Infomocracy (Tor, $24.99) by Malka Older presents a futuristic world with eerie parallels to current events. In this imagined reality, countries are micromanaged by centenals, mini-democracies that vote on which global government they want to join. Elections are held every 10 years so that there is “time for governing in between bouts of politics.” An organization called Information, which oversees everything from the elections to the media, is overloaded with personal data and ripe for corruption. With an election looming, Supermajority Heritage will do anything to keep its lead, and its rival Liberty isn’t above a little manipulation of its own. Someone is trying to sabotage the process by taking out Information’s communication system. Political operative Ken, Information agent Mishima and anarchist Domaine must figure out who is responsible before there are more attacks. Older, a humanitarian worker and sociology scholar, uses her expertise well in this uncanny political thriller. The novel offers the relevant reminder that “despite all the Information available, people tend to look at what they want to see.”
Everyone is after a magic knife in Jeremy Bushnell’s gripping supernatural thriller The Insides (Melville, paperback; $16.95). What’s so special about this shard of a sword? It can cut through space and time. The tale revolves around Ollie Krueger, a butcher at a posh New York restaurant called Carnage. A former practitioner of the magical arts, Ollie is forced back into the practice again when the special knife falls into her hands under rather bloody circumstances. Now, with a candy-crunching psychopath named Pig on her trail, and his hired psychic who can track her no matter where she goes, Ollie will have to resort to magic once again to save her life. Each of the characters comes with a fascinating backstory — so intriguing, in fact, readers may pine to know more than they’re told here. But Bushnell (“The Weirdness”) ties up everything quite nicely with a hopeful yet creepy and ambiguous ending.
Captain R.J. MacCready is a wisecracking zoologist sent into the heart of the Brazilian jungle on a secret mission in Hell’s Gate (Morrow, $26.99) by Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch. It’s 1944, and a Japanese submarine large enough to carry bombers has run aground in the Amazon. MacCready needs all the help he can get, as this jungle is alive with all manner of sadistic creatures: Nazis, telepathic vampire bats and giant man-eating turtles. But MacCready also finds that a botanist friend he thought was dead is in fact alive and well, now married to an indigenous woman considered by her tribe to be a witch. Together, the three try to stop the Nazis from launching their newest biological weapon and appease the awakening environment. “Hell’s Gate” is a fun summer read, but you’ll never hear noises in the dark again without looking behind you for slithering shadows.
Nancy Hightower, who reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for the Washington Post, is author of “The Acolyte.”