Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing October Releases in Science Fiction

Fiction Affliction is a new monthly column written by Royal Street author Suzanne Johnson that examines upcoming releases by genre or sub-genre. Check back every day this week for coverage on fantasy, young adult paranormal, and urban fantasy. Today’s column examines SCIENCE FICTION.

The Symptoms: European and American history invaded by high-flying machines, pirates, and sea serpents. Both human and alien societies teeter on the brink of collapse. Tired of pursuit by tough urban fantasy chicks, vampires, shapeshifters and zombies flee to outer space, where they wreak havoc on interstellar travelers.

The Diagnosis: Twenty-one new science fiction releases hit the shelves in October, including seven alternative histories; seven space adventures, including zombies, vampires and shapeshifters; five dystopian catastrophes caused by ambitious machinery and environmental negligence; and two old-school anthologies.

The Cure: Steampunk. Either learn to love it or get on your spaceship and hang out in deep space with the cyborgs.

In the October Fiction Affliction Sci-Fi Medicine Chest:

* Edge, by Thomas Blackthorne (Sept. 28, Angry Robot)
Blackthorne, a pseudonym of British science fiction author John Meaney, takes readers on a dark search for a frightened young boy through an England on the verge of social and economic collapse. There, a desperate government has legalized knife-fighting?the new national sport, televised round the country. And you thought “Survivor” got rough? First U.S. release.

* Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest (Sept. 28, Tor)
Highly anticipated follow-up to Priest’s Locus-winning Boneshaker (2009). In this second Clockwork Century novel, nurse Mercy Lynch leaves Civil War hospital duty in Richmond, Va., to find her dying estranged father in Tacoma. Traveling through the war-torn country aboard a terrifying Union-controlled steam engine called Dreadnought, she encounters mystery, adventure and steampunked bushwackers.

Priest attributes the rebirth of steampunk and alternative history to the times we live in. “There’s been something of a perfect storm over the last few years, wherein the ‘makers’ movement has collided with environmentalism and a general new millennium’s sense of re-evaluating what’s important,” she says. “I’ve often thought that if steampunk has an underlying philosophy, it’s ‘Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle’ because that’s what it does?it repurposes things that have been discarded and turns them into objects of beauty or functionality.”

* Bookman, by Lavie Tidhar (Sept. 28, Angry Robot)
The first in a new series of steampunk adventures by Israeli-born Tidhar is set in an alternative version of 19th-century London and beyond. Orphan, a young poet whose lover has been murdered, is on the trail of her mysterious killer, taking on pirates, catacombs, automatons, and a few giant lizards along the way. First U.S. release.

* Out of the Dark, by David Weber (Sept. 28, Tor)
Weber kicks off a new trilogy expanded from a short story that first appeared in George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’ Warriors anthology. Blending elements of science fiction and urban fantasy, Weber takes readers to a near-future world where a galactic empire known as the Hegemony targets Earth for takeover, only to find humans and vampires have joined forces to resist?or have they?

* The Power of Illusion, by Christopher Anvil, edited by Eric Flint (Oct. 5, Baen)
A posthumous short story collection from Anvil (1925-2009), with his evergreen themes of space and machines gone wild.

* 1635: Eastern Front (The Ring of Fire), by Eric Flint (Oct. 5, Baen)
The sequel to 1634: The Baltic War, this volume extends Flint’s best-selling Ring of Fire series. As the Thirty Years War continues to ravage 17th century Europe, the newly formed United States of Europe gathers power, led by the Swedish king and Mike Stearns’ misplaced group of 20th century West Virginians.

* The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook (Oct. 5, Berkeley Sensation)
Steampunk romance, you say? Brook says yes in this new series she describes as The Pirates of the Caribbean meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In a Victorian England where the Iron Duke is a hero after saving the country from the Horde, Detective Mina Wentworth is drawn into a murder investigation that takes her and the Duke across zombie-riddled landscapes to save her country…and find a dangerous love.

Brook acknowledges the steampunk/romance combo may meet some resistance. “It isn’t going to be for everyone,” she says. “There will be both steampunk and romance fans who will read The Iron Duke with a ‘WTF is this? I can’t believe some author thought this would work!’ caption floating above their heads. But in my opinion, the genres fit together beautifully.”

* Bones of Empire, by William C. Dietz (Oct. 5, Ace).
The second book in Dietz’s Empire Duology, following At Empire’s Edge, this outing finds the Uman Empire under threat from alien subjects and other enemies as bioengineered cop Jack Cato realizes his mortal enemy, one of the shapeshifting Sagathies, is still alive and well. The battle is on, with the fate of the empire at stake.

* The Silent Army, by James Knapp (Oct. 5, Roc)
Second in the Revivors Series, this is a sequel to State of Decay, which Knapp has described as “a science fiction thriller with a dash of zombie thrown in.” In The Silent Army, FBI agent Nico Wachalowski comes up against an army of revivors formed by Samuel Fawkes?and learns the army includes the woman he loves, resurrected as one of “them.” That can’t be a good thing.

* The Half-Made World, by Felix Gilman (Oct. 12, Tor)
Part dystopia, part steampunk, Gilman’s half-made world lies at the edge of the Western frontier and pits big industry (the Line) against an ultra-violent cult (the Gun). Between the Line and the Gun, a psychologist flees with her mentally broken patient, in whose mind rests the key that can destroy both sides and restore peace.

* Betrayer of Worlds, by Larry Niven and Edward Lerner (Oct. 12, Tor)
Niven and Lerner return to Known Space for another prequel to the classic Ringworld. The cowardly Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds face their greatest challenge as Louis Wu is trapped in the Wunderland civil war, Ol’t’ro finds itself in the path of inevitable danger, Achilles is after revenge and power, and Nessus is in desperate circumstances. Who will win it all?

* The Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Oct. 18, Orbit)
Texas author Bennett follows last year’s horror novel Mr. Shivers with a steampunk version of 1919 America as company man Cyril Hayes gets caught between the industrial giant McNaughton Corp. and the factory workers’ union in the technology-fueled city of Evesden.

* Cryoburn (A Miles Vorkosigan Novel), by Lois McMaster Bujold (Oct. 19, Baen)
It’s been eight years since Bujold treated fans to a new Vorkosigan novel. In Cryoburn, 39-year-old Miles narrowly escapes a kidnapping after arriving on the planet Kibou-daini for a cryonics conference. He finds himself living among a band of squatters who are running an illegal cryonics clinic, playing to the desires of a culture trying to postpone death and working to expose a plot among the cryo cartels.

* All Clear, by Connie Willis (Oct. 19, Ballantine Spectra)
After several years without a new release, Willis gained quick acclaim for the February release of Blackout. All Clear is essentially Blackout II, as Willis’ group of 2060 Oxford historians, who’ve time-traveled to World War II England to study the past, are alarmed to learn their actions are changing history. And that, as they realize while evading Hitler’s onslaught and struggling to return to Oxford, is not a good thing.

* Written in Time, by Jerry and Sharon Ahern (Oct. 26, Baen)
In the newest release from this veteran horror and science fiction team, a present-day freelance writer stumbles across a strange 1903 photo taken in Nevada?of himself and his family. When he travels to the town to investigate the photo further, time travel, mystery, and danger are inevitable.

* Damage Time, by Colin Harvey (Oct. 26, Angry Robot)
British author Harvey makes a big mess out of 2050 New York City, what with rising sea levels inundating the coast, the Chinese and Muslims claiming big chunks of turf, and a bankrupt U.S. government. A falsely accused NYPD detective who can read the last memories of murder victims finds himself trying to save both himself and, in the process, his city. First U.S. release.

* The Clone Empire, by Steven L. Kent (Oct. 26, Ace)
In this sixth Clone outing, soldier Wayson Harris, exiled to be used with other clones as military weapons-test dummies for the Unified Authority, creates a clone empire of his own. A grand battle for revenge and ultimate power ensues. The Clone Empire will be followed by The Clone Redemption, which Kent has said will likely wrap up the series.

* Redoubtable, by Mike Shepherd (Oct. 26, Ace)
Shepherd brings readers the latest in the Kris Longknife saga as the intrepid lieutenant-commander chases down pirate slavers who’ve kidnapped a 12-year-old girl. It’s personal this time, and the Peterwalds better be prepared for disruption.

* Surface Detail, by Iain M. Banks (Oct. 28, Orbit)
Welcome to the latest in Scottish writer Iain M. Banks’ novels built in the world of The Culture, which he once described as a “utopia that is post-money, post-scarcity and free of gender discrimination.” (Not exactly 2010 Earth, in other words.) In this installment, the Culture goes to war in the digital realms that store the souls of the dead and threaten to invade reality.

* Version 43, by Philip Palmer (Oct. 28, Orbit)
Debatable Space author Palmer describes Version 43 as “a pulp noir novel set in a far future universe.” The narrator, Version 43, is a cyborg detective of the hard-boiled variety sent to investigate a murder on Belladonna, a planet of criminals, thieves, nutjobs, and other outcasts.

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is a bonafide book geek. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street in April 2012 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.


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