This year I've been reading the books of Underrealm by Garrett Robinson. It's a low fantasy series with interesting and diverse characters.
So many books and so little time.
This topic always feels like a pop quiz to me: I don't naturally read brand new books, but I've been trying to break with my own reading habits and read that way specifically in science fiction and fantasy so I can be abreast of my own field :) Even with such efforts though, I end up mixing in a huge amount of non-SFF fiction (which can still be as old as I want! I just read a thriller from 2007 and I SO want to talk about it!) and loads of non-fiction, so...maybe my goal for next year should be to read a bunch of new stuff in-field.
I haven't read any of the stuff on their list, although Spinning Silver is definitely something I plan to pick up. I read The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, both out this year from Mary Robinette Kowal -- a reader has described them to the author as 'positive apocalypse' books, which is accurate and something I'm interested in writing and reading spec-fic right now! They're alternate history SF, where the space program is a response to a global disaster instead of a competition between the US and USSR. That's what 'positive apocalypse' means -- something horrible happens, but what do we build out of it? Where do we go from here? I find that to be an oddly relaxing emotional space to inhabit.
I also read Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, which is YA alternate-history fantasy -- the dead start rising after Gettysburg, and the main character is a black girl trained to bodyguard white ladies from zombie attacks. The pacing and some of the plot elements didn't quite work for me, but the characters and dialogue crackled off the page, and it had some interesting, poignant things to say about race and identity.
So wow, if my Goodreads is accurate I have NOT been reading a lot of 2018 spec-fic, and I need to step up my game next year! I have been looking forward to some of 2018's releases for a while, like Revenant Gun, the 3rd Machineries of Empire book by Yoon-Ha Lee. I've been doing a lot of my paper reading in non-fiction, so a lot of novels I've been reading as audiobooks instead.
Semiosis is the one that grabbed me. I love the premise of finding another planet like earth with its own evolutionary path because I dream of it all the time. They must be out there.
I found a preview of the first 36 pages and it grabbed me from the opening sentence (The war had begun long before we arrived because war was their way of life.).
I don’t know if this counts, but the fourth book in the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, Iron Gold, was published this year. I just learned this thanks to your post, so I can’t actually recommend it, since I haven’t read it yet. (I have a hold on it at my library now though!) The first three books in the series are some of the best sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. All of them have scores well above 4 in goodreads if that makes any difference to you.
Ooo I'll have to check it out! What's the general overview, if you don't mind me asking?
It has been described as a cross between The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones (Disclaimer: I could not stick with Game of Thrones.)
“Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he toils willingly, trusting that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.
Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.”
Ha. When I read that, it sounds very trite.
Just finished reading Semiosis thanks to the discussion in this thread.
Very interesting premise. It did seem to read like a first novel (the concepts, the writing, and the editing all seemed rather uneven), and the obvious set-up for subsequent installments in the last few pages was annoying. But overall, it was worth reading due to the author’s unusual cast of characters. Quite thought-provoking. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
Thanks for bringing it to my attention..
I read the first book in the series and enjoyed it immensely: it was brutal in its violence but it was about waging war. Thank you 🙏 for reminding me to pick up the next book in the series.
I just finished reading Revenant Gun by Yoon-Ha Lee: it's the end of the Machineries of Empire trilogy. It's a dark, complex space opera setting -- the basic premise is that the physics and technological possibilities of this universe are determined by the calendar the empire observes: not just a matter of how long days or weeks are, but also a matter of holidays and observances, which involve gruesome executions of 'heretics' (who have challenged or failed to follow the Calendar.) The math of the Calendar and the technologies (indistinguishable from magic) that it enables undergird this entire interstellar empire, governed by an alliance of factions with their own habits, culture and priorities jostling for position. The plot is twisty in the extreme, but I feel like it's the characters and the world I primarily come back for. The hard choices they make, the ways they audaciously begin to imagine a better world from deep inside the workings of this one. Very satisfying.
I really like these books, even though the second book pulled a plot maneuver I found highly suspect and convenient, toward the end. (You can tell I forgave it, because as soon as I finished listening to Book 2, I restarted Book 1, then listened to Book 2 again right after. And I do not usually reread things that quickly!) Book 3 redeemed that convenient maneuver quite a bit by showing complexities that resulted from its 'too easy, too simple' resolution. One of the new POV characters was very different and loads of fun, too!
Obviously, you shouldn't read Revenant Gun if you haven't read Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, but I really enjoy this series and recommend it! My reader warnings would be: It's somewhat gruesome in bits, and some of the characters have sexual mores that are weird and offputting even for the society they live in but they're sort of part of the great tapestry of the weirdness that is the setting. (For instance, there's a POV character in Book 2 who despite being asexual is Friends With Benefits with his sibling. Who has been surgically altered to look just like him as an anti-assassination decoy. So many layers of weird on top of that ick.) There is no graphic sexual violence, but coercion is a major ethical theme of the books and is sometimes sexual -- there's a lot of plot around the impossibility of free consent across lines of rank and obedience. (The military's obedience is involuntary, conditioned and calendrically/magically enforced, so members of the military faction are not allowed to fraternize, on pain of death.)
The books are dark, but they're also mind-blowing, with lots of good Sense of Wonder moments. They transport you instantly to this strange, high-stakes world of intrigue, space battles, lies and grand drama. Immersive and exciting.
Thanks....I am just finishing up a book so I pre-ordered The Coming Storm by Mark Alpert...I have not read any of his books...
I would be very interested to know what you think. Climate change, genetically altered humans, and a rogue government in 2023 all sound very topical.
Well, The Coming Storm was downloaded to my phone last night so I read the first chapter+ before I went to sleep. Not sure if it was a confluence of the cumulative experience for the day and going to sleep reading this first chapter but around midnight I awoke from a "nightmare" either thinking I was yelling to escape some stronghold or I actually was. I sleep alone so I will never know. Maybe that makes this a good book to read in the morning and not before bed? hahahahahhah
But, the first chapter is engaging with interesting characters.
I finally finished the book....it took me longer than usual because I have been so busy and, the first night I read this book before going to bed I had insane crazy nightmares. The nightmares might have come from something else, but I dare not take any chances. LOL
This writer was good and previously was an editor at Scientific American.....the core theme of this books is genetic manipulation and in the Author's Notes I did not realize how this is common work now for geneticists.
Plenty of violence in this book but the current day parallels are hard to deny. Sort of like 1984 mutates with the current President's administration....there were some final twists and turns towards the end that really made you love the book. Strong sequel and prequel potential.
I would recommend it.
One of my favourite authors, Iain Banks, divided his time between non-genre fiction and SF (where he wrote as Iain M Banks). Much of his SF involved stories about, or involving, a highly advanced society called The Culture that features governing AI's. The books are provoking and written in an engaging style - anyone who has crawled to the end of a turgid book with a sense of relief rather than achievement will know how important this is - and include a perfect measure of wry humour.
I would strongly recommend any and all of Banks' output, non-genre and SF alike. However, since this is a post about SF, I would suggest starting with "Consider Phlebas", the first book in The Culture series.
Even the incredibly inventive names Banks gives to places and people are a delight all in themselves. For example, one of the Culture spacecraft is named "Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall"...