24 January 2020

5 Books for Speculative Fiction Fans

This week's roundup is all about escaping real life through speculative fiction. These days my world is full-on hard realities, so I want my reading to transport me to words that don't exist (at least not yet). The books I feature today represent some of the variety of stories found under the umbrella of fantasy and science fiction. I hope at least one will make it to your wish list.

review of Followers by Megan AngeloFollowers by Megan Angelo (Graydon House, Jan. 14) is a dual-time story that focuses on the effects of social media--first in 2015 and then in 2051. While some of the elements will seem familiar to our everyday lives in contemporary times (influencers and reality TV), how Angelo imagines that social media will evolve and change in the fairly close dystopian future gives us something to think about. The novel has garnered starred reviews and is billed as appealing to literary fiction lovers as well as dystopian fans. Opener:

Prologue / New York / 2051

So she still believed in mail, this woman, whoever she was. The first thing Marlow saw when she walked into the building was a grid of metal boxes, each with its own window and cobwebbed keyhole.
Audiobook: Read by Jayme Mattler (HarperAudio; 13 hr, 29 min)

review of The Vanished Birds by Simon JimenezThe Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (Del Rey, Jan 14) is the proof that science fiction is much more than the Earthlings-meet-aliens scenario of old television shows. Nia pilots a faster-than-light ship, which means she barely ages in comparison to her friends and family, eventually leaving her alone and lonely. When she meets an apparently orphaned boy, something tugs at her, and she takes him in. Others, however, have not forgotten the child, and they may want him back. Another novel with starred reviews and much buzz. Opener:
He was born with an eleventh finger. A small bead of flesh and bone beside his right pinky. The doctor calmed the worried parents and told them the nub was a harmless thing. “But still,” he said, unlacing a small cloth pouch, “a farmer needs only ten fingers to work the dhuba.” He coaxed the child to sleep with the smoke of torched herbs, and sliced the nub from the hand with a cauterizing knife.
Audiobook: Read by Shayna Small (Random House Audio; 13 hr, 17 min)

review of Strange Exit by Parker PeevyhouseStrange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse (Tor Teen, Jan. 14) is a stand-alone science-fiction/dystopian thriller in which the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust are in orbit around Earth awaiting the time until it's safe to return to the planet. The people are kept alive in a virtual reality version of San Francisco, meant to ease their fears. When the system starts to break down and supplies run low, two teens manage to escape the simulation--one wants to rescue everyone on board before it's too late; the other decides that only some are worth saving. The reviews have been mixed. Opener:
The San Francisco Zoo: gates rusted open, weeds bursting through cracks in the asphalt, trees like many-armed scarecrows, broken and stunted. Lake figured she was the only person to set foot in the place in years. Not counting the boy in the tiger exhibit. Lake peered in at him through a curtain of dirt over the viewing glass. She guessed he was around her age, seventeen. He sat on a log, hunched over something she couldn’t see. No tiger in sight.
Audiobook: Read by Caitlin Davies (Blackstone; ~6 hr)

review of A Beginning at the End by Mike ChenA Beginning at the End by Mike Chen (Mira, Jan. 14) is a different kind of dystopian story set in the aftermath of deadly flu pandemic that killed all but about 2 billion people on Earth. After a six-year quarantine, people emerge into public to start over, whether in closed cities, on communes, or in marauding gangs. Amid rumors of another flu outbreak, some survivors learn that it isn't all that easy to make a new beginning, especially when the secrets of their "before" life may be exposed. Another novel with mixed reactions. Opener:
People were too scared for music tonight. Not that MoJo cared. Her handlers had broken the news about the low attendance nearly an hour ago with some explanation about how the recent flu epidemic and subsequent rioting and looting kept people at home. They’d served the news with high-end vodka, the good shit imported from Russia. . . .
Audiobook: Read by Emily Woo Zeller (Harlequin Audio; 11 hr, 39 min)

review of Diamond City by Francesca FloresDiamond City by Francesca Flores (Wednesday Books, Jan. 28) is a dark fantasy debut about a young adult orphan who is trying to make her way in a violent world. Aina, a professional assassin, takes on an assignment that will give her the funds to be her own boss--if she can evade her enemies long enough to make the successful hit. To complicate matters, she must justify her life choices against the lessons taught by her murdered parents, who used their magic to protect those in need. Reviewers feel the world-building could be stronger but praise the action and the plotting. Opener:
The baker’s final words were smothered by a whimper.

“You know how they say you should watch out for the quiet ones?” Aina’s breath fogged the blade of the dagger she held. “They were right.” She took her time with the blade, heedless of his screams.
Audiobook: Read by Frankie Corzo (Macmillan Audio; 9 hr, 59 min)


rhapsodyinbooks 1/24/20, 7:10 AM  

These all sound great! I too am more interested in escape reading than usual. Hope all is going as well as can be with your mom!

Daryl 1/24/20, 11:03 AM  

escape reading is my favorite kind .. these all sound interesting especially The Vanished Birds, thanks!

bermudaonion 1/24/20, 11:19 AM  

Those aren't my usual genres but The Followers appeals to me.

sherry fundin 1/24/20, 11:39 AM  

great covers. i have been stepping outside my comfort zone in my reading. having to watch out for the quiet ones...makes me curious
sherry @ fundinmental

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 1/24/20, 11:52 AM  

Too many good titles! I'm going to try the first one, because of its connections with social media. Thanks for your always great suggestions

Amanda 1/24/20, 12:22 PM  

Followers sounds interesting, and I liked Mike Chen's last book so I put that one on a list to investigate as well.

I think it's interesting how much dystopia is rising up again as a popular published genre. Especially given today's political climate.

Tina 1/24/20, 12:24 PM  

The Beginning of the End is timely with this flu epidemic.

I’d been thinking about you and hoping you have some good friends and family to assist with lunch, hugs or whatever you need. xo

Vicki 1/24/20, 2:37 PM  

Not a genre I usually read but a few did sound good to me.

Praying your mom is doing much better!

Beverley Baird 1/24/20, 8:57 PM  

I love the imagination of this genre. These books look amazing.

Brona 2/1/20, 3:27 AM  

A couple of these have crossed my radar too, but I’m most excited about Exhalation and the new Alexander Weinstein.
Have been thinking of you this week after reading your recent tweet about your mum. Hope you’re doing okay xo

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