We've officially entered the lazy days of summer. So spice up your weekend with a vicarious apocalypse, or venture to near-future Turkey with Ian McDonald. Here are the coolest new books of July.
The Dervish House, Ian McDonald (Pyr Books)
Ian McDonald's latest takes us to near-future Turkey. It's 2027, and the country's finally an EU member with a booming economy, churning out cheap manufactured goods and funneling gas from Russia and Central Asia. It's a world where emissions permits are a fact of life, and speculators do a brisk business in carbon credits. But the population is still poor compared to the rest of Europe, and even an influx of cash can't smooth over the nation's long-simmering tensions between tradition and modernity. The novel follows six characters criss-crossing Istanbul over seven days, connected by the eponymous dervish house. Things are tense in the ancient city: The prime minister has called for a referendum on Turkey's EU membership, and the one-two punch of a heatwave and impending football game is making everyone a bit crazed. And a seemly unremarkable bus bomb hints at impending age of nanotech terror.
Discord's Apple, Carrie Vaughn (Tor)
Evie Walker lives in a disintegrating near-future Los Angeles, writing comic books about their very messed-up world. But then she returns home to Fort Hope, Colorado, for her father's last days and discovers there's more in the basement than a furnace and some bedraggled Christmas decorations. There's actually a storeroom full of legendary objects like the Apple of Discord — the envy-inspiring trinket that set off the Trojan War. And now she's responsible for keeping it secret and safe, as the world barrels towards an apocalypse. Vaughn is best known for her urban fantasy series about a werewolf talk radio host (yes, you read that right), but Discord's Apple is a stand-alone, one that promises to be an intriguing riff on ancient myth and modern global chaos.
Gateways, Elizabeth A. Hull (Ed.) (Tor)
Frederick Pohl is a bona fide science fiction luminary. He's been in the business since 1939, he's won armfuls of prizes, and he's still going strong with an entertaining blog. This month brings a star-studded tribute anthology that'll appeal to fans and newcomers alike. Elizabeth A. Hull — academic and sci-fi expert, not to mention Pohl's wife — has corralled some big names for the project, including Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Ben Bova, and Gene Wolfe. All the stories are specially written for the anthology and appear to cover a lot of thematic and stylistic ground.
The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross (Ace)
With The Fuller Memorandum, Charlie Stross returns to his Laundry series, a madcap mash-up of Office Space and Lovecraft. IT guy Bob Howard has retreated from occult fieldwork after a horrible mishap, and he's stuck working away in the office archives. But then a very important, very top secret memo goes missing, along with Bob's boss, and so our average Joe hero is left to short matters out and stave off the end of the world. The Fuller Memorandum is no place to jump in to the series, but fans should definitely pick it up. And if you think it sounds interesting, well, why don't you put your summer Fridays to good use and catch up on previous installments?
Gardner Dozois rounds up his 32 favorite short science fiction pieces from 2009. Selections include John Kessel's far-future "Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance" and Nicola Griffith's chemical romance "It Takes Two." Other contributers include Ian McDonald, Peter Watts, and Jay Lake. It adds up to a doorstop, but one with lots of potential for lazy summer Fridays.
The Loving Dead, Amelia Beamer (Night Shade Books)
The juggernaut zombie trend just keeps steamrolling forward, but Amelia Beamer's got a new spin on the shambling undead. Trader Joe's coworkers and Oakland hills roommates Kate and Michael throw a big house party, complete with the usual raft of ill-advised hookups. But the consequenses are more severe than your standard next-day awkwardness. There's a brain-eating STD going around, which turns the infected into an unusually promiscuous brand of zombie. Really puts that shattered lamp from your last rager into perspective.
The Unit, Terry DeHart (Orbit)
You've got a zombie plan, I assume. How's your fallout preparedness? Vacationing in the Sierra Nevadas, the Sharpe family survives a nuclear strike, but anyone who's ever read Alas, Babylon! knows that's the easy part. Now they've got to deal with radioactive snowstorms and killer teenagers. Jerry, a badass ex-Marine, just wants to get his family home to Sacramento, while his wife, Susan, does her level best to keep nurturing the kids. Their daughter, Melanie, tries to maintain her pacifist convictions, while her brother, Scotty, goes totally Red Dawn on the people chasing them. Worst family trip ever.
The Eternal Prison, Jeff Somers (Orbit)
The third novel in Somers's Avery Cates series, now out in paperback, finds the hitman protagonist alive, but locked away in the notorious Chengara Penitentiary. (You might think a guy would get a break after surviving a massive bioengineered attack, but you'd be wrong.) After a bit of scheming, he manages to escape and sets out to settle some scores. But people are still trying to kill him, he's got no idea of what's going on, and he's got a really big assassination to pull off. Lots of explosions follow.
The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press)
It's popular to imagine artificial intelligences taught to play chess or achieving sentience through some other abstract activity. But this illustrated novella considers another approach, more like how we raise children, and how it might play out in the world of start-up companies and open-source. Chiang follows two people as they work to turn software into something intelligent. Perfect if you're in the mood to contemplate the spark that distinguishes between computing power and intelligence.
Masked, Lou Anders (Ed) (Gallery)
A whole volume of stories about superheroes: That's the idea behind this collection. The conventions of the golden age are really the focus here, but that's not to say the contributions are flat or old-fashioned. Stephen Baxter approaches the genre with hard science, while Marjorie M. Liu plays with cliche to entertaining effect. Come prepared for self-awareness and metafictional flourishes.