SCIENCE FICTION ALEX GOOD
Red Moon By Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit, $35.50, 446 pages)
Global politics goes off-planet in Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest, which is set partially on the moon.
In the middle of the 21st century, the moon has various settlements but remains largely “a Chinese place.” When a high-ranking lunar official appears to be assassinated, a diplomatic chain reaction is set off linking a diverse cast of spies, scientists, radicals and an elderly celebrity poet who hosts a travel show. As always with Robinson, heady political ideas are mixed with discussions of imaginative technology. China is a oneparty state with many factions, which drives much of the complex plot here. But also moving things along is the functioning of new communication devices.
Finding out what’s really going on when truth is so endlessly fragmented poses quite a challenge, even to nearly omniscient forms of artificial intelligence. Someone, however, is going to have to come up with answers before the world and the moon go spinning into chaos.
Alice Payne Arrives By Kate Heartfield (Tor, $20.99, 171 pages)
As even casual time-travellers know, once you start messing around with the past you turn the timelines of human history into a plate of spaghetti, leading to all sorts of dangerous paradoxes and unintended consequences.
This is the situation faced by the “teleosophers” in Alice Payne Arrives, the first part of Ottawa author Kate Heartfield’s planned twopart series involving the adventures of an 18th-century highway robber with progressive views who gets drafted into a 22nd-century history war. The logistics of the plot are hard to keep straight, but it seems one group of rebels, operating out of a Toronto safe house, has decided that the only way to end the war is to prevent time travel from ever becoming possible.
Once plans go awry, as they always do, everything seems hopelessly confused. But Alice may be resourceful enough to save the day in the sequel.
The Razor By J. Barton Mitchell (Tor, $34.99, 400 pages)
Planet 11-H37 isn’t a hospitable place at the best of times. Because of its peculiar orbit it is pretty neatly split between a hemisphere that is always burning hot and another side that is frozen solid. In between the two is a narrow green belt called the Razor.
This is just one of the features that make 11-H37 a perfect prison planet, a penal colony for the worst criminals in the universe. It’s a place no one escapes from, and for the latest shuttle of prisoners it looks like the end of the line. Things are, however, about to get remarkably worse for ex-engineer Flynn and ex-Ranger Maddox as they find themselves, literally, on a planet in full meltdown mode, fighting for survival alongside an odd assortment of other inmates against high-speed climate change, murderous gangs, and genetically-engineered killing machines.
J. Barton Mitchell’s first novel is crammed with relentless action, thrills, and mayhem along with plot twists and cliffhangers galore. A full-throttle blast from beginning to end.
How Long ’Til Black Future Month? By N. K. Jemisin (Orbit, $34.00, 400 pages)
With a title like How Long ’Til Black
Future Month? you may be expecting a collection of stories with a political bent, and N. K. Jemisin does not disappoint. In her introduction Jemisin, whose byline will likely always be headed by the fact that she won the Hugo Award for best novel three years in a row for the three parts of her Broken Earth series, talks about how much of an outsider she felt as a black woman author entering the field of SF and fantasy in the early 2000s.
Despite the fact that “things are better these days,” it is obviously an experience that still rankles. One can feel some of its impact in these stories, which revisit more traditional SF and fantasy motifs and classic authors such as Le Guin and Heinlein from a different, at times revolutionary perspective. Jemisin also edits this year’s edition of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy where she directly calls for speculative fiction to present readers with ideas that can change the world. In her own work she shows she can practise as well as preach.