“An­nex” by Rich Lar­son, Or­bit, 368 pages, $15.99

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Books -

This first novel from Rich Lar­son bor­rows some fea­tures from the alien in­va­sion tale, some from teen dystopias, some from zom­bie movies and even some from “Peter Pan.”

Lar­son man­ages to weave all this into an en­er­getic, non­stop ad­ven­ture that’s thor­oughly his own, mostly be­cause of an ap­peal­ing cast of young pro­tag­o­nists, led by the streets­mart Vi­o­let. As a trans teenager, Vi­o­let had to learn sur­vival strate­gies long be­fore the aliens ar­rive.

And when they do ar­rive, it’s in spec­tac­u­lar and ruth­less fash­ion. A gi­gan­tic space­craft blots out the en­tire sky above the city, and in short or­der the adults get fit­ted out with neck clamps that turn them into vir­tual zom­bies, while kids are trapped in ware­houses and im­planted with par­a­sites whose pur­pose only be­comes ap­par­ent later. Vi­o­let runs with a group of free kids un­der the charis­matic lead­er­ship of a boy named Wy­att.

The kids be­gin to or­ga­nize a resistance, aided by some newly dis­cov­ered al­most mag­i­cal pow­ers and, even­tu­ally, by a won­der­fully weird alien called Gloom, but they also face treach­ery among them­selves. While “An­nex” is a solid ad­ven­ture by it­self, it’s also the be­gin­ning of a tril­ogy, and most read­ers will be ea­ger to see where vol­ume two leads.

“All I Ever Dreamed” by Michael Blum­lein, Valan­court, 506 pages, $34.99

This col­lec­tion by Michael Blum­lein, which in­cludes all his short fic­tion since 1993, be­gins with a strange mys­tery set against the back­drop of the Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires: The nar­ra­tor dis­cov­ers that the bones of his re­cently de­ceased fa­ther sur­vive all ef­forts at cre­ma­tion, leav­ing him with the puz­zle of who or what his fa­ther re­ally was.

If there’s a re­cur­ring theme here, it could be summed up as: “Be care­ful what you wish for.”

One char­ac­ter lit­er­ally digs up the girl of his dreams, only to find his life com­pli­cated as she be­comes a su­per­model, while an­other finds him­self rad­i­cally changed by his elab­o­rate scheme to wreak vengeance on the doc­tor he blames for his child’s death.

A bril­liant but dis­graced ar­chi­tect tries to over­come lone­li­ness with a made-to­order wo­man of his dreams, only to learn she’ll need a made-to-or­der com­pan­ion her­self as he re­mains buried in his work. A wo­man un­der­goes gene ther­apy in or­der to safely be­come preg­nant, but with an ironic re­ver­sal wor­thy of O. Henry. Blum­lein’s so­phis­ti­cated, clin­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of bi­o­log­i­cal themes is al­ways bal­anced by his deep com­pas­sion to­ward his trou­bled char­ac­ters.

“The Prom­ise of Space and Other Sto­ries” by James Pa­trick Kelly, Prime, 384 pages, $15.95

James Pa­trick Kelly has been an out­stand­ing short fic­tion writer for more than four decades as well as a distin­guished an­thol­o­gist and teacher, so it’s no sur­prise that his new col­lec­tion demon­strates a so­phis­ti­cated un­der­stand­ing of how science fic­tion and fan­tasy work.

For ex­am­ple, the idea of up­load­ing your whole per­son­al­ity into a com­puter ma­trix as a hedge against death isn’t new, but should it be­come a le­gal right (as in “Dec­la­ra­tion”) or face re­li­gious op­po­si­tion (as in “One Sis­ter, Two Sis­ters, Three”)? Could it even lead to most hu­mans dis­ap­pear­ing, leav­ing the world to in­tel­li­gent chimps (“The Chimp of the Popes”)?

Kelly also has a clear grasp of other gen­res but uses them in un­ex­pected ways.

“The Rose Witch” takes on the tone and form of a fairy tale, com­plete with a life-chang­ing moral choice the heroine faces.

In nearly ev­ery story, Kelly of­fers a mas­ter class on how short fic­tion works.

Gary K. Wolfe is the ed­i­tor of “Amer­i­can Science Fic­tion,” a Li­brary of Amer­ica an­thol­ogy col­lect­ing nine clas­sic works from the 1950s. HARDCOVER NONFICTION

1. “Liars, Leak­ers, and Lib­er­als: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Con­spir­acy” by Jea­nine Pirro

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