Little more than a year after the U.S. publication of his award-winning Dark Eden, Chris Beckett returns readers to the alien, hostile planet of Eden and the humans stranded there. In Mother of Eden, 150 years have passed since the events of the previous novel. The human descendants of John, Jeff, Tina, David and the rest—themselves born of the original castaways—have, for the most part, splintered into thriving communities spread across Eden (as opposed to the small, huddled group featured in Beckett’s debut).
Touted as the perfect fare for readers who love George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie, Alex Marshall’s A Crown for Cold Silver presents the type of politically complicated, morally gray terrain associated with those authors.
In V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, three versions of London exist side by side in parallel universes. There’s Grey London, where magic is basically extinguished; Red London, where it’s abundant; and White London, where it’s somewhere in between (and where the control of it as a resource is jealously and viciously contested). There was also a fourth—Black London—whose inhabitants were devoured by magic and which should no longer exist. Schwab’s male protagonist, Kell, is one of the few with the power to travel between those Londons, and as such, serves as a diplomatic courier of sorts between the monarchies of each.
An intriguing hybrid of Asimovian I, Robot-flavored sci-fi, the quasi-contemporary speculative fiction of William Gibson and the enjoyable detective/crime procedural work of . . . well, countless writers, John Scalzi’s latest novel, Lock In, interweaves the threads of a number of familiar genre conventions to impressive effect.
On a cold, sunless planet named Eden, 500 or so descendants of two stranded travelers live beneath light and heat-giving “trees,” converting the slowly decaying knowledge of their own beginnings into a tribal mythology. Among them, John Redlantern chafes at the slavish, innovation-quenching traditions the Family upholds as it huddles in its small valley and refuses to even question what lies beyond the “Snowy Dark” that surrounds it. Soon, John makes a series of decisions that threaten to disrupt the peace—and ignorance—his tribe holds dear.
As a literary thought experiment, Kenneth Calhoun’s Black Moon has an exceedingly elegant trigger for the end of it all. No aliens, mutating viruses or celestial cataclysms are needed. All it takes is the removal of one basic yet profound capacity every single human has: the ability to sleep.
Time-travel and alternate realities have been a rich and unending source for fiction pretty much since the invention of the genre. But an ounce of temporal weirdness brings pounds and pounds of complications, convolutions and headaches along with the overall plot potential. Paradoxes pop up, as do disruptions of any attempt at linear storytelling. The confusion that can result on behalf of the reader—and sometimes even the writer—can capsize even the most promising tale. As a result, it’s rare to see a writer dive headlong into multiple streams of chronological mayhem and emerge with anything coherent, let alone riveting.
Set initially in Russia during the reign of Empress Anna Ioanovna in the 1740s, J.M. Sidorova’s The Age of Ice turns on a single premise: Alexander Velitsyn, the novel’s narrator and protagonist, is born immune to cold. What’s more, all those emotions that inflame others—passion, rage, shame, etc.—cause him, instead, to generate cold to an equal...
One can forgive publishing execs if all they saw was franchise potential in The Bone Season (the first in a projected seven-book series). After all, recent Oxford graduate Samantha Shannon’s debut features a young, resourceful female protagonist—19-year-old Paige Mahoney—who lives in a dystopian future rife with supernatural elements. And for much of the book, Paige is...
It’s easy to underestimate the challenges of crafting contemporary fantasy, especially when one compares the task with that of writing its older cousin, the traditional swords-and-sorcery fantasy. But just because the author of a contemporary fantasy can skip some expository steps in character development and setting if the protagonist is an ex-Navy SEAL named Josh living in Boston...