The Departure

by Neal Asher

I’m a big fan of Neal Asher’s Polity Universe, so I was trying to figure out if I missed anything. I didn’t. But it turns out he wrote another sci-fi series. It’s good! This guy basically upgrades himself by merging with an AI, saves the planet from a space station that can kill anyone, any time, and hijacks the space station to rescue his sister from Mars. Echoes of the Polity Universe in a compelling series of its own. Loved it.

Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pinocchio, basically. Or I, Robot. Or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Or a thousand other stories considering the relationship between humans and artificial constructs. It’s well-written if a little flat, and I enjoyed the story.

Since Ishiguro is a Nobel laureate I bet a lot of people picked up this book who don’t ordinarily read science fiction, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why they seem to be so impressed by it. Those of us who do read lots of sci-fi will probably enjoy this book, but won’t find any new ideas in it.

An Excess Male

by Maggie Shen King

China’s one-child policy and the value it places on men over women results in a society with too many men, state-mandated polygamy, and men desperate for any chance at (shared) domestic bliss. Factor in state intolerance of gays and neurodivergents, a quarter of men unable to join a marriage, and China has a lot of “excess”—disposable, even—males. Characters you’ll care about and an exciting plot make this a good read.

Elder Race

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

That’s the premise for this book in a nutshell. A brave princess from a medieval town travels to an ancient wizard’s tower for help stopping a demon that threatens her land. But it’s vastly advanced technology, not magic or monsters. Good read.

Jack Four

by Neal Asher

I love Neal Asher’s Polity Universe and I’ll read anything set in it. This one started with an interesting premise: Jack Four is an AI sub-mind cut off from its “parent” so he’s faced with true independence. It kept me turning the pages, but possibly for the first time I felt pretty meh about a Neal Asher novel. Recommended for Polity completionists who want to know more about the Prador king and the Spatterjay virus. Not recommended for anyone new to the Polity Universe. (Start with something like The Technician.)