Novik, Naomi. Uprooted.

NY: Del Rey, 2015.

I was aware that Novik had already done a lengthy adventure series involving dragons in the Napoleonic wars, but this standalone fantasy is the first thing I’ve read by her. And I confess I picked it up mostly because it won the Nebula, which is a strong recommendation, and because Ellen De Generes is producing a film adaptation. Turns out Novik is one hell of a writer.

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Quammen, David. The Soul of Viktor Tronko.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.

I first read this marvelous Cold War spy story when it was first published, but I recently came across it via Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed it all over again. John Le Carre is still the best there is at this stuff, but Quammen comes a close second. But where Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was inspired by Kim Philby and is a very British take on the period, the character of Claude Sparrow is clearly a version of James Jesus Angleton, who nearly destroyed the CIA with his hyper-paranoia (and did, in real life, destroy the careers of a number of more or less innocent agents).

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge.

NY: Baen, 2017.

The twenty “Liaden” novels are first-rate space opera, now reaching the level of true epic storytelling. It’s not really a series, in the sense of a linear string of sequels, though. There are several overlapping narrative arcs, spread over a period of several centuries, though most of the main protagonists are members of Clan Korval — the House of Tree and Dragon.

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Pratt, Tim. The Wrong Stars.

Nottingham, UK: Angry Robot, 2017.

Tim Pratt has written a lot of well-received science fiction and (mostly) fantasy, both novels and short stories, and has been a finalist for most of the major awards, but this enjoyable space opera (the first in a planned series) is the first thing of his I’ve actually read. The setting is maybe 500 years in the future, when humankind has spread through most of the solar system and then jumped way beyond, thanks to the “bridge” technology acquired from the Liars, the first alien species with whom we’ve made contact.

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Tchaikovsky, Adrian. Children of Time.

NY: Macmijllan, 2015.

Generally, a science fiction author will write a high-concept novel brimming over with speculative science and technical what-ifs, or he will write dramatic, cinematic, headlong space opera, but not usually both at once. Tchaikovsky manages it very nicely and very successfully, which is why this one won the Clarke Award. It’s not only an epic story, it’s two epics in parallel. The result is a story that is exciting, intellectually engrossing, and a galloping adventure, all at once.

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Haig, Matt. How to Stop Time.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Stories about immortality have always been popular, if only because there are so many possibilities, from the Wandering Jew to Barnabas Collins. Tom Hazard isn’t actually immortal, but he has a “condition,” the effect of which is to slow his rate of aging by about a factor of fifteen. In other words, he’s looking at probably a thousand years of life — though he didn’t know that for the first couple of centuries after his birth to an aristocratic Huguenot family in France in 1581 and his youth in a peasant village in the south of England.

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Tucker, Alan. Knot in Time.

Billings, MT: MAD Design, 2012.

I’m a sucker for time travel yarns and this one comes up with some original variations on the “time patrol” theme. Darius Arthur Heisenberg, known as “Dare,” is the adopted great-nephew of the famous physicist who elucidated the Uncertainty Principle. (But that’s really just a hook to hang the story on.) He’s nineteen and basically living on the streets of Denver, having abruptly left school and home for reasons you’ll learn later.

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Bass, Alexis. Love and Other Theories.

NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

This is the first YA novel I’ve read by Bass and it’s pretty good. Aubrey Housing, age seventeen and a high school senior somewhere in the Midwest, has early acceptance to the best college in the area. Maintaining the necessary grades for so many years has had a stultifying effect on her social life, but now she decides its time to take her friends’ advice and cut loose. And on the first day of her last semester, she’s sitting in drama class, thoroughly bored, when transfer student Nathan Diggs walks in, a very good-looking guy from San Diego.

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Scalzi, John. Head On.

NY: Tor, 2018.

Scalzi is a purveyor of idea-based science fiction who can almost always be relied on for highly original concepts combined with a fluent and frequently cheeky style of writing. That was certainly the case with Lock In (2014), in which an influenza-like global pandemic killed hundreds of millions and left millions more fully awake and aware but completely paralyzed and dependent on machines for life. The U.S. government poured billions into developing ways of coping (helped by the fact that the First Lady, Margaret Haden, was one of the victims) and now, a couple decades later (not far in our own future), things have settled down. And “Hadens,” as they are now known, are being reintegrated.

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Perry, Thomas. The Bomb Maker.

NY: Mysterious Press, 2018.

Perry has written some two dozen books, most of them thrillers of one variety or another — but not “mysteries,” because you always know whodunit from the beginning. It’s more a matter of witnessing what the Bad Guys do, how that affects those around them, and how their assorted nemeses attempt to stop them. (And they don’t always succeed.) This one involves a nameless killer with no political or other outside motivation who is very, very good at building bombs. Why? He wants to lure in and kill off the LAPD bomb squad, and he manages to get appalling close to his goal.

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