The Last Human by: Zack Jordan- Jordan’s debut is a witty, engaging sf novel for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sarya the Daughter can’t expect much as a registered low-tier Spaal; low-tiers just aren’t meant to accomplish more than the bare minimum. When a fateful encounter with a stranger results in the death of her adoptive mother and the destruction of her home, Sarya’s secret is exposed: Sarya is in fact not a low-tier Spaal, but a Human—the only one known to exist for the last 10 million years. Now two omniscient entities want Sarya for their own purposes: one to resurrect the Human species, and one to extinguish it for eternity. The Last Human ponders serious themes such as classism, lack of freedom, and the meaning of destiny, all while injecting this contemplation with humor. The characters, while low-tier in intellect (or so others who inhabit the book claim), are high-tier in enjoyability.
The Killing Fog by: Jeff Wheeler- The Grave Kingdom series, inspired by the author’s visits to Alaskan glaciers and the Great Wall of China, is set in a world where the use of magical artifacts calls forth a fog with a deadly side effect. Young Bingmei, the sole survivor of a warrior family, has been adopted and trained by another band of honorable mercenaries. The “winter sickness” she was born with sets her apart by appearance and gives her the ability to smell others’ emotions. This makes her invaluable as a lie detector, but it has personal drawbacks, too. Another band joins them to find a lost palace among the glaciers that promises fabulous wealth. But they inadvertently awaken Echion, Dragon of Night, who requires Bingmei’s help in awakening his queen so he can reclaim the world he once ruled. This sets into motion the adventures of Bingmei and her friends, as they must thwart a very powerful mage who can control the killing fog.
A Pale Light in the Black by: K. B. Wagers- After almost driving themselves to extinction, human beings have colonized the local solar system and the nearby Trappist system, using an anti-aging drug to extend their lifespans. Every year, the military branches, which protect civilization, compete in the Boarding Games. This year, the Near-Earth Orbital Guard hopes to finally win against the Navy—if their newest recruit can be whipped into shape in time. Max Carmichael, a child of the most influential family on Earth, has broken with tradition and enlisted in the NeoG. But there’s a vast conspiracy afoot that threatens genocide on a massive scale. The big mystery establishes high stakes and the exciting competition sequences of the Games make this book a surprisingly fun read, but this is a character-driven story above all else. Every character is someone readers will enjoy spending time with, and exploring the characters’ relationships is the heart of the tale. Aside from a few stereotypical villains, no one is a bad guy. Wagers’ first book in the NeoG series is an unexpected and refreshing twist on military science fiction.
Hearts of Oak by: Eddie Robson- Iona has been an architect and teacher for as long as she can remember, and the town continues to grow with designs she has done, by students she has taught. The king is interested in the progress of the city—buildings are taller, the city is bigger—but rarely goes outside to see it. The planning department assures that they always have more room. But after the death of a colleague during a building collapse, Iona notices that people are behaving strangely. She remembers words and concepts out of dreams, such as “felt,” “babies,” and “coins,” that never existed in the real world. The king’s advisor Clarence says everything is fine—but can you trust the words of a talking cat? Arson raises more questions. Iona, the king, and others soon discover that the oddities coming up have more to do with reality than they thought. Twists and surprises abound in this engaging sf adventure.
The Queen’s Bargain by: Anne Bishop- Eyrien witch Jillian is finally coming of age, and her feelings are fraught with trauma and confusion. Lord Dillon’s attention is centered on her, how could she not love this handsome, engaging young man? Dillon would rather leave his past behind, and make sure he is in control of his future. Meanwhile, the marriage between Surreal SaDiablo and Daemon Sadi, warlord prince of Dhemlan, is starting to turn. The dual story lines in this tenth entry in the “Black Jewels” series contain some rocky action, but there is obvious joy in bringing back beloved characters to a place where death does not always mean the end.