Adelaide based author Sean Williams has published over 50 novels and 120 short stories, mostly in the SF genre. Williams has said of the 14 short stories in Uncanny Angles (Wakefield Press, $29.95), all of which have a background preface, "The one thing these stories have in common, apart from their determination to exist, is a desire to take something familiar and twist it to reveal a different face. Be it a dragon, a guitar, a boy's club, or one's true and only love, my intention is always to leave the reader seeing these things differently. From a new and uncanny angle".
Williams' Australia Antarctic Arts Fellowship in 2017 provided him with the context for 'The Second Coming of the Martians' set after the failed Martian invasion in H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. 'The Cuckoo', which spins off Williams' science doctorate, follows a pranksters impact in 2075 on matter-transportation, resulting in a cult of chaos. In 'The N-Body Solution' Williams extends the concept of matter transmitters to a Loop stretching across the universe, in which his two main characters attempt to uncover the maze like secrets of an ancient alien disk.
Adam Roberts, Professor of English at London University, ensures the literary influences in The This (Gollancz, $45) are evident, notably George Orwell and the philosopher Hegel. Roberts has said, "The novel I wrote is an SF novelisation of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit". Roberts, in a narrative set across different time periods, imagines the impact of a neural implant app which allows for "hands-free Twitter". Unfortunately this neural accessory increasingly absorbs individuals into a growing communal hive mind, "The This", think here the Star Trek Borg. The hive collective control of the individual accelerates in a future, in which Roberts combines time travel, interplanetary conflict and first contact themes.
Time travel is at the core of best-selling American author A.G.Riddle's Lost (Head of Zeus, $29.99). Sam Anderson, with his science research colleagues, has invented a time-travel device known as Absolom, which has significantly reduced crime as those convicted of major crimes are transported back to the prehistoric era, apparently without any "butterfly" impact on the future. Sam finds his life overturned when he is wrongfully convicted of the murder of his lover and colleague, Nora. In a fast-moving narrative, which shakes the framework of time paradox, Sam's 19-year-old daughter Adeline determines to find the real murderer, involving herself in numerous time loops in order to not only clear his name but rescue her father from the past.
Multiple times and locations are also a feature of Eversion by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, $32.99 ) in which Reynolds uses his astrophysics doctorate to provide the topological background for what is initially a spin off from the novels of Jules Verne. The main character, Dr Silas Coade, is a ship's surgeon on a ship sailing off the coast of Norway in the early nineteenth century in search of an alien artifact, "the Edifice". But when disaster strikes and Simon is killed, he, the crew and their rapidly changing transports, are catapulted forward in time in search of the possibly sentient Edifice. Ultimately, Reynolds is, with differing literary styles for his various time periods, exploring the nature of artificial intelligence and thus what it is to be human.
Reynolds characterisation in Eversion is deeper than in his award-winning Revelation Space series but, in those books, Reynolds characters are lesser players within a vast hard science, space opera, framework. Inhibitor Phase (Gollancz, $32.99) is the fourth in the series. By the late 28th century, humanity only survives in a few isolated pockets hiding from the the Inhibitors, powerful ancient machines determined to wipe out technological civilisations wherever they find them. In a complex narrative framework, both at the personal and galactic level, Reynolds follows humanity trying to survive in a universe that "doesn't give a damn about what's fair and right".
Charles Stross' Quantum of Nightmares (Orbit, $45) is the 11th in another long-running and popular series - the Laundry Files - which blends satire of politics, corporations and bureaucracy with espionage plot lines and Lovecraftian horror. In Quantum of Nightmares, the New Management government, not worried by having an ancient powerful God as its prime minister, has taken England back to some late 18th century settings, including making public executions the norm for minor offences. Stross' normal dark humour could be termed gallows humour in this instance. The complex plot line, with an eclectic cast of characters, is underpinned by reflections on economic inequalities and social welfare issues, in which the vulnerable and unemployed literally become food for thought.
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