I recently saw a bunch of people doing this tag and it looked like a lot of fun. I’m also in a bit of a reviewing funk at the mo, which is annoying given I have a few more books I’d like to talk about for SciFi Month, but this was a nice way to sit down and write about some cool SF stories without having to engage my reviewing brain.
What is the first science fiction you read?
Haha the notoriously difficult question with the standard ‘I’ve been reading it for so long I can’t remember’ cop out answer. Though if I go back far enough I was consuming sci-fi books before I could fully even read myself. I had this one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book I’d make my mam read to me every single night before bed. I was a TMNT nut; had the bed sheets, the lampshade, the toy figures (Donatello was always my fave) and of course that one book that started it all.
What SF book have you read this year that you want more people to read?
There are very few books I preorder and then actually read on the day they release, but I did exactly that for Gareth L. Powell’s Light of Impossible Stars when it came out in February. I don’t actually recommend diving straight into this specific book, cos it’s the final book in a trilogy, but I really think more people should read his Embers of War series. It’s space opera with some of the best character work I’ve seen in the genre and tells the story of a misfit bunch of galactic spacefarers coming to terms with the fallout of a genocidal interstellar war.
Sal Konstanz, the determined but self-doubting captain of a galactic rescue team; her sentient ship Trouble Dog, a decommissioned battleship-turned-rescue-vessel seeking redemption for her role in the war; Ona Sudak, a poet who finds herself at the centre of an interstellar manhunt; Ashton Childe, a cynical government agent disillusioned with the realities of life as a spook; and a cast of memorable side characters who feel no less fleshed-out for not being the main focus.
What is your favourite sci-fi subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?
Coming as no surprise to anyone following my blog this SciFi month, cyberpunk is one of my favourite subgenres. Though I’ve been coming to terms a bit with the fact I’m in love with the idea of cyberpunk much more than actually existing cyberpunk, which I sometimes think falls short of what it could be. Sometimes I think that might just be because I read Neuromancer and nothing ever quite lived up to it since.
I also love me some tech noir and I read a really great book by Ren Warom at the start of this year called Coil. A gritty, futuristic murder mystery spattered with copious amounts of biopunk body horror, Coil isn’t a book for the squeamish, but if you like stories with gritty characters and settings featuring criminal gangs warring with corrupt and bureaucratic law enforcement agencies then BOY do I have a recommendation for you!
As for a subgenre I’m not well-acquainted with, I haven’t read much hard sci-fi. I kind of assumed I wouldn’t find it very interesting, cos I’m much more interested in characters and social systems than I am in knowing exactly how an FTL warp drive works. There’s a very good chance I’ve misunderstood the genre though, cos I loved Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and that went to town on a lot of the science while still telling a very compelling story. Which reminds me, I never did carry on with that series…
New weird is something I’d love to get more into as well. I have a few China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer books on my Kindle that I really should make time for. I’ve got Perdido Street Station and Annihilation on there for sure, possibly a few more. Really weirdly, I actually knew China Miéville for a while in my late teens/early twenties, when we were both members of the same socialist political party. Despite being a sci-fi geek I’d never heard of him as an author at that point in my life and was kind of flabbergasted when I discovered he was this super well-known science fiction writer.
Who is one of your auto-buy sci-fi authors?
Tade Thompson for sure. His Rosewater books were some of the best sci-fi I’ve read in ages. Really ground breaking stuff that wove together an eclectic mix of biopunk noir spy thriller, alien invasion, murder mystery and zombie horror quite masterfully.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it centres on the settlement of Rosewater, a Nigerian city that’s grown up around the edges of an alien biodome that periodically emits a mysterious healing energy. Consequently, it’s developed into a gritty hybrid of Mecca and Lourdes, a beacon for the sick, a ramshackle, unplanned society with a teeming criminal underworld and a hive of activity for secretive organisations that want to control it. We see the story through the eyes of Kaaro, a powerful ‘sensitive’ with a rare ability to access the xenosphere, a pseudo-psychic realm seeded by alien biotech where sensitives can access and manipulate the thoughts and perceptions of others. He works for S45, a secretive government agency involved in telepathic interrogation and counter-terrorism, and through them becomes compelled to investigate why his fellow sensitives have been mysteriously dying off…
How do you typically find SF recommendations?
Since I discovered blogging and book twitter, most of my recs come from the fantastic group of bookworms I follow and chat to online. Some of the outstanding recommendations I’m still looking forward to reading include Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang and War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi, all books that have been recommended to me by my wonderful bookish pals.
What is an upcoming sci-fi release you’re excited for?
Persephone Motherfucking Station!!! (The profanity isn’t part of the actual book title). I’ve actually never read anything by Stina Leicht, but her upcoming science fiction novels sounds like everything I love (it’s marketed as The Mandalorian meets Cowboy Bebop for crying out loud!). It tells the story of a seemingly backwater planet that’s largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds, but becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation, which thinks the planet has a few secrets the corporation could tenaciously exploit.
Our first main character is Rosie, owner of Monk’s Bar in the corporate town of West Brynner, which caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists. Exactly two types of people drink at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who seek to employ them. Then we’ve got Angel, an ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honourable thing, who is employed to carry out a job for Rosie that will have lasting consequences for Persephone Station and put Angel and her squad up against the might of the Serrao-Orlov corporation. I can’t wait for this book!
If someone had never read sci-fi before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?
This requires a lil bit of thought, cos I wouldn’t want to recommend the first three books that come to mind, as every reader’s needs are different and some really fantastic books aren’t necessarily great entry points. I think Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks would be a great one. It’s got that adventurous space opera vibe that something as mainstream as Star Wars has, while introducing some more solidly sci-fi concepts in there. Then perhaps something like Gideon The Ninth for those who like their sci-fi with a side of bat shit chaos and finally something a bit quieter and less rollicking by someone like Becky Chambers, perhaps To Be Taught, If Fortunate. These are just a cross-section of some books that I think showcase the diversity of science fiction though and I’d def tailor any concrete recommendations to the person in question.
Who is a sci-fi reading content creator you came across recently that you’d like to shout out?
She’s not exclusively a science fiction gal, but I’m currently watching my way through all of Justine’s BookTube videos on her channel I Should Read That. I find her videos so soothing and often queue up a bunch of them after a long day at work to wind down. In the most recent videos I’ve watched she’s been talking up Adrian Tchaikovsky a bunch, specifically Children Of Time, which I’m also very excited to read now, even if I do hate spiders! Go check Justine out, she’s awesome.
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