Wow. There are a lot of great-looking books coming out in the next three months. I had a really hard time whittling this list down to something manageable. And I can’t afford to be too ambitious with the books I’m thinking about reading when Hugo finalists have just been announced (and you will see a book down there by Campbell finalist Sebastian de Castell).
5/3 – Knight’s Shadow by Sebastian de Castell
Following his beloved debut, Traitor’s Blade, Sebastian de Castell returns with volume two of his fast-paced fantasy adventure series, inspired by the swashbuckling action and witty banter of The Three Musketeers. Knight’s Shadow continues the series with the thrilling and dark tale of heroism and betrayal in a country crushed under the weight of its rulers’ corruption.
A few days after the horrifying murder of a duke and his family, Falcio val Mond, swordsman and First Cantor of the Greatcoats, begins a deadly pursuit to capture the killer. But Falcio soon discovers his own life is in mortal danger from a poison administered as a final act of revenge by one of his deadliest enemies. As chaos and civil war begin to overtake the country, Falcio has precious little time left to stop those determined to destroy his homeland.
5/10 – Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…
5/10 – Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life and virtual reality. The city is literally a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap, and data is cheaper.
When Boris Chong returns to Tel Aviv from Mars, much has changed. Boris’s ex-lover is raising a strangely familiar child who can tap into the datastream of a mind with the touch of a finger. His cousin is infatuated with a robotnik—a damaged cyborg soldier who might as well be begging for parts. His father is terminally-ill with a multigenerational mind-plague. And a hunted data-vampire has followed Boris to where she is forbidden to return.
Rising above them is Central Station, the interplanetary hub between all things: the constantly shifting Tel Aviv; a powerful virtual arena, and the space colonies where humanity has gone to escape the ravages of poverty and war. Everything is connected by the Others, powerful alien entities who, through the Conversation—a shifting, flowing stream of consciousness—are just the beginning of irrevocable change.
At Central Station, humans and machines continue to adapt, thrive…and
5/17 – The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
Perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and Red Queen, The Crown’s Game is a thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy set in Imperial Russia about two teenagers who must compete for the right to become the Imperial Enchanter—or die in the process—from debut author Evelyn Skye.
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.
6/7 – Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn
Shikanoko has been humbled by failure, and his once clear destiny has become clouded . . .
The Autumn Princess and the boy who is the true emperor are fugitives in the forest, alone and unprotected . . .
In the mountain sorcerer’s hut a new generation of the Old People is born―the Spider Tribe, not quite human, not quite demons, and quickly coming of age . . .
One clan is in retreat, the other holds the capital, and natural disasters follow one upon another. Will Heaven ever be placated?
In Autumn Princess, Dragon Child, the old order has come unsettled and the weave of destiny has become unpredictable as it is pulled tighter, sharper, faster, by the instincts for vengeance and redemption, loyalty and survival. The battle for the Lotus Throne has begun in earnest.
In this medieval Japan of Lian Hearn’s peerless imagination―so full of magic, beauty, violence, love, and sorrow―the only thing truly inevitable is that these forces are building to a brutal climax, though who the players will be and what the stakes will be cannot yet be told.
The Tale of Shikanoko, Book One: Emperor of the Eight Islands (April 2016)
The Tale of Shikanoko, Book Two: Autumn Princess, Dragon Child (June 2016)
The Tale of Shikanoko, Book Three: Lord of the Darkwood (August 2016)
The Tale of Shikanoko, Book Four: The Tengu’s Game of Go (September 2016)
6/7 – Infomocracy by Malka Order
It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.
With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?
Infomocracy is Malka Older’s debut novel.
6/28 – The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill
In this dark and gripping sci-fi noir, an exiled police detective arrives at a lunar penal colony just as a psychotic android begins a murderous odyssey across the far side of the moon.
Purgatory is the lawless moon colony of eccentric billionaire, Fletcher Brass: a mecca for war criminals, murderers, sex fiends, and adventurous tourists. You can’t find better drugs, cheaper plastic surgery, or a more ominous travel advisory anywhere in the universe. But trouble is brewing in Brass’s black-market heaven. When an exiled cop arrives in this wild new frontier, he immediately finds himself investigating a string of ruthless assassinations in which Brass himself—and his equally ambitious daughter—are the chief suspects.
Meanwhile, two-thousand kilometers away, an amnesiac android, Leonardo Black, rampages across the lunar surface. Programmed with only the notorious “Brass Code”—a compendium of corporate laws that would make Ayn Rand blush—Black has only one goal in mind: to find Purgatory and conquer it.
Visual, visceral, and tons of fun, The Dark Side fuses hard science with brutal crime and lunar adventure. It’s an intense, stylish, and action-packed thriller with a body count to match.
7/5 – The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.
Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.
The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.
7/12 – Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
Since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.
Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.
However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars.
7/26 – City of Wolves by Willow Palecek
Alexander Drake, Investigator for Hire, doesn’t like working for the Nobility, and doesn’t prefer to take jobs from strange men who accost him in alleyways. A combination of hired muscle and ready silver have a way of changing a man’s mind.
A lord has been killed, his body found covered in bite marks. Even worse, the late lord’s will is missing, and not everyone wants Drake to find it. Solving the case might plunge Drake into deeper danger.
City of Wolves is a gaslamp fantasy noir from debut author Willow Palecek.
5/24 – The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens by Samuel Bowles
Should the idea of economic man—the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus—determine how we expect people to respond to monetary rewards, punishments, and other incentives? Samuel Bowles answers with a resounding “no.” Policies that follow from this paradigm, he shows, may “crowd out” ethical and generous motives and thus backfire.
But incentives per se are not really the culprit. Bowles shows that crowding out occurs when the message conveyed by fines and rewards is that self-interest is expected, that the employer thinks the workforce is lazy, or that the citizen cannot otherwise be trusted to contribute to the public good. Using historical and recent case studies as well as behavioral experiments, Bowles shows how well-designed incentives can crowd in the civic motives on which good governance depends.
5/31 – The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein
“Star Wars is the ultimate mythological tale of our age, a hero’s journey that is a tribute to the beauty of human freedom as well as an exploration of its dark complexities. In this gem of a book, the brilliant Cass Sunstein uses the series to explore profound questions about being a parent, a child, and a human. It will change the way you think about your own journey, and it might even make you pick up the phone and call your dad.” – Walter Isaacson
A deeply original celebration of George Lucas’s masterpiece as it relates to history, presidential politics, law, economics, fatherhood, and culture by Harvard legal scholar and former White House advisor.
There’s Santa Claus, Shakespeare, Mickey Mouse, The Bible, and then there’s Star Wars. Nothing quite compares to sitting with down with a young child and hearing the sound of John Williams’ score as those beloved golden letters fill the screen. In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.
In rich detail, Sunstein tells story of the films’ wildly unanticipated success and what it has to say about why some things succeed while others fail. Ultimately, Sunstein argues, Star Wars is about the freedom of choice and our never-ending ability to make the right decision when the chips are down. Written with buoyant prose and considerable heart, The World According to Star Wars shines new light on the most beloved story of our time.
6/1 – The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson
Robots may one day rule the world, but what is a robot-ruled Earth like?
Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or “ems.” Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.
Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: an army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. In this new economic era, the world economy may double in size every few weeks.
Some say we can’t know the future, especially following such a disruptive new technology, but Professor Robin Hanson sets out to prove them wrong. Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, he uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.
While human lives don’t change greatly in the em era, em lives are as different from ours as our lives are from those of our farmer and forager ancestors. Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.
Read about em mind speeds, body sizes, job training and career paths, energy use and cooling infrastructure, virtual reality, aging and retirement, death and immortality, security, wealth inequality, religion, teleportation, identity, cities, politics, law, war, status, friendship and love.
This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear to our ancestors. To most ems, it seems good to be an em.
6/7 – The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them by Todd G. Buchholz
In this bold history and manifesto, a former White House director of economic policy exposes the economic, political, and cultural cracks that wealthy nations face and makes the case for transforming those same vulnerabilities into sources of strength—and the foundation of a national renewal.
America and other developed countries, including Germany, Japan, France, and Great Britain are in desperate straits. The loss of community, a contracting jobs market, immigration fears, rising globalization, and poisonous partisanship—the adverse price of unprecedented prosperity—are pushing these nations to the brink.
Acclaimed author, economist, hedge fund manager, and presidential advisor Todd G. Buchholz argues that without a sense of common purpose and shared identity, nations can collapse. The signs are everywhere: Reckless financial markets encourage people to gamble with other people’s money. A coddling educational culture removes the stigma of underachievement. Community traditions such as American Legion cookouts and patriotic parades are derided as corny or jingoistic. Newcomers are watched with suspicion and contempt.
As Buchholz makes clear, the United States is not the first country to suffer these fissures. In The Price of Prosperity he examines the fates of previous empires—those that have fallen as well as those extricated from near-collapse and the ruins of war thanks to the vision and efforts of strong leaders. He then identifies what great leaders do to fend off the forces that tear nations apart.
Is the loss of empire inevitable? No. Can a community spirit be restored in the U.S. and in Europe? The answer is a resounding yes. We cannot retrieve the jobs of our grandparents, but we can embrace uniquely American traditions, while building new foundations for growth and change. Buchholz offers a roadmap to recovery, and calls for a revival of national pride and patriotism to help us come together once again to protect the nation and ensure our future.
6/28 – Rise of the Machines: A Cybernetic History by Thomas Rid
A sweeping history of our deep entanglement with technology.
As lives offline and online merge even more, it’s easy to forget how we got here. Rise of the Machines reclaims the spectacular story of cybernetics, a control theory of man and machine. In a history that unpacks one of the twentieth century’s pivotal ideas, Thomas Rid delivers a thought-provoking portrait of our technology-enraptured era.
Springing from the febrile mind of mathematician Norbert Wiener amid the devastation of World War II, the cybernetic vision underpinned a host of seductive myths about the future of machines. This vision would radically transform the postwar world, ushering in sweeping cultural change. From the Cold War’s monumental SAGE bomber defense system to enhanced humans, Wiener’s scheme turned computers from machines of assured destruction into engines of brilliant utopias. Cybernetics triggered blissful cults, the Whole Earth Catalog, and feminist manifestos, just as it fueled martial gizmos and the air force’s foray into virtual space.
As Rid shows, cybernetics proved a powerful tool for two competing factions―those who sought to make a better world and those who sought to control the one at hand. In the Bay Area, techno-libertarians embraced networked machines as the portal to a new electronic frontier: a peaceful, open space of freedom. In Washington, DC, cyberspace provided the perfect theater for dominance and war. Meanwhile the future arrived secretly in 1996, with Moonlight Maze, dawn of a new age of digital state-on-state espionage. That “first cyberwar,” as Rid reveals in a blow-by-blow account, went on for years―and indeed has never stopped. In our long-promised cybernetic future, the line between utopia and dystopia continues to be disturbingly thin.
Drawing on new sources and interviews with hippies, anarchists, sleuths, and spies, Rise of the Machines offers an unparalleled perspective into our anxious embrace of technology and today’s clash of digital privacy and security.
32 pages of illustrations
(Copies of Children of Earth and Sky, Central Station, Autumn Princess, Dragon Child, The Dark Side, The Hatching, and The Age of Em have been provided to me by the respective publishers.)