SCI­ENCE FIC­TION ALEX GOOD

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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.

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