One of the best SF novels of 2003 was Mark Budz's debut. A tightly plotted and highly textured work, Clade is a story of life and love in a world not too far from ours, but a world that's completely different. Post "ecocaust" the world is slowly recovering, genetic engineering rebuilding the world from the bottom up. Pheromones and chemical cues are dividing the haves from the have-nots, and controlling who can live where and when. It's a dangerous place to be part of the underclass. Rigo lives in San Jose, working as a technician for one of the genetic giants. It's a small but happy life, until a string of events bring him into conflict with the new world order, and he finds that nothing is as simple as he thought it was. Budz draws his world with care, and populates it with people that we can relate to. An excellent work, and a must read. A Blood Music for our times.
Diane Duane, A Wizard Alone
Kit and Nita face the Lone Power again, this time as they attempt to aid a new wizard who has been on Ordeal for three months. Initiations into the war against entropy generally only last a few days, so something is very out of the ordinary. Kit has to start on his own, as Nita is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother. When they both begin to be pulled into the dreamscape of the new wizard they discover that he is autistic. It's a challenge that will take all they have, and more. Duane's latest YA novel is a continuation of a popular series. This isn't a place to start - too much has happened and there's too much back story for the new reader. Still, as an old fan of the series, it's good to meet old friends again, and to see how they deal with the challenges that life can bring.
Jerry Pournelle, A Step Farther Out
This is an extremely out-of-date collection of polemic essays from the 1970s, dealing mainly with the energy crisis and with space colonisation (according to Pournelle, two sides of the same coin). It's interesting to see how 30 years have changed the world. Pournelle's predictions may have been wrong, but there are elements of his ideas which still make sense today. Probably best avoided, and replaced with more modern works of futurism - like Bruce Sterling's recent book...
Steven Brust, The Paths Of The Dead
A welcome return to Dragaera at the end of the Interregnum. After Adron's Disaster Khaavren went into a bit of a decline. Now it's up to his son to change the world - with the help of Sethra Lavode, of course. Brust's homage to Dumas continues in this rich volume. Delightful prose, and the mock tones of scholars, guide us through a complex storyline that introduces familiar characters from the Taltos novels, and begins to set the stage for the return of the Phoenix to the throne, and the continuation of the Cycle. Again, this is a novel for those who've followed Brust's exploration of Dragaera. There's no point in even picking this up if you haven't read the first two Khaavren Romances...
Kim Newman, Famous Monsters
A short story collection from Britain's answer to the enigma that is Howard Waldrop. What better way to meet high weirdness, but with more high weirdness? Alternate histories meet the world of film, liberally dosed with touches of horror. Zorro as werewolf? H.G. Wells' Martians acting in B-movies? Hardboiled Lovecraft? It's all in here - written with Newman's usual mix of flair, wit and intelligence. Well worth seeking out.
[13 down - 17 to go...]