Titanium Noir is an excellent near-future alternate-history murder mystery that follows the murder of a Titan, a medically-enhanced person who became physically massive and borderline immortal. Titans are elites, the case is sensitive, and nothing is quite what it seems.
Many authors try to write noir stories with hard-boiled detectives shuffling down rainy streets, occasionally getting beat up while trying to get justice for a murdered little nobody, and many authors fail. It’s harder than it looks. Fortunately, author Nick Hardaway pulls it off. The book is fun, funny, clever, and paced whiplash-fast.
Recommendation: If murder’s your thing, absolutely read this.
Despite its title, Truth of the Divine is not a religious text, but a fun, fast-paced, clever science fiction adventure. It’s the second book in the Noumena (also not a great title) series. The first is Axiom’s End, and you should read it first.
In this alternate-history first-contact yarn, the government continues to be run by jerks, and the one person the aliens are talking to is a snarky, blue-haired young woman, and all the guys in charge HATE that. Of course, the aliens have their own Alien Issues to deal with, but those are now spilling over to affect the rest of humanity, and all indications are that everything is going to get worse.
Recommendation: Read it, if you’ve already read the first one. Author Lindsay Ellis rose from the ashes of being cancelled to become a bestselling writer. Kudos and a huzzah!
The Gone World is brilliant: part noir murder mystery, part alternate history, part here-comes-the-apocalypse, and part thriller. It’s unique, mind-bending fun.
A time-traveling investigator jumps to the future to find out who committed an especially brutal murder, but she finds far more questions than answers. The longer she stays, the more complicated things become.
Also, the end of the world is coming, and it’s coming sooner all the time.
Recommendation: Read it. This is good, hearty, occasionally brutal stuff.
I’m a fan of Stephen King, and 11/22/63 is one of his best. There’s more humor than horror, and a fantastic, convoluted run-up to one of the most infamous moments in American history.
An English teacher is shown a hole in time that leads to a bright, sunny day in 1958. The teacher decides the best thing to do is travel back in time and prevent the Kennedy assassination, five years hence.
However, spending five years in the past isn’t easy, and there are complications he never could have predicted.
Recommendation: Read it. It’s a massive tome (850 pages), but King knows how to spin a story, and he’s in top form here.
Axiom’s End is one of those books I went back to every chance I could, and I finished it in two days, even when I had plenty of other work to do. It’s a fast-paced, multi-layered First Contact adventure that accomplishes something too rare in science fiction: not only do the aliens really feel like aliens, the humans really feel like humans.
Cora, a flawed, funny protagonist with a famous but horrible father learns that not only are aliens on Earth, they’ve been here for decades, and the government has covered it up. A new alien arrives, and communication between it and Cora is both strange and touching. The story touches on morality, the role of family, the quest for fame, and more, while still staying a great science fiction adventure.
Recommendation: Read it. I’m about to start on the sequel.
The Sky is Yours is a genre-bending book that takes place in a wild, post-apocalyptic world with both dragons and sci-fi elements. Its fun, imaginative, and completely horrifying settings seethe with colorful, well-developed, and deeply flawed characters. It’s hard to believe a tour de force like this is from a debut author.
On a dystopian island (not dissimilar to a surreal Manhattan), the lives of three very different young people (a rich, spoiled brat, star of his own reality show; his sheltered but whip-smart fiancée who hasn’t met him yet; and a feral beauty raised on an island of garbage), collide as they learn about the truths and lies of the burning world around them.
Recommendation: Read it. It’s strange, but fantastic.
The Earth is just a tiny bit farther away from the sun in Early Riser, but that’s enough to make the winters harsh enough that humans have evolved to hibernate. The exception are the Winter Consuls, a group of misfits tasked with keeping the sleeping population safe.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is brilliant, fast-paced, and will give you sore wrists because it’s a thick, heavy book, but you will not want to put it down.
An expert in ancient languages is hired by a mysterious government agency to translate some documents that suggest that magic actually once existed in the world. But the advance of science caused magic to disappear in 1851. However, the existence of a two-hundred-year-old witch and some fancy technology allow a limited amount of magic to occur in this world, and soon the language expert and others are being sent back in time to repair history. And, if they’re lucky, bring magic back to the world. Continue reading
The alternate history Never Let Me Go follows the lives of several children who grew up in a strange, special school. It’s very well written (the author is the guy who wrote The Remains of the Day and won the Nobel Prize for Literature), but the real focus of the book is not really about the characters, but about the slow reveal of why the school and the children were special. Continue reading
Since the present time is just the wildly unlikely result of several trillion coincidences, it makes sense that humans would occasionally wonder what would happen if one or two events concluded differently.
Most alternate history stories are some variation of “What if Hitler had won the Civil War, and was a dinosaur?” but there are some great, well, alternatives, in the list below.