Book two of the Lightbringer series picks up right where The Black Prism left off, which means things are in a bad state for Gavin Guile. After losing the battle against the Color Prince, the Seven Satrapies are now only six in number and Gavin is on the run with boatloads of refugees. This alone would be a major issue for anyone, but for Gavin it is only one of many. His tenure as the Black Prism is in jeopardy for many reasons, but none more dire than the fact that he has lost access to the color blue. This ultimately means that he is dying.
Dan Simmons won a Hugo award for his book Hyeprion, which is the first of four in a series of the same name. Simmons creates an amazing technological future where humanity's impact on the universe has significant ramifications that put our survival at risk. This first book kicks off the series in fine style as an eclectic cast of characters sets out on a pilgrimage to visit the planet Hyperion. Only one of them will accomplish their goal on Hyperion and the future of humanity will be determined by which of them is successful. As the long journey to Hyperion take place each character tells their personal story to the others and the pieces of a very interesting puzzle start to come together.
Aside from some of the ancient sagas what we now call grimdark fantasy kicked off in 1984 with two books, The Black Company by Glen Cook and Legend by David Gemmel. Rather than follow the anti-heroes, Gemmel wanted to explore why and how people can choose to stand before overwhelming odds to fight for their beliefs. From the beginning the reader is told that its a hopeless fight. One well built but neglected fortress with nine thousand poorly trained defenders protecting their empire from half a million barbarian warriors. The dying nobleman in charge sends two desperate calls for help. He sends to the White Temple for the Thirty, a band of psychic warrior monks willing to die for the right cause, and to his old comrade in arms, the famed Druss the Legend who has never lost a battle.
After the events of the last book, Babylon's Ashes, the Expanse series was clearly building up to a crescendo and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. Tiamat's Wrath is the eighth book of the series, with only one more to follow if James S. A. Corey sticks to the current plan, and it took only a single sentence for this book to make clear that the series is nearing the end. To keep things spoiler free I won't say what that sentence was, but know that this book is full of big moments and if you are a fan of the series then you will not be disappointed.
Brent Weeks serves up a complex magic system based on the colors of the spectrum and he does it in a story that unfolds in provocative ways. Magic users, called drafters, use their powers to turn light into various effects based on color. This magical system, known as Chromaturgy, allows multiple colors of light to be combined in interesting ways, and for each drafter to have different skills based on their personal color abilities. There are also meaningful downsides to using this power, which makes a person's ability to draft a mixed blessing at best. The color spectrum is not only fundamental to the magic system, but also the religious and political systems as well, and all three are at the heart of the conflict that unfolds. As each layer of the story is revealed it picks up in both momentum and complexity, and it rewards you for paying attention to the details.
A long distance colonization mission gone wrong, Infinite is a stand alone novel that at first glance appears to explore the concept of what happens when a ship winds up traveling through the cosmos for eternity. However, it turns into a many layered story that explores a number of common sci-fi concepts including artificial intelligence, virtual reality - holodeck style, and what it means to be human. This book often went where I didn't expect it to go and at times did its best to lose me when it took things too far, but ultimately I stuck with it because I wanted to know how it was going to turn out.
According to Brandon Sanderson himself Skyward is a combination of How to Train Your Dragon, Top Gun, and Ender's Game and I can see the influence of each. Spensa's people were forced to land on a deserted world that once belonged to an advanced civilization who left behind an extensive orbital defense system that protected them at the same time it prevented all communication with the rest of humanity. They are under near constant attack by aliens whose nature and motives remain a mystery centuries later. Once they managed to manufacture fighters they started to fight back but in the first critical battle Spensa's father he was labeled a coward and shot down by his own people. She has always dreamed of being a pilot like her father and proving everyone wrong.
Things have been building up for two books and now it is time to find out how it all plays out. Cassius' plan to destroy the religous zealots of the New Earth Tribunal is simple in concept - you can't worship the spirit of the Earth if there is no Earth, so he plans to do just that. It is also just as likely that his plans involve more than just revenge. Most of the rest of the characters are pawns in his game, but they have started to figure that out, and the word is spreading that the war was orchestrated by Cassius from the start. This fact is prompting others like Sage and Talon to pursue their own agendas, so the final confrontation of this war is going to be a wild ride.
Originally published as a Hugo Award winning short story in 1958, and later published in a longer form as a Nebula Award winning book in 1966, Flowers for Algernon is considered classic Sci-Fi at this point. It is a story about Charly Gordon, who has an IQ of 70, and the impact of potentially life-altering surgery that hopes to increase his intelligence. Charly's life is limited, but happy, prior to the surgery, and this book explores the ethical and moral dilemmas that come along with changing someone's life for the "better." In this case intellect comes at the cost of happiness, and this book explores the impact of the change on Charly's relationships and his own mental well being.
Book one of The Circuit series, Executor Rising, did a good job of setting the stage for the rest of the story. The main characters are all established, their backgrounds and motivations are mostly clear, and the state of the solar system is such that the impending conflict will have dire consequences depending on how it all turns out. However, none of the factions can be classified as the good guys in this story so I do not find myself emotionally invested in any particular outcome, or character. Normally that is an issue for me, but in this case I found myself eager to know how it turns out anyway.