The Bone Season is the first novel by author Samantha Shannon who, after receiving a six figure book deal for three books out of a potential seven, is being touted as the next J. K. Rowling. It should be noted that while the circumstances of her book deal is similar to Rowling the content of her fiction is not. Set in 2059 The Bone Season shows readers a dystopian future where many major European cities are under the control of a group called Scion who have risen to power thanks to their hard line control over the world’s clairvoyants (typically shortened to voyants). Scion ruthlessly captures and locks away any who exhibit one of the many varieties of clairvoyance. As in many instances when an iron grip is applied an organized and troublesome underworld has risen. This is where The Bone Season’s heroine Paige steps into the picture as one of the Seven Seals, one of the voyant underworld’s most (in)famous gangs. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare type of voyant, with the ability to enter and observe the dreamscapes of other people. Inevitably, or there might not be much of a story, Paige is captured by the Scion authorities. She is transported to the voyant prison in the ruins of Oxford where she finds the otherworldly race known as Rephaite’s have been manipulating things behind the scenes and collecting voyants to populate their army.
Some books have a distinct message. Some books are just out to have fun. Some books are just out to tell an interesting story. In my experience more often than not novels with a dystopian and frequently post-apocalyptic aspect tend to borrow heavily from that first goal. A Canticle for Leibowitz looks at the inevitability of mankind’s self destruction, Earth Abides looks at the removal of social barriers and shift of historical memory over time, Level 7 looks at the notion of mutually assured destruction, while books like Swan Song and The Stand take the apocalypse to look at classic battle of good versus evil. There are countless others many falling into the realm of cautionary tales. However, post-apocalyptic fiction can just as easily be used to tell pure adventure stories such as Zelazny’s Damnation Alley or the Mad Max films. Brian Evenson’s Immobility is a strange mix of several of these elements. Set in a post-apocalyptic society couched in the airs of a dystopia yet at the same time a novel of discovery and confusion.
Matthew Woodring Stover
Del Rey, 1998
Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover is one of those often overlooked novels important to both science fiction and fantasy. Hari Michaelson is better known as Caine, the Blade of Tyshelle, a brutal assassin on the world called Overworld. His adventures are experienced by millions of people back home where his many assassinations and staggering body count have made him a superstar. When Hari/Caine’s wife goes missing in Overworld he is sent against the world’s newest dictator in a mission with little hope for survival. Heroes Die bridges the gap between science fiction and fantasy. It is most definitely science fiction taking place in a future dominated by a rigid caste based system and a population kept docile through adventures in Overworld. At the same time Hari’s adventures as Caine follow occur in a traditional fantasy world. It is a smooth blending of two genres that makes for some great reading.