One of the defining characteristics of much of the best science fiction writing is ambition, but the trick is to filter that ambition into something meaningful. A big story idea is a start, but a great science fiction writer knows how to channel that into an inventive, emotionally affecting story that’s as much about science as it is about characters. Over the course of his career, Neal Stephenson has become one of the poster children for just that kind of storytelling ambition, and with Seveneves he takes it to a level unlike anything he’s done before.
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.
At first glance, The Only Words That Are Worth Repeating looks like Interstellar meets The Stand. Centuries from now, in a post-scientific society where astronomy “is regarded as a delusional cult scarcely more respectable than Jesus Lovers,” a powerful corporation discovers a perfectly intact Orion spacecraft hidden beneath the ruins of Cape Canaveral, along with detailed instructions from NASA on how to launch a voyage to Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.
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.
Reading the setup of The Just City can itself floor you. That’s how big Jo Walton, a writer already known for ambitious fantasy storytelling, is going with this particular novel, something she says she’s imagined writing since her teenage years.
Without question, Tolkien set the standard for worldbuilding. Readers of epic fantasy aren’t content with a few generations of kings mentioned in some measly footnotes; they want a world so vast and detailed that it could be real. With Tolkien’s template in mind, George R.R. Martin addresses fans’ demands for a truly epic history.
And so Netherton enlists Flynne in an investigation in his world that could never have been possible in hers. Leave it to Gibson to break down our innate resistance to time travel by using our uncertainty about the mechanics of high-speed computing to make the impossible seem plausible.
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.
In the summer of 1976, 19-year-old David Barwise takes a job at a holiday resort in the seaside town of Skegness, England, hoping to avoid spending the summer with his mother and stepfather. But there is something more sinister underlying David’s reasoning: The beach resort is where his biological father died 15 years earlier, and David feels strangely drawn to the area, despite the tension it causes within his family.