Selected SF/F Previews for 02/2014

As part of my ongoing experiment to discover more of what’s up in SF/F as a whole, I’ve tried all the available Amazon previews of new titles linked in SFSignal’s February round-up, and I’ve chosen a few to highlight.

  • Andy Weir, The Martian. A fairly gripping survival thriller about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Surprisingly, he’s pretty phlegmatic about it and intends to survive the four years it’ll take to get rescued.
  • Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation. This appears to be a weird fiction take on Roadside Picnic. I have minor qualms about the prose, but I love the basic premise of explorers going into extremely mysterious and dangerous terrain that’s been mythologized because of past discoveries and extraordinary failures therein.
  • Charles Adler, Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is sort of like a “physics of Star Trek” book, except it has a good bit more math in it and a much greater focus on written SF, making it more intriguing to me than most pop sci books about SF/F. I could definitely see this being used as a textbook in a “physics for poets” class.
  • Sharon Lee, Carousel Sun. The sequel to Carousel Tides, which I have not read yet either. It’s sort of an urban fantasy set at a beach town in Maine and featuring a carousel owner who is also part dryad? OK, well, that’s unusual. It’s also smoothly written and warm in tone, which is typical for Sharon Lee.
  • Daniel Price, The Flight of the Silvers. A very cinematic SF story about two sisters saved from death twice by some folks with strange powers. Somehow, I got sort of a Heroes or FlashForward vibe from it, but I may have imagined it—looking at the description, those shows may not reflect the direction the book goes in.
  • Ian McDonald, Empress of the Sun. This seems to be an exaggerated and somewhat campy YA SF adventure novel combining steampunk, parallel Earths, and the discovery of an Alderson disk. The first in the series is Planesrunner.
  • M. D. Waters, Archetype. A dystopic thriller about a woman whose memory and identity have been manipulated to make her an ideal wife in a society where women are scarce. I suspect the reader’s own experience of gender dynamics may be critical to appreciating it fully, but I can understand it having an audience.
  • Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me. Apparently, this is the conclusion to a YA series that’s kind of a big deal, although I had never heard of it. The prose is certainly distinctive, which is an accomplishment, but it’s pushed nearly to the point of self-parody. Still, part of what I’m doing here is learning about new things in SF/F, and when I went back and looked at the preview for the first book, Shatter Me, it became clear the series is at least noteworthy.