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Sience Fiction Round-up War and peace in space, time-shifts anywhere and anywhen on Earth

A WAR between socialist and capitalist factions of the human diaspora has finally been ended with an act of genocidal savagery, in Gareth L Powell's Embers of War (Titan, £7.99), the opening volume of a three-part space opera.

Disgusted by her role in the crime, sentient warship Trouble Dog defects to a non-sectarian, apolitical organisation that is dedicated to rescuing the crews of spaceships in distress.

But their latest SOS mission proves that not everyone is pleased when conflict ends and that, whether you find yourself on the defeated or the victorious side of a war, winning the peace is always going to be much harder.

Thoughtful, creative and lively, with a definite whiff of Graham Greene during his poking-fun-at-colonialism phase, this is top-class space fiction.

The Night Lies Bleeding by MD Lachlan (Gollancz, £20) is the final part of a series but designed to work well as a stand-alone novel. It features Endamon Craw, a London-based anthropologist specialising in systems of belief who's also an ancient and immortal werewolf.

Craw has been in human form for a long time, but, as the Luftwaffe's blitz thunders around him, he can feel that the wolf within him is getting ready to emerge again.

But before he can begin making arrangements to disappear and start afresh, he is seconded by the War Office to a police investigation into a series of mysterious, ritualistic deaths.

Meanwhile, at a castle in Germany, an elite group within the SS is insanely and ruthlessly pursuing occult research, with the aim of raising the Norse gods.

It is the origin and destiny of Craw's wolf persona that links both strands, but his own war aims are not those of the nazis or the Allies. Will he find his wife, lost to him so many times over the centuries? Might he even find that greatest of all prizes, death?

This is an extraordinary piece of writing. Very bold and unpredictable at every turn, it's sometimes a dizzying mixture of mythology, horror, war story and detective story, shot through with a satirical humour that is at moments dry, at others broad and always well-timed.

A disaster somewhere in our future has shattered the Earth's timeline into a kind of random jigsaw, in Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald (Titan, £7.99).

Walk a few miles in any direction and you're likely to find yourself in a different age. You could be in the Roman province of Britannia at one moment, running from dinosaurs the next or suddenly trying to outwit Protestant witch-hunters.

In this frightening new world, Amber, a contemporary Californian on a visit to London, teams up with a Celtic warrior and a 1980s policewoman as they search for anywhere or anywhen that offers safety.

It's pretty much non-stop action and adventure but with hints of some chewier time-travel ideas to come in future instalments.

Based on an arresting concept, this first episode of a trilogy is never dull for a moment.



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