This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Mechanical Dragons, a Look Back at 2018’s Best, and a Return to the Most Brain-Tingling Universe in SF

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Hexarchate Stories, by Yoon Ha Lee
The novels of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series—Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, and Revenant Gun—have been nominated for three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel (we’ll see if he finally gets his chance at the statue for book three when the 2019 Hugos are handed out later this summer at WorldCon 77 in Dublin). The books are set within a fascinating interstellar empire known as the Hexarchate, which is divided into six factions that control separate areas of space. Citizens of the Hexarchate are expected to live according to the high calendar, as perfect alignment (“consensus mechanics”) is required in order for their complex machinery to function. If that all makes your head spin a little bit, well, that’s the idea: this is military space opera at it’s most inventive, complex, and challenging. Though the trilogy is complete, there is much more to learn about Lee’s vast empire, which is where this new collection comes in: Hexarchate Stories brings together all of the author’s short fiction set in this universe. These tales stray from the milSF of the main series in fascinating ways (one focuses on an art thief’s attempts to put a stop to a galactic superweapon), and make for great (if brain-straining) reading even if you’ve never before encountered the author.

Salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton 
That Hamilton remains under the radar of many sci-fi readers (particularly in the US) is a crime; not only has he consistently offered up amazing science fictional concepts, he’s packed them into character-focused epics with sprawl to rival Dickens. His most recent door-stopping work, newly available in convenient mass market paperback size, stands apart from his earlier series. It’s set in the 23rd century, by which time humanity has achieved a complacent sort of ascendancy, managing a far-flung interstellar empire via networked “jump gates” that allow for instantaneous travel to anywhere. The cargo on a crashed spacecraft found on a newly discovered planet, however, threatens to fatally undermine that hegemony. Paralleling that story is one set in the 51st century, where an ancient enemy pursues the genocide of the human race and a team of genetically altered soldiers prepare to face it. Per usual for Hamilton, the ideas are as invigorating as the plot, which earns the epic page count.

The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd
This literary-leaning dystopian novel, another one of our favorite SFF books of 2018 just out in paperback, is set in a world set upon by a truly strange affliction: all over the globe, people are losing their shadows, a loss that grants then extranormal powers, at the cost of their memories. To escape the Forgetting plague, lovers Max and Ory flee to the wilderness. They think themselves safe, until Max loses her shadow and is forced to go on the run, lest she become a danger to the man she loves. Knowing his wife’s time, and memories, are running out, Ory sets out after her, exploring a landscape devastated by the unrest that rose up in the wake of humanity’s strange evolution, and, along the way, finds answers, and some cause for hope.

The Iron Dragon’s Mother, by Michael Swanwick
Michael Swanwick surprises with a direct sequel to his 1993 science fantasy classic The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. The followup tells the story of Caitlin of House Sans Merci, a half-human pilot of mechanical dragons. After completing her first mission, she finds she has a hitchhiker in her head named Helen—but before she can puzzle that out, she finds herself framed for a series of terrible crimes, including the murder of her brother. Believing he must still be alive, Caitlin flees into the lands of the industrialized faerie, and discovers a twisted society where changeling women are used as breeding stock and pilots are punished if they do not remain virgins. As she pursues the truth to prove her innocence, Caitlin finds herself working toward a greater goal than her own freedom, assembling a heroic group of friends to help her liberate those suffering under an oppressive society.

What sci-fi or fantasy book are you planning to read next?

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