The best new sci-fi this month from 3 Body Problem writer Cixin Liu to Douglas Preston

by ARKANSAS DIGITAL NEWS

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The last remaining free city of the Forever Desert has been besieged for centuries in The Truth of the Aleke

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There are some huge names with new works out this month: Cixin Liu and Ann Leckie both have collections of shorter writing to peruse, plus there’s a dystopic future from the award-winning Téa Obreht and a world where woolly mammoths have been brought back from the bestselling Douglas Preston. I also love the sound of Scott Alexander Howard’s debut The Other Valley, set in a town where its past and future versions exist in the next valleys over, and of Sofia Samatar’s space adventure The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain. So much to read, so little time…

This is a collection of short works from Liu, the sci-fi author of the moment thanks to Netflix’s new adaptation of The Three-Body Problem, ranging from essays and interviews to short fiction. I love this snippet from an essay about sci-fi fans, in which he calls us “mysterious aliens in the crowd”, who “jump like fleas from future to past and back again, and float like clouds of gas between nebulae; in a flash, we can reach the edge of the universe, or tunnel into a quark, or swim within a star-core”. Aren’t we lucky to have such worlds available to us on our shelves?

Leckie is a must-read writer for me, and this is the first complete collection of her short fiction, ranging across science fiction and fantasy. On the sci-fi side, we will be able to dip back into the Imperial Radch universe, and we are also promised that we’ll “learn the secrets of the mysterious Lake of Souls” in a brand-new novelette.

In a catastrophic version of the future, an 11-year-old girl arrives with her mother at The Morningside, once a luxury high-rise, now another crumbling part of Island City, which is half-underwater. Obreht won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011 for her debut, The Tiger’s Wife.

Samatar won all sorts of prizes for her first novel, A Stranger in Olondria. Her latest sounds really intriguing, following the story of a boy who has grown up condemned to work in the bowels of a mining ship among the stars, whose life changes when he is given the chance to be educated at the ship’s university.

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A boy grows up working in a mining ship among the stars in The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain

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This is set in a valley in the Rockies, where guests at a luxury resort can see woolly mammoths, giant ground sloths and Irish elk brought back from extinction by genetic manipulation. But then a string of killings kicks off, and a pair of investigators must find out what’s really going on. This looks Jurassic Park-esque and seems like lots of fun. And if you want more mammoth-related reading, try my colleague Michael Le Page’s excellent explainer about why they won’t be back any time soon.

Mania by Lionel Shriver

The award-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin brings her thoughts about so-called “culture wars” to bear on her fiction, imagining a world where a “Mental Parity Movement” is in the ascendent, and “the worst thing you can call someone is ‘stupid’”.

This speculative novel is set in a town where, to the east, lies the same town but 20 years ahead in time and, to the west, the same town but 20 years behind, repeating endlessly across the wilderness. The only border crossings allowed are for “mourning tours”, in which the dead can be seen in towns where they are still alive. Odile, who is 16, is set for a seat on the Conseil, where she will be able to decree who gets to travel across borders. I love the sound of this.

Many will question whether the Marvel superhero stories are really science fiction, but I’m leaning into the multiversal aspect here to include this, as it sounds like it could be a bit of fun. It’s the first in a new series that reimagines the origins of some of the biggest heroes: here, Thor died protecting Earth from one of Loki’s pranks and, exiled on our planet, the Norse trickster god is now dealing with the consequences.

The second book in the Forever Desert series is set 500 years after The Lies of the Ajungo, following a junior peacekeeper in the last remaining free city of the Forever Desert, which has been besieged for centuries. It was actually out in March, but I missed it then, so I’m bringing it to you now as it was tipped as a title to watch this year by our science fiction contributor Sally Adee.

Anomaly by Andrej Nikolaidis, translated by Will Firth

It is New Year’s Eve on the last day of the last year of human existence and various stories are unfolding, from a high-ranking minister with blood on his hands to a nurse keeping a secret. Later, in a cabin in the Alps, a musicologist and her daughter – the last people left on Earth – are trying to understand the catastrophe. According to The Independent, Nikolaidis “makes Samuel Beckett look positively cheery”, but I’m definitely in the mood for that kind of story now and then.

In this techno-thriller, Mal is a free AI who is uninterested in the conflict going on between the humans, until he finds himself trapped in the body of a cyborg mercenary and becomes responsible for the safety of the girl she died protecting.

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