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

Woman Eating by Claire Kohda (Virago, £14.99)
A young artist arrives in London for an internship in a prestigious gallery. Without enough money for another bedroom, she plans to sleep on the floor of her unfurnished studio. Lydia is the daughter of a Japanese father and a half-British, half-Malaysian mother, but what really sets her apart is that she is a vampire. After her vampire mother swore never to kill another human being, the two survived on fresh pig’s blood, but alone in London, Lydia struggles to find food. The pudding barely avoids the pangs and she can’t digest the oats. As her hunger grows, she imagines she could starve the vampire part of herself; watching cooking videos online, she considers her heritage: “In most Asian cultures…there is no respect for the vampiric monster like there is in the West; most bloodsuckers are women…” The most unusual, original and surprisingly contemporary vampire novel to appear in years.

Lambda by David Musgrave

Lambda by David Musgrave (Europe, £12.99)
This impressive debut from a visual artist is set in an alternate 2019, in a slightly different Britain to ours. Object relationship laws have granted rights to intelligent machines (including talking toothbrushes), cyberattacks are not so much terrorism as a “business plan that capitalizes on the threat of murder by mass”, and a different race of beings has been part of the population for half a century. Tiny, air-breathing aquatic mammals, lambdas arrive by sea in small groups, quickly learn English, and are an accepted, if mysterious, class living in flooded basements, transported by terrestrial humans in aquariums to offices to perform menial work. But when a school bombing is blamed on the Army of Ascension Lambda, acceptance turns to hatred. An imaginative revision of some of today’s fears and fantasies, written with bravery and wit, this is literary SF at its best.

Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick

Plutoshin by Lucy Kissick (Gollancz, £16.99)
Thanks to the inventions of Clavius ​​Harbor, “the most powerful maverick in the solar system”, 100 scientists and engineers have settled in a habitat on dark and distant Pluto, 4 billion kilometers from the sun, to begin the long terraforming process. Yet someone is trying to sabotage the mission. Harbor’s 10-year-old daughter Nou holds a vital clue, but she’s too traumatized by a near-fatal accident to speak. Can kind Lucian, the “sunbringer” who designed their solar mirror project, gain her trust, solve the mystery, and save the world? The author holds a PhD in planetary geochemistry and clearly knows his field. The science rings true, and the depictions of what it might look like on Pluto are thrillingly vivid. The tale itself is oddly old-fashioned, reminiscent of a children’s book in how easily a child can step out into the frozen, airless world on its own, the absence of sex, the excitement around baked goods, and an overall retro-comfortable . Anglicism. But it’s a good rousing story, perhaps best enjoyed with a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (Tor, £16.99)
Kaiju, Japanese for “strange creature”, refers to both a film genre and the gigantic monsters it features. The premise of Scalzi’s latest novel is that Godzilla was a real creature that crossed another dimension before dying, and the gigantic beast’s body inspired the first of the Japanese monster movies. The atomic bomb and the first nuclear explosions had the effect of thinning the barrier between our world and that of the kaiju. Something there has put life on a radically different path, unhindered by the law of the square cube which determines the largest size a living creature can be on Earth. To protect our world and keep the kaiju in their place, the titular society was created; but others have come to know, not all of whom have the best interests of either world at heart. Extremely pleasant, intelligent and good-humored fun.

The Way of the Worm by Ramsey Campbell

The Path of the Worm by Ramsey Campbell (Flame Tree, £9.95)
The final volume in the Three Births of Daoloth trilogy brings the story of Dominic Sheldrake’s lifelong struggle against a sinister cult to the present day. The cult has grown into a worldwide religion, the Church of the Three Eternals, and Dom’s own son is a member. The previous book offered the remote possibility that Dom was driven insane by his own paranoid obsession, but this stunning, apocalyptic conclusion does not. Although he is now best known for his more subtle evocations of unease, Campbell’s early stories were heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft. Here he returns to his roots, surpassing even Lovecraft in his portrayals of utter cosmic terror.

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