Super Gods, Grant Morrison
Big idea: Subtitled What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, this trippy autobiography-cum-critical essay gathers up deep thoughts and otherworldly hallucinations experienced by the comics writer who became rich and famous after co-creating the Batman best-seller Arkham Asylum.
Sample text: "I stayed up late to induce delirium.... At four thirty in the morning after fifty hours writing without sleep, I ransacked my dream diaries and most frightening childhood memories for content. In the end ... I delivered what felt like the kind of high-level comic book I knew was possible and showed that the serious superhero story didn't always have to be realistic."
Embassytown, China Miéville
Big idea: Alien life forms cohabitate a distant planet with human colonists, including Avice Benner Cho. She straddles both worlds from a unique perspective: Unable to speak the bizarre language used by the Ariekei, she functions as a "living figure of speech" for the aliens.
Sample text: "There was a Hostnest in fine alien colors tethered by creaking ropes of muscle to a stockade, that in some affectation the Hosts had fashioned like one of our weaker fences. I'd creep up on it while my friends whistled from the crossroads ... [past] breezes sculpted with nanotech particle-machines and consummate atmosphere artistry."
Machine Man, Max Barry
Big idea: Crowdsourced with reader input during 37 weeks of online postings, this nanotechnology adventure follows a man who becomes obsessed with bionic limbs after one of his legs is hacked off in a factory accident. (The Machine Man book cover will be selected by fans from one of the six illustrations shown above).
Sample text: "I spent a lot of time being jabbed by needles. Not syringes. Tiny steel slivers with embedded electrodes. The idea was to insert these into my truncated thighs so they could read signals from my brain, and translate them into motorized movements."
Daniel O'Thunder, Ian Weir
Big idea: In the back alleys of 1850s London, a prize fighter-turned-evangelist goes after the devil, armed with a fabled "Hammer of Heaven" right-hand punch.
Sample text: "I discovered that my feet were kicking and dangling. This was owing to the fact that I had been hoisted by the windpipe and slammed back against the wall with a force that made the timbers shake and my teeth rattle."
The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks
In The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks presents a distant future that could almost be called the end of history. Humanity has filled the galaxy, and thanks to ultra-high technology everyone has everything they want, no one gets sick, and no one dies. It's a playground society of sports, stellar cruises, parties, and festivals. Jernau Gurgeh, a famed master game player, is looking for something more and finds it when he's invited to a game tournament at a small alien empire. Abruptly Banks veers into different territory. The Empire of Azad is exotic, sensual, and vibrant. It has space battle cruisers, a glowing court--all the stuff of good old science fiction--which appears old-fashioned in contrast to Gurgeh's home. At first it's a relief, but further exploration reveals the empire to be depraved and terrifically unjust. Its defects are gross exaggerations of our own, yet they indict us all the same. Clearly Banks is interested in the idea of a future where everyone can be mature and happy. Yet it's interesting to note that in order to give us this compelling adventure story, he has to return to a more traditional setting. Thoughtful science fiction readers will appreciate the cultural comparisons, and fans of big ideas and action will also be rewarded.
Mind of My Mind, Octavia E. Butler
For 4,000 years, an immortal has spread the seeds of a master race, using the downtrodden as his private breeding stock. But now a young ghetto telepath has found a way to awaken--and rule--her superhuman kind, igniting a psychic battle as she challenges her creator for her right to free her people.
About the Author: Octavia E. Butler was the first black woman to come to international prominence as a science fiction writer. Incorporating powerful, spare language and rich, well-developed characters, her work tackled race, gender, religion, poverty, power, politics, and science in a way that touched readers of all backgrounds. Butler was a towering figure in life and in her art and the world noticed; highly acclaimed by reviewers, she received numerous awards, including a MacArthur "genius" grant, both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the Langston Hughes Medal, as well as a PEN Lifetime Achievement award.
His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik
In this delightful first novel, the opening salvo of a trilogy, Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars. Here be dragons, beasts that can speak and reason, bred for strength and speed and used for aerial support in battle. Each nation has its own breeds, but none are so jealously guarded as the mysterious dragons of China. Veteran Capt. Will Laurence of the British Navy is therefore taken aback after his crew captures an egg from a French ship and it hatches a Chinese dragon, which Laurence names Temeraire. When Temeraire bonds with the captain, the two leave the navy to sign on with His Majesty's sadly understaffed Aerial Corps, which takes on the French in sprawling, detailed battles that Novik renders with admirable attention to 19th-century military tactics. Though the dragons they encounter are often more fully fleshed-out than the stereotypical human characters, the author's palpable love for her subject and a story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles more than compensate.
Golden Witchbreed, Mary Gentle
This is the story of Lynne de Lisle Christie, the first of Earth's envoys to Oerthe, a primitive world on a planet half a galaxy from Earth. Presenting herself at the court of the Crown of the South, Christie's life quickly teeters into the hands of those motivated by beliefs, assumptions and thoughts alien and unknown. Factions in the Southland would rather that she were dead, or defamed never to return. Others feel that now that Earth has visited Oerthe, there is no way that the clock can be turned back. But all are quite wary of Earth and its technologies, and a current of hostility runs deep. As events unfold, at one point Christie finds herself among the ruins of Oerthes anchient civilization and realizes that Earth has made a very, very large mistake.
Storm Front, Jim Butcher
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.
Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.