Join Laura and Nicole as they highlight books with artificial intelligences and clones and share some favourites that they’ve read. Watch the video episodes on our YouTube channel or listen using your usual podcast app, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (book 1)
A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope.
Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Snyder
In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes–the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:
A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.
It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (book one)
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Inspired by Hopkinson’s Caribbean roots, this richly drawn tale blends the dark mystery of folklore with tropes of science fiction. In the backdrop of its alternate-planet setting is an omniscient AI called Nanny.
It’s Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked “Midnight Robbers” waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival–until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth–and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen’s legendary powers can save her life…and set her free.
Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – previously recommended on RTN. Read now
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld”
Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.
Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.
A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe (book one)
In the twenty-second century, our civilization has retained many familiar characteristics, but the population is smaller. Technology has made significant advances, and there are more robots–and clones.
One such is E.A. Smithe, a borrowed person, a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library. His personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is library property, not a legal human.
The father of Colette Coldbrook, a wealthy library patron, has disappeared and been proclaimed dead. She decides to check Smithe out of the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was the sole item in her father’s safe, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. Her brother, Conrad, turned up dead in the family home shortly after giving the book to her.
Colette has reached the end of her options. She’s afraid of the police, and there are others who might want the book’s secret. Smithe is her last hope. Borrowing him might help her find the connection between the deaths and Murder on Mars.
Together they find something far beyond their expectations–something almost anyone would kill for.
Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither
When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.
She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.
At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.
In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?
The Adoration of Jenna Fox (series) by Mary E. Pearson
Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?
This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson’s vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.
Scythe (series) by Neal Shusterman
Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells (mostly novellas)
The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, is an action-packed, cerebral science fiction series about a murderous, self-hacking robot searching for the meaning of life.
The first book in the series, All Systems Red, swept the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards, and was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
Book descriptions via GoodReads.com & NoveList
Find Laura on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/lauralisbeth
Notes from the 2021 season. Watch this and past episodes on the YouTube channel or find the podcast on all major podcast apps by searching for Read This Next.