killjoysIn The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Better Living Industries, a megacorporation with a ruthless and tyrannical leader, is working to take over more of the world and to cut off the freedoms and emotions of everyone living on the planet. This has been going on for years with revolutionaries and groups popping up every now and then trying to save what they can of the life they used to live and the people that they used to know. A group of four said revolutionaries became THE group of revolutionaries in this world with their likenesses splattered all over the news. Sadly over ten years ago, they were all killed while trying to save the life of a mysterious young girl that Better Living Industries, aka BLI, was trying to kill. This young girl becomes one of the main subject lines of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Follow along as the Girl works to figure out why BLI tried to kill her, what BLI is doing to all the defunct robots around the world, how these rogue groups are surviving and getting their news, and how the system BLI has set up is really affecting the civilized people in the world and how BLI is able to control the world and its employees.

The writers, Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, along with artist Becky Cloonan, have crafted a very strange, mysterious, and science fiction heavy graphic novel that is rich in details and colors that pop into your subconscious as you follow along with the characters. This graphic novel does not have a traditional linear structure, in the sense that readers will have to pay attention to context and art clues to figure out the difference between the past and the present, but the ideas presented are so intriguing and seemingly plausible that the quick transitions between past and present and also between different characters’ storylines only serve to add to the complex and supremely creative nature of this graphic novel. I highly recommend reading through this graphic novel more than once.

Featured new additions to DPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.

WTNV_Version BEST 2.27 Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor – From the creators of the wildly popular “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live. Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. The audiobook is, of course, narrated by the same cast of the podcast!
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 Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie – Fleet Captain Breq, once ancillary to the Justice of Toren and last seen in Ancillary Sword , is still on Atheok station. She’s trying to improve life for the residents of the Undergarden, but the brewing conflict between rival aspects of Anaander Mianaai finally arrives on her doorstep. Breq’s desire for revenge against Mianaai burns as bright as ever, but her plan to oppose the Lord of the Radch will change not only the political landscape but all human and AI relations.
 city-of-death-book Doctor Who: City of Death by Douglas Adams & James Goss –  4 billion BCE: The Jagaroth, the most powerful, vicious, and visually unappealing race in the universe disappears from existence. Few are sad to see them go. 1979 CE: The Doctor, his companion Romana, and his cybernetic dog, K-9, arrive for a vacation in Paris only to discover that they have landed in a year in which the fabric of time has begun to crack. It is once again up to the Doctor to uncover an audacious alien scheme filled with homemade time machines, the theft of the Mona Lisa, the resurrection of the Jagaroths, and the beginning (or possibly the end) of all life on Earth. Based on the “Doctor Who” episode of the same name by Douglas Adams.
A_Knight_of_the_Seven_Kingdoms  A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin –  Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name is hidden from all he and Dunk encounter. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two, as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.
 51K-KsvBa1L__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong – In a future world where anyone can have the powers of a god or the fame of a pop star, in which human achievement soars to new heights while its depravity plunges to the blackest depths. A world in which at least one cat smells like a seafood shop’s dumpster on a hot summer day. This is the world in which Zoey Ashe finds herself, navigating a futuristic city in which one can find elements of the fantastic, nightmarish and ridiculous on any street corner. Her only trusted advisor is the aforementioned cat, but even in the future, cats cannot give advice. At least not any that you’d want to follow.
25279716  Not on Fire, But Burning by Greg Hrbek – Twenty-year-old Skyler saw the incident out her window: Some sort of metallic object hovering over the Golden Gate Bridge just before it collapsed and a mushroom cloud lifted above the city. Like everyone, she ran, but she couldn’t outrun the radiation, with her last thoughts being of her beloved baby brother, Dorian, safe in her distant family home. Flash-forward twelve years later – Dorian dreams about his sister—even though Dorian’s parents insist Skyler never existed. Are they still shell-shocked, trying to put the past behind them . . . or is something more sinister going on?

 

hugo_sm_custom-7834b7af955f641ec6cac4fb6d7a793070491ea0-s600-c85Earlier this week, the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy were announced. This year’s Hugo Ballot, and the year leading up to the event, were rife with controversy, leading some SF and Fantasy readers and prominent authors to declare the 2015 Hugo Awards invalid.

First, some background. The Hugo Awards are organized by the World Science Fiction Society and the awards are given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention. To be able to nominate and vote, all that needed is to be a supporting member of the World Science Fiction Convention. There are no written rules as to which works qualify as science fiction or fantasy, and the decision of eligibility in that regard is left up to the voters. For each category, the voter may rank “No Award” as one of their choices. Voters are instructed that they should do so if they feel that none of the nominees are worthy of the award, or if they feel the category should be abolished entirely.

Last year’s award winners (find them here), were to some, a sign that the genre was finally opening up to a more diverse perspective. Others felt that an agenda was being pushed and that the awards were sacrificing literary quality over popularity and fandoms. This year, a concerted effort on the part of the latter group (calling themselves “Sad Puppies”) was made to stuff the ballot box with votes and “No Awards” for books the Puppies thought were being ignored. Another group, calling themselves “Rabid Puppies” did the same. Two SF authors, Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet, withdrew their works from the ballot. George R.R. Martin held his own awards ceremony after the Hugo, handing out “Alfies” to authors who would have won at the Hugo Awards if not for the efforts of the Puppies.

For an thorough exploration of the issues, read io9’s “Eight Books You Need To Know About to Understand The Hugo Awards Snafu” by Charlie Jane Anders and Wired’s “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards and Why It Matters” by Amy Wallace. There is also a good breakdown of the 2015 votes on the blog Chaos Horizon.

With all that in mind, here are the 2015 Hugo Award winners and nominees in seven major categories, winner in bold. Click on the title to find it in DPL’s catalog, if available. The complete list is here.

Read More →

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

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher – Butcher’s new series “The Cinder Spires” beings when an airship’s crew become humanity’s lone defenders when an ancient enemy reawakens and threatens the world with monstrous creatures and perpetual darkness.
jacketLD5EKB9B The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett – Putatively written by Miss Felicity Beedle, Discworld’s premier children’s author, but of course by the recently deceased Pratchett, this is a book for all ages that Discworld hero Vimes is given for young son Sam. And that really is Poo, not Pooh: “But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather.”
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Finches of Mars by Brian Aldiss – It’s been 10 years since humans went to Mars, and in that time none of the children born on the Red Planet has survived. Desperate to figure out why, the colonists are forced to confront a disheartening reality: back on Earth, not many people seem to care what happens to the Mars colony. The survival of the colony could depend on the sacrifices the colonists are forced to make.
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The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickenson – Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people–even her soul. When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free. But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.
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Blood Call by Lilith Saintcrow – Anna Caldwell has spent the last few days in a blur. She’s seen her brother’s dead body, witnessed the shooting of innocent civilians, and been shot at herself. The story Anna’s stumbled into is far bigger than even she suspects. Anna wants to survive, her ex Josiah wants Anna back, and the powerful people chasing her want the only thing worth killing for — immortality.
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The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu –  The sequel to “The Three Body Problem” finds Earth reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion–in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access toall human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike.
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 The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – After the empire Sanze collapses and the vast continent Stillness becomes ravaged by a red rift which darkens the sky, Essun, whose daughter has been kidnapped by her murderous husband, crosses Stillness in a desperate attempt to save her daughter.

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

armada Armada by Ernest Cline – Struggling to complete his final month of high school only to glimpse a UFO that exactly resembles an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Zack questions his sanity before becoming one of millions of gamers tasked with protecting the Earth during an alien invasion.
scalzi The End of All Things by John Scalzi – The sequel to The Human Division finds Colonial Defense Forces lieutenant Harry Wilson investigating a series of alien attacks that are threatening Earth’s survivors and an increasingly under-sourced Colonial Union.
ghost Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole – The United States, China, and Russia eye each other across a twenty-first century version of the Cold War, which suddenly heats up at sea, on land, in the air, in outer space, and in cyberspace. The fighting involves everything from stealthy robotic–drone strikes to old warships from the navy’s “ghost fleet.” Ultimately, victory will depend on blending the lessons of the past with the weapons of the future.
mirror The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley – Forced into a mirror universe as soldiers overran her village, Lilia, the orphan of a blood witch, begins making unsettling discoveries about her past and the nature of the dark star Oma, which has not been seen for two thousand years.
22381326 Half a War by Joe Abercrombie – Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.
moments Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Mieville – London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse’s bones designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what? Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection many published here for the first time.
smug The Good, the Bad and the Smug by Tom Holt – Mordak isn’t bad, as far as goblin kings go, but when someone, or something, starts pumping gold into the human kingdoms it puts his rule into serious jeopardy. Suddenly he’s locked in an arms race with a species whose arms he once considered merely part of a calorie-controlled diet. Helped by an elf with a background in journalism and a masters degree in being really pleased with herself, Mordak sets out to discover what on earth (if indeed, that’s where he is) is going on. He knows that the truth is out there. If only he could remember where he put it.

Long ago and far away, I was unaware of the rise of the webcomic. That was until, a coworker (two, actually) began sending me links to blogs and Tumblrs they thought might fit my odd reading preference. And boy, did they create a monster!

For the uninitiated, a webcomic is exactly what you think it is – a comic on the web. Some are ongoing, newspaper-like strips, others tell a story that may or may not have a ending, some are even interactive! What is great about webcomics is that by their online nature, they are not limited to the printed page, nor must they conform to traditional storytelling standards.

Some webcomics, having been successful online, have published their webcomics as books. Some, like Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona” or Kate Beaton’s “Hark! A Vagrant!” were picked up by major publishers. Others are printed using funds raised from Kickstarter, like “Derelict” by Ben Fleuter or “Ava’s Demon” by Michelle Czajkowski. Either way, it’s a fantastic trend and exposes webcomics to an even larger audience.

Here are some of my favorite web-to-print collections:

aumokd6pfdtuhq4dvfax_0Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Set in a futuristic medieval world, Nimona, a young and impulsive shape-shifter joins up (well, forces her way in) with the supervillian Lord Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart, who was once a knight and lost his arm in a joust with Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the kingdom’s champion. As Nimona and Blackheart pit themselves against the Director of the evil Institution, it becomes clear that no one and nothing is at it seems, especially Nimona.

You can check out the full comic from DPL (which I highly recommend) and see Stevenson’s other work on her blog and Tumblr. It’s especially worth it for the occasional non-canon “Nimona” mini stories she draws, and her obsession with “Hulkeye.”

 

 

Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks –  Canadian cartoonist Hicks’ “The shgcoverAdventures of Superhero Girl” follows our young superhero as she leaps tall buildings and clashes with the ninjas that seem to infest her otherwise boring city. She also faces the very ordinary challenges of being young and broke, social awkwardness and unfortunate cape-shrinkage.  The blending of superhero and the mundane creates a very funny and relatable story, winning Hicks an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids. You can check out the print book from DPL here, or read the whole comic online here (in black and white). Hicks creates several other webcomics, which you can check out on her blog here and on her Tumblr.

 

51tccYo6VVL__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton – History nerds unite! Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of strips previously published on Beaton’s website, plus author commentary and a handful of previously unseen strips. Mixing both the historical and the contemporary, Beaton’s deceptively simple illustrations cast an erudite and witty eye on history, literature and pop culture. I will admit to needing to look up more than a few of the historical characters and events that appear in this collection ( especially those that had to do with Canadian history), but one needn’t be a history expert to enjoy the sheer silliness of the characters’ expressions and one-liners. Beaton also lampoons Nancy Drew, Aquaman, 1980s business women and her younger self, to name a few more modern targets, and the collection includes some singularly hilarious non sequitur strips to boot.

Beaton as two new collections coming out soon, “Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection” and “The Princess and the Pony.” Check out her website here, and her Tumblr, too.

Here are some more webcomics  that I enjoy, some in print and some only online:

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch – Brosch has a deceptively simple illustration style and a talent for hilarious story telling. Her stories are taken, more or less, from real life and some, especially those about her Simple Dog, will give you stomach cramps from laughter. Brosh has also illustrated her own battle with depression with her signature style. Very much worth reading.

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski – A young girl is possessed by a vengeful demon. To free herself, Ava must make a pact with her demon and carry out her plan for revenge and restoration. The art is absolutely stunning, especially when displayed digitally.

Derelict by Ben Fleuter – In a far future, the Earth is flooded and overcome with an alien fog which hides the “Miasmic Races.” Scavenger Dang Thu Mai is simply trying to get by, but her past, and the Miasma, continue to haunt her.

Apothecia by Taz Muir and Shelby Cragg – Eleven-year-old Jessie finds something horrific in the woods. What she does next will change her, and the world.

Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman – From the animator of “Phineas and Ferb,” the comic begins with ten-year-old “Red” (because she has red hair, you see) as she runs away from yet another foster family. This time, though, it isn’t the police so find her, but aliens! Abducted and taken across the galaxy, she soon finds herself stranded with other abductees – a veritable menageries of strange (and grumpy) aliens.

One Way by Christopher Baldwin – What if the crew of a starship was, instead of being like “Star Trek,” a little bit more like “The Real World”? Sent on a first contact mission from which there may not be a return trip, Captain Francisco tries to keep his crew from killing one another (when you book a one-way trip, you don’t waste your A-team on it). The comic is mostly an on-going gag, but you can’t help but like this crew of total jerks.

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The 2015 Locus Awards are in! Beginning in 1971, the science fiction magazine “Locus” has used reader polls to determine the nominees and winners. This year the nominees represented quite a diverse array of authors and styles.

Here are the winner and nominees for the top categories. Click on the titles to find the book in the DPL catalog, and you can find the complete list here.

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Winner: Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie – FleetCaptainBreqMianaai has acquired both a human body and command of a starship. Not the worst fate in the universe for a several-thousand-year-old AI component (or “ancillary”) separated from her former vessel’s hive mind. Sent to the planet Athoek as an envoy of the many-bodied Lord of the Radch, Breq must prevent a civil war that threatens the stability of the Radchaai Empire while engaging in a more personal quest for answers about the past.

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Winner: The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison – When his estranged father, Emperor Varenechibel oftheElflands, perishes in an airship crash, 18-year-old MaiaDrazhar is recalled from exile and proclaimed heir to the Elfin imperial throne of Ethuveraz. Maia, whose late mother was a goblin, is immediately transformed from pariah to messiah– attracting sycophants, schemers, and enemies in short order. If Maia is to survive life at court, let alone rule, he’ll need to distinguish false friends from true and use his wits to navigate a treacherous world of conspiracy and political intrigue.

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Winner: Half a King, Joe Abercrombie – Heir to thethroneYarvi, prompted by the murder of his father, embarks on a kingdom-transforming journey to regain the throne, even though having only one good hand means he cannot wield a weapon.

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Winner: The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert – Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. Not that she knows about them. Her mother, Nan, is sure that the burden of those secrets would be too much, and that’s why she never told anyone the truth … not even Bay. There’s a lot that Nan has kept quiet over the years, especially those times with Mavis and Ruthie–times that were dark and full of guilt. When the three meet again in Nan’s garden, their reunion has spellbinding effects that none of them could have imagined, least of all Bay.

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Winner: Last Plane to Heaven, Jay Lake (Read my review here) – Lake (1964–2014) was a well-known author of science fiction and fantasy novels, but he was also a prolific short story writer. This final collection shows the range of styles that Lake was comfortable with and showcases his clever way with words.

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.

index The Vorrh by B. Caitling – Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast—perhaps endless—forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes  memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now, a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse.Listen to Alan Moore read his own introduction to the book here:
index22 Vermilion by Molly Tanzer – Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise “Lou” Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she’s too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It’s an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well… they’re not wrong.Read Andrew Liptak ‘s review on io9 here:

(caution, some spoilers.)

index The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Carolyn and a dozen other children being raised by “Father,” a cruel man with mysterious powers, begin to think he might be God, so when he dies, they square off against each other to determine who will inherit his library, which they believe holds the power to all Creation.
index The Border by Robert McCammon – Two powerful, mysterious alien races are at war; Earth is caught in the middle, collateral damage. The planet is devastated, its people made nearly extinct. Those who have survived the catastrophic destruction caused by the alien war are succumbing to fallout from the battle, which is turning them into half-human creatures preying on those who are still human. Mankind seems doomed, but there is one small hope: a young boy who possesses powers that could save humanity.
indexQ91V0FBG The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher  – Relegated to a Fleetspace station after saving an Earth of the distant future, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland navigates hostile workers and persistent malfunctions before receiving a mysterious warning from thousands of light-years away.
indexAIB87K3C Desert Rising by Grant Kelley – The Temple at Illian is the crown jewel of life in the Northern Territory. There, pledges are paired with feli, the giant sacred cats of the One god, and are instructed to serve the One’s four capricious deities. Yet Sulis, a young woman from the Southern Desert, has a different perspective—one that just might be considered heresy, but that is catching on rather quickly …
index Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter – Set in a near-future LA, a man falls in love with a beautiful android — but when she is kidnapped and sold piecemeal on the black market, he must track down her parts to put her back together.
index City of Savages by Lee Kelly – Living in Manhattan, which is now a prisoner-of-war camp, sisters Skyler and Phee set in motion a series of events that forces them to join a group of strangers on an escape mission through a city rife with cannibals and sadistic cults.

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.

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?