All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tom Barren briefly traveled back in time to 1965, then returned to another timeline in 2016. Instead of the high-tech utopia he’s used to, everything is different. His parents are still together, and his father is nicer but never invented a time machine, instead writing science fiction. Tom even has a sister. Everyone calls him John, who turns out to be a very arrogant architect who copied the buildings of Tom’s world through shared dreams. With the help of his family and his new girlfriend, bookseller Penny, Tom tries to make things right, whatever the cost, with predictably entertaining results. For more time travel books and films, check out my July book display at the library. This is a good readalike for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, a Great American Read selection.
Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
I found this science fiction novel, a quick read, on the 2017 Locus Recommended Reading List. Locus Magazine reviews science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Set on Earth in the near future, aliens have made peaceful first contact. They have a ship in New York harbor, and want to meet evolutionary biologist Marianne Jenner. Her research may help the aliens find distant kin on Earth, including her son Noah. The aliens from Deneb have come to warn Earth about a deadly spore cloud they will soon encounter, and the race is on to prevent a pandemic. Noah, who uses the intoxicant sugarcane, quickly bonds with the Denebs. The aliens leave behind plans for a space ship, just as the spore cloud appears. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it’s no surprise that the spore cloud’s effects aren’t as dire as predicted. Marianne’s young grandson Colin has super hearing, along with many other young children. Predictably, there are ecological and financial problems from the spore cloud, and differing opinions about the proposed starships to Deneb. The book is fast-paced, with appealing characters, and slightly mysterious, nonviolent aliens. The second book is If Tomorrow Comes, to be followed in November by Terran Tomorrow. This book is based on the award-winning novella, Yesterday’s Kin, and is a good readalike for Kim Stanley Robinson’s ecologically focused science fiction, including Forty Signs of Rain and New York, 2140.
Space Opera by Catherynne Valente
This amusing, engaging science fiction novel was inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest, David Bowie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the author’s Maine Coon cat. Set in the near future, first contact with Earth is made by the appearance of an alien who resembles a flamingo and a fish, and can speak with your grandmother’s voice. The sentience of Earth’s inhabitants is in doubt, and Earth must participate in the upcoming Megagalactic Grand Prix and finish anywhere but last to survive. As Yoko Ono is no longer available, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, a former British glamrock trio, is selected. The two remaining musicians aren’t on speaking terms and have no ideas for a new song. Danesh Jalo (Decibel Jones) parties with the aliens en route to the contest, while Omar Caliskan (Oort St. Ultraviolet) misses his kids and chats with Oö, who resembles a red panda. Fans of Douglas Adams or Connie Willis may enjoy this whimsical, bittersweet, and ultimately hopeful musical extravaganza.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Mercenary Deviana Morris wants to join the Devastators, the King’s own guard on Paradox. To gain experience, she takes her high-tech suit of powered armor and applies for a position as security guard on the unlucky Terran trading ship Glorious Fool. Attracted by the handsome ship’s cook Rupert, she is stunned to meet the ship’s doctor, a potentially dangerous xith’cal. Fast-paced and entertaining, with a kick-ass heroine who’s curious, stubborn, loyal, and passionate, this book will appeal to fans of military science fiction or space opera. This is the first book in the Paradox trilogy, followed by Honor’s Knight. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a good readalike, along with books by Elizabeth Moon and David Weber.
Artemis by Andy Weir
Jazz Bashara, born in Saudi Arabia, has grown up in the Moon’s only city, Artemis. She’s just getting by, delivering packages and the occasional contraband, sleeping in a capsule berth and eating Gunk. When she’s offered a large reward to vandalize a refinery, the pace revs up as Jazz starts down a slippery slope, taking the reader on a wild ride as she gets creative and enlists an unlikely group to save Artemis from disaster. While the plots differ, Marina in New Moon by Ian McDonald and Bet Yeager in C.J. Cherryh’s Rimrunners have a lot in common with Jazz, using all their skills to survive in a hostile environment. This book was fun to read; I really enjoyed the unusual, well-detailed setting.
Provenance by Ann Leckie
Provenance is about identity, history, value, and connections. While not as stunning as the award-winning Ancillary Justice and its sequels, this is a thoroughly absorbing, enjoyable return to that universe. The people on Hwae highly value vestiges, rare artifacts and collectible documents. Some of them may be forgeries, and others may be stolen. Family is key, with some politicians adopting children to vie for the chance to claim their parent’s position and name. Gender is key here, with e and eir often substituted for he/she and their. Ingray Aughskold has taken a big chance to secure her future by borrowing against her inheritance to rescue Pahlad Budrakim, a thief, from “Compassionate Removal”. The person she finds claims to be Garal Ket, not Pahlad. Ship captain Tic Uisine provides food and some clothing, but is temporarily stuck in port when the alien Geck claim his ship is stolen. Back on Ingray’s planet Hwae, her scheming brother Danach can’t believe Ingray’s been so daring. Soon a visiting diplomat is killed with Ingray, Garal Ket, Danach, and another diplomat present, along with an AI mech. Ingray gets caught up in one crisis after another, most notably when there’s a hostage crisis involving her parent and some children who were visiting the Lareum, a museum containing rare vestiges. Ingray is smarter, braver, and more creative than she realizes, although the reader catches on pretty quickly. Ingray’s friend Taucris, who doesn’t declare her gender and claim her family name until she’s an adult, certainly appreciates Ingray. Identity is also key, with Garal Ket/Pahlad, Gecks and human Gecks, AI mechs with false identities, and orphans having not quite the same status as foster children. Highly recommended for science fiction readers looking for an compelling, fast-paced novel, especially fans of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series.
Way Station by Clifford Simak
Enoch Wallace lives quietly on a farm in southwest Wisconsin. Except for serving in the Civil War, Enoch has lived in Wisconsin for all of his 140 years. Enoch, who looks 30, is given privacy by his neighbors, and his only regular contact is with the mailman. Well, his only human contact. Enoch runs a way station for interstellar travelers. He gets a message when to expect a visitor and what special requirements they have. Travel is by a sort of transporter. Enoch has regular visitors who have become friends, and this contact, along with his books and magazines make for a pretty satisfactory life. He also interacts with two 19th century holographic humans. The farmhouse has been remade to look old but is is impenetrable and basically indestructible. Enoch only ages when he leaves the farm house to take a daily walk around the property. One day a neighbor, a mute girl, needs his help, and his privacy is gone. Also, as is common in science fiction, the fate of the earth (and Enoch’s way station) is uncertain. A short, absorbing novel with a very likeable narrator; well worth reading. This novel was published in 1963, and won the Hugo Award in 1964.