New Science Fiction & Fantasy

Featured new additions to DPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy collections! Click on the book cover or the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page.

seveneves-681x1024 Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – When a catastrophic event dooms the planet, nations around the world band together to devise an ambitious survival plan in outer space 5,000 years before their progeny organize an audacious return.
A1Yo1fulAfL__SL1500_-697x1024 Uprooted by Naomi Novak –  Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
TheWaterKnife-PaoloBacigalupi-687x1024  The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi  – Working as an enforcer for a corrupt developer, Angel Velasquez teams up with a hardened journalist and a street-smart Texan to investigate rumors of California’s imminent monopoly on limited water supplies.
91TULqzHl3L__SL1500_-678x1024  The Book of Phoenix – by Nnedi Okorafor – In a haunting prequel to Who Fears Death, Phoenix, an “accelerated woman” whose abilities far exceed those of a normal human, becomes desperate to escape her “home” in New York’s Tower 7 after the boy she loves, another biologically altered human, takes his own life.
the-gospel-of-loki-9781481449465_hr The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris – The trickster god Loki (sorry, not that Loki) describes the rise and fall of the gods of the Norse, detailing how he left Chaos to serve Odin until the fall of Asgard.
81XbEhMuL2L__SL1500_  The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – The first book in this epic series, tells the story of two men who become friends through rebelling against tyranny and then turn against each other in defense of irreconcilable ideals. Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, the two find themselves the leaders of two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice
unnamed  Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson – Generations after leaving earth, a starship draws near to the planet that may serve as a new home world for those on board. But the journey has brought unexpected changes and their best laid plans may not be enough to survive.
Of-Noble-Family Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal – A conclusion to the series by the award-winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey finds Jane and Vincent reluctantly traveling to the West Indies, where Vincent’s family estate has fallen into shambles.

100 Places You Will Never Visit by Daniel Smith

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Psst, hey there, would you like to see something cool? Down by the arboretum in Dubuque, if you hike to the very back, climb over the old barbed wire fence and head west (watch your step for sink holes) you’ll find what remains of an old park, destroyed 100 years ago by a flash flood that killed five people. Here’s the old limestone bandstand and pavilion, and, if you look hard enough, the decaying remains of the roller-coaster. Be careful, though, since no one is sure if anyone’s allowed here.

Intrigued? So was I, way back when my curiosity easily overruled my common sense. It led me and my friends to the old Union Park, abandoned houses and zinc mines, caves and the subterranean network of cisterns and cellars underneath my neighborhood (don’t tell my mom, though.) It’s the same curiosity that drives the book “100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Locations,” by Daniel Smith. The places photographed and described in Smith’s book tend to fall more into the “you’ll never visit because it’s illegal/top-secret/destroyed/radioactive” and not “you’ll never visit because you’ve never heard of it” category, but the locations described are interesting, especially if you’re a fan of government conspiracies.

The book is heavy on speculation when describing places such as The Skunk Works, Mount Weather and – of course – Area 51. Smith also takes a turn at the politics of some off-limits areas, like Bohemian Grove (a California camp where the world’s most powerful meet, away from the public eye), the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The more interesting places described are those not located in North America (or, at least, are outside of the U.S.’s collective imagination) like La Basse Cour (“The Farmyard”) in Belgium, the unidentified structures in China’s Gobi Desert or the temple vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy in India. Again, most of these places are known, just off-limits to the public. But, the photographs, maps, and illustrations give the reader enough to at least pique curiosity.

If you looking for more lost cities and urban exploration, check out “Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises” by Moses Gates or “Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City” by Bradley Garrett. Or, if abandoned places are more your style, try the TV series “Life After People,” Abandoned America” by  Matthew Christopher or my personal favorite “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman.

Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection by Jay Lake

jacketShort story collections can be a hard sell. Unless you’re a reader who already enjoys them, lovers of a longer story often dismiss their briefer cousins and  I admit that I am one of those readers. Even with an intriguing title, I’ll stay on the fence until the end of the first few stories. Science fiction author Gene Wolfe, in his introduction to this collection, acknowledges such readers, and begs us to stay for at least the eponymous story “The Last Plane to Heaven,” if only because this collection truly is the last from Jay Lake, who passed away from cancer in 2014 and because, as the author says in the dedication, “In the end, words are all that survive us.”

This bittersweet acknowledgement of the author’s own mortality (and ours) sets the tone of the wide-ranging collected stories. From a wayward android lost on Earth, to a futile mission against the agents of a Lovecraftian horror,  these stories express both a love of discovering what is over the next horizon and the liberating act of giving one’s life for such adventure. These are not stories that necessarily have happy endings. As with many short stories, they leave you wanting to know what happens next. There is a yearning that suffuses this collection, an admission that we will never know what happens next, at least in this life.

But while we don’t leave with all the answers, Lakes’ stories tell fantastic tales of the past and future. Lewis and Clark’s famous westward expedition uncovers a place that the human race is not yet ready to know of in “Jefferson’s West.” In “The Women Who Ate Stone Squid,” set in the far future, evidence of an ancient, long-dead intelligent species is uncovered, but in this discovery, humankind might invite the same destruction. “Testaments” tells the stories of the Six Sleeping Kings, each who have ushered in seismic changes in human society at the direction of a higher power, and the Seventh, who has yet to wake. The firing of a boson gun in the 1960s sets off the unraveling of the universe centuries later – but who could have imagined?

Lake gives brief introductions to his stories – the hows and whys and wheres of story writing, as well as a rueful admission that the chemotherapy that granted him a few more years of life also destroyed his “writing brain” in a truly Faustian bargain . His voice is strongest in the “Angels” stories that begin and end each section. His final words (for us at least) are written  in “The Cancer Catechism” at the end.

This not just a collection of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and spirituality, nor is it a joyless recounting of an author’s past glory. Each story piques the imagination, and stays with you long after the tale is over. And what more could an author ask for?

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

12860573I read a lot of  YA dystopia. A lot. I’m huge fan of the genre, but after so many trilogies of teens fighting the system, rising to fame, falling into a forbidden love and/or making terrible decisions, I’d become a bit bored of it. So when I came across 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad and skimmed the book flap – in 2019 three teenagers are selected from a worldwide lottery to go to the moon in the hopes of making space travel more popular and, for the teens, to gain fame for a punk band, to forget an ex or to escape strict parents – it seemed like the same old thing. But, faced with a long stretch of being TV and Internet-less, I finally gave it a chance.

And, man oh man, was I wrong.

Forget about fighting the power, forget the love triangle. This book is one of the best straight-up no-blood horror books I’ve read in quite a while (no surprise the author is Norwegian, where some of the best stark horror novels come from.) Its classification as young adult is unfortunate, as many horror fans might turn their noses up at the genre.

The novel does begin with the usual teenage angst: Mia, from Norway is worried that her punk band will fall apart before they can reach fame; Midori feels suffocated by her life in Japan and Antoine is suffering from an exceptionally bad breakup. The trio is sped through three months of training and are soon launched to the moon, accompanied by three experienced crew, to spend a week living and conducting experiments in the previously abandoned moon base DARLAH 2. As soon as they arrive, of course, things start to go very, very wrong. Damage to key systems that appears to be sabotage, vague references to the ill-fated first moon base DARLAH 1 and its crew, and impossible sightings of spacesuit-clad others walking about the surface all combine to heighten the paranoia and terror of the group. Back on Earth, a former astronaut struggles against dementia to spread a dire warning to the world – that we should never have gone back to the moon, and – if the current crew survives – what we may bring back. Throughout the book, Harstad offers little pieces of memorabilia – blueprints of the DARLAH stations, heavily redacted mission reports and the text of strange transmissions received from an unknown source, lending an eerie reality to the story.

This is a novel that, after a bit of  slow beginning, grips you tightly with icy hands. The background of the three teens isn’t as developed as it could have been, but that only increases the feeling of watching something horrible happen from a great distance. The ending, while not an entirely happy one, left me desperate for a sequel.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by James VanderMeer

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Area X. Engulfing an ill-defined swath of land, sea and sky in the southern U.S., it appeared suddenly, cutting off all connections – human, animal and otherwise – from the rest of the world. The government sends team after team – scientific and military – into Area X. Some disappear without a trace, others return badly damaged and still others return seemingly unharmed, only to die weeks or months later. Most communication and recording instruments are rendered useless once the border is crossed, the footage that does survive only deepens the mystery – and the growing horror – of Area X. Still, the agency that oversees each of these doomed expeditions – The Southern Reach – prepares a twelfth  expedition.

Authority_(Southern_Reach_Trilogy)_by_Jeff_VanderMeerVanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy opens with Annihilation (February 2014) as four women – an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist and a biologist – are sent into Area X. Neither the author nor the narrator (the biologist) use names, instead the characters are defined only by their professions, lending a clinical and dispassionate air to the narrative. Even though we observe the others and Area X through the biologists’ eyes, even she remains somewhat removed from us and from her team. But instead of alienating the reader from the narrator, it lends an odd kind of intimacy that continues throughout the trilogy. The second book, Authority (May 2014) is told from the point of view of a man called only Control, who has been put in charge of The Southern Reach soon after end of the twelfth expedition –  and the investigation into its fate – as Area X appears to infiltrate (or contaminate, depending on your perspective) the world outside its borders. The third book, Acceptance (September 2014) returns us to Area X and the similarly inscrutable organization attempting to oversee, explain and control it.

Acceptance_by_Jeff_VanderMeerThe language VanderMeer uses is  deeply atmospheric and complex, at times, maddeningly so*, although here in Area X it is entirely appropriate. Area X itself defies explanation and even description, as if our view of it through the eyes of our semi-anonymous characters was obscured, with unseen or unknowable dimensions hovering right at the edge of our perception. This dawning horror of the unknown creates and maintains a nearly intolerable level of suspense as layer after layer  is peeled back – at times reluctantly – exposing and obscuring Area X and the people drawn into its influence.

This series is one of those that you’ll want (or in my case, need) to read more than once and even then, it stays with you. It reminds me of Stephen King’s short story Crouch End, or anything by Lovecraft. Even the cover art on the paperback editions is worth studying – and then hiding safely away, lest Area X escapes.

~ Allison

* In the middle of reading Authority, I came across this word and had to share it.

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