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11Jun

The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup

Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques

Britain under Nazi rule is a staple of alternate history, but CJ Carey’s Widowland (Quercus, £14.99) makes it fresh again. The story is seen through the eyes of Rose, who, being young, healthy and attractive to men, has the highest status permitted to women under the caste system designed by Alfred Rosenberg, Britain’s Protector. It’s 1953, and the war continues, but Britain is one of Germany’s allies. Rose, who is having an affair with her boss in the ministry of culture, is assigned to rewrite classic works of literature to ensure they align with Nazi ideals. Another task brings her into contact with inhabitants of “widowland” – a ghetto for childless women over 50 who are treated with official contempt and kept on short rations. They have not forgotten the truth about the past and have something to teach Rose about books and resistance. CJ Carey is a pseudonym for Jane Thynne, author of a series of spy novels set in 1930s Germany, and she clearly knows her Nazis. Rosenberg was a real Nazi ideologue who thought society would benefit if women were forced to live under a caste system, with older, childless widows seen as a drain. This is an absorbing, Orwellian dystopia that makes a good case for the subversive power of literature.

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