November 14, 2020
With a sigh of relief that the election is basically over, we are ready to turn to the future—and a handful of books that do just that. This week we have a selection of books that fall under the rubric of speculative fiction, including science fiction, dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, alternative history, and fantasy. And writers known for literary fiction are trying their hands at the genre as well. The expanding category is increasingly popular at The Center for Fiction and for good reason—some very, very good books have been steadily coming out. Here are highlights of some titles fairly hot off the press.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Jonathan Lethem
Published by Ecco
Lethem’s new book defies simple categorization as he posits a world post-‘Arrest’ (the total collapse of ecology, the stoppage of all devices, and a big goodbye to everything we take for granted). Two old friends who worked in the screenwriting trade in LA end up in the rural Northeast—Sandy, to work as a butcher where his sister lives in Maine, and Todd, the more extroverted, successful writer who comes to stay. A tense triangle develops with Sandy’s sister and sparks fly. Lethem’s signature satire is in full bloom and imagining a world with no technology seems just right for our times.
The Ministry of the Future
By Kim Stanley Robinson
Published by Orbit
Robinson tackles climate change in his latest book of speculative fiction, as he did in New York 2140 and 2312, but this time takes a look at a closer future. Beginning in 2025 in Bogotá at a climate conference, this book is both political and spectacular in every sense of the word. As Robinson’s characters face the challenges of a cataclysmic heat wave and rampant eco-terrorism in India, he creates an impending doom-filled world but leavens the bad news with a hopeful note on the state and fate of the planet. This is epic cli-fi..
The Once and Future Witches
By Alix E. Harrow
Published by Redhook
Another poplar subject: witches! Many books featuring witches for adults and kids, and even new movies, are capturing the zeitgeist of these unsettled days. Harrow’s fantasy is full of all the tropes of the genre: magic and spells and fire. Set in 1893 in New Salem where witching is quaintly nostalgic, the main characters are three sisters devoted to bringing back witchery as they fight as suffragists for the woman’s vote. It’s great to see how the author combines contemporary issues like women’s rights and racism in a historical, atmospheric tale.
The Midnight Library
By Matt Haig
Published by Viking
What draws one to this book is the same reason for being drawn to libraries: inside are multiple worlds to discover, offering infinite alternative lives. Nora, a 35-year-old woman, has been through the loss of most of her family, her job and recently her cat, Voltaire. Haig’s novel drops her into a limbo where people are not exactly alive or dead—they end up at the Midnight Library to sample paths not taken. Full of philosophical musings (Nora studied philosophy), it’s thought-provoking and sort of retro—a quiet but very seductive book..
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
By Christopher Paolini
Published by Tor
At only 19, Paolini burst on the scene in 2003 with his bestselling YA fantasy novel, Eragon. His new book is his first adult sci-fi offering and it won’t disappoint his fans. This writer knows how to make your heart race and leave you breathless. It’s an intergalactic story featuring a xenologist who discovers extraterrestrial life and ends up being humanity’s best hope for survival. A full-on rollicking adventure.
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
By Nisi Shawl (Editor)
Published by Solaris
Not new, per se, but one of our ongoing bestsellers and a great introduction to some writers you might not have read before. Shawl has written a monthly column, The History of Black Science Fiction, on Tor.com since 2016. Her recent anthology includes favorite writers like Rebecca Roanhorse, as well as Indrapramit Das, E Lily Yu, Anil Menon, Jaymee Goh, and others. The title is from an Octavia Butler quote and the introduction is by Levar Burton. Winner of numerous 2019 awards, it’s a great bedside reader by a leader in the genre..