By Alan Dean Foster.
Nov. 2017. 288p. Del Rey, $27 (9781101967607); e-book
Foster’s return to his popular Pip & Flinx
series follows the human empath Flinx and
his Alaspinian minidrag Pip as they travel to
Largess, a planet whose furry, water-loving
inhabitants express themselves solely through
song. Flinx is tasked with discovering who
or what is introducing and using prohibited technology to the relatively preindustrial
world of Largess and disrupting the Commonwealth’s attempts to unify the Larian
clans. Foster’s greatest strength remains his
world building, easily creating evocative alien
landscapes and populating them, filling the
world of Largess not only with the songs of
the Larians but also with a wide variety of other alien fauna and flora. While the story has
occasional references to earlier adventures and
past relationships—as well as being a relatively
late entry in a long-running series—new readers will not need any previous familiarity with
the other Pip & Flinx books or the Commonwealth universe as a whole to enjoy Strange
Music. Recommended not only for fans of
Foster’s other books but for anyone looking
for a fun and breezy sf adventure. —Alan Keep
Strange Weather: Four Short Novels.
By Joe Hill.
Oct. 2017. 448p. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062663115).
Hill is back with a collection of four short
novels that each showcases his talent for mining modern lives for fear. As he notes in the
collection’s afterword, tales of horror and
fantasy thrive at a shorter length, and readers will be vigorously nodding their heads
in agreement. These novellas present a foreboding and
unsettling view of our world
and contain complex and
complicated casts of diverse
characters. In “Snapshot,” a
grown man looks back on a
summer gone by when he
found a Polaroid that steals
rather than preserves memories; in “Loaded,”
Hill writes his impassioned, heartbreaking,
and compulsively readable response to the
Sandy Hook tragedy. “Aloft” is a sinister fairy
tale about a macabre world hiding on top of
a cloud; and in the final novella, “Rain,” set
in the present time, the apocalypse comes as
showers of shiny crystal nails pelt the Earth.
These tales are terrifying and compelling, filled
with intense anxiety throughout, but it is that
final story, set entirely in the real world, that
is the most menacing of the bunch. After getting two 700-plus-page novels in a row, fans
will be thrilled to take in Hill’s malevolent
mind through these masterfully crafted single-sitting reads reminiscent of the very best of the
short works by giants of the form like King,
Gaiman, and Miéville. Hill is not only maturing as a writer of relevantly chilling tales but
he is also emerging as a distinct voice for our
complicated times. —Becky Spratford
The creative imagination displayed by science-fiction and fantasy writers continues to impress us, and the 10 titles listed below, reviewed in Booklist between August 2016 and July 2017, only confirm
the ingenuity found in these two genres. —Rebecca Vnuk
Borne. By Jeff VanderMeer. 2017. Farrar, $26 (9780374115241).
VanderMeer marries bildungsroman, domestic drama, love story, and
survival thriller into one compelling story centered around complex,
vulnerable characters struggling with what it means to be human.
The Clockwork Dynasty. By Daniel H. Wilson. 2017. Doubleday,
Wilson’s latest reveals the existence of an ancient group of
mechanical beings who have lived among humans for millennia. Science fiction at its best—thoughtful, challenging, beautifully written,
Crosstalk. By Connie Willis. 2016. Del Rey, $28 (9780345540676).
SFWA Grand Master Willis returns to farcical romantic comedy (and
timely social satire) in this near-future novel full of her trademarks—
rich storytelling, fascinating historical trivia, quick-witted repartee, and
plausible speculative technology.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones. By Seanan McGuire. 2017. Tor,
McGuire pairs form with function in this spare story of two sisters
who yearn for love, recognition, and belonging in ways that readers
will readily identify with—chafing against rules as they long to break
free of the expectations of others.
Drakon. By A. M. Tuomala. 2016. Candlemark & Gleam, $22.95
This complex but well-told story features three siblings, heirs to a
dragon-guarding legacy, as they determine who is trustworthy, even
in their own family.
Kings of the Wyld. By Nicholas Eames. 2017. Orbit, $14.99
Eames’ debut fantasy tale reads like a “Where Are They Now?” for
your favorite old Dungeons & Dragons characters.
The New Voices of Fantasy. Ed. by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. 2017. Tachyon, $16.95 (9781616962579).
This collection brings together stories that represent the new and
evolving possibilities for fantasy writing, particularly “literary” fantasy,
which exists between the boundaries of genre and mainstream fiction.
Roboteer. By Alex Lamb. 2017. Gollancz, $13.99 (9781473206083).
The fate of humankind rests with an alien technology in Lamb’s
debut, which is an exciting, fresh take on space warfare.
A Taste of Honey. By Kai Ashante Wilson. 2016. Tor, $14.99
Aqib bmg Sadiqi is expected to marry well and take over his father’s position as Master of Beasts, but when he falls in love with a
visiting soldier, all bets are off.
Walkaway. By Cory Doctorow. 2017. Tor, $24.99 (9780765392763).
In a future where no one needs to work but the rich keep getting
richer, the disenfranchised decide to simply walk away from modern
life and start their own utopia.
TOP 10 SF/FANTASY