For our seasonal themes during May, Rachel has been focusing on interplanetary sci-fi, while Joanna has been reading about time travel. We’ve also featured reviews of a climate-focused near future thriller, the start of a charming new high fantasy series, and a smart, philosophical historical fantasy.
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Selection is the process through which a prince of Illéa finds a wife: a lengthy, televised spectacle in which thirty-five young women are picked to live in the palace and get to know the prince. America Singer doesn’t want to be a princess, and is determined to marry for love. She only fills in the application form because her parents and her boyfriend both encourage her to take the chance, but predictably enough, when she actually meets Prince Maxon she finds he has a certain charm. This has all the makings of a rags-to-riches romance, and on the surface this is a gentle romantic comedy, but the setting is a dystopian future and there are hints of unrest in the form of rebel attacks and suppressed histories that look set to be expanded in the later books. I enjoyed America’s growth through the story, too, as she learns to cope with difficult, unfamiliar situations and to put her own needs first.
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Verity Price is a ballroom dancer, cocktail waitress… and trained cryptozoologist who shares her apartment with a colony of talking mice. I adored the Aeslin mice, who have extensive religious ceremonies to commemorate anything and everything that’s ever happened to the Price family, and whose presence gives rise to a number of laugh-out-loud moments. Verity is running across the Manhattan rooftops when she bumps into a member of the Covenant, a secret organisation aiming to wipe out the supernatural wildlife Verity and her family have sworn to protect. Fun and lighthearted, with a twist of romance and no shortage of humour, a charming cast, and a complex ecosystem of supernatural beings. (Did I mention how much I love the mice?)
Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
Dr Jane Holloway is recruited for a very unusual mission, one of a small crew selected to travel out to an alien vessel stranded in the asteroid belt. Holloway has a strong background in field linguistics, which isn’t the most natural background for an astronaut, but her skills are in demand: fundamentally, this is a first contact mission, and NASA wants to stand a chance of understanding and communicating with any surviving aliens. I have to confess that, as an academic linguist myself, I was looking forward to some sophisticated linguistic enquiry at this point — but instead there’s a clever shortcut that reads a lot like telepathy. The story is well-paced, though, with interesting crew dynamics including a little romance, so there was plenty to keep me turning the pages.