by Elizabeth Bear
In this enjoyable, thought-provoking science fiction adventure, interspace ambassadors Vincent Katherinessen and Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones have been sent by the Old Earth Colonial Coalition to the renegade planet of New Amazonia, a planet where women rule and men are kept as worker bees and house breeders. Because Old Earth treats its women as subservient, they have no female ambassadors, but Angelo and Vincent are gay—or "gentle"—and though they are shunned by the dictatorial government they serve, they're the only negotiators acceptable to the Amazonian rulers. The two men arrive ostensibly to return stolen art, a show of goodwill that will hopefully reopen long-stalled diplomacy between the two governments. In truth, they have been sent in an effort to secure, by any means necessary, the secret to the mysterious power source that runs Amazonia. Playing the deceitful powers against each other, however, Angelo and Vincent are really working toward an agenda of their own, one that will decide the fate of humanity itself.
In the Garden of Iden
by Kage Baker
Baker's witty debut novel is a pip. Full of exquisite descriptions of 16th-century England and the Spanish Inquisition (Baker was an actor and director at the Living History Centre and has taught Elizabethan English as a second language), this is a bittersweet tale of a young woman's first love. The initial assignment for 18-year-old Mendoza, transformed into an immortal cyborg by the 24th-century Company, is to retrieve from Renaissance England an endangered plant that cures cancer. Posing as a Spanish lady accompanying her doctor father, she falls in love with the mortal Nicholas Harpole, secretary to the owner of Iden Hall and its exotic gardens. Amidst the raging Catholic/Protestant powerplays revolving around the English throne and the fervent religious bloodlust of common folk, Mendoza is torn between her task and her love.
by Octavia Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her 26th birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.
by Justina Robson
Advances in genetic engineering have created the Forged, human/machine hybrids that carry out tasks too mundane or too dangerous for the Unevolved, as non-Forged humans are called. Soon after a Forged explorer, Voyager Lonestar Isol, returns from a 15-year trip with the Stuff (a sentient chunk of gray quartz capable of instantly transporting her anywhere), Isol announces that she's found an empty Earth-like planet in a distant star system. By claiming it as a home world, the Forged can finally break from the resented Gaiasol, the political entity that rules Earth's solar system, and become what they were meant to be. While many dream of moving out, others suspect that the Stuff's offer is too good to be true. Archeologist Zephyr Duquesnse, commissioned to study the proposed home world and make sure it's truly free of life, finds no easy answers.
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
by Lydia Millet
What if Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, the primary physicists from the Manhattan Project, returned to contemporary America to survey their atomic legacy? That question forms the heart of Millet's excellent fourth novel, in which the souls of the three take earthly form in the present-day Southwest. Ann, a New Mexico librarian, spots the reincarnated Oppenheimer and Fermi at a restaurant near her home; Szilard soon joins them; Ann persuades her garden-designer husband, Ben, to take them all in.
by Julie Czerneda
Czerneda opens the Species Imperative series with a somewhat original variation on the theme of alien invasion. Dr. Mackenzie Connor heads the Norcoast Salmon Research Facility and is completely immersed in her work. She and Dr. Emily Mamani are just settling in to monitor the year's salmon run when Norcoast is visited by Brymn, the first member of the Dhryn species to come to Earth. An archaeologist, Brymn is studying a region of space called the Chasm. All of the worlds in it are empty of life forms but contain traces of life, and even civilizations, that once existed on them. Brymn needs the help of a biologist, but biology is a discipline forbidden by his culture. Mackenzie isn't interested in obliging him -- until Emily disappears.
The Child Goddess
by Louise Marley
Oa appears to be a 10-year-old, taken by Dr. Adetti from her home planet, Virimund, a lost-colony world that ExtraSolar Corporation considers ideal for its power park. Isabel, a priest of the Magdalen Order, is called in to investigate and act as Oa's guardian. Slowly, with help from Simon Edwards of the World Health and Welfare Organization, she realizes Oa's secret. Oa and the other children of the Sikassa are infected with a virus that makes them perpetually prepubescent and practically immortal. Adetti and ExtraSolar administrator Gretchen Boreson see Oa as a potential fountain of youth, not as a person. Of course, things aren't that simple, and when Boreson and Adetti go to Virimund for further study, the immortality virus exacts a higher-than-expected price.
by Jim Grimsley
As an advanced, technology-based culture, the Hormling of Senal were perforce interested in exploring what lay beyond the Twil Gate, which they approached with astounding arrogance, certain that their knowledge was far superior to whatever primitive culture they would encounter there. And so it seemed, for a long time. For the inhabitants of Irion, on the other side, firmly believed in a flat world and in magic rather than science. Burgeoning to more than 30 billion in Senal, the Hormling were primarily interested in discovering and using Irion's resources. When brash Hormling officials present themselves as conquerors, though, they are rudely awakened by how unprimitive Irion is. Hormling linguist Jedda Martele's view of Irion changes quickly, for, nonjudgmental and open to learning and the new and unexpected, she soon gains friends in Irion. Magically transported to an earlier Irion, she meets Irion himself, the powerful magician who built the Twil Gate, and so begins a new life in which perceptions of who she is, her place in the world, and the world itself are drastically challenged and proven other than she could have imagined. Besides magic aplenty, there is a beautifully developed spirituality in mainstream novelist Grimsley's spare, poetic sf debut, and a compelling love story, too, making it a quiet sort of page-turner that elegantly evokes a reader's fascination and wonder.
Women Writing Science Fiction as Men
by Mike Resnick
They're not men. (But that won't stop them from writing SF like men.) That's the premise of this highly original collection of new short stories -- written from the viewpoint of the opposite sex.