Try something new and amazing! Stretch your horizons beyond this world and time and check out the new science fiction books at the library.
Let’s lead off with The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson, a first novel whose title isn’t exactly indicative of the fascinating world created therein. Baru Cormorant is a young woman whose home is conquered by the Empire of the Masks. They destroy her culture, criminalize her customs and kill one of her fathers. She is one tough young woman, however, and determines to get back at the Empire and free her people, not by open rebellion (too easy to crush), but by infiltrating their culture and working her way high enough in the hierarchy to achieve her ends. Spectacularly successful in her pretended assimilation, Baru is ultimately sent to another conquered country, this one on the brink of rebellion, to bring order to its chaos. This country, Aurdwynn, seethes with treachery, intrigue and danger, and Baru has to navigate not only the rebels there, but a shadowy cabal within the Empire itself, leading to a do or die gambit that may win her everything, or destroy everything she cares about. The worldbuilding in this novel has been compared to that of Dune, the characters fascinating and well-rounded, and the plot is both exciting and morally compelling.
A different sort of empire awaits the reader in Luna: New Moon, by Ian McDonald. On the moon, everything is controlled by five ruling corporations, known as the Dragons. The most powerful of the corporations, which controls the monopoly on helium-3, is run by one Adriana Corta. She started from nothing and built herself a family empire through sheer ruthlessness, and consolidated her power through marriage alliances with other powers on the moon. But now Adriana is getting old, and the enemies she made on her way up are circling her corporation, looking for ways to take it (and her) down. It’s up to her children to fight to preserve their mother’s legacy from outside enemies and from each other. If this sounds like a Jackie Collins novel, or a version of Game of Thrones, it’s very different because it’s set on the moon, and the lunar setting is vivid and surprising: the effects of the moon’s low gravity, the intricacies of how people get to the moon, live on its unforgiving surface and wrest their livings from it.
Return to earth, then, for a different kind of speculative world in Menagerie, by Rachel Vincent. Twenty five year old Delilah Marlow, a bank teller, has never had any reason to think of herself as anything other than human until the day she visits a traveling menagerie and witnesses an act of cruelty toward one of the captives there, a female werewolf. Furious at the callous treatment of the poor creature, Delilah transforms and attacks the menagerie worker, but she’s not in human form when she does. In a moment her entire life changes: no longer considered human, she’s stripped of all her possessions, all her rights, and becomes one of the exhibits in the menagerie herself. As Delilah comes to know the other creatures in the menagerie and the enigmatic and strange owner of the traveling show, she faces torture and humiliation but never gives up her struggle for freedom. The book is exciting and compulsively readable but — and you know this is one of my personal bugbears when it comes to books so I feel the need to warn everybody about this — it is NOT a stand-alone, but the first in a series. Still, Delilah’s world is so dark and fascinating it’s worth launching into it and waiting eagerly for the next in the series.