Gollancz Paperback of the Month August 2015 is John Scalzi's novel Lock In which we reviewed back in January. It's not, as you might expect a novel about late night pub drinking, instead it's a science fiction police procedural which describes a pandemic virus which causes 99% of the population to suffer "flu like" symptoms. The other 1% become "locked in" to their own bodies, fully awake, but unable to move or respond to stimulus (a real condition known as "locked-in syndrome"). Those locked in become known as "Haden", named after the most famous locked-in survivor, America's first lady.
A huge scientific endeavour follows and two discoveries are made. The first, the creation of a neural net technology that allows the locked-in to transfer their consciousness into robotic avatars (known as Threeps). The second the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can βrideβ these people and use their bodies as if they were Threeps.
The story is set 25 years after this virus sweeps the globe and follows FBI agents Chris Shane (a Haden) and Leslie Vann as they investigate a Haden-related murder. Our reviewer Allen Stroud liked it, saying:
Lock In is a great read leaving behind a near future premise that invites further work.
Also published in paperback is Paul McAuley's astonishing trilogy, Confluence. Collecting the novels Child of the River, Ancients of Days and the Shrine of Stars, Confluence describes a long and narrow artificially created world, half of which is fertile and verdant river valley - centred on the Great River - and half crater-pocked desert. The architects of this world seem absent, leaving behind a multitude of machines and bloodlines of people who worship their absent creators as gods.
Its a book that combines the best elements of science fiction and fantasy while also featuring some impressive world building, creative characters and a rewarding story. It's the finest of novels and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Joining the halls of the Fantasy Masterworks is The Riddle Masters Game by Patricia A McKillip. This trilogy is made up of the novels The Riddle-Master of Hed, The Heir of Sea and Fire and Harpist in the Wind. It's a series grand in scope and is often held aloft along with The Lord of the Rings, The Book of the New Sun and the Earthsea Trilogy. The Riddle Masters Game is a unique journey and one of the finest fantasy series in the English language. This edition has an introduction by Graham Sleight.
We are lucky this month to see two additions to the Science Fiction Masterworks collection. First up is the short story collection Dark Benediction by Walter M Miller Jr. Best known for the quiet brilliant novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M Miller Jr also wrote many equally dazzling short works of fiction and Dark Benediction collects some of his finest stories. Stories include the Hugo Award-winning "The Darfstellar", "Conditionally Human" β an early example of genetically uplifted animals, "I, Dreamer" and "The Big Hunter" amongst others. This edition has an introduction by Pat Cadigan.
The Wind's Twelve Quarters was Ursula K Le Guin's first short story collection and includes the Hugo Award-winning "The Ones who walk away from Omelas", the Nebula Award-winning "The Day before the revolution" and the Hugo Award-nominated "Winters King" β a story that provides a glimpse into the world that would host the authors masterpiece, The Left Hand of Darkness. This edition has been combined with The Compass Rose, a short story collection on the theme of directions. The Compass Rose won the Locus Award for best Single Author Collection in 1983.
This edition has an introduction by Graham Sleight, a foreword by the author herself and contains no less than 37 short stories, each a considered work of art.
The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.
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