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16Jul

The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – review roundup

When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson; A Strange and Brilliant Light by Eli Lee; Robot by Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg; Come Closer by Sara Gran; The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig and The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

Playwright Neil Sharpson’s first novel, When the Sparrow Falls (Solaris, £8.99), is set in the 23rd century, after the development of “contran”: a process for the quick and easy transfer of consciousness from one body to another, or from a physical body to a blissfully free existence in a virtual environment. Along with this great leap forward has come the erasure of any legal distinctions between people born the old-fashioned way and those formerly described as “artificial intelligences” – all are equal. The world has been transformed, everywhere except in the Caspian Republic, a deeply repressive society that considers itself the last outpost of humanity, forcing its mortal citizens to resist “the machine”. But, as State Security Agent Nikolai South knows, someone within the state is operating a secret contran system and smuggling people out to the free world on a new type of memory chip. An even more shocking discovery is to come. Thrillingly balanced between a grim, deliberately retro society and the possibilities of a utopian future, this is an original and gripping thriller.

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