The best new sci-fi this month from Jasper Fforde to Hugo-nominated Daniel Polansky

A priestess can manipulate space-time in Meredith Mooring’s debut novel

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Now we have finally moved on from an interminable January, it is time to see what science fictional delights February has in store – and it’s a varied line-up this month. I am looking forward to some enjoyably disastrous-sounding postapocalyptic novels from Daniel Polansky and Paul E. Hardisty – I love a good tale of a world in ruins – and I’m also going to make time for the latest novel from Jasper Fforde, a writer who I have loved ever since The Eyre Affair came out in 2001. Top of my list to track down, though, is Meredith Mooring’s Redsight – starring a blind priestess who can manipulate space-time.

Nothing can cheer me up more than a good post-apocalyptic romp, and the new novel from Hugo Award nominee Polansky sounds like a corker. Manhattan has been enveloped by the funk, a “noxious cloud” that separates it from the world and mutates its population. Generations on, those who remain are focused only on surviving, when the first tourist in centuries arrives on the Island.

This is waiting on my desk at home for the moment I get a minute to read it. It is the prequel to climate emergency thriller The Forcing, and sees Kweku Ashworth, who was born on a sailboat as his parents fled disaster, setting out to uncover what led the world to cataclysm. More post-apocalyptic disaster – great!

This is the sequel to Fforde’s bestselling Shades of Grey, set in a society where hierarchy is determined by the colours you can see, following “Something that Happened” 500 years earlier. When Eddie Russett and Jane Grey discover this might make no sense at all, and could potentially be unfair, they investigate.

Unemployed and in debt, Jonathan Abernathy takes a job as a dream auditor, which will see him entering workers’ dreams to remove their anxieties so they can be more productive. I love this brilliantly sinister idea, and this novel has been described by one reviewer as the “spiritual sibling of Severance, but creepier”, which is right up my street.

This sounds delightfully weird: plastic girl Erin lives in a plastic world, where she sells her fellow plastic people a form of wearable tech called a Smartbody, which allows them to fully immerse themselves in a virtual world as a refuge from real life and its wars. “Profound, hilarious, wrenching, bizarre, about an imaginary universe with incalculable complexities that is also somehow our own broken world,” says author Elizabeth McCracken.

Redsight by Meredith Mooring

I like the sound of the heroine, Korinna, in Mooring’s debut novel: she is a blind priestess who can manipulate space-time, but who has been raised to believe she is weak and useless. When she takes a job as a navigator on an Imperium ship, she discovers she is meant to become a weapon for the Imperium – but then her ship is attacked by a notorious pirate, Aster Haran, and Korinna’s world changes.

Exordia by Seth Dickinson

“Michael Crichton meets Marvel’s Venom,” says the publisher of this story of Anna, a refugee and survivor of genocide, who joins a team investigating a “mysterious broadcast and unknowable horror” as “humanity reels from disaster”. I’m loving the drama we are being promised here.

Tipped by our former sci-fi columnist Sally Adee as one to watch out for in 2024, there are two Earths in this set-up, existing in parallel, which “shifters” can cross between. Canna and Lily are the same person, shifting randomly between worlds, lives and families, but they need to settle in one of them – and how can they prepare their loved ones for their final disappearance?

Maybe this debut novel isn’t science fiction per se, but it is fiction about science and it sounds intriguing, so I wanted to mention it. It sees young physicist Helen, who is on a quest to save the planet, decide to follow her mentor (who has been involved in a sex scandal with a student) to an island research institute giving safe harbour to disgraced artists and scientists.

The Bone Hunters is loosely inspired by the life of 19th-century palaeontologist Mary Anning

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Again, not science fiction but fiction about science, and pitched as The Essex Serpent meets Ammonite, so hard to say no to, for me at least. Loosely drawing from the life of the pioneering 19th-century palaeontologist Mary Anning, this is set in 1824 Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK, when 24-year-old Ada Winters uncovers some “unusual fossils” on the cliffs.

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