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Our Most Anticipated Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2015

Well, mine anyway. But since I read more of it, I figure it’s technically ours. Anyway, 2014 saw the release of some wonderful science fiction and fantasy. And while we won’t be seeing The Winds of Winter or The Doors of Stone this year, 2015 is full of exciting titles. So, in chronological order, here’s what The Dinglehopper is looking forward to talking about.

 

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie (February 17th)

Goodreads

Amazon

Half the World is the second book in Abercrombie’s YA Shattered Sea Trilogy. The third appears later in the list and I reviewed the first last year. Half a King was a marvel of plotting and structure with a single point of view character. Two near characters provide the perspectives for this sequel.

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

 

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (May 19th)

Goodreads

Amazon

I’m one of the few people who didn’t like Snow Crash but kept reading Stephenson anyway. I loved his last two novels, Anathem and REAMDE. The concept seems sort of similar to Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix only further into the future and perhaps more complex. I’m excited to find out.

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

 

The Philospher Kings by Jo Walton

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton (June 30th)

Goodreads

Amazon

The first half of this duology came out in January and we’ll be reviewing it soon. Maybe the most succinct thing I can say about it is that it left me wanting more. As soon as possible. Thankfully, I only have to wait a few months.

Twenty years have elapsed since the events of The Just City. The City, founded by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, organized on the principles espoused in Plato’s Republic and populated by people from all eras of human history, has now split into five cities, and low-level armed conflict between them is not unheard-of.

 

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, translated by Joel Martinsen (July 7th)

Goodreads

Amazon

This is another sequel, the second part of a trilogy by Chinese superstar Cixin Liu. What can I say? There were some exciting first books last year. We reviewed the weird, wonderful, stunningly imaginative The Three-Body Problem back in October.

With the scope of Dune and the rousing action of Independence Day, this near-future trilogy is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author.

 

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie (July 28th)

Goodreads

Amazon

This is the final book in The Shattered Sea Trilogy. After the just the first chapter of Half the World, I knew I was on board for the rest of the ride. This one will add another point of view character.

Yarvi is the unlikely heir to the throne—a clever, thoughtful boy with a crippled hand who feels out of place in a violent, Viking-like society. Thorn is a young girl, determined to follow in the footsteps of her dead father and become a famous warrior, whatever it takes. Now Yarvi has avenged the murder of his father, and sets out on an epic journey with Thorn that will embroil his kingdom in all-out war.

 

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (August 4th)

Goodreads

Amazon

China Mieville is my jam.

In these stories, glistening icebergs float above urban horizons; a burning stag runs wild through the city; the ruins of industry emerge unsteadily from the sea; and the abandoned generations in a decayed space-elevator look not up at the stars but down at the Earth. Ranging from portraits of childhood to chilling ghost stories, from dystopian visions to poignant evocations of uncanny love, with beautiful prose and melancholy wit, this breath-taking collection poses searching questions of what it is to be human in an unquiet world.

 

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb (August 11th)

Goodreads

Amazon

I spent my tween years reading fantasy, but sort of drifted away from it on my way through junior high, meaning I missed a lot. For example, the dozen or so novels Robin Hobb set in The Realm of the Elderlings. The first book of her new Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, Fool’s Assassin, was one of my favorite books of last year. And no, I didn’t bother to catch up.

After a devastating confrontation, FitzChivalry Farseer is out for blood—and who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained former royal assassin?

 

The Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley (October 6th)

 

 

I haven’t been this excited about a book since The Wise Man’s Fear. And there was so much more waiting involved with that one. I raved about The Mirror Empire in September. The Empire Ascendant continues Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga, about the interdimensional invasion of one world by its parallel(s) and the people caught up in it. But that barely scratches the surface of what’s going on in this incredible series that takes nothing for granted.

As the foreign Empire spreads across the world like a disease, one of their former allies takes up her own Empress’s sword again to unseat them, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with what they hope is the key to the Empire’s undoing.
 
But when the enemy you must overcome shares your own face, who can be trusted?

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett (November 11th)

Goodreads

Amazon

This one’s as surprising as it is exciting. I enjoyed City of Stairs, a post-colonial epic spy fantasy, but I was under the impression that the author didn’t do sequels. That he switched genres with every novel. So revisiting this imaginative world wasn’t on my radar at all. But I’m glad it’s coming.

The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

 

 

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Book Review: The Three-Body Problem (Updated)

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Ken Liu translator)

3body

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

The Three-Body Problem opens in 1967, one year into China’s Cultural Revolution, on a battle between to Red Guard factions. The typical Western Reader is probably already in speculative territory. We might have some notion of the chaotic, disruptive, destructive period, but it can still be hard to imagine internecine warfare among teenagers. As much as this is an introduction to a tumultuous period that will be recalled again and again in the novel, it’s also full of intimate details. A single death is rendered poetically, imbued with exquisite meaning yet ultimately pointless.

She waved the battle banner as though brandishing her burning youth, trusting that the enemy would be burnt to ashes in the revolutionary flames, imagining that an ideal world would be born tomorrow from the ardor and zeal coursing through her blood.… She was intoxicated by her brilliant, crimson dream until a bullet pierced her chest.

While the devastating reality of a disordered political environment is presented plainly, there’s little sense of judgement.  Compromises are made and hardships are survived. What’s perhaps most fascinating about seeing the political minutiae of another country’s history is that it tends to illuminate our own.

It’s via this careful exploration of Ye Wenjie’s experiences in the past that we come to understand the parallels Liu Cixin draws between the Cultural Revolution and the mystery in the modern narrative. While her father, Ye Zhetai endured numerous “struggle sessions” and never renounced the science he knew to be true, many other scientists sought to preserve their lives rather than their minds. Still others, committed suicide in fear and despair.

That’s what we come in on in the present. The clever cantankerous Shi Quang, a sort of hard-boiled detective straight out of Raymond Chandler, interrogates nanotechnology researcher Wang Miao about the mysterious ETO, an organization somehow tied to a recent pattern of suicides among theoretical researchers. At first Wang Miao can’t understand how his practical work could possibly be connected.

That’s the essence of the three-body problem. In classical mechanics, it’s the problem of taking an initial set of data that specifies the positions, masses and velocities of three bodies for some particular point in time and then determining their motions in relation to one another. In quantum physics, it focuses on the motions of three particles. In the novel both are important and scientifically unpredictable. But Wang Miao’s relationship to Ye Wenjie and the suicides is just as interesting.

It’s impossible to give a full accounting of what makes this book so fascinating without spoiling much of what makes it so enjoyable.  However, a few simply must be mentioned in hopes of attracting readers.  A massive online virtual reality game where scientific concepts come fast and dense, but also, humorously, literally represents the struggle for a species’ survival .  Elements of detective noir, Hollywood blockbusters, political drama, and documentary meld seamlessly together.  And I haven’t seen multi-dimensional physics explored with this kind of simultaneous seriousness and delight since Postsingular and Hylozoic.

Cixin Liu explores the similarities between first contact and revolution, the relative capabilities of states, civilizations, and worlds in a book bursting with science, ideas, and humanity.  Ken Liu has done an admirable job of translating one of China’s most popular science fiction titles, including several footnotes for the uniformed reader.

Recommended for fans of Rudy Rucker, Anathem, and Arthur C. Clarke.

Cixin Liu is a member of the China Science Writers’ Association and the Shanxi Writers’ Association. He was awarded the China Galaxy Science Fiction Award for eight consecutive years, from 1999 to 2006, and again in 2010. He received the Nebula (Xingyun) Award in both 2010 and 2011.

The best translations into English do not, in fact, read as if they were originally written in English. The English words are arranged in such a way that the reader sees a glimpse of another culture’s patterns of thinking, hears an echo of another language’s rhythms and cadences, and feels a tremor of another people’s gestures and movements.

Ken Liu is an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer.  He is a winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards.  Ken’s debut novel, The Grace of Kings, the first in a fantasy series, will be published by Saga Press, in 2015.

Ken Liu will translate the third book in the trilogy, Dead End as well.  He commented on Tor.com that the compressed schedule required multiple translators.  The Dark Forest was translated by Joel Martinsen, who will also translate 2004’s Ball Lightning.

Tor.com has made Chapters 1-3Chapter 7, and Chapter 9 available online.

You can read translator Ken Liu’s story “Paper Menagerie” that won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards here.

The Dark Forest, the second title in the trilogy, is scheduled for July 7, 2015.

While the first two novels ground the reader in a familiar China with recognizable socioeconomic conditions, the third, in Liu Cixin’s own (trasnlated) words is pure science fiction.

“I wrote the third volume for myself and filled it with multi-dimensional and two-dimensional universes, artificial black holes and mini-universes, and I extended the time line to the heat death of the universe.  And, to our utter surprise, it was this third volume, written only for science fiction fans, which led to the popularity of the series as a whole.”

I’m actually looking forward to re-reading The Three-Body Problem come July, and again before the third installment.  Folks who’ve read both assure me that the quality and scope increases and enjoyment intensifies.  “Eliminate human tyranny! The world belongs to Trisolaris!”


Leave a comment

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Ken Liu translator)

3body

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

The Three-Body Problem opens in 1967, one year into China’s Cultural Revolution, on a battle between to Red Guard factions. The typical Western Reader is probably already in speculative territory. We might have some notion of the chaotic, disruptive, destructive period, but it can still be hard to imagine internecine warfare among teenagers. As much as this is an introduction to a tumultuous period that will be recalled again and again in the novel, it’s also full of intimate details. A single death is rendered poetically, imbued with exquisite meaning yet ultimately pointless.

She waved the battle banner as though brandishing her burning youth, trusting that the enemy would be burnt to ashes in the revolutionary flames, imagining that an ideal world would be born tomorrow from the ardor and zeal coursing through her blood.… She was intoxicated by her brilliant, crimson dream until a bullet pierced her chest.

While the devastating reality of a disordered political environment are shown plainly, there’s little sense of judgement.  Compromises are made and hardships are survived. What’s perhaps most fascinating about seeing the political minutiae of another country’s history is that it tends to illuminate our own.

It’s via this careful exploration of Ye Wenjie’s experiences in the past that we come to understand the parallels Liu Cixin draws between the Cultural Revolution and the mystery in the present narrative. While her father, Ye Zhetai endured numerous “struggle sessions” and never renounced the science he knew to be true, many other scientists sought to preserve their lives rather than their minds. Still others, committed suicide in fear and despair.

That’s what we come in on in the present. The clever cantankerous Shi Quang, a sort of hard-boiled detective straight out of Raymond Chandler, interrogates nanotechnology researcher Wang Miao about the mysterious ETO, an organization somehow tied to a recent pattern of suicides among theoretical researchers. At first Wang Miao can’t understand how his practical work could possibly be connected.

That’s the essence of the three-body problem. In classical mechanics, it’s the problem of taking an initial set of data that specifies the positions, masses and velocities of three bodies for some particular point in time and then determining their motions in relation to one another. In quantum physics, it focuses on the motions of three particles. In the novel both are important and scientifically unpredictable. But Wang Miao’s relationship to Ye Wenjie and the suicides is just as interesting.

It’s impossible to give a full accounting of what makes this book so fascinating without spoiling much of what makes it so enjoyable.  However, a few simply must be mentioned in hopes of attracting readers.  A massive online virtual reality game where scientific concepts come fast and dense, but also humorously literally represents the struggle for a species’ survival .  Elements of detective noir, Hollywood blockbusters, political drama, and documentary meld seamlessly together.  And I haven’t seen multi-dimensional physics explored with this kind of simultaneous seriousness and delight since Postsingular and Hylozoic.

Cixin Liu explores the similarities between first contact and revolution, the relative capabilities of states, civilizations, and worlds in a book bursting with science, ideas, and humanity.  Ken Liu has done an admirable job of translating one of China’s most popular science fiction titles, including several footnotes for the uniformed reader.

Recommended for fans of Rudy Rucker, Anathem, and hard scifi.

Ken Liu will translate the third book in the trilogy, Dead End as well.  He commented on Tor.com that the compressed schedule required multiple translators.  The Dark Forest was translated by Joel Martinsen, who will also translate 2004’s Ball Lightning.

Tor.com has made Chapters 1-3Chapter 7, and Chapter 9 available online.

You can read translator Ken Liu’s story “Paper Menagerie” that won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards here.

The Dark Forest, the second title in the trilogy, is scheduled for July 7, 2015.