This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Artificial Awakenings, Indigenous Monster Slayers, and Good Doggos of the Apocalypse

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C. A. Fletcher
After the Gelding, an event that rendered most of Earth’s population sterile, society has crumbled. On an island off the coast of Scotland, a boy named Griz lives with his family and his dogs Jess and Jip, and rarely sees any signs of other humans. When a stranger with long red hair arrives one day offering trade, the family is uneasy, but allows him ashore—but the interloper rewards their kindness by drugging them, stealing all of their supplies, and dognapping Jess. With no law or government left to appeal to, Griz doesn’t hesitate to act, grabbing Jip and setting off in pursuit of his beloved dog. His journey takes him on a nightmarish tour of a world that has been hollowed out and is falling apart—and which also isn’t quite as empty as Griz imagined. This is post-apocalyptic sci-fi with heart, and a few very good doggos.

Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan
We’ll include this one here, even though the famous literary author who wrote it has loudly insisted that his new novel isn’t really science fiction because it deals with the ramifications of technology on a human level. Of course, regular readers of the genre know that this has long been a hallmark of its greatest works, but we’ll forgive the Man Booker Prize winner his snobbishness just this once. Certainly his book is our kind of thing—nominally it concerns a growing relationship (both physically and emotionally intimate) between a man (thirtysomething Londoner Charlie), a woman (Charlie’s girlfriend Miranda), and a machine (a new model of robot know an an Adam, with a mind that can learn and, like another android we know, a “fully functional” sex organ) in an alternate 1980s in which Alan Turning never died (he makes a cameo appearance). In exploring the growth of an artificial intelligence and considering the ways in which it can and cannot connect with the humans around it (in a plot involving messy human emotions like jealousy and a hunger for revenge), McEwan is of course also really commenting on the messy, imperfect connections between those of us made of flesh and blood. How literary. How science fictional!

Ragged Alice, by Gareth L. Powell
Detective Chief Inspector Holly Craig grew up in the small Welsh town of Pontyrhudd haunted by her mother’s murder and memories of a terrifying creature she called Ragged Alice. As soon as she could, Holly left that place, hoping to harness her ability to literally see evil in people by becoming a police officer. When her latest case goes terribly sideways, she asks for a transfer back to her home town, where she works a simple case of hit and run that quickly spirals into something much more terrible: the main suspect turns up dead, mutilated in exactly the same way as Holly’s mother, three decades before. As she delves into the dark threads running through the town, Holly must face her worst fears and the secrets of her peculiar talents. Powell has wowed readers with his science fiction (his space opera Embers of War just won the British Science Fiction Award); with this paranormal procedural, he proves himself just as adept at creeping them out.

Storm of Locusts, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Rebecca Roanhorse delivers a rip-roaring sequel to last year’s Trail of Lightning, the first book in the post-apocalyptic fantasy series The Sixth World and, oh yeah, a Hugo and Nebula award nominee for Best Novel. Navajo monster slayer Maggie Hoskie learns that her gifted medicine man beaux Kai has been kidnapped by a dangerous cult leader, so she sets off beyond the high wall separating Dinétah from the wastes of the former southwestern U.S. to save him. Facing new monsters (not to mention that titular plague of insects) and a blasted landscape, Maggie reckons with her toughest challenge yet—and makes some new allies along the way. Roanhorse continues to breathe new life into the urban fantasy genre with another fast and furious adventure built on Indigenous legends and beliefs.

Ravnica: War of the Spark, by Greg Weisman
The first novel set in the Magic: The Gathering universe to be released in years tells the story of Teyo Verada, a young man training as a shieldmage to protect his world from devastating diamondstorms. When the first real test of his abilities goes horribly awry, he’d buried alive. The incident should’ve killed him; instead, he finds himself transported to Ravnica, a city that spans an entire world. It seems Verada is a planeswalker, and has been called to the city by the Elder Dragon, Nicol Bolas. Bolas seeks godhood by taking Ravnica, and his power and army is opposed only by the planeswalkers who have gathered together to defend the city, recruiting mages like Verada from around the multiverse. Fans of the vast universe of the collectible card game will find much to love in the lore and adventure of this canonical tie-in novel.

Emily Eternal, by M. G. Wheaton
As the sun shows signs of turning into a red giant and destroying the world about five billion years sooner than scientists predicted, humanity seems doomed. But Emily, an artificial intelligence programmed for morality and social interaction,  thinks it has a way for us to endure, after a fashion: by downloading every humans’ memories into its own databanks and launching itself into space. After Emily’s servers are destroyed by a mysterious group opposed to this form of digital salvation, it survives by downloading itself onto a chip implanted in the head of a Ph.D. student named Jason Hatta. Pursued by enemies hellbent on eliminating Emily, including a rival AI called Emily-2, Jason and his AI passenger soon learn what it means to be human—and more than human—as they race to evade capture and put Emily’s plan into action after all.

What are you reading this week?

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