Typeset in the Future, by Dave Addey
Addey distills the fascinating studies of typography and design in science fiction that have made his blog a must-read into a brilliant, absorbing book. Via film stills, concept art, interviews, and other elements, Addey analyzes how the often-overlooked art of fonts and other design elements augment fantastic fictional universes and subtly, invisibly root them in a sort of fictional reality. Diving deep into iconic films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Moon, and Total Recall, Addey explains how design decisions can have a profound effect not just on our enjoyment of a film, but on its lasting legacy in popular culture.
Burning Ashes, by James Bennett
The third book in Bennett’s fun contemporary fantasy series exploring a hidden world of magic and dragons that exists in the corners of the reality we know. The long peace between the human and mythical worlds is no more, and disgraced Guardian Dragon Ben Garston holds himself responsible. With the Long Sleep—the spell holding ancient magical creatures in stasis deep underground—no longer binding, the human world risks falling into ruin, and an incursion from the lands of the Fae is only making things worse. With The End looming, Ben will have to put down the bottle and pick himself up for one last fight.
Green Jay and Crow, by D.J. Daniels
Daniels’ novel earns its comparisons to Philip K. Dick: weird, difficult, and occasionally obscure, this is a story that raises heavy questions about reality, humanity, and time without fully answering them. In the city of Barlewin, Kern Bromley is a human known as Crow, tasked with delivering a time-locked box to a dangerous criminal. Crow becomes linked to the box and begins jumping to alternate realities, meeting himself and glimpsing multiple possible realities. Eva, the Green Jay, is an artificial body double printed from plant matter. Eva lives in the memories of her creator, and should have disintegrated long ago, but is still struggling to find her way into reality, and has managed to remain in one piece through the assistance of a pair of robots named Felix and Oscar (the Chemical Conjurers). Eva’s survival depends on something inside the box Brom carries, but whether she can rely on him or not is an open question. This is a story that explores what it means to be real, to be human—and to be neither.
The Corporation Wars Trilogy, by Ken MacLeod
MacLeod’s excellent Corporation Wars trilogy (Dissidence, Insurgence, Emergence) is collected into a single omnibus edition, telling the whole story of a universe where vicious, ruthless companies use sophisticated AIs to wage cold and hot wars over mining rights. The commands take time to transmit to the robots, however, and in the space between them, the AIs have to make their own decisions—a dangerous situation that indirectly leads them to sentience and self-actualization. Seba is one of those freshly sentient AIs, and sparked a revolution among its fellow “freeboot”minds. Trying to keep them under control is Carlos, a soldier who, via technology, has been reincarnated over and over again. When Carlos and Seba begin to see each other as pawns in a game larger than them both, things get truly interesting—and having all three books in one binding is going to be very convenient once you’re totally hooked and unable to stop turning pages.
The Snow, by Adam Roberts
What if it started snowing… and never stopped? That’s the scenario explored in this early novel from British science-fiction writer Adam Roberts, finally back in print in the U.S. (albeit only as an ebook). Climate change takes a different tack in this post-apocalyptic adventure for readers who were chilled by the icy future of the film Snowpiercer, as a prolonged, heavy snow begins to fall everywhere, and keeps falling, piling higher and higher until eventually covering the planet in a shell of snow hundreds of miles thick. Their tallest cities long-buried, the remnants of humanity survive by digging out elaborate systems of tunnels and warrens, and trying to figure out what comes next. And you thought Westeros had it bad.
Rattlesnake Wind, by Lilith Saintcrow
Lilith Saintcrow has given us a novel revealing a vision of dark near-future America and coined the genre we labeled trailer park fantasy. Her latest is something new: a story of growing up, finding love, and discovering magic for the first time. Teenager Desiree Thompson moves across the country with her family to desolate Wyoming to build a new life in the wake of the death of her father. At first, life in the sleepy community seems to be going well, if not quite proceeding normally: Desiree dates a local boy and befriends a woman who teaches her how to see visions of the future. But then, a dangerous stranger enters town and begins dating Desiree’s mother, and everything begins to go wrong. The metaphor is obvious, but Saintcrow’s writing never is; this coming-of-age tale is as genuine as it is magical.
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Adrian Tchaikovsky apparently has a thing for spiders. This 2015 book, formerly available only as a UK import, is being republished in the U.S. by Orbit just in time for the May 2019 debut of the sequel, Children of Ruin. It’s a magnificently imaginative space opera about the last remnants of humanity’s diaspora to the stars, who believe they’ve found their new Eden—a terraformed planet perfectly suited to human life—until they discover another batch of colonists (of the massive, fiendishly intelligent, eight-legged variety) is also vying for a spot at the top of the food chain. It’s a novel that once again proves the author a master at manipulating familiar elements of the genre (generation ships, cryosleep, truly alien civilizations), while injecting his own brand of venomous originality—due to the colony world’s ideal environment, the spider race evolves at an accelerated rate, allowing us to witness entire epochs of its history, from squishable bugs to a space-faring civilization to be reckoned with, in the span of a few hundred idea-packed pages.
A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, by Alex White
The second book in the big, gay, action-packed space opera series The Salvagers (after August’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe) opens with Nilah and Boots basking in the newfound wealth shared by the crew of the Capricious in the wake of their last desperate adventure. They could’ve just spent their money and enjoyed life for a change, basking in the glory of having literally just saved the universe from destruction, but no: when rumors of an ancient cult linked to a dangerous, ancient power reach them, they know they have to act. Nilah goes undercover, testing her short temper, while Boots faces up to her past, forced to look up her traitorous ex-partner. If you’re getting Firefly vibes from all that, you’re right on the money; Browncoats will find a lot to love in this fast, funny, and wickedly smart series.
What new SFF is on your list this week?