Over the last year, I’ve been reading Brian Merchant’s The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, the story behind Apple’s ubiquitous phone. While I’ve read it off and on for the better part of a year, it’s an engrossing read, delving into every element that makes up the phone, from the battery to the camera to the teams that designed and produced it.
What struck me the most about the book isn’t so much the design and creation of the device itself, but the impact that it’s had on the people who manufacture it. It’s not a pretty picture, and there’s a horrific toll that accompanied its creation. Merchant looks at working conditions of lithium mines in South America and Foxconn’s factories in China, the rise in deaths of cell tower service workers as service providers expanded their service, and even the corridors of Apple itself.
In the meantime, there are plenty of science fiction and fantasy novels hitting bookstores in the first half of October (check back in a couple of weeks for the books coming out in the second half of the month). Here are nine that caught our eyes.
The First Protectors by Victor Godinez
In this debut science fiction novel, a former Navy SEAL named Ben Shepherd seeks solace in the American desert. His peace is shattered when an alien ship, bearing the last survivor of a dead civilization, crash lands near his home. In desperation, the alien injects Shepherd with a serum that gives him superhuman powers. He’ll need them: the enemies of the downed alien have followed it to Earth, and an invasion is imminent.
Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Cas Russell has a superpower: she’s extremely good at math, to the point where she can dodge bullets and calculate the power behind a punch to take down someone larger than herself. She puts those skills to whoever pays the best, but things change when she finds another person with extraordinary powers. In this person’s case, it’s the power to manipulate minds, and they’re intent on using it to take over the world.
Tomorrow Factory by Rich Larson
Rich Larson has become one of my favorite short story authors in recent years, and he published his debut novel, Annex, earlier this summer. If you’ve wanted to dive into his short fiction, his debut collection of short stories will be a good place to start. This book contains 23 of his stories (disclaimer: it includes “Ghost Girl,” which I included in my anthology War Stories: New Military Science Fiction) that are all about cyborgs, robots, and deep space explorers. Publishers Weekly says that it’s a “vibrant collection [that] will give thoughtful readers plenty of entertainment.”
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
The final installment of Martha Wells’ Murderbot series is finally here. The first book, All Systems Red earned her the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and the followup books have each gotten better and better. In this installment, Murderbot has been searching for its own past, and is now headed back to its former owner, Dr. Mensah to bring her evidence of crimes that the malevolent megacorporation GreyCris Corporation has committed. It’s a book loaded with action, and a fantastic look at what it means to be human. While this is the end of this particular series, don’t fret: there’s a Murderbot novel on the way.
Read an excerpt.
Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger
Shaun Barger’s novel Mage Against the Machine is described as “Harry Potter meets The Terminator.” Set in the year 2120 following a massive war in which magical technology decimated the world and killed off humanity. The world’s mages have retreated to the safety of domes, working to rebuild what little they can. One mage, Nikolai, is obsessed with the world of the 20th century, and is responsible for maintaining the magical spells that protects them. When a former instructor comes to him with a secret: humans are still alive in the wastelands, and they’re still waging a war against machines. It’s up to him to decide whether or not to help humanity survive.
Update: Saga Press has bumped the release date for this back to October 30th.
Bright Ruin by Vic James
In the first two installments of Vic James’ Dark Gifts trilogy, Gilded Cage and Tarnished City, magicians rule over Great Britain, and under their rule, a nascent rebellion formed. In Bright Ruin, the siblings Abi and Luke Hadley lead the revolution as powerful magical families contend with the threat to their power. Publishers Weekly says that it’s an “intricate tale of ruthless scheming and bloody betrayals backlit by an unquenchable glimmer of hope.”
The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera
In last year’s The Tiger’s Daughter, the Hokkaran Empire has taken over the known world, but has begun to crumble as demons pick away at its borders and isolated villages. Two women, Barsalayaa Shefali and O Shizuka, are prophesied to help save the Empire. Now, Shefali is dying, and her wife, Shizuka, is hard at work trying to patch together a broken empire as a demonic invasion looms.
There Before the Chaos by K.B. Wagers
A couple of years ago, K.B. Wagers introduced readers to Hail Bristol, a gunrunner who inherited the throne of the Indrana empire. In the Indranan War trilogy, she led her empire during a brutal civil war. This new book kicks off The Farian War trilogy, picking up after a short peace, her closest ally begs her to intervene in a conflict between a pair of alien civilization to prevent a full-blown galactic war. Publishers Weekly says that Wagers “achieves a rare balance of action (most of which takes place late in the book), tension, and quiet moments.”
Science fiction isn’t usually what first comes to mind when you think Library of America, but the publisher has produced some compilations of authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, and classic novels from the 1950s. This new anthology edited by Lisa Yaszek pulls together some of the best — and forgotten — female authors from the genre between the 1920s and 1960s. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that it’s an “educational, enjoyable, and significant retrospective of science fiction’s foremothers.”