The Girl With All the Gifts is a wonderful book, which is odd praise for a story about zombies. But it’s surprisingly thoughtful, and at times, even tender, all while managing to be a fast-paced thriller. Every day I looked forward to reading it.
In a post-apocalyptic England, Melanie, along with other children, is imprisoned in a windowless bunker. They are all strapped down and muzzled whenever they leave their cells. No adult is allowed to touch them under any circumstances. Given who these children are, these are reasonable precautions. Then the installation is attacked, and Melanie is freed along with several adults, some who want her alive, some who want her dead, and others who want her dissected.
Recommendation: Buy it. This is fun, original writing with solid characters and an intense, powerful ride.
Some great books never get the public love we think they deserve. The books below are what I consider the best science fiction out there that keeps flying under the radar of public perception.
Riddley Walker is a unique, fascinating book. It takes places a few thousand years after a nuclear Armageddon in England when a young boy comes across a plan to recreate a weapon from the ancient world.
To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of the funniest science fiction books I’ve ever read. It isn’t a silly, knee-slapping romp like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but a calmer story that relies more on character interactions than external craziness.
Science fiction in China was repressed as recently as the 1980s as “spiritual pollution.” Fortunately, in the past two decades, Chinese science fiction has blossomed, and the United States is finally getting to read some of it.
Much of this access is due to the translation efforts of Ken Liu, an excellent author in his own right.
Want the big picture of science fiction from China? Well, in Ken’s own words:
“China is also going through a massive social, cultural, and technological transformation involving more than a billion people of different ethnicities, cultures, classes, and ideological sympathies, and it is impossible for anyone, even people who are living through these upheavals, to claim to know the entire picture.
China is dreaming, and its dreams contain multitudes.”
Many of the younger science fiction dreamers in China focus on short stories instead of books, so several of those are listed below. Links go to collections that contain their stories.
A while ago I had surgery. Nothing really major, but enough to put me in bed for several days. During this time, I read Abaddon’s Gate and loved it.
The future had a good year in 2016. Great writing, amazing stories, and tons of genre-bending. Fantasy, romance, zombies, data-vampires and more make it into some of the best books of the year. It’s an exciting, wild mix, just like a party with friends, family, bikers, drag queens, drag queen bikers, people from the future, flirty robots, and sentient dogs (not sentient cats—they just eat all the appetizers without talking to anyone).
The Justice of Toren was a colossal starship run by an artificial intelligence. That intelligence also linked thousands of human soldiers, each soldier’s mind completely run by the AI. These AI-run soldiers are known as ancillaries.
In an act of treachery, the Justice of Toren is destroyed, and the AI—now going by the name of Breq—is a single human body filled with unanswered questions and a burning desire for vengeance.
Lou: “You know what? You’ve got spunk.”
Mary: “Well, ye—”
Lou: “I hate spunk!”
— First episode of The The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970
In Pushing Ice, one of Saturn’s moons suddenly departs from its orbit and shoots off into deep space. The only nearby ship chases the errant moon and watches as huge chunks of ice fall off its surface to reveal a gigantic machine underneath.
Not everyone on the ship wants to keep chasing this object. The object seems to have some ideas about that, too.
Pushing Ice is a great book, and I lost some sleep because I couldn’t put it down. Even though we follow the same characters throughout the book, so much happens that it has the feel of a big, sprawling, multi-generational epic.
The science is hard, the humans flawed, and the surprises keep coming.
Recommendation: Get it at the library unless you’re building a shelf of all of Alastair Reynolds’ books. Which may be a pretty good idea, actually. Hmm.