This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: Authorized Fanfiction, Raging Dragons, and a Time Travel Romance with Teeth

The Redemption of Time, by Baoshu, translated by Ken Liu 
What began as a work of quasi-fanfiction is now canon, as Baoshu imagines a new, officially sanctioned story in the universe of Cixin Liu’s sci-fi epic The Remembrance of Earth’s Past (which began with the Hugo-winning The Three-Body Problem). Baoshu’s novel (translated from Chinese into English by the author Ken Liu, a true champion of Chinese SF in translation) considers into the consequences of humanity’s fight against the Trisolarans. Yun Tianming planned to kill himself after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, but instead found himself frozen and captured by the Trisolarans, who tortured him beyond endurance for decades. He eventually helped the aliens conquer humanity in order to save Earth from destruction, and is given a healthy clone body. He lives as a traitor to his own race until his new body also begins to fail. Then, once again, Yun is regenerated, and once again recruited by an alien force to save the universe—except this time, Yun is determined to reclaim control of his destiny.

Earth, by Ben Bova
Ben Bova’s Grand Tour around our solar system comes home (again) with the 22nd installment in one of the longest-lived series in science fiction. Previously, a dangerous wave of gamma radiation was detected moving through the Milky Way, destroying every planetary body it encountered, and our solar system—Earth included—faced annihilation some 2,000 years in the future. An advanced alien race, the Predecessors, has given humanity the technology necessary to survive the coming disaster, with the condition that we share it with other sentient species. With the crisis averted, humanity is split on whether to stick to our comfortable nine planets or head off into the wider galaxy with a plan to conquer it—and that division, between young and old, Earth residents and those out in the asteroid belt and on the outer planets, could trigger a interspecies civil war. An astronomer named Trayvon Williamson, just thawed from cryogenic freeze, might turn out to be the only one who can stop it.

The Border Keeper, by Kerstin Hall 
Kerstin Hall’s makes her debut with a short novel that grows ornately from a seemingly straightforward premise: a man named Vasethe arrives at the border between the worlds of the living and the dead and implores the border keeper—who he calls Eris, a name the keeper hoped no one remembered—to guide him to the soul of his departed love. As the guardian leads him through the spirit world, called Mkalis, things shift and shapes change, and the pair travels through a series of disorienting and disturbing realms. As the true nature of Vasethe’s quest is slowly revealed, the ever-shifting border keeper realizes the traveler’s true purpose threatens the very realms she is charged with protecting.

This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Two of the finest prose stylists in modern fantasy combine their efforts in this poetic, wrenching story of love, war, and time travel. Red and Blue represent rival factions battling for control of the future—Red part of a technologically-advanced, artificially intelligent faction, Blue part of a hyper-evolved biological hive mind. As they fight their war across time and space, they can’t resist disobeying orders in order to taunt and challenge each other via fiendishly hidden letters, encoded into bones and blood and earth. Slowly, their relationship evolves from adversarial into one of grudging respect, then regard—and then love, a love expressed across centuries, one careful message at a time. If their affair is discovered, they both face execution as traitors—but they’re changing each other, and the future is never written in stone.

The Philosopher’s War, by Tom Miller
The followup to The Philosopher’s Flight, a delightful slice of imaginative historical fantasy that critics hailed as an American answer to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, takes us deeper into a version of World War I-era America shaped by magic and differing social strictures. Robert Weekes was the first man ever to be admitted to Radcliffe College, the nation’s foremost college of “empirical philosophical arts” (read: magic) in hopes of contributing to the war effort alongside the greatest female magicians of the age. Now a graduate, he is a rookie in the US Sigilry Corps’s Rescue and Evacuation service—the first man to join the storied, all-woman team of flying medics. Deployed to France, Robert discovers the reality of frontlines service isn’t as romantic as he’d dreamed it would be, and finds himself chafing against the rough personalities of the women on his squad. Over time, he works to win their trust, as together they concoct a scheme to bring the Great War to an end, even if they have to employ illegal magical methods to do it. The second mission into the altered history is even more engrossing than the first.

The Rage of Dragons, by Evan Winter
Evan Winter’s debut epic fantasy, which became a self-publishing success story before being picked up by Orbit, explores the power of rage in a land defined by war. The Omehi have been fighting for centuries—their whole society is built around it, led by the rare women who can call forth dragons and the rare men who can transform themselves into super soldiers. Tau is neither, which makes him meat for the endless war’s grinder—unless he simply opts out, seeking a convenient injury so he can retire to a farm and a peaceful life. But betrayal decimates his world and kills everyone he loves—and his rage leads him to seek to become the greatest swordsman of his age—the better to help him as he cuts and slashes his way to vengeance. Drawing from African traditions, this is an epic fantasy that does something different while giving you everything you love about the genre.

Unforeseen, by Molly Gloss
Molly Gloss is rightly lauded for her novels (both mainstream and fantastical), but she’s also made a name for herself with her deft shorter work: stories that combine a literary sensibility with SFF tropes and a deep understanding of what makes us human. Collected here is a career-spanning set of stories, including three appearing in print for the first time—a real treasure for both longtime fans as well as readers discovering the author for the first time (perhaps via Saga Press’s mission to ensure her legacy among genre readers?). Included here are the stories Interlocking Pieces,” which was included in The Norton Book of Science Fiction; “The Grinnell Method,” winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Award; and “Lambing Season,” which was a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Howling Dark, by Christopher Ruocchio
The sequel to Christopher Ruocchio’s grandly epic space saga Empire of Silence continues the confession of Hadrian Marlowe, once heir to an empire, later an amnesiac living on the streets of an alien city, and, eventually, the Sun Eater, destroyer of worlds. Hadrian has been seeking the lost planet of Vorgossos and the legendary alien Cielcin, but after decades, the search has gone cold, and he begins to lead a group of mercenaries among the farther suns and the barbarians. When Hadrian seeks peace with the aliens humanity has been battling, he must leave the Sollan Empire’s borders and deal with treachery in order to secure it. If he fails, it could trigger the burning of the universe. With the scope of Dune and a confessional, first-person voice that puts us into the mind of a possible madman, this is space opera at its most riveting and grandiose.

Follow B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy