out who has twisted London into this strange new world, and he knows it.
But the towers are growing taller, the parks have hidden themselves away and the streets form themselves into strange new patterns. There are people sailing in from new lands down the river, new criminals emerging in the East End and a path spiralling down to another world.
Everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be, and Captain Jim Wedderburn is beginning to understand that he’s not the man he thought he was…
I am beginning to think any book with a cover illustration by Joey Hi-Fi is a book worth reading! As well as this one for Dream London, he has created covers for ‘ Moxyland (and also this one) and Zoo City, and for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds and Mockingbird.