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Cry Pilot by Joel Dane

Picture of book cover for Cry PilotThe good folks at Bookriot have an excellent one sentence description of the sub-genre of military science fiction; it’s “centered on the technologies and impacts of war on soldiers and society.” In recent years, this field has seen a lot of really great work from newer authors such as Marko Kloos and Linda Nagata, as well as by more established authors such as Kameron Hurley and Jack Campbell. Cry Pilot is the first in a new series and I REALLY enjoyed it. So much so that I’m a bit disappointed I found it before later books in the series were completed. Sigh. Publishers Weekly loved it as well: “Riveting action paired with a sharp psychoemotional landscape combine for the explosive launch of a futuristic trilogy. Centuries in the future, humans live in tiny corporate enclaves while the ruined Earth undergoes terra fixing, a process that sometimes creates biological horrors. Maseo Kaytu is a refugee with a secret, which makes it hard for him to enlist in the corporate military, but through a touch of chicanery and a stint as a cry pilot–human “keys” needed to engage highly technological, high-lethality vehicles known as CAVs–he earns his place in Group Aleph for basic training. The group is part of a program that’s been formed to address the rising threat of entities called lampreys. It’s not an easy road through basic training, but he manages as part of a squad that becomes closer than family despite his checkered past. Frequent adrenaline-rush action scenes make up most of the novel, interspersed with Kaytu’s internal narrative and experiences. This is an intriguing, thoughtful exploration of what a corporatized future might look like, liberally peppered with scenes of military life.”

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

everythingEvery so often I like to read a good post-apocalyptic novel – among other things, it makes me appreciate all the more the life I have now. This book, though – whew! It hits a little too close to the here and now for my comfort, but I put it right up there with King’s The Stand in my post-apocalypse Hall of Fame. Publisher’s Weekly wrote “Wendig pulls no punches in this blockbuster apocalyptic novel, which confronts some of the darkest and most divisive aspects of present-day America with urgency, humanity, and hope. The day after a comet blazes over the west coast of North America, Benji Ray, a disgraced former CDC epidemiologist, is summoned to meet Black Swan, a superintelligent computer designed to predict and prevent disasters, which has determined that Benji must treat an upcoming pandemic. That same morning, Shana wakes up to find her little sister, Nessie, sleepwalking down the driveway and off toward an unknown goal, one of a growing number of similar travelers who are unable to stop or to wake. Shana in turn becomes one of many shepherds, protecting the travelers from a crumbling American society that’s ravaged by fear, dogma, disease, and the effects of climate change, while Benji grapples with his daunting assignment and questions about Black Swan’s nature and agenda. Wendig challenges readers with twists and revelations that probe issues of faith and free will while crafting a fast-paced narrative with deeply real characters. His politics are unabashed-characters include a populist president brought to power by neo-Nazis, as well as murderous religious zealots-but not simplistic, and he tackles many moral questions while eschewing easy answers. This career-defining epic deserves its inevitable comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand, easily rising above the many recent novels of pandemic and societal collapse.”

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Book jacket cover of Nine PintsI don’t know whether it’s nature or nurture, but those Green brothers sure can write. John (The Fault in Our Stars, etc) is an established superstar. This is Hank’s debut novel and he (IMHO) knocked it out of the park. Kirkus Reviews (who are quite hard to impress) gave it a starred review, writing: “A young graphic artist inspires worldwide hysteria when she accidentally makes first contact with an alien. Famous multimedia wunderkind Green is brother to that John Green, so no pressure or anything on his debut novel. Luckily, he applies wit, affection, and cultural intelligence to a comic sci-fi novel suitable for adults and mature teens. It’s endearing how fully he occupies his narrator, a 20-something bi artist named April May who is wasting her youth slaving at a Manhattan startup. On her way home late one night, April encounters an armored humanoid figure, which turns out to be alien in nature—”And I don’t mean alien like ‘weird,’ ” she says. She phones her videographer friend Andy Skampt, who posts on YouTube a funny introduction to the robot she dubs Carl. April’s life is turned upside down when the video goes massively viral and immovable Carls appear in cities around the world. After they discover a complex riddle involving the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” the mystery becomes a quest for April; Andy; April’s roommate/kind-of-sort-of girlfriend, Maya; a scientist named Miranda; and April’s new assistant, Robin, to figure out what the Carls are doing here. “None of us older than twenty-five years old, cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard, planning our press strategy for the announcement of First Contact with a space alien,” says April. April and her friends are amiable goofballs and drawn genuinely for their age and time. Meanwhile, the story bobs along on adolescent humor and otherworldly phenomena seeded with very real threats, not least among them a professional hater named Peter Petrawicki and his feral followers. Green is clearly interested in how social media moves the needle on our culture, and he uses April’s fame, choices, and moral quandaries to reflect on the rending of social fabric. Fortunately, this entertaining ride isn’t over yet, as a cliffhanger ending makes clear. A fun, contemporary adventure that cares about who we are as humans, especially when faced with remarkable events.” I read this book in one sitting and absolutely loved it. Highly recommended!