Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing July Releases in Science Fiction

Every month, Fiction Affliction provides a handy reference of the science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and young adult paranormal coming out in the ensuing month. Today’s column examines SCIENCE FICTION.

The Symptoms: Metal-eating bugs are demolishing the desert Southwest, New York City is under attack from ginormous brass raptors, and some kid might have destroyed the Eastern Seaboard. Why do the alien intelligentsia want our help?

The Diagnosis: Seventeen new science fiction books take flight in July, including six space operas, a few dystopias, much tech run amok, history rewritten, and an oddity of steam technology.

The Cure: When the aliens land, asking for our help, let them have Earth and take off. Anywhere else has to be safer.

Undercurrents, by Robert Buettner (July 5, Baen)

Ace intelligence operative Lt. Jazen Parker parachutes into Tressel, a planet which resembles Earth in its Paleozoic era, on a mission to bring down the local politicos. He quickly realizes he’s been handed a near-impossible task. Tressel is a politically-quarantined nightmare world with a culture confined to iron rivet technology and a ruling regime a bit to the right of Heinrich Himmler. Jazen’s inclined to abandon this particular hellhole to its ways—until he uncovers a plot afoot that will throw a 500-planet alliance into the death-throes of anarchy. Second in the Orphan’s Legacy series.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 28th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois (July 5, St. Martin’s Griffin)

This venerable collection brings together award-winning authors and masters of the field such as Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Damien Broderick, Carrie Vaughn, Ian R. MacLeod and Cory Doctorow. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become the definitive must-read anthology for science fiction fans.

Ring of Fire III, edited by Eric Flint (July 5, Baen)

Another collection of tales by a star-studded array of top writers such as bestseller Mercedes Lackey and Eric Flint himself are all set in Flint’s Ring of Fire series. A cosmic accident sets the modern West Virginia town of Grantville down in war-torn 17th-century Europe. It will take all the gumption of the resourceful, freedom-loving up-timers to find a way to flourish in the mad and bloody end of medieval times. Are they up for it? This is the third collection of Grantville tales edited by Eric Flint and inspired by his novel 1632.

7th Sigma, by Steven Gould (July 5, Tor)

Welcome to the territory. Leave your metal behind, all of it. The bugs will eat it, and they’ll go right through you to get it. Don’t carry it, don’t wear it, and for God’s sake don’t come here if you’ve got a pacemaker. The bugs showed up about 50 years ago—self-replicating, solar-powered, metal-eating machines. They don’t like water, so they’ve stayed in the desert Southwest. People still live here, but they do it without metal. Kimble Monroe was born here, and he is extraordinarily well adapted to it. He’s one in a million. Maybe one in a billion.

Heaven’s Shadow, by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt (July 5, Ace)

Three years ago, an enormous object was spotted on a trajectory with Earth’s sun. Now its journey is almost over. As it approaches, two competing manned vehicles race through almost half a million kilometers of space to reach it first. But when they both arrive on the entity, they learn it has been sent toward Earth for a reason. An intelligent race is desperately attempting to communicate with our primitive species. And the message is: Help us.

Dead Iron, by Devon Monk (July 5, Roc)

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death. Then he’s offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers, and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth. First in a new Age of Steam series.

Rule 34, by Charles Stross (July 5, Ace)

DI Liz Kavanaugh: You realize policing Internet porn is your life and your career went down the pan five years ago. But when a fetishist dies on your watch, the Rule 34 Squad moves from low priority to worryingly high profile. Anwar: As an ex-con, you’d like to think your identity fraud days are over. Especially as you’ve landed a legit job (through a shady mate). The Toymaker: Your meds are wearing off and people are stalking you through Edinburgh’s undergrowth. But that’s okay, because as a distraction, you’re project manager of a sophisticated criminal operation. So how do bizarre domestic fatalities, dodgy downloads, and a European spamming network fit together? Second in the Halting State series.

Vortex, by Robert Charles Wilson (July 5, Tor)

Vortex tells the story of Turk Findley, the protagonist introduced in Axis, who is transported ten thousand years into the future by the mysterious entities called “the Hypotheticals.” In this future humanity exists on a chain of planets connected by Hypothetical gateways, but Earth itself is a dying world, effectively quarantined. Turk and his young friend Isaac Dvali are taken up by a community of fanatics who use them to enable a passage to the dying Earth, where they believe a prophecy of human/Hypothetical contact will be fulfilled. Third in the Spin series.

The Thackeray T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Exhibits, Oddities, Imagines, and Stories from Top Authors and Artists, by Ann Vandermeer and Jeff Vandermeer (July 12, Harper Voyager)

All-new stories and art from the doctor’s wondrous collection. After the death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, a remarkable discovery was unearthed: the remains of an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. Modern science fiction and fantasy authors and artists bring the collection to life through short writings and more than 60 images, much as in the Vandermeers’ 2003 Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases. Among the many contributors: Kelly Barnhill, Ted Chiang, Carrie Vaughn, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Holly Black, Ted Williams, Cherie Priest, Michael Moorcock, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jay Lake, N.K. Jemison, and Rachel Swirsky,

This Shared Dream, by Kathleen Ann Goonan (July 19, Tor)

Kathleen Ann Goonan introduced Sam Dance and his wife, Bette, and their quest to alter our present reality for the better in her novel In War Times (winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel and ALA’s Best Science Fiction Novel of 2008). Now, in This Shared Dream, she tells the story of the next generation. The three Dance kids, seemingly abandoned by both parents when they were younger, are now adults disturbed by memories of a reality that existed in place of their world.

The War That Came Early: The Big Switch, by Harry Turtledove (July 19, Del Rey)

In this World War II alternate history, Harry Turtledove begins with a big switch: what if Neville Chamberlain, instead of appeasing Hitler, had stood up to him in 1938? Enraged, Hitler reacts by lashing out at the West, promising his soldiers that they will reach Paris by the new year. They don’t. Three years later, his genocidal apparatus not fully in place, Hitler has barely survived a coup, while Jews cling to survival. But England and France wonder whether the war is still worthwhile. Third in the War That Came Early series.

When the Great Days Come, by Gardner R. Dozois (July 26, Prime)

Millions of tiny robots dismantle Atlantic City. A Luddite encounters time-travelers near the moment of Singularity. A young boy may have just destroyed the entire Eastern Seaboard. By turns haunting and humorous, Gardner Dozois’s short fiction is collected in a definitive edition of his work. Includes Nebula Award winners such as “Morning Child” and nominees “Disciples” and “A Dream at Noonday.”

Theirs Not to Reason Why: A Soldier’s Duty, by Jean Johnson (July 26, Ace)

Ia is a precog, tormented by visions of the future where her home galaxy has been devastated. To prevent this vision from coming true, Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military with a plan to become a soldier who will inspire generations for the next three hundred years—a soldier history will call Bloody Mary.

Tattoo, by Kirsten Imani Kasai (July 26, Del Rey)

In an environmentally fragile world where human and animal genes combine, the rarest mutation of all, the Trader, can instantly switch genders. One such Trader—female Sorykah—is battling her male alter, Soryk, for dominance and the right to live a full life. Sorykah has rescued her infant twins from mad Matuk the Collector. Her children are safe. Her journey, she believes, is over, but Matuk’s death has unleashed darker, more evil forces. Bitter enemies trapped within a single skin, Sorykah and Soryk are soon drawn into a sinister web of death and deceit.

Ghosts of War, by George Mann (July 26, Pyr)

New York City is being plagued by a pack of ferocious brass raptors, strange, skeletonlike creations that swoop out of the sky, attacking people and carrying them away into the night. The Ghost has been tracking these bizarre machines, and is close to finding their origin: a deranged military scientist who is slowly rebuilding himself as a machine.However, this scientist is not working alone, and his scheme involves more than a handful of abductions. He is part of a plot to escalate the cold war with Britain into a full-blown conflict, and he is building a weapon—a weapon that will fracture dimensional space and allow the monstrous creatures that live on the other side to spill through. Second in The Ghost series.

The Black Lung Captain, by Chris Wooding (July 26, Spectra)

In the first Ketty Jay novel, Retribution Falls, Frey and his crew were framed for murder, and had to use all their criminal talents to try to clear their names—and turn a profit. Here, in the second novel in this series of standalone adventures, they’re asked to help retrieve a mysterious lost ship full of treasure, which turns out to be slightly more complicated than expected. Second in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series. First U.S. release.

Troika, by Alastair Reynolds (July 31, Subterranean)

A new novella from the author of such intergalactic epics as Chasm City and Revelation Space. Troika tells the story of men and women confronting an enigma known as the Matryoshka, a vast alien construct whose periodic appearances have generated terror, wonder, and endless debate. During its third apparition in a remote corner of the galaxy, a trio of Russian cosmonauts approach this enigma and attempt to penetrate its mysteries. What they discover—and what they endure in the process—gives a new meaning to “first contact.”

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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