From the Senate in the 1970s to the presidential campaign trail in 2020, Joe Biden has a long record of going where political pressures push him—and right now they’re pushing him aggressively leftward
In Unholy Land, Tidhar designs an alternate reality in which Jews establish a Jewish state, Palestina, in former British East Africa. Here pulp fiction writer Lior Tirosh starts to believe himself the hero of one of his novels. Yet Tirosh may not be insane, because even as Palestina seeks to build a wall against African refugees, the wall between true reality and his own crumbles. Tidhar, an Israeli by birth, avoids sermonizing: He merely alludes to the Israel-Palestine conflict and shuns simplistic solutions. The blend of politics, allegory, and alternate-history detective novel is unconventional yet weirdly wonderful.
Empire of Silence
This far-future, epic space opera borrows elements from Ancient Rome for a tale of privilege-to-rags-to-glory. The patrician Hadrian Marlowe will one day destroy mankind’s greatest alien threat—but first, as a boy, he rejects his inheritance and flees to the limits of the human galactic empire, where he’s enslaved and forced to compete as a gladiator. Hadrian’s growth through friendship, as he learns to survive the streets, the coliseum, and the forum, creates the grand story of an illustrious hero. Exciting fight scenes and political intrigue keep the plot moving. (Cautions: a gay character, sexuality)
No Country for Old Gnomes
Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne
This hilarious, pun-filled comedy often sacrifices plot for a joke. A Goth gnome, a pretentious gryphon, a vain lawyer halfling, a hapless dwarf, and a part-sheep girl travel across the world of Pell to stop the genocide of the industrious gnomes by their onetime allies, the gourmand halflings. Each new encounter puns and mocks standard fantasy elements. The clever humor comes from overturning reader expectations. It’s a laugh-out-loud comedy for wordplay and fantasy enthusiasts alike. A few sex jokes pepper the tale, and profanity is limited except for one extended joke punning a character’s initials.
Dragon’s Code: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern
Gigi McCaffrey pens her first novel set on Pern, a world first created 50 years ago by her mother, Anne McCaffrey. A coalition of humans and dragons protects Pern’s inhabitants from the ravages of the mindless Thread, but trouble brews between two factions of “dragonriders,” and a young, forlorn ex-singer, Piemur, goes undercover to discover why. Much of the simplistic, uneven plot contains a sequence of apparent coincidences or accidents, but gentle lessons about family, self-worth, and cooperation make this an excellent novel for parents and teens to share. (Caution: alcohol abuse)
Kathy Tyers’ Shivering World (Enclave Publishing, 2018) examines society and the Christian faith and remains as relevant today as when it was first published in the early 1990s. Convinced the colonists have the cure for her rare genetic disorder, microbiologist Graysha Brady-Phillips accepts a job working on their cold planet, even though the eugenics board, headed by Graysha’s mother, has banned genetic engineering. Meanwhile, trouble brews between the colonists and the scientists, and Graysha falls in love with a local man whose faith intrigues her as much as the man himself does. Tyers’ novel is a complex interweaving of competing groups, all vying for Graysha’s loyalty. This novel particularly deserves notice among a crowded field because of how Graysha struggles to come to grips with a faith too bound up in the people who represent it, only to discover truth through a reading of John’s Gospel. —J.O.