December is traditionally a quiet month for new fiction, but there are still some science fiction gems to look forward to – not least of which are an extraordinary-sounding new title from the award-winning Geoff Ryman, and the intriguing Yours For the Taking from Gabrielle Korn, set in a near-future world destroyed by climate change. To make sure you have plenty to read over the holidays, I have also included a title that didn’t quite make it into November (because I didn’t realise at the time that it fit our science fictional remit). Terry Hayes’ The Year of the Locust might appear to be a straight thriller at first glance – but trust me, it has wild science fictional delights lying in wait. And here’s looking forward to January, when new releases should jump back up in number again.
Him by Geoff Ryman. Just in time for Christmas, this is set in Nazareth, where virgin Maryam, wife of Yosef barLevi, gives birth to a little girl named Avigayil. But as Avigayil grows up, she becomes determined to find her way as Yeshu, a man who can work miracles and speak for God. Described by its publisher as a “gripping, thoughtful sci-fi novel” that takes on the multiverse and the “survival of love through immense change and crisis”, this sounds utterly intriguing – and if it is safe in any hands, it is those of Ryman, winner of the World Fantasy Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and many others.
Grievar’s Blood by Alexander Darwin. This is the second in a series set in a far-future world, on a planet once destroyed by war, where the nations have sworn never to use weapons of mass destruction again and therefore – I mean, what other choice is there? – determine their fate through single combat between famous warriors. The first in the series is called The Combat Codes and I have to say: it sounds like just the sort of thing to keep me going through dark December days. In this sequel, we are told that the Daimyo have been ominously governing from the shadows and trying to get an edge in the arena by “unnaturally enhancing their Grievar Knights”. No, I don’t know what that means either – but once I have a spare minute, I will definitely be finding out.
Yours for the Taking by Gabrielle Korn. This is set in 2050, where climate change has ravaged the world and where the only people guaranteed survival are those accepted by The Inside Project, which has built “weather-safe, city-sized structures” around the world for its members. It follows reclusive billionaire Jacqueline, who runs the “Inside” being built in what is left of Manhattan, and those in her orbit, including Ava, who is accepted to live Inside while her girlfriend isn’t. Of course, given that Jacqueline is a reclusive billionaire, there is something dodgy going on, and Ava starts investigating. I love the sound of this, which is pitched as both a love story and an “indictment of white, corporate feminism”.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Jodi Taylor. Taylor is the author of the Chronicles of St Mary’s books, in which (we’re not allowed to call it time travel) her characters investigate major historical events. In this festive short-story collection, we are visiting the Battle of Bannockburn, having a Victorian Christmas and looking on as the Time Police hold their first Christmas party.
Star Wars Jedi: Battle scars by Sam Maggs. In the latest Star Wars Jedi novel, Cal and his friends, the crew of the Stinger Mantis, are trying to avoid the Empire’s Inquisitors before their luck runs out. This is set between the video games Star Wars Jedi: Fallen order and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and would be a nice gift for the Star Wars fan in your life (that’s not me – for anyone in my family reading this, no Star Wars for me please!).
Rebel Moon: Part One – A child of fire by V. Castro. Zack Snyder’s new film Rebel Moon is out mid-December, and this is the official novelisation of the movie. It sees a settlement on a moon in a far-flung part of the universe threated by tyrannical armies, with a “mysterious stranger” the only hope for survival – I am definitely all in for the movie, and if it is as fun as it sounds, I’m here for the novelisation too.
The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes. Bear with me for this final pick! It is the second novel from the author of I Am Pilgrim, a spy thriller following a mysterious and brilliant US secret agent as he sets out to save the world from a deadly terrorist plot. It was published in 2013 and was – deservedly – a huge bestseller, as it is absolutely brilliant. But it isn’t science fiction. The Year of the Locust is not a sequel to I Am Pilgrim, but it also features a mysterious and brilliant US secret agent (a different one), as he sets out to save the world from a deadly terrorist plot. I adored both books, but the second diverges hugely about three-quarters of the way through, taking a route that (I’m not going to spoil it here!) will make it of definite interest to my fellow sci-fi fans. I mean, it is entirely bonkers and unexpected. But please do me a favour and read it, so we can discuss and dissect it together (I’m at @alisonflood on X and ready to talk).