(Julia Rothman/for The Washington Post)

AURORA

By Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

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, and parts of the ship are breaking down. Knowing that she will not live to see the space travelers land on the new moon, Devi programs the ship’s computer to get them to their destination. She succeeds, but what they find on the moon threatens their survival. In this riveting tale, Kim Stanley Robinson deftly explores his characters’ internal experiences. How much, he asks, are they willing to sacrifice to find a place to call home?


"Aurora" by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

"The Fifth Season" by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)

THE FIFTH SEASON

By N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

In this fantastical tale, Earth has gone through cataclysmic seasonal shifts, and a new branch of humans has arisen. Called the orogene, these humans can shift the Earth and atmosphere to protect themselves — or to harm others. If discovered by guardians when they’re young, the orogene are rounded up and trained in special centers. Within this apocalyptic landscape, N.K. Jemisin lyrically narrates the lives of three orogene women: Essun, whose son has just been brutally murdered by her husband; Damaya, a young girl taken from her home to be trained by a vicious Guardian; and Syenite, who must breed with one of the most powerful orogenes. Amid these and other difficulties, each woman discovers a secret about mysterious obelisks that suddenly appear and can channel an orogene’s energy. Jemisin’s novel sets up her Earth trilogy with gorgeous writing and captivating plot twists.

THE ONLY ONES

By Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio)

This fascinating first novel details the emotional journey of Inez Fardo, a 19-year-old who has survived terrible trauma and yet still manages to find life sometimes wondrous. In a time when most of the population has been wiped out by a series of superviruses, she makes a meager living cleaning up contaminated sites. But when it’s discovered that she is resistant to the viruses that continue to threaten the world, an amateur scientist and his team offer to harvest her DNA to make healthy babies for others. Inez goes along with the plan, but soon a series of events forces her to raise the one child produced by the experiment. What follows is a heart-piercing tale of love, desire and acceptance as Inez tries to give her daughter a different life from the one she’s experienced.


"The Only Ones" by Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio)

"Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories" by China Miéville (Del Rey)

THREE MOMENTS OF AN EXPLOSION

By China Miéville (Del Ray)

China Miéville expertly mixes science fiction, fantasy and surrealism in this gripping collection. In the story “Polynia,” for example, giant floating icebergs hover above London, becoming almost ghostly as they test the relationship between two boys. In “The Dowager of Bees,” professional card players discover that there are other, “hidden” suits (such as chains and scissors) that force losers to perform a task they don’t want to do. Amid the longer stories are more cerebral, poetic flash pieces that will haunt the reader beyond the pages of this exceptional book.

TOUCH

By Claire North (Redhook)

In this fast-paced, imaginative novel, an entity known as Kepler can move from person to person, wearing his or her skin for a while, living each life while its host’s consciousness “sleeps.” When someone tries to assassinate Kepler but kills its host instead, Kepler goes on the hunt to find out why someone wants it dead, and a cat-and-mouse game ensues. Plenty of conspiracy and intrigue enliven this deftly paced novel, but Claire North also poses subtle questions about identity and love.

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