My favourite cover this month is for the anthology Engineering Infinity. The style is very reminiscent of the great Richard Powers whose art dominated many SF covers of the 1960's especially Berkley Publishing's releases. On the flip side the ultra-tacky cover from Baen Books for the Poul Anderson Flandry collection should come with a plain brown wrapper.
Although released late last month, Alan Dean Foster has debuted The Human Blend, the first book in a new near-future series called The Tipping Point. For the titles alone, I am going to give the Love and Rockets SFR anthology a try as well as the SF thriller Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell.
Titles listed are first appearances with release dates based on Amazon data. If I've missed anything you think should be included, please let me know. Feel free to comment on your choices for December.
Songs of the Dying Earth
Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
To honor the magnificent career of Jack Vance, one unparalleled in achievement and impact, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, with the full cooperation of Vance, his family, and his agents, have created a Jack Vance tribute anthology:Songs of the Dying Earth. The best of today's fantasy writers to return to the unique and evocative milieu of The Dying Earth, from which they and so many others have drawn so much inspiration, to create their own brand-new adventures in the world of Jack Vance’s greatest novel. Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time ever, Jack has agreed to open this bizarre and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own. To say that other fantasy writers are excited by this prospect is a gross understatement; one has told us that he'd crawl through broken glass for the chance to write for the anthology, another that he'd gladly give up his right arm for the privilege. That's the kind of regard in which Jack Vance and The Dying Earth are held by generations of his peers. This book contains original stories from George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Elizabeth Moon, Tanith Lee, Tad Williams, Kage Baker, and Robert Silverberg, along with fifteen others--as well as an introduction by Dean Koontz.
Edited by Jonathan Strahan
The universe shifts and changes: suddenly you understand, you get it, and are filled with a sense of wonder. That moment of understanding drives the greatest science-fiction stories and lies at the heart of Engineering Infinity. Whether it's coming up hard against the speed of light and, with it, the enormity of the universe, realising that terraforming a distant world is harder and more dangerous than you'd ever thought, or simply realizing that a hitchhiker on a starship consumes fuel and oxygen with tragic results, it's hard science-fiction where sense of wonder is most often found and where science-fiction's true heart lies. The exciting and innovative science-fiction anthology collects together stories by some of the biggest names in the field including Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross and Greg Bear.
NOVELS and SERIES
Anderson, Kevin J. and Doug Beason
It’s the largest oil spill in history: a crashed supertanker in San Francisco Bay. Desperate to avert environmental damage—and a PR disaster—the multinational oil company releases an untested “designer microbe” to break up the spill. An “oil-eating” microbe, designed to consume anything made of petrocarbons: oil, gasoline, synthetic fabrics, and of course plastic. What the company doesn’t realize is that their microbe propagates through the air. But when every car in the Bay Area turns up with an empty gas tank, they begin to suspect something is terribly wrong. And when, in just a few days, every piece of plastic in the world has dissolved, it’s too late...
Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra
Technic Civilization Series
Captain Dominic Flandry has been knighted for his many services to the Terran Empire—an Empire which is old, jaded, and corrupt, as Flandry well knows. And while that “Sir” before his name may be an added attraction to comely ladies (not that he has ever lacked for the pleasant company of the same), he expects that it will also bring him less welcome attention from envious “colleagues” within the empire. What it is not likely to do is make him more of an object of interest to the Merseians, whose plots he has repeatedly foiled and who are much too aware of how much simpler their plans to replace the Empire would be if he were the late Sir Dominic Flandry. Flandry himself has come to understand that there may be no more point to all his victories than that a few trillion of his fellow creatures may live out their lives before the inevitable coming of the Long Night of galactic barbarism. At best, he may have postponed its coming and shortened its duration. But if that is the most he can achieve, so be it—he’ll keep on fighting, hoping that the barbarians too will pass, followed by a new round of civilization.
From the neo-feudalistic slubs and cornfields of his youth to his apprenticeship among the saleswarriors of Seattlehama - the sex-and-shopping capital of the world - to the rarefied heights of power that Tain now treads, Yarn takes its readers on a roller coaster ride through his life. Vada, the stylish revolutionary and love of Tane's life, draws him back into a world he had thought was long behind him. The swirling threads of violence and passion threaten to destroy him and the world he has made for himself. Author Jon Armstrong returns to the high fashion dystopia first glimpsed in Grey, weaving a stylish and scintillating tale of a dark past colliding with Tane's supposedly safe and secure present.
de Pierres, Marianne
Sentients of Orion #4
Mira Fedor and her friends stand in the eye of the hurricane. Everything is in flux and nothing is as it appears to be. Mira’s pregnancy seems to be proceeding at an inhuman pace and the sedate acceptance of this state of affairs by her biozoon, Insigna, is as much an irritation as it is comfort. It seems clear that the extropists’ procedures have had an unforeseen effect – but will her child be more than human? Or less? Meanwhile, the galaxy-wide conspiracy that has plagued the Orion League for so long is blown wide open. The conspirators stand unmasked, but is there time to prevent their carefully laid plans coming to fruition? And even if there is, how many of the Orion Worlds will pay the price for their leaders’ blindness? The pieces are all in play; all that remains is for each side to commit to its end game. But there’s one question nobody has thought to ask: will god play by the rules …
Farmer, Philip Jose
Up the Bright River
This first posthumous collection of the short fiction of Philip Jose Farmer is a celebration of the impressive variety of his prodigious output, from the space adventures he published in the science fiction magazines of the 1950s through the 1970s, to his acerbic satires of religion and medicine, to his fictional biographies and memoirs, to his beloved Riverworld. Appearing for the first time in a Philip Jose Farmer collection are his last three “Riverworld” stories—featuring characters from his own family history--as well as the “memoir” of Lord Greystoke which he claimed to have merely edited. Other highlights include “Attitudes,” the first of the Father Carmody stories; “The Two-Edged Gift,” which introduces the fictional science fiction writer Leo Queequeg Tincrowdor; “Toward the Beloved City” (about which its original editor said he had never before really understood the Book of Revelations); and “Father’s in the Basement,” a little-known Gothic horror tale which is also a satire of the writing profession. Farmer created some of the most famous worlds in science fiction, but he also wrote in many worlds, and readers familiar only with his best-known classics may find a few surprises among these tales.
Matt Forbeck arrives as the new king of high-concept - with a blockbuster action movie in a book. In the near future, scientists solve the problem of mortality by learning how to backup and restore a persons memories into a vat-bred clone. When Secret Service agent Ronan "Methusaleh" Dooley is brutally murdered, he's brought back from the dead one more time to hunt his killer, but this time those who wanted him dead are much closer to home.
Foster, Alan Dean
The Human Blend
Tipping Point #1
Alan Dean Foster’s brilliant new novel is a near-future thriller that has all the dark humor and edgy morality of an Elmore Leonard mystery, in addition to the masterly world-building and quirky but believable characters readers expect from Foster. This gripping adventure reveals a place where criminals are punished through genetic engineering and bodily manipulation—which poses profound questions about what it means to be human. Given his name because radical surgery and implants have reduced him to preternatural thinness, Whispr is a thug. His partner in crime, Jiminy Cricket, has also been physically altered with nanocarbonic prosthetic legs and high-strength fast-twitch muscle fibers that give him great jumping abilities. In a dark alley in Savannah, Whispr and Jiminy murder what they take to be a random tourist in order to amputate and then fence his sophisticated artificial hand. But the hapless victim also happens to be carrying an unusual silver thread that appears to be some kind of storage medium. Ever quick to scent potential profit, Whispr and Jiminy grab the thread as well. Chance later deposits a wounded Whispr at the clinic of Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. Things have not gone smoothly for Whispr since he acquired the mysterious thread. Powerful forces are searching for him, and Jiminy has vanished. All Whispr wants to do is sell the thread as quickly as he can. When he offers to split the profits with Ingrid in exchange for her medical services, she makes an astonishing discovery. So begins a unique partnership. Unlike Whispr, Ingrid is a natural, with no genetic or bodily alteration. She is also a Harvard-educated physician, while Whispr’s smarts are strictly of the street variety. Yet together they make a formidable team—as long as they can elude the enhanced assassins that are tracking them.
Unconscious for fourteen months after a debilitating accident, Maddy Grant awakens at the Braintree Institute, where scientists have successfully implanted her with a radical technology designed to correct her brain injury. But Maddy is more than cured. Her intellect has been enhanced to process information faster than a computer-an ability that's sending her emotions into overdrive. To monitor her condition, the institute sends Maddy to the nearby village of Harmony, where she will be free to interact with the community. But Braintree's scientists are not only monitoring her behavior, they're modifying it, reprogramming her personality to become someone else. A killer.
Age of Odin
Gideon Dixon was a good solider but bad at everything else. Now the British Army doesn't want him any more. So when he hears about the Valhalla Project it seems like a dream come true. They're recruiting from service personnel for execellent pay with no questions asked to take part in unspecified combat operations. The last thing Gideon expects is to finding himself fighting alongside the gods of the ancient Norse pantheon. The world is in the grip of one of the worst winters it has ever known, and Ragnarok-the fabled final conflict of the Sagas-is looming.
McCaffrey, Anne, and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Tale of the Barque Cats #2
In Catalyst, award-winning authors Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough introduced readers to the beguiling Barque Cats: spacefaring felines who serve aboard starships as full-fledged members of the crew. Highly evolved, the cats share an almost telepathic bond with their minders, or Cat Persons—until, suddenly, there is no “almost” about it, and a particular Barque Cat, Chester, learns to exchange thoughts with his human friend, Jubal. Other cats soon gain the same ability. Behind the seeming miracle is a mysterious cat named Pshaw-Ra, who possesses knowledge and technology far beyond anything the Barque Cats—or their humans—have ever seen. When fear of a virulent plague leads the government first to quarantine and then to kill all animals suspected of infection, Pshaw-Ra—with the help of Chester, Jubal, and the crew of the starship Ranzo—activates a “mousehole” in space that carries the refugees to a place of safety: Pshaw-Ra’s home planet of Mau, where godlike cats are worshiped by human slaves. But Pshaw-Ra’s actions are less noble than they appear. The scheming cat plans to mate the Barque Cats with his own feline stock, creating a hybrid race of superior cats—a race destined to conquer the universe. Yet right from the start, his plans go awry. For one thing, there’s a new queen on Mau: Pshaw-Ra’s daughter Nefure, a spoiled brat—er, cat—with a temper as short as her attention span. Pshaw-Ra’s other daughter, the rightful queen Renpet, is exiled, running for her life in the only direction available to her—down into the vast catacombs beneath the Mauan desert. Far from receiving the hero’s welcome he expected, Pshaw-Ra must use every bit of his considerable cleverness just to survive. Meanwhile, as usual, Chester and Jubal stumble right into the middle of things, in the process uncovering the lost secrets of the Mauan civilization. But that’s not all they uncover. In the forgotten catacombs deep below the Mauan capital, something has awakened. Something as old as the universe. Something that hungers to devour all light and life—and that bears an undying hatred for cats.
The Best of Larry Niven
With the publication of his first story, “The Coldest Place”, in 1964 Larry Niven launched one of the most important careers in the history of science fiction. Over the next decade his stunning hard science fiction won four short fiction Hugo Awards and both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for his all-time classic novel, Ringworld. But it was the short stories that amazed and astounded first. Stories like “The Coldest Place”, “Becalmed in Hell”, “Neutron Star”, and “All the Myriad Ways”set the boundaries for ‘Known Space’, one of science fiction’s grandest future histories, while Niven also explored the classic tavern story in his ‘Draco’s Tavern’ sequence and even fantasy in his ‘Magic Goes Away’ stories. Astoundingly, there has never been a single compendium the focused solely on Niven’s best short fiction until now. The Best of Larry Niven collects no less than twenty seven stories written over a period of thirty-five years, bringing together some of the best-loved stories in science fiction for the first time, along with some overlooked classics. Whether this is your first time in Known Space or you’re visiting old friends in Draco’s Tavern, The Best of Larry Niven is unforgettable.
Taylor, Travis S. and Les Johnson
Back to the Moon
Decades after the last footprints were left on the Moon, the U.S. was preparing to return to the Lunar surface in a new class of rockets, when the mission suddenly became much more urgent. It would have to be a rescue mission. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world China had sent its own Lunar expedition. A manned expedition. Until a distress call was received, no human outside of China even knew that the mission was manned—or that their ship had crash-landed and couldn’t take off again. Time was running out, and if the four Chinese astronauts were to be rescued, the American lunar mission would have to launch immediately, with only a skeleton crew. Once the heroic U.S. astronauts were underway the army of engineers and scientists back home had the daunting task of deciding what equipment could be left on the Moon to permit the Lunar lander vehicle vehicle to lift safely from the Moon with the two U.S. astronauts and the four stranded Chinese taikonauts! Could the U.S. mount such a mission successfully—and would thousands of years of instilled honor “allow” the Chinese astronauts to accept a rescue?
SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE (SFR)
Love and Rockets
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Kerrie Hughes
Introduction by Lois McMaster Bujold
Space...the final frontier. Or is it? Many say there's no frontier more forbidding than a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. But what if one's a human, and the other's an alien? Here is an original collection of space opera stories where authors take love (unrequited or not), on a spaceship, space station, or planetary colony, and add enough drama, confusion and mayhem to ensure that the path to true love-or short-term infatuation-is seldom free of obstacles.
It's been five months since marketing manager Katherine "Kitty" Katt started working with the aliens from Alpha Centauri, and she and Jeff Martini are getting closer. But when an experimental spacecraft is mysteriously returned to the Kennedy Space Center, Kitty and the rest of her team are called in to investigate. Now the team must survive murderous attacks, remove a space entity from a group of astronauts, and avoid an unhinged woman with a serious crush on Kitty's high school boyfriend. And that's all before evil masterminds decide Kitty's extermination is vital.
Two great resources for the latest information on science fiction romance can be found at The Galaxy Express and the SFR Brigade. Be sure to pay them a visit.
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