Isao Ryotora is dispatched to the remote mining village of Seibo Mura following a bizarre attack by various creatures from the spirit realm known as yokai. As a shugenji, one who can communicate with the kami, Ryotora is not a warrior and he has little experience dealing with yokai. Not that anyone has really dealt with a situation like this before where so many unrelated yokai went from simple harassment to murderous destruction over the three nights of the full moon. The entire situation is made even more uncomfortable due to the presence of a scholarly samurai of an influential family, Asako Sekkin. His elegant manners only remind Ryotora that he was born a peasant in this very village before being adopted into a samurai family, but Sekkin is determined to help Ryotora with his investigation. This is because he has been plagued by a dog spirit that has allowed him no rest until he arrived in Seibo Mura. A great evil is rising but with Sekkin's knowledge of yokai folklore and Ryotora's skills as a shugenji they might be able to unravel the secret history of this place and save the empire.
The Stone Eaters aren't exactly human but the fate of humanity is in their hands. Now that Alabaster has set into motion a plan to return the Earth to its former state, where Fifth Seasons don't happen at all, it has forced the Stone Eaters to take sides. One side is supporting Essun and her quest to finish what Alabaster started, which means returning the Moon to its former orbit around the planet. The other faction is seeking to prevent Essun from doing so and hoping to instead crash the Moon into the Earth so they can finally achieve peace by ending their dreary immortal lives. Of course they will need the help of an Oregene even more powerful than Essun to pull this off and they just happen to have one. Things are going to get awfully messy when Essun finds out that the Orogene supporting those Stone Eaters, and standing in the way of her attempt to save the planet, is her own daughter.
The planet would survive but humankind was probably doomed. There was indeed a solution but it couldn't be finished in time to save civilization. So they built what they could and left artificial intelligence to finish the job in the hope that any survivors would need it in the future. Assuming that their descendants would have the scientific knowledge to make use of their creation there was still the problem of how language would change over 12,000 years. They built Atlantis, left a code, and hoped for the best. Now a small group of scientists has less than a week to crack it. They will need to venture under the ice of Antarctica in the middle of a war, escape nanoswarm lifeforms that would prefer humans die out, and crack the code that might explain how to use a machine beyond their science.
Book one of the Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, established a rich world with the unique characteristic of having a fifth season that occurs every so often in addition to the normal four. These seasons bring with them earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and acid rain from ash-choked air and they last for many years. Humanity survives by adopting Seasonal Law, a harsh culling of society down to only those who provide a valuable services and skills, along with the magic of Orogenes that do their best to control the shakes and divert the forces of the land away from communities. Alabaster, a ten-ring Orogene, finally reveals at the end of the first book that Fulcrum teaching is all wrong and that trained Orogenes, like himself and Essun, are just treating the symptoms and not the cause. He now knows the cause of these fifth seasons and he has taken the first step to address it. Unfortunately his effort has altered him in such a way that he is now dying and no longer capable of going any further, so he asks Essun to take the next step. Is she willing to believe his mad theory and sign up for the same fate as him?
The world known as The Stillness has the same four seasons as we do but it also has a fifth season that is very different from the usual four. The fifth season does not happen every year, in fact it can be over a hundred years between occurrences, but when it does come it lasts for many years. Unfortunately, so do the earthquakes, volcanoes, and acid rain that come along with it. Humans survive these harsh periods by following Stonelore that keeps each Comm prepared with food and supplies. The Orogenes also make a difference. Oregenes are magic users that are highly attuned to the earth and have the ability to influence the tectonic forces that plague the planet. The Fulcrum teaches this magical art and assigns rings to its students as they progress in Orogenic power. However, the combined might of the Fulcrum can't stop the fifth seasons from happening and one such season is about to start. All signs indicate it is going to be a long one.
Ready Player One was a fun sci-fi adventure that became a favorite of gamers everywhere, including myself, and it went on to also become a successful movie directed by Steven Spielberg. With so few good gamer centric novels being written I was instantly worried when I saw this sequel was in the works because I felt there would be no way for Ernest Cline to recapture the magic of the first book. Sure he could load up another novel with a ton of pop culture trivia but it was the magic of the giant Easter egg hunt with a fortune at stake that truly captured one's imagination. So I went into this one with trepidation, and while it is not as good as the original, it was able to grab my attention with all of the tantalizing possibilities of where gaming and technology might go in the future.
In the first book of the series, Firefly: Big Damn Hero we got a glimpse of Shepherd Book's mysterious background before he became a man of the cloth, and this time around we get a lot more than just a glimpse of the past of the man they call Jayne. Jayne's past catches up to him when an old flame, Temperance. reaches out to him in dire need of assistance. Her small town on a dusty planet in the middle of nowhere is under threat from a band of thugs and she is desperate enough to reach out to Jayne even though they didn't part on good terms. This does sound like a job for Jayne but he also knows he can't go it alone so the entire crew winds up risking their lives for someone they don't even know. Not to mention this isn't even a paying gig.
The Stormlight Archive continues with Rhythm of War, which is unbelievably even bigger than the first 3 books, both in number of pages (1,232) and scope of story. The war between humanity and the Dawnsingers has been waged back and forth for millennia in waves known as Desolations which are separated by centuries of rebuilding for the human civilizations that always get ravaged. This time around is different though as the Heralds who always lead humanity against the Dawnsingers are no more. They declared victory after the Last Desolation and have lain down their weapons for good. Of course the Dawnsingers were not defeated and now that they have returned yet again they find their human opponents woefully unprepared. Despite this disadvantage, Dalinar Kohlin has managed to lead a coalition of forces to keep them at bay but in his heart he knows he can't win a traditional war. Therefore he is looking for a way to strike a killing blow that ends this endless cycle of war for good, but unfortunately for him, so is the enemy, and they know a lot more about this conflict than he does.
Evie is a an orphan who grew up in the palace as a poor relation of Queen Cordelia. It might have been different if she could boast of powerful magic but all she has is one of the mutt magics, in her case a magically keen sense of smell. She wanted to boast of her secret immunity to magic but as she grew up she realized her parents were right and that it would be dangerous to say anything about it. So she spent her time performing whatever tasks none of the other royals want to do until the day Crown Princess Vasilia decided to take the throne for herself leaving alive no one to challenge her claim. Saved by her immunity, and assumed dead by her cousin, Evie finds herself in the gladiator troupe owned by Queen Cordelia's former bodyguard, Serilda. Uncertain if she can trust Serilda, Evie is determined to gain the skills that would allow her to get vengeance on her cousin who is a master with the sword. But the Black Swan gladiator troupe has just as many rivalries and secrets as the palace did.
Terry Brooks, best known as the author of the Shannara series, offers up a dystopian sci-fi tale set in the United Territories, which is the country that was formed after the fall of the United States. Ash Collins is a typical teenager working on his homework when he gets a vidview from his Dad. "Ash! Get out now! Go into the Red Zone. Go to Street Freaks. Don't wait!" his out of breath Dad urgently says before the call gets abruptly cut off. Ash is pretty surprised by that call since the Red Zone is the forbidden area of Los Angeles that is way too dangerous for him to have ever been there; however, when his apartment is suddenly assaulted he flees out a window without a real plan. Ash has lived a sheltered life and is ill prepared to be hunted by professionals, so when his Dad shows up on the news for supposedly committing suicide, Ash has little choice but to follow his Dad's cryptic final instructions and head into the Red Zone to find Street Freaks, whatever that is.