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A female robot is created to be the perfect girlfriend for her owner in Sierra Greer’s novel Annie Bot

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From Adrian Tchaikovsky to Hao Jingfang and Natasha Pulley, a host of big science fiction names have new titles out this month. We readers can choose if we want to peer into the ruins of an alien civilisation, follow the possibility of a coming singularity and its fallout or enter the world of a sex robot – to all of which I say,  yes please, bring it on. I think I am most excited, though, about Stuart Turton’s new high-concept thriller, in which a murder takes place on an island surrounded by a fog that has destroyed the rest of the planet – crime and sci-fi, one of my favourite blends.

If all these new titles aren’t enough to keep you busy this March, you could dive back into Cixin Liu’s epic The Three-Body Problem, in anticipation of Netflix’s forthcoming adaptation. Or why not come and join us at the New Scientist Book Club, where we have just started reading Martin MacInnes’s novel In Ascension. Moving from a mysterious trench at the bottom of the Atlantic to deep space, it is just out in paperback and is a stunning read.

Alien Clay by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Is Tchaikovsky propping up the science fiction industry single-handedly? He is so prolific and reliably excellent that I think he might be. Alien Clay is the first of two new novels out over the next few months and is set on Kiln, a far-distant world where the ruins of an alien civilisation have been discovered. Professor Arton Daghdev, who has always wanted to study alien life, is exiled to Kiln for his political activism, and must work in a labour camp there. Can he discover the world’s secrets before it kills him?

I am a big Turton fan: I adore his clever, high-concept murder mysteries, from his debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, to his most recent historical crime novel, The Devil and the Dark Water. His latest outing has a definite science fiction tinge to it. It takes place in a world destroyed by a killing fog that swept the planet. The only thing to survive is the island, where 122 villagers and three scientists live in harmony – until one of the scientists is found stabbed to death, triggering a lowering of the island’s security system that will allow the fog to sweep across and kill everyone within 107 hours if the murder isn’t solved. That is already a lot to take in, but everyone’s memories have also been wiped by the security system. This sounds complex, but I trust Turton to be brilliant, so it is next on my list.

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Mars is the setting for Natasha Pulley’s new novel

Pulley is a relatively recent discovery for me, after my mum finally persuaded me to find time to read her historical, fantastical novel The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (it was a joy). This latest is set after an environmental catastrophe. January, a refugee from Earth who is now a second-class citizen on Mars because his body has yet to adjust to the lower gravity, enters a marriage of convenience with xenophobic Mars politician Aubrey Gale – who turns out to be very different from how they appear in the Martian press. I love a good romance – couple that with a sci-fi setting, and this is a must-read for me.

2054: A Novel by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis

Stavridis is not just a novelist, but also Admiral James Stavridis, formerly supreme allied commander at NATO. He and Ackerman are the authors of the bestseller 2034. In this follow-up, it is 20 years after the nuclear war between the US and China when the US president collapses and dies during an address to the nation. Conspiracy theories spread, and civil war ensues. Meanwhile, computer scientists and intelligence experts believe they know what lies behind the assassination: a profound breakthrough in AI. This sounds thrilling and provocative, and one to devote a good chunk of time to reading.

The Hugo award-winning Jingfang’s new sci-fi thriller takes place in a future in which a mysterious and highly intelligent alien race makes contact. Three scientists who aren’t convinced the aliens are a threat join forces in an attempt to prevent a potentially disastrous military response.

Our sci-fi columnist Emily Wilson rates this novel very highly. Described as a great fit for fans of Never Let Me Go and My Dark Vanessa, among which I definitely count myself, it is the story of Annie Bot, a female robot created to be the perfect girlfriend for her owner Doug. Trouble is, she starts to wonder what she really wants from life.

High Vaultage by Chris Sugden and Jen Sugden

By the authors of the podcast drama series Victoriocity, this novel is described as perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams – hi, that’s me. It is set in 1887 “Even Greater London”, an “urban plane” covering the entire lower half of England, where the “engineer-army” of Isambard Kingdom Brunel builds and demolishes whatever it thinks needs it. Meanwhile, Archibald Fleet and Clara Entwhistle have set up the country’s first private detective agency and take on a kidnapping case the police, unable to crack a series of impossible bank robberies, are too busy for.

This first-contact novel is the sequel to Johnstone’s The Space Between Us and sees the alien Enceladons now disappeared into the water off the west coast of Scotland. I am going to start with the first in this series I think. I really rate Johnstone as a crime author (his Skelfs series is laced with morbidly dark humour) so I am keen to give his sci-fi a try too.

This satirical slice of cyberpunk sounds like fun. It follows a TV sensation of the novel’s title, as its next season is set to be hosted in the neo-medieval statelet Inner Azhuur, which has been shut off from the world (by choice) for almost a century…until now. A group of misfits who will attempt to run the country must be assembled by the show’s producers, to entertain viewers around the world.

We are promised plant-based skyscrapers, a zombie apocalypse and the effects of time dilation on married life in Adam Marek’s third short story collection, as well as reluctant sex robots, and the bad parenting skills of billionaire space industrialists.


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