2015 was a crazy good year for SFF books and there is still so much I haven’t read. And 2016 is already shaping up to be as good (if not better) when it comes to new releases, so I have my hands full. But before all the great books from last year – or the years before, come to think of it – get lost in all the shiny new stuff, I want to do some catching up. Here’s what I plan to read soon-ish or am currently reading in my attempt to keep up with the fast-moving world of SFF.
Becky Chambers – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
I started this a few days ago and I am already in love with it. The book has a Firefly feel to it, what with the spaceship crew of insanely interesting characters who each have their own life and hopes and dreams.
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.
N.K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season
This I started a while ago but I haven’t found the quiet time I need to enjoy this book. It’s not an easy quick read, it wants to be savored and read carefully. I’m pretty sure I can finish it before the sequel comes out, I just need a weekend to myself and some quiet around the house.
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
C.S.E. Cooney – Bone Swans
I have been all over this book from the moment I saw the cover. Then I read the description and started believing Cooney wrote this only for me. It pushes all my buttons and looks like just my cup of tea. Fairy tales subverted, twisted, lyrical language, great reviews all around… I can’t wait to get started!
A swan princess hunted for her bones, a broken musician and his silver pipe, and a rat named Maurice bring justice to a town under fell enchantment. A gang of courageous kids confronts both a plague-destroyed world and an afterlife infested with clowns but robbed of laughter. In an island city, the murder of a child unites two lovers, but vengeance will part them. Only human sacrifice will save a city trapped in ice and darkness. Gold spun out of straw has a price, but not the one you expect.
World Fantasy Award winner Ellen Kushner has called Cooney’s writing “stunningly delicious! Cruel, beautiful and irresistible.” BONE SWANS, the infernally whimsical debut collection from C. S. E. Cooney, gathers five novellas that in the words of Andre Norton Award winner Delia Sherman are “bawdy, horrific, comic, and moving-frequently all at the same time.” Cooney’s mentor, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Gene Wolfe, proclaims in his introduction that her style is so original it can only be described as “pure Cooney,” and he offers readers a challenge: “Try to define that when you’ve finished the stories in this book.”
Lawrence M. Schoen – Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard
Since this book came out so late in 2015, it has gone a little under the radar. But thanks to SFWA’s recommendations for the Nebulas (and a gorgeous, gorgeous cover) I found it anyway and it has raced all the way up on my to-read list. A book that can garner so much support from professionals in such a short time must be pretty damn good.
An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.
In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity’s genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.
To break the Fant’s control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers-that-be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend’s son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future
So these are my most urgent want-to-reads, but I didn’t even mention all the others I’m also itching to read.
- Kate Elliott – Black Wolves
- Molly Tanzer – Vermilion
- Nicole Kornher-Stace – Archivist Wasp
- Aliette de Bodard – The House of Shattered Wings
- Linda Nagata – The Red: First Light
- Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy (I know, I know)