This past year gave us a lot of stories about environmental catastrophe (not a surprise) and humor (to help us deal with impending environmental catastrophe).
Adam Rubenstein and Sunil Rao have been reluctant partners since their Uzbekistan days. Adam is a seemingly unflappable American intelligence officer and Rao is an ex-MI6 agent, an addict and rudderless pleasure hound with the uncanny ability to discern the truth of things—about everyone and everything other than Adam. When an American diner turns up in a foggy field in the UK after a mysterious death, Adam and Rao are called in to investigate, setting into motion the most dangerous and otherworldly mission of their lives.
In a surreal, action-packed quest that takes Adam and Rao from secret laboratories in Colorado, to a luxury lodge in Aspen, to the remote Nevada desert, the pair begins to uncover how and why people’s fondest memories are being weaponized against them by a spooky, ever-shifting substance called Prophet. As the unlikely twosome battles this strange new reality, Prophet’s victims’ memories are materializing in increasingly bizarre forms: favorite games, beloved pets, fairground rides, each more malevolent than the next. Prophet is like no enemy Adam and Rao—or the world—have ever come up against.
“Intriguing and deftly plotted… pulse-pounding, philosophically fascinating, even blackly funny… A crisply written, inventive, complicated brew of a novel.”
Bridget Kittinger has always been paralyzed by choices. It has a lot to do with growing up in the long shadow of her mother, Jo, a troubled neuroscientist. Jo’s obsession with one mythical object, the “dreamworm”—which she believed enabled travel to other worlds—led to their estrangement.
Now, suddenly, Jo is dead. And in packing up her home, Bridge finds a strange device buried deep in Jo’s freezer: the dreamworm. Against all odds, it actually can open the door—to all other realities, and to all other versions of herself, too. Could Bridge find who she should be in this world, by visiting the others? And could her Jo still be alive somewhere? But there’s a sinister cost to trading places, and others hunting the dreamworm who would kill to get their hands on it…
“Ass-kicking, mind-bending entertainment.”
Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.
It’s not going to last.
It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.
“Ashton’s breezy characters, especially a few alien creepers able to communicate with the humans, delight, and the grungy details of colony life are rendered as realistically as Mickey’s hunger pangs. It’s good fun with a surprisingly effective closing twist that sci-fi fans will savor.”
1931, New Galveston, Mars: Since Anabelle’s mother left for Earth to care for her own ailing mother, her days in New Galveston have been spent at school and her nights at her laconic father’s diner with Watson, the family Kitchen Engine and dishwasher as her only companion. When the Silence came, and communication and shipments from Earth to its colonies on Mars stopped, life seemed stuck in foreboding stasis until the night Silas Mundt and his gang attacked.
“A propulsive story that reads like a love letter to the space western.”
—The Sunday Times
Lou is a happily married mother of an adorable toddler. She’s also the victim of a local serial killer. Recently brought back to life and returned to her grieving family by a government project, she is grateful for this second chance. But as the new Lou re-adapts to her old routines, and as she bonds with other female victims, she realizes that disturbing questions remain about what exactly preceded her death and how much she can really trust those around her.
Now it’s not enough to care for her child, love her husband, and work the job she’s always enjoyed—she must also figure out the circumstances of her death.
“Williams deftly swirls science fiction and domestic suspense plotlines into this fresh and unpredictable tale.”
—The Washington Post
Jay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.
The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.
“This gripping sci-fi thriller from bestseller Kraus takes readers quite literally into the belly of the beast… Kraus provides solid nautical science alongside the stretchy coincidences that fuel Jay’s survival. Just on the brink of horror fiction, especially for the claustrophobic, Kraus’s deep-sea thrill ride will have readers on the edges of their seats.”
The dust may have just settled in the failed war of conquest between the Holy Vaalbaran Empire and the Ominirish Republic, but the last Emperor’s surrender means little to a lowly scribe like Enitan. All she wants is to quit her day job and expand her fledgling tea business. But when her lover is assassinated and her sibling is abducted by Imperial soldiers, Enitan abandons her idyllic plans and weaves her tea tray up through the heart of the Vaalbaran capital. There, she will learn just how far she is willing to go to exact vengeance, free her sibling, and perhaps even secure her homeland’s freedom.
“A breathtaking space opera debut… Delving into serious sociopolitical matters without ever losing the shine of hope, this tense adventure packs a punch.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees live three robots―fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.
The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio—a past spent hunting humans.
When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.
Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?
“A wholly charming post-robot-apocalypse retelling of Pinocchio. Speculative fiction readers will fall in love with this whimsical, bittersweet fable.”
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
It is the eve of Earth’s environmental collapse. A single ship carries humanity’s last hope: eighty elite graduates of a competitive program, who will give birth to a generation of children in deep space. But halfway to a distant but livable planet, a lethal bomb kills three of the crew and knocks The Phoenix off course. Asuka, the only surviving witness, is an immediate suspect.
As the mystery unfolds on the ship, poignant flashbacks reveal how Asuka came to be picked for the mission. Despite struggling through training back on Earth, she was chosen to represent Japan, a country she only partly knows as a half-Japanese girl raised in America. But estranged from her mother back home, The Phoenix is all she has left.
With the crew turning on each other, Asuka is determined to find the culprit before they all lose faith in the mission―or worse, the bomber strikes again.
“Cerebral SF, tackling both humanity-wide problems and the smaller but ever-present conflicts closer to home.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The Pandominion: a political and trading alliance of a million worlds. Except that they’re really just one world, Earth, in many different realities. And when an A.I. threat arises that could destroy everything the Pandominion has built, they’ll eradicate it by whatever means necessary.
Scientist Hadiz Tambuwal is looking for a solution to her own Earth’s environmental collapse when she stumbles across the secret of inter-dimensional travel, a secret that could save everyone on her dying planet. It leads her into the middle of a war on a scale she never dreamed of. And she needs to choose a side before every reality pays the price.
“[A] brilliant dimension-hopping sci-fi thriller… Readers will be wowed.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
The Reaper is a legend, more myth than man: the savior of worlds, the leader of the Rising, the breaker of chains.
But the Reaper is also Darrow, born of the red soil of Mars: a husband, a father, a friend.
Marooned far from home after a devastating defeat on the battlefields of Mercury, Darrow longs to return to his wife and sovereign, Virginia, to defend Mars from its bloodthirsty would-be conqueror Lysander.
Lysander longs to destroy the Rising and restore the supremacy of Gold, and will raze the worlds to realize his ambitions.
The worlds once needed the Reaper. But now they need Darrow, and Darrow needs the people he loves—Virginia, Cassius, Sevro—in order to defend the Republic.
So begins Darrow’s long voyage home, an interplanetary adventure where old friends will reunite, new alliances will be forged, and rivals will clash on the battlefield.
Because Eo’s dream is still alive—and after the dark age will come a new age: of light, of victory, of hope.
Since she was born, Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the majoda their victory over humanity.
They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. When Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to Nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.
Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, Kyr escapes from everything she’s known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.
“Raw and action-packed… This riveting adventure deserves a space on shelves alongside genre titans like Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.
“This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you’ll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.”
Following the events in the previous book Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.
But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!
In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.
Kris is a Shadester and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow of her own. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, Kris teeters on the edge of collapse, fumbling in a daze of alcohol, shame, and self-loathing. Yet as the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world. She can’t forget her wife, but with time, she can make a new life for herself and the kid, supported by a community of fellow misfits who defy the Department to lift one another up in solidarity and hope.
“[An] electric debut… This book is as sexy as it is dystopic, which is saying a lot.”
When unforeseen circumstances during an innovative—and unsanctioned—commercial asteroid-mining mission leave two crew members stranded, those who make it back must engineer a rescue, all while navigating a shifting web of global political alliances and renewed Cold War tensions. With Earth governments consumed by the ravages of climate change and unable to take the risks necessary to make rapid progress in space, the crew must build their own nextgen spacecraft capable of mounting a rescue in time for the asteroid’s next swing by Earth.
In the process they’ll need to establish the first spin-gravity station in deep space, the first orbiting solar power satellite and refinery, and historic infrastructure on the moon’s surface—all of which could alleviate a deepening ecological, political, and economic crisis back on Earth, and prove that space-based industry is not only profitable, but possibly humanity’s best hope for a livable, peaceful future.
“Hard science fiction has a new virtuoso, and Critical Mass is a fine piece of futurism, startlingly entertaining and exceptionally thought provoking.”
—New York Journal of Books
Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process—and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming—which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group—known as “Arrivalists”—who may be fomenting revolution.
“It’s a hefty book that moves with an astounding quickness—yet another excellent offering from an author with a boundless imagination and talent to spare. Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Idris Telemmier has uncovered a secret that changes everything—the Architects’ greatest weakness. A shadowy Cartel scrambles to turn his discovery into a weapon against these alien destroyers of worlds. But between them and victory stands self-interest. The galaxy’s great powers would rather pursue their own agendas than stand together against this shared terror.
Human and inhuman interests wrestle to control Idris’ discovery, as the galaxy erupts into a mutually destructive and self-defeating war. The other great obstacle to striking against their alien threat is Idris himself. He knows that the Architects, despite their power, are merely tools of a higher intelligence.
Deep within unspace, where time moves differently, and reality isn’t quite what it seems, their masters are the true threat. Masters who are just becoming aware of humanity’s daring—and taking steps to exterminate this annoyance forever.
“The characters Adrian Tchaikovsky has populated this world with are so grounded, so emotionally rich, and so vibrant… not to say that Tchaikovsky does not deliver an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the mysteries of unspace (he does!). But what I’ll remember most is how he crafted the perfect emotional resolution to this intellectually intricate tale that left me in tears and has stayed with me since.”
Using the myth of Eurydice as a structure, this riveting science fiction novel is set in a near-future London where it has become popular for folks to have a small implant that allows one access to a more robust social media experience directly as an augmented reality. However, the British government has taken oversight of this access to an extreme, slowly tilting towards a dystopian overreach, all in the name of safety.
“Drawing on ancient Greek myths and modern brain science, this is a plausible, complex vision of the future, a fascinating story that never shies away from the contradictions in human nature.”
Qven was created to be a Presger translator. The pride of their Clade, they always had a clear path before them: learn human ways, and eventually, make a match and serve as an intermediary between the dangerous alien Presger and the human worlds. The realization that they might want something else isn’t “optimal behavior.” It’s the type of behavior that results in elimination.
But Qven rebels. And in doing so, their path collides with those of two others. Enae, a reluctant diplomat whose dead grandmaman has left hir an impossible task as an inheritance: hunting down a fugitive who has been missing for over 200 years. And Reet, an adopted mechanic who is increasingly desperate to learn about his genetic roots—or anything that might explain why he operates so differently from those around him.
As a Conclave of the various species approaches—and the long-standing treaty between the humans and the Presger is on the line—the decisions of all three will have ripple effects across the stars.
“Leckie’s humane, emotionally intelligent, and deeply perceptive writing makes this tautly plotted adventure feel fundamentally true while also offering longtime fans a much anticipated glimpse into the Radch’s most mysterious species. Readers will be thrilled.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
The near future. Tens of thousands of species are going extinct every year. And a whole industry has sprung up around their extinctions, to help us preserve the remnants, or perhaps just assuage our guilt. For instance, the biobanks: secure archives of DNA samples, from which lost organisms might someday be resurrected . . . But then, one day, it’s all gone. A mysterious cyber-attack hits every biobank simultaneously, wiping out the last traces of the perished species. Now we’re never getting them back.
Karin Resaint and Mark Halyard are concerned with one species in particular: the venomous lumpsucker, a small, ugly bottom-feeder that happens to be the most intelligent fish on the planet. Resaint is an animal cognition scientist consumed with existential grief over what humans have done to nature. Halyard is an exec from the extinction industry, complicit in the mining operation that destroyed the lumpsucker’s last-known habitat.
Across the dystopian landscapes of the 2030s—a nature reserve full of toxic waste; a floating city on the ocean; the hinterlands of a totalitarian state—Resaint and Halyard hunt for a surviving lumpsucker. And the further they go, the deeper they’re drawn into the mystery of the attack on the biobanks. Who was really behind it? And why would anyone do such a thing?
“A madcap adventure story set in a dystopian world ravaged by climate change.”
Charlie’s life is going nowhere fast. A divorced substitute teacher living with his cat in a house his siblings want to sell, all he wants is to open a pub downtown, if only the bank will approve his loan.
Then his long-lost uncle Jake dies and leaves his supervillain business (complete with island volcano lair) to Charlie.
But becoming a supervillain isn’t all giant laser death rays and lava pits. Jake had enemies, and now they’re coming after Charlie. His uncle might have been a stand-up, old-fashioned kind of villain, but these are the real thing: rich, soulless predators backed by multinational corporations and venture capital.
It’s up to Charlie to win the war his uncle started against a league of supervillains. But with unionized dolphins, hyper-intelligent talking spy cats, and a terrifying henchperson at his side, going bad is starting to look pretty good.
“In this clever, fast-paced thriller, Hugo Award winner [Scalzi] subverts classic supervillain tropes with equal measures of tongue-in-cheek humor and common sense… The result is a breezy and highly entertaining genre send-up.”
When level-headed Francie arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, for her college roommate’s UFO-themed wedding—complete with a true-believer bridegroom—she can’t help but roll her eyes at all the wide-eyed talk of aliens, which obviously don’t exist. Imagine her surprise, then, when she is abducted by one.
Odder still, her abductor is far from what the popular media have led her to expect, with a body like a tumbleweed and a mass of lightning-fast tentacles. Nor is Francie the only victim of the alien’s abduction spree. Before long, he has acquired a charming con man named Wade, a sweet little old lady with a casino addiction, a retiree with a huge RV and a love for old Westerns, and a UFO-chasing nutjob who is thoroughly convinced the alien intends to probe them and/or take over the planet.
But the more Francie gets to know the alien, the more convinced she becomes that he’s not an invader. That he’s in trouble and she has to help him. Only she doesn’t know how—or even what the trouble is.
“An absolute blast with abundant humor, copious references to old westerns, and… a delightful, intergalactic twist on the romantic comedy.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review