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Year round-up Best of 2019: Science fiction and fantasy

IN THE near future our world collectively turns its back on intrusive digital technology in Green Valley by Louis Greenberg (Titan).

Most people are no longer content to have their lives run by connected devices which are themselves run by unaccountable corporations. The surveillance state of the early 21st century is dead and buried —  or, at least, it's buried.

There's just one quarantined enclave where people still insist on living the cyberspace way — Green Valley. That's where police consultant Lucie's niece lives with her family and that's where the girl has gone missing. Lucie's going to have to go in there to find her and hope she can get out again.

Greenberg’s come up with a fresh approach to the cyber-dystopia setting in this exciting conspiracy thriller.

Wildly and consistently funny, Warlock Holmes: The Sign of Nine by GS Denning (Titan) is not so much a new twist on Sherlock Holmes as a satire on the whole of the "alternative Holmes" genre.

Warlock Holmes is indeed a warlock but he's also a friendly, well-meaning idiot. It's only thanks to the deductive genius of his flatmate, Watson, that he manages to survive, let alone solve, cases.

This isn’t a mere send-up, though, as the atmosphere of the book tells you it's written by someone who really knows the original canon.

Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphreys (Gollancz) is the first part of a new fantasy series based on a fascinating idea. For unknown reasons, a small number of people are immortal, and there's nothing to tell them apart. The only way you find out you are one is when you are killed, and then come back to life.

Each of the three realms of this world, topographically isolated, believes itself to be alone but now a fourth land is waging war on all of them. Instantly gripping and thoroughly unusual, this book ends on a cliffhanger which has me impatient for part two.

As so often in fantasy novels, capitalism is emerging from feudalism in A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz), the first part of a trilogy.

While banking and manufacturing are becoming more powerful than magic and royalty, the emerging working class is losing out in all directions.

Premature revolutions by barely organised workers force fragile alliances between warring sections of the ruling classes as all that is solid melts into air.

Inevitably, as a system based on profit must have war to fuel it, there are outside enemies to worry about, too. Both the magic and the class struggle are subtly handled by Abercrombie, while the humour is delightfully rough.

It’s a tremendous book, as if Friedrich Engels and Terry Pratchett had agreed to collaborate in rewriting George RR Martin.


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