In science fiction canon, big-scale far-future stories usually get all the glory. Books set on other worlds, with space ships and alien encounters are what many people think SF is all about. And those books are great. I love space opera, and I love far-future SF books like Dune or the Culture books by Iain Banks, or Peter F. Hamilton’s crack-o-liciously good duology of Pandora’s Star/Judas Unchained. But there is something equally appealing about near-future SF stories. (more…)
I recently decided to chart another genre, this time post-apocalyptic fiction. I love the genre, which has more variety that most people suspect. Why do we love books about the end of the world? In a way, it is the ultimate triumph-over-adversity narrative. Whether ante-, mid- or post-apocalypse, the end of the world as we know it is a pretty good conflict for characters to strive against. Usually characters are a big part of the appeal in apocalyptic fiction. You need characters you can root for to SURVIVE. Readers like to imagine how they would behave in the world possible scenario of a world-ending catastrophe, and these books can showcase the best in humanity, while it usually also shows us a vivid portrait of the worst we can do to each other. (more…)
Cyberpunk is dead, long live cyberpunk! The genre that was the hottest thing in science fiction in the 1980s and early 1990s has had its death certificate drafted many times. From the signature works of William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling and K.W. Jeter it supposedly ended soon after authors like Neal Stephenson started writing cyberpunk so over-the-top that it almost parodied the genre. But if you look at some of the classic elements of cyberpunk:
- A near-future urban setting, often gritty and veering towards dystopia.
- A dark view of technology often with innovations that seem amazing but end up with a loss of individual privacy or identity, and the technology being often embedded or integrated into biology.
- A tone Influenced by hardboiled and noir detective fiction, usually paired with the fast pace of a thriller.
This description could be applied to plenty of books before Neuromancer came along, (Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination being one strong example), and there are books published in recent years that carry the cyberpunk torch, using elements from this recipe book to create new and entertaining SF novels. By all means, if you prefer you can call it something else, but I’ll just be over here reading it. From a blend point of view, most cyberpunk falls under the SF/Adrenaline umbrella in the blender. Here are a few from the last 5 or so years, but feel free to comment with your favorite cyberpunk torch carriers. (more…)
TITLE: Tomorrow and Tomorrow
AUTHOR: Thomas Sweterlitsch
PUBLISHER: Putnam, July 2014
THE BOOK: In the near future the city of Pittsburgh has been destroyed in a nuclear blast, and even though John Dominic Blaxton was out of town when the bomb went off, he never recovered from the loss of his wife. Ten years after the tragedy, the Pittsburgh Archive is a digital recreation of the city and its people that serves as a virtual environment survivors and tourists alike can visit. (more…)
Title: California Bones
Author: Greg Van Eekhout
Publisher: Tor, June 2014
Series: California Bones, Book 1
THE BOOK: Daniel Blackland is a thief and an osteomancer, able to use the magic imbued in certain bones to give himself power. Magical creatures like krakens and griffins are prized, but the bones of your fellow wizards will work as well. As a child, the ruler known as the Hierarch killed Daniel’s father in front of him, and Daniel has been running and hiding ever since. (more…)
Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Publisher: Mulholland Books, 2013
THE BOOK: Harper Curtis is a time traveling serial killer. How about that for a one-sentence pitch? Harper discovers purely by chance a key to a very creepy house whose doors open on different times. The catch is that the house wants Harper to find and kill certain girls — girls that shine. (more…)
Author: Barry, Max
Pub.: Penguin, 2013
THE BOOK: Car chases, kidnappings, blowing stuff up — all these elements are most often found in your bog standard thriller and yet they all can be found in the first 50 pages of Max Barry’s latest SF book Lexicon. There are two storylines in Lexicon which playfully obscure and reveal truths about each other as they race to a action-packed convergence in the end of the book. (more…)