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12Mar

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley; Birds of Paradise by Oliver K Langmead; The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey; A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel; and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley (Solaris, £14.99) combines an intriguing, character-driven plot with great splashes of science fictional weirdness. The novel grips from the start, exploring with deceptive simplicity issues ranging from the difficulties of communicating with the people we love to colonisation on a planetary scale. It opens in a traditional English village pub, run by Jem, who has returned home from a 10-year posting to the planet Qita with a Qitan called Isley. Although there is a spaceport nearby, the villagers have nothing to do with it; they belong to the Western Protectorate, a region of Britain that chose to divorce itself from the complications of the modern world and adopt a simpler way of life. But even they cannot escape the consequences of humanity’s contact with aliens who only appear to be human, as the truth about the Qitan lifecycle, and the imported psychedelic brew served by Jem from under the bar, is gradually revealed. I was reminded of the authors who first got me hooked on science fiction with their combination of deep humanity, brilliant storytelling and wild imagination: writers such as Theodore Sturgeon, Kate Wilhelm and Ursula Le Guin. Skyward Inn feels like an instant classic of the genre.

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