All the Birds in the Sky
By Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
Anders presents a boy-meets-girl story, but the girl (Patricia) is a witch, and the boy (Laurence) is a computer genius. They have to escape not only sadistic school bullies, but also a determined assassin. The pair must get help from old allies of their youth — a long-lost computer and a great tree — to stem the tide of destruction brought on by an apocalyptic event known as the Unraveling. A fairy tale and an adventure rolled into one.
By Indra Das (Del Rey)
Cyrah is a strong, resourceful Muslim woman who is raped by Fenrir, a shape-shifter that wishes to create life the way humans do (instead of devouring humans, as is its custom). Cyrah, refusing to give Fenrir’s rhetoric any validation, forms an alliance with another shape-shifter as she relentlessly pursues Fenrir to confront him for his crime. The tale of these three broken souls is translated by professor Alok Mukherjee at the request of a beautiful stranger, whose life is bound to Cyrah’s and Fenrir’s.
In this futuristic world with eerie parallels to current events, 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, 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.
The Unfinished World
By Amber Sparks (Liveright)
A masterful collection of speculative fiction. One particularly powerful tale, “The Janitor in Space,” is a lyrical exploration of a woman’s choice to live on a space station as penance for past sins. Sparks experiments with form in “The Logic of the Loaded Heart,” a story presented as word problems. Familial relationships are strained in “The Lizzie Borden Jazz Babies” when one twin plans to start dating, the other to start murdering. The titular — and longest — story focuses on a young boy named Set growing up during World War I with an eccentric, dysfunctional family that wonders whether the boy has a soul.
By Dexter Palmer (Pantheon)
Rebecca Wright is a high-functioning alcoholic in a loveless marriage. Her growing unease is suddenly disrupted by a car accident that destabilizes her future in unforeseen ways. In one version of this time-traveling world, she has lost her son in a car crash. In another, it is her husband who is the casualty. Rebecca comes to realize that the world is horribly “upside down” in either version, and it is up to her to create a narrative that makes sense.