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Peter (Jason Segel) is a struggling musician who finds his world turned upside down when his TV celebrity girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), dumps him for a tragically hip rock star, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). It's the hysterically funny look at how far one man will go to forget a girl – and all the fun he finds along the way!
 
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Ryka Aoki’s new novel, Light from Uncommon Stars (Tor Books, 2021), is packed with as much variety as a box of lovingly prepared assorted donuts from your favorite, funky-but-long-standing neighborhood donut shop. One of the book’s primary settings is, in fact, a donut shop, but unlike other Los Angeles donut shops it is run by a family of refugees…
 
Cadwell Turnbull appeared on New Books in Science Fiction two years ago to discuss his debut novel, The Lesson, about an alien invasion and colonization of Earth, centered around Turnbull's native U.S. Virgin Islands. He returns to talk about his second book, No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone, 2021), which, rather than aliens from another planet, fe…
 
It’s no coincidence that one of the main characters in S. Qiouyi Lu’s In the Watchful City carries with ser a qíjìtáng, or cabinet of curiosities. Lu’s novella is, itself, a cabinet of unusual mementos, with many smaller objects carefully folded into the larger structure. On one level the plot is simple. The qíjìtáng is full of stories, and its own…
 
Jackson Ford has some things in common with his protagonist, Teagan Frost. Both use nom de plumes. And both can move sh*t. With her telekinetic powers, Teagan can move inorganic objects while Ford (aka Rob Boffard) uses his creative powers to move plots at a rapid clip. Ford, and his publisher, Orbit, have also moved the cultural needle—specificall…
 
Gautam Bhatia’s debut novel The Wall (Harper Collins, 2020) is set in Sumer, a city enclosed in an impenetrable, unscalable barrier that seems sky high. To its inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for 2,000 years, the place is more than a city or even a country—it’s their universe. Sumer’s residents know something is on the other side but …
 
Where does DNA end and the soul begin? It’s a question that Evelyn Caldwell, the brilliant genetic researcher at the center of Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife, never asks as she develops her award-winning technique for human cloning, which takes DNA from “sample to sentience” in 100 days. In The Echo Wife, clones are tools, created for specific time-l…
 
A story about an alien invasion typically revolves around diplomacy, military strategy, technological one-upmanship, and brinksmanship. But the invaders in Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary: A Novel (Ballantine Books, 2021) are anything but typical. Rather than a scheming sentient enemy, Weir gives us Astrophage, an opponent who is mindless—and microsc…
 
In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Doors of Eden (Orbit, 2020) the multiverse is filled with parallel Earths where evolution takes different twists and turns. The forks in the road and the paths species take vary from Earth to Earth, seeding sentience in a wide variety of organisms. In one, giant mollusks “understand and communicate profound truths about …
 
Space operas take readers far from Earth with stories about alien cultures and battles between good and evil. But while usually set in distant galaxies in the far flung future or past, they inevitably tell us, like any good science fiction, about our lives today. Ginger Smith’s debut The Rush's Edge (Angry Robot, 2020) takes place when humanity is …
 
At the end of its life, the phoenix bursts into flames and a younger bird rises from the ashes. The roc is large enough to carry an elephant in its claws. The caladrius absorbs disease, curing the ill. The rain heron, which can take the form of steam, liquid or ice, controls the climate around it. Unlike the first three mythical birds, whose legend…
 
Sometimes you come across a book that pulls you in from every angle. It offers you the space to explore your own fears and hopes all while taking you on a perilous adventure into the unknown with a character you feel you’ve met in real life. That’s a good novel, to me. That’s Alison Stine’s Road Out of Winter: An Apocalyptic Thriller (Mira Books, 2…
 
The title of S. B. Divya’s debut novel, Machinehood (Gallery/Saga Press, 2021), refers to an underground band of rebels (or terrorists, depending on your view) who threaten to unplug the world from the tech essential to modern life unless all intelligences—human and man-made—are given equal rights. The book opens with Welga, the story’s hero, order…
 
Humans have found many ways to divide and stratify—by skin color, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, health status, body type or size, and so on. The list is so long that it’s hard to imagine it getting longer, and yet debut author Chris Panatier has found a way. In The Phlebotomist (Angry Robot, 2020)t, society is di…
 
Arranged marriages have been around for centuries, and in The Light Years (Angry Robot, 2020), R.W.W. Greene imagines they’ll be around for centuries more. With the addition of speed-of-light travel, Greene’s character Adem Saddiq can sign a contract with the parents of his wife-to-be before she’s even born, take to space on his family’s freighter …
 
The first chapter of Rebecca Roanhorse’s new novel, Black Sun (Gallery/Saga Press, 2020), features a mother and child sharing a tender moment that takes an unexpected turn, ending in violence. It’s a powerful beginning to a story whose characters struggle with the legacies of family expectations, historical trauma, and myth. These three strands are…
 
The Ministry for the Future (Orbit, 2020) is a sweeping novel about climate change and how people of the near future start to slow, stop and reverse it. The story opens with a devastating heat wave that kills thousands in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. From there, Kim Stanley Robinson pulls back to show us the world’s reaction, taking readers f…
 
Over the last ten years, Paul Kingsnorth has become recognised as one of the most extraordinary of contemporary writers. After The Wake, which was listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2014, and its follow-up, Beast, Kingsnorth was hailed as "a furiously gifted writer," his prose suggesting "Beckett doing Beowulf." In his outstanding new novel, Alexan…
 
Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches (Redhook, 2020) begins with the familiar phrase “Once upon a time” but the novel is anything but a traditional fairytale. Yes, there are witches. But there are also suffragists. Yes, there are spells. But there are also women who fall in love with each other. While Harrow loves fairytales “because they g…
 
P. Djèlí Clark’s new novella, Ring Shout (Tordotcom, 2020) is a fantasy built around an ugly moment in American history—the emergence of the second Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century. The story follows three monster hunters: Maryse Boudreaux, who wields a magic sword; Chef, who had previously disguised herself as a man to serve with the Harlem …
 
In Jasper Fforde’s The Constant Rabbit (Viking, 2020), residents of the United Kingdom live among human-sized anthropomorphized rabbits. The rabbits make fine citizens—more than fine, in fact. They in live harmony with the environment (embracing sustainable practices like veganism, for instance). They have a strong sense of social responsibility. T…
 
Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness (Harper, 2020) is a poignant portrait of a mother and daughter fleeing the polluted cities of a near-future dystopia for a hand-to-mouth existence in the country’s last undeveloped tract. It’s also one of the unusual works of speculative fiction that’s been embraced by the world of high literature by (just this week)…
 
In NeuroScience Fiction (Benbella Books, 2020), Rodrigo Quian Quiroga shows how the outlandish premises of many seminal science fiction movies are being made possible by new discoveries and technological advances in neuroscience and related fields. Along the way, he also explores the thorny philosophical problems raised as a result, diving into Min…
 
Writers and readers of science fiction love stories about artificial intelligence, robots, and mechanical beings whose sentience mirrors, matches or exceeds that of humans. The stories stay fresh for the reasons stories about humans do—sentience confers individuality, which provides endless permutations for character and plot. Madeline Ashby’s tril…
 
Premee Mohamed’s debut novel, Beneath the Rising (Solaris, 2020) came out in March, but don’t call her a new writer. “I find it funny that people refer to people who have just started to get published as new writers. I finished my first novel when I was 12. I'm not a new writer. What I am is new to publishing, and it's so weird to me that people co…
 
Few science fiction writers have their vision of the future tested upon publication. But that’s what happened to Ilze Hugo, whose novel about a mysterious epidemic, The Down Days (Skybound Books, 2020), debuted in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. “For it to be published right in the middle of all this is the most surreal experience,” Hugo says.…
 
Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby (Tor.com, 2020) tells the story of two siblings—Ella, who is gifted with powers of precognition and telekinesis, and her younger brother Kevin, whose exuberant resistance to systemic racism earns him a one-way ticket to jail. Onyebuchi’s first novel for adults is as much a tale of the siblings’ bond as it is a portrait o…
 
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including t…
 
In his new book, Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television (Rutgers University Press, 2020), Brian Crim explores the diverse ways in which the Holocaust influences and shapes science fiction and horror film and television by focusing on notable contributions from the last fifty years. The supernatu…
 
Velocity Weapon (Orbit, 2019) by Megan E. O’Keefe centers on siblings: Biran, a member of an elite cadre that controls the interstellar gates by which humans travel among star systems, and his sister, Sanda, a gunner who finds herself waking 230 years after her last battle on an empty, enemy spaceship, believing she’s the last human alive. O’Keefe’…
 
Laura Lam’s new book Goldilocks (Orbit, 2020) takes readers into space with an all-female crew bound for a distant Earth-like planet. The all-female crew isn’t the only twist; there’s also the fact that the five astronauts steal their spaceship. The crew aren’t mere bandits, but the spacecraft’s original crew, who’d been shoved aside by a reactiona…
 
Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy, is the first edited collection of scholarly essays devoted solely to the histories and legacies of this subject on North American campuses and in their Atlantic contexts. Gathering together con…
 
Tyler Hayes's The Imaginary Corpse (Angry Robot, 2019) offers an escape from the unending stress of the Covid-19 pandemic with three simple words: plush yellow triceratops. Nothing could be farther from our collective coronavirus nightmare than the Stillreal, where Hayes’ protagonist, Tippy (the aforementioned triceratops), runs the Stuffed Animal …
 
Ken Liu’s second collection of speculative stories explores migration, memory, and a post-human future through the eyes of parents and their children. Whether his characters are adjusting to life on a new planet or grappling with moral quandaries—like whether a consciousness uploaded to a server is still human—they struggle with the age-old task of…
 
In Docile (Tor.com, 2020), the debut novel by K.M. Szpara, people pay off family debts by working as indentured personal assistants to the ultra-wealthy. Tor describes the book as a “science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power.” Szpara describes the book as "really gay." As it turns out, both descriptions are true. …
 
To catch the people who killed her environmentalist father, the main character of Karl Schroeder’s Stealing Worlds (Tor Books, 2019) disappears into a virtual world of overlapping LARPs—live action role-playing games. But Sura Neelin soon discovers that the LARPs are more than games. They’re also an underground economy that meets players’ needs for…
 
How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The …
 
When Nino Cipri entered the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, they had no expectation of winning, so when they won, they were shocked. The prize came with a publishing contract, and suddenly Cipri was scrambling for a literary agent, negotiating a contract, and reaching a wider audience. “I wasn't really planning on writing a short story collec…
 
Some war stories emphasize heroism and a higher purpose; others emphasize brutality and disillusionment. The first kind of story got Dietz, the narrator of Kameron Hurley’s military science fiction novel The Light Brigade (Saga Press, 2019), to enlist in a war against aliens from Mars. The second is the story that emerges from their experience as t…
 
The end of the world is no excuse for eating French fries. That’s a lesson 7-year-old Sunny Donelly learns from her father, Rob, who tries to give her as normal a childhood as possible in the post-pandemic landscape of Mike Chen’s A Beginning at the End (MIRA, 2020). Trying to be a good dad, Rob showers Sunny with attention and gives her fatherly a…
 
Science fiction and fantasy often feature characters who seek absolute control (over a kingdom, country, world, galaxy or universe), but few break down the secret to power as elegantly as Seanan McGuire in Middlegame (Tor.com, 2019), where her sibling protagonists subdue the forces of nature through the union of two fundamental arts: language and m…
 
Famous Men Who Never Lived (Tin House, 2019) is set in two Brooklyns. In one, people ride in trams; in the other, they take subways. In one, the swastika is a symbol of luck; in the other, it signifies hate. In one, science fiction is literature; in the other, it’s considered mere genre. Helen (Hel) Nash, the main character in K Chess’s debut novel…
 
Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day (Berkley, 2019) explores how society changes following two plausible disasters: a surge in terrorism and a deadly epidemic. In the Before, people brush against each other in crowded cities, gather in stadiums to watch baseball games, and hang out in clubs to watch live music. In the After, curfews and bans on pu…
 
Ah, science fiction: Aliens? Absolutely. Robots? Of course. But why are there so many priests in space? As Jim Clarke writes in Science Fiction and Catholicism: The Rise and Fall of the Robot Papacy (Gylphi, 2019), science fiction has had an obsession with Roman Catholicism for over a century. The religion is the genre’s dark twin as well as its di…
 
In science fiction, “near future” usually refers to settings that are a few years to a few decades off. But Craig DiLouie’s Our War (Orbit, 2019)—about a second U.S. civil war that starts after the president is impeached and convicted but refuses to step down—feels as if it might be only weeks away. Born in the U.S., DiLouie now lives in Calgary, A…
 
As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are…
 
While all fiction writers can pull characters from their imaginations and commit them to the page, most readers can’t do what Charley Sutherland can: pull characters from the page and commit them to the real world. Sutherland’s fantastical ability is at the center of H.G. Parry’s debut novel The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep (Redhook, 2019). It is …
 
After writing more than 30 books, including memoirs, military science fiction, alternate histories, and a book of writing advice, John Birmingham was ready to try his hand at the sweeping and dramatic science fiction subgenre known as space opera. But you’d never know The Cruel Stars(Del Rey, 2019) is his first attempt at epic, interstellar, battle…
 
Amid a wave of time travel books published this year, Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline(Tor, 2019) stands out for its focus on a woman’s right to obtain a safe abortion. The book opens in an alternate America in which women gained the right to vote in the 1870s (rather than 1920), but abortion never became legal. “I was imagining that…
 
In Cadwell Turnbull’s The Lesson (Blackstone Publishing, 2019), the U.S. Virgin Islands serve as Earth’s entry point for the Ynaa, beings from a far corner of the universe whose intentions and desires are as complex as the humans who come to loathe them. The Ynaa (pronounced EE-nah) claim to come in peace, but there are echoes of colonization in th…
 
C.A. Fletcher’s new novel, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World(Orbit, 2019), takes place several generations after a pandemic has turned humans into an endangered species. For Griz, the adolescent narrator, life is bounded by his family, two dogs, and the Outer Hebrides island where they hunt, fish, and farm. When Brand, a lone sailor, shows …
 
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