Socioeconomic sci-fi on a broad canvas that reads like dire headlines from tomorrow.

THE MARSCO DISSIDENT

After 21st-century wars and catastrophes ravage Earth, the omnipotent multiplanetary corporation Marsco assumes control—but forces within and outside the company plot its downfall.

First-time author Zarzana brings to bear an academic background in this hefty start to his planned sci-fi series, a compulsively readable future history detailing a catastrophic 21st century and the political, economic and social pathologies that leave beaten-down humanity dominated by a callous one-world (one solar system, really) corporate empire. In the 2090s, billions have died as a result of decades of wealth inequality, global resource wars, pandemics, climate change and backsliding scientific ignorance. Enter Marsco (est. 1999), a giant software/IT/space travel monopoly, possessing some of the less savory aspects of Microsoft and the Union Pacific Railroad. Based in Seattle, Marsco remained largely untouched during mankind’s darkest days; using cyberwarfare and conventional weapons, the company technocrats stepped in and seized Earth away from governments. The ruthless corporation has barely improved life on Earth. PRIMS, a vast, war-displaced peasant class, live in backward squalor, while elite castes are marked by Marsco finger-disc implants, permitting social mobility via levels of access to all-important cybernetworks. Opponents of Marsco include Walter Miller, once one of the company’s iconic engineers/innovators, now dwelling amid PRIMS as a high-profile dissident; defeated nationalist leaders and warlords left older but no wiser thanks to cryogenic stasis; and savage, cultish Luddites composed mainly of rebel PRIMS. Zarzana’s story—short on action, dialogue-heavy, but seldom hectoring or pedantic—recalls early Heinlein, without quite so much faith in altruistic, laissez-faire capitalist heroes coming to the rescue. The scale of Zarzana’s imagination is practically Asimov-ian, though one suspects he has many other wonders unrevealed behind the curtain; we never enjoy a tour of Marsco’s actual Martian HQ, for instance. But there’s still plenty ahead and plenty to look forward to in upcoming volumes.

Socioeconomic sci-fi on a broad canvas that reads like dire headlines from tomorrow.

Pub Date: July 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495925832

Page Count: 674

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

The first volume in Carey’s Rampart trilogy is set centuries into a future shaped by war and climate change, where the scant remains of humankind are threatened by genetically modified trees and plants.

Teenager Koli Woodsmith lives in Mythen Rood, a village of about 200 people in a place called Ingland, which has other names such as “Briton and Albion and Yewkay.” He was raised to cultivate, and kill, the wood from the dangerous trees beyond Mythen Rood’s protective walls. Mythen Rood is governed by the Ramparts (made up entirely of members of one family—what a coincidence), who protect the village with ancient, solar-powered tech. After the Waiting, a time in which each child, upon turning 15, must decide their future, Koli takes the Rampart test: He must “awaken” a piece of old tech. After he inevitably fails, he steals a music player which houses a charming “manic pixie dream girl” AI named Monono, who reveals a universe of knowledge. Of course, a little bit of knowledge can threaten entire societies or, in Koli’s case, a village held in thrall to a family with unfettered access to powerful weapons. Koli attempts to use the device to become a Rampart, he becomes their greatest threat, and he’s exiled to the world beyond Mythen Rood. Luckily, the pragmatic Koli has his wits, Monono, and an ally in Ursala, a traveling doctor who strives to usher in a healthy new generation of babies before humanity dies out for good. Koli will need all the help he can get, especially when he’s captured by a fearsome group ruled by a mad messianic figure who claims to have psychic abilities. Narrator Koli’s inquisitive mind and kind heart make him the perfect guide to Carey’s (Someone Like Me, 2018, etc.) immersive, impeccably rendered world, and his speech and way of life are different enough to imagine the weight of what was lost but still achingly familiar, and as always, Carey leavens his often bleak scenarios with empathy and hope. Readers will be thrilled to know the next two books will be published in short order.

A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-47753-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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