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Culture Books

Four science fiction novels


Four science fiction novels

The Massacre of Mankind 

Stephen Baxter

A sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, this novel speculates that the first invasion, stopped so well by a human virus, was merely the prelude to the arrival of the real conquerors. Extensively researched and stylistically reminiscent of Wells, this novel recasts Wells’ themes of imperialism, fear, and technology against the backdrop of an alternative 1920s in which Germany won the First World War, America is truly isolationist, and England is again the battleground for humanity’s future. This time the invading armies are not human, and victory may only come through submission.

The Word Endangered (The Face of the Deep, Book 3.0) 

Steve Rzasa

In this installment in a series of interconnected, stand-alone novels, Rzasa postulates a future in which the written Bible is rediscovered after a period of intense persecution and new adherents of Christianity, like the Christians of the Pax Romana, are considered second-class citizens. Here, Zarco Thread and his pregnant wife Ria are Christians working as planetary surveyors when they become embroiled in a conspiracy to overthrow the liberalizing interstellar empire and destroy faith of all kinds. Rzasa’s keen speculations are politically poignant and socially relevant. This novel is a thrilling reminder that empires fall, humans fail, but the true faith is forever.

The Space Between the Stars 

Anne Corlett

When Jamie Allenby wakes up from a long illness, she finds a virus has nearly wiped out humanity’s space-faring civilization. Joining with a few remaining survivors of the plague, Jamie desperately tries to find her longtime lover. She heads for the capital planet unaware that her companions carry hidden secrets, guilt, and misplaced pity that could wipe out humanity forever. Corlett’s debut novel eloquently details the powerful destruction that long-buried sin can reap on the human soul and the human forgiveness needed to bring it out of the darkness. (Caution: an attempted rape)


Andy Weir

Foulmouthed Jazz Bashara lives in the only human settlement on the moon. She has a lucrative job committing corporate sabotage, which may lead to the easy life or destroy the settlement and home she loves. Although the fast-paced book values loyalty to family and town, and offers intriguing speculations on the challenges imposed by lunar life, it fails to overcome a whiny, selfish, and unappealing heroine whose problems are largely self-imposed. Weir’s sophomore effort—after the award-winning The Martian—works best as a cautionary tale about self-will. (Cautions: sexual content and profanity)


Jennie Hettrick

Ben Loory (Jennie Hettrick)


Two short story collections upend the commonplace in fantastic ways.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory (Penguin, 2017) consists of 40 extremely short pieces of fiction that, in Alice in Wonderland fashion, turn the mundane into the extraordinary. Tales of President James K. Polk, spiders, astronauts, islands, dodos, and zombies ponder the fundamentals of human existence through the fantastically absurd. Each story nugget is quick to read but pricks the mind long after. (Caution: profanity)

Caldecott and Nebula award-winning author Jane Yolen reimagines classic fairy tales and legends in The Emerald Circus (Tachyon Publications, 2017). What if Peter Pan’s Wendy rebelled against the selfish Lost Boys? What if Andersen’s Snow Queen story was an autobiography? Where did Arthur’s famous sword come from? What if Emily Dickinson wrote science fiction? Yolen explores some of the many possibilities that dwell between the lines of every tale. (Cautions: profanity and sexual content) —J.O.