A heady, strange, and beautifully written novel about how stories give form to worlds.

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RADIANCE

Valente imagines an alternate solar system and sends her heroine, a filmmaker, to Venus, where she disappears.

Severin Unck is a headstrong and passionate young woman, a director of documentaries whose hints of confession are as artful and scripted as only someone who grew up with the movies can manage. The daughter of a famous director in the old Hollywood mold, Severin lives in a universe where the movie industry occupies the moon but films remain silent and where various planets are claimed by the Earth’s nations but persist in being flamboyantly alien. When Severin travels to Venus to make a film about a colony that vanished, leaving only unsettling rumors behind, it becomes her last creation—she never returns. The story of her disappearance emerges in a variety of forms and voices—gossip columns, fragments of screenplays, diary entries, advertisements, and, in a dizzying layering of fictions, a movie made by her father that mutates from noir to gothic to fairy tale. The narrative stretches back to her childhood and forward to the investigation following her crew's return, veering from tense adventure to sly probing of how we choose to make the stories of our lives. An unnamed narrator claims it's a story of seeing and being seen. “We shall endeavor to make ourselves equally naked, equally bare, equally vulnerable to iris and pupil, whose bites are ever so much fiercer than teeth.” Valente’s (The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, 2015, etc.) descriptions are lush and striking, her worlds reveling in the dreamiest of nods to classic science fiction, where alien planets are full of life and easily reachable.

A heady, strange, and beautifully written novel about how stories give form to worlds.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3529-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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An exciting, thought-provoking mind-bender.

RECURSION

In Crouch’s sci-fi–driven thriller, a machine designed to help people relive their memories creates apocalyptic consequences.

In 2018, NYPD Detective Barry Sutton unsuccessfully tries to talk Ann Voss Peters off the edge of the Poe Building. She claims to have False Memory Syndrome, a bewildering condition that seems to be spreading. People like Ann have detailed false memories of other lives lived, including marriages and children, but in “shades of gray, like film noir stills.” For some, like Ann, an overwhelming sense of loss leads to suicide. Barry knows loss: Eleven years ago, his 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Details from Ann’s story lead him to dig deeper, and his investigation leads him to a mysterious place called Hotel Memory, where he makes a life-altering discovery. In 2007, a ridiculously wealthy philanthropist and inventor named Marcus Slade offers neuroscientist Helena Smith the chance of a lifetime and an unlimited budget to build a machine that allows people to relive their memories. He says he wants to “change the world.” Helena hopes that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, will benefit from her passion project. The opportunity for unfettered research is too tempting to turn down. However, when Slade takes the research in a controversial direction, Helena may have to destroy her dream to save the world. Returning to a few of the themes he explored in Dark Matter (2016), Crouch delivers a bullet-fast narrative and raises the stakes to a fever pitch. A poignant love story is woven in with much food for thought on grief and the nature of memories and how they shape us, rounding out this twisty and terrifying thrill ride.

An exciting, thought-provoking mind-bender.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-5978-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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