REVIEW SUMMARY: Bucholz has written a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story about a generation ship bound for another planet, and the secrets it contains just might destroy the ship and everyone on board.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When Laura Stein discovers a plot to split the generation ship in two (killing half of the passengers before they reach their new planet), she stumbles upon a vast conspiracy involving martial law, genetic manipulation, and political intrigue.
PROS: Bucholz keeps us guessing at every turn, offering clues about the conspiracy at just the right times; pacing, humor, and dialogue are spot-on.
CONS: Some scenes are too heavy on the technical detail and too light on character development.
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for an addictive story that explores issues of human colonization, genetic manipulation, and the vagaries of human nature, you need to read Severance.
It’s been over two hundred years since the Argos, a generation ship, left Earth, bound for a new home (Tau Pruis III). Now, you might suppose that the people on board have somehow progressed beyond the violence and intolerance and hatred practiced on Earth in order to have survived for this long on a ship in the middle of Nowhere, Space, right? Yeah, well, not so fast…
I’m VERY excited about all the new sci-fi novels in translation coming out over the next several months. And don’t even get me started on how I have to wait until July (JULY!) to get my paws on the second book in the THREE-BODY TRILOGY. Anyway, here are three titles (from Cuba, Spain, and Japan) that are all over my radar.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Huberath asks us to become more conscious of the narratives we create and think more broadly about our place in the universe.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When Gavein Throzz moves to Davabel, he soon finds himself linked to a growing epidemic of deaths. And when he and other characters start reading a mysterious book called Nest of Worlds, Gavein realizes that his existence and perception of that existence may be terribly flawed.
PROS: This novel puts your brain on a fast-moving treadmill and asks fascinating questions about the nature of human existence.
CONS: More narrative time could have been given to the several nested worlds to flesh out some of Huberath’s philosophical questions.
BOTTOM LINE: Nest of Worlds is a wonderful introduction to the world of contemporary Polish science fiction, and a powerful, probing story that prompts thoughtfulness and self-awareness.
As part of my effort to read more scifi in translation, I jumped at the chance to check out Nest of Worlds, Huberath’s first novel to appear in English. A major force in Polish science fiction, Huberath is also a professor of biophysics and biological physics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. And he brings everything to this metafictional tale of life, death, and reading.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A masterful narrative about alien contact, physics, virtual reality, and Chinese culture and history.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When a Chinese astrophysicist succeeds in contacting aliens in Alpha Centauri, the resulting impact on human society reveals just how fractured our planet truly is.
PROS: Fascinating word-paintings of abstract physics problems; thoughtful consideration of potential human-alien contact; deft toggling between time-periods.
CONS: We have to wait until July to get our hands on the next book in the trilogy.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a superb translation of a brilliant work of Chinese science fiction, where physics, philosophy, and history combine to push us to reconsider our place in the universe.
Over the past few months, I’ve been paying more attention to the state of fiction in English translation and have discovered many great publishers and translators. And while the number of contemporary novels translated into English could always be higher, I think we’re headed in the right direction. In terms of international science fiction, writers and translators like Lavie Tidhar and Ken Liu have introduced us to many voices we English-language readers might never have read.
Author Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her Parasol Protectorate books, their manga adaptations, and the first two books in her YA Finishing School seriesabout Victorian girl spies were all New York Times bestsellers. Her newest book, Waistcoats & Weaponry, is out November 4th. She was once a professional archaeologist and is overly fond of tea.
Gail was kind enough to answer some questions about her latest novel and writing in general. So pour yourself some tea, button that waistcoat, and let’s get started!
Rachel Cordasco: Waistcoats & Weaponry is the third book in your young adult steampunk Finishing School series: can you give us an overview of this latest installment and explain how it fits into the series as a whole?
Gail Carriger: In this book Sophronia and her friends finally get to spend time away from their school, putting all their newly leaned spy skills to good use. There is a train heist, an accidental kidnapping, a renewal of old acquaintances (not all of them welcome) and, finally, some serious flirting. Also, I suspect someone throws food at someone else – in my books, they usually do.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A diverse, eclectic, and fascinating collection of steampunk stories.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Editor Sean Wallace has brought together stories from such writers as Cherie Priest, Ken Liu, Gord Sellar, and others, that push the boundaries of the steampunk genre in new and exciting ways.
PROS: A broad range of steampunk tales that range from fantasy to hard scifi, and folk-tale to alternate-history.
CONS: Grouping the stories into themed sections would have made the similarities and differences among the approaches more apparent.
BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating romp through the steampunk imagination. (And there are pterodactyls. Just sayin’.)
The twenty-five steampunk stories in Sean Wallace’s The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures reveal just how rich and varied the genre can be. From fantasy to hard scifi, historical fiction to diary entries, they show us a whole range of ways to conceptualize and understand our world and many of its alternatives. Included are stories about circuses and mechanical birds, shape-shifters and pterodactyls, “mechanika” uprisings and political intrigue. Oh, and lobsters and golems. You get the picture.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A fast-paced, addictive steampunk fantasy adventure.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Octavia Leander is sent to the war-torn frontier to cure its dying inhabitants with her healing powers. However, the enemies of Caskentia want her for themselves, and Octavia’s queen would rather see her dead than in their hands.
PROS: Well-drawn main characters; fast-paced, exciting narrative.
CONS: Secondary characters and much of the back-story could have been developed further to enhance the primary tale.
BOTTOM LINE: The Clockwork Dagger is a skilfully-woven tale, complete with a love-story, an elaborate conspiracy, and a fascinating magico-spiritual healing system.
Apparently, I’ve been a fan of all things “steampunk” for years, but I never knew it. At least, not until a year ago, when it all came together that my love of old technology, dirigibles, funky corsets, and the words “engine” and “gears” landed me squarely in the steampunk camp.
I set out to learn all I could about the various incarnations of steampunk aesthetics, and paid special attention to its development in contemporary fiction. That’s when I came across Beth Cato’s debut steampunk novel The Clockwork Dagger, and jumped on board that airship without so much as a “toodle-loo.”
You can follow Rachel S. Cordasco on her bookish adventures at Bookishlywitty.blogspot.com and Bookriot.com.
Haunting, mesmerizing, moving: these are just some of the words that come to mind when I think about Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. Each novel is under 400 pages, and each packs into it so much psychological, emotional, philosophical, and ecological inquiry that you start to think that they must be huge, hulking volumes that should make your bookshelves cave in.
Now, you’ve probably seen a million reviews of this trilogy, and rightly so, for it deserves recognition and invites fascinating discussions. Therefore, instead of recapping the story or outlining the plot, I’m going to focus on three major mysteries/questions/problems in these novels and why they’re so compelling.
Oh, and by the way, there may be spoilers here. I’m not guaranteeing anything.
You can follow Rachel S. Cordasco on her bookish adventures at Bookishlywitty.blogspot.com and Bookriot.com. She is a huge fan of robot stories.
Robot Uprisings had been floating in my peripheral vision for a couple of months before I finally picked it up, but man am I glad that I did. Filled with androids and Roombas, service bots and “minids,” this eclectic and wide-ranging anthology offers us many possible worlds in which humans and their mechanical creations fight, love, outsmart, and kill one another. And if that doesn’t entice you, then allow me to name a few of the contributors: Hugh Howey, Cory Doctorow, Daniel H. Wilson, Nnedi Okorafor, Robin Wasserman, Ernest Cline.
That’s right. And with many of these stories originally written for the anthology, we have in Robot Uprisings fresh, often frightening, stories from some of the best scifi writers at work today. Thus we have stories about killer robots, rogue AIs, “ascended” AIs, and spider-like fuel-pipeline sentinels. In some stories, the robots/androids remain mostly offstage, having already thrown off their shackles, as it were, and attacked the human societies that produced them (“Lullaby,” “Eighty Miles an Hour,” “Executable,” “Human Intelligence,” “We Are All Misfit Toys,” “Small Things”). Others imagine how such an attack might begin (“Complex God,” “Seasoning”). And then there are those stories that offer a less threatening view of our mechanical friends, who might joke around with their sysadmins or even care for a baby (“Epoch,” “The Robot and the Baby”).