This week, I’ve picked two debut novels by writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy who have been recognised as bringing fresh voices and perspectives to the genre. One is an alternative history of the rise of an Emperor in China, the other is a millennial New York office worker’s view of what happens come the apocalypse.
I’m hoping to fall in love with both of these books and revel in spending time reading new takes on my favourite genre.
‘She Who Became The Sun‘ by Shelley Parker-Chan (2021)
As soon as I saw the publisher’s summary of this book, I knew I had to try it. It’s a longish book (415 pages) so it sat on my TBR pile for a while. My wife picked it up before I did and had a great time with it.
I was curious about how such an atypical book, and a debut novel at that, managed to get such backing from a big publisher. It turned out that winning a Tiptree Foundation Fellowship (now known as the Otherwise Award: an award encouraging the exploration & expansion of gender) was instrumental both in supporting the writing and the selling of the book. I’ve adapted Shelley Parker-Chan’s Fellowship Report into a Q&A session about the book in the graphic below.
”Severance’ by Ling Ma, (2018)
The plot for ‘Severance’ reads like a post-COVID reflection – global plague starting in China before spreading everywhere, too-little-too-late governmental response, scarily high death rates – but it was published in 2018, which perhaps shows that we should all have seen this coming.
Most reviewers praise the quality of the writing, which is encouraging but the hook for me was that the heroine has a context beyond plucky-survivor. She’s linked to her family and her Chinese heritage mark her as a target of hate for some. I also like that, as a hard-working, Millenial worker drone with no social life, the initial impact of the plague is less for her than for others so it takes her a while to grasp what’s going on.
I’m hoping for a book that’s a mixture of me nodding my head going, ‘Yep, that’s how it is’ and shaking my head going, ‘Why haven’t I ever looked at things this way?’