This is my third post-apocalyptic series from Nicholas Sansbury Smith and unlike Hell Divers or the Extinction Cycle this one offers up a much more realistic, and therefore possible, scenario as a backdrop. Similar to One Second After this book shows us the impact of an EMP attack on a small community, which happens to be one of the author's favorite places to visit, Estes Park, Colorado. Trackers also broadens the canvas beyond the small community by detailing the impact the attack has on the US government back in DC by following one of the Senators with some ties back to the Estes Park area. To set it apart from the competition Smith also adds in a murder mystery and a good dose of American Indian folklore which gives it a unique flavor within a crowded genre.
Ever since Dante described the rings of Hell authors have delighted in forcing some hapless character to make their way through a series of bazaar settings. Brancroft's Books of Babel have gotten rave reviews from both critics and a long list of his fellow authors. In this first installment the hapless Senlin manages to lose his wife when they go to the Tower of Babel for their honeymoon. To find her Senlin must make his way up through an unknown number of levels that each form their own socio-political entity. He has wanted to see the Tower his whole life but the reality is nothing like the cultured and innovative societies described in the guidebooks and he quickly discovers that behind the luxurious facades lurks barbaric cruelty and deceit.
One Second After acts as a warning to America about what our future could be. As a country our "just in time" distribution of goods and resources makes us particularly vulnerable to any type of disruption and when an EMP instantly disables all of our electronic devices it shows how completely unprepared we are for what happens next. This terrifying look at life in a small North Carolina town after the United States suffers an EMP attack has been cited in Congress and discussed in the Pentagon and it makes for an interesting read. I for one found the realism of the scenario far scarier to consider than the typical zombie filled approach to the apocalypse.
Wolves picks up shortly after the end of Deliverance with X and Magnolia aboard the Sea Wolf looking for the Metal Islands as a potential home on the surface that would allow humanity to leave the air and return to the Earth. Of course finding that new home is really just an excuse that X used to justify this mission and his real agenda is to kill the leader of the cannibalistic Cazadores who live in the Metal Islands. X quickly finds out that the sea is just as dangerous as the land and the mission goes south quickly as all manner of unexpected obstacles need to be overcome. The action sequences come one after another and let up just long enough for the story arc to move forward as the true cause of the war that devastated the planet is finally discovered.
Children of Time won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel and it is easy to see why. The story is rather unique despite the fact that the sci-fi concepts within are familiar ones: accelerated evolution, humanity seeking a new home after destroying Earth, cryostasis for long space journeys, and uploading one's persona into a computer, to name just a few. The story takes place in two main locales - a planet that has been terraformed by humanity for the sole purpose of running an accelerated evolution experiment and an ark ship that contains 500,000 humans in cryostasis looking for a new home. It is the evolutionary side of the story that is very unique and that makes things all the more interesting when the two threads finally converge.
The Raven Boys is a modern fantasy targeted at young adults, which leaves me way out of the target demographic, and yet it still managed to keep me interested from beginning to end. Set in the fictitious town of Henrietta, Virginia the story quickly introduces us to Blue Sargent, a young girl who lives with her psychic mother and her mother's psychic friends. Blue is the only non-seer in her house but she has an innate ability to make psychic phenomena louder so her presence is often coveted by her housemates. For each of the last ten years on St Mark's Eve Blue has accompanied her mother to an abandoned churchyard believed to be located on a ley line where the soon-to-be-dead will walk past. This year Blue accompanies her half-aunt Neeve to the churchyard instead thus allowing her gift of amplification to make it easier for Neeve to see which locals are going to die within the next year. Blue expects it to be just another evening spent out in the cold, as she never sees anything when she goes, but this year turns out to be different...
This book starts a few years after the last one and despite the jump forward in time the planet Mars remains a stalemate between the human and Lanky forces. Humanity has established control of the skies above Mars but no matter how many Lankies are killed there always seems to be more of them. The human forces on Mars are wearing down every day as both ships and personnel are succumbing to battle fatigue and Andrew Grayson knows that humanity will not win this war of attrition. We continually rush new recruits into service aboard ships that are well past their prime but eventually the Lankies will get reinforcements and the house of cards will come tumbling down. This is unless we find a way to change the game...
Peter F. Hamilton offers up a different perspective on human colonization of space this time around and instead of unbridled success expansion quickly becomes financially non-viable after the first wave of colony planets are established. With the companies behind the initial expansion going heavily into debt a new form of corporate terrorism begins to arise. Financially failing colonies are purchased by investors on Earth who then send military forces there to conduct "asset realization" missions where they take by force anything that will have value back on Earth. This is a completely legal thing to do from an Earth based perspective but the colony inhabitants don't take too kindly to these "invading" forces and it is one such asset realization mission that acts as the main backdrop for the story of Fallen Dragon.
The Road to the Goberlings is a ship of secrets. Its Captain, Hammond Royston apparently knows something about a lost planet of riches. Josune Arriola is posing as a junior engineer to keep an eye on Royston until her ship, the Hassim can intercept them. Nika Rik Terri, the famous body modder, is trying to escape an assassin, the powerful corporation that employs him, and her abusive ex-boyfriend who got her into this mess. One peaceful cargo ship is suddenly at the top of the galaxy's most wanted list and on the run for their lives.
As he did in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson once again constructs a bizarre dystopian world composed of an eclectic combination of future technologies and ancient traditions and uses it as the backdrop to tell a unique story. At its core this is a coming of age tale about a young girl named Nell who comes to possess a very special book known as the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. This book is an engineering marvel that is fully interactive and capable of customizing itself to match its reader in order to prepare them for the challenges they will face on their journey to adulthood. In Nell's case the book ultimately winds up raising her in place of her parents and it enables her to survive amid the chaos that eventually comes her way from the unpredictable society around her.