Lavie Tidar’s UNHOLY LAND, Kameron Hurley’s APOCALYPSE NYX, and Jo Walton’s STARLINGS are among the best of 2018
THE B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG revealed Our Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2018.
As the real world grows each day stranger by leaps and bounds, the skewed secondary worlds, fantastical lands, and alternate histories that are the realms of science fiction and fantasy have only grown more vital, not only as a means of escape from blaring headlines, political turmoil, and the crescendo of climate change, but as a means of understanding them: truths more clearly viewed through the lens of fiction.
Of course, that kind of makes reading sound like a drag, doesn’t it? The best SFF books of 2018 aren’t about beating you over the head with an agenda, they’re about finding truth in the fantastical, whether it’s a story of animal revenge, an exploration of the philosophy of magic, a chronicle of a space program that could’ve been, an imagined war that echoes the horrors of a real atrocity, or a very strange trip up, up, up an impossible tower. These are our favorite science fiction and fantasy novels from another strong year for the genre, and another weird year for the world.
UNHOLY LAND, by Lavie Tidhar
In award-winner Lavie Tidhar’s positively Philip K. Dickian new novel, the suspiciously similarly named pulp writer Liro Tirosh returns to his homeland of Palestina, a Jewish state on Lake Victoria between Kenya and Uganda. Tirosh has been out of the country, living in the Reich for years, in a Germany that never perpetrated a Holocaust. But his father, a larger than life national figure, is dying, so he returns. When a visit from an old classmate goes horribly awry, Tirosh finds himself slipping in and out of reality: he imagines himself as a detective in one of his own novels, he speaks to his ex-wife on the phone but can’t quite connect with her, he seems to be aware of the plots of Tidhar’s other novels. Things only grow stranger as a wall in erected between the Jewish state and its African neighbors. UNHOLY LAND plays in the strange, uncomfortable demilitarized zone between the national founding myth and the uninterrogated childhood, between the person who leaves the homeland and the one who returns.
APOCALYPSE NYX , by Kameron Hurley
Nyx, who readers met in Hurley’s Bel Dame Apocrypha series, is a mercenary with a serious drinking problem, which is really only a coping mechanism for her serious everything else problem. In five standalone stories, Nyx and her messed-up crew take on a series of dispiriting jobs as they fight for survival in a world dominated by enormous insects—a world composed of war-blasted wastelands, in which bug magicians plot to exploit an endless war for their own gains. Nyx investigates the death of an ex-con, pays off old debts, and manages to keep her and her team alive—barely—in the midst of a holy war on a planet where technology is all about genetically-altered bugs. In the end, bare survival may be all they’re capable of—but fans of the Bel Dame books will catch plenty of arch references to future adventures and terrible fates that haven’t been served up just yet.
STARLINGS, by Jo Walton
Released last month in ebook and out today in print. Fans of Walton will rejoice at the variety on display in this collection, her first (though we’d expect nothing less from an author who seems determined to never write the same book twice). She offers up short stories, poetry, and plays that explore many of her favorite themes in new and interesting ways. From a tale that follows a gold coin as it changes hands on a space station to a story about a phone app that allows you to share in a loved one’s pain and loss, Walton’s lively imagination is the main selling point, as she deluges readers with ideas. Other standouts include a story about a biographer interviewing a simulation of a 20th century subject, three brief vignettes set at a weary inn, and, oh, the poems, which are wonderful whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the form.
For more info on UNHOLY LAND, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Sarah Anne Langton
For more info on STARLINGS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story
For more info on APOCALYPSE NYX, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Wadim Kashin
Design by Elizabeth Story