Three Years With the Rat by Jay HoskingScience Fiction. Grace is gone. The brilliant and obsessive graduate student has been missing for eight months, along with her boyfriend, John, who also studies psychophysics (the study of temporal subjectivity). When Grace's younger brother goes to the couple's apartment, he discovers a strange contraption and embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of his sister's disappearance. Thought-provoking and stylistically complex, this debut by Canadian author and neuroscientist Jay Hosking slowly reveals its secrets through a nonlinear story divided into three interlinked sections. For similarly mind-bending books about the nature of time, try Dexter Palmer's Version Control or Robert Dickinson's The Tourist.
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav KalfarScience Fiction. Chosen for his country's first space mission, Czech astrophysicist Jakub Procházka views the opportunity as a chance to redeem his family's reputation (his father tortured dissidents as part of the previous Communist regime). Jakub boards the JanHus1 and, en route to his destination (a cosmic dust cloud known as Chopra), begins to question his life choices. At once erudite and emotionally intense, this introspective novel may appeal to fans of other character-driven stories about astronauts, such as Meg Howrey's The Wanderers.
Six Wakes by Mur LaffertySF Mystery. The crew of the spaceship Dormire wakes up in cloning vats, covered in blood and surrounded by the corpses of their previous bodies. In this world, the "mindmaps" of the deceased can be downloaded into new clone bodies. But that doesn't mean homicide isn't a serious crime. Now the six must catch a killer (who could be any of them!) as they contend with a malfunctioning ship, an offline AI navigational system, and their own missing memories. Readers who enjoy suspenseful locked room mysteries set in outer space may also like James Smythe's The Explorer or Adam Roberts' Jack Glass.
Seven Surrenders by Ada PalmerFar-future SF. In this sequel to Too Like the Lightning, set in a 25th-century utopian society founded upon the ideals of the European Enlightenment, convict Mycroft Canner continues to carry out his sentence: wandering the world and serving others. Meanwhile, the philosophical Hives that have replaced the world's political states are in flux, thanks in part to Bridger, a young boy whose unusual abilities could tip the balance towards chaos. If you enjoy the blend of Western philosophy and science fiction found in this 2nd installment of the Terra Ignota series, check out Jo Walton's Just City novels, which imagine a world based on the principles of Plato's Republic.
Revenger by Alastair ReynoldsSpace Opera. In a departure from his usual brand of hard SF, author Alastair Reynolds presents an action-packed adventure featuring space pirates, high-tech heists, and bloody revenge. To save their family from bankruptcy, siblings Adrana and Fura Ness join the crew of the notorious Captain Rackamore, who searches the galaxy for "baubles," hidden worlds shielded by force fields and containing treasure in the form of alien artifacts. Although it can be a lucrative gig, it's also dangerous -- as Fura finds out when her sister is captured in a raid. For more stories about space-faring treasure-hunters, try Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Diving Universe series, which begins with Diving into the Wreck.
Eifelheim by Michael FlynnAlternate History SF. Eifelheim should have been resettled. Although plague decimated the tiny German town in 1349, modern-day historian Tom, who uses mathematical models to predict settlement patterns, can find no reason why Eifelheim, ideally situated in all respects, shouldn't have bounced back after the Black Death. As Tom and his partner, Sharon, a theoretical physicist, puzzle over this anomaly, readers learn how 14th-century village priest Father Deitrich welcomed extraterrestrials to Eifelheim, setting the stage for a confrontation between the otherworldly visitors and the Church. Readers who enjoy intricately plotted speculative fiction that delves deeply into history, science, and religion may also enjoy Wolfgang Jeschke's The Cusanus Game.
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce SterlingAlternate History SF. In this version of 1855, Charles Babbage actually builds his Analytical Engine and, in doing so, ushers in a new age of computer-driven technology more than a century ahead of schedule. The plot centers around a set of missing punch cards and three individuals affected by their disappearance: courtesan Sibyl Gerard, daughter of a Luddite agitator; paleontologist Edward "Leviathan" Mallory; and diplomat-spy Laurence Oliphant. However, the book's real draw is its atmospheric and richly detailed retrofuturistic Victorian setting. Originally published in 1990, The Difference Engine played a significant role in bringing Steampunk into the mainstream.
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley RobinsonAlternate History SF. What if the Black Death had killed 99 percent of Europe's population? In this sweeping novel, author Kim Stanley Robinson explores a radically different world in which the Chinese colonize North America, the Industrial Revolution begins in India, and Christianity proves to be more of a historical curiosity than a global religion like Buddhism or Islam. The book is divided into ten novella-length sections that span about 700 years. Uniting these otherwise distinct stories are a small cast of characters who are repeatedly reincarnated in different time periods and places. With its well-drawn ensemble cast and detailed world-building, The Years of Rice and Salt offers a thought-provoking glimpse of what easily could have been.
Radiance by Catherynne M. ValenteAlternate History SF. The daughter of one of Earth's most acclaimed movie directors, Severin Unck blazes her own artistic trail by making documentaries about obscure and overlooked cultures within the solar system. However, her latest project, a film about a lost colony on Venus, becomes her controversial final work when she disappears during the shoot. In a "found footage" narrative style that compiles transcripts, news items, eyewitness accounts, and more, Radiance -- described by its author as a "decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller with space whales" -- is a must-read for SF fans seeking a lush, lyrical outer space adventure.
Burning Paradise by Robert Charles WilsonAlternate History SF. In 2014, 19-year-old Cassie Klyne's world has been at peace since the Armistice of...1914? (That's right: in this timeline, World War I ended almost as soon as it began, while the Great Depression and the Second World War never happened.) Of course, this peaceful and prosperous society has some steep hidden costs: it's controlled by extraterrestrials, who strategically intervene to create their desired outcomes. They also deploy lethal "sims" to dispatch anyone who tries to reveal the truth. Cassie's parents died as a result of their attempts to expose their alien overlords; now Cassie's about to meet the same fate, unless she can escape and locate her deceased parents' former allies.
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