You've got a list of books to read today, but what will you be yearning to read next year? We've picked out 20 scifi and contemporary fantasy books coming out next year that have us filled with excitement.
Many publishers haven't firmed up their winter releases for next year, so most of these books are coming in spring and summer 2010. Keep on the lookout for them!
The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald (Pyr)
The author of several smart, politically-savvy tales of the near future, McDonald is back with this story of nanotech set in Istanbul:
In the sleepy Istanbul district of Eskiköy stands the former whirling dervish house of Adem Dede. Over the space of five days of an Istanbul heatwave, six lives weave a story of corporate wheeling and dealing, Islamic mysticism, political and economic intrigue, ancient Ottoman mysteries, a terrifying new terrorist threat, and a nanotechnology with the potential to transform every human on the planet.
A tale of terrorism and outlaw science from the guy who penned Brasyl and River of Gods? Hell yeah.
Kraken, by China Miéville (Ballantine)
Miéville plunged us into magical noir realism with this year's The City & The City, but promises to return to a more scifi/fantasy world with Kraken. The author is so spoiler-averse that very little is known about this book, other than the auspicious title. Given how brilliantly he depicted sea monsters in The Scar, I think we're in for a treat with this one. And even if the title turns out to be entirely misleading, I'm still along for the ride.
Running With the Pack, edited by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
We were crazy about Sedia's recent novel The Alchemy of Stone, about a clockwork cyborg caught up in a workers' revolution, and we weren't the only ones. Josh Friedman, creator of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, said the book dealt with a lot of themes he was trying to get at in his cyborg-centric series. Sedia is back next year with this anthology about (yes!) contemporary werewolves. Includes stories from Carrie Vaughn, Laura Anne Gilman, and C.E. Murphy.
For the Win, by Cory Doctorow (Tor)
The prolific Doctorow can't let a year go by without blowing our minds with a new tale about high tech rebels who commit acts of subversion in the most unexpected - and profound - of ways. Doctorow spent time in China last year researching For the Win, a young adult story about gamers in the East.
The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
One of my personal favorite authors, MacLeod is famous for combining detailed political futurism with intriguing science. In his recent The Night Sessions, for example, evangelical Christian robot terrorists fight a battle on a technically-accurate space elevator. Wow. According to the publisher, here's a quick description of The Restoration Game:
There is no such place as Krassnia. Lucy Stone should know - she was born there. In that tiny, troubled region of the former Soviet Union, revolution is brewing. Its organisers need a safe place to meet, and where better than the virtual spaces of an online game? Lucy, who works for a start-up games company in Edinburgh, has a project that almost seems made for the job: a game inspired by The Krassniad: an epic folk tale concocted by Lucy's mother Amanda, who studied there in the 1980s. Lucy knows Amanda is a spook. She knows her great-grandmother Eugenie also visited the country in the '30s, and met the man who originally collected Krassnian folklore, and who perished in Stalin's terror. As Lucy digs up details about her birthplace to slot into the game, she finds the open secrets of her family's past, the darker secrets of Krassnia's past - and hints about the crucial role she is destined to play in The Restoration Game ...
Virtual histories, virtual worlds, and virtual nation-states? Count me in.
Digital Domains, edited by Ellen Datlow (Prime)
This anthology brings together two legends of science fiction: the late, great OMNI magazine, and its science fiction editor Ellen Datlow. OMNI, a science and futurism magazine whose format inspired io9, published some of the greatest, most experimental science fiction of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Thanks to Datlow's keen eye for talent, the magazine always challenged its readers with stories that went beyond the ordinary. In Digital Domains she's collected her favorite stories from her years at OMNI, along with two other magazines she worked on, Event Horizon and SCIFICTION, and we can't wait to tear through them.
Geosynchron, by David Louis Edelman (Pyr)
This is the third novel in Edelman's crazy-brilliant series about nano-enhancement and corporate culture, which began with Infoquake and Multireal. In a world where the "multireal" tech allows people to see multiple versions of their futures and pick between them, what happens next? Anyone who read the first two books in this "Jump 225 Trilogy" is basically waiting on tenderhooks to find out.
Blackout, by Connie Willis (Spectra)
Award-winning author Willis returns to the world she created in her time-travel masterpiece Doomsday Book with this tale of World War II in London. Here's the book jacket description:
Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill's next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London's Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can "catch up" to her in age. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone's schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history-to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.
I have a chance to plunge back into Willis' world of brilliant historians who divide their time between academia and traveling through time to their chosen historical periods? Yes, please.
Chill, Elizabeth Bear (Ballatine Spectra)
Bear returns with the second installment in her space opera that began with Dust, about an ancient generation ship whose citizens face danger from both outer space - and from squabbles on board. Expect more genetic engineering and cyborgs mixed with angels and courtly antics. Nobody does escapism better than Bear does, so this early-2010 treat will keep us warm when snow is flying outside.
Edge of Ruin, by Melinda Snodgrass (Tor)
This is another entry in Snodgrass' anti-religion tale of the supernatural, where the forces of rationality fight it out with the forces of close-minded dogma. Here's a description of Edge of Reason, her preceding novel in the series:
Since the dawn of consciousness, a secret war has been fought between the forces of magic and religious fanaticism, and the cause of reason, understanding, and technology. On one side are the Old Ones, malign entities that feed on the suffering of mankind. On the other are the Lumina, an ancient order dedicated the liberation of the human spirit.Officer Richard Oort of the Albuquerque Police Department is caught in the middle of this primal battle when he rescues a mysterious teenage girl from a trio of inhuman hunters. Recruited by the Lumina to serve as their latest paladin, Richard ends up fighting beside a handful of unlikely allies, including an adolescent sorceress, an enigmatic philanthropist, a sexy coroner, and a homeless god with multiple personalities.
Honstly how can you not want to take a peek at this one?
Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord (Small Beer Press)
This US edition of Lord's contemporary fairy tale novel has been eagerly anticipated in the scifi/fantasy world. It's the story of a woman who finally leaves her abusive husband, only to find that this step toward empowerment is nothing compared to what comes next. Here's how Small Beer Press describes it:
Redemption in Indigo is a clever and entrancing debut which incorporates folktales to tell the story of a woman who frees herself from a troublesome and capricious husband only to become the unwitting heroine in a fantastic struggle to reconcile the supernatural forces of fate with humanity's free will.
Lord writes that the book is set "in a vaguely African-Caribbean imaginary country (such as one might expect from a Barbadian writer inspired by a Senegalese folk tale)."
Among Others, by Jo Walton (Tor)
Walton is the beloved author of the alternate history series that begins with Farthing, set in London after Hitler wins World War II; and she penned the world's only drawing room melodrama featuring dragons as main characters, Tooth and Claw. She's the master of rich detail, dark wit, and plotting that sucks you in before you realize it. Among Others is a change of pace for her, a semi-autobiographical tale of growing up nerdy. Of course the book contains fantastical subplots, and characters who are heartbreakingly real - especially for people who grew up with their noses buried in fantasy novels. There is no way you should miss out on this one.
The Loving Dead, by Amelia Beamer (Night Shade)
This is the first zombie romance novel. No, it's not a cheesy mashup of a Jane Austen joint. It's just love and sex with zombies. Seriously, do we need to say more? Want. Now.
Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)
When Ann VanderMeer told me about this book, I was instantly in love with the idea. A handsomely-illustrated collection of imaginary creatures, this is actually a Kosher cooking guide for those with fantastic palates. The VanderMeers consulted with chefs familiar with Kosher cooking to find out which creatures of yore belong on the Passover table, and which should be avoided if you want to stay Kosher. A demented homage to cooking, Judaism, and monsters, this is pretty much the perfect book for your coffee table.
Zendegi, by Greg Egan (Night Shade)
Anything new from Egan is always cause for celebration, because this guy knows his science and has an imagination that's ridiculously pyrotechnic. Though he's penned some incredible space operas set a zillion years into the posthuman future, Zendegi finds Egan focusing on Earth in the near-term. Here's the scoop, from the publisher:
Nasim is a young computer scientist, hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project: a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. But funding for the project is cancelled, and Nasim ends up devoting her career to Zendegi, a computerised virtual world used by millions of people. Fifteen years later, a revived Connectome Project has published a map of the brain. Zendegi is facing fierce competition from its rivals, and Nasim decides to exploit the map to fill the virtual world with better Proxies: the bit-players that bring its crowd scenes to life. As controversy rages over the nature and rights of the Proxies, a friend with terminal cancer begs Nasim to make a Proxy of him, so some part of him will survive to help raise his orphaned son. But Zendegi is about to become a battlefield.
Interestingly, if you consider this novel beside Ken MacLeod's The Restoration Game and Cory Doctorow's For the Win, it would seem that one of the themes emerging in SF for 2010 is the virtual developing world.
Trade of Queens, by Charles Stross (Tor)
The sixth (and probably final) novel in Stross' celebrated Merchant Princes series, which has been praised by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman for its economic imaginativeness, Trade of Queens promises a "series level climax," according to early readers. This series, set in two parallel Earths connected by a very strange trade route, is a swashbuckling tale of early capitalist accumulation. You won't want to miss its thrilling conclusion!
Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness (Walker)
Ness' beautiful young adult novel The Knife of Never Letting Go introduced us to a world where women are scarce and dogs communicate telepathically with their human companions. With Monsters of Men, he completes the trilogy that Knife began. Here's a taste of the book description to tantalize you:
"War," says the Mayor."At last." Three armies have marched on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. And Todd and Viola are caught in the middle of it all. As the battles commence, can they hope to stop all-out war? Can there ever be peace when they're so hopelessly outnumbered? And if, as they have been told, "War makes monsters of men", what terrible choices await them? And what of the third voice that watches them, one bent on revenge...
Expect nothing short of amazing from this conclusion to the Chaos Walking series.
Lightborn, by Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)
Here's a description:
Lightborn, better known as 'shine', is a mind-altering technology that has revolutionised the modern world. It is the ultimate in education, self-improvement and entertainment - beamed directly into the brain of anyone who can meet the asking price. But in the city of Los Sombres, renegade shine has attacked the adult population, resulting in social chaos and widespread insanity in everyone past the age of puberty. The only solution has been to turn off the Field and isolate the city. Trapped within the quarantine perimeter, fourteen-year-old Xavier just wants to find the drug that can keep his own physical maturity at bay until the army shuts down the shine. That's how he meets Roksana, mysteriously impervious to shine and devoted to helping the stricken. As the military invades street by street, Xavier and Roksana discover that there could be hope for Los Sombres - but only if Xavier will allow a lightborn cure to enter his mind. What he doesn't know is that the shine in question has a mind of its own.
A post-apocalyptic pharmaceutical dystopia? Yes, we are there. Also, bonus points for X-Men reference.
New Model Army, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Roberts is a darling of the literary scifi scene, and his new novel sounds like it will be intriguing and thought-provoking, as well as a good satire. Set in a near-future England, the novel is about a civil war that rips the UK apart. But it's also about social media technologies, because the group that unseats the British army is the world's first "truly democratic army," assembled via new grassroots communications technologies. I'm always interested to see critical explorations of where the so-called liberating power of social networking might take us. And I want to see where Roberts goes with this one.
Death of the Author, by Scarlett Thomas (Houghton Mifflin)
I fell in love with Thomas after reading The End of Mr. Y, her novel about enchanted books, body-hopping, the nature of belief, and hundreds of mice. Like Roberts, Thomas is known for her philosophically-minded writing, which she leavens with extremely weird plot developments that will keep you reading. Not much is known about her new novel, other than that the title is borrowed from an essay by Roland Barthes about how a truly good critic shouldn't care what the author's intent was in writing a story. Often, the best interpretations ignore what the author intended entirely, which is why Barthes argues that the author is for all intents and purposes dead. Given Thomas' love of post-structuralist types like Barthes, I predict a bizarro slant on this idea, which will hopefully involve some angry dead authors begging to differ.
Thanks to Niall Harrison for some great suggestions!