Launched in October, Ad Astra is a new publishing imprint from House of Zeus, situated at the cutting edge of high concept science fiction and fantasy.
The Ad Astra chairman said about the new venture: “If we look forward, we see the making of a new age of science fiction writing; a group of talented novelists and storytellers who use the genre to explore the big, big questions in philosophy and politics, genetics and astrophysics, society and the environment. This is what we mean by high concept.”
The talisman of the Ad Astra imprint is Cixin Liu, the Chinese polymath who has found upward of nine million readers in 25 languages for his Three Body Problem trilogy, and has been the first translated writer to win SF’s top literary awards.
2021 highlights include new novels from award winners C.S. Friedman, Ada Palmer, Ken Liu, Adrian Tchaikovsky, John Birmingham and the international bestseller, Terry Goodkind.
The first of these exciting new titles were published on October 1, and today our friends at QBD Books have reviewed some of their favourites for us!
By Cory Doctorow
Witty, no-nonsense, and sharp – Attack Surface is as clever as its protagonist. Masha Maximow, previously a side character in the world of Doctorow’s other novels Little Brother and Homeland, is drawn out of her carefully programmed life of a highly paid job in information gathering and data security by day and her pro bono work helping the same people she spies on by night. As Masha’s double life starts to bleed together and her friends and family are tangled into her work, she finds herself having to make harder and harder choices about where her true allegiances lie.
Throughout this novel the biggest question weighing on Masha is her own ethicality, knowing she gets paid to help people in power exploit and spy on citizens.
Weaving a web of complicated but well written technological concepts, Attack Surface truly conveys how terrifying the world of cybersecurity and terrorism can be for both those in the know and the everyday civilian. Though this book is set in an alternate reality, the politics and activism taking place throughout this world mirrors that of our own, making it an important and intriguing addition to current social discourse. Combining this with the aforementioned minefield of updated technology and classic science fiction ideas, here is a book that captures you immediately with its quick-thinking attitude and fast-paced approach to storytelling before dragging you deeper into a real world of difficult questions and increasing stakes.
– Olivia, QBD Books Coomera, QLD
By Kate Elliott
Set in a galaxy that has seen centuries of unrest and wars, Princess Sun is heir to one of the strongest Empires to emerge from it. She is a threat to the houses of her mother’s court and their scheming has finally turned to assassination. To survive she must make unlikely allies and disobey orders.
Unconquerable Sun has a huge cast of characters, each well drawn out and deeply human. Princess Sun is commanding, sure of herself, but so stuck in her mother’s shadow. Her relationship with Eirene is rife with tensions and doubt. Yet it is with her companions that she is most comfortable and at ease. Watching her move through a complex world of shifting loyalties and old grudges is riveting from the first page.
The stage for the novel is expansive, set across space and with a complex history given to the political entities that inhabit it. The destruction of a long-ago system of travel has left a deep impact in the empires and has created the greater tension between enemy territories. This book has incredible bursts of action and political intrigue but both at macro and micro levels. The tension between houses of the court and within families is very reminiscent of Game of Thrones. It is captivating to watch those intricacies play out.
Unconquerable Sun is an enthralling book, filled with huge space battles, intrigue, assassination attempts and unlikely allies. A space opera that captivates you right from the start.
– Vanessa, QBD Books Parramatta, NSW
By Cixin Liu
Anyone who has read one of Cixin Liu’s previous books can wax lyrical about the dedication to scientific theory in his work. Not only is it intricately precise and uncannily plausible, but he explains it in a way that the everyday person can understand (yet still marvel at the genius of it). Hold Up The Sky is no exception. It collects 11 short stories that each push the limits of quantum physics in a new and intriguing way. The oldest story, Contraction, was written in 1985 and still reads as if only created a year ago.
What fewer people talk about when it comes to Cixin Liu, but what is the most wonderful thing about his work in my eyes, is that each character is written with care. This is especially true for this collection, where in a span of thirty pages your heart can break for one character and soar for another. Short stories are notoriously challenging for character depth; it being a medium usually best for sharp and punchy concepts. Cixin Liu does both and it is glorious.
This is the perfect collection for when you want to be able to dip in and out but feel really satisfied with every story. The scientific concepts can make it a tricky book to tackle in one go, as hopping between theories is a lot to absorb, but it is a captivating and insightful read throughout.
– Paige, QBD Books Hornsby, NSW
By Sarah Pinsker
In the wake of multiple terrorist attacks and an unknown contagion, Luce’s world is beginning to change around her. On the night that is to be her final concert, Luce must decide if she will stay and play or retreat to the safety of home, whatever that may be. Realising that she is probably not the only person feeling lost, be it out of distraction or determination, Luce declares the show must go on.
This engrossing story is told from two points of view. Luce, who grew up in the Before, where people were free to gather and connect with each other. And Rosemary in the After, where connection to the virtual world is now the everyday norm and the only way to gather.
When these two worlds eventually collide, each will have to decide for themselves if the need for human connection is strong enough to break down the fears they hold.
A Song for A New Day reminds us that music is a living thing, something that gets into your soul and awakens you from within. By its very nature, music serves to bring us together.
Throughout this book I found myself asking, what would I do in this situation and being reminded that connection, the real and visceral kind, is worth fighting for.
Full of sapphic charm and musical references that will have you wishing you could hear Luce Cannon live yourself, A Song for A New Day is the book we have all been looking for.
– Emily, QBD Books Knox City, VIC
By Django Wexler
Ashes of the Sun sees a family torn apart, a daughter stolen away to save her life, a brother left scarred by his resistance and the beginnings of war.
The Twilight Order saved Maya’s life, in return, she follows the teachings of the Chosen, who defeated the ghouls and freed the world from darkness. Maya is certain that this is the right path, that the Order are the only ones maintaining peace and justice in the world, nothing can shake her belief.
Gyre lost an eye trying to keep his sister and the attempt left deeper scars than the ones marking his face. He believes the Order is wrong, they break apart families, horde arcana and dictate who can use it with no regard to anyone but themselves. He wants a rebellion, more than that, he wants to be the one to bring the Order to its knees and he will not let anything stand in his way.
They are on a collision course and they are not the same little kids playing make-believe anymore. Who is good and who is evil in this story is hard to pin down, which sibling is right and how much will their conviction cost them?
Wexler did a fantastic job building this world and filling it with an amazing array of tech, arcana, and unique magic systems, the Haken being my favourite. His characters are genuine, stubborn, and sometimes hilariously awkward, their friendships and lovers feel real and organic. I will definitely be looking forward to the next book!
– Tahlia, QBD Books Albury, NSW