Daniel Lieske has made the latest instalment of his on-going Wormworld Saga graphic novel availabe on his website, and a number of translations are already on the website, too.
The Wormworld Saga follows the fortunes (and occasional misfortunes) of a boy stranded in a parallel world. The story is a classic adventure yarn, set in a fascinating world with lots of history and background, and best of all presented in absolutely gorgeous graphics.
Also - there is now a book version of Chapters 1-3 available in English - perfectly in time for Christmas! (link below)
If you're new to the story then I'd strongly suggest you start at the beginning, of course, the chapters are definitely not independent.
Martin Vopěnka is a Czech author living in Prague, with 12 novels (in Czech, two of them translated into English) and 2 travelogues under his belt. He also writes polemic articles (his description!) for MF Dnes, a daily Czech newspaper. This book was originally published in 2009 by Kniha Zlín under the title of Pátý rozměr, and was translated into English for this edition by Hana Slenkova, a budding writer born the Czech Republic and now living in Plymouth.
The Fifth Dimension is a story of an experiment, even if we're never told what exactly is being researched. The protagonist of the story, Jakub (or Jacob, as the Americans call him), is a Czech who started a construction company when the end of Communism allowed for private enterprise, and who got bankrupted in a downturn of the economy. He now keeps himself afloat with jobs which don't fulfil him, and dreams of a chance to make a big score to secure the future for himself and his beloved wife and family.
That chance comes with a vague advert by a mysterious, American agency, who is looking for candidates for an experiment. He (and us, who witness the story through his eyes and via his internal monologues) are never told what exactly is being researched, or what the experiment entails. All he learns, before he signs on the line, is that it requires him to be away from and out of contact with his family for a year (this later goes down to 10 months), and that this will earn him 200k Dollars – a substantial sum, even in today's Czech Republic. Jakub then finds himself, after some training, in a exceedingly remote part of South America (most likely Argentina), at high altitude, in a one-person facility/bunker that provides for his basic needs and allows him to take the physiological measurements of himself which are part of the deal. He has no means of communication (save for an 'abort experiment' button, pressing which means he loses his fee), and is allowed to take only one book (he takes a large tome on Astrophysics, as this is what he studied). And then the lonely 10 months, with only himself and his barren surroundings for company commence...
Ah, joy of joys - here's a Peter Watts story, set in his Sunflowers universe (he is apparently working on a novel set in it. For Christmas, pretty please? )
This is the same universe in which the Hugo-Award-winning Novelette The Island was set in, and actually follows the same wormhole-building ship/asteroid and its dysfunctional crew and AI. Giants is both highly entertaining, and thought-provoking, and managed to surprise me repeatedly, so good going in my books! The story was originally published in Clarkesworld magazine.
But whilst I'm still waiting to get my mitts on Hotshot, his other story set in that universe (as the novel, I suspect, will take a few Christmases to arrive) - Hotshot has been published in a collection called Reach For Infinity - this here at least allow us to whet our appetite...
Aliette de Bodard is a US-born, Franco-Vietnamese writer and former computer engineer living and writing (in English) in France. She has 3 novels and a substantial amount of short fiction to her name; and has won the Nebula, Locus, and BSFA Awards for her writing.
I've been meaning to read her Novella (or is it a short novel?) On a Red Station, Drifting since it originally came out in 2012, and kept missing to buy a copy. So I was doubly glad to run into the new Createspace reprint of the book at this year's Eastercon (and promptly talked an Antepodean visitor into buying the rest of the stack and take it back with her!).
This is another story set in her alternate-history Xuya universe (Chinese in Central America, in a very tiny nutshell – see her website for a much longer run-down on the setting), projected forward into the 22nd Century. There are loads of stories available fleshing out bits and corners of that setting, both roughly contemporary, and into the future.
On a Red Station, Drifting plays entirely on Prosper, a family-ownde space station with a human-born, immortal 'Mind' known as the Honoured Ancestress overseeing the functioning of the station, and, directly associated, the lives on the occupants. The station is part of the Dai Viet empire, which is, if not crumbling, then at least shaking and shrinking under the onslaught of rebels.
This is a heavily family based, family centred society and story, displaying only a small bit of the classic tension (which other stories in the universe play on) between the traditional Ancestor/Family based society with the Individualism present in other societies. Its ships, and as we learn now also its stations are governed by human-born 'Minds' – see some of the other short stories re. how other cultures view this (with horror, to sum it up). This is a world of strict behavioural codes, of high art including Calligraphy, Poetry, of exchanges full of allusions to and quotes from Classics. Prominent members of the family carry mem-implants holding ancestors, which provide advice and guidance to the wearer (and thus cement the continuation of the status quo, at the same time).
China Miéville is a British writer of Fantasy and SF, or 'Weird Fiction' as he sees it, as well as a comic author and academic, living, nah, being at home, in London. Amongst many other books he's the author of the 'New Crobuzon' series (Perdido Street Station et al), of the novel 'The City & the City', and of the YA adventure story Un Lun Dun, set in a parallel London, which is waiting for me to find time to pick it out of my reading pile. Er. Sorry...
Three Moments of an Explosion is his second collection of short stories, containing a total of 28 stories of varying length, 16 of which have been previously published in a number of publications and settings. His approach to story telling in the short form, as evidenced in this volume, has a clear 'typical' structure or Modus Operandi: start with a real-world, or 'standard' lightly fantastical setting, and, once the reader is settled in it, show that this is but a shell, that things are much stranger, queerer, and more fantastical below the obvious surface. And, in many cases, leave the reader, at the end, hanging with the mystery, the 'why', and the 'how'. Bastard...
If you like stories of the fantastic, the weird, intruding into daily life, then this is a must-read book. Below I'm going through the individual stories, and provide an idea of the topic, and a potted comment on what I thought of them. If you're one of the readers who are bothered by this (and it has a tendency to be spoiler-ish, by its very nature) then stop here, accept my summary that this is a greatly entertaining book which you should read, and move on.
Schrödinger’s Gun is the story of a Detective, investigating a murder in the mob scene, in a prohibition-era Chicago. So far so default as a setting - but here, the Detective is female (unusual for the time, and even more so for the genre), and has a 'Heisen Implant' in her head, which allows here to see different probabilities, and choose to collapse the quantum waveform if she chooses to - a trick which can greatly help with her work, but which has also torn apart her family. And yes, this places the story deep in SF territory, of course.
My favourite quote was "The cat must know" (yes, this is reference to the cat from Schrödinger's thought experiment). Which, AFAIK, is not true - the cat does not know if the observer is alive or dead, which means he is both?
Either way, this is very much worth reading, in my opinion. Illustration on the right by Richie Pope.