Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Kim Stanley Robinson, the author of “Aurora,” using female pronouns. Robinson is a man.This version has been corrected.
Doctor Who is back. In Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse (Broadway; paperback $9.99), an ancient creature has been awoken underneath the Fetch Brothers’ Golf Spa Hotel in Scotland, and it’s hungry, a little lonely and very, very angry. The only person smart enough to battle such a thing is, of course, not a person but a Time Lord. In this latest installment of the beloved series, acclaimed novelist A.L. Kennedy has given us a witty, glorious ride with the Fourth Doctor (who was played by Tom Baker in the BBC miniseries). With golfers and townspeople rapidly disappearing, the Doctor must employ the help of Bryony the receptionist and an alien bounty hunter with very low self-esteem to outsmart one of the strongest telepathic entities alive. But even as they seek to stop its mad destruction, the Doctor and his team discover that the creature has been learning and evolving, and now they must engage with something that is no longer simply a monster, but a being seeking love. It’s a brilliant twist from Kennedy, best known for her dark, funny novels and short stories. Here she delivers a tale that will delight the legion of Doctor Who fans — and create new ones.
In Aurora (Orbit, $26), Kim Stanley Robinson presents a nuanced vision of interstellar space travel. In the year 2545, thousands of volunteers begin a multi-generational journey aboard a starship to see if another planet’s moon can sustain human life. More than 150 years later, as the passengers finally approach their destination, the ship’s chief engineer, Devi, notes a strange entropy unfolding around her: Children are being born smaller and intellectually slower, life spans are shorter, parts of the ship are breaking down. Knowing that she will not live to see the group land on the new moon, Devi devotes the rest of her time to programming the ship’s quantum computer to learn so it can get them to their destination. She succeeds, but what the space travelers find on the moon threatens their survival; it’s up to Devi’s daughter to find a way for everyone to survive. Robinson avoids the common tropes in novels about space travel — warp drives, etc. — and instead explores his characters’ internal experiences. How much, he asks, are they willing to sacrifice to find a place to call home?
Natasha Pulley’s enchanting first novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Bloomsbury, $26), is set in 19th-century London. The story centers on Thaniel Steepleton, an ordinary telegraph operator whose life is transformed when a watch is left mysteriously in his bedroom. The timepiece remains locked until one day it lets out an alarm that saves Thaniel from a bomb that obliterates Scotland Yard and many buildings surrounding it. An investigation into the explosion leads Thaniel to Baron Mori, an unassuming Japanese watchmaker who can apparently predict the future based not only on what people do, but also on what they intend to do. Thaniel begins a tentative friendship with Mori despite his suspicions that he might be the bomber. Thaniel’s examination of Mori’s work leads him to discover the possibilities of a life he could never have envisioned, one possibly orchestrated by a criminal mastermind looking for an accomplice, or a man in search of his best friend. Amid this thriller-like plot, Pulley raises thought-provoking questions about free will, fate and identity — making for a rich brew of historical fantasy, philosophy and emotion.
Nancy Hightower, the author of “Elementari Rising,” reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
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