Critics' Lists: Summer 2013
6:03 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Secrets Of The Universe: 5 Great SF And Fantasy Summer Reads

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 2:03 pm

This summer, you can expect to be profoundly haunted by some of the best works of speculative fiction the season has to offer. The protagonists in these novels are mobbed by the ghosts of history, by the re-awakened dead, and by their recollections of traumas so formative that they transcend personal experience to become species memory. They are also, somewhat humorously, dogged by all the secret truths that have been edited out of Wikipedia entries.

The recovery of lost information seems a fitting fictional theme during a summer when the nation is riveted by stories of how our intelligence agencies secretly gather vast quantities of data about us. This theme is so common in science fiction and fantasy that it has almost become a cliche, but each of these books strikes out into unexpected terrain as they explore the ways the past catches up with us. A middle-aged man wonders whether he really deserved to have his life saved by a witch-goddess when he was a boy. A serial killer travels through time, trying to change the future with his carefully selected murder victims. Cryogenically preserved "bridesicles" are re-animated by men who want mail-order brides from the past. Each of the books I've chosen here is fantastic precisely because it undermines our expectations at every turn.

Annalee Newitz writes about the intersection of science and culture. She's the editor in chief of io9.com, and the author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction.

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