Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing March Releases in Science Fiction

Fiction Affliction is a 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 of March releases in fantasy, young adult paranormal, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Today’s column examines SCIENCE FICTION.

The Symptoms: We’re too smart for our own good. We should’ve known all this technology was going to turn around and bite us where it hurts. So we fly off to space and the distant realms are in even worse shape than Earth. There’s nothing left but to fight.

The Diagnosis: Fifteen new science fiction books hit the shelves in March, including dystopian societies on Earth and in space, a couple of alien invasions, two secret alien dying cultures, and reality shows run amok.

The Cure: On Earth, watch out for stealthy historical figures posing as detectives in flying machines. In space, we have two words for you: Martian mafia. When all else fails, draw swords.

Daybreak Zero, by John Barnes (March 1, Ace)

A year has passed since the catastrophic event known as Daybreak began. Nine months since Daybreak killed seven billion people. Eight months since Daybreak vaporized Washington. Six months since rival governments emerged in Athens, Ga., and Olympia, Wash. Four months since the two governments of what was formerly the United States went to the brink of war. Three months since war was (barely) avoided. Two months since Athens and Olympia agreed to work together. One month since they discovered that Daybreak isn’t over. This is the sequel to 2010’s Directive 51.

Overkill, by Robert Buettner (March 1, Baen)

At age 23, Jazen Parker has completed his Legion hitch a hero. But in four months, he’ll have a price on his head. Worse, he’s lost his past and he can’t find his future. Not to mention he’s been chosen to search for them on the deadliest planet known to mankind. When Jazen reluctantly hires on to a Trueborn Earthman tycoon’s safari to bag a deadly trophy, the reluctant mercenary finds himself shipped out to Downgraded Earthlinke 476, the outpost at the end of the universe known to everyone except its tourism bureau as “Dead End.” But the hunt goes terribly wrong, and Jazen must survive a tough, beautiful local guide who hates mercenaries, an 11-ton ton beast that can crush battle tanks with one claw tied behind its back, and the return of a nightmare that has haunted Jazen since birth. Then he learns that the stakes are not just his own life but the fate of an entire alien race.

Alaska Republik, by Stoney Compton (March 1, Baen)

When Lieutenant Gerald Yamato of the Republic of California Air Force bailed out of his doomed fighter he had no idea he would land in a culture that would forever change his life. The Dené thought they had won their independence and the war was over. Suddenly, they face an advancing Russian army from one direction, a band of mercenaries from another, as well as the remnants of a defeated, angry, Russian army between the Dené and the rest of their people. Despite assurances by distant, bland diplomats to the contrary, the new Dené Republik has a new war on its hands. But they are not alone. The Tlingit Nation shares their struggle, and the U.S.A. and the Republic of California vow all the aid they can muster. But will it be enough?

Invasion, by Mercedes Lackey, Dennis Lee, Cody Martin and Steve Libby (March 1, Baen)

In book one of the Secret World Chronicle, created from the online, podcasted “braided novel,” the world has become used to the metahumans—people sometimes perfectly ordinary, but sometimes quite extraordinary in appearance—who mostly worked with their governments as high-powered peace officers fighting crime and rogue metahuman super-criminals. That comfortable world ended in one terrifying day. Suddenly, all world governments are simultaneously attacked by soldiers in giant robotic suits with the swastika symbol of the Third Reich on their metal arms. If these were Nazis, where had they been hiding since the end of World War II? And where had they gotten armor and weapons far in advance of anything on the planet—weapons against which even the metahuman heroes seemed to be helpless?

The Chronoliths, by Robert Charles Wilson (March 1, Orb)

One day in Thailand, 21st-century slacker Scott Warden witnesses an impossible event: the violent appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar. Its arrival collapses trees for a quarter-mile around its base, and it appears to be composed of an exotic form of matter. The inscription chiseled into it commemorates a military victory—sixteen years hence. As more pillars appear around the world, all apparently from our own near future, a strange loop of causality keeps drawing Scott into the central mystery—and a final battle with the future. This is a reprint of the original 2001 novel.

The Gravity Pilot, by M.M. Buckner (March 15, Tor)

It is the polluted and gritty future, saved, sort of, by technofixes. Young skydiver Orr Sitka wants no more from life in future Alaska than he already has: a woman he loves and the chance to dive. When he makes a reckless, record-breaking jump that catapults him into celebrity, he’s courted by corporations that want to exploit his talent to make him a sports media star. The dangerous jump that wins Orr infamy turns out to be a breaking point for his loving girlfriend, Dyce, who is wooed away by a promising job in the thriving underground city of Seattle, a world media center in a crumbling civilization. Separately, Orr and Dyce are sucked into nightmare lives that take a terrible toll on each of them. When Orr learns that Dyce has become addicted to virtual reality, controlled by an eccentric media billionaire and his decadent daughter, he does everything in his power to rescue her. But is he strong enough to get through to Dyce and break them both out of hell?

Hellhole, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (March 15, Tor)

Only the most desperate colonists dare to make a new home on Hellhole. Reeling from a recent asteroid impact, tortured with horrific storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and churning volcanic eruptions, the planet is a dumping ground for undesirables, misfits, and charlatans—but also a haven for dreamers and independent pioneers. Against all odds, an exiled general named Adolphus has turned Hellhole into a place of real opportunity for the desperate colonists who call the planet their home. While the colonists are hard at work developing the planet, General Adolphus secretly builds alliances with the leaders of the other Deep Zone worlds, forming a clandestine coalition against the tyrannical, fossilized government responsible for their exile. What no one knows is this: the planet Hellhole, though damaged and volatile, hides an amazing secret. Deep beneath its surface lies the remnants of an obliterated alien civilization and the buried memories of its unrecorded past that, when unearthed, could tear the galaxy apart.

Crucified Dreams, edited by Joe R. Lansdale (March 15, Tachyon)

Crossing noir with the supernatural, this anthology attacks polite society and plunges into the unthinkable horrors lurking in its underbelly. Searching for some beauty in a time of increasing poverty and neglect, the desperate are all the more menacing, and in a brief moment, ordinary people turn into something far less human. Offering stylish yet savage tales of private dicks, serial killers, lurking demons and femme fatales, these surreal and often bloody tales provide glimpses into sinister worlds that mirror our own. Features an assortment of stories from celebrated authors such as Harlan Ellison, David Morrell and the editor himself.

Up Against It, by M.J. Locke (March 15, Tor)

Geoff and his friends live in Phocaea, a distant asteroid colony on the solar system’s frontier. They’re your basic high-spirited young adults, enjoying such pastimes as hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons that prance through the low-gee communal areas, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of ’Stroiders, a reality-TV show whose Earthside producers have paid handsomely for the privilege of spying on every detail of the Phocaeans’ lives. But a mysterious act of sabotage kills Geoff’s brother Carl and puts the entire colony at risk. And in short order, we discover that the whole thing may have been cooked up by the Martian mafia, as a means of executing a coup and turning Phocaea into a client-state.

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Volume 5, edited by Jonathan Strahan (March 15, Night Shade)

The depth and breadth of science fiction and fantasy fiction continues to change with every passing year. The twenty-nine stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully map this evolution, giving readers an always-entertaining look at the best the genre has to offer. Included are stories from Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Joe Abercrombie, Kij Johnson, James P. Kelly, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, Christopher Barzak, Diana Peterfreund, Lavie Tidhar, K.J. Parker, Peter Watts, and more.

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, by Mark Hodder (March 22, Pyr)

It is 1862, though not the 1862 it should be. Time has been altered, and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the king’s agent, is one of the few people who know that the world is now careening along a very different course from that which Destiny intended. When a clockwork-powered man of brass is found abandoned in Trafalgar Square, Burton and his assistant, the wayward poet Algernon Swinburne, find themselves on the trail of the stolen Garnier Collection—black diamonds rumored to be fragments of the Lemurian Eye of Naga, a meteorite that fell to Earth in prehistoric times. His investigation leads to involvement with the media sensation of the age: the Tichborne Claimant, a man who insists he’s the long lost heir to the cursed Tichborne estate. Monstrous, bloated, and monosyllabic, he’s not the aristocratic Sir Roger Tichborne known to everyone, yet the working classes come out in force to support him. This is the followup to last year’s entertaining Burton and Swinburne steampunk debut, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack.

Crysis: Legion, by Peter Watts (March 22, Del Rey)

Welcome to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps: invaded by monstrous fusions of meat and machinery, defended by a private army that makes Blackwater look like the Red Cross, ravaged by a disfiguring plague that gifts its victims with religious rapture while it eats them alive. You’ve been thrown into this meat grinder without warning. Your squad was mowed down the moment it stepped onto the battlefield. And the chorus of voices whispering in your head says all of this is on you: that you and you alone might be able to turn the whole thing around if you only knew what the hell was going on. You’d like to help. Really you would. But it’s not just the aliens that are gunning for you. Your own kind hunts you as a traitor, and your job might be a bit easier if you didn’t have the sneaking suspicion they could be right.

The Enterprise of Death, by Jesse Bullington (March 24, Orbit)

As the witch-pyres of the Spanish Inquisition blanket Renaissance Europe in a moral haze, a young African slave finds herself the unwilling apprentice of an ancient necromancer. Unfortunately, quitting his company proves even more hazardous than remaining his pupil when she is afflicted with a terrible curse. Yet salvation may lie in a mysterious tome her tutor has hidden somewhere on the war-torn continent. She sets out on a seemingly impossible journey to find the book, never suspecting her fate is tied to three strangers: the artist Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, the alchemist Dr. Paracelsus, and a gun-slinging Dutch mercenary. As Manuel paints her macabre story on canvas, plank, and church wall, the young apprentice becomes increasingly aware that death might be the least of her concerns.

Embedded, by Dan Abnett (March 29, Angry Robot)

He’d do anything to get a story. When journalist Lex Falk gets himself chipped into the brain of a combat soldier, he thinks he has the ultimate scoop—a report from the forbidden front line of a distant planetary war, live to the living rooms of Earth. When the soldier is killed, however, Lex has to take over the body and somehow get himself back to safety once more, broadcasting all the way. Heart-stopping combat science fiction from the author of Warhammer 40K.

The Kings of Eternity, by Eric Brown (March 29, Solaris)

It’s 1999, the threshold of a new millennium, and novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek island, hiding from humanity and the events of the past. Everything changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him? It’s 1935, and writer Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings-on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there—no less than a strange creature from another world—will change their lives forever. What they become, and their link to the novelist of the future, is the subject of Eric Brown’s most ambitious novel to date. The Kings of Eternity was almost ten years in the writing.

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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