The best recent sci-fi and fantasy – review summary | science fiction books

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Daughter of Doctor Moreau (Jo Fletcher, £16.99)
Based on HG Wells’ classic tale, a version set not on an unknown island, but in Yucatán, Mexico, in 1871, after the indigenous Maya people refuse to work any longer for their European oppressors. This Doctor Moreau is dependent on the Izalde landowner family for sponsorship. But the Izaldes grow impatient as Moreau’s promise to provide them with the ideal new workforce remains unfulfilled, and his daughter Carlota knows that unless she can seduce the charming Eduardo Izalde into marriage, her family will lose everything. Once again, the author of Mexican Gothic demonstrates his genius for genre mashups, combining contemporary political consciousness with the allure of chilling Gothic romance.

Pushed by Lidia Yuknavich

Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch (Canongate, £16.99)
More like a long, disturbing dream than a novel of plot or character, the Book of Joan author’s final work opens in 2085, on a boat of excursionists eager to see the Statue of Liberty almost entirely submerged. One is a child who can time travel by water: she feels compelled to carry random objects (a coin, an apple, a rope) to particular individuals in earlier time periods. Along the way, she encounters turtles, a whale and worms who teach her about the stupidity of human beings. Sometimes it looks like The Water Babies, a didactic and sentimental fantasy written with a belief in the power of the imagination and a moral purpose. But this is not a children’s book. The lives touched by the magical child are those of earlier immigrants, including several in 1886 working on the reassembly of the Statue of Liberty, and Aurora, a one-legged French sexual radical. Key to it all is the idea that human beings need to learn new ways of living and understanding: this extends to the very concept of storytelling. Anyone expecting resolution or explanations will be frustrated, but for those willing to go with the flow, it’s a fascinating and unsettling ride.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Tombs by Alex Jennings (Orion, £8.99)
New Orleans is a city like no other, and Nola, a fabulous alternate version created in Jennings’ first novel, is a place where music is magic, streetcars travel through the skies, ghosts and zombies mingle with street lunatics, and citizens wait for the next big storm to arrive, wondering if they’ll survive this time. Perry Graves, his sister Brendy, and their supernaturally strong neighbor, Peaches Lavelle, must find out who stole the magic songs that protected Nola. Meanwhile, Casey Ravel, a young trans man we know recently returned to New Orleans, will discover his own connection to the magical town of Nola. The two worlds of this captivating and inventive fantasy are portrayed with such force that reading it feels a bit like a fabulous city break.

Ceremony of Life by Sayaka Murata

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Granta, £12.99)
Thirteen stories from the Japanese author who became an international bestseller with Convenience Store Woman. Picking up themes from her novel Earthlings, most of these stories deal with alienation, exploring what it means to be “normal” through a focus on characters, almost always women, who do not conform to social expectations. . In the title story, the narrator recalls that as a child it was forbidden to eat human flesh, and wonders why no one questions the current tradition of marking each death with a ritual in which the flesh of the deceased is cooked and eaten. . In the even more disturbing puzzle, Sanae is seen by her colleagues as an exceptionally kind and empathetic person, but feels more like a building or a machine, not a life form at all, despite her desire to be like the les people around her. The author’s simple, clear, and observational style makes the stories eerily believable, easy to read, and hard to forget.

Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query

Old Country by Matt and Harrison Query (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99)
Harry and Sasha buy a small ranch in a remote part of Idaho and prepare to live their dream. Everything is quite wonderful until their neighbors – who had seemed so sane and kind – warn them that the valley is cursed and give them instructions for the rituals that must be followed to stay safe. Of course, they don’t believe it; until strange things start happening, as expected. It’s classic supernatural horror, made freshly compelling with believable characters and perfect pacing, and nearly impossible to put down.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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