Astounding tales and amazing stories: the best of this month’s Science Fiction releases

by the pricking of her thumb

Astounding tales and amazing stories from universes near and far beckon in this month’s selection of Science Fiction novels. Titles include a very welcome re-release of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation as well as Chinese Science Fiction master Cixin Liu’s Ball Lightning, in which he explores the ball lightning phenomenon with a personal (and almost obsessional) passion. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverThe winter vow / Tim Akers.
“Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage between the north and the south. Three heroes–Malcolm and Ian Blakeley and Gwendolyn Adair–must end the bloodshed before chaos is unleashed.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverFoundation / Isaac Asimov.
“The first volume in Issac Asimov’s world-famous saga, winner of the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Novel Series. Long after Earth was forgotten, a peaceful and unified galaxy took shape, an Empire governed from the majestic city-planet of Trantor. The system worked, and grew, for countless generations. Everyone believed it would work forever. Everyone except Hari Seldon. FOUNDATION is the story of the First Foundation, on the remote planet of Terminus, from which those secrets were withheld.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverXeelee : redemption / Stephen Baxter.  
“This is the centre of the Galaxy. And in a history without war with the humans, the Xeelee have had time to built an immense structure here. The Xeelee Belt has a radius ten thousand times Earth’s orbital distance. It is a light year in circumference. If it was set in the solar system it would be out in the Oort Cloud, among the comets – but circling the sun. If it was at rest it would have a surface area equivalent to about thirty billion Earths. But it is not at rest: it rotates at near lightspeed. And because of relativistic effects, distances are compressed for inhabitants of the Belt, and time drastically slowed.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChercher La Femme / L. Timmel Duchamp.
“Diplomat Julia, a member of a socialistic human society known as the Pax, is the head of a mission to a far-off world, La Femme. The mission’s primary purpose is recovery of the first ship sent to make contact with La Femme’s inhabitants, though further diplomatic advancement is planned as well. Julia is distracted from the mission objectives by her deep analysis of her life thus far and the utopian ideal she lives by, particularly when she deals with her splintered crew.”  (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverThe fated sky / Mary Robinette Kowal.
The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but could the International Aerospace Coalition ever stand the thought of putting a woman on such a potentially dangerous mission? Could Elma knowingly take the place of other astronauts who have been overlooked because of their race? And could she really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The point / Dixon, John
“Scarlett Winter has always been an outsider, and not only because she’s a hardcore daredevil and born troublemaker–she has been hiding superhuman powers she doesn’t yet understand. Now she’s been recruited by a secret West Point unit for cadets with extraordinary abilities. Scarlett and her fellow students are learning to hone their skills, from telekinetic combat to running recon missions through strangers’ dreamscapes. At The Point, Scarlett discovers that she may be the most powerful cadet of all. With the power to control pure energy, she’s a human nuclear bomb–and she’s not sure she can control her powers much longer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Ball lightning / Liu, Cixin
“When Chen’s parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to cracking the secret of mysterious natural phenomenon. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet science station. The more he learns, the more he comes to realize that ball lightning is just the tip of an entirely new frontier in particle physics. ” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

By the pricking of her thumb : a real-town murder / Roberts, Adam
“Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim. Inspired by the films of Kubrick, this stand-alone novel returns to the near-future of The Real-Town Murders, and puts Alma on a path to a world she can barely understand.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The future is blue / Valente, Catherynne M.
“Collection of thirteen stories full of fable, fairy tale and myth.” From Hugo award winning author Catherynne M Valente. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Destination: Antipodes 2020 AD

The antipodes are shaping up to be a fine destination in July,August 2020 if you’re keen or vaguely interested in what the SciFi/Speculative fiction/Fantasy/Graphic Novel/Gaming world has to offer. Aotearoa New Zealand is hosting WorldCon 2020.

Guests of honour at Worldcon 2020 are authors Mercedes Lackey and husband Larry Dixon. New Zealand artist Greg Broadmore and current Australian Science fiction foundation president.

Mercedes Lackey has an impressive backlist of titles where worlds and people have come into being. Collaborative work with the likes of Rosemary Edgehill, Robert  Gellis, James Mallory and Andre Norton, makes up a part of this collection. Her prolific fantasy output spans more than three decades of published work.  Some works feature husband Larry Dixon, author in his own right and artist famed for his work with birdlife. Known for detailing particular aspects of her worlds, like the page dedicated to sail making in the new Valdemar work, The Hills have Spies. The library holds a modest 121 titles of this author alone.  These two have paired up for a few conventions before, leaving their oddly shaped home in Oklahoma and collection of creatures to engage and inspire Con goers.


Local talent, Greg Broadmore has brought the appallingly flawed Dr Grordbort’s universe to life through the medium of Graphic Novels and models, some to look at and some to commit hideous acts with.  The art work both on the page and very ineractive real-life ray guns is also heading into the realm of virtual reality with Magic Leap. These are fantastic concepts coming from a detailed well imagined graphic world, great content for the Con.

Rose Mitchell

Rose Mitchell has been awarded Fan Guest of honour for her stirling services to the science fiction community. Rose, a lifelong science fiction fan has been a stalwart at innumerable conferences and is the current President of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation.

For lots more fascinating facts please connect to CoNZealand.

Tour the far reaches of space – new Science Fiction

From a galaxy far, far away comes our most recent selection of  scintillating  new Science Fiction titles — featuring some of the genre’s most popular writers. Included in this month’s selections are new works by Benedict Jacka and Mercedes Lackey; and highly recommended by us is the reissue of Binti by Nnedi Okorafor — which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novella (and would be a top choice if you are looking for a Star Wars  read to curl up with in the colder weather).  The icing on the cake this month is a very welcome reissue of one of our favourite Science Fiction books by one of our favourite Science fiction writers — the masterwork that is “The Lathe of Heaven”, by Ursula K Le Guin.  Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverThe lathe of heaven : a novel / Ursula K. Le Guin.The Lathe of Heaven
“In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes.” (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverAdrift / Rob Boffard.
“In the far reaches of space, a tour group embarks on what will be the trip of a lifetime – in more ways than one . . .
For one small group, a tour of the nearby Horsehead Nebula is meant to be a short but stunning highlight in the trip of a lifetime. But when a mysterious ship destroys Sigma Station and everyone on it, suddenly their tourist shuttle is stranded. They have no weapons. No food. No water. No one back home knows they’re alive. And the mysterious ship is hunting them.” (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverRecord of a spaceborn few / Becky Chambers.
“Hundreds of years ago, the last humans on Earth boarded the Exodus Fleet in search of a new home among the stars. After centuries spent wandering empty space, their descendants were eventually accepted by the well-established species that govern the Milky Way. But that was long ago. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, the birthplace of many, yet a place few outsiders have ever visited. ” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKill the farm boy / Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson.Kill the Farm Boy: The Tales of Pell
“In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Monty Python, the bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasma reinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes. Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told. This is not that fairy tale. There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosen. And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.” (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverArabella the Traitor of Mars
“Hail the conquering heroes! The tyrant, Napoleon, has been defeated with Arabella and the crew of the Diana leading the final charge. But, victory has come at a tremendous cost. Britain’s savior, Lord Nelson, has not survived the final battle and the good people of the Diana must now return to London as both heroes and pallbearers. At last husband and wife, Arabella and Captain Singh seem to have earned the attention of great men, ones who have new uses in mind for the Mars Company captain and his young wife. Both Company and Crown have decided that it is time to bring Mars into the folds of Empire, and they think Singh is the perfect man to do it.”  (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverMarked / Benedict Jacka.Marked
“Alex Verus is tracking down dangerous magical items unleashed into the world by Dark Mages – however, when the Light Council decide they need his help in negotiating with the perpetrators, Alex must use all his cunning and magic to strike a deal. The ninth novel in the urban fantasy series which began with Fated – the Alex Verus novels are magic-filled fan favourites, perfect for readers of Jim Butcher and Ben Aaronovitch.” (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverAvalanche / written by Mercedes Lackey with Cody Martin, Dennis Lee & Veronica Giguere ; edited by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon.
“Ultima Thule has been destroyed — but somehow the Thulians mounted an even bigger force to destroy Metis. The Metisians that escaped the carnage and destruction of their secret city now must somehow find somewhere safe to go — without getting snapped up by various world governments. And now the Thulians have changed their tactics to blitz guerilla warfare.”  (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverBinti / Nnedi Okorafor.
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.”  (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverCondomnauts
“In the 24th century, Josue Valdes’ rise from the slums Rubble City, Cuba to one of the galaxy’s most accomplished explorers was nothing short of meteoric. Once an orphan who spent his childhood on the street racing cockroaches for cash, Josue found his true-calling: a sexual ambassador for humanity and the Nu Barsa colony. Following the success of Super Extra Grande and A Planet for Rent, the wildly inventive and sexually progressive Condomnauts is a raucous and uproarious adventure that would make even Barbarella blush.”  (Adapted from Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverAlliancesThrawn: Alliances (Star Wars)
“‘I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.’ Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root — its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn.”  (Adapted from Syndetics)

Reader’s Choice Fiction selections

Sometimes reading gives you those “I can’t believe they did that!” moments, when an author turns around a plot or a character arc, or kills off the last person you expected!  Sometimes you get an “I see what they did there” when writing unexpectedly speaks directly to your own life experience. Sometimes you want to tell someone about it…

The Readers’ Choice selections are books nominated by people who want to pass on their reading experience to the library community. These selections are highlighted with Reader’s Choice stickers so that others can find great reading material.  You can find slips for Reader’s Choice reviews in new books, or ask staff for one if you have a review or recommendation to embellish the library collection.

The surrogate / Jensen, Louise
“Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream. But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets. And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye. As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was a really good psychological thriller with a good twist at the end.  Overall would recommend it to other fans of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Couple Next Door, etc.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5 stars)

Stick together / Hénaff, Sophie
“After their successful solving of three cold cases and exposing corruption at the very highest level of the Paris police force, Anne Capestan’s squad of misfits and no-hopers should be in a celebratory mood. However, now despised by their colleagues at 36 quai des Orfevres and worried for their future, morale has never been lower among the members of the Awkward Squad. Capestan does her best to motivate her troops, but even she cannot maintain a cheerful facade when she has to investigate the murder of Commissaire Serge Rufus, the father of her ex-husband.” (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was entertaining and well written with characters that were unusual enough to be memorable.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

A dangerous crossing / Khan, Ausma Zehanat
” For Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty, the Syrian refugee crisis is about to become personal. Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.” (Catalogue)

“The murders are incidental to the main (or more important) story – that of life as a refugee in a Greek refugee camp.  It is written from an outsider’s perspective, but I almost felt I was in the camp at times…” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 stars)

The girl in the moon / Goodkind, Terry
Angela juggles multiple jobs to live a secluded life in a cabin in the mountains. But she also lives a secret life, right under everyone’s noses. Because her family’s bloodline carries the ability to recognize killers, she adopts a solitary, violent existence in service of her own, personal mission in life. When Angela unexpectedly finds herself the prey of a group of international terrorists, she is the only one who knows the truth of what they are about to do. She might look like an unlikely hero. She might also be our only hope.” (Catalogue)

“Fantastic. I will definitely read other books written by this author. I hope this author writes further in the series with the lead female, Angels Constantine.” (no star rating given)

I am watching you / Driscoll, Teresa
“A missing girl. A tormented witness. A web of lies. And someone is watching… When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it – until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls – beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard – has disappeared. A year later, Anna is still missing. Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night – and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own. Someone knows where Anna is – and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ells.”  (Catalogue)

“I thought this book was an excellent read. A great story that kept me glued.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 star rating)

Ripping yarns in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science Fiction has a lineage in rollicking yarns, starting with Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. Standing on their shoulders, through a couple of tiers of acrobatically stacked authors, are some talented writers with their own additions to this style of writing.

The world of the imagination has created a forthright champion who has a certain savoir faire — a certainty in their abilities that draws a particular flavour to the adventures we share with them. A ripping yarn has a pace set to it, and adversities that seem both insurmountable and a test of the character’s personal mettle. Our heroes forge through sagas filled with action, foes, allies, and a twist in the tale is almost inevitable. Happy reading!

The long way to a small, angry planet / Chambers, Becky
“Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there. But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she’s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war. Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.” (Catalogue)

Aurorarama / Valtat, Jean-Christophe
“A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre. What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, it marks the beginning of a great new series of books set in New Venice-and the launch of an astonishing new writer.” (Catalogue)

Railsea / Miéville, China
“On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt. The giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory are extraordinary. But no matter how spectacular it is, travelling the endless rails of the railsea, Sham can’t shake the sense that there is more to life.  When they come across a wrecked train, at first it’s a welcome distraction. But the impossible salvage Sham finds in the derelict leads to considerably more than he’d bargained for. Soon he’s hunted on all sides: by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers.” (Catalogue)

Constance Verity saves the world / Martinez, A. Lee
“In her Last Adventure, Connie successfully became an ordinary person. People warned her it would be boring, and they were right. That’s exactly why Connie loves it. But there’s an Adventurer-shaped hole in the cosmos now, and a lot of interested parties eager to fill it. Not all of those candidates are fit for the role, and if The Adventurer falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to chaos and destruction. Constance still has all the skills of her old life, but she’s no longer the chosen one. Yet when the fate of the world is at stake, she sets off, reluctantly, to keep the forces of evil from stealing the destiny she abandoned” (Catalogue)

Angelmaker / Harkaway, Nick
“Joe Spork repairs clockwork and lives above his shop in a wet, unknown bit of London. All Joe wants is a quiet life, but when he fixes one particularly unusual device his life is suddenly upended. The client? Unknown. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine.” (Catalogue)
Nick Harkaway’s second published title Angelmaker sets a great pace with interesting characters and good banter. For a more brain stretching exercise his latest book Gnomon layers it’s way through a surveillance ridden future with a puzzle of cause and effect.

The explorers guild : a passage to Shambhala / Baird, Jonathan
“Set against the backdrop of World War I, with Western Civilization on the edge of calamity, the first installment in The Explorers Guild series, A Passage to Shambhala, concerns the Guild’s quest to find the golden city of Buddhist myth. The search will take them from the Polar North to the Mongolian deserts, through the underground canals of Asia to deep inside the Himalayas, before the fabled city finally divulges its secrets and the globe-spanning journey plays out to its startling conclusion.” (Catalogue)