Sand, by Hugh Howey, Arrow, RRP£7.99
In a post-apocalyptic world over-run by deserts, intrepid divers plunge into the dunes to retrieve treasures from the cities buried below. Sand shows that the success of Howey’s Wool trilogy was no fluke. This is a superior SF thriller, both slick and gritty.
Bête, by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, RRP£18.99
A mordant, satirical thought-piece in which animals are fitted with artificial intelligence chips, enabling them to speak. Roberts’ fascinating, discursive riff on Animal Farm features a grubby, self-lacerating protagonist and lashings of wry humour.
Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer, Fourth Estate, RRP£10/£12.99/£12.99
VanderMeer has long been a critics’ favourite but with his Southern Reach trilogy – all three volumes published in the same year – he has hit sales gold as well. Area X is a zone of Florida blighted by an inexplicable catastrophe, becoming a locus of weird happenings. Haunting, surreal and bold.
The Martian, by Andy Weir, Del Rey, RRP£7.99
The SF book of the year, Weir’s debut is a tense, unbearably gripping survival story about an astronaut stranded on Mars with only his wits, scientific acumen and dark sense of humour to keep him alive. Brilliant.
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