Fiction Affliction: Diagnosing August 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: Mom always said those RPGs would be our downfall — but who knew the fate of the universe might be at stake? Want to dig around in Moon Maze, Reality 36, or Oasis? Choose your poison, but consider the consequences.

The Diagnosis: Ten new science fiction books choose their personal avatars in August, with four virtual worlds run amok, a number of alien worlds run amok, and a look at what happened after the dinosaurs weren’t rendered extinct on our own planet so they could run amok.

The Cure: Forget the online games — record an audition tape for a reality-show appearance. It’s a lot safer.

Ghost Ship, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Aug. 2, Baen)

Theo Waitley is an ace starship pilot and pure maverick. Her mom is a renowned Terran scholar and her birth father is an interstellar aristocrat in hiding. Whatever, thinks Theo. She still feels like a socially challenged misfit. But after being selected to train at the pilot academy, she figures she can leave behind those gawky, misfit days of teenage angst behind. But for Theo, life is about to get even more complicated — and deadlier still. The third Theo Waitley novel and a new entry into the Liaden Universe series.

Exiled: Clan of the Claw, Book One, by S.M. Stirling, Harry Turtledove, Jody Lynn Nye, John Ringo and Bill Fawcett (editor) (Aug. 2, Baen)

First in a new series with three linked novellas from authors Harry Turtledove, John Ringo, Jody Lynn Nye, and S.M. Stirling. After the extinction asteroid doesn’t strike Earth, the dinosaurs keep evolving — but so do the mammals. We mammals have achieved humanlike shapes, but now it’s cold-blooded, magic-using reptiles against the hot-blooded, hot-tempered descendants of cats. It’s mammalian courage and adaptation against reptile cunning in a clash of steel and will that will determine which line shall inherit the Earth.

Cowboys & Aliens, by Joan D. Vinge (Aug. 2, Tor)

This novelization of the 2011 film. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don’t welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde. It’s a town that lives in fear. But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Aug. 16, Crown)

Part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera, Ready Player One is set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.  And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. 

Legacy: An Event Group Thriller, by David L. Golemon (Aug. 16, Thomas Dunne)

The United States is ready to make a triumphant return to the moon, striking out boldly into the solar system in an attempt to regain the confidence of the heady days of the Apollo program. The first of what are to be many missions to the lunar surface was designed to find the frozen water needed to prepare to build a base to launch an assault on Mars. But a shocking discovery at Shackleton Crater brings the first Prometheus mission to an abrupt halt. Remote robots uncover human skeletal remains and a base that had been destroyed countless millennia ago. The Event Group is tasked to unravel the mystery and to offer something that can either explain our ancient visitor or, at least, keep the world from descending into chaos.

The Moon Maze Game, by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (Aug. 16, Tor)

The Year: 2085. Humanity has spread throughout the solar system. A stable lunar colony is agitating for independence. Lunar tourism is on the rise. Against this background, professional “Close Protection” specialist Scotty Griffin, fresh off a disastrous assignment, is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to shepherd the teenaged heir to the Republic of Kikaya on a fabulous vacation. Ali Kikaya will participate in the first live action role-playing game conducted on the Moon itself. Pursued by armed and murderous terrorists, forced to solve gaming puzzles to stay a jump ahead, forced to juggle multiple psychological realities as they do…this is the game for which  they’ve prepared  their entire lives, and they are going to play it for all it’s worth. Fourth in the Dream Park series.

The Power of Six, by Pittacus Lore (Aug. 23, HarperCollins)

Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us — if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We’re hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we’ll be equipped to fight. They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio — and failed. I am Number Seven. Second in the Lorien Legacies series.

Reality 36, by Guy Haley (Aug. 30, Angry Robot)

Something is amiss in the renegade digital realm of Reality 36. Richards, a Level 5 AI with a PI fetish, and his partner, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside an artificial reality. Richards and Klein must stop him before he becomes a god — for the good of all the realms.

The Recollection, by Gareth L. Powell (Aug. 30, Solaris)

When his brother disappears on a London Underground escalator, failed artist Ed Rico and his brother’s wife Alice have to put aside their feelings for each other to find him. Their quest through the ‘arches’ will send them hurtling through time, to new and terrifying alien worlds. Four hundred years in the future, Katherine Abdulov must travel to a remote planet in order to regain the trust of her influential family. The only person standing in her way is her former lover, Victor Luciano, the ruthless employee of a rival trading firm. Hard choices lie ahead as lives and centuries clash and, in the unforgiving depths of space, an ancient evil stirs.

Angel of Europa, by Allen Steele (Aug. 31, Subterranean)

In the early years of the 22nd century, an international space expedition is exploring the moons of Jupiter. Tragedy strikes when a bathyscaphe lowered into the global ocean beneath Europa’s frozen surface is lost, costing the lives of two scientists. The lone survivor: the bathyscaphe’s pilot, a woman whose haunting beauty and sexual hunger led both men to have affairs with her. She claims that her craft was attacked by an enormous creature prowling the frigid waters beneath the ice. Is this murder… or one of the greatest discoveries of all time?


Author Suzanne Johnson is a bonafide book geek who thinks her life is an RPG. 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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