A quiet and personal book, The Left Hand of Darkness explores the ideas of duality, family, gender, and politics. Set on a frozen world aptly named “Winter”, a one-man envoy is tasked with evaluating, and possibly welcoming a planet of genderless, warless people into a space faring collective. Space cowboys and green-skinned temptresses need not apply; this book establishes its Sci-fi cred with its demur but poignant deconstruction of what communication is between individuals with radically different concepts of life, examines the duties, pitfalls, and hypocrisy of groups whether they are made up of a party of 2 or an entire government, and with a fine and consistent sparking of self-examination, allows the reader to understand characters in a way almost unmatched in the genre.
Peter Watts’ talent for Hard Sci Fi is obscene in this novel. As First Contact books go, Blindsight has set the bar high for other writers willing to explore encounters with something absolutely alien. The concept and usefulness of our own individual intelligence, consciousness, and perception of reality is questioned.
Our protagonist, Siri Keeton, along with a slew of characters, each obviously damaged and gifted by their own specific and fantastic skills, set out to study, and if necessary, neutralize a structure that has appeared at the edge of our solar system, after a comprehensive and obvious scan of Earth has been traced back to it. Going back and forth between the ominous task at hand and looking back at all the things that have shaped and isolated our protagonist, the story evolves into a frenetic and fantastic thing. This is what serious sci-fi should always strive be.
Queen Of Kings jumps right in where most stories about Queen Cleopatra end.
Beginning with her last mortal day and night with Mark Antony, it follows the queen through to the bargain she makes with an old and chaotic god to try and save her nation and her husband, the consequences that follow, and the revenge she seeks afterwards.
Jumping from the perspective of Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Octavian Augustus, Agrippa, and a slew of other characters both friend and foe to the raging queen, and bringing light to other mythic figures and artifacts, Queen of Kings sets Cleopatra in a fittingly magical world for her greatest act of revenge.
Twelve books in all; the series is another good example of story-telling evolving and maturing with its readers. Beginning as an easily accessible and thoroughly enjoyable book with A Living Nightmare, it manages to retain a sense of light-heartedness even as the story grows and becomes increasingly dark, involving themes like destiny and choice, redemption, and sacrifice, all cumulating in the last book, Sons of Destiny. A great entry into the world of horror for any young reader, the Cirque Du Freak series is written by author Darren Shan who is establishing himself firmly in the genre with more young adult titles, like The Demonata, and with adult horror fiction like The City Trilogy and the stand-alone book The Thin Executioner.
In a re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s original work, Little Fuzzy, Scalzi updates, matures (ever so slightly), and modernizes the Hugo Award winning novel.
Prospector Jack Holloway makes the find of the millennium when he accidentally sheers off a cliff face on an alien planet, gets fired and rehired by his employers, and negotiates a new contract that will leave him a very wealthy man, all in the space of a few minutes. The only issue seems to be the small, fuzzy and suspiciously clever creatures that Jack runs into just after his find. If these “Fuzzies” turn out to be sentient, it’s bad news for Jack and his employers, since the law of the land says no mining on any planet with sentient life. Just how far are Jack’s employers willing to go to protect the bottom line, and for the payday of his life, how far is Jack willing to let them?
With smart maneuvering, enjoyable banter, and just the right amount of smugness from its characters, as well as a surprisingly quick pace, we certainly hope that Scalzi continues to contribute to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy Universe.
The first book in a very promising series, A Discovery of Witches opens to us a world covertly populated by three secretive and troubled races. Daemons, Vampires, and Witches all struggle in their own way to exist, half in their supernatural world and half in the human world. Having distanced herself from her heritage, historical scholar and occasional witch Diana Bishop is completely unprepared for the interest that erupts after she manages to extract and read a manuscript that seems to explain the history and nature of the races. A great blend of historical imaginings, rich and greatly varied characters, with perfectly placed amounts of action and romance, this is a book that grabs you and will definitely keep you checking back to see when the next title is announced.
Recommended by Peter
Are you an Abe Aficionado?
A Civil War Buff?
An Overall American History Ace?
Or just some who really, really likes vampires?
Whichever you might count yourself as, and however horrified you may be that this book exists and the unholy union it represents, it is most definitely worth reading. A genuinely good story wrapped around factual history, and tastefully littered with American icons, this telling of the Great Emancipator’s life and the driving forces behind him might actually pique your interest in subjects you once found dull (Civil War history), too grisly (Slavery), or embarrassing (you know, that long-running infatuation you have with Vampires). Don’t disservice yourself by passing this one by.
Recommended by Peter
A Peter Pan retelling for adults. This book reveals Peter’s origins, his evolving motives behind creating the “Lost Boys”, and the uncomfortable facts behind his past and the pasts of his enemies and friends. From a commonly dangerous present-day New York to a chaotic, diseased, and war-torn Neverland, Peter maintains the carefree, reckless attitude we’ve come to expect, but is accompanied by a much darker, mature, and oddly enough, appropriate side. Gruesome, bloody, and sexual at times, this book is a fantastic read for anyone who enjoys alternate and/or unsanitized fairytales; the kin that were once prevalent in the Western Word or were exports from the Black Forest.
Recommended by Peter