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The best new science fiction books of January 2024

From Machine Vendetta by Alastair Reynolds to Tlotlo Tsamaase’s Womb City and Ali Millar’s Ava Anna Ada, January’s sci-fi will chase the New Year blues away

By Alison Flood

2 January 2024

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Alastair Reynolds and Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson are two of the authors setting their novels in space this January.

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New science fiction isn’t thick on the ground this January, but there are some gems to look forward to – including a new novel from sci-fi supremo Alastair Reynolds, who wrote our fab New Scientist Christmas short story this year, Lottie and the River. I am also really looking forward to Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson’s debut novel, which is a space opera with grand ambitions, and to Alice McIlroy’s creepy psychological thriller The Glass Woman, in which a scientist is implanted with tech that has resulted in the loss of her memories. And if I’m feeling brave enough, I’ll be reading Tlotlo Tsamaase’s Womb City. If that isn’t enough and you’re looking for more suggestions for the year ahead, do check out our sci-fi columnist Sally Adee’s tips for 2024 reading.

Machine Vendetta by Alastair Reynolds. I’ll always snap up a new Alastair Reynolds. This latest is in his Prefect Dreyfus series, and sees Dreyfus investigating the death of Invar Tench, a police officer who worked to maintain democracy among the 10,000 city-states orbiting the planet Yellowstone.

The Principle of Moments by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson. This space opera is the first novel from Jikiemi-Pearson and it sounds amazing, moving from 6066 on the planet Garahan, where humans are indentured labourers for the emperor’s war machine, to London in 1812 and the time-travelling Obi, who meets a girl from another time in the British Museum. We are told it’s for fans of Becky Chambers, V.E. Schwab and N. K. Jemisin – all must-reads for me. It sounds like the perfect antidote to any January blues.

The Glass Woman by Alice McIlroy. This is a psychological thriller pitched as “Black Mirror meets Before I Go to Sleep by way of Severance“:­ it follows a scientist, Iris, who volunteers to be the test subject for an experimental therapy that will see tech inserted into her brain. But she now no longer has her memories, so doesn’t know why she volunteered for the treatment in the first place – or even what it is. This sounds creepily brilliant, and I’ll be whiling away January commutes and evenings with it for sure.

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Strange tech is implanted into a scientist’s brain in Alice McIlroy’s The Glass Woman.

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Womb City by Tlotlo Tsamaase. The Handmaid’s Tale meets Get Out? That’s quite a tall order, but this Africanfuturist horror novel sounds like it will be enjoyably terrifying. It takes place in a cruel surveillance state, where Nelah is trapped in a loveless marriage in which her every move is monitored by her police officer husband, via microchip. When she buries a body following a car accident, the ghost of her victim starts hunting down the people she loves. Our sci-fi columnist Sally Adee has tipped it as one to watch out for.

Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock by Maud Woolf. This sounds like a lot of fun. It’s set in the near future, where celebrities can make clones of themselves (known as “Portraits”) to take on their various duties. We are following the story of the 13th copy of the actor Lulabelle Rock, who is out to eliminate her predecessors.

Ava Anna Ada by Ali Millar. Set in the near future, when the heat is spiralling, this novel takes place over a week when Anna and Ava become caught up in their own world and find themselves reckoning with who they really are. Ian Rankin, no less, describes it as “[Philip K.] Dick’s They meets early Iain Banks or Ian McEwan in this novel of a near-future family meltdown”, which is every bit “as gripping as it is horrifying”.

Klova by Karen Langston. A decade after the death of his partner Neav, Ink wakes to find he has no concept of the past, and can only think of her in the present tense. He appears to be part of a new “amnesia crisis”. But could this be down to a corruption in the code of the artificial language, Klova, that enables everyone to think and speak?

Necropolis Alpha by Chris M. Arnone. This slice of cyberpunk sci-fi is Arnone’s follow-up to his novel The Hermes Protocol and follows an “Intel Operative” with cybernetic enhancements as she tries to steal data from the offices of an evangelical preacher.


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