I have been catching up on my reading and I have three super great science fiction titles to recommend: one adult, one YA and one middle grade.
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi is the superb follow-up to The Collapsing Empire. It goes something like this: in the far, FAR future, the Interdependency keeps humanity united, and distant habitats are interconnected via the Flow (the extra-dimensional, wormhole-esque field that allows travelling between systems). The Emperox runs everything, although the Merchant Houses are actually the ones running the show in many ways (and moving the money). But we learned that the Flow is collapsing and parts of the universe will be cut from one another. The newly instated Emperox Cardenia is one of the few that actually believe the scientists about this. How exactly is Cardenia going to 1) convince the Houses, the Church, and the People that this is actually happening and 2) keep the precarious power she has so she can do some good with it for a change? AND THEN THERE ARE THE TWISTS, including the secrets that have been kept for a thousand years and all the backstabbing and conniving plots to unseat the Emperox. And lots and lots of super great scenes with my favourite serial swearer and reluctant hero, Lady Kiva. I already loved The Collapsing Empire but the sequel was even better: hitting the high notes with twist after twist keeping the plot going without missing out on developing the characters and relationships.
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl is a YA novel from mid-2018 that didn’t get as much buzz as I thought it would. It is a fun, whirlwind story that is part-Groundhog Day part-thriller. One year after her best friend and first love died tragically, Beatrice Hartley reunites with her former friends—ostensibly to celebrate a birthday, but what she truly wants to know is how Jim really died. She does not believe it was an accident. But at the end of their celebration, a fatal drunk-driving accident takes the friends to the Neverworld: a place stuck between, a limbo where they must live the same day over and over again until they can all agree on who gets to survive. Putting aside the slightly outlandish premise of making them go through all of this so they can decide on one person to survive (does that make sense? I don’t think so but then again, the gods have their own sense of fun, I guess), the book proves to be a harrowing experience as one by one, the kids go through denial, depression, rage, acceptance: all the while trying to unveil the secrets they have all been keeping about what really happened the night Jim died. It’s a horrific, nightmarish world that keeps getting worse and worse until they have no choice but to choose only one to survive.
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is my first official 2019 read. Published on January 15 and with a Korean-inspired world and mythos, Dragon Pearl follows the adventures of impulsive and capable Min, who runs away from home to find her beloved brother Jun and prove he is innocent of deserting his Space Force post. Min and her family are all magical shapeshifting foxes, one of the many supernatural creatures in the world, and sadly not only the least understood but also the most mistrusted. Min travels the worlds in search of her brother using her powers of Charm and shapeshifting, which she has kept a secret for a very long time. In the process, she comes to appreciate not only her identity as a fox but also all the ups and downs of using those very powers. With a completely unexpected ending and tons of adventures (Dragons! Pirates! Ghosts!), Dragon Pearl is the most recent title in the consistently good Rick Riordan Presents line of diverse SFF for kids.
You may be wondering: what connects all three titles that prompted me to talk about them together? Well, the idea that everything and everybody is connected: that you are never alone. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a futuristic empire, or a nightmare after-death world or a desolate planet far, far away full of ghosts, these characters here learn that only together, we are stronger; together, we survive.