The diversification of characters in this month’s selection from the recently received Science Fiction & Fantasy novels could not be greater. From Aliens to Zombies, Kings to Kraken, cobra snakes to Japanese Monks, all will provide entertaining reading for Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiasts. Recommended is the very difficult to categorize, The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White, a novel that contains just about everything found in this genre.
Unnatural acts / Kevin J. Anderson.
“Zombie PI Dan Chambeaux (or Dan “Shamble”), along with his human partner, activist lawyer Robin Deyer, and his ghostly girlfriend Sheyenne, tackle an illegal sweatshop that employs golems as slave labor, confront a senator who condemns the “unnatural” lifestyles of the supernatural creatures that now populate New Orleans’s Unnatural Quarter, and investigates the security problems that beset the mummified Madame of a local brothel.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Proxima / Stephen Baxter. “The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun and (in this fiction), the nearest to host a world, Proxima IV, habitable by humans. But Proxima IV is unlike Earth in many ways. Huddling close to the warmth, orbiting in weeks, it keeps one face to its parent star at all times. The ‘substellar point’, with the star forever overhead, is a blasted desert, and the ‘antistellar point’ on the far side is under an ice cap in perpetual darkness. How would it be to live on such a world? Needle ships fall from Proxima IV’s sky. Yuri Jones, with 1000 others, is about to find out.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The incrementalists / Steven Brust and Skyler White.
“A secret society has existed for millennia, operating under the surface of society. The Incrementalists are improving the world by making slight adjustments that make human existence a bit better than it might have been. They had a hand in the invention of the MP3 format, and they practically invented Robin Hood. But now they have a major problem on their hands. One of their own, who recently died, might have been murdered, and the woman who was given her memories paradoxically doesn’t seem to be able to remember her. Even worse, it looks like the dead woman has somehow manipulated the Incrementalists (or, to be more precise, Phil, who has loved her for centuries) into putting her memories into a very specific young woman for a very specific and quite troubling, possibly catastrophic, reason.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The eternal flame / Greg Egan.
“In an alien universe, scientists travel on a space quest to save their dying world. “The generation ship Peerless is suffering from a population explosion, and the only way to reduce the number of children is by drastically limiting the females’ food intake. So population control consists of two barbaric choices: starvation, or suicide. Trying to find a better way, a biologist starts experimenting with animals, and stumbles on a technique that radically alters the reproductive cycle. But while the advantages are obvious, there’s a major drawback: while it spares women from their old role, reproduction without hope of survival, it will essentially wipe out an entire sex. Amid the turmoil created by this new possibility, physicists on the ship are working to develop the technology they will need to complete the mission of the Peerless. One of the expedition’s founders dreamed of discovering the Eternal Flame: a way to generate thrust without consuming any fuel at all. The inhabitants on board the Peerless have some hard choices to make and the wrong one could spell extinction for their entire race.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
1636 : the devil’s opera / Eric Flint, David Carrico.
“Germany, 1636. The USE the United States of Europe is still in its shaky birthing years. The mysterious appearance of a twenty-first-century American town (Grantville, West Virginia) in seventeenth-century Germany caused a major uproar, but an alliance with Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, allowed the displaced Americans to forge a new nation, the USE. But now, a few years later, Adolphus has been marginalized, and his successor, the stoutly antidemocratic Axel Oxenstierna, the Swedish chancellor, is hungry for power and has set his sights on the USE. Byron Chieske, the up-time American cop, and his down-time partner, Gotthilf Hoch, are concerned that some recent cases of sabotage and murder might only be the beginning of a much larger plot. This is the fourteenth book in the Ring of Fire series.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
On the razor’s edge / Michael Flynn.
“The Harper, Mearana, is kidnapped by Ravn Olafsdotter or, more accurately, manipulated into venturing to Terra to rescue her father, and Bridget ban, as Ravn and Mearana know, follows with a pack of Hounds. Gidula, one of the rebels, holds Donovan, demanding that he retrieve the secrets held between the fractured personalities of his mind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The one-eyed man : a fugue, with winds and accompaniment / L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
“For the interstellar Union of the Ceylesian Arm, the colony world of Stittara represents the prime source for anagathics, drugs that extend one’s life span. Freelance consultant Paolo Verano, reeling from a shattered personal life, gladly accepts the commission to travel to Stittara to observe the world’s fragile ecology and establish how much, if any, impact the human colonists have. It is his determination that will decide the fate of the colony, and the pressure is on him to find a way to make sure that the supply of anagathics continues.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The initiate brother duology / Sean Russell. “Plague and warfare have swept across the ancient kingdom of Wa, devastating the royal line and leaving a new dynasty on the throne a new Emperor, Akantsu, filled with fear of all who might seek to wrest the Empire from his grasp. Among those out of favour with the new liege is the Order of the Botahist Monks, whose mystical powers have enabled them to hold positions as Spiritual Advisors to the Imperial court for nearly ten centuries. But Emperor Akantsu fears none as greatly as he does Lord Shonto, the brilliant leader of the most important of the old families, whose influence could rally the Great Houses against the throne, and whose adopted daughter, the beautiful and talented Lady Nishima, is the last surviving member of the old royal family. Sent to be military governor of a northern border province long threatened by barbarian invaders, Lord Shonto knows he is being lured to his death. But Akantsu has underestimated his foe, for not only is Lord Shonto the greatest military genius of the age, but he has with him a Spiritual Advisor from the Botahist Order, a young man gifted with extraordinary martial arts skills and magical abilities, Initiate Brother Shuyun. And even Lord Shonto does not realize the true potential of this young monk.” (Adapted from Amazon.com)
Sea change / S.M. Wheeler.
“Lilly is a solitary, resourceful, and intelligent girl, her face covered by such a potent birthmark her talents remain forever hidden to the gaping eyes of others. A source of disappointment to a father in search of a capable son-in-law, a source of frustration to a withholding, magical mother, Lilly finds solace solely in the company of the kraken she encountered at the seaside at the age of eight. She renames him Octavius, and as the years pass their friendship only deepens. Their routine is disturbed by Octavius’s sudden disappearance, and Lilly decides to abandon her family and devote herself to finding him. Her selfless pursuit leads her to a troll in need of female organs, a witch in search of her skin, a duo of bandits looking for companionship, a landowner endowed with mystical capabilities and bewitching beauty, and Octavius himself, trapped in a circus side show.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Cobra slave / Timothy Zahn.
“In times of war, the Cobras are necessary, yet in times of peace they are often reviled by those they have saved. Now the Cobras have resisted a second invasion of the alien Troft forces, forced the Troft to a stalemate, and even converted some thoughtful Troft into uneasy allies against their kin. Yet all is not well in the human sector of the galaxy. A supposed sister empire, the Dominion of Man, threatens the Cobra worlds with what is, in effect, enslavement, as it moves to consolidate power over all the Cobra worlds.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary) publisher.