The Freeze-Frame Revolution (Tachyon), by Peter Watts, is a delicious morsel of hard science fiction. The short novel follows the crew of a construction ship who have spent 66 million years traveling across the galaxy building interstellar wormhole gates for humanity. The group is held in suspended animation, awakened for brief periods by Chimp, the AI who runs the ship. One member of the crew, Sunday Ahzmundin, does not question the mission and has a closer relationship with the Chimp than most. Her friend Lian has become paranoid and unstable, however, and when she disappears, Sunday begins a quest to uncover the secrets behind her friend’s strange behavior. But when you are awake only every few thousand years, how do you keep track of who is friend or foe? The setup of the book is irresistible, and the science is high-concept, but the story is driven bySunday’s relationships and her conviction in herself and her companions.
Best-selling author Jacqueline Carey returns to epic fantasy fiction with Starless (Tor), trading spies and courtesans for gender-bending warriors and dark gods. As a baby, Khai caught the feather that marked him as the soul twin to Princess Zariya, and he is trained by a warrior sect in the desert in near isolation. As Khai learns to control his prophesied powers and achieve masterful skill, he discovers the truth about who he really is, an identity he struggles to accept. Once at court with his charge, he learns the machinations of the palace, but all the while the evil god Miasmus lies in wait plotting destruction. Carey upholds her reputation for world-building, and though “Starless” has less intrigue than Carey’s previous works, it will more than satisfy fans of twisty high fantasy.
With A Reaper at the Gates (Razorbill), Sabaa Tahir continues to expand the world of her best-selling series, diving deeper into Roman-inspired political struggles and East Asian folklore. When the book opens, things have gotten only worse for our protagonists. Helene Aquilla hunts down her former friends and allies to protect her sister from the abusive and increasingly unstable Emperor Marcus. While Aquilla continues to be manipulated by the violent politics of the Empire, Laia grapples with the true danger to the world — the Nightbringer, and Elias Veturius remains in the land between the living and the dead, tied to an ancient power. To protect his family — and the woman he loves — Elias must abandon them. The series is YA only in the age of its characters; the book deftly handles serious issues like the costs of genocide and war. Both action-packed and emotionally engaging, “A Reaper at the Gates” is the perfect summer read.
Everdeen Mason reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
On June 27 at 7 p.m., Sabaa Tahir will be in conversation with Everdeen Mason at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW.