Publicity: A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers

Chambers’ sequel to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been nominated for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. (Sci fi fans will remember that Long Way was nominated for a James Tiptree Award.) So for stores trying to cultivate a fiction forward sci fi collection, Chambers is looking more and more like someone you don’t want to skip.

Couched in a space opera plot, with a voice that sometimes limns Douglas Adams, there’s a lot more under the hood here. These books are slyly issues-oriented, showing species co-inhabitating and celebrating their differences while also addressing cultural xenophobia and racism. As the Guardian noted of the first book, Chambers writes “[a] quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism.”

“As with her amazing debut, the power of Chamber’s second space opera is in her appealing characters […] Her protagonists might not all be human, but they possess more humanity than most”
Library Journal (starred review)

A Closed and Common Orbit (9780062569400) by Becky Chambers. $16.99 trade paper original 3/14/17 on sale.

New Young Adult Fiction: Replica – Lauren Oliver

Lots of anticipation for this major new duology by the prolific and bestselling Oliver. Once again, the Epic Reads team offers a spectacular—and spectacularly entertaining–plot summary in a two-minute video. Watch and marvel as Epic Reads Explains… 

Two girls from very different backgrounds find autonomy, strength, and identity as they fight against corporate greed and medical corruption. Gemma was born to rich and powerful parents. Lyra was made in a lab. Both white girls have spent their lives protected behind walls….The heavily guarded Haven Institute’s activities are shrouded in mystery and speculation, and when an explosion destroys the facility, both girls’ carefully formed worlds topple in the aftermath. Events unfold quickly as Gemma and Lyra learn they’re not who they thought they were, that the truth goes much deeper than either ever thought. The dual narrative is presented as two books in one; it’s up to readers to decide how to proceed: read each girl’s story separately or in alternating chapters….A reading experience not to be missed—or forgotten
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Oliver explores thought-provoking ethical and existential terrain.”
Publishers Weekly

“The unique format will draw readers in, and strong writing will keep them hooked. Oliver’s dystopian Delirium trilogy achieved bestseller status, and she’s been gaining steam ever since. Teens will line up for this one.”
Booklist

“With Oliver’s clever crafting, teens will be clamoring for the next book in the series.”
The Horn Book

“[REPLICA] will be a winner among teens … Oliver has managed to create different tempos and moods in each tale, which allows readers to better understand the characters. Young adults will enjoy this unique reading experience.”
School Library Journal

Replica (9780062394163) by Lauren Oliver. $19.99 hardcover. 10/4/16 on sale.

 

Short Take: Zeroes – Chuck Wendig

This one reads like summer blockbuster movie–which belies some of its serious, and seriously scary themes: government hacking and out-of-control software innovation that leads to sentient AI. (A sci fi scenario that pretty much never leads to good things. J) For sci fi readers who aren’t already fans of cult favorite Wendig, this should convert them. It definitely won over the advance reviewers.

Prolific sci-fi novelist and games enthusiast Wendig whips up a Matrix-y bit of old-school cyberpunk updated to meet the frightening technology of the modern age. Government agent Hollis Copper is a tough old guy who’s been seconded to the National Security Agency to round up a bunch of hackers for a secret project…They’re promised clean records if they devote a year to the NSA’s secret lodge, where pods of hackers work together to penetrate high-security networks. Things go awry when they’re charged with disrupting Iran’s nuclear program by co-opting an Iranian drone and accidentally discover a secret NSA program called Typhon and the disappearance of 13 prominent theorists. The “Zeroes” find themselves pawns in a conflict among their government captors, a renegade hacker called The Widow of Zheng, and Typhon, a sentient artificial intelligence which is growing in power and influence with every passing minute… This is an ambitious, bleeding-edge piece of speculative fiction that combines hacker lore, wet-wired horror, and contemporary paranoia in a propulsive adventure that’s bound to keep readers on their toes.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Wendig piles on the thrills and chills in this fast-paced near-future novel about human frailty and inhuman ambition. Five American hackers…suspicions about the government’s motives increase when their individual missions, breaking into the computers of different companies, start to feel connected….Wendig wields the tools of suspense and tension with skill. His large cast of characters is entertaining, the moments of horror are sharp and chilling, and the story races to a breathless conclusion. This is a promising opening to a new series for SF thriller fans.”
Publishers Weekly

Zeroes (9780062351555) by Chuck Wendig. $25.99 hardcover. 8/18/15 on sale.

Publicity: Hieroglyph – edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer

anthology of speculative fiction was born out of a challenge Neal Stephenson posed to sci fi writers to ignite the imaginations of younger readers to create a better future just as the writers of the Golden Age of Science Fiction had.

The book was featured in an article in the New York Times Style section on 9/19/14: “Science Fiction Writers Take a Rosier View.”

 [A] group of visionaries have banded together to offer stories that are more utopian, which they hope will contribute to a more positive future…. Mr. Stephenson’s story in the new collection is about an engineer’s effort to build a 20-kilometer-tall skyscraper. Other tales envision an alternative Internet that is free from N.S.A. snooping and corporate tracking, and is powered by thousands of homemade drones. Another story is about a group of hardware hackers and Burning Man devotees who build an autonomous 3-D printing robot that goes to the moon…The stories still offer plenty of drama, death and destruction, but many have a sort of happy ending. Cory Doctorow, a contributor to Hieroglyph, wrote that the stories are not “optimistic or pessimistic about the future. Instead, they are hopeful about it.”

More media to come: NPR’s “On Point”, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle.

Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future (9780062204691) edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer.  $27.99 hardcover. 9/9/14 on sale.

New Middle Grade Fiction: The Thickety – J. A. White

There are two starred reviews for this and lots of bookseller love–but my favorite review comes from Boulder Book Store buyer Liesl Freudenstein’s daughter, Lola:

Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover”?  I know I sound like an old lady, but that expression has never been more true.  The Thickety’s cover does not do it justice, I’m not saying the cover is bad, but the book is great!  It is about a book, and witches, and demons and other creepy stuff.  Before you decide not to read the book, there is also happy stuff and sad stuff and exciting stuff and all of the other necessary  elements of a great book.  So if you have finished reading this review, it’s time for you to get the book…..AND READ IT!!!!!”

More sober analysis below. 🙂

“A dark forbidden forest, a powerful book, and an ancient deeply-rooted fear of witchcraft set the stage for J.A. White’s incredible debut. Shunned by fellow villagers because of her mother’s witchcraft conviction, Kara Westfall and her family struggle in every way imaginable. One day, Kara enters Sordyr’s Realm, the Thickety, from which no one has ever emerged unchanged. In the Thickety, Kara encounters the forest demon Sordyr himself and discovers a powerful book with incredible, yet dangerous powers that she believes belonged to her mother. Kara finds herself tempted by the power the book delivers, whether good or evil… what follows is an amazing start to a great new series what will leave you thirsting for more.”
— Bess Bleyaert, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

In this darkly imaginative debut, White creates a fantasy world with creatures that are anything but sweet-a cyclopean bird, a multi-mouthed horror-and, after a deceptively satisfying resolution, he unfurls a twist that will make readers want the next chapter of Kara’s story immediately. White’s prose is evocative without being dense, and Offermann’s sharp-edged silhouettes add an ominous note. Absolutely thrilling.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The spellbinding story, lashings of suspense and stalwart heroine will draw in fantasy fans and keep them reading until the bitter ending.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Thickety: A Path Begins (9780062257246) by J.A. White and Andrea Offermann. $16.99 hardcover. 5/6/14 on sale.

Short Take: New Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko

Fans of this very popular cult series will cheer to see a fifth novel. The series has sold over two million copies and was made into a very scary 2004 movie. What’s it about? I’m not taking that on… Let’s just say it’s set in contemporary Moscow and involves an ancient race of magicians, shape-shifters, vampires and other supernatural beings in an apocalyptic showdown. What makes it so special? A darkly comic style and a plot that’s equal parts urban fantasy, spy thriller, and chess match.

“While the stakes are unsurprisingly high, frequent injections of humor help separate this entry from the pack; at one point, characters discuss how the publication of the Harry Potter books has helped them convince young Others that they are not exactly human (‘Children grasp the basic idea without even a blink now’).
Publishers Weekly

New Watch: Book Five (9780062310071) by Sergei Lukyanenko. $15.99 trade paper original. 4/22/14 on sale.

Short Take: The Long War – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

More from beloved cult authors….This is the second installment in the incomparable Mr. Pratchett’s collaboration with Stephen Baxter. Their first book, The Long Earth , was Good Reads’ Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year and earned praise like this:

The Long Earth harkens back to the old SF of the Fifties and Sixties, which revelled in the delight of discovering new worlds. But Pratchett and Baxter have essentially democatised space exploration, taking the joy of finding new Edens out of the hands of rocket-owning millionaires and governments and giving it to the masses. This is an accessible, fun and thoughtful SF novel that offers the potential for a multitude of stories as great as the myriad of Earths.”
The Independent

“[A] marriage made in fan heaven – Pratchett’s warmth and humanity allied to Baxter’s extraordinarily fertile science-fictional imagination…it’s a charming, absorbing and somehow spacious piece of Imagineering.”
–The Guardian

“Stay tuned for the next episode of a very old-fashioned sf quest yarn (think Jules Verne and 2001) that, since Pratchett is involved, is crammed with scientifically informed amusement.”
— Booklist

The Long Earth is a brilliant Science Fiction collaboration with Stephen Baxter: a love letter to all Pratchett fans, readers, and lovers of wonder everywhere… This novel is a gift to be shared with anyone who loves to be amazed.”
Io9 

The Long War (9780062067777) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. $25.99 hardcover. 6/18/13 on sale.

The Long Earth (9780062068682). $9.99 mass market.  6/25/13 on sale.