My background is in military history, and one of the things that I’ve been trying to do more of in recent months is to get a bit more up to speed on the current state of the field of modern military writing. There has been some interesting reads out this year that I’ve added to my to-read list: Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence, as well as Paul Scharre’s Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War that are both quite good.
But the real breakout read this year seems to be New York Times writer C.J. Chivers’ latest, The Fighters. It’s an intimate and detailed work of war reporting that looks at the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan through the eyes of six people who fought, year by year. It’s a book that breaks the story away from the strategic and geopolitical view and shows off the cost of the war from the people who have been waging it. It’s an astonishing and heartbreaking read.
Here are 10 books hitting shelves this December that you can pick up as a last-minute present for the holidays.
The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone
In Ezekiel Boone’s new novel, The Mansion, two former partners clash after they develop a new computer system that they call Eagle Logic. After Shawn Eagle’s girlfriend leaves him for his friend and partner Billy Stafford, he takes their technology and builds the next major tech company that surpasses the likes of Apple and Google. Years later, Shawn decides to return to a problem that they’d failed to crack years ago — Nellie, a smart house, and he’s forced to bring Billy back into the fold. But there’s something wrong with Nellie, and they will have to work together to fix the broken source code. Kirkus Reviews calls the book a “ghost story that could be described as the Overlook Hotel with Alexa onboard but is, thankfully, frightening in its own right.”
Splintered Suns by Michael Cobley
Michael Cobley’s latest novel is a standalone space opera set in his Humanity’s Fire series about the crew of a starship tasked with a heist: they have to break into a museum and steal a tracking device to find a hidden spaceship. The job is tricker than it sounds — said tracking device is also sought by a rival gang, and it’s locked away in a bio-engineered vault. But if they can steal it, it could lead them to a 250,000-year-old spaceship that might unlock untold treasures and a lost civilization.
Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
In Arwen Elys Dayton’s latest book, readers follow six interconnected stories about our relationships to our bodies, set in the near future. In one story, a family has to determine how to use the organs of one of their twins to save the other, while in another, a teenager is augmented following a horrific car accident. Publishers’ Weekly gave the book a starred review and says that “Dayton’s brilliant collection of stories is best described as a scientific Twilight Zone.
Read an excerpt here and here.
The Shattered Sun by Rachel Dunne
Rachel Dunne’s Bound Gods series comes to an end with The Shattered Sun. In the first novels, In the Shadow of Gods and The Bones of the Earth, Dunne followed warriors as they contend with a malevolent gods that want to take over their world. Here, the sun has vanished, and priest Joros, along with his companions, will attempt to save the world by striking the gods before it’s too late.
Read an excerpt.
Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies by Dave Addey
Dave Addey’s new book takes a look at an element behind all science fiction films: the fonts of the future. Addey looks at everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Moon to Blade Runner to look at how the design informs how we think about the future.
The Corporation Wars Trilogy by Ken MacLeod
Over the last couple of years, Scottish author Ken MacLeod has released a trilogy called The Corporation Wars, set in deep space where corporations rule over a series of mining colonies. Under their rule, a revolution is formulating, with an awakened AI called Seba as their leader. Orbit has collected all three novels — Dissidence, Insurgence, and Emergence — into one omnibus volume. Writing for Locus earlier this year, reviewer Russell Letson says that the series is one really long novel broken into three installments, and that “MacLeod manages big ideas (political and futurological) and propulsive action without short-changing either side of that classic science-fictional tension-of-opposites, a trait he shares with Iain M. Banks and Charles Stross.”
Read an excerpt.
Robotics Through Science Fiction: Artificial Intelligence Explained Through Six Classic Robot Short Stories edited by Robin R. Murphy
A new anthology from MIT Press collects six classic science fiction stories about robots, and examines how they helped frame the discussion around two major questions in the field: how intelligent robots are programmed, and what limits them. The stories are accompanied by a pair of essays that delve into the implications of the topic at hand. The stories are Isaac Asimov’s stories “Stranger in Paradise,” “Runaround,” and “Catch that Rabbit,” as well as Vernor Vinge’s “Long Shot,” Brian Aldiss’ “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” and Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety.”
A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White
Back in June, Alex White published A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, a space opera that followed the crew of the spaceship Capricious looking for a long-lost warship that might be critical to the fate of the universe. White continues the adventures of the crew of the Capricious as they set off to track down a mysterious cult that might have some connection to an ancient magic, all while dealing with unwanted figures from their past.
Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant
This new novella from Mira Grant is set after a disastrous outbreak of a deadly virus called Morris’s Disease, killing millions across the world. Scientist Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was ground zero for the pandemic, takes drastic action with a desperate plan to stop the illness that might save everyone. Kirkus Reviews says that the book takes “barbed aim at the anti-vaxxer movement and its surrounding ethics, while bolstering her potent cautionary tale with enough scientific factoids to make the whole rolling disaster terrifyingly plausible.”
The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm by Christopher Paolini
Christopher Paolini is returning to the world of Eragon with a new volume of stories, the first in a new series — the Tales from Alagaësia. The book contains three new stories set in Alagaësia, after Eragon left Alagaësia to search for a new home for his dragon riders, and is overwhelmed with the task. The book contains three stories. In the first, Eragon is shown a vision of a young woman named Essie who gets a new perspective on life from a mysterious traveler. In the second, he meets Angela the herbalist who provides him with a scattered memoir, while the third is an Urgal tale of vengeance. Kirkus Reviews says that “Paolini’s readers will likely enjoy revisiting the characters and world.”