Malarqui By Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar, £17.99)
Mordew, the first volume in the trilogy, has been highly praised, and this sequel is eagerly awaited. It’s certainly an epic fantasy as unusual and ambitious as its predecessor, but the narrative has been shattered into multiple stories from multiple perspectives, and none (except the talking dog) was as engaging or compelling as the original protagonist. It can be hard to keep up with all the characters, their alliances, enemies, and progress (a common cause with a long fantasy series); And despite the grim ferment of humor, the situations are relentlessly grim and grim, creating the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare. This is a world in which magic works because it is fueled by sacrifice, so demigods and witches maintain their power through fleeting mass slaughter. Pheby is undoubtedly an original, turning the standard tropes of modern fiction into something even stranger and more disturbing, but this is not a book book fans would like to live in.
Beyond the combustion line By Paul McCauley (Gollancz, £22)
In the distant future, after hundreds of thousands of years of self-immolation of human civilization, convergent evolution has given rise to an intelligent new species, with a culture that allows most of them to live in low-tech but comfortable harmony with their lives. Globalism. The first part of the novel feels like Le Guinian fiction because it focuses on Pilgrim Saltmire, a young scientist researching what is known as visitor viewing. The mysterious visitors are described as tall, slender figures dressed in white, and their visits are foreshadowed by bright lights in the sky. Pilgrim goes on various adventures before meeting the Foeless Landwalker, a boisterous preacher who claims to be in regular contact with visitors. At this point, the narrative takes a bold and stunning leap into full-blown science fiction. The second section, set a few decades after the first contact between the natives and visitors, deals with the story from a visitor’s point of view. The book is an absolute delight: amazingly written, surprisingly, and thought-provoking entertainment.
coral bones By EJ Swift (Unknown Stories, £9.99)
Corals are dying, and marine biologist Hana Ishikawa fears it is too late to stop this ecological disaster. Her story, set in the present, is one of three emotionally compelling narrative threads depicting the connections between humans and the living seas off the coast of Australia. In 1839, 17-year-old Judith Holliman knew she was destined to be sent away to set up a good marriage in England, but first she persuaded her father, the captain of the ship, to take her on an expedition to the reef islands. In the 22nd century, mass extinctions and climate change forced governments to impose severe restrictions on human habitation, with the goal of allowing natural reconstitution to occur. Telma Velasco is sent by a restoration committee to investigate a reported sighting of a leafy dragonfly in a remote bay where corals may grow again. These three lives and times are woven together to create a thoughtful, immersive, and deeply human story that speaks to the current fears and hopes of our world.
expect me tomorrow By Christopher Priest (Gollanc’s, £22)
The true story of John Smith, a fraudster who preyed on vulnerable women in Victorian England, makes up the opening chapter of this unusual and compelling science fiction novel, despite its importance to both the past and future narratives that make up the book. Clear near the end. One of the main protagonists is Adler Beck, a 19th-century Norwegian glaciologist, sometimes worried about hearing a strange voice in his head, who has been gathering evidence that convinces him that the world is on the brink of drastic climate change. The other is Chad Ramsay, who lived on England’s crumbling southeast coast in 2050. He had never heard of Beck or his theories, and had no idea of his connection to the long-dead scientist. After losing his job with the police, Chad is left with an experimental chip in his brain, a DNA scanner that could come in handy for the family history research his brother urged him to do. This is a climate fantasy with a twist. It has the cool concepts and literary sleight of hand we can expect from the author of The Prestige, but there’s also a warmth and emotional urgency that makes it one of his best for some time.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle (Gollancz, £25)
First published in 1968, when adult-oriented fairy tales were a rarity, this beloved classic, out of print for decades, has not lost its charm. It is poetic, funny, magical, heartbreaking, and the best novel ever written about a unicorn. Patrick Rothfuss introduced this handsome new hardcover edition.